The Golden Goose – Pre-Intermediate Level
Once upon a time, there lived a wood cutter and his wife who had three sons. The older two were tall and strong and clever, and their mother and father were always telling them how proud they were of them. But the youngest son wasn’t very tall, and he wasn’t very strong, and wasn’t very clever. His family thought he was good for nothing. The laughed at him and did not treat him kindly. They called him the Simpleton, which means fool.
One day the oldest son wanted to go into the forest to cut wood. The mother told him how good he was for wanting to help his father. Before he set out, she gave him a delicious cake for his lunch and a bottle of wine to wash it down.
While the oldest son was walking through the forest, he met a little grey old man. “Please give me a small piece of your cake and a taste of your wine,” said the old man. “I am terribly hungry and thirsty.”
The oldest son answered, “If I were to give you some of my cake and wine, there may not be enough for me. Be off with you!”
The little grey old man went away, but as he did so he said some magic words that put a spell on the boy’s axe.
When the oldest son started to cut a tree down, the axe missed the tree and cut into his arm. He was so badly hurt that he had to go home at once. As his mother washed the cut and bandaged the arm, she spoke angrily to him for not being more careful.
The next day, the second oldest son said that he would go into the forest to cut wood. As with the oldest son, the mother told him how good he was for wanting to help his father. And before he left, she gave him a delicious cake for his lunch and a bottle of wine to wash it down. She also told him to be specially careful with the axe, so as not to have a bad accident like his brother.
It happened that the second oldest son came across the same little gray old man as he was walking through the forest. “Please share your cake and your wine with me,” said the old man. “I am terribly hungry and thirsty.”
“What I give you I lose for myself,” answered the second oldest son. “Be off with you!”
Again the little grey old man went away, and again he said some magic words that put a spell on the boy’s axe.
Not long after, when the second oldest son was cutting down a tree, his axe missed the tree and cut his leg. He was so badly hurt that he had to ask another wood cutter to help him home. As his mother washed the cut and bandaged the leg, she spoke angrily to him for not being more careful.
The next day the youngest son, the one they called the Simpleton, said that he would go into the forest to cut wood. “But your two older brothers have hurt themselves,” said his father. “They are strong and know a lot about wood cutting. You are not strong and don’t know anything about wood cutting. You had better stay home or you might kill yourself.”
But the youngest son would not give up and at last his father said, “Well, go if you must. But I hope you learn something from the experience, and that it doesn’t cost you your life.” As with hid brothers, before he left his mother gave him some cake and a bottle of drink to wash it down. But the cake he was given was not delicious; it was one that his mother had burnt when she was cooking it. And the bottle did not contain wine; for him there was only a bottle of sour beer.
As the youngest son was going through the forest, he met the same little gray old man. “Please share some of your cake and beer with me,” said the old man. “I am terribly hungry and thirsty.”
“Old man, I will happily share what I have with you,” answered the youngest son. “But the cake is burnt and the beer is sour.”
“Never mind that,” said the old man. “I am thankful for what you can give me.” So the youngest son and the little gray old man sat down, and as the young man held out his food it became a delicious cake, and the sour beer became good wine. They ate and drank together.
After they had finished the meal, the old man said, “You have a good heart, and have shared what you have with me. Let me give you something for being so kind. You see that old tree over there. Cut it down with your axe. There is an empty space inside the tree. You will find something of value there.” And with that, the little gray old man left.
The young man took his axe and cut down the old tree just as he had been told. Inside he found the empty space, and in the empty space sat a goose. But this was no normal bird. Its feathers were made of gold!
The young man saw that this was his lucky day. “Why should I go home now,” he thought, “and have my parents and brothers still call me the Simpleton and treat me badly? They will take this bird from me, and I shall no better off than when I left home this morning.”
And so the young man known as the Simpleton decided to see a little of the world before going home with the golden goose. He put the bird under his arm and set out for the nearest town. He went to the hotel, thinking that he might stay there. He stood at the bar and asked the hotel-keeper if he would accept a golden feather as payment for his room and food. When the hotel-keeper saw the golden goose, he readily agreed.
After the young man had gone to bed, the hotel-keeper called his three daughters together. “That young man whose parents call him the Simpleton is staying in our best room,” he said. “Be good to him while he is here because he can’t be as simple in the head as they say. He’s got a valuable bird with him – a goose with feathers made of gold.”
The oldest daughter thought to herself, “What a wonderful bird! I would love to have a feather made of gold. Later tonight, when everyone is sleeping, I’ll go into his room and take one. I am sure that he won’t miss it.”
