It’s time to get the last of the veggies out of our garden and wrap up for the year, which made me think of looking for a harvest of farming tale. This one comes from England and was told by Thomas Sternberg in The Dialect and Folk-lore of Northamptonshire (London: John Russell Smith, 1851).

One of these spirits, a Bogie, once asserted a claim to a field hitherto possessed by a farmer, and, after much disputing, they came to an arrangement by agreeing to divide its produce between them. At planting time, the farmer asks the Bogie what part of the crop he will have, “tops or bottoms.”

“Bottoms,” said the spirit. Upon hearing this, the crafty farmer sows the field with wheat, so that when harvest arrived the grain falls to his share, while the poor Bogie is obliged to content himself with the stubble.

The next year the Bogie, finding he had made such an unfortunate selection in the bottoms, chose the “tops,” whereupon the crafty farmer plants turnips — thus, again, outwitting the simple claimant.

Tired of this unprofitable farming, the Bogie agrees to hazard his claims on a mowing match, the land in question to be the stake for which they played. Before the day of meeting, the canny farmer procures a number of iron bars, which he distributes among the grass to be mowed by his opponent; and when the contest begins, the unsuspecting goblin finds his progress slowed by his scythe continually coming into contact with these obstacles.

“Mortal hard docks these!” said he. “Nation hard docks!” Docks must mean stalks, I think?

His blunted blade soon brings him to a standstill; and as, in such cases, it is not allowable for one to sharpen without the other, he turns to farmer, now far ahead, and in a tone of despair inquires, “When dye wiffle waffle (whet), mate?” Which I assume means something like when do you want to sharpen the blades.

“Waffle!” said the farmer, with a well-feigned stare of amazement, “oh, about noon, mebby.”

“Then,” said the despairing Bogie, “I’ve lost my land!”

So saying, he disappeared, and the farmer reaped the reward of his cleverness by ever afterwards continuing the undisputed possessor of the soil.

Yeah, once again the clever one wins, but I feel a little bad for the dull Bogie, even if he was just trying to steal the farmer’s land in the beginning.

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.

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