The Snow Man: from Hans Christian Andersen (adapted for telling)

"It is so cold," said the Snow Man, "that it makes my whole body crackle. How wonderful it is to be cold! But how that great red thing up in the sky is staring at me!"

He meant the sun. It was just setting.

The sun went down,and the full moon rose, shining in the deep blue night.

"There it comes again, from the other side," said the Snow Man, who thought the moon was the sun, showing himself once more. "If I only knew how to move away from this place. I would like to move. I would slide along on the ice as I have seen the boys do; but I don't know how; I don't even know how to run."

"Away, away," barked the old yard-dog. He was quite hoarse, and could not bark properly. He had once been an indoor dog, and lay by the fire, and he had been hoarse ever since. "The sun will make you run some day. I saw him, last winter, make the last snow man run, and the one before him. Away, away, they all have to go."

"I don't understand you," said the Snow Man. "Is that thing up yonder to teach me to run? I saw it running itself a little while ago, and now it has come creeping up from the other side."

"You know nothing at all," replied the yard-dog; "but then, you've only lately been patched up. What you see yonder is the moon, and the one before it was the sun. It will come again to-morrow, for I think the weather is going to change. I can feel such pricks and stabs in my left leg; I am sure there is going to be a change."

"I don't understand him," said the Snow Man to himself, "but I have a feeling that he is talking of something very disagreeable. The one who stared so just now, and whom he calls the sun, is not my friend; I can feel that too."

"Away, away," barked the yard-dog, and then he turned round three times, and crept into his kennel to sleep.

There was really a change in the weather. Towards morning, a thick fog covered the whole country round, and a keen wind arose, so that the cold seemed to freeze one's bones; but when the sun rose, the sight was splendid. Trees and bushes were covered with hoar frost, and looked like a forest of white coral; while on every twig glittered frozen dew-drops. Every twig glistened. The birch, waving in the wind, looked full of life, like trees in summer; and its appearance was beautiful. Where the sun shone, everything glittered and sparkled, as if diamond dust had been scattered; while the snowy carpet on the earth seemed to be covered with diamonds.

"This is really beautiful," said a young girl, who had come into the garden with a young man; and they both stood still near the Snow Man, and contemplated the glittering scene.

"Summer cannot show a more beautiful sight," she exclaimed, while her eyes sparkled.

"And we can't have such a fellow as this in the summertime," replied the young man, pointing to the Snow Man; "he is wonderful."

The girl laughed, and nodded at the Snow Man, and then ran away over the snow with her friend. The snow creaked and crackled beneath her feet.

"Who are these two?" the Snow Man asked the yard-dog."You have been here longer than I have; do you know them?"

"Of course I know them," she has stroked my back many times, and he has given me a bone of meat. I never bite those two."

"But what are they?"

"They are engaged to each other. They will go and live in the same kennel by-and-by, and gnaw at the same bone. Away, away!"

"Are they the same kind of beings as you and I?" asked the Snow Man.

"Well, they belong to the same master. My, people who were only born yesterday know very little. I can see that in you. I have age and experience. I know every one here in the house, and I know there was once a time when I did not lie out here in the cold, fastened to a chain. Away, away!"

"The cold is delightful. But tell me--why are you out here on a chain?"

"I'll tell you. They said I was a pretty little fellow once; then I used to lie in a velvet-covered chair, and sit in the mistress's lap. They used to kiss my nose, and wipe my paws with an embroidered handkerchief, and I was called 'Ami, dear Ami, sweet Ami.' But after a while I grew too big for them, and they sent me away to the housekeeper's room; so I came to live on the lower story. You can look into the room from where you stand, and see where I was master once. It was certainly a smaller room than those up stairs; but I was more comfortable; for I was not being continually taken hold of and pulled about by children. I ate food as good, or even better. I had my own cushion, and I used to go under the stove, and lie down beneath it. Ah, I still dream of that stove. Away, away!"

"Does a stove look beautiful?" asked the Snow Man. "Is it at all like me?"

"It is just the reverse of you. It's as black as a crow, and has a long neck and a brass knob; it eats firewood, so that fire spurts out of its mouth. We must keep on one side, or under it, to be comfortable. You can see it through the window from where you stand."

