small tooth dog

Illustration by Julie Paschkis

“The Small-Tooth Dog” is an English tale, collected by Sydney Oldall Addy in Household Tales               and Other Traditional Remains, 1895. It’s similar to “Beauty and the Beast,” but in this case the father doesn’t steal anything from the beast, but does owe him for a service.

“Once upon a time,” a merchant was attacked by robbers. They would have killed him and stolen all his money if a large dog hadn’t come to his aid. The dog rescued the man and took him to its home until he recovered. The merchant offered to give the dog many marvels in exchange for its help, such as a goose that laid golden eggs or a fish that could speak twelve languages, but the dog said that he wanted only the merchant’s daughter. The merchant grieved, but agreed. He went home, and when a week had gone by, the dog came for the daughter. He told her to get on his back, she did, and he carried her to his home.

After she had been living in the dog’s house for a month, she wept because she wanted to visit her father. The dog said that she could, if she stayed no more than three days, but asked what she called him. She said, “A great, foul, small-tooth dog,” and he refused to take her. She begged and said she would call him “Sweet-as-a-Honeycomb,” and they set out, but on the way, when they came to a fence, he asked what she would call him, and she said “a great, foul, small-tooth dog,” and he carried her back. A week later, they went again, and she called him “Sweet-as-a-Honeycomb,” at the first fence, but “a great, foul, small-tooth dog,” at the second, and he carried her back. A week after that, they set out again, and she called him “Sweet-as-a-Honeycomb” at the fences. When they reached the merchant’s home, he asked again, and she started to say “a great — ” but remembered how kind he had been to her and said, “Sweeter-than-a-Honeycomb”. He got up on his hind legs, threw off his dog head, shed his coat, and became a handsome young man. The two got married and, we assume, lived happily ever after.

I find it odd that she thought him kind and patient. He took her away from her home and family, with her permission, true, but he was not someone she would have gone with had her father not made the bargain. And then he wouldn’t let her go back to visit until she did what he wanted her to. I guess she must have fallen in love with his inner goodness, I guess that’s the assumption when it says she remembers how kind he had been and calls him even sweeter than honey. I do sometimes wonder how all these handsome young men end up under an enchantment that makes them the beast. Maybe he deserved it.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.