The Brown Fairy Book HTML version

The Fox and the Lapp
Once upon a time a fox lay peeping out of his hole, watching the road that ran by at a
little distance, and hoping to see something that might amuse him, for he was feeling very
dull and rather cross. For a long while he watched in vain; everything seemed asleep, and
not even a bird stirred overhead. The fox grew crosser than ever, and he was just turning
away in disgust from his place when he heard the sound of feet coming over the snow. He
crouched eagerly down at the edge of the road and said to himself: 'I wonder what would
happen if I were to pretend to be dead! This is a man driving a reindeer sledge, I know
the tinkling of the harness. And at any rate I shall have an adventure, and that is always
So he stretched himself out by the side of the road, carefully choosing a spot where the
driver could not help seeing him, yet where the reindeer would not tread on him; and all
fell out just as he had expected. The sledge-driver pulled up sharply, as his eyes lighted
on the beautiful animal lying stiffly beside him, and jumping out he threw the fox into the
bottom of the sledge, where the goods he was carrying were bound tightly together by
ropes. The fox did not move a muscle though his bones were sore from the fall, and the
driver got back to his seat again and drove on merrily.
But before they had gone very far, the fox, who was near the edge, contrived to slip over,
and when the Laplander saw him stretched out on the snow he pulled up his reindeer and
put the fox into one of the other sledges that was fastened behind, for it was market-day
at the nearest town, and the man had much to sell.
They drove on a little further, when some noise in the forest made the man turn his head,
just in time to see the fox fall with a heavy thump on to the frozen snow. 'That beast is
bewitched!' he said to himself, and then he threw the fox into the last sledge of all, which
had a cargo of fishes. This was exactly what the cunning creature wanted, and he
wriggled gently to the front and bit the cord which tied the sledge to the one before it so
that it remained standing in the middle of the road.
Now there were so many sledges that the Lapp did not notice for a long while that one
was missing; indeed, he would have entered the town without knowing if snow had not
suddenly begun to fall. Then he got down to secure more firmly the cloths that kept his
goods dry, and going to the end of the long row, discovered that the sledge containing the
fish and the fox was missing. He quickly unharnessed one of his reindeer and rode back
along the way he had come, to find the sledge standing safe in the middle of the road; but
as the fox had bitten off the cord close to the noose there was no means of moving it
The fox meanwhile was enjoying himself mightily. As soon as he had loosened the
sledge, he had taken his favourite fish from among the piles neatly arranged for sale, and