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YASHPEH
International Folktales Collection

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Story No. 898


The Cock and the Mouse

Book Name:

Italian Popular Tales

Tradition: Italy

Translated from the dialect. (Principato Ulteriore, Imbriani, Pomiglianesi, p. 239, 'O Gallo e 'o Sorece)

Once upon a time there was a cock and a mouse. One day the mouse said to the cock: "Friend Cock, shall we go and eat some nuts on yonder tree?" "As you like." So they both went under the tree and the mouse climbed up at once and began to eat. The poor cock began to fly, and flew and flew, but could not come where the mouse was. When it saw that there was no hope of getting there, it said: "Friend Mouse, do you know what I want you to do? Throw me a nut." The mouse went and threw one and hit the cock on the head. The poor cock, with its head broken and all covered with blood, went away to an old woman. "Old aunt, give me some rags to cure my head." "If you will give me two hairs, I will give you the rags." The cock went away to a dog. "Dog, give me some hairs; the hairs I will give the old woman; the old woman will give me rags to cure my head." "If you will give me a little bread," said the dog, "I will give you the hairs." The cock went away to a baker. "Baker, give me bread; I will give the bread to the dog; the dog will give hairs; the hairs I will carry to the old woman; the old woman will give me rags to cure my head." The baker answered: "I will not give you bread unless you give me some wood!" The cock went away to the forest. "Forest, give me some wood; the wood I will carry to the baker; the baker will give me some bread; the bread I will give to the dog; the dog will give me hairs; the hairs I will carry to the old woman; the old woman will give me rags to cure my head." The forest answered: "If you will bring me a little water, I will give you some wood." The cock went away to a fountain. "Fountain, give me water; water I will carry to the forest; forest will give wood; wood I will carry to the baker; baker will give bread; bread I will give dog; dog will give hairs; hairs I will give old woman; old woman will give rags to cure my head." The fountain gave him water; the water he carried to the forest; the forest gave him wood; the wood he carried to the baker; the baker gave him bread; the bread he gave to the dog; the dog gave him the hairs; the hairs he carried to the old woman; the old woman gave him the rags; and the cock cured his head.[12]

Comments:

[12] This version is a variant of a story in the same collection, p. 236, which cannot well be translated, as it is mostly in rhyme. There is another version from Montella in the Principato Ulteriore, p. 241, "Lo Haddro e lo Sorece" ("The Cock and the Mouse"), which has a satirical ending. The beginning is like that of the other versions: the cock and the mouse go to gather pears; one falls and wounds the mouse's head. The mouse goes to the physician, who demands rags, the ragman asks for the tail of the dog. The dog demands bread, the baker wood, the mountain an axe; the iron-monger says: "Go to the galantuomo (gentleman, wealthy person), get some money, and I will give you the axe." The mouse goes to the galantuomo, who says: "Sit down and write, and then I will give you the money." So the mouse begins to write for the galantuomo, but his head swells and he dies. A similar story is found in Corsica, see Ortoli, p. 237.

There are other versions from Florence (Nov. fior. p. 551), Bologna (Coronedi-Berti, X. p. 16), and Venice (Bernoni, Punt. III. p. 74), which do not call for any detailed notice. In the Florentine version a cock gives a peck at a mouse's head and the mouse cries out: "Where must I go to be cured?" Then follow the various objects which are almost identical with those in the other versions. The mouse, however, is killed by the ox, to which he goes last. The Venetian version is the most elaborate; in it the cock and mouse go nutting together, and while the former flies up into the tree and throws the nuts down, the mouse eats them all up. When the cock comes down he flies into a passion and gives the mouse a peck at his head. The mouse runs off in terror, and the rest of the story is as above until the end. The last person the mouse calls on is a cooper, to make him a bucket to give to the well, to get water, etc. The cooper asks for money, which the mouse finds after a while. He gives the money to the cooper and says: "Take and count it; meanwhile I am going to drink, for I am dying of thirst." As he is going to drink he sees Friend Cock coming along. "Ah, poor me," says he to himself, "I am a dead mouse!" The cock sees him and goes to meet him and says: "Good day, friend, are you still afraid of me? Come, let us make peace!" The mouse then takes heart and says: "Oh, yes, yes! let us make peace!"

