The Jackal and the Farmer

and other folktales of Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 154
edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 2002-2013


  1. The Jackal and the Farmer (North Africa, Kabyl).

  2. Well Done and Ill Paid (Norway).

  3. Links to related sites.

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

The Jackal and the Farmer

North Africa (Kabyl)

A farmer plowed with two oxen from morning until evening. One evening a lion came and said, "Give me one of your two oxen or I'll kill you and both of the oxen."

The farmer was terrified. He unhitched one of the oxen and gave it to the lion. The lion took it and dragged it away. The farmer went home with the remaining ox and bought a second one that same evening so that the next day he would be able to plow again.

The next day the farmer plowed again from morning morning until evening, and when it was evening the lion came again and said, "Farmer, give me one of your two oxen or I'll kill both of them and you as well."

Again the farmer gave him an ox. That evening he bought another ox so that he would be able to plow again the next day. The next evening the lion came again and demanded an ox.

The farmer gave the lion an ox every evening. One evening the jackal came by as the farmer was driving his single ox home.

The jackal said, "Every morning I see you leave the farmyard with two oxen and every evening I see you coming back with only one. Why is that?"

The farmer said, "Every evening when I am finished with the day's work the lion comes and demands one of my oxen and threatens to kill me and both oxen if I don't grant his wish."

The jackal said, "If you promise to give me a sheep I will free you from the lion."

The farmer answered, "If you can free me from the lion I will gladly promise you a sheep."

The jackal said, "Tomorrow I will call out with a disguised voice from up there on the hill and ask who is speaking with you. Then you answer that it is only an Asko (a block of wood to be split). Have a hatchet at hand. Do you understand me?"

The farmer said, "Certainly, I understand you."

The next day the farmer took a hatchet with him to the field and plowed as usual with the two oxen from morning till eve.

When it was evening the lion came and said, "Farmer, give me an ox or I shall kill both oxen and you as well."

When the lion had said that a deep voice spoke from the hill and said, "Farmer, who is talking with you?"

The lion was afraid, ducked down, and said in a frightened voice, "That is god."

But the farmer replied loudly, "It is only an Asko."

The voice answered loudly, "Then take your hatchet and split the block of wood."

The lion said softly, "Just hit me gently, farmer," and with that he bowed his head.

The farmer gripped his hatchet and struck at the lion's skull with all his force so that he split it, and the lion died at once.

The jackal came down from the hill and said, "I have done what I promised. The lion is finished. Tomorrow I will come again to fetch the sheep that you promised me."

The farmer said, "You shall have it."

The farmer came home. He said to his wife, "The jackal has freed me from the lion. Now I will give him a ram. I will kill it. You pack it up so that I can take it with me to the field tomorrow."

The man killed the ram. As his wife was packing it up she said, "Why shouldn't we eat the good ram ourselves?" She put the ram into a leather sack. She laid the leather sack in a wicker basket. But she had their dog to lie down in the basket beside the leather sack.

She said to the farmer, "If the jackal does not take the ram during the day, then bring it home again. Otherwise the animals that have done nothing for you will eat it during the night. Set the basket down in the field just as it is and then let happen what will."

The farmer went to the field. He put the basket down on the field and shouted, "Jackal here is your ram!"

Then he went to work, plowing from morning until evening without further concerning himself about the basket, the ram, or the jackal. However, the jackal approached the basket in order to get the ram. When he stuck his nose into the basket the dog leaped up. The jackal ran away as fast as he could. The dog ran after him for a while but seeing that the jackal was too fast, he gave up and ran home. The jackal swore never to help men again.

In the evening the farmer came. He looked into the basket and found the ram still untouched. So he picked up the basket again with the ram in it, brought it home, and said, "The jackal has not called for his ram. Now we can eat it ourselves!"

Well Done and Ill Paid


Once on a time there was a man, who had to drive his sledge to the wood for fuel. So a bear met him.

"Out with your horse," said the bear, "or I'll strike all your sheep dead by summer."

"Oh! heaven help me then," said the man. "There's not a stick of firewood in the house. You must let me drive home a load of fuel, else we shall be frozen to death. I'll bring the horse to you tomorrow morning."

