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Dividing The Goose
A Russian Folk Tale
Retold by P.D. Burns
Once there was a poor peasant who had many children, but no possessions except one goose. He saved this goose for a long time. Hunger was nothing to be trifled with - and things had reached such a point that he had nothing to eat. So, the peasant killed the goose, roasted it, and put it on the table.
So far, so good, but, he had no bread and not a grain of salt. He said to his wife, "How can we eat the goose without bread or salt? Perhaps I should take the goose to the baron as a gift and ask him for bread."
"Well, go with God," said his wife.
The peasant came to the baron and said, "I have brought you a goose as a gift. You are welcome to all I have. Do not disdain it, little father."
"Thanks, peasant, thanks. Now divide the goose among us, without doing wrong to anyone."
Now this baron had a wife, two sons and two daughters - all in all there were six in his family. The peasant was given a knife and he began to carve and divide the goose. He cut off the head and gave it to the baron.
"You are the head of the house," he said, "so it is fitting that you should have the head." He cut off the pope's nose and gave it to the baron's wife, saying, "Your business is to sit in the house and take care of it, so here is the pope's nose for you." He cut off the legs and gave them to the sons, saying, "Here is a leg for each of you, to trample your father's paths with." And to each daughter he gave a wing. "You won't stay long with your father and mother. When you grow up, off you will fly. And I," he said, "I'm just a stupid peasant, so I'll take what is left." Thus he got most of the goose. The baron laughed, gave the peasant wine to drink, rewarded him with bread, and sent him home.
A rich person heard about this, envied the poor one, roasted five geese, and took them to the baron. "What do you want, peasant?" asked the baron. "I have brought Your Grace five geese as a gift."
"Thanks, brother! Now apportion them among us without doing wrong to anyone."
The peasant tried this and that, but saw no way of dividing the geese equally. He just stood there scratching his head.
The baron sent for the poor peasant and told him to divide the geese. He took one goose, gave it to the baron and his wife, and said, "Now you are three." He gave another goose to the two sons and a third one to the two daughter, saying, "Now you also are threes." The last pair of geese he took for himself, saying, "Now I and the geese are three."
The baron said, "You are a clever fellow. You have managed to give everyone an equal share and you have not forgotten yourself either." He rewarded the poor peasant with money and drove out the rich one.
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