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The Clever Little Tailor

2006-02-28 00:00

  Once upon a time there was a princess who was ever so proud: if any man came to woo her she would set him a riddle, and if he couldn't guess it he was laughed to scorn and sent packing. She also had it made known that whoever did guess the answer to her riddle should marry her, no matter who he might be. And indeed, in the end it so happened that three tailors were making the attempt at the same time. The two eldest reckoned that as they had already successfully sewn many a delicate stitch, they could hardly go wrong and were bound to succeed here as well; the third was a feckless, giddy young fellow who didn't even know his trade properly but thought he was bound to have luck in this case, for if not, then what luck would he ever have in any other case. The two others said to him: “You'd better just stay at home, you with your feather-brain won't get far.” But the young tailor wouldn't be put off, saying that he had set his heart on this enterprise and would manage all right; and off he went, sauntering along as if the whole world belonged to him.

  So all three of them appeared before the princess and asked her to put her riddle to them: she would find, they said, that she had met her match this time, because their wits were so sharp that you could thread a needle with them. So the princess said: “I have two kinds of hair on my head, what colours are they?” “That's easy,” said the first, “I think they're black and white, like the cloth they call pepper and salt. ”The princess said: “You've guessed wrong; let the second of you answer.” So the second said: “If it's not black and white, then it's brown and red like my respected father's frock-coat.” “Wrong again,” said the princess. “Let the third of you answer, I can see he knows it for sure.” So the young tailor stepped forward boldly and said: “The princess has silver and gold hair on her head, and those are the two colours.” When the princess heard that, she turned pale and nearly fainted away in alarm, for the young tailor had guessed right, and she had been convinced that no one in the world would be able to do so. When she had recovered herself she said: “This still doesn't give you the right to marry me, there's something else you must do first. Down in the stable there's a bear, and you must spend the night with him. If you're still alive when I get up tomorrow morning, then you shall marry me.” But she thought that she would get rid of the young tailor in this way, because no one had ever got into this bear's clutches and lived to tell the tale. But the young tailor wasn't to be daunted. “Nothing venture, nothing win,” he commented cheerfully.

  So that evening our young friend was taken down to the bear's den. And sure enough, the bear at once advanced on the little fellow, meaning to welcome him with a good swipe of his paw. “Not so fast, not so fast,” said the young tailor, “I'll soon take the steam out of you.” And in leisurely manner, as if he were quite unconcerned, he took some walnuts out of his pocket, cracked them open with his teeth and ate the kernels. When the bear saw this, his appetite was whetted and he wanted some nuts as well. The young tailor put his hand in his pocket and held out some to him: these, however, weren't nuts but pebbles. The bear stuck them in his mouth, but couldn't crack a single one of them, bite as he might. Goodness me, what a booby I am, thought the bear, I can't even crack nuts. And he said to the young tailor: “Hey, crack these nuts for me!” “There now, what a fellow you are!” said the tailor. “A big muzzle like that and you can't even crack a little nut!” And he took the stones, but nimbly put a nut into his mouth instead, and crack! He bit open the shell. “I must try that again,” said the bear. “To look at you doing it, you'd think I'd find it easy.” So the young tailor gave him another lot of pebbles, and the bear worked away at them, biting for dear life. But as you may imagine, they were more than he could crack. After this, the young tailor pulled out a fiddle from under his coat and began playing a tune on it. When the bear heard the music, he couldn't help himself and began to dance, and when he'd danced for a little he found himself enjoying it so much that he said to the tailor. “Tell me, is it difficult to play the fiddle?” “It's child's play: look, my left hand fingers the strings, my right hand scrapes away at them with the bow, and out comes a merry noise, tralala.” “Then I could dance whenever I liked. What do you say to that? Will you give me lessons?” “I'll be delighted to,” said the tailor, “If you have the skill for it. but let's have a look at your paws: they're a mighty length, I'll have to pare your nails down a bit.” So a vice was fetched, and the bear held out his paws, but the young tailor screwed them in tightly and said: “Now wait till I get the scissors.” So saying, he left the bear to stand there and growl, lay down in the corner on a pile of straw and went to sleep.

