The old man and the fox

The old man and the fox

Once upon a time, there lived an old man and his wife. They had so many reindeer that, whenever they grazed in the fields, it seemed as if there were no other animals on Earth but reindeer.

While the old man remained strong, he was a good shepherd. But in his last summer, he became weak with age and could not manage his reindeer on his own. So, one day the reindeer ran away. He started searching nearby but could not find them.  

He had to venture into the woods in search of his reindeer. He wandered around for a long time and got completely exhausted. Suddenly, he met a fox in the woods.

The fox said, “Greetings, old man! What are you looking for in the forest?”

“My reindeer got lost. I’ve been searching for them for a long time. I have no strength left, but still have to find them.”

“Old man, would you like me to find your reindeer for you?”

“I sure would. And what would you like to take as a payment?”

“Can I pick some blueberries at your glade? My blueberry shrubs have almost no fruit on them, while your glade is full of berries.”

The old man agreed to hire the fox as a shepherd and to let him eat delicious blueberries at his glade. The old man returned home and told his wife everything that had happened while the fox found the reindeer herd, caught one deer, ate it, and then ran to the blueberry glade to munch on some berries.

It went like that for a long time. The fox would eat the old man’s reindeer, while the old man though the fox was shepherding them.

After a while, the old man met the fox and asked, “Well, how are my reindeer doing?”

“They’re doing great, old man! They are now so fat now, so glossy!”

“Please keep taking care of my reindeer, but make sure you come here more often and let me know how they are doing.” 

“Certainly, I will do as you say,” replied the fox. 

Then the fox ran back into the woods and ate another reindeer. After that, he visited the glade and ate some blueberries.  This would go on day in and day out. After a while, he visited the old man.

“How are my reindeer doing?” asked the old man.

“Excellent, they’ve gained some more fat.”

“Well, let them graze and get fatter. Take good care of my herd.”

This went on for a long time. Once, the old man asked the fox one more time, “How are my reindeer doing?”

“They’re doing great! They’ve gained a great deal of weight, they’re so big now.”

“I’d like to take a look at them,” said the old man. “Why don’t you drive my herd over to my house?”

“I sure will, old man. Let me go ahead and gather the reindeer. Soon, I will drive them over here.”

The old man waited for a day and then another, but the fox would not return.  He decided to go look for his reindeer himself. In the woods, he met the fox, looking snug and well-fed.

“Listen, fox, where are my reindeer?”

“I couldn’t find them, old man. They must’ve run away somewhere. I’ll go ahead and search for them, and you can follow me. Don’t sweat it, though.” 

The fox ran forth while the old man dragged behind. He walked for a long time until he reached the glade where his reindeer used to graze. He saw bones piling up all over the place, and the fox finishing the last reindeer. The old man realised what had happened, but it was too late – the reindeer were all dead.  He started yelling at the fox, “You are a thief and a scoundrel, you! I’ll teach you a lesson!”

The fox started running away. The old man ran after the fox, trying to catch up, but couldn’t. They approached the old man’s home, and he shouted out to his wife, “Hey, get that thieving fox! Catch him!”

The old woman was hard of hearing and could not make out his words, and the fox already approached her, saying, “Your old man wants you to pay me for my services. He tells you to attach some nice trinket to my tail.”

“What kind of trinket?” asked the old woman.

“Give me a knife. That’s what the old man says. A knife would make a nice trinket.”

The old man’s wife attached a knife to the fox’s tail, and the fox ran on. The old man finally arrived and asked his wife, “Why didn’t you catch the fox?”

“I couldn’t hear what you were shouting. And the fox told me to pay him for his services.”

“And what exactly did you do?”

“Well, I attached a knife to his tail.”

The old man then realised that the fox was the most cunning animal in the forest…

In the meanwhile, the fox kept running. At first he felt fine, but soon he became hungry.  “I’m starving. I’ve got to eat something right now,” thought the fox. Suddenly, he saw a wolf passing by.

“Hello, Fox!”

“Hello, Wolf! How did you manage through the winter?”

“Terrible, brother Fox. There was almost no food, so I almost starved to death.”

Then, the wolf spotted the knife on the fox’s tail.

“Say, Fox, what is it you’ve got attached to your tail?”

“It’s a trinket, Wolf.”

“And a nice one, too! I’d like such a trinket for myself – after all, I have a tail, too!”

The Fox realised that the Wolf had got envious, and said:

“Indeed, this is a pretty trinket that I’ve got! Look how shiny it is!”

“Where did you get it, Fox?”

“Do you see that ice-covered mound? I slid down that mound again and again, and this trinket grew on my tail”

“Well, Fox, take me to that mound. I’ll do some sliding too.”

The fox took the wolf to the mound, but the ice covering it was coarse. The wold began sliding down the mound.

“Fox, is there a trinket on my tail already?”

“Not yet, brother Wolf, you’ve got to slide some more.”

“And why do I have a burning sensation under my tail?” asked the wolf.

“Let me take a look,” replied the fox. “Oh my, you’ve got a thorn in your hide. This can hurt you really bad, might even kill you.”

“Could you please take it out?” implored the wolf.

“Sure, brother Wolf”, said the fox and thrust his knife under the wolf’s tail.

“Why does it hurt even more now?” cried out the wolf.

“It’s because I’m taking the thorn out,” said the fox and cut the wolf’s belly open.

Having killed the wolf, the fox ate him and satiated his hunger.

This is how cunning the fox was. He outwitted both the old man and the fox’s old enemy, the wolf.