Golden Fowls

Aesop's "Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs"
and other tales of magical birds abused by their beneficiaries
edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 1998-2009


Contents

  1. The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs (Aesop).

  2. The Goose and the Golden Eggs (Aesop).

  3. The Golden Mallard (from The Jataka; or, Stories of The Buddha's Former Births).

  4. The Lucky-Bird Humá (Kashmir).

  5. The Duck That Laid Golden Eggs (Russia).


Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs

Aesop

A man and his wife had the good fortune to possess a goose which laid a golden egg every day. Lucky though they were, they soon began to think they were not getting rich fast enough, and, imagining the bird must be made of gold inside, they decided to kill it in order to secure the whole store of precious metal at once. But when they cut it open they found it was just like any other goose. Thus, they neither got rich all at once, as they had hoped, nor enjoyed any longer the daily addition to their wealth.

Much wants more and loses all.




The Goose and the Golden Eggs

Aesop

One day a countryman going to the nest of his goose found there an egg all yellow and glittering. When he took it up it was as heavy as lead, and he was going to throw it away, because he thought a trick had been played upon him. But he took it home on second thoughts, and soon found to his delight that it was an egg of pure gold. Every morning the same thing occurred, and he soon became rich by selling his eggs. As he grew rich he grew greedy; and thinking to get at once all the gold the goose could give, he killed it and opened it only to find -- nothing.

Greed oft o'erreaches itself.




The Golden Mallard

from The Jataka

Once upon a time when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born a Brahmin, and growing up was married to a bride of his own rank, who bore him three daughters named Nanda, Nanda-vati, and Sundari-nanda. The Bodhisatta dying, they were taken in by neighbors and friends, whilst he was born again into the world as a golden mallard endowed with consciousness of its former existences.

Growing up, the bird viewed its own magnificent size and golden plumage, and remembered that previously it had been a human being. Discovering that his wife and daughters were living on the charity of others, the mallard bethought him of his plumage like hammered and beaten gold and how by giving them a golden feather at a time he could enable his wife and daughters to live in comfort. So away he flew to where they dwelt and alighted on the top of the central beam of the roof. Seeing the Bodhisatta, the wife and girls asked where he had come from; and he told them that he was their father who had died and been born a golden mallard, and that he had come to visit them and put an end to their miserable necessity of working for hire.

"You shall have my feathers," said he, "one by one, and they will sell for enough to keep you all in ease and comfort."

So saying, he gave them one of his feathers and departed. And from time to time he returned to give them another feather, and with the proceeds of their sale these Brahmin women grew prosperous and quite well to do.

But one day the mother said to her daughters, "There's no trusting animals, my children. Who's to say your father might not go away one of these days and never come back again? Let us use our time and pluck him clean next time he comes, so as to make sure of all his feathers."

Thinking this would pain him, the daughters refused.

The mother in her greed called the golden mallard to her one day when he came, and then took him with both hands and plucked him.

Now the Bodhisatta's feathers had this property that if they were plucked out against his wish, they ceased to be golden and became like a crane's feathers. And now the poor bird, though he stretched his wings, could not fly, and the woman flung him into a barrel and gave him food there. As time went on his feathers grew again (though they were plain white ones now), and he flew away to his own abode and never came back again.




The Lucky-Bird Humá

Kashmir

There was once a poor man, who used to earn a few pánsas [copper coins] by cutting and selling wood. It was a hard struggle to support himself and wife and seven daughters. Never a bit of meat touched his lips, never a shoe covered his feet, and only a rag covered his back.

One day, when not feeling very well, he lay down under a tree to rest. The Lucky-Bird Humá happened to be flying about the place at the time, and, noticing the man's poverty and sickness, pitied him. So it flew down beside him and deposited a golden egg by his bundle of wood. In a little while the woodcutter awoke, and seeing the egg, picked it up and wrapped it in his cummerbund. He then took up his load and went to the woni [shopkeeper] who generally bought it. He sold him the egg for a trifle. He did not know what a wonderful egg it was, but the woni knew, and asked him to go and get the bird that laid it, and he would give him a rupee as a gift.

