The Five Little Foxes and the Tiger (East Pakistan)

Once upon a time, on the plains of East Pakistan, a fox and his wife lived in a little hole. They had five children who were too young to feed themselves, and so every evening Mr. and Mrs. Fox crept out of their hole and made their way to the bazaar or market place, which was full of roughly-made stalls.

But they didn’t go there to buy anything. They waited until all the people had gone home to their suppers, and then the two foxes crept amongst the stalls looking for scraps of food for their children.

Sometimes they found nothing but a few grains of rice or shreds of pumpkin but at other times they picked up quite large pieces of fish or meat which had been dropped un-noticed by a stall-holder.

Then the two foxes were overjoyed and would hurry home talking happily together. But no matter who had found the most food – and to be truthful it was nearly always Mrs. Fox who was the better scavenger – Mr. Fox was so full of pride at his cleverness that he could not stop boasting.

‘How much sense have you got, my dear?’ he would ask his wife as they hurried along between large tufts of brown grass and withered-looking bushes.

‘About as much as would fill a small vegetable basket,’ Mrs. Fox would reply modestly.

Then after a few minutes she would say, ‘And how much sense have you got, my good husband?’

‘As much as would fill twelve large sacks, needing twelve strong oxen to carry them,’ the conceited Mr. Fox would reply, time and time again.

Now one evening, when the two foxes were on their way home with food for their children, and Mr. Fox had just told his wife for the hundredth time how clever he was, a large tiger suddenly stepped out from behind a bush and barred their way.

‘At last I’ve got you,’ growled the tiger, showing them his sharp white teeth which glistened in the moonlight.

Mr. Fox began to tremble and his legs gave way, so that he crumpled up into a heap and lost the power to speak.

But clever Mrs. Fox held her head high, and looking straight into the flashing eyes of the tiger, she said with a smile, ‘How glad we are to have met you, O Uncle! My husband and I have been having an argument, and since neither will give way to the other, we decided that we would ask the first superior animal who crossed our path to settle the matter for us.’

The tiger was surprised at being spoken to so politely, and also very flattered at being called ‘Uncle’, which is a term of great respect in Pakistan.

So he did not spring at the foxes to kill and eat them, but replied, ‘Very well. I will help you if I can. Tell me what you were arguing about.’

‘My husband and I have decided to part company,’ said Mrs. Fox in a clear, calm voice, while her husband, who had closed his eyes in fear, now opened them wide in surprise. ‘But we have five children waiting at home for us, and we cannot decide how to divide them between us fairly. I think that I should have three, since I have had to spend more time in looking after them than my husband, and that he should have only two. But my husband insists that I let him have the three boy-cubs, and that I keep only the two girl-cubs. Now, O wise Uncle, who do you think is right?’

When Mrs. Fox saw the tiger licking his lips she knew that he was thinking that somehow he must have the five fox cubs as well as their parents for his dinner. And this was exactly what she had hoped for.

‘I must see the cubs for myself before I can make a decision,’ said the tiger. ‘Will you take me to your home?’

‘Certainly,’ said Mrs. Fox. ‘We will lead the way, and you shall follow.’

Poor Mr. Fox was completely at a loss to know what his wife was doing, but thinking that anything would be better than being eaten alive by a tiger, he staggered to his feet and followed his wife along the rough track, until they reached their home.

‘Wait here,’ said Mrs. Fox to the tiger. ‘You are too big to get inside our hole, so we will bring the children outside for you to see.’

She turned to her husband to tell him to go in, but he, needing no encouragement to get away from the tiger, shot into the opening like a flash.

Mrs. Fox went in more slowly, talking all the time, saying that she would not keep him waiting more than a moment, and thanking him for being so gracious as to promise to judge their case for them.

‘Once inside their hole, the foxes gathered their children together as far away from the opening as possible, and in whispers told them what happened.

‘Don’t make a sound,’ said Mrs. Fox, ‘and presently the tiger will realize he has been tricked, and will go away.’

