Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Ox as Mayor, a German folktale

This story is dedicated to Koko, Kanzi, Washoe, and Alex the Parrot--

A peasant couple decided, "Our ox is so clever. We should send him to school. Then he can learn to talk and to read."

At this time, a group of students were on their way to college and passed by the couple's home. The people called out, "Wait! As you are going to school, please take our ox so he may learn, too!"

The students smiled and saw this as an opportunity.

"We will bring the ox with us. . .only if you pay for his books. We have already paid for ours."

This made sense to the couple so they gave money to the students without question.

The students took the ox.

Then, about every month, a letter arrived from the students to express how well the ox was doing in school. The couple wished that the ox would write to them instead of the students, but the students insisted that the ox was so busy studying. Yet, each time these letters arrived, the students always asked the couple for more money to pay for more books. The ox flew through reading the ones he already had.

These letters went on for several years.

Finally, the couple missed their ox so much that they wished to visit him. When they wrote of this desire to the students, the students mentioned that not only did the ox graduate from school but that the ox became the mayor at a certain village.

This the couple had to see.

The couple traveled to this village.

Now it happened that the mayor's name was Ox. When the couple asked how to find Ox, the people pointed to a particular building. The couple entered.

There was a man behind a desk.

"Ox?" asked the couple.

The man looked up.

"Who are you?" asked the mayor.

"Who are we? What do you mean 'Who are we?'"

Still, the mayor looked confused.

"So this is how it will be," fumed the couple. "We pay for your education so you can talk and read, and you choose to ignore us? Then we shall go home."

The couple stomped out of that village.

When the couple arrived at their home, a dog welcomed them.

The couple looked at each other, smiled, and had another thought.

--This is my take on this German folktale. One version is found in Folktales Told around the World edited by Richard M. Dorson.

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