In days long past there lived a poor woodcutter who found life very
hard. Indeed, it was his lot to toil for little guerdon, and although
he was young and happily married there were moments when he wished
himself dead and below ground.
One day while at his work he was again lamenting his fate.
"Some men," he said, "have only to make known their desires, and
straightway these are granted, and their every wish fulfilled; but it
has availed me little to wish for ought, for the gods are deaf to the
prayers of such as I."
As he spoke these words there was a great noise of thunder, and
Jupiter appeared before him wielding his mighty thunderbolts. Our poor
man was stricken with fear and threw himself on the ground.
"My lord," he said, "forget my foolish speech; heed not my wishes, but
cease thy thundering!"
"Have no fear," answered Jupiter; "I have heard thy plaint, and have
come hither to show thee how greatly thou dost wrong me. Hark! I, who
am sovereign lord of this world, promise to grant in full the first
three wishes which it will please thee to utter, whatever these may
be. Consider well what things can bring thee joy and prosperity, and
as thy happiness is at stake, be not over-hasty, but revolve the
matter in thy mind."
Having thus spoken Jupiter withdrew himself and made his ascent to
Olympus. As for our woodcutter, he blithely corded his faggot, and
throwing it over his shoulder, made for his home. To one so light of
heart the load also seemed light, and his thoughts were merry as he
strode along. Many a wish came into his mind, but he was resolved to
seek the advice of his wife, who was a young woman of good
He had soon reached his cottage, and casting down his faggot:
"Behold me, Fanny," he said. "Make up the fire and spread the board,
and let there be no stint. We are wealthy, Fanny, wealthy for
evermore; we have only to wish for whatsoever we may desire."
Thereupon he told her the story of what had befallen that day. Fanny,
whose mind was quick and active, immediately conceived many plans for
the advancement of their fortune, but she approved her husband's
resolve to act with prudence and circumspection.
"'Twere a pity," she said, "to spoil our chances through impatience.
We had best take counsel of the night, and wish no wishes until
"That is well spoken," answered Harry. "Meanwhile fetch a bottle of
our best, and we shall drink to our good fortune."
Fanny brought a bottle from the store behind the faggots, and our man
enjoyed his ease, leaning back in his chair with his toes to the fire
and his goblet in his hand.
"What fine glowing embers!" he said, "and what a fine toasting fire! I
wish we had a black pudding at hand."
Hardly had he spoken these words when his wife beheld, to her great
astonishment, a long black pudding which, issuing from a corner of the
hearth, came winding and wriggling towards her. She uttered a cry of
fear, and then again exclaimed in dismay, when she perceived that this
strange occurrence was due to the wish which her husband had so rashly
and foolishly spoken. Turning upon him, in her anger and
disappointment she called the poor man all the abusive names that she
could think of.
"What!" she said to him, "when you can call for a kingdom, for gold,
pearls, rubies, diamonds, for princely garments and wealth untold, is
this the time to set your mind upon black puddings!"
"Nay!" answered the man, "'twas a thoughtless speech, and a sad
mistake; but I shall now be on my guard, and shall do better next
"Who knows that you will?" returned his wife. "Once a witless fool,
always a witless fool!" and giving free rein to her vexation and
ill-temper she continued to upbraid her husband until his anger also
was stirred, and he had wellnigh made a second bid and wished himself
"Enough! woman," he cried at last; "put a check upon thy froward
tongue! Who ever heard such impertinence as this! A plague on the
shrew and on her pudding! Would to heaven it hung at the end of her
No sooner had the husband given voice to these words than the wish was
straightway granted, and the long coil of black pudding appeared
grafted to the angry dame's nose.
Our man paused when he beheld what he had wrought. Fanny was a comely
young woman, and blest with good looks, and truth to tell, this new
ornament did not set off her beauty. Yet it offered one advantage,
that as it hung right before her mouth, it would thus effectively curb
So, having now but one wish left, he had all but resolved to make good
use of it without further delay, and, before any other mischance could
befall, to wish himself a kingdom of his own. He was about to speak
the word, when he was stayed by a sudden thought.
"It is true," he said to himself, "that there is none so great as a
King, but what of the Queen that must share his dignity? With what
grace would she sit beside me on the throne with a yard of black
pudding for a nose?"
In this dilemma he resolved to put the case to Fanny, and to leave her
to decide whether she would rather be a Queen, with this most horrible
appendage marring her good looks, or remain a peasant wife, but with
her shapely nose relieved of this untoward addition.
Fanny's mind was soon made up: although she had dreamt of a crown
and sceptre, yet a woman's first wish is always to please. To this
great desire all else must yield, and Fanny would rather be fair in
drugget than be a Queen with an ugly face.
Thus our woodcutter did not change his state, did not become a
potentate, nor fill his purse with golden crowns. He was thankful
enough to use his remaining wish to a more humble purpose, and
forthwith relieved his wife of her encumbrance.
Ah! so it is that miserable man, by nature fickle, blind, unwise, and rash, oft fails to reap a harvest from great gifts. Bestowed upon him by the heav'nly gods.