The New Year’s Bell 🎉🔔

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“Brother Carl, wake up! wake up! Don’t you hear the great bell? Father is ringing the New Year in, don’t you hear it, little Carl? Wake up!”

Tangled-haired little Carl sat up in bed, rubbed his eyes, and after a few winks opened them wide.
“Is it the wind, brother Hans, that sings so?”
“No, no! It is the great bell; don’t you hear it ring? It is ringing for the New Year.”
“Is father drawing the rope?” asked the little one.
“Of course he is, little Carl; he is waking up the whole world that every one may wish a ‘Happy New Year.’ Come, let us go to the window.”
And the two little fellows crept out of their warm nest onto the cold floor, and over to the window.
“Oh, see, there is father’s lantern in the steeple window!” cried Carl.

It threw its light into the frosty night; the clear stars cut sharp holes in the sky, and the air was so cold it made everything glisten.
A-ring-a-ring, ring! clanged the great bell, and little Hans and Carl knew their father’s arms were making it ring. The strokes were so strong that each one made little half-asleep Carl wink; and the stars seemed to wink back to him each time. He crept closer to Hans, and the two stood still with their arms about each other; the room was quite cold, but they did not mind it, for with each stroke the great bell seemed to ring more beautifully. It seemed so near them, as if ringing right in their ears, and the two little boys stood and listened with beating hearts.

“I saw dear father trim his lantern,” whispered Hans. “He set it near the door before we went to bed, all ready to light when the clock struck twelve. Mother said to him as he put the lantern there, ‘Ring the bell good and strong, dear father, for who knows but this year may bring the great blessing which the Christ-child promised!’ We must watch for it, little Carl.”
And the old bell seemed to speak louder and clearer to the little ones, as they eagerly listened for what it was telling.
“Father says the bell will never ring from the old tower again, for the new one is being built,” said Hans. “And what do you think, brother Carl, our dear mother wept because the old steeple must be broken down, and the dear bell, that is even now a-ringing, must be put into another great tower to ring.”

“Does the great bell know it, brother?”
“No, dear little Carl; but no matter where it is put it will always ring, and be glad to wake the village for the New Year.”
“Will we go and say good-bye to the dear old bell, brother Hans?” whispered little Carl.
“Yes, brother mine; when it is day we will go, for it has rung so many times for us.”
They crept out of the cold into their snug bed again, and the great strokes poured from the window tower long after the little curly heads were full of dreams.

“Wake up, brother Hans! there is the sun.”
This time little Carl was the first to wake. Quickly they were both dressed, and, opening their door noiselessly, they went down the narrow stairs on tiptoe, and then out into the open air.

A swift wind was blowing. It swept over the bare bushes and whirled the snow into the children’s faces, and filled their curly hair with flakes. But the sun was smiling down on them and said: “See what a beautiful day I brought for a New Year’s gift to you!”
And the little ones passed through the church door, that was always open, and into the belfry tower. They knew the way, for father had so often taken them with him.

They came to the long, dark ladder-way; but they did not mind the dark—for they knew the bell was at the top, and they bravely began to climb.

Hans had wooden shoes, so he left them at the foot of the ladder. It is so much easier to climb a ladder with bare feet. Besides, he hardly felt the cold he was such a quick and lively little boy.
Carl went ahead that brother Hans might be more easily able to help him. They climbed, up and up, and the brave big brother talked merrily all the time, to keep little Carl from thinking of the long, long way. Up and up they went. It became darker and darker. Little Carl led on and on, and he was glad that Hans was behind him.

All at once a bright gleam of light greeted them from above, and they knew that soon they would be with the dear old bell.
Through the opening they crept, and there the great bell hung and they stood beneath it. Hans could just touch it, and he felt its long tongue and saw the shining marks on its sides where it had struck in clanging for many, many years.
It was very cold in the belfry. Little Carl tucked his hands under his shirt and gazed at the bell, while Hans explained to him what made the music and the great tolling tones that came from it.