At midnight, she went quietly into the boy’s room and saw that he was asleep with his arm around the golden goose. She walked over to the bed without making a sound and tried to pull out a feather. But the feather wouldn’t come. When she tried to take her hand away, she found that she was stuck to it. She couldn’t move, and she couldn’t cry out because she did not want to wake the boy. She had to stay where she was, on her knees by the bed, with her hand on the feather.
At one in the morning, the second sister came into the room, also planning to take a feather. In the dark she didn’t see her sister and touched her back. As soon as she did this, she found that her hand was stuck fast to her sister. She also had to stay where she was, not moving and not making a sound.
At two in the morning, the third sister came into the room. The other two whispered, “Stay back!” but it was too late. She reached out and found that her hand was stuck to the second sister.
The young man and the golden goose slept through all of this. In the morning he got up, paid his bill with a golden feather, and left with hotel with the goose under his arm. The sisters had no choice but to follow on behind him. He did not trouble himself at all about them. Where he went, they went, always following in a pretty line behind him… now to the right… now to the left.
Along the way they passed a church just as the priest was coming outside. “What a thing to see!” he thought. “It’s not right for three young women to follow a young man around like that!” He decided that he should talk to them about it, and ran after them. He took the youngest girl by the hand and tried to pull her back. But he soon found that he was stuck to her and could not get away. So he too became part of the line and had to follow the young man.
Further up the road they met a man who worked in the church. He was surprised to see the priest following the three girls so closely and ran up to him. Where are you going!” he said. “Did you forget that we have a special service in the church this morning?” And as he said this he touched the priest’s coat, to which his hand remained stuck fast. Then there were five in the line.
As they walked on, one behind the other, they met two farm workers who were returning from the fields with their tools. The priest called out to the men, asking for help. But no sooner had they touched the man who worked in the church than they too became stuck and had to follow along.
The young man led the little line of seven people on and on until at last they came to a big city, in the middle of which was the King’s palace. Now the King’s daughter was very beautiful, but she had the saddest face in the whole wide world. She had never laughed and not once even smiled. The King was so troubled by the young Princess’s unhappiness that he had made a special law. Whoever could make her laugh and smile would win her hand in marriage.
When the young man heard this, he went with his goose and his train of followers before the Princess. When she saw the seven people all running behind each other, she began to laugh. She laughed and laughed till it seemed as though she could never stop.
The young man then asked the King when he could marry the Princess. But the King was not pleased at the thought of a son-in-law who was known as the Simpleton,. He tried to think of ways to stop the marriage. Finally, he told the young man that he must first find and bring him someone who could drink a whole cellar full of wine.
At once the young man thought of the little grey old man, who he was sure would help him. So off he went back to the forest. In the place where he had found the golden goose sat a man who looked very sad. The young man asked him what was the cause of his trouble.
“I have such a thirst,” the man answered. “and I cannot make it go away. I do not like cold water, and nothing else seems to work. I once drank a whole barrel of wine, but what is a drop like that to a man who is always thirsty like me?”
“In that case I can help you,” said the young man. “Come with me and you shall no longer be thirsty.” He led him to the King’s cellar, and the man at once sat down in front of the great barrels. He drank and drank till before the day was over he had drunk the whole cellar full of wine.
The the young man again asked the King when he could marry the Princess. But the King was still unhappy that a man who everyone knew as the Simpleton should win his daughter. He set a new test. He said that before marrying his daughter the young man must find and bring him someone who would eat a whole mountain of bread.
The young man did not stop long to think, but went straight to the forest. There in the same place as before sat another man who was pulling his belt tightly around his waist and looking very unhappy. The young man asked him what was the cause of his trouble.
“I have eaten a whole oven of bread,” he said. “But what help is that when a man is always as hungry as I am? I always feel quite empty, and I must keep pulling my belt more tightly around my waist if I am not to die of hunger.”
The young man was very happy to hear this. “Get up at once,” he said, “and come with me. I will give you so much to eat that you will no longer be hungry.” He led him to the King, who had ordered that all the wheat in the Kingdom was to be brought together, and a huge mountain of bread made from it. The man from the forest set to work on the bread mountain, and in one day it had disappeared.
For a third time the young asked the King when he could marry the Princess. Again the King tried to put him off, saying that he must first find and bring him a ship that could go both on land and water. “If you are really able to find such a ship,” he said, “you shall at once have my daughter for your wife.”
The young man went back to the forest. This time he found the little old grey man to whom he had given his cake sitting in the place where he had found the golden goose.
“I have drunk for you, and I have eaten for you,” said the little man, “and I will also give you the ship. I do all this for you because you were once kind to me.”
Then he gave the young man a ship that had both a sail and wheels and would go on both land and water. When the King saw it, he knew he could no longer hold back his daughter. The young man and the Princess were married and, after the King’s death, the young man became king. He lived very happily ever after with his beautiful wife, and was never called the Simpleton again.