The Bear Tricked By The Fox

Once upon a time, there was a sly fox, as foxes are. She'd been prowling for food all night and couldn't find any. When dawn broke, the fox came out to the side of the road and lay down under a bush, wondering what else she could do to find something to eat. As she was lying there with her head on her front paws, she caught a whiff of fish. She raised her head a little and, looking down the road, she saw approaching a cart pulled by two oxen. "Good," the fox thought. "Here's the food I've been waiting for." Without wasting a moment, she got out from under the bush and stretched out in the middle of the road, pretending to be dead. As the cart got closer to the fox, the peasant driving it saw her and, thinking she was really dead, shouted to stop the oxen: "Whoa! Whoa!" The oxen stopped. The man came near the fox, looked at her closely and, seeing she was not breathing, said: "Upon my word. How could this fox die here? Wow! What a nice little jacket I'll make for my wife from the fur of this fox!" Saying that, he grabbed the fox by the scruff of the neck, dragged her to the cart, and then hoisted her onto it, on top of the fish. Then he urged the oxen on: "Gittiup, Joian! Gittiup, Bourean!" The oxen started. The man walked by the oxen goading them to move quicker, so keen was he to get home and flay the fox. But no sooner did the oxen start than the fox started to push the fish off the cart with her legs. The peasant was prodding, the cart was squeaking on, and the fish was falling off the cart. After she pushed off a lot of fish, the fox jumped out herself and hurried to gather the fish off the road. After gathering it in a pile, she took it to her den and started eating it, for she was veeeeery hungry indeed. She'd just started eating when who should come visiting but the bear. "Happy eating, my friend. Wow!! What an awful lot of fish! Can I have some too, please, I'm reaaaaally craving for it!" "Well, crave away, my friend, for I'm not working to fill somebody else's stomach. If you crave it that much, go dip your tail in the pond, like I did, and you'll have plenty of fish to eat." "Teach me then how to do it, pretty please; I really don't know how to catch fish." The fox grinned and said: "Is that so, my friend? But don't you know that need takes you places you don't want to go and teaches you things you can't even think of? Here's the deal: you want to eat fish? Go to the pond at the edge of the forest tonight, dip your tail in it and sit without moving until almost dawn; then pull hard towards the shore and you'll take out plenty of fish, maybe double or triple what I got." Without saying another word, the bear ran to the pond at the edge of the forest and dipped his whole tail in it! That night a cold wind started blowing, so cold your tongue froze in your mouth and even the cinders in the fire. So the water in the pond froze solid too and caught the bear's tail like in some pliers. After a while, unable to stand the pain anymore, the bear yanked once with all his might. And, poor bear, instead of catching fish, was left without a tail! He now started growling terribly and jumping up and down with pain; and angry with the fox for having tricked him, he made for her den to beat the life out of her. But the sly fox knew how to dodge the bear's anger. She'd got out of her den and gone into a tree hollow nearby; and when she saw the bear coming without a tail, she shouted at him: "Well, well, my friend! Did the fish eat your tail or were you too greedy and didn't want to leave any fish in the pond?" When he heard she was taunting him on top of everything else, the bear got even more enraged and dashed towards the tree; but the opening of the hollow was very narrow and there was no way the bear was going to be able to get in. So he looked for a branch with a curved, pointy end like a hook and started poking inside the den to bring the fox out and give her a thrashing. But whenever he grabbed on to one of her legs, the fox would shout: "Go on, pull, you fool! You're pulling the tree so what do I care…" And whenever the hook caught de tree, she would shout: "Ouch, my friend! Don't pull, you're going to yank my leg out!" In vain did the bear try so hard that sweat was pouring down him, he could not take the fox out of the den. And that's how the bear was tricked by the fox. Translated by Dana Crăciun

by Ion Creangă (1838-1889)