Yes, on those terms he might drive the wood home. That was a bargain. But Bruin said if he didn't come back, he should lose all his sheep by summer.

So the man got the wood on the sledge and rattled homewards, but he wasn't over pleased at the bargain you may fancy. So just then a fox met him.

"Why, what's the matter?" said the fox. "Why are you so down in the mouth?"

"Oh, if you want to know," said the man, "I met a bear up yonder in the wood, and I had to give my word to him to bring Dobbin back tomorrow, at this very hour; for if he didn't get him, he said he would tear all my sheep to death by summer."

"Stuff, nothing worse than that," said the fox. "If you'll give me your fattest wether, I'll soon set you free. See if I don't."

Yes, the man gave his word, and swore he would keep it too.

"Well, when you come with Dobbin tomorrow for the bear," said the fox, "I'll make a clatter up in that heap of stones yonder, and so when the bear asks what that noise is, you must say 'tis Peter the Marksman, who is the best shot in the world. And after that you must help yourself."

Next day off set the man, and when he met the bear, something began to make a clatter up in the heap of stones.

"Hist! What's that?" said the bear.

"Oh! that's Peter the Marksman, to be sure," said the man. "He's the best shot in the world. I know him by his voice."

"Have you seen any bears about here, Eric?" shouted out a voice in the wood.

"Say No!" said the bear.

"No, I haven't seen any," said Eric.

"What's that then that stands alongside your sledge?" bawled out the voice in the wood.

"Say it's an old fir stump," said the bear.

"Oh, it's only an old fir stump," said the man.

"Such fir stumps we take in our country and roll them on our sledges," bawled out the voice. "If you can't do it yourself, I'll come and help you."

"Say you can help yourself, and roll me up on the sledge," said the bear.

"No, thank ye, I can help myself well enough," said the man, and rolled the bear onto the sledge.

"Such fir stumps we always bind fast on our sledges in our part of the world," bawled out the voice. "Shall I come and help you?"

"Say you can help yourself, and bind me fast, do." said the bear.

"No, thanks, I can help myself well enough," said the man, who set to binding Bruin fast with all the ropes he had, so that at last the bear couldn't stir a paw.

"Such fir stumps we always drive our axes into in our part of the world," bawled out the voice, "for then we guide them better going down the steep pitches."

"Pretend to drive your axe into me, do now," said the bear.

Then the man took up his axe, and at one blow split the bear's skull, so that Bruin lay dead in a trice, and so the man and the fox were great friends, and on the best terms. But when they came near the farm, the fox said, "I've no mind to go right home with you, for I can't say I like your tykes, so I'll just wait here, and you can bring the wether to me, but mind and pick out one nice and fat."

Yes, the man would be sure to do that, and thanked the fox much for his help. So when he had put up Dobbin, he went across to the sheep stall.

"Whither away, now?" asked his old dame.

"Oh!" said the man, "I'm only going to the sheep stall to fetch a fat wether for that cunning fox who set our Dobbin free. I gave him my word I would."

"Wether, indeed," said the old dame. "Never a one shall that thief of a fox get. Haven't we got Dobbin safe and the bear into the bargain. And as for the fox, I'll be bound he's stolen more of our geese than the wether is worth. And even if he hasn't stolen them, he will. No, no; take a brace of your swiftest hounds in a sack, and slip them loose after him. And then, perhaps, we shall be rid of this robbing Reynard."

Well, the man thought that good advice; so he took two fleet red hounds, put them into a sack, and set off with them.

"Have you brought the wether?" said the fox.

"Yes, come and take it," said the man, as he untied the sack and let slip the hounds.

" Huff!" said the fox, and gave a great spring. "True it is what the old saw says, 'Well done is often ill paid.' And now, too, I see the truth of another saying, 'The worst foes are those of one's own house.'"

That was what the fox said as he ran off, and saw the red fox hounds at his heels.

Links to related sites

Folktales of Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 155, in which an ungrateful beast is tricked back into captivity, often end with an episode of type 154, for example:

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

Revised March 30, 2013.