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Why The Bear Has A Stumpy Tail [Folk Tales Of Flanders] O ne very cold winter, when the ground was covered with snow and the ponds and rive...

Why The Bear Has A Stumpy Tail

Why The Bear Has A Stumpy Tail [Folk Tales Of Flanders]

Why The Bear Has A Stumpy Tail [Folk Tales Of Flanders]

One very cold winter, when the ground was covered with snow and the ponds and rivers were frozen hard, Reynard the Fox and all the other animals went out to enjoy themselves by sliding and skating on the ice. After a time Reynard began to feel hungry, so he wandered off by himself in search of something to eat. He nosed about here, and he nosed about there; he lay in wait behind bushes in the hope of being able to catch a bird; he lurked by the walls of farmhouses ready to spring out upon any unsuspecting chicken that might show itself, but all in vain. The birds were wary, and the fowls were all safe in the hen-houses.

 Disappointed with his lack of success Reynard betook himself to the river, now covered with a glistening sheet of ice, and there, under the shelter of a bank, he found a hole in the ice which had not been frozen over. He sat down to watch the hole, and presently a little fish popped up its head for a breath of air. Reynard’s paw darted, and the next moment the unfortunate creature lay gasping on the ice. Fish after fish the fox caught in this way, and when he had quite satisfied his hunger he strung the remainder on a stick and took his departure, not forgetting first of all to offer up a prayer for the repose of his victims.

Why The Bear Has A Stumpy Tail [Folk Tales Of Flanders]

He had not gone far before he met Mrs. Bruin, who had also come out in search of something to eat. When she saw Reynard with his fine catch of fish, she opened her eyes, I can tell you, and said: “Wherever did you get all those fine fishes from, cousin? They make my mouth water! I am so hungry that I could bite the head off an iron nail!”

“Ah,” said Reynard slyly, “wouldn’t you just like to know!”

“It is what I’m asking you,” said Mrs. Bruin. “You would surely not be so mean as to keep the good news to yourself!”

“I don’t know so much about that,” answered Reynard, “but I have a certain fondness for you, cousin, so come along with me and I will show you the place where I caught the fish.”

Nothing loath, the bear followed, and presently they came to the hole in the ice.

“Do you see that hole, cousin?” said Reynard. “That is where the fish come up to breathe. All you have to do is to sit on the ice and let your tail hang down into the water. After a time the fish will come to bite at it, but don’t you move. Sit quite still until the evening; then you will find a score of fishes on your tail and you can pull them out all together.”

Mrs. Bruin was delighted with the plan and immediately sat down and dipped her tail into the water.

“That’s the way,” said Reynard. “Now I’ll just be walking home to see to my dinner, but I’ll be back presently. Be careful to keep quite still, or you’ll spoil everything!”

Why The Bear Has A Stumpy Tail [Folk Tales Of Flanders]

So for the next three hours Mrs. Bruin sat on the ice with her tail in the water, and very cold it was, but she consoled herself with the thought of the delicious meal she would have when the fish were landed.

Late in the afternoon Reynard returned. “Well, cousin,” said he, “how do you feel?”

Why The Bear Has A Stumpy Tail [Folk Tales Of Flanders]

“Very cold,” said Mrs. Bruin, with her teeth chattering. “My tail is so numb that I hardly know I’ve got one!”

“Does it feel heavy?” asked Reynard anxiously.

“Very heavy,” said Mrs. Bruin.

“There must be hundreds of fish on it!” said Reynard. He left the bank and walked round the bear, observing that the water in the hole had frozen over, and that Mrs. Bruin’s tail was held firmly in the ice.

“I think you may safely pull up now,” he went on, “but you must be careful to land all the fish together. There is only one way to do that: you must give a strong, sharp, sudden pull and take them by surprise. Now then, are you ready? One, two, three … !”  

At the word three Mrs. Bruin rose on her hind legs and gave a mighty jerk, but her tail was so firmly embedded in the ice that it would not come out.

“My word,” cried Reynard, “you have caught the whole river-full. Persevere, cousin—now then, a long pull and a strong pull!”

“Ouf!” grunted Mrs. Bruin, “ouf, ouf … ah!” And then she suddenly tumbled head over heels on the ice, as with one mighty jerk, she snapped her beautiful bushy tail clean off close to the roots.

When she had gathered her scattered wits together well enough to understand what had happened, she went to look for Reynard, but he had suddenly remembered an important engagement elsewhere, and was not to be found. And from that time down to this every bear has been born with a little stumpy tail.


Why The Bear Has A Stumpy Tail [Folk Tales Of Flanders]


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