Ëó÷øèå àíãëèéñêèå ñêàçêè / Best english fairy tales
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Àäàïòàöèÿ òåêñòà, êîììåíòàðèè è ñëîâàðü Å. À. Ëåáåäåâîé
Èëëþñòðàöèè Â. Ðÿáîâà
The Three Wishes
Once upon a time a woodcutter lived happily with his wife in a pretty little log cabin in the middle of a thick forest. Each morning he set off singing to work, and when he came home in the evening, a plate of hot steaming soup was always waiting for him. One day he had a strange surprise. He came upon a big fir tree with strange open holes on the trunk. It looked somehow different from the other trees, and as he was about to chop it down, the alarmed face of an elf popped out of a hole. ‘What’s all this banging?’ asked the elf. ‘You’re not thinking of cutting down the tree, are you? It’s my home. I live here!’ The woodcutter dropped his axe in astonishment. ‘Well, I…’ he stammered. ‘With all the other trees there are in this forest, you have to pick this one. Lucky I was in, or I would have found myself homeless.’ Taken aback at these words, the woodcutter quickly recovered, for after all the elf was quite tiny, while he himself was a big hefty chap, and he boldly replied, ‘I’ll cut down any tree I like, so…’ ‘All right! All right!’ broke in the elf. ‘Shall we put it in this way: if you don’t cut down this tree, I grant you three wishes. Agreed?’ The woodcutter scratched his head. ‘Three wishes, you say? Yes, I agree.’ And he began to hack at another tree. As he worked and sweated at his task, the woodcutter kept thinking about the magic wishes. ‘I’ll see what my wife thinks…’ The woodcutter’s wife was busily cleaning a pot outside the house when her husband arrived. Grabbing her round the waist, he twirled her in delight. ‘Hooray! Hooray! Our luck is in!’ The woman could not understand why her husband was so pleased with himself and she struggled herself free. Later, however, over a glass of fine wine at the table, the woodcutter told his wife of his meeting with the elf, and she too began to picture the wonderful things that the elf’s three wishes might give them. The woodcutter’s wife took a first sip of wine from her husband’s glass. ‘Nice’, she said, smacking her lips. ‘I wish I had a string of sausages to go with it, though…’ Instantly she bit her tongue, but too late. Out of the air appeared the sausages, while the woodcutter stuttered with rage. ‘… what have you done! Sausages… What a stupid waste of a wish! You foolish woman. I wish they would stick up your nose!’ No sooner said than done. For the sausages leapt up and stuck fast to the end of the woman’s nose. This time, the woodcutter’s wife flew into a rage. ‘You idiot, what have you done? With all the things we could have wished for…’ The mortified woodcutter, who had just repeated his wife’s own mistake, exclaimed: ‘I’d chop…’ Luckily he stopped himself in time, realizing with horror that he’d been on the point of having his tongue chopped off.As his wife complained and blamed him, the poor man burst out laughing, ‘If only you knew how funny you look with those sausages on the end of your nose!’ Now that really upset the woodcutter’s wife. She hadn’t thought of her looks. She tried to tug away the sausages but they would not budge. She pulled again and again, but in vain. The sausages were firmly attached to her nose. Terrified, she exclaimed, ‘They’ll be there for the rest of my life!’ Feeling sorry for his wife and wondering how he could ever put up with1
to put up with – ìèðèòüñÿ, òåðïåòü
[Çàêðûòü] a woman with such an awkward nose, the woodcutter said, ‘I’ll try.’ Grasping the string of sausages, he tugged with all his might. But he simply pulled his wife over on top of him. The pair sat on the floor, gazing sadly at each other. ‘What shall we do now?’ they said, each thinking the same thought. ‘There’s only one thing we can do…’ ventured the woodcutter’s wife timidly. ‘Yes, I’m afraid so…’ her husband sighed, remembering their dreams of riches, and he bravely wished the third and last wish, ‘I wish the sausages would leave my wife’s nose.’ And they did. Instantly, husband and wife hugged each other tearfully, saying, ‘Maybe we’ll be poor, but we’ll be happy again!’ That evening, the only reminder of the woodcutter’s meeting with the elf was the string of sausages. So the couple fried them, gloomily thinking of what that meal had cost them.
Once upon a time3
One day, after they had made porridge for their breakfast, and poured it into their porridge pots, they walked out into the wood while the porridge was cooling, that they might not burn their mouths by beginning too soon to eat it. While they were walking, a little girl came into the house. This little girl had golden curls that tumbled down her back to her waist, and everyone called her by Goldilocks. Goldilocks had been walking through the woods on the way to visit her grandmother, but she had taken a shortcut and lost her way. After wandering around the woods for a very long time, and starting to despair of ever seeing her grandmamma or her parents again, she came across a little house. She was very relieved, because she was certain that whoever lived in the house would help her. You see, she did not know that the house belonged to the three bears.
Goldilocks went up to the house and knocked on the door, but nobody answered. After a while, she looked through the window and saw the porridge on the table that the bears had made for their breakfast. She said to herself: ‘Oh how I wish I could eat some of that porridge! I’m so very hungry.’
Now perhaps Goldilocks should have waited until the bears came home, and then, perhaps they would have asked her to breakfast – for they were good bears, although a little rough or so, as the manner of a bear is – but very good natured and hospitable. Goldilocks did something rather naughty instead. She tried the latch on the door of the house and found that it was open – because you see the bears didn’t expect that anyone would come along and steal their porridge, and so they hadn’t bothered to lock the door of the house when they went out. Goldilocks went inside. First she tasted the porridge of the great, huge bear, and that was too hot for her. Then she tasted the porridge of the middle bear, and that was too cold for her. Then she went to the porridge of the little, small wee bear, and tasted it. And that was neither too hot nor too cold, but just right; and she liked it so well, that she ate it all up.