“The whole world loves the great bell, brother Carl,” said Hans. “Mother thinks that last night it rang in the great blessing which the Christ-child had promised.”
“What did the little Christ-child promise, brother?”
“Don’t you remember, little Carl? Mother told us that the Christ-child would send little children a beautiful gift; I think it must be the New Year that he has sent, for that is what the old bell brought to us last night.”
And Hans lifted little Carl, and he kissed the beautiful bell on its great round lip, and the bell was still warm from its long ringing.
And they stood and looked at the bell quietly for a long time. And then they said, “Good-bye, dear great bell,” and they went down the dark ladder again.

Hans put on his wooden shoes at the foot of the ladder, and with flying feet they crossed the church garden, and there stood the dear mother in the door looking for them. She had found their little bed empty, and was just starting out to find them.
“Dear Mother, we have been in the tower to thank the great bell for bringing the New Year,” cried Hans.
“Did the Christ-child send it, Mother?” asked little Carl.
The mother stooped and put her arms about them and kissed them both. As she led them into the room she said, “Yes, my little ones, the Christ-child sends the New Year.”

The Girl Who Missed Christmas 🎅

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Once upon a time, there was a little girl called Natalie.
Natalie was six. She lived in a nice house, on a nice street. She had a little brother called Joe, and a dog called Marmalade. And most of the time Natalie was happy.

She played with her friends. She played with her dog. Sometimes she even played with Joe – when he wasn’t being annoying.
But there was one thing Natalie didn’t like. Getting up.

Every morning her Dad would come into her room and say: “C’mon Natalie, time to get up.” And Natalie would say: “Just one more minute.”
“Now, now, you’ll be late for school,” said Dad.
“Just one tiny minute,” Natalie would say. “Pleeeeeeease…..”
“Now, Natalie.”
“It’s so warm in bed,” Natalie would moan.

And so it went on every morning. Dad would shout at Natalie to get up. Mum would shout at her. And Marmalade the dog would bark. And Joe would already be up.

And then Mum would shout at her again. And the dog would bark even louder. But Natalie just pulled the cover over her ears.
Because Natalie just really, really, really hated getting out of bed in the morning.

“You know, Natalie, one day you’re going to miss something really important because you stay in bed too long,” said Dad.

As it happened, something very important was about to happen. The nights were getting longer, and the leaves were falling from the trees, and soon Natalie was getting very excited because it was getting close to Christmas.

And she had so many different things she had asked for. She wanted a new game for her Nintendo DS, and a doll that cried real tears, and a new DVD, and lots and lots and lots of things.

Of course, she had to rehearse for the school play – except she nearly missed it because she was sleeping in.
And she had to go and see Santa in the grotto – but she nearly missed that as well because she didn’t want to get out of bed.

“I just don’t know what to do about all this sleeping,” said Mum.
But Natalie didn’t care. If I want to stay in bed, why shouldn’t I? she decided to herself.

So finally Christmas Eve arrived. And Natalie was so excited she found it really hard to get to sleep. She wanted to stay and see if she could really see Santa. She tried ever so hard to stay awake as long as she could.
But eventually, she went off to sleep. And she slept. And slept. And slept.

At one point she heard Dad coming into the room to wake her – but she just rolled over, put the pillow over her head, and went back to sleep again.
Finally she decided she had been so long in bed that it was starting to get boring. She pulled away the pillow and looked towards the window. It was morning.

“Wow, it’s Christmas day,” said Natalie. “I’m so excited.”
She looked towards the end of her bed. But where was the stocking? she wondered. Where had Santa left all his toys?

Natalie jumped out of the bed, and ran downstairs. She was quite out of breath – because she’d never jumped out of bed before.
“Mum, Dad, it’s Christmas,” she shouted.

She glanced around the room. Joe was playing with a new toy car. Mum was folding away some used wrapping paper. Dad was reading a boring looking book with no pictures — in fact, the sort of book Mum gave him every year. And Marmalade the dog was eating something that looked suspiciously like turkey leftovers.

