The Crimson Fairy Book HTML version

The Six Hungry Beasts
Once upon a time there lived a man who dwelt with his wife in a little hut, far away from
any neighbours. But they did not mind being alone, and would have been quite happy, if
it had not been for a marten, who came every night to their poultry yard, and carried off
one of their fowls. The man laid all sorts of traps to catch the thief, but instead of
capturing the foe, it happened that one day he got caught himself, and falling down,
struck his head against a stone, and was killed.
Not long after the marten came by on the look out for his supper. Seeing the dead man
lying there, he said to himself: 'That is a prize, this time I have done well'; and dragging
the body with great difficulty to the sledge which was waiting for him, drove off with his
booty. He had not driven far when he met a squirrel, who bowed and said: 'Good-
morning, godfather! what have you got behind you?'
The marten laughed and answered: 'Did you ever hear anything so strange? The old man
that you see here set traps about his hen-house, thinking to catch me but he fell into his
own trap, and broke his own neck. He is very heavy; I wish you would help me to draw
the sledge.' The squirrel did as he was asked, and the sledge moved slowly along.
By-and-by a hare came running across a field, but stopped to see what wonderful thing
was coming. 'What have you got there?' she asked, and the marten told his story and
begged the hare to help them pull.
The hare pulled her hardest, and after a while they were joined by a fox, and then by a
wolf, and at length a bear was added to the company, and he was of more use than all the
other five beasts put together. Besides, when the whole six had supped off the man he
was not so heavy to draw.
The worst of it was that they soon began to get hungry again, and the wolf, who was the
hungriest of all, said to the rest:
'What shall we eat now, my friends, as there is no more man?'
'I suppose we shall have to eat the smallest of us,' replied the bear, and the marten turned
round to seize the squirrel who was much smaller than any of the rest. But the squirrel ran
up a tree like lightning, and the marten remembering, just in time, that he was the next in
size, slipped quick as thought into a hole in the rocks.
'What shall we eat now?' asked the wolf again, when he had recovered from his surprise.