THE FOX AND THE WOLF
(From Cuentos Populares, por Antonio de Trueba.)
At the foot of some high mountains there was, once upon
a time, a small village, and a little way off two roads
met, one of them going to the east and the other to the
west. The villagers were quiet, hard-working folk, who
toiled in the fields all day, and in the evening set out for
home when the bell began to ring in the little church.
In the summer mornings they led out their flocks to
pasture, and were happy and contented from sunrise to
One summer night, when a round full moon shone
down upon the white road, a great wolf came trotting
round the corner.
‘I positively must get a good meal before I go back
to my den,’ he said to himself; ‘it is nearly a week since
I have tasted anything but scraps, though perhaps no
one would think it to look at my figure! Of course there
are plenty of rabbits and hares in the mountains; but
indeed one needs to be a greyhound to catch them, and I
am not so young as I was! If I could only dine off
that fox I saw a fortnight ago, curled up into a delicious
hairy ball, I should ask nothing better; I would have
eaten her then, but unluckily her husband was lying
beside her, and one knows that foxes, great and small,
run like the wind. Really it seems as if there was not a
living creature left for me to prey upon but a wolf, and, as
the proverb says: “One wolf does not bite another.” However,
let us see what this village can produce. I am as
hungry as a schoolmaster.’
Now, while these thoughts were running through the
mind of the wolf, the very fox he had been thinking of
was galloping along the other road.
‘The whole of this day I have listened to those village
hens clucking till I could bear it no longer,’ murmured
she as she bounded along, hardly seeming to touch the
ground. ‘When you are fond of fowls and eggs it is the
sweetest of all music. As sure as there is a sun in heaven
I will have some of them this night, for I have grown so
thin that my very bones rattle, and my poor babies are
crying for food.’ And as she spoke she reached a little
plot of grass, where the two roads joined, and flung herself
under a tree to take a little rest, and to settle her plans.
At this moment the wolf came up.
At the sight of the fox lying within his grasp his
mouth began to water, but his joy was somewhat
checked when he noticed how thin she was. The fox’s
quick ears heard the sound of his paws, though they
were as soft as velvet, and turning her head she said
‘Is that you, neighbour? What a strange place to
meet in! I hope you are quite well?’
‘Quite well as regards my health,’ answered the wolf,
whose eye glistened greedily, ‘at least, as well as one can
be when one is very hungry. But what is the matter
with you? A fortnight ago you were as plump as heart
‘I have been ill—very ill,’ replied the fox, ‘and what
you say is quite true. A worm is fat in comparison with
‘He is. Still, you are good enough for me; for “to the
hungry no bread is hard.”’
‘Oh, you are always joking! I’m sure you are not
half as hungry as I!’
‘That we shall soon see,’ cried the wolf, opening his
huge mouth and crouching for a spring.
‘What are you doing?’ exclaimed the fox, stepping
‘What am I doing? What I am going to do is to
make my supper off you, in less time than a cock takes
‘Well, I suppose you must have your joke,’ answered
the fox lightly, but never removing her eye from the
wolf, who replied with a snarl which showed all his
‘I don’t want to joke, but to eat!’
‘But surely a person of your talents must perceive
that you might eat me to the very last morsel and
never know that you had swallowed anything at
‘In this world the cleverest people are always the hungriest,’
replied the wolf.
‘Ah! how true that is; but——’
‘I can’t stop to listen to your “buts” and “yets,”’ broke
in the wolf rudely; ‘let us get to the point, and the point
is that I want to eat you and not talk to you.’
‘Have you no pity for a poor mother?’ asked the fox,
putting her tail to her eyes, but peeping slily out of them
all the same.
‘I am dying of hunger,’ answered the wolf, doggedly;
‘and you know,’ he added with a grin, ‘that charity begins
‘Quite so,’ replied the fox; ‘it would be unreasonable
of me to object to your satisfying your appetite at my
expense. But if the fox resigns herself to the sacrifice,
the mother offers you one last request.’
‘Then be quick and don’t waste time, for I can’t wait
much longer. What is it you want?’
‘You must know,’ said the fox, ‘that in this village
there is a rich man who makes in the summer enough
cheeses to last him for the whole year, and keeps them
in an old well, now dry, in his courtyard. By the well
hang two buckets on a pole that were used, in former
days, to draw up water. For many nights I have crept
down to the place, and have lowered myself in the bucket,
bringing home with me enough cheese to feed the children.
All I beg of you is to come with me, and, instead of hunting
chickens and such things, I will make a good meal off
cheese before I die.’
‘But the cheeses may be all finished by now?’
‘If you were only to see the quantities of them!’ laughed
the fox. ‘And even if they were finished, there would
always be me to eat.’