The Snow Man looked, and saw a bright polished thing with a fire gleaming from the lower part of it.

"Why did you leave her?" asked the Snow Man. "How could you give up such a comfortable place?"

"I had to. I bit the youngest of my master's sons in the leg because he kicked away the bone I was chewing. 'Bone for bone,' I thought; but they were so angry, and from that time I have been chained up, and I lost my bone. I can't bark any more like other dogs, I am so hoarse."
But the Snow Man was no longer listening. He was looking into the housekeeper's room, where the stove stood on its four iron legs, looking about the same size as the Snow Man himself.
"What a strange crackling I feel within me," he said. "How can I get in there? I want to go in there and lean against her, even if I have to break the window."

"You must never go in there," said the yard-dog, "for if you do, you'll melt away, away."

"I might as well go," said the Snow Man, "for I think I am breaking up as it is."

That whole day the Snow Man stood looking in the window. In the evening the room was even more inviting, for from the stove came a gentle glow, not like the sun or the moon; it was the bright light that gleams from a stove when it has been well fed. When the door of the stove was opened, the flames darted out of its mouth. The light of the flames fell directly on the face and breast of the Snow Man outside.

The night was long, but the Snow Man stood there watching the stove and crackling with the cold. In the morning, the window-panes of the housekeeper's room were covered with ice. They were the most beautiful ice-flowers any Snow Man could desire, but he could not see the stove because of them. The snow crackled and the wind whistled around him; it was just the kind of weather a Snow Man should enjoy. But he did not enjoy it; all he could think about was the stove.

"That is a terrible thing for a Snow Man to think about," said the yard-dog; "I suffered from it myself, but I got over it. Away, away," he barked and then he added, "the weather is going to change."

And the weather did change; it began to thaw. As the warmth increased, the Snow Man decreased. He said nothing and did not complain. One morning he broke, and sank down altogether; and, there where he had stood, something like a broomstick was sticking up in the ground. It was the pole around which the boys had built him up.

"Why, that's the stove shovel they used to build him! No wonder he felt so strongly about the stove. Away, away," barked the hoarseyard-dog.

But the girls in the house sang:

"Come from your fragrant home, green thyme;
Stretch your soft branches, willow-tree;
The months are bringing the sweet spring-time,
When the lark in the sky sings joyfully.
Come gentle sun, while the cuckoo sings,
And I'll mock his note in my wanderings."

And nobody thought any more of the Snow Man.


The Little Glass Slipper

A story from the German island of Rugen (also called Rugia), in the Baltic Sea north of Germany. Rugen is the largest of the German islands.

This story is from the book Fairy Mythology by Thomas Keightley. The book is available as e-text on the Sacred Texts website.


A PEASANT, named John Wilde, who lived in Rodenkirchen, found one time a glass shoe on one of the hills where the little people used to dance. He clapped it instantly into his pocket and ran away with it, keeping his hand as close on his pocket as if he had a dove in it; for he knew that he had found a treasure which the underground people must redeem at any price.
Others say that John Wilde lay in ambush one night for the underground people, and gained an opportunity of pulling off one of their shoes, by stretching himself there with a brandy-bottle beside him, and acting like one that was dead drunk; for he was a very cunning man, not over scrupulous in his morals, and had taken in many a one by his craftiness, and, on this account, his name was in no good repute among his neighbours, who, to say the truth, were willing to have as little to do with him as possible. Many hold, too, that he was acquainted with forbidden arts, and used to carry on an intercourse with the fiends and old women that raised storms, and such like.

However, be this as it may, when John had gotten the shoe, he lost no time in letting the folk that dwell under the ground know that he had it. So at midnight he went to the Nine-hills, and cried with all his might, "John Wilde, of Rodenkirchen, has got a beautiful glass shoe. Who will buy it? Who will buy it?" For he knew that the little one who had lost the shoe must go barefoot till he got it again, and that is no trifle, for the little people have generally to walk upon very hard and stony ground.

