To Book List

To Story List

To Main Page

International Folktales Collection

To Next Story

To Previous Story

Story No. 125

The Tinker and his Wife

Book Name:

Gypsy Folk Tales

Tradition: Gypsy, Roumania, Bukovina, Ukraine

Once there was a tinker and his wife, and they got into a bit of very good country for yernin’ a few shillings quick. And in this country there wasn't very little lodgings. 'Well, my wench,' he said to his wife, 'I think we'll go and take that little empty house, and keep a little beer. Well, my wench, I'll order for a barrel of beer.' He has this barrel of beer in the house. 'Now, my wench, you make the biggest penny out of it as ever you can, and I'll go off for another week's walk.'

In the course of one day a packman come by. He says, 'It's gettin' very warm, missus, isn't it?'

'No, indeed,' she says, 'it's very cold weather.'

'I've got a very big load, and it makes me sweat, and I think it's warm.'

'I sell beer here,' she says.

He says, 'Well, God bless you, put me a drop for this penny.'

It was one of the old big pennies, and was the biggest penny she ever saw there. She brought him all the barrel for it. So she takes the penny and drops it in the basin on the mantel-shelf. He was there three days drinking till he emptied the barrel of beer. The husband comes home at the end of the week.

'Well, my wench, how did you get on?'

'Well, Jack, I did very well. I sold every drop of beer.'

'Well done, my wench, we'll have another one and see how that goes. Now, my wench, bring them few shillin's down, and let's see what you made upon it.'

She brings the basin down, and says, 'You telled me to make the biggest penny on it as ever I could.'

He begin to count it, and turns the basin upside down, and empties it on the table. And what was there but the one big penny?

'Well! well!! well!!!' he says, 'you'll ruin me now for life.'

'Ah!' she says, 'Jack, didn't you tell me to make the biggest penny out of it as ever I could, and that was the biggest penny as ever I seen.'

'Well,' he says, 'my wench, I see you don't understand sellin’ beer. I think I'll buy a little pig. We've got plenty of taters and cabbage in the garden. Well, now, my wench, when the butcher comes round to kill the pig, you walk round the garden and count every cabbage that's in the garden, and you get a little stick, and stick it by every cabbage in the garden, and when the butcher slays the pig up, you revide a piece of pig up for every cabbage in the garden.'

She revided a piece of pig up for every cabbage in the garden, and stuck it on every stick round the cabbages. The husband comes home again.

'Well, my wife, how did you go on with the pig?'

'Well, Jack, I done as you told me,' she says. 'I got a stick and stuck it by every cabbage, and put a piece of mate on every stick.'

'Well! well!! well!!!' he says, 'where is the mate gone to now? You'll ruin me if I stop here much longer. Pull the fire out,' he says, 'and I'll get away from here.' And he picks up his basket and throws it on his shoulder. 'Pull that door after you,' he says.

What did she do but she pulls all the fire out and put it into her apron. The old door of the house was tumbling down, and she picks it up and put it on her back. So him being into a temper, he didn't take much notice of her behind him. They travelled on, and it come very dark. They comes to an old hollow tree by the side of the road.

'Well, my wench, I think we'll stop here to-night.'

They goes up to the top of the old tree. After they got up in the tree, the robbers got underneath them.

'Whatever you do, my wench, keep quiet. This is a robbers' den.'

The robbers had plenty of meat and everything, and they prayed for a bit of fire.

She says, 'Jack,' she says, 'I shall have to drop it.'

So she drops the fire out of her apron, and it goed down the hollow tree.

'See, what a godsend that is,' said one.

They cooked the meat as they had. 'The Lord send me a drop of vinegar,' says one.

'Thank God for that,' says that other one. 'See what a godsend ’tis to us.'

Now, the door's fastened to her back yet, and she says, 'Jack, I shall have to drop it.'

'Drop what?' he says.

'I shall have to drop the door, Jack,' she says, 'the rope's cutting my shoulders in two.'

So she drop the door down the hollow tree, and it went dummel-tummel-tummel down the tree, and these robbers thought ’twas the devil himself coming. They jumps up, and away they goes down the road as hard as ever they could go. .The time as they run, Jack's wife goes down the tree and picks up the bag of gold what they'd left. Being frightened as they'd had such godsends to ’em, they left all behind.

They had one brother as was deaf and dumb. Him being a very valuable [Valiant] fellow, he thought he'd come back to see what was the matter. He come peepin’ round the old tree. Who happened to see him but Jack's wife. And he went 'A a a a a a' to her.

'Come here,' she says, 'I can cure your speech.'

She made motions with her own mouth for him to put his tongue out. She drew the knife slightly from behind her as he put his tongue out, and cut half of his tongue off. Him being bleeding, he went 'Awa wa wa wa wa,' putting his hand to his mouth and making motions to his brothers. And when he got back to his brothers, them seeing him bleeding, they thought sure the devil was there.

I never see Jack nor his wife nor the robbers sense after they left the tree.


Matthew Wood furnished another (imperfect) Welsh-Gypsy version (No. 71. 'Winter']: –


To Next Story

To Previous Story