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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)






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


  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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