chapter  16
10 Pages

The Golden Egg

There was once a poor woodcutter. He went to the forest every day to cut wood. He and his wife had two children, two sons, who went to school. The boys already knew how to read and write, but their parents didn’t. One day the man left to work in the forest and the woman stayed at home. The boys went to school and the woman received a priest who had begun to court her.Well, the man was out in the forest, and as he was cutting wood, a bird took flight from a great big tree next to him. The bird flew off-he followed it with his eyes and saw how beautiful it was. He had never seen a bird like it. Each little feather on its body was of a different color.“Oh,” he said, “what kind of bird is this? It looks so beautiful! I have never seen one like it before. Surely, there is a nest in that tree, I’ll climb up and look. There may be nestlings in it, young ones or eggs, I’ll take them out.”He climbed up the tree and in the nest he found an egg, a golden egg it was. He removed it and put it in his pocket. When he came home he gave it to his wife for safekeeping. They all rejoiced for the egg was so beautiful, they had never seen one like it-it was pure gold. The next day the man went to the forest again to cut wood. He went to the same place as the day before, and once again the bird flew out of the nest. He watched it fly, it was a very beautiful bird. He climbed up to the nest and found another golden egg. The man thought to himself that instead of climbing the tree every time, he would come tomorrow, wait for the bird to return to the nest, and catch it. And that’s how it was. He climbed up slowly, caught the bird in the nest and brought it down. He thought he would put it in a cage so it would lay eggs there and he wouldn’t have to climb the tree any more. (Do you know this story?) Well, he took the bird home, put it in a cage, and they and the boys delighted in it. It was a great treasure.Well, the man continued to go into the forest day after day, and the priest came to see the woman.When he spotted the cage he said: “Where does this cage come from? And this beautiful bird, where did you find it?”“My husband caught it in the forest.”He said: “Open the cage, let me look at it closely and see what it is like.”The priest took the bird out of the cage, examined it and noticed that there were golden letters on its left wing. He read them and they said that whoever kills this bird and eats its heart and liver will find a golden egg under his pillow in the morning. He looked at the bird’s right wing. There, too, were letters. He read them. They said:

“whoever eats my heart and liver, will find a wallet full of money under his pillow.” The man and the woman didn’t know what the letters meant on the bird’s wings; the boys knew, but they didn’t tell their parents. (Like me, they didn’t know how to read.)Then the priest said: “Do you know what I want to say to you? Kill this bird and cook it for me for noon, tomorrow. When it’s ready, call me and invite me over for the midday meal.”The woman thought about it for a while. She knew that the bird was very precious and wondered what her husband would say if he didn’t find it? Still, she prom­ised to do it. She was on good terms with the priest for he courted her, so she said she would kill it. The priest went home and asked her to tell him as soon as the dish was ready. So, the woman killed the bird and when it was cooked she ran to ask the priest to come for the midday meal.Meanwhile the boys came home from school. Their mother wasn’t there.One asked the other: “What did mother make for dinner?”They noticed that the bird wasn’t in its cage.“Oh, dear,” they said, “the bird is gone, perhaps it flew away!” They searched everywhere, looked in every room, but the bird was nowhere to be found. The boys were alarmed: “our mother left-she didn’t lock the door-maybe someone stole the bird.” This is what they thought. But since they were hungry, they began looking for something to eat. They looked in the pot and they looked in the oven, and there they found it. There was the bird, roasted pink.“Oh,” said one to the other, “you see, dear brother, our mother has killed the bird. How could she do it! But since she has done it, let’s eat its heart and liver! You’ll have the heart and I’ll have the liver. Let’s eat it!” he said.So, they ate it but they gulped down the bird’s little body as well. That’s all they ate. Then they became worried about what their mother would say when she found that

they had eaten the whole bird and left nothing for them.Said the older boy to the younger: “Listen! We’d better run away, for mother will give us a good thrashing when she gets back,” he said. “Let’s run, let’s get away before she comes home, for she’ll beat us like a sack of corn.”The boys made off and soon the woman returned with the priest. He sat down at the table and the woman went to fetch the roast from the oven. There was nothing there. She felt very ashamed:“Oh, forgive me, Reverend Father-the boys ate it!”The priest became angry. He took the trouble to come, and it was for naught! He knew how special was the meat he had missed. The priest went home and the woman waited for the boys to come, to give them a beating, but they didn’t show up. They ran and ran until they reached a big forest. They continued in the woods until they came to a crossroads and there they stopped. Said the older to the younger:“Now let’s separate. You go one way and I’ll go the other.”One went right, the other left. The boy kept going in the forest until evening