  The princess, hearing the bear growl so loudly that night, assumed that he must be growling with satisfaction, having made an end of the tailor. In the morning she got up feeling very pleased and not worried at all, but when she took a look at the stable there was the young tailor standing outside it cock-a-hoop and safe and sound. So then there was nothing more she could say, because she'd publicly promised to marry him; and the king sent for a carriage to take her and the tailor to church to be married. As they drove off, the other two tailors, who were false-hearted and envied him his good fortune, went into the stable and unscrewed the bear. The bear in a great rage charged off in pursuit of the carriage. The princess heard him growling and snorting and cried out in terror: “Oh, the bear's after us, he's coming to get you!” With great presence of mind the tailor stood on his head, stuck his legs out of the window and shouted: “Do you see this vice? If you don't clear off I'll screw you back into it.” When the bear saw that, he turned round and ran away. Our young friend then drove on to the church as calm as you like, and the princess gave him her hand at the altar, and he lived with her as happy as a woodlark. There's a fine of three marks for anyone who doesn't believe this story.

  I. Translation for Reference(参考译文)

  聪明的小裁缝

  从前,有一个非常高傲的公主。求婚的人一来,她就给人家出谜语。要是猜不出来,她就嘲笑人家,把人家赶出去。她还向世人宣告说,只要是能猜中她谜语的,不管是谁,都可以和她结婚。后来,有三个裁缝一起来了。两个年纪大的心里想,他们过去曾经做过许多精细的针线活,都获得了成功,这次猜谜也一定不会出错,准能猜到。另一个裁缝是一个没什么才干的冒失的小伙子,连自己的手艺都不太熟练。可是他想,这回一定会有好运气,不然的话,真不知道到哪里去碰好运气呢。两个年纪大的裁缝对小伙子说:“最好呆在家里,你的智慧还不够用,干不了什么了不起的大事。”可是,小裁缝却不甘心。他说,他算豁出去了,一定要去试试看看。他义无反顾潇潇洒洒地走了去,就好象整个世界都是他的似的。

  他们三个人来到公主面前,请她给他们出谜语。他们说,公主会发现这回遇上了对手,因为他们是顶尖高手,智慧超群思维精细得简直可以用来穿针引线。于是,公主说:“我头上有两种头发,都是什么颜色的?”“这太容易了!”第一个裁缝说,“是黑色和白色呗!就像人们说的黑白点混成的灰布似的。”公主说:“猜得不对。第二个回答吧!”于是,第二个裁缝回答说:“要不是黑色和白色的,那就是像我可敬的爸爸的那件礼服大衣似的,是棕色和红色的。”公主说:“猜得不对。第三个人回答吧!看样子,这个人一定能知道喽!”于是,小裁缝大胆地走过去说:“公主头上的头发是金色和银色的,就是这两种颜色。”公主一听这话,惊得面如土色,险些昏厥过去。因为,小裁缝猜对了。过去,她深信不疑世界上没有人能猜对。公主恢复常态后说道:“这还不行,我还不能和你结婚。你还得做一件事情。你要在下边的兽棚里和熊住一夜。明天我醒的时候,如果你还活着,我就和你结婚。”公主心里想,这下就能把小裁缝除掉了。因为,熊还没有让谁从自己脚爪下活着出去的。可是,小裁缝毫不气馁,还是高高兴兴地说:“不入虎穴,焉得虎子。”

  到了晚上,小裁缝被带到熊笼里。熊马上向他猛扑过来要用它那有力的脚掌来好好欢迎它的客人。“慢慢来!慢慢来!”小裁缝说,“我一会儿就会叫你安静下来的!”他好像一点儿也没有担心害怕的样子,逍遥自在地从衣袋里拿出几个核桃,咬开后,吃着核桃仁。熊看见小裁缝吃,被激起了食欲,也想吃。小裁缝把手伸进衣袋里,拿出一把交给熊。但是这不是核桃,而是鹅卵石。熊把石头放进嘴里,不论怎样用力,却一个也咬不开。哎呀呀!我真是个废物,连个核桃都咬不动了!熊心里想着,就对小裁缝说:“喂,你帮我把这核桃咬开!”“你看看你,真是个没用的家伙!那么大的一张嘴,连一个小核桃都咬不开!”小裁缝说着,把石头接过来,敏捷地换了个核桃放进嘴里,嘎嘣一下子把核桃咬开。熊说,“看你做得如此轻巧,我一定要再试试!”于是,小裁缝又给熊一些鹅卵石。熊用尽力气去咬,你可想而知,它是怎么也咬不开的。这件事就这样过去了。小裁缝从衣裳里拿出一把小提琴,拉了一支曲子。熊听见音乐声,情不自禁地跳起舞来。跳了一会儿,它发现自己太喜欢这玩意了,于是就对小裁缝说:“老实告诉我,拉小提琴难学吗?”小裁缝说:“这非常容易。你看,左手指按上琴弦,右手拉着琴弓。就这么一拉,美妙的音乐就出来了!”“就这么拉吗?”熊说,“那我高兴的时候就可以跳舞了。你看怎么样?你能教教我吗?”“我乐意效力!”小裁缝说,“只要你和灵巧的话就可以了。你把脚掌伸出来让我看看。哎呀,你指甲太长,我得把你的指甲剪下来一点!”于是,小裁缝把老虎钳子拿出来。熊伸出爪子,小裁缝紧紧地把熊爪拧在老虎钳子中以后,说:“你等一等,我拿剪刀去!”说完,小裁缝走到角落里的麦捆上睡觉去了,只剩下熊站在那里吼叫。

