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Main > Ukrainian folktales > Fairy tale "Ivan the Fool and St Peter's Fife"

Ivan the Fool and St Peter's Fife

There was once upon a time a man who had three sons, and two were clever, but the third, called Ivan, was a fool. Their father divided all his goods among them and died, and the three brothers went out into the world to seek their fortunes. Now the two wise brothers left all their goods at home, but Ivan the fool, who had only inherited a large millstone, took it along with him. They went on and on and on till it began to grow dark, when they came to a large forest. Then the wise brothers said, “Let us climb up to the top of this oak and pass the night there, and then robbers will not fall upon us.”––“But what will this silly donkey do with his millstone?” asked one of them.––“You look to yourselves,” said Ivan, “for I mean to pass the night in this tree also.” Then the wise brothers climbed to the very tip-top of the tree and there sat down, and then Ivan dragged himself up too, and the millstone after him. He tried to get up as high as his brothers, but the thin boughs broke beneath him, so he had to be content with staying in the lower part of the tree on the thicker boughs; so there he sat, hugging the millstone in his arms. Presently some robbers came along that way, red-handed from their work, and they too prepared to pass the night under the tree. So they cut them down firewood, and made them a roaring fire beneath a huge cauldron, and in this cauldron they began to boil their supper. They boiled and boiled till their mess of pottage was ready, and then they all sat down round the cauldron and took out their large ladles, and were just about to fall to––in fact they were blowing their food because it was so boiling hot––when Ivan let his big millstone plump down into the middle of the cauldron, so that the pottage flew right into their eyes. The robbers were so terrified that they all sprang to their feet straightway and scampered off through the forest, forgetting all the booty of which they had robbed the merchantmen. Then Ivan came down from the oak and cried to his brothers, “You come down here and divide the spoil!

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