The Fool's Good Fortune
There were three entrances to the penfold, two open and one very narrow. The two clever brothers proposed to drive the beasts out of all three at once; those that issued from the small gap were to belong to the fool. In this way, the latter's share was only one young bull out of the whole flock. But to his feeble mind the division seemed fair enough, so he contentedly drove his bull out into the forest and tied it with a stout rope to a young tree, whilst he himself wandered aimlessly about.
Three days later, the fool went to see his beast. It had eaten and drunk nothing, but had pulled the tree up by the roots, and laid bare a jar full of old gold coins. The fool was delighted and played with the money for a time; then he resolved to take the jar and present it to the king.
As he passed along the road, every wayfarer looked into the pot, took out the gold in handfuls, and so that he should not notice their thefts, filled it up with stones and blocks of wood. On reaching the palace, the fool asked for an audience of the king, and it was granted. He emptied out the contents of the jar at the feet of the king. When the courtiers saw the wrath of the king, they took the fool away and beat him.
When he had recovered himself, he asked why he had been thrashed. One of the bystanders, for fun, cried to him: 'You have been beaten because you labour in vain.'
The fool went his way, muttering the words: 'You labour in vain.'
As he passed a peasant who was reaping, he repeated his phrase again and again, until the peasant grew angry, and thrashed him.
The fool asked why he had been beaten and what he ought to have said. 'You ought to have said: "God give you a good harvest!"
The fool went on saying, 'God give you a good harvest!' and met a funeral.
Again he was beaten, and again he asked what he should say.
They replied that he should have said: 'Heaven rest your soul!'
He then came to a wedding and saluted the newly-married couple with this funereal phrase. Again he was beaten, and then told that he should say: 'Be fruitful and multiply!'
His next visit was to a monastery, and he accosted every monk with his new salutation. They too gave him a thrashing, with such vigour that the fool determined to have his revenge by stealing one of the bells from their belfry.
So he hid himself until the monks had gone to rest and then carried oft a bell of moderate size. He went into the forest, climbed a tree, and hung the bell on the branches, ringing it from time to time, partly to amuse himself and partly to frighten away wild beasts.
In the forest there was a gang of robbers who were assembled to share their booty and had just ended a merry banquet. Suddenly they heard the sound of the bell and were much afraid. They took counsel as to what was to be done, and most of them were for flight, but the oldest of the band advised them to send a scout to see what was wrong.
The bravest among them was sent to get information, and the rest remained as quiet as possible. The brigand went on tiptoe through the bushes to the tree where the fool was, and respectfully asked: 'Who are you? If you are an angel sent by God to punish our wickedness, pray spare us and we shall repent; if you are a devil from hell, come and share with us.'
The fool was not so stupid that he did not see he had to deal with robbers, so he took out a knife, tolled the bell, and then said with a grave air: 'If you wish to know who I am, climb the tree and show me your tongue so that I may mark on it who I am and what I ask of you.'
The robber obediently climbed the tree and put out his tongue as far as he could. The fool cut off his tongue and kicked him to the ground.
The robber, mad with pain and frightened by his sudden fall, ran off howling. His comrades had come out to meet him, and when they saw the plight he was in, they ran off in terror, leaving their wealth.
Next morning the fool found the booty, and without saying anything to anybody, took it home and became much richer than his brothers.
The fool built three palaces: one for himself, one for me, and one for you. There is merrymaking in the fool's palace — come and be one of the guests!
Next: Two Losses