The Pink Fairy Book HTML version
There once lived in Denmark a peasant and his wife who owned a very good farm, but
had no children. They often lamented to each other that they had no one of their own to
inherit all the wealth that they possessed. They continued to prosper, and became rich
people, but there was no heir to it all.
One year it happened that they owned a pretty little bull-calf, which they called Peter. It
was the prettiest little creature they had ever seen--so beautiful and so wise that it
understood everything that was said to it, and so gentle and so full of play that both the
man and his wife came to be as fond of it as if it had been their own child.
One day the man said to his wife, 'I wonder, now, whether our parish clerk could teach
Peter to talk; in that case we could not do better than adopt him as our son, and let him
inherit all that we possess.'
'Well, I don't know,' said his wife, 'our clerk is tremendously learned, and knows much
more than his Paternoster, and I could almost believe that he might be able to teach Peter
to talk, for Peter has a wonderfully good head too. You might at least ask him about it.'
Off went the man to the clerk, and asked him whether he thought he could teach a bull-
calf that they had to speak, for they wished so much to have it as their heir.
The clerk was no fool; he looked round about to see that no one could overhear them, and
said, 'Oh, yes, I can easily do that, but you must not speak to anyone about it. It must be
done in all secrecy, and the priest must not know of it, otherwise I shall get into trouble,
as it is forbidden. It will also cost you something, as some very expensive books are
That did not matter at all, the man said; they would not care so very much what it cost.
The clerk could have a hundred dollars to begin with to buy the books. He also promised
to tell no one about it, and to bring the calf round in the evening.
He gave the clerk the hundred dollars on the spot, and in the evening took the calf round
to him, and the clerk promised to do his best with it. In a week's time he came back to the
clerk to hear about the calf and see how it was thriving. The clerk, however, said that he
could not get a sight of it, for then Peter would long after him and forget all that he had
already learned. He was getting on well with his learning, but another hundred dollars
were needed, as they must have more books. The peasant had the money with him, so he
gave it to the clerk, and went home again with high hopes.
In another week the man came again to learn what progress Peter had made now.
'He is getting on very well,' said the clerk.
'I suppose he can't say anything yet?' said the man.
'Oh, yes,' said the clerk, 'he can say "Moo" now.'