She was right. The tiger waited for hours, first patiently, then furiously, as it gradually dawned on him that the foxes had no intention of letting him see their children, and when the sun rose the next morning, he had to go hungrily away.

After this, Mr. and Mrs. Fox went by a different path to the bazaar, and kept a sharp look-out for tigers.

Mr. Fox never again asked his wife how much sense she had, but once or twice, when he showed signs of becoming proud again she would say to him, ‘How much sense have you got, my dear?’ and he would answer with an embarrassed laugh, ‘Oh! About as much as would fill a small vegetable basket – a very small one, I’m afraid.’

The Fox, the Fish, and the Bear (Lapland)

Far away in the north of Lapland there once lived a fox who had been looking for food for days and days but had found none.

‘What shall I do?’ he asked himself as he lay on the hard packed snow. ‘If I cannot find food I shall die.’

Just then he heard the sound of dogs barking in the distance and he guessed that some sleighs were coming up from the sea towards the place where he lay.

Now most of the Laplanders in this part of the country were fishermen, and this fox loved eating fish. So he stretched himself out on the snow in such a way that the sleigh-driver would think he were dead.

Sure enough, after a few moments a string of sleighs stopped right beside the fox.

‘What luck!’ said a man’s voice. ‘A dead fox! Now I can sell it’s fur.’

Then, picking up the fox, the man slung its body on to the front sleigh and continued on his way.

Cautiously the fox opened his eyes. He saw that the dogs were dragging four sleighs, and that they were all empty except for the last one, which was piled high with fish.

Presently, as the sleighs rode over some bumpy ground, the fox let himself fall off on to the snow, taking care to make a loud plop.

Immediately the man reined in the dogs, leapt off the front sleigh and slung the fox up on to the second sleigh. Then he continued his journey.

After a few more miles the fox again let himself fall off the sleigh, taking care to make an even louder plop as he dropped into the crisp snow.

Once again the man stopped the sleighs, picked up the fox and slung him on to the third sleigh.

From here the fox could smell the fish so strongly that his stomach ached with hunger and his mouth watered profusely.

In no time at all he had dropped off the third sleigh and the man had stopped yet again and picked him up.

‘What a nuisance you are!’ said the Laplander, throwing him up on the top of all the fish on the fourth sleigh. ‘If you fall off here, I shan’t bother to stop again. I shall never get home at this rate.’ Then, climbing back and settling himself into the front sleigh, the man whipped up the dogs and hurried off.

Now the fox opened his eyes and began to get busy. The cunning animal gnawed the thin ropes which tied the fourth sleigh to the third, until at last he separated the sleighs.

The man drove on, never realizing that he now had only three sleighs, and empty ones at that, while the fox seized the broken rope in his teeth and dragged the sleigh off the track, towards a big snowdrift where he could hide.

Never had he eaten such a splendid meal. Fish after fish went down the fox’s throat, until he began to think he could eat no more.

He was just taking hold of what he had decided must be the last fish of the day when the snapping of a near-by twig made him turn his head.

In horror, he saw a huge, long-tailed bear approaching through the trees.

‘Where did you get all that fish?’ growled the bear, looking at the sleigh which still held a good pile of fish.

‘I caught it myself,’ lied the fox. ‘It’s all mine and you are not to touch it.’

‘What did you catch it with?’ asked the bear.

‘I will show you if you like,’ said the fox. ‘Come down to the river and you will soon have a pile of fish even bigger than mine.’

So the fox made his way through the trees towards the river, while the bear lumbered after him.

The river was covered with ice, so, taking a sharp stone, the fox knocked a hole through the ice until they could see the sluggish water flowing below.

‘Now,’ said the fox, ‘you have to sit on the bank with your back to the river and your tail hanging down through the hole into the water.’

The stupid bear did as he was told, and sitting down he gently eased his long tail into the hole in the ice.

‘How shall I know when I have caught a fish?’ he asked.

‘Oh, that’s easy,’ replied the fox. ‘You will feel a slight nip as the fish bites and then you must gently ease your tail up through the hole, eat the fish, and begin again.’