John's advertisement was speedily attended to. The little fellow who had lost the shoe made no delay in setting about redeeming it. The first free day he got, that he might come out into the daylight, he came as a respectable merchant, and knocked at John Wilde's door, and asked if John had not a glass shoe to sell? "For," says he, "they are an article now in great demand, and are sought for in every market." John replied that it was true he had a very little little, nice, pretty little glass shoe, but it was so small that even a Dwarf's foot would be squeezed in it; and that God Almighty must make people on purpose for it before it could be of any use; but that, for all that, it was an extraordinary shoe, and, a valuable shoe, and a dear shoe, and it was not every merchant that could afford to pay for it.

The merchant asked to see it, and when be had examined it, "Glass shoes," said he, "are not by any means such rare articles, my good friend, as you think here in Rodenkirchen, because you do not happen to go much into the world. However," said he, after hemming a little, "I will give you a good price for it, because I happen to have the very fellow of it." And he bid the countryman a thousand dollars for it.

"A thousand dollars are money, my father used to say when he drove fat oxen to market," replied John Wilde, in' a mocking tone; "but it will not leave my hands for that shabby price; and, for my own part, it may ornament the foot of my daughter's doll. Harkye, friend: I have heard a sort of little song sung about the glass shoe, and it is not for a parcel of dirt that it will go out of my hands. Tell me now, my good fellow, should you happen to know the knack of it, that in every furrow I make when I am ploughing I should find a ducat? If not, the shoe is still mine, and you may inquire for glass shoes at those other markets."

The merchant made still a great many attempts, and twisted and turned in every direction to get the shoe; but when he found the farmer inflexible, be agreed to what John desired, and swore to the performance of it. Cunning John believed him, and gave him up the glass shoe, for he knew right well with whom he had to do. So the business being ended, away went the merchant with his glass shoe.

Without a moment's delay, John repaired to his stable, got ready his horses and his plough, and drove out to the field. He selected a piece of ground where he would have the shortest turns possible, and began to plough. Hardly had the plough turned up the first sod, when up sprang a ducat out of the ground, and it was the same with every fresh furrow he made. There was now no end of his ploughing, and John Wilde soon bought eight new horses, and put them into the stable to the eight he already had--and their mangers were never without plenty of oats in them--that he might be every two hours to yoke two fresh horses, and so be enabled to drive them the faster.

John was now insatiable in ploughing; every morning he went out before sunrise, and many a time he ploughed on till after midnight. Summer and winter it was plough, plough with him evermore, except when the ground was frozen as hard as a stone. But he always ploughed by himself, and never suffered any one to go out with him, or to come to him when he was at work, for John understood too well the nature of his crop to let people see what it was he ploughed so constantly for.

But it fared worse with himself than his horses, who ate good oats and were regularly changed and relieved, while he grew pale and meagre by reason of his continual working and toiling. His wife and children had no longer any comfort of him; he never went to the alehouse or the club; he withdrew from every one, and scarcely ever spoke a single word, but went about silent and wrapped up in his own thoughts. All the day long he toiled for his ducats, and at night he had to count them and to plan and meditate how he might find out a still swifter kind of plough.
His wife and neighbours lamented over his strange conduct, his dullness and melancholy, and began to think that he was grown foolish. Everybody pitied his wife and children, for they imagined that the numerous horses he kept in his stable, and the preposterous mode of agriculture that he pursued, with his unnecessary and superfluous ploughing, must soon leave him without house or land.

But their anticipations were not fulfilled. True it is, the poor man never enjoyed a happy or contented hour since he began to plough the ducats up out of the ground. The old saying held good in his case, that he who gives himself up to the pursuit of gold is half way in the claws of the evil one. Flesh and blood cannot bear perpetual labour, and John Wilde did not long hold out against this running through the furrows day and night. He got through the first spring, but one day in the second, he dropped down at the tail of the plough like an exhausted November fly. Out of the pure thirst after gold he was wasted away and dried up to nothing; whereas he had been a very strong and hearty man the day the shoe of the little underground man fell into his hands.

His wife, however, found after him a considerable treasure, two great nailed up chests full of good new ducats, and his sons purchased large estates for themselves, and became lords and noblemen. But what good did all that do poor John Wilde?

The Queen Bee: A Tale from the Brothers Grimm

When I was a child, I read and re-read the stories in my copy of Grimm's Fairy Tales so often that the book is now in tatters. I traveled to enchantment with each reading, even though when I read them now I am astounded at the level of violence in some of them. Children seem to take such things in stride--perhaps it is because we got toughened up on the playgrounds?