“Mum, Dad, it’s Christmas,” shouted Natalie, even louder this time.
There was a silence. Everyone looked at her – everyone that is except Marmalade who was busy eating turkey.

“It’s Christmas…isn’t it?” said Natalie, more quietly now.

“You mean, it was Christmas,” said Dad.

“You slept right through,” said Mum.

“We tried to wake you,” said Dad.

“But, but, but….” said Natalie.

“I told you you’d miss something important one day,” said Dad.

“It was really good,” said Joe. “We had loads of food, and loads of presents.”

“And I missed it,” wailed Natalie.
And she started to cry, and cry, and cry.

“Sorry,” said Dad. “It also means you didn’t get any presents from Santa. But don’t worry, there will be another Christmas next year.”

“It’s not faaaaair,” wailed Natalie.

“But I always told you you’d miss something important if you didn’t get out of bed on time,” said Dad. “Now, help me clear away all this wrapping paper….”

But Natalie just walked out of the house. She walked through the garden and across the park. When she got there, she cried and cried. She was so upset about missing Christmas and she didn’t know how she could wait for a whole year.

Now, it so happened that it was still very early in the morning and the sun was only just coming up, so it was still quite dark. At that very moment, Santa was just trudging his way across the sky in his sleigh on his way back home. He was very tired and so were the reindeer, because they’d been all around the world delivering presents to all the children. But, even though he was tired, he couldn’t help noticing one little girl sitting on a park bench all by herself and crying and crying.

“Whoa there Rudolf,” said Santa. “I wonder what’s wrong with that girl.”

“Maybe she didn’t like her presents,” said Rudolf, who was hungry and tired, and wanted to get back home to get some food. “Kids today! No gratitude….”

“We better see,” said Santa. And so he pulled the sleigh down into the park.

“What’s the matter?” asked Santa.

But Natalie was so upset, she just kept crying, and her eyes were so full of water she couldn’t see anything.

“Huh, she’s probably upset because she only got one Nintendo, ten Polly Pockets, and a dozen Barbie dolls,” said Rudolph. “Kids today! When I started this job they were happy with a small piece of wood and an orange. The stuff you have to carry nowadays. It’s hardly surprising my back hurts.”

“Didn’t you like your presents?” said Santa.

Natalie rubbed her eyes, and then looked up. Santa was sitting right next to her.

“Oh-my,” she said. “Is it….you?”

“Shhhhh,” said Santa. “You see I’m not really supposed to show myself to children.”

“We’ll be in trouble for this,” moaned Rudolph. “I told you we should have gone straight home.” But Natalie gave Santa a hug.

“You see Santa, I slept right through Christmas….and now I’ve missed it.”

“Oh dear, oh dear,” said Santa. Then he looked towards the house.

“We’ve still got a few things left in the sack,” he said. “So go inside, and check the fireplace in your bedroom in a few minutes.”

“But, but, but…”

“Just go,” said Santa. So Natalie started to walk home and Santa went back to his sleigh.

“We’re not doing another delivery are we,” said Rudolph. “Because, that’s overtime, that’s what that is…I’ll need an extra carrot for that.”

“Oh, c’mon you lazy animal,” said Santa.

And then Natalie came back into the house. She couldn’t believe her eyes. Jingle bells was playing, everyone was wearing hats and her mum had re-heated some turkey and made some fresh roast potatoes.

“We thought we’d re-start Christmas,” said Dad. “Just for you.”

And Natalie jumped up and down and then ran upstairs. Because on the fireplace in her bedroom there was a stocking bursting with presents – there was a doll with real tears, a princess on a white pony, a game for her Nintendo, and, finally, after she had opened all the other presents from Santa there was one special one from Dad – An Alarm Clock!

So for the rest of the day, Natalie had the best Christmas ever.