Then the fox dashed off to his sleigh, and, seizing the rope in his mouth, he dragged it as far away from the river as he could.

But the bear sat on and on, waiting for the slight nip which would tell him that he had caught a fish. It got colder and colder as night came on, and presently the bear began to realize that the fox had tricked him.

‘Wait till I catch him!’ he growled, trying to turn away from the river in the direction the fox had taken. But the ice had frozen tight around his long tail and he could not move.

He tugged and pulled for a long time in vain, until at last his great strength triumphed and he found that he had freed himself from the ice.

But on looking behind, he also found that he had left most of his big, bushy tail in the frozen river, and all that remained was a little furry stump.

And that is the reason, say the Laplanders, why even today, all the bears have such short stumpy tails.

The Fox and the Sheepskin Jacket (Palestine)

Once upon a time a fox living in Palestine lifted his head from the undergrowth where he had been hiding, and saw an eagle.

‘Hallo!’ cried the eagle as it swooped down close to the fox. ‘How you can bear to live all your life down there on the ground, I do not know. You really are a most un-enterprising creature.’

Then the eagle soared up into the blue sky again, and as the fox watched it he half wished that he could fly too.

In a few moments the eagle was swooping down again, saying, ‘Did you hear what I said?’

‘Yes I did,’ called the fox. ‘What does the world look like from so high?’

The eagle alighted beside him and replied, ‘Sometimes it is so far away this it is almost invisible.’

The fox laughed scornfully. ‘I don’t believe you,’ he said.

This annoyed the eagle who had always hated the fox for his cunning underhanded ways, and now he suddenly thought of a plan to get rid of him.

‘Jump on my back and I’ll take you up to see for yourself,’ he said.

The fox hesitated for a moment and then he climbed on to the strong back of the eagle, settled himself among the feathers and cried: ‘I’m ready! Up you go!’

The eagle soared upwards and the fox closed his eyes in alarm, for he had never travelled as fast as this on the ground, let alone in the air.

‘How big does the earth look now?’ asked the eagle presently.

The fox opened his eyes and gasped as he peered downwards. ‘It looks about as big as one of those straw baskets they make at Lydda,’ he said.

‘Aha!’ said the eagle. ‘But it won’t look as big as that in a minute.’ Up and up they went, and then the eagle asked again, ‘How big does the earth look now?’

‘It looks about as big as an onion,’ replied the fox, hoping that the eagle would soon begin flying down again.

But the eagle continued to soar upwards, while the fox clung to its feathers, feeling very alarmed and still scarcely daring to open his eyes.

‘How big does it look now?’ asked the eagle at last.

Peering down through half-closed eyes, the fox could see nothing at all. Even when he opened his eyes wide in surprise, he could still not see the earth, as it was so far away below them.

‘I can’t see anything at all!’ he said. ‘How far away do you think the earth is now?’

‘That I can’t tell,’ replied the eagle. ‘But I leave it to you to find out.’ So saying the eagle turned right over onto his back so that the fox was shaken off.

With a scream the fox began to fall down. Through the air he rushed, sometimes the right way up, sometimes the wrong, but all the time wondering what would happen to him when he hit the earth.

Suddenly he knew! He had landed on a ploughboy’s soft sheepskin coat, in the middle of a ploughed field, and because this had broken his fall, he was still alive.

Heaving a sigh of relief, the fox scrambled under the sheepskin jacket. Using this as a disguise in case anybody saw him and tried to kill him again, he ran swiftly into some woods to take cover.

But he was not safe here, for immediately he came face to face with a leopard. But instead of attacking the fox and eating him, the leopard was so surprised at the coat he was wearing that he asked, ‘Where did you get that warm coat, Fox? I’ve never seen you wearing one of those before.’

‘I’ve changed my way of living,’ replied the fox quickly. ‘No longer do I steal the farmers’s chickens, because I have become a furrier and have learned how to sew. Would you like me to make you a sheepskin jacket like mine?’

‘Yes I would,’ said the leopard, thinking what good camouflage it would be when he was stalking game for his dinner.

