How A Man Got The Better Of Two Foxes
Category: TALES ACCOUNTING FOR THE ORIGIN OF PHENOMENA.
Source: Aino Folktales
A man went into the mountains to get bark to make rope with, and found a
hole. To this hole there came a fox, who spoke as follows, though he was
a fox, in human language: "I know of something from which great profit
may be derived. Let us go to the place to-morrow!" To which the fox
inside the hole replied as follows: "What profitable thing do you
allude to? After hearing about it, I will go with you if it sounds
likely to be profitable; and if not, not." The fox outside spoke thus:
"The profitable thing to be done is this. I will come here to-morrow
about the time of the mid-day meal. You must be waiting for me then, and
we will go off together. If you take the shape of a horse, and we go off
together, I taking the shape of a man and riding on your back, we can go
down to the shore, where dwell human beings possessed of plenty of food
and all sorts of other things. As there is sure to be among the people
some one who wants a horse, I will sell you to him who thus wants a
horse. I can then buy a quantity of precious things and of food. Then I
shall run away; and you, having the appearance of a horse, will be led
out to eat grass, and be tied up somewhere on the hillside. Then, if I
come and help you to escape, and we divide the food and the precious
things equally between us, it will be profitable for both of us." Thus
spoke the fox outside the hole; and the fox inside the hole was very
glad, and said: "Come and fetch me early to-morrow, and we will go off
The man was hidden in the shade of the tree, and had been listening.
Then the fox who had been standing outside went away, and the man, too,
went home for the night. But he came back next day to the mouth of the
hole, and spoke thus, imitating the voice of the fox whom he had heard
speaking outside the hole the day before: "Here I am. Come out at once!
If you will turn into a horse, we will go down to the shore." The fox
came out. It was a big fox. The man said: "I have come already turned
into a man. If you turn into a horse, it will not matter even if we are
seen by other people." The fox shook itself, and became a large chestnut
[lit red] horse. Then the two went off together, and came to a very
rich village, plentifully provided with everything. The man said: "I
will sell this horse to anybody who wants one." As the horse was a very
fine one, every one wanted to buy it. So the man bartered it for a
quantity of food and precious things, and then went away.
Now the horse was such a peculiarly fine one that its new owner did not
like to leave it out-of-doors, but always kept it in the house. He shut
the door, and he shut the window, and cut grass to feed it with. But
though he fed it, it could not (being really a fox) eat grass at all.
All it wanted to eat was fish. After about four days it was like to die.
At last it made its escape through the window and ran home; and,
arriving at the place where the other fox lived, wanted to kill it. But
it discovered that the trick had been played, not by its companion fox,
but by the man. So both the foxes were very angry, and consulted about
going to find the man and kill him.
But though the two foxes had decided thus, the man came and made humble
excuses, saying: "I came the other day, because I had overheard you two
foxes plotting; and then I cheated you. For this I humbly beg your
pardon. Even if you do kill me, it will do no good. So henceforward I
will brew rice-beer for you, and set up the divine symbols for you, and
worship you,--worship you for ever. In this way you will derive greater
profit than you would derive from killing me. Fish, too, whenever I make
a good catch, I will offer to you as an act of worship. This being so,
the creatures called men shall worship you for ever."
The foxes, hearing this, said: "That is capital, we think. That will do
very well." Thus spake the foxes. Thus does it come about that all men,
both Japanese and Aino, worship the fox. So it is said.--(Translated
literally. Told by Ishanashte, 15th July, 1886.)
Next: The Man Who Married The Bear-goddess
Previous: The Owl And The Tortoise