Gateway to the Classics: The Fairy Ring by Kate Douglas Wiggin & Nora Archibald Smith
The Fairy Ring by  Kate Douglas Wiggin & Nora Archibald Smith

The Ram and the Pig Who Went into the Woods to Live by Themselves

There was once upon a time a ram, who was being fattened up for killing. He had therefore plenty to eat, and he soon became round and fat with all the good things he got. One day the dairymaid came and gave him some more food.

"You must eat, Ram," she said; "you will not be long here now, for tomorrow we are going to kill you."

"There's an old saying that no one should sneer at old women's advice, and that advice and physic can be had for everything except death," thought the Ram to himself; "but perhaps I might manage to escape it this time."

And so he went on eating till he was full, and when he was quite satisfied he ran his horns against the door, burst it open, and set off to the neighboring farm. There he made straight for the pigsty, to look for a pig with whom he had struck up an acquaintance on the common, since they had always been good friends and got on well together.

"Good day, and thanks for your kindness last time we met," said the Ram to the Pig.

"Good day, and thanks to you," said the Pig.

"Do you know why they make you so comfortable, and why they feed you and look after you so well?" said the Ram.

"No," said the Pig.

"There are many mouths to feed on this farm, you must know," said the Ram; "they are going to kill you and eat you."

"Are they?" said the Pig. "Well, much good may it do them!"

"If you are of the same mind as I, we will go into the woods and build a house and live by ourselves; there is nothing like having a home of your own, you know," said the Ram.

Yes, the Pig was quite willing. "It's nice to be in fine company," said he, and off they started.

When they had got a bit on the way they met a goose.

"Good day, my good people, and thanks for your kindness last time we met," said the Goose. "Where are you off to?"

"Good day, and thanks to you," said the Ram. "We had it altogether too comfortable at our place, so we are off to the woods to live by ourselves. In your own house you are your own master, you know," said he.

"Well, I'm very comfortable where I am," said the Goose; "but why shouldn't I join you? Good company makes the day shorter," said she.

"But neither hut nor house can be built by gabbling and quacking," said the Pig. "What do you think you can do?"

"Good counsel and skill may do as much as a giant's will," said the Goose. "I can pluck moss and stuff it into the crevices, so that the house will be warm and comfortable."

Well, she might come with them, thought the Pig, for he liked the place to be warm and cozy.

When they had gone a bit on the way—the Goose was not getting along very fast—they met a hare, who came scampering out of the wood.

"Good day, my good people, and thanks for your kindness the last time we met," said the Hare. "How far are you going to-day?" said he.

"Good day, and thanks to you," said the Ram; "we had it altogether too comfortable at our place, so we are off to the woods to build a house and live by ourselves. When you have tried both East and West, you'll find a home of your own is, after all, the best," said he.

"Well, I have, of course, a home in every bush," said the Hare; "but I have often said to myself in the winter that if I lived till the summer I would build a house, so I have a good mind to go with you and build one after all," said he.

"Well, if the worst comes to the worst, we might take you with us to frighten the dogs away," said the Pig, "for you couldn't help us build the house, I should say."

"There is always something for willing hands to do in this world," said the Hare. "I have teeth to gnaw pegs with, and I have paws to knock them into the walls, so I'll do very well for a carpenter; for 'good tools make good work,' as the man said, when he skinned his mare with an auger," said the Hare.

Well, he might come along with them and help to build the house; there could be no harm in that.

When they had got a bit farther on the way they met a cock.

"Good day, my good people, and thanks for your kindness last time we met," said the Cock; "where are you all going to-day?" he said.

"Good day, and thanks to you," said the Ram; "we had it altogether too comfortable at our place, so we are off to the woods to build a house and live by ourselves. 'For unless at home you bake, you'll lose both fuel and cake,' " said he.

"Well, I am comfortable enough where I am," said the Cock, "but it's better to have your own roost than to sit on a stranger's perch and crow; and that cock is best off who has a home of his own," said he. "If I could join such fine company as yours, I, too, would like to go to the woods and build a house."

"Well, flapping and crowing is all very well for noise, but it won't cut the joists," said the Pig. "You can't help us build a house," he said.

"It is not well to live in a house where there is neither dog nor cock," said the Cock; "I am early to rise and early to crow."

"Yes, 'early to rise makes one wealthy and wise,' so let him come with us!" said the Pig. (He was always the heaviest sleeper.) "Sleep is a big thief, and steals half one's life," he said.

So they all set off to the woods and built the house. The Pig felled the trees and the Ram dragged them home; the Hare was the carpenter, and gnawed pegs and hammered them into walls and roof; the Goose plucked moss and stuffed it into the crevices between the logs; the Cock crew and took care that they did not oversleep themselves in the mornings, and when the house was ready and the roof covered with birch bark and thatched with turf, they could at least live by themselves, and they were all both happy and contented.

"It's pleasant to travel both East and West, but home is, after all, the best," said the Ram.

But a bit further into the wood two wolves had their lair, and when they saw that a new house had been built hard by they wanted to know what sort of folks they had got for neighbors. For they thought, "a good neighbor is better than a brother in a foreign land, and it is better to live among good neighbors than to be known far and wide."

So one of them made it his business to call there and ask for a light for his pipe. The moment he came inside the door the Ram rushed at him, and gave him such a butt with his horns that the wolf fell on his head into the hearth; the Pig snapped and bit, the Goose nipped and pecked, the Cock flew up on a rafter and began to crow and cackle, and the Hare became so frightened that he scampered and jumped around, both high and low, and knocked and scrambled about from one corner of the room to the other.

At last the Wolf managed to get out of the house.

"Well, to know one's neighbors is to add to one's wisdom," said the Wolf who was waiting outside; "I suppose you had a grand reception since you stayed so long. But what about the light? I don't see either pipe or smoke," said he.

"Yes, that was a nice light I got, and a nice lot of people they were," said he who had been inside. "Such treatment I never met with before, but 'as you make your bed so you must lie,' and 'an unexpected guest must put up with what he gets,' " said the Wolf. "No sooner was I inside the door than the shoemaker threw his last at me, and I fell on my head in the middle of the forge; there sat two smiths, blowing bellows and pinching and snipping bits of flesh off me with red-hot tongs and pincers; the hunter rushed about the room looking for his gun, but, as luck would have it, he couldn't find it. And up on the rafters sat someone beating his arms about and shouting: 'Let's hook him! Let's hook him! Sling him up! Sling him up!' and if he had only got hold of me I should never have come out alive."

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