‘Very well,’ said the fox, ‘You’re a much better hunter than I am, so if you can bring me six sheep, I will make you a jacket with their coats, and will eat their meat for my payment.’

The unsuspecting leopard went off to steal the sheep from a near-by hillside, while the fox lay down and laughed to himself, feeling very pleased at his own cleverness.

When the leopard came back with the six dead sheep, the fox persuaded him to help him to carry them close to his den. Then, promising the leopard that the jacket would be ready next week, he sent him away.

Now the fox had a wife and six little cubs, and when they saw all the meat that the leopard had provided for them, they were delighted. Never had they had such a feast before! For days they all ate as much as they could and each night they slept deeply and rested well, for there was no need to go hunting now.

But the leopard was not so happy. He kept coming back to the fox’s den and shouting: ‘Isn’t my jacket ready yet?’

The fox put him off with various excuses, until all the meat had gone, and then he said, ‘You are a much bigger animal than I am, Leopard, so I’m afraid I shall need more than six sheepskins for your coat. Will you bring me three more sheep tomorrow? Then I think I can finish making it.’

The leopard was getting a little suspicious by now, but off he went and killed three more sheep, and brought them back to the fox.

Now the family could eat their fill again, and they all feasted happily until the meat had gone. But the fox was beginning to regret his behavior, as he knew the leopard would want to be revenged when he found out that there was to be no sheepskin jacket after all, for he had no idea how to sew.

He began to go hunting in a different part of the country, and always looked around carefully to make sure the leopard was nowhere near when he went in or out of his hole. When he did meet the leopard he made excuses about the jacket, saying that he had run out of thread, or just broken his needle; he even pretended that he was not the fox who had eaten the sheep, and since all foxes are very much alike, the leopard could not be sure which was which.

But at last the leopard knew that he had been tricked, and he decided that it was time to get even with the fox.

Hiding behind a boulder one night, he lay still, scarcely breathing, until he heard the sound of the fox returning from a hunting expedition. With a bound the leopard pounced on the fox, intending to kill him, but the fox was so quick in reaching his hole, that all the leopard managed to catch was the fox’s bushy tail.

‘All right! I’ve missed you this time,’ the leopard shouted. ‘But I shall know you from all the other foxes now, as you will be the only one without a tail.’

Then to make sure that the fox would suffer a few days’ starvation, the leopard took a hornets’ nest and put it on the ground beside the opening to the fox’s den. He knew that the humming sound the hornets made was very much like the noise of a leopard purring, and he hoped that the fox would stay inside, not daring to go hunting while he thought the leopard was waiting for him.

For almost a week, the fox family went hungry, until at last the fox began to get suspicious, for he wondered how the leopard could stay in one place for so long without going away to get food.

Creeping close to the opening, the fox peered cautiously outside, and discovered the hornets’ nest.

He was furious that he had been tricked so easily, but he dared not show himself to the leopard, as he would easily recognize him now that he had lost his tail.

However, he had to take some risks if he were going to put into practice the plan which he had been working out, while listening to the hornets’ humming.

So, waiting until darkness fell, the fox rushed hither and thither, calling at the homes of all his friends and relations.

‘Come with me! I have found you a splendid vineyard full of ripe grapes. Come and feast with me, while it is dark and the owner is asleep at home.’

Soon dozens of foxes were following behind him and he led them to a secluded vineyard some way from his den. ‘What a feast! What juicy grapes!’ all the foxes exclaimed as they began to eat them hungrily.

‘Wait a minute,’ commanded the fox. ‘We mustn’t all eat from the same vine. I will show you each your place, and then you can eat unhindered by anyone else, and we shall not have any quarrels.’

One by one, he led the foxes to a different vine, and said to each, ‘Now you must not mind if I tie your tail to your particular vine. This will show the others that the vine belongs to you, and it will prevent any greed fox from straying to his brother’s place and eating his grapes.’

All the foxes agreed quite readily, until eventually nothing could be heard but the steady munching of grapes.

