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The Bear And The Fox

ONCE upon a time there was a bear, who sat on a sunny hillside taking a nap. Just then a fox came slinking by and saw him.

"Aha! have I caught you napping, grandfather? See if I don't play you a trick this time!" said Reynard to himself.

He then found three wood mice and laid them on a stump of a tree just under the bear's nose.

"Boo! Bruin! Peter the hunter is just behind that stump!" shouted the fox right into the bear's ear, and then took to his heels and made off into the wood.

The bear woke at once, and when he saw the three mice he became so angry that he lifted his paw and was just going to strike them, for he thought it was they who had shouted in his ear.

But just then he saw Reynard's tail between the bushes and he set off at such a speed that the branches crackled under him, and Bruin was soon so close upon Reynard that he caught him by the right hind leg just as be was running into a hole under a pine tree.

Reynard was now in a fix; but he was not to be outwitted, and he cried:

"Slip pine root, grip fox foot," and so the bear let go his hold; but the fox laughed far down in the hole and said:

"I sold you that time, also, grandfather!"

"Out of sight is not out of mind!" said the bear, who was in a fine fury.

The other morning, when Bruin came trudging across the moor with a fat pig, Master Reynard was lying on a stone by the moorside.

"Good-day, grandfather!" said the fox. "What nice thing have you got there?"

"Pork," said the bear.

"I have got something tasty as well," said the fox.

"What's that?" said the bear.

"It's the biggest bees' nest I ever found," said Reynard.

"Ah, indeed," said the bear, grinning, and his mouth began to water, he thought a little honey would be so nice. "Shall we change victuals?" he said.

"No, I won't do that," said Reynard. But they made a wager about naming three kinds of trees. If the fox could say them quicker than the bear he was to have one bite at the pig; but if the bear could say them quicker he was to have one suck at the bee's nest. The bear thought he would be able to suck all the honey up at one gulp.

"Well said the fox, "that's all well and good but if I win you must promise to tear off the bristles where I want to have a bite," he said.

"Well, I suppose I must, since you are too lazy yourself," said the bear.

Then they began to name the trees.

"Spruce, fir, pine," growled the bear. His voice was very gruff. But all these were only different names of one kind of tree.

"Ash, aspen, oak," screeched the fox, so that the forest resounded. He had thus won the bet, and so he jumped down, took the heart out of the pig at one bite, and tried to run off. But the bear was angry, because he had taken the best bit of the whole pig, and seized hold of him by his tail and held him fast.

"Just wait a bit," said the bear, who was furious.

"Never mind, grandfather; if you'll let me go you shall have a taste of my honey," said the fox.

When the bear heard this he let go his hold and the fox jumped up on the stone after the honey.

"Over this nest," said Reynard, "I'll put a leaf, and in the leaf there is a hole, through which you can suck the honey." He then put the nest right up under the bear's nose, pulled away the leaf, jumped on to the stone, and began grinning and laughing; for there was neither honey nor honeycomb in the nest. It was a wasp's nest as big as a man's head, full of wasps, and out they swarmed and stung the bear in his eyes and ears and on his mouth and snout. He had so much to do with scratching them off him that he had no thought to think of Reynard.

Ever since the bear has been afraid of wasps.


By P. C. Asbjörnsen

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