‘Well, I will come. Lead the way, but I warn you
that if you try to escape or play any tricks you are reckoning
without your host—that is to say, without my legs,
which are as long as yours!’
All was silent in the village, and not a light was to be
seen but that of the moon, which shone bright and clear
in the sky. The wolf and the fox crept softly along, when
suddenly they stopped and looked at each other; a
savoury smell of frying bacon reached their noses,
and reached the noses of the sleeping dogs, who began
to bark greedily.
‘Is it safe to go on, think you?’ asked the wolf in a
whisper. And the fox shook her head.
‘Not while the dogs are barking,’ said she; ‘someone
might come out to see if anything was the matter.’ And
she signed to the wolf to curl himself up in the shadow
In about half an hour the dogs grew tired of barking,
or perhaps the bacon was eaten up and there was no more
smell to excite them. Then the wolf and the fox jumped
up, and hastened to the foot of the wall.
‘I am lighter than he is,’ thought the fox to herself,
‘and perhaps if I make haste I can get a start, and jump
over the wall on the other side before he manages to spring
over this one.’ And she quickened her pace. But if
the wolf could not run he could jump, and with one bound
he was beside his companion.
‘What were you going to do, comrade?’
‘Oh, nothing,’ replied the fox, much vexed at the failure
of her plan.
‘I think if I were to take a bite out of your haunch you
would jump better,’ said the wolf, giving a snap at her
as he spoke. The fox drew back uneasily.
‘Be careful, or I shall scream,’ she snarled. And the
wolf, understanding all that might happen if the fox
carried out her threat, gave a signal to his companion
to leap on the wall, where he immediately followed
Once on the top they crouched down and looked about
them. Not a creature was to be seen in the courtyard,
and in the furthest corner from the house stood
the well, with its two buckets suspended from a pole,
just as the fox had described it. The two thieves dragged
themselves noiselessly along the wall till they were opposite
the well, and by stretching out her neck as far as
it would go the fox was able to make out that there was
only very little water in the bottom, but just enough to
reflect the moon, big, and round and yellow.
‘How lucky!’ cried she to the wolf. ‘There is a huge
cheese about the size of a mill wheel. Look! look! did
you ever see anything so beautiful!’
‘Never!’ answered the wolf, peering over in his turn,
his eyes glistening greedily, for he imagined that the moon’s
reflection in the water was really a cheese.
‘And now, unbeliever, what have you to say?’ And
the fox laughed gently.
‘That you are a woman—I mean a fox—of your
word,’ replied the wolf.
‘Well, then, go down in that bucket and eat your fill,’
said the fox.
‘Oh, is that your game?’ asked the wolf, with a grin.
‘No! no! The person who goes down in the bucket will
be you! And if
you don’t go down your head will go
‘Of course I will go down, with the greatest
pleasure,’ answered the fox, who had expected the wolf’s
‘And be sure you don’t eat all the cheese, or it will be
the worse for you,’ continued the wolf. But the fox looked
up at him with tears in her eyes.
‘Farewell, suspicious one!’ she said sadly. And climbed
into the bucket.
In an instant she had reached the bottom of the well,
and found that the water was not deep enough to cover
‘Why, it is larger and richer than I thought,’ cried she,
turning towards the wolf, who was leaning over the wall
of the well.
‘Then be quick and bring it up,’ commanded the
‘How can I, when it weighs more than I do?’ asked
‘If it is so heavy bring it in two bits, of course,’ said
‘But I have no knife,’ answered the fox. ‘You will
have to come down yourself, and we will carry it up
‘And how am I to come down?’ inquired the wolf.
‘Oh, you are really very stupid! Get into the other
bucket that is nearly over your head.’
The wolf looked up, and saw the bucket hanging there,
and with some difficulty he climbed into it. As he weighed
at least four times as much as the fox the bucket went
down with a jerk, and the other bucket, in which the fox
was seated, came to the surface.
As soon as he understood what was happening, the
wolf began to speak like an angry wolf, but was a little
comforted when he remembered that the cheese still remained
‘But where is the cheese?’ he asked of the fox, who
in her turn was leaning over the parapet watching his
proceedings with a smile.
‘The cheese?’ answered the fox; ‘why I am taking
it home to my babies, who are too young to get food for
‘Ah, traitor!’ cried the wolf, howling with rage. But
the fox was not there to hear this insult, for she had gone
off to a neighbouring fowl-house, where she had noticed
some fat young chickens the day before.
‘Perhaps I did treat him rather badly,’ she said to herself.
‘But it seems getting cloudy, and if there should
be heavy rain the other bucket will fill and sink to the
bottom, and his will go up—at least it may!’