I do not remember ever reading this story. It seems a timely tale, with the bees beginning to fly again, and talk of starting more hives buzzing around my house. This is from an online etext, which credits the Household Tales collection, but also says the working is not identical and the exact source of this version is unknown.

I like this story for its non-violence, the discouragement of bullying, and the gentleness of the writing.

Two kings' sons once went out in search of adventures, and fell into a wild, disorderly way of living, so that they never came home again. The youngest, who was called simpleton, set out to seek his brothers, but when at length he found them they mocked him for thinking that hewith his simplicity could get through the world, when they two could not make their way, and yet were so much cleverer.

They all three traveled away together, and came to an ant-hill. The two elder wanted to destroy it, to see the little ants creeping about in their terror, and carrying their eggs away, but simpleton said, "Leave the creatures in peace, I will not allow you to disturb them."

Then they went onwards and came to a lake, on which a great number of ducks were swimming. The two brothers wanted to catch a couple and roast them, but simpleton would not permit it, and said, "Leave the creatures in peace, I will not suffer you to kill them."

At length they came to a bee's nest, in which there was so much honey that it ran out of the trunk of the tree where it was. The two wanted to make a fire beneath the tree, and suffocate the bees in order to take away the honey, but simpleton again stopped them and said, "Leave the creatures in peace, I will not allow you to burn them."

At length the three brothers arrived at a castle where stone horses were standing in the stables, and no human being was to be seen, and they went through all the halls until, quite at the end, they came to a door in which were three locks. In the middle of the door, however, there was a little pane, through which they could see into the room. There they saw a little grey man, who was sitting at a table. They called him, once, twice, but he did not hear, at last they called him for the third time, when he got up, opened the locks, and came out. He said nothing, however, but conducted them to a handsomely-spread table, and when they had eaten and drunk, he tookeach of them to a bedroom.

Next morning the little grey man came to the eldest, beckoned to him, and conducted him to a stone table, on which were inscribed three tasks, by the performance of which the castle could be delivered from enchantment.

The first was that in the forest, beneath the moss, lay the princess's pearls, a thousand in number, which must be picked up, and if by sunset one single pearl was missing, he who had looked for them would be turned into stone. The eldest went thither, and sought the whole day, but when it came to an end, he had only found one hundred, and what was written on the table came true, and he was turned into stone.

Next day, the second brother undertook the adventure, but it did not fare much better with him than with the eldest, he did not find more than two hundred pearls, and was changed to stone. At last it was simpleton's turn to seek in the moss, but it was so difficult for him to find the pearls, and he got on so slowly, that he seated himself on a stone, and wept. And while he was thus sitting, the king of the ants whose life he had once saved, came with five thousand ants, and before long the little creatures had got all the pearls together, and laid them in a heap.
The second task, however, was to fetch out of the lake the key of the king's daughter's bed-chamber. When simpleton came to the lake, the ducks which he had saved, swam up to him, dived down, and brought the key out of the water.

But the third task was the most difficult, from amongst the three sleeping daughters of the king was the youngest and dearest to be sought out. They, however, resembled each other exactly, and were only to be distinguished by their having eaten different sweetmeats before they fell asleep, the eldest a bit of sugar, the second a little syrup, and the youngest a spoonful of honey.
Then the queen of the bees, whom simpleton had protected from the fire, came and tasted the lips of all three, and at last she remained sitting on the mouth which had eaten honey, and thus the king's son recognized the right princess. Then the enchantment was at an end, everything was delivered from sleep, and those who had been turned to stone received once more their natural forms.

Simpleton married the youngest and sweetest princess, and after her father's death became king, and his two brothers received the two other sisters.


The Boastful Turtle

There was once a turtle who talked all the time. He talked mostly about himself. The other creatures of the earth avoided him as much as possible. Who wants to listen to a braggart?

One day the turtle saw a goose flying above him.

“How I would love to fly,” he said, “like the geese. It must be wonderful to be up so high and see the world from that height.”

He could think of nothing else but flying. At last he met a goose on the ground and he hurried (as fast as he could-he was a turtle, after all) over to her and said, "Teach me how to fly."