The man promised, and on the following day went to the jungle as usual to prepare his load of wood. On the way back he sat down to rest under the tree where he had found the egg, and pretended to sleep. The bird Humá came again, and noticing that he was still as poor and as ill-looking as before, thought that he had not seen the egg, and therefore went and laid another close by him, in such a spot that he could not possibly miss seeing it; whereupon the woodcutter caught the bird, and rose up to carry it to the woni.

"Oh! What are you going to do with me? Do not kill me. Do not imprison me, but set me free," cried the bird. "You shall not fail of a reward. Pluck one of my feathers and show it to the fire, and you shall at once arrive at my country, Koh-i-Qáf, where my parents will reward you. They will give you a necklace of pearls, the price of which no king on earth could give."

But the poor ignorant woodcutter would not listen to the bird's pleadings. His mind was too much occupied with the thought of the rupee that he felt certain of getting, and therefore he fastened the bird in his wrap, and ran off to the woni as fast as his load would permit. Alas, however, the bird died on the way from suffocation.

"What shall I do now?" thought the woodcutter. "The woni will not give me a rupee for a dead bird. Ha! Ha! I will show one its feathers to the fire. Perhaps the bird being dead will not make any difference."

Accordingly he did so, and immediately found himself on the Koh-i-Qáf, where he sought out the parents of the bird and told them all that had happened. Oh, how the parents and other birds wept when they saw the dead body of their beloved relative!

Attracted by the noise, a strange bird that happened to be passing at the time came in and inquired what was the matter. This bird carried a piece of grass in its beak, with which it could raise the dead.

"Why do you weep?" it said to the sorrowful company.

"Because our relative is dead. We shall never speak to it again," they replied.

"Weep not," said the strange bird. "Your relative shall live again." Whereupon it placed the piece of grass in the mouth of the corpse, and it revived.

When the bird Humá revived and saw the woodcutter, it severely upbraided him for his faithlessness and carelessness. "I could have made you great and happy," it said, "but now get you back to your burden of wood and humble home."

On this the poor man found himself back again in the jungle, and standing by the load of wood that he had prepared before he was transported to Koh-i-Qáf. He sold his wood, and then went home in a very sad frame of mind to his wife and daughters.

He never saw the bird Humá again.




The Duck That Laid Golden Eggs

Russia

There lived once an old man and his wife. The man was called Abrosim, and his wife Fetinia. They were very poor and miserable, and had a son named Little Ivan, who was fifteen years old. One day old Abrosim brought a crust of bread home for his wife and son. He had scarcely begun to eat, however, when Krutschina (Sorrow) sprang up from behind the stove, seized the crust out of his hand, and ran away behind the stove again. The old man made a bow to Krutschina, and begged her to give him the crust back again, as he and his wife had nothing else to eat.

"I will not give you the crust again," said Krutschina, " but instead of it I will give you a duck which lays a gold egg every day."

"Very well," said Abrosim. " I shall be supperless tonight. Do not deceive me, but tell me where I shall find the duck."

"Early tomorrow morning," said Krutschina, " when you are up, go into the town; there you will see a duck in a pond, catch it, and carry it home."

When Abrosim heard this he lay down and went to sleep.

The next morning he rose early, and went to the town, and was very much pleased to see the duck swimming about on a pond. He called it to him, carried it off to his home, and gave it to his wife Fetinia. They were both delighted, and put the duck in a big basin, placing a sieve over it. In an hour's time they went to look at it, and discovered that the duck had laid a golden egg. Then they took the duck out, and let it walk a little on the floor, and the old man, taking the egg, set off to town. There he sold the egg for a hundred rubles, took the money, and, going to the market, bought different kinds of vegetables and set off home.