So they made peace, and Friend Mouse said to Friend Cock: "Now that you are here you must do me the favor to hold me by the tail while I hang over the ditch to drink, and when I say slapo, slapo, pull me back." The cock said: "I will do as you wish."

Then the mouse went to the ditch and Friend Cock held him by the tail. After the mouse had drunk his fill, he said: "Friend, slapo, slapo!" The cock answered: "Friend, and I let you go by the tail!" And in truth he did let go his tail, and the poor mouse went to the bottom and was never seen or heard of more.[13]

The following story from Sicily (Pitrè, No. 132) belongs also to a class of tales very popular and having only animals for its actors. It is called:

81. Godmother Fox.

[13] It remains to mention two poetical versions: one in Corazzini, from Verona, op. cit. p. 139, which begins:—

"Cos' è questo?

La camera del Vesco.

Cos' è dentro?

Pan e vin," etc.

"What is this? The bishop's chamber. What is in it? Bread and wine. Where is my share? The cat has eaten it. Where is the cat? The stick has beaten him. Where is the stick? The fire has burned it. Where is the fire? The water has quenched it. Where is the water? The ox has drunk it. Where is the ox? Out in the fields. Who is behind there? My friend Matthew. What has he in his hand? A piece of bread. What has he on his feet? A pair of torn shoes. What has he on his back? A whale. What has he in his belly? A balance. What has he on his head? A cap upside down."

The choice of objects is determined by the rhyme, e. g.:—

"Cosa g'àlo in schena?

Na balena.

Cosa g'àlo in panza?

Una balanza."

The second poetical version is from Turin, and is given by Foa, op. cit. p. 5. It begins:—

1. "A j'era' na crava

C' a pasturava,

A m' a rout 'l bout

Oh 'l bon vin c'a j'era' nt 'l me bout

L' è la crava c' a' m l' a rout!

2. "A j'è riva-ie l' luv

L' a mangià la crava

C' a pasturava

C' a m' ha rout 'l bout," etc. (ut supra.)

The following is a literal prose translation of this curious version.

"There was a goat that was feeding, it has broken my bottle. Oh, the good wine that was in my bottle, it is the goat that has broken it! Then came the wolf that ate the goat that was feeding, that broke my bottle, etc. Then came the dog, that barked at the wolf, that ate the goat, etc. Then came the stick that beat the dog, that barked at the wolf, etc. Then came the fire that burned the stick, that beat the dog, etc. Then came the water that quenched the fire, that burned the stick, etc. Then came the ox, that drank the water, that quenched the fire, etc. Then came the butcher that killed the ox, that drank the water, etc. Then came the hangman that hung the butcher, that killed the ox, etc. Then came death, and carried away the hangman, that hung the butcher, etc. Then came the wind, that carried away death, that carried away the hangman," etc.

A variant of this song reminds one more closely of the prose versions.

"Then came the hangman that hung the butcher, etc. Then came the rat that gnawed the cord, that hung the butcher, etc. Then came the cat that ate the rat, that gnawed the cord, etc. Then came the dog that caught the cat, that ate the rat, that gnawed the cord," etc.

The above Italian version, it will be clearly seen, is only a popular rendition of the Jewish hymn in the Sepher Haggadah. Foa, in the work above cited, gives another version from Orio Canarese, and also a number of Italian versions of the "Song of the Kid." His conclusion is the same as that of Gaston Paris in the Romania, I. p. 224, that the "Song of the Kid" is not of Jewish origin, but was introduced into the Haggadah from the popular song or story.

Abstract:

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