"You're a turtle! Anyway, I can’t right now," the goose answered. "My flock is migrating for the summer and I must join them."

"I want to fly!" the turtle cried. "I want to fly HIGH!"

"We’ll have to ask my flock," the gentle goose said. You know what the flock said.

“Turtles can’t fly,” one goose said. "Whoever heard of a flying turtle!" another goose laughed.

"I want to fly!" the turtle cried. "I want to fly HIGH!"

“We can’t carry you. You have no wings, so how can you fly? asked the largest goose.

"I want to fly!" the turtle cried. "I want to fly HIGH!"

The geese got so tired of his pestering that they came up with a plan. The geese decided that if two of them would hold a stick in their bills, the turtle could bit onto the stick and they could carry him with them, up into the air.

"Remember, you must not open your mouth while we are flying!" they reminded the turtle.

The geese flew up into the air their strong wings.

"I am flying!" the turtle thought to himself. "Down on the ground I can see everyone looking at me. How wonderful this is! How wonderful I am!"

He opened his mouth to tell the geese to fly higher still."I want to fly!" the turtle cried. " I want to fly HIGH!"

And so of course his mouth came off the stick, and he fell down, down, down to the earth. His beautiful shell cracked all over. He crawled away into the mud at the edge of a pond in embarrassment, and there he stayed until his poor shell healed.

But to this day, turtle has a cracked shell, and he has never tried to fly again. And he has never tried to speak again either!

Attributed to several cultures, including East Indian and Tagalog. Versions in the Jataka Tales and the Panchatantra, along with many other story collections. Adapted by Granny Sue

The Man Who Forgot His Feet

John was selected to be a judge for the town's annual Liars Contest.

"This is an important occasion," John thought. "I must dress appropriately to be a judge."

He checked his closet. His funeral suit was in good condition. He was saving it for his own funeral, but for this one day, he thought, he could wear it.

"This is even more important than my funeral," John told his wife.

Shoes were a problem. He pulled out the one pair of dress shoes he'd ever owned, bought for him by his mother for his high school graduation. The shoes were covered in dust but still looked new. He'd only worn them one time, after all. He had been saving them to go with the funeral suit.

He slipped his foot into one shoe and discovered that he had a problem: his foot had grown at least an inch since graduation.

"Of course it has!" said his wife. "You were twenty years younger when you graduated! We'll have to give those shoes away."

"Oh no," replied John. "I can still wear them for my funeral. It won't matter to me then if the shoes are too tight!"

He continued, "But I need a pair for the contest. A judge can't show up in work boots! I need a new pair." He sighed. Shopping was not high on his list of ways to spend his time. Then he had an idea--his wife could go! She loved to shop.

John found a ruler and carefully measured his foot, both the width and the length. He wrote the measurements on a piece of paper and handed it to his wife.

"Here. Run down to the shoe store and get me a pair of good black shoes," he ordered.

"I can't go. Don't you remember that I start my new job this afternoon? You'll have to go yourself."

She handed the paper back to John.

There was nothing for it but he would have to go. John slicked back his hair and headed out.

As he walked to the shoe store, he met many neighbors who wanted to talk to him about his important role as judge of the liars' contest.

"You're a natural for the post," one man said. "Why anyone who tell lies like you do would know in a minute if a lie was a good 'un or not."

John swelled with pride. "Indeed," he said, "I am an accomplished liar. My wife never believes a word I say, even when it's the truth I'm speaking. She says I must be conserving truth because it's such a rarity in our house, and that I've told so many little white lies I've gotten color-blind. I tell her that although I am an exceptionally good liar, I always tell the truth."

Making his way down the street, John grandly bowed his head to all who called out congratulations.

When he got to the shoe store, he stepped up to the counter and said, "I have come, dear man, to purchase a pair of shoes for a most auspicious occasion." (John liked to use big words when he was feeling important.)

"Very good," said the shopkeeper. "What size do you need?"

John reached in his pocket for the paper with his foot measurements. The paper was not there. Frantically he searched all his pockets. No paper.

"Blast!" he cried. " I must return home to get the paper. I don't remember what the measurements were. I shall return as quickly as possible."

