I came across an odd little story today. “Fox Steals the Butter” is a tale from Scotland, collected in J. F. Campbell’s Popular Tales of the West Highlands, Orally Collected, 1862. I found it strange because the “bad guy” wins the day.
The fox and the wolf were walking near the seashore, when they found a keg of butter which they buried.
On the next day the fox went out, and when he returned, he told the wolf that a man had asked him to come to a baptism. The fox dressed up and went away. Of course, he went to the butter keg, but didn’t eat any. When he came home, the wolf asked him, “What name was given to the child?”
The fox answered that it was Foveeal, which meant “under its mouth.”
The following day, the fox again said that a man had sent to ask him to a baptism. Again he went to the keg, and this time he took out about half.
The wolf asked, when he came home, “What name was given to the child?”
The fox responded that it was an odd name, Moolay Moolay (about half and half).
The following day the fox said that a man had come to ask him to a baptism again. This time, when he went to the keg, he ate the butter all up. When he came home, the wolf asked him, “What name was given to the child?”
The fox said that it was Booill Eemlich (licking all up).
The next day, the fox said to the wolf that they ought to bring the keg home. They went, and when they reached the keg, there was not a bit of butter in it. The fox blamed the wolf for going to the keg without him, and the wolf swore his innocence.
“You need not be claiming that you did not come here. I know that you did come, and that it was you who took the butter. And when we go home, I will see if you ate the butter,” said the fox.
When they got back home, the fox hung the wolf by his hind legs, with his head dangling below him. Then he put a dab of the butter under the wolf’s mouth, as though it had come out of the wolf’s belly. “You red thief!” said the fox. “I said before, that it was you who ate the butter!”
The end. See what I mean, the fox was a liar and a cheat and gets away with it. Granted the wolf is a bit dumb. By third time, at least, you would think the he would have followed the fox to see what he was actually up to. And why would the fox give those names for the imaginary children, more or less announcing what he had done. I don’t know if the moral is pay attention to what people tell you and never assume it’s the truth or sometimes the innocent are found guilty and that’s just the way the world works.
On the other hand, maybe it is traditional in a way. The fox is smaller but still beats out the larger, stronger character.
Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all. Feel free to join in.