And do you know what? A couple of weeks later it was the first day of a new term. Dad came into the bedroom. “Wake up, Natalie. Time to go back to school,” he said. Then he looked around.

“Natalie,” he said, sounding worried. “Natalie..”

But he couldn’t see her anywhere. Then he heard a voice from downstairs. So he rushed down to the kitchen and Natalie was out of bed, had put on her school uniform and brushed her hair, and had made breakfast for everyone.

“I’m never going to be late for anything again, Dad,” she said.

East of the Sun and West of the Moon

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Long ago and far away, in a land of trolls and magic, there lived a poor farmer. His house was falling down, his family were in rags and his money was almost gone. Now winter was coming on……

“Listen to the wind and the rain!” the farmer wailed. “What can I do? Won’t someone please help me?”

“TAP! TAP! TAP!” There, at the farmhouse door, stood a big white bear.

“I’m lonely,” the bear said. “Lend me Astrid, your daughter, and I’ll make you and your family rich.”
“Rich?” said the farmer.
“Very rich,” said the bear. “I’ll look after her well, I promise. Tell me on Thursday if you agree.

Well, the family was so poor they had to agree. On Thursday, Astrid found herself clinging to the bear’s stiff white fun as he padded away from the farmhouse.

All day long they traveled. Then, as night fell, they came to a steep cliff. Or was it the wall of a castle? Soon they were in a splendid hall made of the finest gold and silver.

“Take this bell, Astrid,” said the bear. “If there is anything you want, just ring it.”
“All I want is a soft bed and sweet dreams,” Astrid yawned.

That night she dreamed of a handsome young prince who sat beside her bed while she slept. The same thing happened the next night, and the night after that.
All day long Astrid rang the bell for anything she wanted. And all night long the Prince sat beside her in her dreams.
On the fourth day, Astrid sent for the bear. “I’m homesick,” she told him. “I want to see my family.”
“Will you promise to come back?” said the bear. “And will you promise not to share any secrets with your mother?”
“I promise, Bear.”
So the bear took Astrid home.

Astrid’s first promise was easy. Her family was now rich and happy so she knew she must stay with the bear.
Her second promise was harder. In a land of trolls and magic, a girl can’t help sharing secrets with her mother.
“I dreamed of a prince every night,” said Astrid. “Or was he real all along?”
“Ah…..” her mother smiled. “Next time, light this magic candle. But don’t get any magic wax on him!”
“I won’t!” Astrid laughed.
Astrid loved the visit to her family. But now she had a plan, she was keen to get back to the castle.

That night, at the gold and silver castle, Astrid went to bed very early. She kept her eyes shut tight until she heard somebody sit beside her bed. Then she lit the magic candle…..much too quickly.

The prince was real all right. As real as the three drops of magic wax Astrid had spilled on his shirt.
“Oh, Astrid,” he groaned. “What have you done? A troll called Long Nose put a spell on me. By day I’m a white bear and by night a royal prince. Now you’ve spilled some magic, the spell can’t be broken. I’ll have to marry Long Nose!”

“How can I save you?” Astrid sobbed.
“You can’t,” said the Prince, sadly. “Long Nose will lock me in her castle until our wedding day. It lies east of the sun and west of the moon, so nobody can find me.”
“I can still try….” said Astrid.

Next morning, the Prince and the castle had vanished. So had all of Astrid’s fine clothes. Dressed in her old rags, she set off at once.
“East of the sun and west of the moon…..”she said. “Somebody must know where Long Nose lives.” She walked and walked and walked.

At last, on top of a high mountain, she met an old hag. “I’ve never heard of Long Nose,” the old hag said. “You’d better ask my big sister who lives on the next mountain. Here, take this golden apple to bring you good luck.”
“Thank you,” Astrid said.

The old hag’s sister was no help at all. “I’ve never heard of Long Nose,” she said. “You’d better ask my other sister who lives on the next mountain. Here, take this golden comb to bring you luck.”
“Thank you,” Astrid said.

