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How A Woodpecker Chopped A Spruce-Tree

2006-07-13 22:22

  A woodpecker once flew up to a spruce-tree, lighted on its very top, and, rocking back and forth, sang:

  “I will chop this spruce-tree down,

  Make a cudgel of its crown,

  Wave it once and at a blow

  Every beast I see lay low!“

  The rabbit heard him and was frightened to death. Away he ran as fast as his legs could carry him and he met a wolf.

  “Where are you running so fast, Squinteyes?” the wolf asked him.

  Said the rabbit:

  “We're in terrible danger, Wolf. For on top of the spruce-tree yonder there sits a woodpecker, and do you know that I have just heard him say? Listen to this:

  'I will chop this spruce-tree down,

  Make a cudgel of its crown,

  Wave it once and at a blow

  Every beast I see lay low!'“

  The wolf was frightened and away he ran together with the rabbit. By and by they met a fox.

  “Are you two out of your minds to be rushing like that?” asked she. “Where are you going?”

  “Oh, Mistress Fox, we're in terrible danger. On top of the spruce-tree yonder there sits a woodpecker, and do you know what we've just heard him say? Listen to this:

  'I will chop this spruce-tree down,

  Make a cudgel of its crown,

  Wave it once and at a blow

  Every beast I see lay low!'“

  The fox was frightened, so she joined the rabbit and the wolf and away they ran together. By and by they met a boar.

  “Where are you rushing to-a ball or a christening?” asked the boar, and he added:

  “I will come along if so,

  For I love to eat, you know.

  Good, rich food and acorn beer

  Both the heart and palate cheer.“

  Said the rabbit, the wolf and the fox in reply:

  “No, friend Boar, it's not a ball

  We are going to at all.

  We are in terrible danger. On top of the spruce-tree yonder there sits a woodpecker, and do you know what we have just heard him say? Listen to this:

  'I will chop this spruce-tree down,

  Make a cudgel of its crown,

  Wave it once and at a blow

  Every beast I see lay low!'

  So we are on our way to hold counsel

  And decide what we must do

  Without flurry or to-do.“

  The boar joined the rabbit, the wolf and the fox, and away they ran together.

  By and by they met a bear. He was on his way home from the house of his uncle, the two of them having robbed a beehive together, and was still chewing on a piece of pie. Seeing them, the bear stopped.

  “Where are you running, neighbours?” asked he. “I never expected to see Ploughman the Boar, Sprinter the Rabbit, Red Tail the Fox and Grey Coat the Wolf together. Why are you in such a hurry? Who is chasing you? You are not going off to war, are you?”

  Said the four of them in reply:

  “Hear us out while we explain

  And don't wag your tongue in vain.

  Dark the skies above us loom,

  We are plunged in awful gloom.

  For on top of the spruce-tree yonder there sits a woodpecker, and do you know what we have just heard him say? Listen to this:

  I will chop this spruce-tree down,

  Make a cudgel of its crown,

  Wave it once and at a blow

  Every beast I see lay low!“

  The bear was frightened, he joined the rabbit, the wolf, the fox and the boar, and away the five of them ran together. They talked among themselves and decided that they would die rather than let the woodpecker chop down the spruce-tree!

  Gathering up courage, they ran up to the spruce-tree in which the woodpecker sat and called out with one voice:

  “Look here, Woodpecker, listen to us! Do not chop down the spruce-tree or make the cudgel. Let us all live together in peace like the good neighbours that we are.”

  But the woodpecker who was still perched on the very top of the spruce-tree cried again:

  “Go away or you'll be sorry!

  For I'll chop the spruce-tree down,

  Make a cudgel of its crown,

  And whoever ventures near-

  Thump! -will get it on the ear!“

  At this the five friends set up a great noise. They shouted at the top of their lungs that they would not let the woodpecker chop down the spruce-tree, and, clasping the tree, held on to it for dear life.

  Said the woodpecker:

  “I'll set me to work in a moment, just as soon as I have whetted my axe.”

  “Listen to me, all of you!” cried the bear. “You push at the spruce-tree from your side, Wolf and Boar, and Fox and I will push at it from ours. That way we'll hold it up nicely and it won't fall. As for you, Rabbit, you prop it up with your shoulder and do your best, mind!”

  “All right!” piped the rabbit, only to cry out the next moment: “Whoa there, brothers, I believe the woodpecker has started chopping. A chip has just fallen on my tail.”

  “Hold it tight!” the wolf cried. “It's toppling over to our side!”

  At this they all came together and sat to pulling at the spruce-tree, the wolf and the boar from one side and the bear from the other till little by little it began to rock and to sag and then all of a sudden-crash! -broke in two. The wolf and the boar fell to the ground with a thump, the rabbit, the bear and the fox fell on top of them, and they all called out together:

  “Please, Woodpecker, have a heart and don't kill us!”

  The woodpecker flew up into the air and then settled on another spruce-tree.

  “Think before you make me frown- I have chopped the spruce-tree down!”cried he.

  And the bear said over and over again in piteous tones:

  “And I thought I was holding it ever to tight! Oh, that woodpecker! I've never seen anyone so strong he!”

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