Father Bruin, Retold by Gudrun Thorne-Thomsen
Once on a time there was a man who lived far, far away in the wood. He
had many, many goats and sheep, but never a one could he keep because of
Greylegs, the wolf.
At last he said, "I'll soon trap Greyboots," and so he set to work to
dig a pitfall. When he had dug it deep enough, he put a pole down in the
midst of the pit, and on the top of the pole he set a board, and on the
board he put a little dog. Over the pit itself he spread boughs and
branches and leaves, and other rubbish, and a-top of all he strewed
snow, so that Greylegs might not see that there was a pit underneath.
So when night came on, the little dog grew weary of sitting there:
"Bow-wow, bow-wow," he said, and bayed at the moon. Just then up came a
fox, prowling and sneaking, and thought here was a fine time for
marketing, and with that gave a jump,—head over heels down into the
And when it got a little farther on in the night, the little dog grew so
weary and so hungry, and it fell to yelping and howling: "Bow-wow,
bow-wow," he cried out. Just at that very moment up came Greylegs,
trotting and trotting. He, too, thought he should get a fat steak, and
he, too, made a spring—head over heels down into the pitfall.
When it was getting on towards grey dawn in the morning, down fell the
snow, with a north wind, and it grew so cold that the little dog stood
and shivered and shook, he was so weary and hungry, "Bow-wow, bow-wow,
bow-wow," he called out, and barked and yelped and howled. Then up came
a bear, tramping and tramping along, and thought to himself how he could
get a morsel for breakfast at the very top of the morning, and so he
thought and thought among the boughs and branches, till he, too, went
bump—head over heels down into the pitfall.
So when it got a little farther on in the morning, an old beggar wife
came walking by, who toddled from farm to farm with a bag on her back.
When she set eyes on the little dog that stood there and howled, she
could not help going near to look and see if any wild beasts had fallen
into the pit during the night. So she crawled up on her knees and peeped
down into it.
"Art thou come into the pit at last, Reynard?" she said to the fox, for
he was the first she saw; "a very good place, too, for such a hen-roost
robber as thou; and thou, too, Grey-paw," she said to the wolf; "many a
goat and sheep hast thou torn and rent, and now thou shalt be plagued
and punished to death. Bless my heart! Thou, too, Bruin! Art thou, too,
sitting in this room, thou horse killer? Thee, too, will we strip, and
thee shall we flay, and thy skull shall be nailed up on the wall." All
this the old lass screeched out as she bent over towards the bear. But
just then her bag fell over her ears and dragged her down, and slap!
down went the old woman—head over heels into the pitfall.
So there they all four sat and glared at one another, each in a
corner—Reynard in one, Greylegs in another, Bruin in a third, and the
old woman in a fourth.
But as soon as it was broad daylight, Reynard began to peep and peer,
and to twist and turn about, for he thought he might as well try to get
But the old lass cried out, "Canst thou not sit still, thou whirligig
thief, and not go twisting and turning? Only look at Father Bruin
himself in the corner, how he sits as grave as a judge," for now she
thought she might as well make friends with the bear.
But just then up came the man who owned the pitfall.
First he drew up the old woman, and after that he slew all the beasts,
and neither spared Father Bruin himself in the corner, nor Grey-legs,
nor Reynard the whirligig thief. That night, at least, he thought he had
made a good haul.