But the third old had shook her head as well.
“I’ve never heard of Long Nose,” she said. “My sisters were silly to send you. Here, take this golden spinning wheel to bring you good luck.”
“Thank you,” Astrid said.
Now she was all along again, with a golden apple, a golden comb, and a golden spinning wheel to carry.

“East of the sun and west of the moon!” Astrid cried. “Does nobody know where I can find Long Nose?”
“I do,” hissed the East Wind.
“Can you take me there, sit?” Astrid asked eagerly.
“Only if my brothers help me, Astrid: the West Wind, the South Wind and the North Wind.”
“Please,” Astrid begged.
So the East Wind swept her into the air. She flew from wind to wind; East to West to South to North, over hills and seas and forests.
Then the North Wind set her down.
“Thank you, winds,” said Astrid. “But where is it you’ve lifted me?”
“East of the sun and west of the moon,” the North Wind smiled. “This is where Long Nose lives.”
“Goodbye!” waved Astrid as he gusted off.

Astrid was standing by the biggest and gloomiest castle she’d ever seen. Long Nose was looking down from a high window.
“Hello, Astrid,” she cackled. “Are you looking for the Prince? Give me that golden apple and I’ll let you see him.”
“Take it,” said Astrid, quickly.

Inside the castle, she found the Prince in a deep, deep sleep. He was holding an empty silver cup.
“Was that a magic drink?” Astrid wondered. “If it was, I’ll never wake him.”
The Prince slept all night long.

The next day, Astrid offered Long Nose the golden comb.
“It’ll be yours forever,’ she said, “if you’ll let me visit the Prince again.”
“Why not?” sniffed Long Nose. “I shall keep him fast asleep until our wedding day!”
SO it was a magic drink in the silver cup….

That night, while the Prince dozed, Astrid made a tiny hole in the cup.
“This time, I want to spill some magic,” she said. “It’s the only way to wake him. Long Nose is so greedy, I’ll give her the golden spinning wheel for one last visit.”
Long Nose agreed at once.
“What do I care?” she said. “Tomorrow the Prince and I will be married.”

At bedtime, Long Nose didn’t spot the tiny hole as she filled the silver cup. Nor did she spot the magic drink leaking out.
Later, after Long Nose had gone, it was easy for Astrid to wake the Prince.
“Astrid!” the Prince exclaimed. “Have you come to save me?”
“If I can,” Astrid said. “But how do we get rid of Long Nose?”
“With a test of true love,” said the Prince. “The winner will be the one who can clean the magic wax from my shirt. That’s the person I’ll marry!”

At first, Long Nose was very cross. But she was far too proud to say no to the test.
“Anybody can wash a shirt!” she sneered. “Bring me a tub, some soap and a scrubbing brush!”
Long Nose had spoken much too soon. The harder she scrubbed, the blacker the shirt became. In the end she screeched “Help me, trolls!’
Every troll in the castle came running. But the shirt got blacker and blacker.
“Stop scrubbing!” Long Nose yelled. “Let Astrid try. How can a girl like her beat trolls like us?”
With true love, that’s how.

Astrid dipped the Prince’s shirt in some cool, clear water. Instantly, it was as white as snow again.
Long Nose and her team of trolls were beaten. They were never seen again, not even east of the sun and west of the moon.
Everybody else was invited to the royal wedding; family, friends, the three hags and the four winds as well.

Afterwards, the gold and silver castle appeared again and Astrid and her Prince went back to their home. There they lived happily ever after.

Otto the Spider

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In the cellar of an old house, in a dark and quiet place there once lived a spider called Otto. He had spun his web in the darkest corner of the cellar. Even though he lived in a neglected and untidy place, Otto was a very tidy creature.

Every morning he would diligently tighten the threads of his web. He would straighten the unruly lock on the top of his head with a small comb. He kept his body perfectly black by taking baths in coal dust. Otto led an untroubled and uneventful life and enjoyed the peace and solitude.

