The Sheep and Pig who Set up Housekeeping,

A Scandinavian Story

Once upon a time a Sheep stood in a pen to be fattened for the winter’s feast. He lived well, for he was given the best of everything, and he soon became so fat that one day the maid who came to bring his food said: “Eat full to-day, little Sheep, for to-morrow will come the killing and we shall eat you.” And she shut the gate and went away.

“Oh,” said the Sheep, “I have heard that, Women’s words are worth heeding, and that, There is a cure and a physic for everything except death. There being no cure for that, it is best to find a way out of it.”

So he ate up all the food that the maid had left for him, and then he butted hard against the gate of the pen, and it flew open, and the Sheep went out of the pen and out on the big road.

He followed the road to a neighboring farm, and made his way to a pigsty where was fastened a Pig that he had known on the common.

“Good day, and thanks for our last merry meeting!” said the Sheep. “Do you know why you are fed so well while you stay in this sty?”

“No, that I do not,” said the Pig. “But I am very glad to get the good food and plenty of it, which they have been bringing to me since I was shut up.”

“Ho, there is reason for that,” said the Sheep. “Many a flask empties the cask. They want to make you very fat, for their purpose is to eat you at the winter’s feasting.”

“May they not forget to say grace after meat,” said the Pig. “I can do naught to hinder their eating.”

“If you will do as I do we will go off together into the woods and build a house and set up housekeeping,” said the Sheep. “A home is a home, be it ever so homely.”

So the Sheep and the Pig together butted down the pigsty, and started off on the big road together. “Good company is good comfort,” said the Pig, as they trotted along.

As they entered the big woods they met a Goose, who had come out on the common.

“Good day, and thanks for our last merry meeting,” said the Goose, “where are you going so fast?”

“You must know that we were too well off at home, and so we have set off into the woods to build a house and set up housekeeping,” said the Sheep, “for, Every man’s house is his castle, if he  build it but big and strong enough.”

“As for that,” said the Goose, “all places are alike to me, but I should like to build a house; so if you like I will go with you, for, It’s but child’s play when three share the day.”

“With gossip and gabble is built neither house nor stable!” said the Pig. “What can you do to help build the house?”

“By cunning and skill a cripple can do what he will,” said the Goose. “I can gather moss to put into the crevices and cracks, and so make the house warm and comfortable.”

Now, Piggy wanted above everything else to be warm and comfortable, so he said that the Goose might come along.

As the three journeyed on they met a Hare.

“Good day, and thanks for our last merry meeting,” said the Hare; “where are you hurrying to so fast?”

Then the Sheep explained how they were too well off at home, and were going into the woods to build a house and set up housekeeping, “For,” he said, “You may travel the world around, but there is no place like home.”

“Oh,” said the Hare, “for the matter of that, I have a home in every bush. But I have always thought that some day I would build a house, and I will go with you if you like.”

“We could use you to scare away the dogs,” said the Pig, “but you would be no good for anything else.”

“He who lives long enough will always find work to do,” said the Hare. “I have sharp teeth to gnaw the boards, and paws to hammer them fast. I can set up at any time for a carpenter, for, Good tools make good work, as the man said.”

So he got leave to go, and there was no more said about it.

As they went deeper into the woods they met a Cock, who gave them greeting and asked where they were going.

Then the Sheep explained how they were too well off at home, and were going into the woods to build a house and set up housekeeping, “For,” said the Sheep, “He who out of doors shall bake, loses at last both coal and cake.”

“Well,” said the Cock, “that is just my case, for, It’s far better to sit on one’s own perch, for then one can never be left in the lurch; besides, All cocks crow loudest at home. If I may have your leave, I will come with you.”

But the Pig protested. “Flapping and crowing sets tongues a-going!” he exclaimed, “but, A jaw on a stick never yet laid a brick. How can you help us or make yourself useful?”

“Oh,” said the Cock, “That house will never have a clock where there is neither dog nor cock. I will wake you up every morning, and will cry the alarm when the dawn arises.”

“Very good,” said the Pig, who was very like to oversleep. “Sleep is a greedy thief, and thinks nothing of robbing you of half your life. You may come with us.”

So they all set off together into the woods, and at last they came to a good place and built the house. The Pig hewed the timber, and the Sheep drew it home; the Hare was the carpenter, and the Goose gathered moss and filled all of the cracks and crevices, and the Cock wakened them every morning early.

At last the house was done, and it was snug, and warm, and comfortable. “’Tis good to travel east and west, but, after all, a home is best,” said the Sheep.

And they lived together until cold weather came, when they put up a stove to keep warm, and they planned to enjoy the long winter.

Now, not far off from the house lived the Wolf and his family, and his brother and his brother’s family.

And the Wolf and his brother saw the house which the Sheep and the Pig and the Goose and the Hare and the Cock had builded, and they talked together of how warm and comfortable it was, and the Wolf decided that they must get acquainted with their new neighbors.

So he made up an errand and went to the door and said he had come to ask for a light to his pipe; and while the door was held open he pushed himself inside.

Then all at once he found himself in a great confusion, for the Sheep butted him so hard that he fell against the stove; and the Pig gored and bit him; and the Goose nipped and pecked him; and the Hare ran about over the house, now on the floor and now aloft, so that the Wolf did not know who or what he was, and was scared out of his wits, and all the time the Cock perched on a top beam and flapped his wings and crowed and crowed.

By-and-by the Wolf managed to get near the door and to dash through it.

“Neighborhood makes for brotherhood,” said the Wolf’s brother. “You must have made good friends, since you remained so long. But what became of your errand, for you have neither pipe nor smoke?”

“Nice life makes pleasant company,” said the Wolf. “Such manners I never saw. For no sooner was I inside than the shoemaker flew at me with his last, and two smiths blew bellows and made the sparks fly, and beat and punched me  with red-hot pincers, and tore great pieces out of my body, the hunter kept running about trying to find his gun, and it is well for me that he did not, for I should never have come out alive; and all the while a butcher sat up on a beam and flapped his arms and sang out to the others: ‘Put a hook into him! Put a hook into him and drag him thither!’ so it was all I could do to get out alive!”

“Well,” said his brother, “we can’t choose in this wicked world, and an unbidden guest sometimes gets bad treatment. But I think that we will be very well advised to let these new neighbors alone.”

So the Wolf, and the Wolf’s family, and the Wolf’s brother and his brother’s family, let the Sheep and the Pig and the Goose and the Hare and the Cock alone, and they lived very happily in their house in the woods.