Silently the fox left the vineyard and made his way to the owner’s house, where he banged on the door and woke up the whole household, crying: ‘Go to your vineyard! The foxes are robbing it! Take up your sticks and drive them away.’

The people in the house were soon awake, and ran shouting towards the vineyard, waving their heavy sticks.

The foxes heard them coming and tried to run away, but their tails were tied so tightly to the vines that the only way the could escape was by tugging so hard that they left their tails behind them.

After this every fox in the district had a short tail, and so the leopard never found out which was the fox who had tricked him. He was so annoyed that he went away to live in a different part of the country, and then the fox, his wife and his six little cubs were able to roam about freely, and to hunt wherever they liked.

How the Fox Saved the Horse's Life (Russia)

Once upon a time a bear was hiding behind some trees on the edge of a field in Russia, hungrily watching a peasant and his horse ploughing the soil.

The horse was old and tired, and presently the peasant shouted angrily: ‘I’m fed up with your slowness, old horse! You are no use to me at all. I shall let the bears have you!’

Now the peasant did not really mean what he said, and was thoroughly alarmed when the bear lumbered out from behind the trees and growled, ‘Very well! I will eat your horse for you. Give him to me.’

‘Oh no!’ gasped the man. ‘Don’t eat him yet, I beg you. Give me enough time to finish ploughing this field and then I will let you have him.’

Of course the man had no intention of giving his horse to the bear, for he knew he would never find enough money to buy another one, but he hoped that by the end of the day he might have thought of a plan to outwit the bear.

‘Very well,’ said the bear. ‘I will wait until you have finished.’

The peasant went on with his ploughing, but his mind was not on his job. He kept wondering how he could get the horse home safely, for the bear was a big one who could kill both the horse and man with one blow.

Later in the day the peasant stopped work for a few moments’ rest, and sat down at the edge of the field to eat a crust of bread.

He heard a rustle in the nearby bushes and turning he saw the face of a fox peering at him.

‘Sh!’ said the fox. ‘Don’t call out! I heard what the bear said to you, and have worked out a plan that will save your horse. But you will have to reward me.’

‘I would give anything I have to save my poor old horse,’ said the old man. ‘What is your plan?’

‘First of all, we will decide on my reward,’ said the greedy fox. ‘I shall want twelve hens for my supper.’

‘Very well,’ said the peasant, who had only twelve hens and no more. ‘I will give them to you if your plan works.’

‘I have a small bell here, which I shall fasten round my neck,’ said the fox. ‘Then I shall go into the forest, creep behind the bear, and leap about so that the bell rings.’

‘But that will not frighten a bear!’ exclaimed the man.

‘Of course it won’t,’ said the fox, impatiently. ‘But when the bear hears it and asks you what it is, you must tell him that the King’s son is bear-hunting with a number of his courtiers. That should frighten the bear away pretty quickly.’

Off went the fox among the trees, and up got the peasant and began to plough again. Presently the sound of a bell reached him, and he knew that the fox was leaping about in the forest, trying to make his bell sound like those the bear-hunters tied to their horses.

The bear came towards the peasant with his eyes full of fear. ‘What is that noise?’ he asked.

‘I heard that the King’s son was coming into the forest today, bear-hunting with his friends,’ replied the peasant. ‘I expect they have started the hunt and the bells are those on their horses.’

The bear had changed from a bully to a coward now, and he begged the peasant to save him. ‘Don’t betray me,’ he said, ‘and I promise not to eat your horse after all.’

‘I will not let the hunters get you,’ said the peasant, ‘but I will hold you to your promise afterwards.’

The bear crouched on the ground beside the cart on which the peasant had brought the plough to his field. Then the fox got as close to the bear as he could without being seen, and shouted: ‘We are hunting bears. What is that dark shape beside you, my man?’

‘That is a tree stump,’ called the peasant. ‘I have been cutting wood for my fire.’

‘If it’s a tree stump, why is it standing up? Are you sure it’s not a bear?’

