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A Fox And His Wife

Category: Part I.

Source: Folklore Of The Santal Parganas

Once upon a time there were a fox and his wife who lived in a hole with
their five little ones. Every evening the two foxes used to make their
way to a bazar to feed on the scraps thrown away by the bazar people;
and every night on their way home the following conversation passed
between them. The fox would say to his wife, "Come tell me how much
wit you have," and she would answer him by, "Only so much as would
fill a small vegetable basket." Then she in her turn would ask "And
how much wit have you?" "As much as would load twelve buffaloes."

One night as they were on their way home as usual, the two suddenly
found themselves face to face with a tiger, who greeted them by saying
"At last my friends, I have got you."

At this the fox for all his wit, could not utter a word but crouched
down and shook with fright. Mrs Fox however was not at all inclined
to give way to despair. She saluted the tiger and said "Ah, uncle,
do not eat us up just now; I and my husband have a dispute and we want
you to settle it for us." The tiger was mollified by being addressed by
so respectful a name as uncle, and answered in a gentler voice "Well,
my niece, tell me what is the point and I will decide it for you."

"It is this," went on Mrs. Fox, "we have five children and we wish
to divide them between us but we cannot decide how to do so; I say
that I will take three and leave him two; while he wants to take
three and leave me two. We came out to look for some man to settle
the dispute but have not met one: and now providentially you have
appeared before us like a god; no doubt you will be able to make the
division for us." The tiger reflected that if he managed things well,
he would be able to eat not only the two foxes but their young ones
as well, so he graciously agreed to make the division.

The foxes then invited him to come back with them to the hole in which
they lived, and when they reached it, Mr. Fox bolted into it saying
that he was going to bring out the children. As however he did not come
out again, Mrs. Fox said that it was clear that he could not manage the
children by himself, and she would go and help; and thereupon proceeded
to back into the hole, keeping her face turned towards the tiger.

Seeing her disappearing the tiger thought to seize her, but as she kept
her eyes on him he could only say "Hullo, what is the matter? Why are
you going in backwards?" "Oh, uncle," replied Mrs. Fox, "how could
I turn my back on so great a personage as you?" and with that she
disappeared. Presently the tiger heard the two foxes calling out from
inside "Goodbye, uncle, you can go away now; we have arranged how to
divide the children ourselves." Then he saw how he had been fooled
and flew into a terrible rage and tried to squeeze his way into the
hole; but it was much too small and at last he had to go away baffled:
and so the foxes were saved by Mrs. Fox's wit.

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