On the rare occasion a gust of wind would blow through the bars of the small cellar window. It would come dancing through his web, making the threads vibrate. For a moment, the game would turn the web into a sensitive musical instrument. The web’s threads would resonate like silk cords. Games, dancing, and music served no purpose, as far as Otto was concerned. He did not like the wind and its strumming because they loosened the threads of his web.

Otto would then jump to and fro and threaten here, there and everywhere angrily with his little feet. He could hardly wait for the uninvited guest to leave to tighten the threads of his beautiful web to perfection again.

If there was anything in the world that made this grumpy creature happy, then it was flies and other small winged creatures that had lost their way. He stalked them patiently, hunted them deftly, and then wrapped them up in sticky threads.

Immediately after a tasty meal, Otto would hurry off to repair his web again. He would join the broken threads and check the tautness of his knots.

One rainy afternoon, haunted by a strange impulse, Otto set off to explore the cellar. He strolled across the hill of coal, crept into an old basket and discovered a little old wooden chest. The lid had been left ajar and seemed to be calling to the spider. As he crawled inside the chest, little did he know that the events that followed would change the habits of a lifetime.

Inside the chest Otto discovered wondrous things: needles of all sizes, spools of thread, crochet hooks, wooden knitting needles. A pair of old rusty scissors and some pin cushions lay on a pile of old lace.

Otto marveled at these mysterious bits and pieces. He felt strangely attracted to each and everyone of them. Suspicion and caution were forgotten. Curiosity got the better of him and he crawled into every nook and cranny of the chest to have a closer look at each and every object.

Suddenly he stepped into something horrible, something unbearably untidy, in fact, something disgusting and brightly colored.

“Aaarghhh!” screamed Otto in horror and fell straight into the middle of this disgusting something. Otto was trapped! He started shaking his little feet and some of the threads seemed to come alive, winding themselves around the spider’s body. Out of his mind with fear, he closed his eyes and imagined he was struggling with a terrible cellar monster. The more he struggled, the more he became entangled. The spider felt as helpless as a fly caught up in a web.

“Heeelp!” he gasped. His cry echoed through the rooms of the empty, abandoned cellar. Who could possibly help this lonely creature? Suddenly a strong gust of wind blew through the chest. The wind’s invisible, skillful fingers grabbed the monster and started shaking it and tearing its terrible feelers apart. Slowly the suffocation pressure around Otto’s neck disappeared and the threads flew in all directions. Only two threads remained and wrapped around Otto’s head and body. They now looked more like decoration than the scary feelers of a monster. Otto was saved! The wind laughed as it blew through the chest and flew away.

“Hey, friend!” shouted Otto to the wind. “Thank you, my friend!”

Once again Otto was all alone. He looked around in wonder and amazement. He was surrounded by threads of all colors and sizes: zigzag reds, wavy greens, dotted yellows, straight greys, twisting blues……What Otto had thought was a terrible monster, was only a tangled ball of old wool. The little creature suddenly felt mysteriously inspired. He started to gather the woolen threads and began weaving them with his deft little feet.

Soon a brand new and cheerful web made of leftover pieces of wool had turned the drab, grey cellar into a blaze of color.

Today Otto can often be found sitting on this new, brightly colored web where he entertains his guest.

The wind is happy. He likes to compose and play tunes on this new, multi-colored instrument. Each colored thread makes a different sound. Otto listens closely…….Sometimes he dances happily around to the sound and sometimes he just stands back and pretends to conduct.

The Fox and the Wolf

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The Wolf and the Fox had so much in common that they were like brothers.

They both loved to steal and to hunt, but given the choice, they always prefer to steal. These two strong-pawed bandits of the animal world lived together in one den. But the Wolf was far bigger and more powerful than the Fox, and he thought himself to be the better of the pair. The Fox, though smaller, knew that he was much smarter than the Wolf, and he resented the way that the Wolf always acted like he was the big boss.