‘Lie down,’ whispered the peasant, giving the terrified bear a push, and sending him under the cart. ‘It’s a tree stump all right,’ called the man. ‘I have cut it down now, and it’s on the ground.’

‘Well that’s a queer place to put it,’ shouted the fox, who was still well hidden by the trees. ‘Why don’t you load it on your cart, and tie it firmly with rope, so that it doesn’t fall off? That is what we do with logs as big as that.’

‘Very well,’ said the man, and the bear, needing no encouragement, scrambled up into the cart and allowed the peasant to tie him up firmly with rope.

‘You are a foolish fellow,’ called the fox. ‘Most people put an axe in the cart with the log, and then they can chop it up for firewood as soon as they get home.’

So the peasant took his axe, climbed into the cart, and killed the bear with one blow.

The horse neighed with happiness as the peasant harnessed him to the cart and prepared to go home, but the fox kept leaping and bounding around them as they went, crying: ‘Don’t forget my reward. Twenty hens you promised me.’

‘Not twenty! I have only twelve and that was the number we agreed on,’ said the poor peasant, wondering what his wife would say when he handed over her fine, plump laying hens to the fox.

As they neared the peasant’s cottage, his three dogs heard him coming, and leaping up from their place beside the hearth, the rushed out joyously to greet him.

‘Dogs!’ screamed the fox. ‘You didn’t tell me you kept dogs!’

He turned tail at once and rushed back towards the forest. The three dogs chased after him for several miles but he just managed to get into his hole before they caught up with him.

‘I shall never try to help a human being again,’ said the fox as he lay down to get back his breath in the safety of his home.

But the peasant was delighted that his dogs had saved him from giving up his wife’s precious hens, and when they returned, panting loudly and extremely hungry, he gave them an extra big supper.

Later on, he told his wife the whole story. But she did not believe him, so he took her outside in the darkness and showed her the dead bear, promising that he would skin it in the morning, and make her a fine, fur rug to go on her bed and keep her warm during the bitter, winter nights.

As for the horse, he said nothing, but he lived to a ripe old age, and never again did the peasant threaten to give him up to the bears.

The Fox and the Gulls (Peru)

Once upon a time a gull laid her eggs on the shore of Lake Titicaca in Peru. There were three eggs altogether and the whole day long the mother gull sat on them to keep them warm, only leaving the nest very occasionally to go and catch herself a fish from the lake.

At last the eggs were ready and three little gulls pecked and chirped their way into the world.

Their mother was tremendously proud of them, for this was her first family, and she was kept very busy flying to the lake to catch small fish for her children, or up to the cliffs behind the nest, to search for insects.

As the little gulls grew bigger, the mother had to spend more and more time away from the nest, searching for food to satisfy their healthy appetites; and so it happened that she did not notice her old enemy, the fox, hiding behind a small outcrop of rocks not far from the nest, watching her every moment.

The country around Lake Titicaca was almost all desert, so there were very few trees and bushes about and practically no smaller animals for the fox to feed on.

‘Be patient!’ the fox muttered to himself, for he was very hungry! ‘Don’t make a sound and you will soon have the best meal of your life.’

Waiting until the mother gull had flown high up the cliffs to search for insects, the fox crawled stealthily towards the young gulls in their nest.

On his way he noticed an old sack. Which had been blown by the wind from a near-by village, and picking it up he exclaimed:

‘Just what I wanted! Now I can put the gulls in this sack and carry them right away from their nest before I eat them. Then their mother will not hear their cries, and will not come and peck me to pieces.’

Closer and closer the fox crawled to the nest until suddenly he pounced upon the first gull and thrust it in his sack. The second and third gulls had scarcely time to utter more than a few surprised chirps when they too were seized by the fox, who slung the sack over his shoulder and hurried away as fast as he could go.

But the few weak cries of the gull-chicks had been heard by the mother as she was flying back with her mouth full of fish for her children.

Looking down she could see the fox running away from the lake towards some rocky hillocks where he hoped to hide while he ate his meal.

The cunning gull did not swoop down on the fox at once, but followed him at a distance so that he did not know she was there.