As John hurried up the street, he bumped into a friend. Of course the friend wanted to talk about John's upcoming position as judge of the contest, and John obliged by sharing all the details of his appointment.

"The mayor himself chose me," said John. "He said it takes one to know one. I always say that reality is tough enough without adding truth to it."

John finally reached his home and found the paper with the measurements. He ran back to the shoe store--but it was closed!

There was nothing he could do about it except return home without a new pair of shoes. He walked slowly up the street with his head down.

"Hey John!' called a neighbor. "Why so sad? A man with such a special job to do should be feeling fine!"

"Oh my," said John. "I needed a new pair of shoes to be the judge--a judge must be dressed properly, you know. But I left my measurements at home on my first trip to the store and had to go back and get them. And when I returned, the store was closed! Now I have no new shoes. I'll have to wear my old boots, I suppose. This is just terrible."

The neighbor was puzzled. "Who did you say you were buying the shoes for?" he asked.

"Myself, of course! Who else would I buy shoes for when I am the one who needs them?"

"But you had your feet with you the entire time! Why didn't you just try the shoes on and find a pair to fit?"

John looked at his neighbor a long time, and then down at his feet. Without another word he stepped into his house and closed the door.

The important judge of the liars' contest wore work boots with his funeral suit to the contest. Every now and then he would look down at his feet, as if to be sure they were still with him. He didn't want to forget he had them again!

This is my retelling of a Chinese fable. Some days we overlook the most basic things. But although I occasionally lose my head, I have yet to misplace my feet!

For other sources of this story, go to:The Storyteller OnlineChinese Culture

The Rabbit with Many Friends

I found this little story in my files. I adapted it from Aesop for a participation story. It's easy to tell with children because of the repetition.

Once in the days before we were born, there lived a Rabbit was very popular with the other animals. All of them claimed to be her friend. One day she heard dogs running and barking and she was afraid.

“My friends will help me escape!” she thought. She hurried up to the horse.

“Please carry me on your back, away from these ferocious dogs!”

But the horse said, “I am very busy. You have so many friends, one of them will surely help.”

The rabbit ran to the bull.

“Please chase away these terrible dogs with your big, sharp horns.”

The bull replied, “I am very busy. You have so many friends, one of them will surely help.”

Poor Rabbit! She ran as fast as she could to the goat.

“Please goat, you have good horns. Chase these dogs away for me!”

The goat said, “I am very busy. You have so many friends, one of them will surely help.”

The terrified Rabbit scurried to the ram, who was grazing with the other sheep.

“Ram, please help me! Those dogs will eat me!”

The ram thought about it, but he knew that dogs sometimes ate sheep as well as rabbits.

He said, “I am very busy. You have so many friends, one of them will surely help.”

The Rabbit ran to her last friend, the baby calf. "Please help me, calf!"

The calf thought, “I am so small, and if those bigger animals could not help, how can I?”

So he said, “I am very busy. You have so many friends, one of them will surely help.”

By this time the hounds were very close near. Rabbit cried,“Sometimes having many friends is worse than having no friends at all!”

And she took off running as fast as she could, popped into her rabbit hole and escaped—all by herself.

Aiken Drum

Fill in the blanks with your favorite foods or other items. You can make a pizza Aiken Drum, a fruit Aiken Drum, or even a hardware version. Imagination is the key to this inventive song. If you prefer not to sing, recite the song as a poem.

I use felt pieces of fruit and make Aiken Drum on a flannelboard as I sing the song. Children and adults are fascinated by the process, and more than one teacher has asked if they can “steal” the idea. Steal? It’s free for the taking!

Aiken Drum

There was a man lived in the moon,
Lived in the moon, lived in the moon.
There was a man lived in the moon,
And his name was Aiken Drum.
And he played upon a ladle, a ladle, a ladle,
And he played upon a ladle,
And his name was Aiken Drum.

And his eyes they were two ___________________
His eyes they were two ______________________
And his name was Aiken Drum.
And his nose it was a _______________________
His nose it was a __________________________
And his name was Aiken Drum.
And his cheeks they were two _________________
His cheeks they were two ____________________
And his name was Aiken Drum.

And his mouth it was a _______________________
His mouth it was a __________________________
And his name was Aiken Drum.
And his face it was a ________________________
His face it was a ___________________________
And his name was Aiken Drum.