One day, as they sat in the sun outside their cave, the Fox said to the Wolf: “My friend, you are like a brother to me so let me give you some kind advice. Mend your ways; be a bandit no more; do not steal from the man again.”

The Wolf turned his great head to his friend, and lifted up one shaggy ear. The Fox went on: “I know how you love to creep into man’s vineyard, dig up his vines, and eat his grapes. I know how you like to jump into his fields and steal his lambs. I also see how he hates you for this, and how he is planning your destruction. You would be wise to fear him for he is full of cunning. He knows how to shoot birds down from the sky, how to lift fish from the water, how to burn wood, and how to cut up rocks, and steal from him no more. Someone that smart is bound to out-wit one like you eventually. So do as I advise: Make peace with man, and steal from him no more.”

The Wolf listened, and he did not welcome these words, for he felt deep down that the Fox was insulting him. Did he mean to hint that he was not that smart? Or at any rate, he realised that the Fox thought himself to be far cleverer than him. And so he lifted up his great paw, and punched his friend hard in the face. The poor animal went rolling over and over and was quite stunned. When he staggered back to his feet the Wolf growled at him: “It is not for you to advise your betters.”

It took the Fox a moment or two to recover himself. When he could manage a smile he said softly: “Of course, you are right brother Wolf, forgive me. I am full of regret for my sin against you, whom I love more than any other creature in the world.”

And the Wolf looked him up and down, saw that the Fox was fittingly afraid of him, and added in a stern voice: “Learn from this lesson. Don’t poke your nose into other people’s business.”

The Fox bowed his head and said: “To hear your voice is to obey, my brother.”

“That’s more like it,” said the Wolf. “At least those were wise words said in the right place.”

“Oh yes,” said the Fox, more humbly than ever. “As the poet once said, the blow of a teacher is at first hurtful, but in the end it is sweeter than honey.”

And from that time on, he was always careful to show the Wolf the greatest respect, and to flatter him whenever possible. But inwardly he despised him, and was looking for the chance to take his revenge.

The months passed, and the Wolf forgot all about the incident, but the Fox did not.

One day, he was skulking along the wall of the vineyard, looking for a way to sneak in and steal some grapes, when he found a hole large enough for a fox – even for a wolf – to creep through.

At first he was delighted, and then he thought to himself: “This is too good to be true. I think man is plotting something here.” And he stretched through the hole and gently tapped the ground on the other side with his paw. It was just as he thought. The man had laid sticks and leaves across a deep pit. It was a trap to catch a thief.

“Yeah, that I have found this cunning trap!” said the Fox happily. “And may my enemy the Wolf fall straight into it!” And he ran back to the den with a spring in his step.

“Good news,” he said as the Wolf was just shaking off his sleep. “I have found an easy way into the vineyard. You can sneak in and fill your belly with man’s juicy grapes. The ripe fruit is shining on the vines, ready for you to eat.”

The Wolf had no reason to doubt the Fox’s words, and he went trotting off to the vineyard in search of a delicious and easy breakfast. He found the hole in the wall, just where the Fox had told him to look, and he easily crawled through it – but on the other side he fell through the sticks and leaves and tumbled straight down into the trap.

The Fox saw his friend’s misfortune, and he was jubilant. “At last fortune has taken pity on me! Greed has pulled the Wolf down to his doom!”

And with tears in his eyes, he peered over the edge of the pit and saw the sorrowful Wolf looking up at him:
“My one true friend,” said the Wolf, “I see that you are crying for me.”
“No! Not one bit!” laughed the Fox. “I am crying because I am thinking how long you lived before this day, and I am sad because you didn’t fall into this deep hole sooner.”

These cruel words stunned and hurt the Wolf even more than his fall had done.

Quite shocked, he replied: “Have mercy on your brother. Go and speak to my mother. She will know what to do and will bring help.”

But the Fox was quite unmoved by the Wolf’s plea. He snarled up his muzzle to show his yellow teeth and said: “You silly, witless beast, why should I help you who have been a tyrant over me?”