‘O my poor children!’ she cried to herself as she flew. ‘How can I get you away from that evil creature?’

The sun was hot and the earth was dry and dusty, and before long the fox was feeling very exhausted with all his running. Added to this his back was getting sore, for the young gulls had sharp beaks and they continually pecked at him through the sack as he ran.

Presently he stopped, and, giving the top of the sack an extra twist or two, he put it on the ground, placed a heave stone on top of it and sank down nearby to have a rest.

‘I’m exhausted!’ he said. ‘I’ll just have a short nap and then make for that pile of rocks on the other side of the valley. Nobody will see or hear anything there!’

Closing his eyes the fox was soon fast asleep, and then the mother gull, who had been silently flying above him for some time, glided down to the earth.

‘Hush, my children!’ she whispered with her beak close to the sack. ‘Don’t make a sound or you will wake the wicked fox. Just do exactly as I tell you and all will be well.’

The little gulls were delighted to hear their mother’s voice, and lay quietly while she pushed the heavy stone off the sack and untwisted the top.

‘Creep out now!’ she whispered, ‘and go and bring me some thorny twigs from that dead bush.’

The little gulls blinked from the sunlight for a moment of two, and then they staggered over to a shriveled bush nearby and picked as many thorny, prickly twigs as they could.

‘Push them in the sack quickly,’ said the mother gull, and as soon as they had done this, she twisted the neck of the sack up again and put the large stone back on top of it.

‘Now, follow me!’ she said softly, and the little gulls hopped and ran behind her until they had reached the safety of a small cave in the cliffs.

‘Now I shall take you home on my back, one by one,’ said the mother gull, for her children were not yet old enough to fly on their own. ‘But don’t make a sound while I am away, or the fox will hear you.’

So the mother gull got her children safely home again. But she found a new place for her nest, right on the other side of the lake, where the fox would not be able to seize her children again once he found he had been tricked.

Now the fox had been very tired when he fell asleep, and it was not until an hour or two later that he woke.

Looking up at the sun and seeing how much of the day he had wasted, he slung the bag onto his back again and hurried off in the direction of the pile of rocks he had chosen for eating his meal.

He thought that the sack seemed a little lighter than before, but the thorns pricked his back in the same way that the little gulls’ beaks had done, and so he did not realize that the birds were not there.

At last he reached the place where he though he could eat them without anyone seeing or hearing, and cautiously he opened the sack, and reached in to take out the first bird.

With a cry he withdrew his front leg, covered with scratches and with a branch of the thorn entangled in his fur.

‘I have been tricked!’ he screamed. ‘Who put these thorns in my bag and let out the gulls?’

He knew the answer to this at once, for only the mother bird could have done it. So, leaving the bag on the ground he hurried back to the lakeside to the place where the gull had had her nest.

But of course it was not there, and peering across the lake the fox saw what looked like the mother gull sweeping down to a nest with food for her chicks.

The fox was determined to have his revenge, but could see no way of getting across to the other side of the lake.

All night long he lay on the shore trying to decide on a plan to get the better of the gulls, and when morning came he thought he had one.

‘I will drink and drink and drink,’ he said to himself, ‘until the lake is dry and then I can go across on the mud and seize those little gulls again.’

So he lay down at the edge of the lake and began to drink swallowing the muddy water as fast as he could.

Gradually he began to swell and soon he was feeling most uncomfortable. Bigger and bigger grew his body and still he went on drinking.

‘There can’t be much water left now,’ he puffed, his eyes half closed, and body swollen to six times its normal size.

Gasping and gurgling, he swallowed a few more mouthfuls, and then ‘Crack!’, the sound of a loud explosion filled the air.

The fox had drunk so much water that he had burst, and now lay dead on the shore of the lake.

Across the water the gulls heard the strange noise, and the mother flew off to see what it was all about.

‘The fox is dead, my children,’ she cried happily when she returned. ‘Now we need have no fear that he will try to take you away again.’

So the gulls lived happily and peacefully beside the lake until the children learned to fly and were able to go off and have families of their own.