A Story From: Norway
Read Time: ["10 to 15mins"]
For Ages: 5 to 7yrs., 8 to 10yrs.
Once upon a time there was a ram who was stuffed and crammed day after day with everything that tasted yummy. So this happy life went on. One morning, the dairymaid came into the ram’s pen. She gave the ram even more food than usual and said, “Eat hearty, ram, you won’t be here much longer. The next time I see you it will be on our dinner plates tomorrow.”
What could the ram do? He ate till he could eat no more. Then after the dairymaid left, he butted out the door of the pen and went directly to the neighboring farm. That’s where a pig lived whom he had been best friends with for years.
“Good day, friend pig!” said the ram, at his friend’s pigsty.
“And a good day to you, too!” said the pig.
“I just learned,” said the ram, “why it is we are so well fed. Do you know the reason?”
“No, I do not,” said the pig.
The ram leaned forward. “They fatten us because they mean to kill us and eat us.”
“No, really?” said the pig.
“I heard it from the dairymaid myself, this very morning,” said the ram. “Listen to me. Here’s what we can do. We’ll go off to the wood, build us a house, and set up for ourselves.”
“Yes!” The pig was willing enough. And so the two of them set off.
When they had gone a bit they met a goose.
“Good day, good sirs,” said the goose, “whither are the two of you bound?”
“Good day, and the same to you,” said the ram. “If you must know, we learned the terrible truth about why we’ve been so well fed at home, and so we are going to set up for ourselves in the wood.”
“Well!” said the goose, “it’s much the same with me wherever I am. May I go with you too?”
“We’re not sure,” said the pig. “Let us know what you can do to help us. With gossip and gabble is built neither house nor stable.”
“I am an expert plucker and stuffer,” said the goose with pride. “I can pluck moss and stuff it into the seams of the planks, and your house will be tight and warm.”
“Well, yes, I suppose that’s so!” And the ram and the pig let the goose join. Above all things, piggy wished to be warm and comfortable in their new house.
When they had gone a bit farther – it was hard work for a goose to walk as fast as a ram and a pig — they met a hare, who came frisking out of the wood.
“Good day, good sirs,” she said, “where are you three gentlemen trotting off to today?”
“Good day to you, friend hare,” said the ram. “We were far too well fed at home, and now we know the terrible reason why. So we’re going to the wood to build us a house and set up for ourselves.”
“Is that right?” said the hare. “You know, in the summer I have a house in every bush. Still, I have often said in winter, ‘If I only live till summer, I’ll build me a proper house.’ And so I have half a mind to go with you and build one up, after all.”
“Well, we don’t expect you could help us in house building,” said the pig doubtfully, “though I suppose if we ever get into a scrape, we might use you to distract the dogs.”
“Why, I have teeth to gnaw pegs,” said the hare, “and paws to drive them into the wall. So I can very well set up to be a carpenter, for ‘good tools make good work.'”
“So they do!” And the hare, too, joined them, and there was nothing more to be said about that.
When they had gone a bit farther they met a rooster.
“Good day to you all,” said the rooster. “Whither are ye going today in such fine spirits?”
“Good day, and the same to you,” said the ram. “At home we were all too well fed, and now we know the terrible reason why. So we are going off to the wood to build us a house and set up for ourselves.”
“Well!” said the rooster, “what a capital idea! Certainly it’s better to sit on one’s own perch, for then one will not be left in the lurch. Besides, all cocks crow loudest at home. Now, if I might join such a gallant company as yours, I also would like to go to the wood and build a house.”
“Ay! ay!” said the pig, “but a jaw on a stick never yet laid a brick. How can you help us to build a house?”
“Oh!” said the rooster. “That house will never have a clock, where there is neither dog nor cock. I am up early, and so I’ll wake everyone.”
“Very true,” said the pig, “let him come with us.” For you must know, piggy was always the soundest sleeper. “Sleep is nothing but a big thief,” he thought, “who thinks nothing of stealing half one’s life.”
So they all set off to the wood, a gallant band they were, and together they built the house. The pig cut the timber and the sheep drew it home; the hare was carpenter and gnawed pegs and bolts, and hammered them into the walls and roof; the goose plucked moss and stuffed it into the seams; the rooster crowed and looked out that they did not oversleep in the morning, and when the house was ready, and the roof lined with birchbark, and thatched with grass and sod, there they lived by themselves, and were happy and well. Said the ram, “‘Tis good to travel east and west, but after all, one’s own home is best.”
You must know that a bit farther on in the wood there was a wolf’s den, and inside the den there lived two grayleg wolves. So when those two wolves saw that a new house had risen up nearby, they were curious what sort of folk their neighbors were, and they licked their chops just thinking about it.
So one of the wolves made up an errand, and went into the new house and asked for a light for his pipe. But as soon as he got inside the door, the sheep gave him such a butt toward the stove that he fell head first into it. Then the pig began to bite him, the goose to peck him, the rooster to crow and chatter; and as for the hare, she scampered about on the floor and scratched and scrambled in every corner of the house.
The wolf rushed out of the house.
“Well!” said his companion who had waited for him outside. “What became of the light, for you have neither pipe nor smoke.”
“I am grateful to still be one piece!” panted the wolf. “The most terrible creatures you can imagine live in that house! As soon as I got inside the door, one of them threw me into the fire. There sat two monsters who beat me and pinched me with tongs. There must have been a hunter there, too, for I heard him scrambling about looking for his gun, and it was my good luck he didn’t find it. All the while there was another fellow who sat up under the roof and slapped his arms and I’m sure he sang out, ‘Put a hook into him, and drag him hither, drag him hither!’ That was what he screamed, and if he had only got hold of me, I’m sure I never would have come out alive.”
If You Like This Story You Will Love:
"The Ram and the Pig Who Set Up House" is adapted from "The Sheep and the Pig Who Set Up House," a story from Tales from the Field by P. Asbjornsen (London: Chapman & Hall, 193, Piccadilly, 1874), pp. 267-272.
Adapted by Elaine Lindy ©1998. All rights reserved.
This storyline, where several barnyard animals build a home together and defend it against intruders, is a popular motif in folktales. The Brothers Grimm tell such a version in "The Bremen Town Musicians", where a dog, a cat, a donkey, and a rooster join forces. Another tale is the English-American "How Jack Went to Seek His Fortune" (North American Legends by Virginia Haviland, 1979), where Jack joins a cat, dog, goat, bull, skunk and rooster and together they scare a band of robbers from their house in the woods.