The next day the duck laid another egg like the first, which Abrosim sold in the same manner. So the duck went on laying a golden egg every day, and the old man became, in a short time, very rich. He bought a large house, a great many shops, all kinds of wares, and set up in business.

His wife Fetinia made a favorite of a young clerk in her husband's employ, and used to supply him with money. One day when Abrosim was away from home, buying some goods, the clerk called to have a talk with Fetinia, and it chanced that he then saw the duck that laid the golden eggs. He was pleased with the bird, and, examining it, found written under its wing in gold letters "Whoever eats this duck will be a Czar."

He did not say anything to Fetinia about what he had seen, but asked her to roast the duck for him. Fetinia said she could not kill the duck, for all their fortune depended on it, but the clerk begged her so earnestly that she at last consented and killed it, and put it in the oven. The clerk then went off saying he would return soon, and Fetinia also went out in the town. While they were gone in came little Ivan. He felt very hungry, and, looking about him for something to eat, he chanced to see the roast duck in the oven, so he took it out and ate all of it but the bones. Then he went off again to the shop.

In a little while the clerk came back, and, having called Fetinia, asked her to bring out the duck. The woman went to the oven, but when she saw that the duck was not there, she was terribly put out, and told the clerk that the duck had disappeared.

At that the clerk flew into a great rage, and said, "You have eaten the duck yourself, of course," and he got up and walked out of the house.

In the evening Abrosim and his son, Little Ivan, came home. When Abrosim did not see the duck, he asked his wife where it was, and she told him that she did not know.

Then Little Ivan said to his father, "My dear father, when I came home, in the middle of the day, for dinner; my mother was not in, so I looked in the oven, and there found a roast duck. I took it out and ate it all but the bones, but I do not know whether it was our duck or a strange one."

Then old Abrosim was in such a rage that he thrashed his wife till she was half dead, and he turned Little Ivan out of doors.

Little Ivan began his journey. Where should he go? He determined to follow his nose. For ten days and nights he went on. Then he came to a town, and as he stepped to the gate he saw a great many people assembled together. Now these folk had been taking council, their Czar being dead, as to who should succeed him. In the end they agreed that the first person who came in at the city gate should be made Czar.

Just then in came Little Ivan through the gate, so all the people cried out together, "Here is our Czar!"

The chief folk took Little Ivan by the arms, conducted him to the royal apartments, put on him the Czar's robes, seated him on the throne, made obeisance to him as to their Czar, and waited for his commands. Then Little Ivan thought he must surely be asleep and dreaming all this; but at last he knew that he must be really Czar. He was heartily pleased, began to rule over the people, and to appoint his officers.

A short time after he called one of them, named Luga, to him, and said, "My true friend and good knight Luga, I want you to do me a service. Go to my own country, go to the Czar, salute him from me, and ask him to deliver to you the shopkeeper Abrosim and his wife, so that you may bring them to me. If he will not deliver them up to you, tell him that I will lay waste his country with fire, and will make him himself my prisoner."

When the servant Luga was come into Little Ivan's country he went to the Czar and asked him to let Abrosim and Fetinia go away with him. The Czar was unwilling to let Abrosim go, for he wanted to keep the rich merchant in his own country. He knew, however, that Ivan's kingdom was very large and populous, and being therefore afraid, he let Abrosim and Fetinia depart. Luga received them from the Czar, and conducted them to his own native country.

When he brought them to Little Ivan, the Czar said to his father, "Yes, father, you turned me away from your house, and I therefore bring you to mine. Come, live with me, you and my mother, till the end of your days."

Abrosim and Fetinia rejoiced exceedingly to find that their son was become Czar, and they lived with him many years, until they died.

Little Ivan ruled for thirty years in good health, and was very happy, and all his people loved him sincerely to the last hour of his life.




Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

Revised Winter Solstice 2009.