The Cottager and His Cat
Happy New Year, Travellers! Welcome back to the Enchanted Forest. I hope you all had a lovely holiday season and are as eager as we are for another exciting year full of new and old stories!
This week, Fox is out in the winter wonderland, searching high and low for new tales to share. But do not worry! Fox will be back in a fortnight with her shorts to share! But solo or not, it is still my job to bring old and new tales for you, and that is just what I have done.
Nora and Andrew Lang
Our story today is an Icelandic tale, and it comes to us from The Crimson Fairy Book. This book is a collection of fairy tale stories from around the world, collected by Nora and Andrew Lang. It is worth noting that while their Fairy Book collection of stories is popular and contains a wide variety of stories, not all of them are adequately sourced, if at all. Additionally, there are stories from all over the world, yet they were translated and adapted by this couple from the British Isles. So there is always a chance of translation errors or modified elements. Sadly, I could not find a secondary source for this tale, so we are placing our trust in the Langs. Nevertheless, this is still a charming little story and a purr-fect way to start the year right. So, with all that pre-amble out of the way, it’s time to curl up next to the warm fireplace as I tell the tale of The Cottager and his Cat.
frugality killed the Man
Our story starts with an old couple living in a dirty, run-down cottage. Despite the sorry state of their dwelling, the Old Man that lived there was quite wealthy. You see, he went to great lengths to hoard his wealth and would rather starve himself than part with his precious coins. He could seriously compete with Scrooge McDuck for his greedy, money-obsessed nature. Eventually, he starved himself one too many times and became very sick before passing away.
The night following his father’s passing, his son had an unnerving dream. In it, a man approached him and said- “Your father is dead and your mother will soon pass as well, at which point their riches will become yours. Half your father’s riches were ill-gotten and this must be returned to the poor from whom it was once taken from. The other half must be thrown into the sea. But watch as the money sinks, if anything is able to swim, catch it and you may keep it. Even if all that appears is a single piece of paper.”
I Dream a Dream
Shaken by this dream, the youth contemplated what he should do. He had lived a hard life with his father’s hardcore cheap lifestyle and was looking forward to using the money to comfort his mother. On the other hand, despite growing up with such a greedy father, the youth was honest and good-hearted, so he didn’t think he could enjoy the wealth if his father had indeed gotten it wrongfully. The next day, he went to the poorest people in town and gave half the wealth to them.
After that, he went to the top of the cliffs and threw the remaining half of the coins into the water. The coins vanished into the water, where no man could find them. As he turned to go, he saw a single scrap of paper float on the water. The youth carefully picked it up and found it had six shillings wrapped in it. He thoughtfully looked down at the six coins that now made up his fortune.
Image: H. J. FORD published in Pretty Goldilocks and Other Stories by Andrew Lang
His mother was apparently okay with this because we never hear her reaction to her son throwing away his inheritance. Either way, they both agreed to live off of the food they could grow from the garden. But after a few weeks of the young man working hard, the mother suddenly died.
The Orphaned Protagonist
The grief-stricken youth made a grave for his mother before blindly wandering the forest with his heavy heart. Eventually, he came across a small hut in the woods. Feeling quite hungry, he knocked on the door and asked them if he could have some milk to drink.
The Old Woman who answered the door invited him in for dinner and offered him a place to sleep at no charge. Grateful for the offer, the young man accepted and entered to find two women and three men already at the table.
Image: Cat in a Cottage Window by W Herbert, after Ralph Hedley
While they ate, the youth was surprised to see an unfamiliar beast sitting next to the fire. It had a blueish-grey coat and was fluffy. But what caught his attention was its big bright eyes and the peculiar singing sound it made. He quickly asked his dinner companions what they called this creature. And they told him it was a cat.
He asked if he could buy the cat as his companion. He then took out the paper with the six shillings and offered it in exchange for the cat. They agreed to this, and the next day, he set off with the cat cuddled in his cloak.
After making the best purchase of his life, the young man continued to wander idyllic forests and meadows before night fell. He had to knock on another cottage and ask for a place to stay. The Old Man who lived there agreed and let him stay the night. The Old Man’s family was curious about the youth’s cat as they had never seen one before. They quickly became enamoured by it, and the women gave the cat lots to eat.
Hearing the youth’s tale of woe, the Old Man encouraged him to speak to the King to get counsel on what he should do next. Apparently, this King was one of those nice Kings that listened and cared for his subjects. Conveniently, the palace was not too far from here.
Following the advice of the Old Man, the youth sent a message to the King requesting an audience, to which the King quickly replied with an invitation.
So the youth travelled to the palace and arrived in time for the court’s dinner feast. As the youth approached, he bowed but was surprised to see a group of small black creatures crawling along the ground and on tables, snatching food off plates. The King tried to swat one such creature away from his plate, but the animal bit his hand and continued eating his food.
The boy asked the King what the creatures were, and the King responded dejectedly. They were greedy rats that plagued the King’s court and had only gotten more brazen through the years.
Suddenly, something flew through the air, and with a slash, two rats fell. The cat was having a field day, and in no time at all, it had cleared the great hall, leaving bodies of dead rats everywhere.
Image: The Piped Piper of Hamelin by Kate Greenaway
HAPPILY EVER AFTER
Everyone was astonished, and the King asked what creature was this that could wield such magic. The young man told the King that it was a cat and that he had bought it for six shillings.
Grateful, the King looked to the youth and said that because he brought such luck, he could either be the Prime Minister or marry the Princess and inherit the kingdom!
Without any hesitation, the young man picked the Princess and the kingdom. They lived happily ever after.
And that brings our story to a close. Proving cats are just the best. They will solve your local King’s pest problems, and you’ll get to marry the Princess because of it. This will help you eventually deal with the trauma of losing your parents.
Images: H. J. FORD published in Andrew Lang’s Orange Fairy Book