And his hair it was __________________________
His hair it was _____________________________
And his name was Aiken Drum.

Now wasn’t he a funny man,
funny man, a funny man,
Now wasn’t he a funny man
And his name was Aiken Drum.
This nonsense song may or may not be related to the story Aiken Drum. In the story, a brownie helps people do their work, with the stipulation that they never give him any new clothes. The people worry about the little man and finally someone gives him something new and he leaves, never to be seen again.

The two go together well as a story and song set, and the song allows for participation through singing, and putting the felt pieces on the board.

Sources for the poem:
Online text: Celtic Folklore: Welsh And Manxby by John Rhys [1901]
“The Brownie of Blednoch” by William Nicholson, originally published in The Dumfries Magazine in October 1825. Online information about the author and the poem can be found at

Forsyth, Anne. Aiken Drum: A Story in Scots for Young Readers (A Black and White Book) . Scottish Children's Press; June 1995. ISBN: 1899827005
Story Books: Maroon Group: Aiken Drum the Brownie. James Nisbet & Co Ltd. No date given. ASIN: 0720206278

Source for the melody:


Drakestail was very little, that’s why he was called Drakestail. But tiny as he was, he had brains. He started out in life with nothing, but over time he managed to save a great deal of money.

Now the King of this country was exactly the opposite. He spent and spent and never saved any money at all. So when he heard about Drakestail’s fortune, he went to Drakestail’s home and asked to borrow most of it. Drakestail had brains as I said, but he couldn’t help feeling proud that the King himself had come to visit him, and all his friends had seen it happen. He didn’t mind at all lending his money to the King.

A year later, the King had still not paid back any of the money, and Drakestail wasn’t feeling quite so proud. And after two years, he was downright angry! He decided that the only thing to be done was to go to the King and demand his money back. He dressed in his finest outfit and down the road he went, singing


He hadn’t traveled far at all when he met up with his friend Fox.

“Good morning, my Friend,” said Fox. “Where are you off to so early this morning?”

And Drakestail said,


“Oh! Take me with you,” said the Fox.

Drakestail thought to himself,


And he said to the fox,

“Certainly you may come. But traveling is tiresome. Make yourself very small and go down my throat and into my gizzard and I’ll carry you along with me.” And Fox did exactly that.

Drakestail set off again, singing to himself,


He hadn’t traveled very far when he met another friend, Lady Ladder.

“Good morning, Drakestail. Where are you going on this fine day?”


“Oh, well! May I go with you?” asked Lady Ladder.

And Drakestail thought to himself,


“Of course you may come. But walking on those wooden legs will make you very tired. Why don’t you make yourself very small and go down my throat into my gizzard with Friend Fox?”

“Brilliant!” said Lady Ladder. And she did exactly that. And Drakestail was on his way again, singing


Only a little further along he met yet another friend, River, bubbling along quietly.

“Hello, Drakestail. Where are you traveling today?”


“Oh, well!” said River. “May I go along with you?”

Drakestail thought to himself,


“Of course you may. Just make yourself very small and go down my throat into my gizzard with Fox and Ladder and the trip will seem much easier for you.”

“What a lovely thought,” said River. And she did exactly that.

And off went Drakestail, singing,


And would you believe he met yet another friend-Wasp Nest!

“Drakestail, friend!” called the wasps. “Where are you off to?”


“How exciting!” said the wasps. (They were all a-buzz with excitement.) “Can we go with you?”

Drakestail thought himself


“Certainly you may come. Only make yourself very small and slip down my throat into my gizzard with Fox, Ladder and River? The trip will be so much easier on you that way.”
Wasp-net agreed and off they went again, Drakestail singing,


It wasn’t long til Drakestail and his friends arrived at the King’s palace. Drakestail marched right up to the door, singing


He knocked right on the door, and the guard asked “Who’s there?”

“It is I, Drakestail. I wish to speak to the King.”

“Oh you do, do you?”

“Yes! Tell him it is I and he knows what I’ve come for.”

The guard shut the door and went in to see the King. The King was just sitting down to dinner, even had his napkin tucked in his collar. All his trusted ministers were there with him when the guard came in and told him what Drakestail had said.