closed in. He wished he would come to the edge of the forest soon and find a village where he could spend the night. Well, he did get out of the woods and he found a small house, a little shack. A light was burning inside, so he entered. He said good evening and the old woman responded with a greeting.“What has brought you here, son?”“Well, dear auntie,” he said, “I left to find my fortune but darkness closed in on me. Please be kind and give me shelter for the night.”“You may stay, son,” she said, “but I am a poor woman, I don’t have anything to offer you to eat.”“I don’t need anything,” he said, “just a place to lie down.”She threw a rag on the floor, made something resembling a small bed for him, and the boy lay down.He said: “I’ll be looking for something to do, I’ll be looking for some work.” When the boy went out of the house, the woman quickly picked up the rags from the floor and found a golden egg. Oh, was she happy with the golden egg! She put it away. “Listen, son, come back again this evening. You may spend the night here any time. I’ll offer you shelter, with pleasure.”So the boy returned in the evening. This time the old woman gave him a better reception. She offered him food, made up his bed, and the boy went to sleep. The next morning the old woman found another golden egg and she put that away, too. On the third day the boy prepared to leave again.On his way out he said to the woman: “Listen, old auntie, do you know what I have heard? It is posted in an announcement,” he said, “that on Sunday the king is holding a big wedding feast. Rich or poor, everyone is welcome. Rich or poor, it won’t make any difference.”“Why are you telling me this, son? Would you like to go?”“I am going,” said the boy, “but you may come, too. As an old woman you’ll be well received, for sure.”“I wouldn’t think of it,” she said, “I am old, I don’t care for big wedding feasts any more. I am telling you, son, don’t you go either!”“Why shouldn’t I?”“Well, because one must bring a present to a wedding; it is customary to give a present.”“I’ll give one.”“And what will you give, son?”“I’ll give the bride a golden egg. She’ll be pleased.”“All right, son,” she said, “if you want to go, go.”When they woke the next morning, the lad got dressed, took a golden egg with him and left. As soon as he arrived he told the bride that he had brought her a golden egg. She was so happy-she had never seen such a beautiful golden egg before, she

said. She accepted it and showed her mother and the old cook what a fine present she had received.Said the cook: “We must call the boy and ask him where he found this egg.” He was invited to enter another room with the cook, the old queen, and the bride, and they asked him where he had found the golden egg. So the boy recounted to them that his father was a woodcutter, that he always went into the forest to cut wood and one day he saw a bird fly out of a nest and in that nest he found the egg. Twice he had found an egg there, but the third time he caught the bird and put it into a cage. The boy told them what had happened, that his mother killed the bird and cooked it for the midday meal. But first he told them about the letters on the bird’s wings. They had read them and since their mother had killed the bird, they ate its heart and liver.He said: “I ate the heart, so now every morning I find an egg under my pillow. My brother ate the liver and he gets a wallet full of money every morning.”That’s all they needed to hear. They began offering him all sorts of fine drinks, and he wasn’t used to them. He became drunk and fell asleep. Then he felt nauseous and began to vomit. He brought up the heart he had swallowed. When the bride saw this, she grabbed the heart, placed it in a dish, washed it and ate it. She washed it and ate it. When the poor boy woke up, the wedding feast was over. He returned to the old woman and bragged about the great celebration he had attended. But when the boy rose in the morning, the old woman found no egg. There was no egg. The next night he slept there again, and again there was no egg.Said the old woman: “Son, you’d better move on-1 won’t keep you any longer-I am a poor woman. Look for work elsewhere!”So the poor boy left. He was sad, not because the old woman had rejected him but because there were no more eggs. He knew then that they had made him drunk, that he had brought up the heart and they had taken it from him. In great sorrow he set out to look for his brother. Along the way he became hungry but had no food to eat. And he was very sad that they had stolen his treasure. Then, in the middle of the woods, he came to a road. He took it and suddenly he saw an apple tree on the side of the road. The apples on the tree were more beautiful than any he had ever seen, and their deli­cious fragrance filled the air far and wide. He thought that when he reached the tree, he would pick some of the apples-even if they belonged to the king he would pick them. As he approached, he saw that the apples were in such abundance as God had provided them; their color was brilliant-it was impossible to describe how beautiful they were.If they are beautiful, they must be good, too-he thought, and picked one. He picked an apple and ate it. He took a bite and swallowed it. By the time he finished, he had turned into a donkey, so huge that maybe there wasn’t another one like it in the whole world. The apple had made him into such an enormous donkey. He looked at himself: “Dear God, I am transformed! The apple changed me by magic! I cannot go among people any more, from now on I must live my life in the forest.”