Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Jack steals the king's sheep
(a Cornish folktale)

When Jack learned that the king was seeking a husband for his daughter, he was sure that he was just the man the king wanted. So he came to the castle and presented himself at the throne, declaring that he was willing to marry the princess and bring honor to the royal family.

The king looked down from his throne at the young man, who looked nothing like any prince he had ever seen. "What honor do you bring?" he asked.

"I am the most clever thief in all the realm," Jack stated. "I could steal your own sheep from under your nose."

"My sheep are well taken care of," the king said, but Jack laughed.

"Yet I could steal them," he said.

"How many do you think you could make off with?" the king asked. "After all, I lose one or two every so often to wolves or misadventure. It is nothing to me for someone to steal a few sheep. I don't even miss them. So, how many will you steal?"

"The flock," Jack said. "I will steal the whole flock."

Now the king laughed. "If you can do that, you are the world's greatest thief!"

"And worthy of your daughter?"

The king laughed even harder. "Indeed. Steal the whole flock and you will have my daughter as well!"

Jack left the castle and went directly to the shoemaker. There, he purchased a fine pair of shoes, made of soft, shining leather.

Then he went out to the highway where the king's sheep would be driven from their summer pasture to the town. He placed one of the lovely new shoes in the middle of the road, squatted over it and filled it with shit.

Jack then walked down the highway for another mile and a half, placed the other shoe in the middle of the road, hid in the woods by the roadside and went to sleep.

An hour later, the king's shepherds began to take the flock from their summer pasture into town. The two men walked down the highway with the flock of sheep, slowly working their way towards the town where the flock would be sold for a great profit.

They had walked only a short distance when they came to a shoe in the middle of the road. It was a well-made shoe of fine leather, and newly made. But someone had taken a shit in the shoe, and the two shepherds stood over it, staring and scratching their heads.

"Who would do such a thing?" one of them asked. "This is a very fine shoe! Who would ruin it like this?"

"It's disgusting," the other shepherd declared. "What sort of person would do such a thing?"

They kicked the shoe into the ditch and continued down the highway. leading their sheep to town, until, after another mile and a half, they came upon the second shoe.

This one was perfectly clean, and the two shepherds looked it over carefully. "This is a fine shoe," the first shepherd said.

"Indeed it is," the second said, and then they looked over their shoulders and down the road.

"Stay here," the first shepherd said. "I'm going to go back and get that shoe. I can clean it up and have a great new pair of shoes!"

"Why should you have the shoes?" the second shepherd said. "You kicked the first shoe into the ditch! You didn't want it!"

"You called it 'disgusting'!" the first shepherd said, and they began to argue, until suddenly the second shepherd grabbed the shoe from the road and began to run down the highway, with the first shepherd hard on his heels, shouting at him that the shoes belonged to him!

As soon as they were gone, Jack stepped out of the forest, refreshed from his nap, and led the king's sheep the rest of the way into town so he could claim his reward.


Sherwood Harrington said...

Cornish, you say. You don't suppose this is the origin of the pasty, do you?

Mike said...

You must not have found a good source. I first ran into pasties in Butte, Montana (copper mining town) and was delighted by how good something straight out of the refrigerated case at a convenience store could be -- of course, they were locally made.

Try this:

Sherwood Harrington said...

Oh, I've had yummy pasties. I was thinking more of the color of the casing and the consistency of the contents.

Sherwood Harrington said...

That is one great photo.