Wits and Cunning
This happened when the animals were able to speak. Two magpies had worked for several weeks gathering material to build themselves an abode. They had found twigs, straw, dried grass, pieces of metal wire and clay.
From this they built a nest at the top of a bent and crooked tree. The female had laid five beautiful eggs, and they took turns sitting on the eggs.
One day along comes a fox, known of course as being crafty. He begins to walk around the tree, stops for a moment and looks up the tree trunk.
“What’s that fellow looking for?” shrieked the magpie.
“I’ve been trudging around in the loose snow for so many winters that I got tired of it. And now I’ve been walking around in the forest looking for raw material to make skis. Finally I’ve found it. You’ll have to move away from the top of this tree, because I’m going to chop it down now.”
The magpie shrieked loudly in despair: “You can surely find a straighter tree in the forest than this one.”
“I can’t,” says the fox and begins to claw at the bottom of the tree trunk. The magpie shrieks at the fox again: “And if I give you an egg, will you let this tree stand?”
“Yes, then I’ll let it stand,” the fox says.
Crying the poor magpie takes an egg and lets it drop down along the tree to the fox. It’s surely better to lose one egg, the magpie thinks, than to have the whole house torn down,.
The fox takes the egg and goes on his way.
The next night the fox comes back and walks around the tree and looks up at it.
The magpie shrieks at the top of the tree:
“What is that fellow looking for?”
“I’ve looked for material to make skis from, and now I’ve found it,” the fox says.
The magpie shrieks:
“No skis can be made from this tree; it’s too crooked.”
“They can too, for the tree is quadruply crooked,” the fox says. “And I need skis for all four of my legs. Fly away, so you don’t hurt yourself when the tree falls. I’m going to start chopping now.”
And the fox begins to claw at the bottom of the tree trunk.
Then the magpie shrieks to the fox:
“If I give you an egg, will you let the tree stand?”
“Then I’ll let it stand,” the fox says.
With a heavy heart the magpie takes an egg out of the nest and lets it drop down the tree trunk to the fox. The fox takes the egg and goes on his way.
Then the crow comes flying and alights in a tree nearby and asks the magpie with his rough voice:
“What happened to two of your eggs; you had five when I was here the other day?”
The magpie tells what has happened:
“The fox intended to chop down this tree to make skis out of. I had to give him some of my eggs when he came and wanted to chop it down.”
The crow says to the magpie in his rough voice:
“You have to ask the fellow where his axe is.”
When night fell the fox came back again, and he walks around the tree solemnly glancing up now and then. The magpie shrieks:
“What do you want?”
“I’m really going to chop down this tree; I can’t stand trudging in the snow during the winter.”
The magpie stands on one foot and shrieks again:
“And where is your axe then?”
The fox came to a standstill and looked up the tree with his head tilted.
“Who gave you that idea?”
The magpie shrieked so that she shook:
“The crow of course.”
The fox went away heavy at heart, but he was going to get even with the crow for sure. He walked up onto a rock and lay down, stuck out his tongue, and lay there as if dead.
The crow comes flying and sees that the fox is lying on the boulder dead. It lands on the edge of the boulder and waddles over to the fox. Just as it is going to grab the fox tongue with his beak, the fox takes hold of the crow.
“Now you’re going to get repaid for being so smart and telling the magpie that I tricked her. I’m going to tear you into pieces,” the fox says.
“Tear?” the crow says in his rough voice, “your late father used to kill first, before he tore into pieces.”
“How can I do that?” the fox asks.
“It’s so easy; all you have to do is throw me down from the rock, then I’ll die. Then you can just go down the boulder and tear me up.”
The fox hurried to the edge of the boulder and shook his head hard so the crow would fall over the edge. Then the crow flew away and said:
Therefore the fox doesn’t get more eggs from the magpie, nor does he ever manage to catch the crow. That time he didn’t earn much for his cunning. Therefore people say that the crow has more wits than the fox has cunning.