“Ah!” said the King. “Drakestail! Here’s what you can do with him! Put him in the pen with all the turkeys and chickens.”

The guard returned to Drakestail and said, “Follow me.”

“Ha!” thought Drakestail. “They know how important I am!”

And then… the porter led him into the chicken house and locked him in there!

“What!” cried Drakestail. “In the chicken house?” You can imagine how angry he was.

“The King has tricked me. I’ll find a way yet for him to talk to me. Quack, Quack, Quack! When shall I get my money back?”

The chickens were all looking at him in a very unfriendly way. Chickens don’t like those who are different than they are, you know, and Drakestail was muttering to himself and pacing around. They began to circle around him in a very menacing way.

Drakestail thought and thought and thought …. And then he had an idea. “Fox! He’s here with me. He can help!”


And out came Fox and he chased those wicked birds around til they all flew high up into the rafters of the coop.

Drakestail watched all this quite happily, and all the while he was singing


He sang so loudly that the King heard him in the dining hall.

And when his poultry keeper came to tell him what happened in the chicken yard, he was very annoyed.

‘Throw this pesky Drakestail into the well and drown him!” cried the King.

The King’s men grabbed hold of Drakestail then and there and flung him down into the deepest well they could find.

“I’m done for!” cried Drakestail. And then he remembered-his friend Lady Ladder was still with him!


Ladder came at once and laid herself against the side of the well, and Drakestail climbed right out. He was no sooner out than he began shouting


“Aah, this pesky duck! Men! Throw him into the hottest part of the furnace!”

His soldiers grabbed hold of Drakestail and took him down into the cellars, back to the hottest, biggest furnace and threw him in. Drakestail was thinking ahead by now, and as soon as he felt the heat of that fire, he called


River flowed out like a ….well, like a river and put out the fire in the furnace. Then she flowed out of the cellar and down the halls, filling them four feet deep.

Let me tell you, the King was furious! He said, “Bring him here! I’ll cut his throat with my sword!” He really was angry.

The soldiers ….at least the ones who hadn’t been washed out of the palace by the flood River had created… grabbed Drakestail and brought him to stand in front of the King. Do you think Drakestail was afraid? He was terrified! But he didn’t show it. And he remembered that he had one friend left in his gizzard. He called out


And out buzzed the wasps-hundreds, thousands of wasps! They flew straight at the King, their stingers ready.

“Ow! Ow! Ow!” shouted the King as he ran out of the palace, followed by angry, stinging wasps. The King’s men were right behind him, shouting “Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!” as more and more wasps chased after them.

Drakestail stood alone in that giant dining hall, very much surprised at the way things had turned out. But then he remembered just why he had come there in the first place and began looking for his money. He said


But hard as he looked, he didn’t find one penny-it had all been spent. He looked everywhere until at last he found himself in the throne room. By this time he was very tired, and he sat down upon the throne to rest.

At that moment, the people of the town came running into the palace. They had seen their King and all his men running out of town and wanted to know why they were deserting the kingdom.
When they saw Drakestail sitting on the throne, they cried out,

“Drakestail, Drakestail, long live our King!
Drakestail, Drakestail, he’s our King!”

Drakestail looked out on them all as if he had always been a king and this was nothing unusual at all. The people placed a crown on his head, and it fitted him perfectly.

“And now,” said Drakestail, “let’s eat! I am so hungry!”

And that’s what they all did!

This is a fun story to tell! Audiences pick up quickly on the repeated phrases. One way to be sure they do this is to pause, then say the phrase a little louder and slower than the rest of the story. Make direct eye contact with the audience, and make a gesture with your hand to indicate that they should join in.

If the audience is still a little shy, stop and issue an invitation, “Why don’t you say this part with me?” As the story progresses, the audience will become more sure of its part in the story and jump right in at the appropriate times.

Sources for other versions of this story:
Lang, Andrew. The Red Fairy Book. Dover Books, 1966. (Originally published byLongmans, Green and Co. in London in 1890.)

Haviland, Virginia. Favorite Fairy Tales Told in France. Little, Brown and Co, 1959.

Forest, Heather. Wonder Tales from Around the World. August House Publishers, Inc, 1995.