O NCE there was a goose who had seven little goslings of whom she was very fond, and she did everything she could for them. What troubled her most was to keep them safe from a big gray wolf who lived near by in the forest, and who sometimes came prowling around the house that the goose lived in. Whenever she had to go out to look for food she called the goslings all together and said, "Dear children, I am obliged to leave you for a little while to go and get something for us to eat. Take care of yourselves and do not let the wolf come in. You will know him by his rough voice and his black paws. If he once gets in the house he will eat you."
The goslings always replied, "Oh, we will be very careful, dear mother. You need not worry about us."
One day, when the mother goose had gone out to get food, the wolf came to the house and rapped, and said in his rough voice, "Dear children, open the door. I am your mother. I have brought you something very nice."
The seven little goslings made answer, "You are not our mother. She has a fine, sweet voice. Your voice is rough. You are the wolf, and we will not open the door."
Then the wolf bethought himself of a trick. He went to a shopkeeper and said, "Give me a great piece of chalk."
The shopkeeper gave the wolf the chalk, and the wolf ate it, and it made his voice fine and sweet. Then he went back to the house of the seven little goslings and said with his fine, sweet voice, "Dear children, let me come in. I am your mother, and every one of you shall have something to eat."
But the seven little goslings looked through the crack beneath the door and saw his black paws. Then they said, "Oho! our mother does not have black feet. You are the wolf, and we will not open the door."
So the wolf went to a baker and said, "Baker, sprinkle my feet with flour."
The baker did not wish to do this, but the wolf said, "If you do not obey I will eat you."
So the baker strewed the wolf's feet with flour, and the wolf went back to the seven little goslings and said, "Dear children, open the door. I am your mother, and every one of you shall have something to eat."
The wolf's voice was sweet and fine, and when the little goslings looked under the door and saw the wolf's paws as white as snow, they thought he was their mother. They opened the door and the wolf leaped in.
The goslings were very much frightened then and they hid themselves as quickly as they could. One went under the table, the second into the bed, the third into the oven, the fourth behind the meal-chest, the fifth in a closet, the sixth beneath a great pot, and the seventh went into the clock. But the wolf found them all and ate them except the youngest, who was in the clock, and then he went away.
Shortly afterward the mother goose came home. The door was open! Tables and chairs were overturned! the kitchen pots were broken! the bedclothes were on the floor! and, what was worse, the children were gone! Nowhere could she find them. Then she called them each by name, and there was nothing but silence in response until she came to the name of the youngest, when a little squeaking voice answered, "Dear mother, I am in the clock."
She pulled him out, and he related to her what had happened.
The old goose said to the little one, "Come with me. I will take the carving knife, and we will see if we can find that wicked wolf. He has not gone far. After eating so much he he has lain down somewhere to sleep."
So the mother goose took the carving knife and set forth with the little gosling close behind her. They followed the wolf's tracks into a meadow, and there they found him fast asleep and snoring.
"Here he is," whispered the mother goose. "No doubt he feels very comfortable after eating six of my children for his supper."
Then she stole up to the wolf and gave him a blow with the carving knife that killed him. After that she cut him open and out stepped the six little goslings one by one; for he had swallowed them whole and they were more frightened than hurt. They were very glad to escape from their dark prison, and as they walked along behind the mother goose toward home, there never were happier goslings in the world than they were.