  那天晚上,公主听见熊吼得很凶,心里想:熊一定把小裁缝干掉了,高兴地吼叫呢!第二天早晨,公主放心了,高高兴兴地起了床,但她到兽棚子一看,只见小裁缝得意洋洋地站在那里,安然无恙。公主再也说不出一句反对结婚的话了。因为那是她当众答应了的。国王派来了马车,公主和小裁缝坐上去,要一起到教堂举行婚礼。他们坐上马车走的时候,那两个阴险的裁缝,对小裁缝得到幸福十分嫉妒,就但兽棚里去,拧开老虎钳子,把熊放了出来。熊气得火冒三丈,在马车后面猛追。公主听见了熊的吼叫,咆哮,害怕地喊起来:“哎呀!熊追来了!熊要把你抓走复仇啊!”小裁缝说着拿了个大顶,把两只脚伸到马车窗户外边去,喊到:“来呀,看见这把老虎钳子了吗?你要是不滚开,我还用老虎钳子夹你!”熊听了这话,掉过头去就逃跑了,小裁缝不慌不忙地到了教堂,和公主举行婚礼典礼。从那以后,他们就像云雀似的过着快乐的生活。谁要是不相信这故事是真的就叫他掏出三块钱来。

  II. Exercise Choose the correct answer to the following questions.

  Exercises:

  1)。 Why did the three tailors make the attempt in the end?

  A.      Because they knew the princess was very beautiful.

  B.      Because the princess was very proud.

  C.      Because the princess was not very beautiful but also proud.

  D.      Because the princess said she would marry anyone who guess the answer to her riddle.

  2)。 Which statement is right?

  A.      The two elder tailors were confident.

  B.      The young tailor was not confident.

  C.      The two elder tailors asked the young tailor to go with them.

  D.      The young tailor didn't want to go with them and stayed at home.

  3)。 Who guessed the answer to the princess's riddle?

  A.      The two elder tailors.

  B.      The young tailor.

  C.      All of them.

  D.      None of them.

  4)。 How did the young tailor fool the bear in the stable?

  A.      He cracked small nuts but gave the bear some hard nuts.

  B.      He cracked small pebbles but gave the bear some big pebbles.

  C.      He cracked nuts but gave the bear pebbles.

  D.      He cracked pebbles but gave the bear nuts.

  5)。 How did the princess feel when she heard the bear growling that night?

  A.      She was worried about her husband.

  B.      She felt very sad.

  C.      She felt very happy.

  D.      She was frightened.

  6)。 How did the bear get out of the stable?

  A.      It struggled out by itself.

  B.      The princess unscrewed it.

  C.      The two tailors unscrewed it.

  D.      The king unscrewed it.

  7)。 Which statement is not right?

  A.      The princess loved the young tailor when she first saw him.

  B.      The young tailor was very brave and clever.

  C.      The two elder tailors were false-hearted and envied the young tailor.

  D.      The princess tailor married the princess at last.

  III. New Words and Expressions 生词和词组

  1)      clutch n. 抓

  2)      daunt v. 使退缩

  3)      walnut n. 胡桃

  4)      kernel n. 果仁

  5)      nimbly adv. 敏捷地

  6)      tralala n. int. 特啦啦

  7)      altar n. 神坛

  Key to Exercise(练习答案)

  1:D 2:A 3:B 4:C 5:C 6:C 7:A

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