“But, but” pleaded the Wolf, “you have always protested your love for me. You have sworn to be my servant. You have promised to look after me, even in my old age. How can you turn against me like this?”

“Oh you deluded, self-deceiving fool,” jeered the Fox. “That was my fear talking, not my heart. In truth I despise you for you are a bully and a brute.”

Still unable to fully believe these words, the Wolf, half thinking that his friend was joking, said: “I pray, do not speak to me with the tongue of an enemy. Do not look at me with the eyes of a foe. For the wise poet spoke well when he said: ‘Forgiveness is noble, and kindness is the best of treasures.”

“Oh now you beg and scrape,” said the Fox. “But that is only because you are down there in the dark hole, and I am up here in the sun.”
“If you rescue me from this pit, I shall repent my ways!” howled the Wolf. But the Fox just laughed at him.

And at last the Wolf realised that his former friend truly did despise him, that there was no hope in him helping him, and all was lost. He began to weep and howl more piteously than ever.

Now, even the Fox had a place in his heart that was not either filled with hatred or cunning, At last he was moved by the fate of the Wolf. He went over to the hole and said: “My friend. Why are you crying so? I was only joking when I said those words. Here, pull on my tail and heave yourself out.” And so saying he dangled his red bushy tail into the hole for the Wolf to take hold of.

But the Wolf, full of dumb desire for revenge, did not make use of the tail to save himself. Instead, he seized it and pulled the Fox down into the hole with him growling triumphantly: “So now you have fallen into the snare of your own intent, you traitor, and in it, you shall share my fate!”

The Fox, full of fear, began to beg and scrape: “Oh brave and powerful master, do not strike me now, or you will not benefit from my plan and we shall both die here. Is it not better that we should both save ourselves?”

The Wolf, already feeling a little calmer, began to regret that he had not saved himself when he had the chance, and he asked: “And how exactly do you propose to save us?”

“Easy,” said the Fox. “Lift me up on your head, and I can scramble out of this pit. I will run and fetch a vine to use as a rope to help you climb out.”

But the Wolf shook his shaggy head and said: “Oh Fox, I respect you for never giving up, but I am not the fool you take me to be. As the poet said, “The worst of enemies is your nearest friend. Greet him with a smiling face, but be ready to do battle with him.” And that is why I do not trust your words. No. It would be a bad thing for me to die here alone. You shall wait here with me, and we shall die together when the man comes and finds us trapped here.”

“Wise words,” said the Fox. “But not for every case. It cannot be right to always be suspicious. Trust is the glue of friendship. Without trust, each one of us is on his own. Without trust there can be no working together. The choice is yours, trust me or die. What have you to lose? For if you do not trust me, your number’s up anyway.”

Now the Wolf, who of course did hope to live, saw that he had little to lose by helping the Fox, and he lifted him up on his head. The Fox grasped at the edge of the hole with his claws, got a hold of a vine, and scrambled up into the daylight.

“Be sure to keep your word,” called up the Wolf. “Run and fetch that rope and pull me out.”

“Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!” cried the Fox. “Not a chance! If I help you out, you will take your revenge and kill me.” And he ran off up the hill towards the village. There he started to make a great noise, so much so that the man came out holding a rake in his hand. He saw the Fox and started to chase him. The Fox turned and ran, meaning to lead him to the pit where he would find the Wolf and kill him. But as he ran, the Fox thought: “Is it not sad that we are all alone in this world, and can trust no one.”

And when he reached the pit, he dangled his tail down into the hole once again and said: “Wolf, quick, pull yourself out by my tail. If you drag me down into the pit once again, we are both dead because the man is no more than a minute away. Be wise. See that we are joined together by our common enemy. Either we live or die together.”

And the Wolf, seeing that he had but one chance to live, pulled himself out by the Fox’s tail and ran for the woods. The Fox ran too, but in a different direction, because he did not wish to debate trust and suspicion with the Wolf again. There was too much danger in that discussion.