Little Goldilocks then sat down in the chair of the great, huge bear, and that was too hard for her. So she sat down in the chair of the middle bear, but that was too soft for her. Then she sat down in the chair of the little, small wee bear, and that was neither too hard nor too soft, but just right. So she sat until the bottom of the chair came out, and down came she, plump upon the ground – and the naughty little girl laughed out loud.
Then Goldilocks went upstairs into the bed chamber in which the three bears slept. First she lay down upon the bed of the great, huge bear, but that was too high at the head for her. Next she lay down upon the bed of the middle bear, and that was too high at the foot for her. Finally she lay down upon the bed of the little, small wee bear, and that was neither too high at the head, nor at the foot, but just right. So she covered herself up comfortably, and lay there until she fell fast asleep.
By this time the three bears thought their porridge would be cool enough, so they came home to breakfast. Now naughty Goldilocks had left the spoon of the great, huge bear, standing in his porridge.
‘SOMEBODY HAS BEEN AT MY PORRIDGE!’
Growled the great, huge bear, in his great gruff voice. When the middle bear looked at his, he saw that the spoon was standing in it too. ‘Somebody has been at my porridge!’ said the middle bear, in his middle voice.
Then the little, small wee bear looked at his, and there was the spoon in the porridge pot, but the porridge was all gone.
‘Somebody has been at my porridge, and has eaten it all up!’ said the little, small wee bear, in his little, small wee voice.
Upon this the three bears, seeing that someone had entered their house, and eaten up the little, small wee bear’s breakfast, began to look about them. Now Goldilocks had not put the hard cushion straight when she arose from the chair of the great, huge bear. ‘SOMEBODY HAS BEEN SITTING IN MY CHAIR!’ said the great, huge bear, in his great, rough, gruff voice.
The little girl had squished down the soft cushion of the middle Bear. ‘Somebody has been sitting in my chair!’ said the middle bear, in his middle voice.
And you know what the naughty little girl had done to the third chair? ‘Somebody has been sitting in my chair, and has sat the bottom of it out!’ said the little, small wee bear, in his little, small, wee voice.
Then the three bears thought that they should look around the house more, so they went upstairs into their bedroom. Now Goldilocks had pulled the pillow of the great, huge bear out of its place.
‘SOMEBODY HAS BEEN LYING IN MY BED!’ said the great, huge bear, in his great, rough, gruff voice. Goldilocks had pulled the bed cover of the middle bear out of its place.
‘Somebody has been lying in my bed!’ said the middle bear, in his middle voice.
And when the small, wee bear came to look at his bed, there was the bed cover in its place, and the pillow in its place and the bolster. But on the pillow was a pool of golden curls, and the angelic face of a little girl snoring away, fast asleep.
‘Somebody has been lying in my bed, and here she is!’ Said the little, small wee bear, in his little, small wee voice.
Goldilocks heard in her sleep the great rough gruff voice of the great huge bear, but she was so fast asleep that it was no more to her than the roaring of wind or the rumbling of thunder. She had heard the voice of the middle, but it was as if she had only heard someone speaking in a dream. But when she heard the little, small wee voice of the little, small wee bear, it was so sharp and so shrill that it wakened her at once.
Up she started, and when she saw the three bears at one side of the bed she had the fright of her life. To tell you the truth, the bears were almost as alarmed by her as4
Goldilocks jumped off the bed and ran downstairs, out of the door and down the garden path. She ran and she ran until she reached the house of her grandmama. When she told her grandmama about the house of the three bears who lived in the wood, her granny said: ‘My my, what a wild imagination you have, child!’
But Goldilocks knew that the story was true, and as for the three bears, whenever they went out of their wee house in the woods, they always locked the door in case Goldilocks came back and stole their porridge again. But they need not have worried about Goldilocks because, for as long as she lived she never took anything that didn’t belong to her – unless of course she had the permission of the owner.
The Sly Fox and the Little Red Hen
Once there was a little red hen. She lived in a little red henhouse, safe and sound, with a little blue door and windows all around. She was a happy hen. Every day she searched for grain with a peck, peck, peck and a cluck, cluck, cluck. But then a sly young fox and his mother moved into a nearby den. The sly fox was always hungry. He licked his lips when he grain with a peck, peck, peck and a cluck, cluck, cluck. And then the sly fox tried to catch the little red hen. He plotted and planned, again and again. But the little red hen was clever. She always got away, with a peck, peck, peck and a cluck, cluck, cluck. But then the sly fox thought up a very sly plan. ‘Mother, boil some water in a pan,’ he said. ‘I’ll bring home supper tonight.’ Then he crept over to the little red henhouse. And he waited until at last the little red hen came out to search for grain with a peck, peck, peck and a cluck, cluck, cluck. Quick as a flash, the sly fox slipped into the henhouse. And he waited until the little red hen came hurrying home. As soon as she saw the fox, she flew up to the rafters. ‘You can’t catch me now!’ she laughed, with a peck, peck, peck and a cluck, cluck, cluck. ‘All part of my plan,’ smiled the fox on the ground. And slowly he started to chase his tail, round and round and round and round, faster and faster… until the little red hen up in the rafters grew dizzy. ‘Oh!’ she clucked. ‘My poor head’s spinning. I’m all in a tizzy.’ And she dropped down – plop! – straight into the fox’s sack. ‘Ha!’ laughed the fox. And then the fox slung the sack over his shoulder and set off for home with the little red hen. After a while, he stopped for a rest. The sun was warm and soon he was snoozing. ‘Now’s my chance,’ whispered the little red hen, and out she crept without a peck, peck, peck or a cluck, cluck, cluck. Quickly she rolled some large stones into the sack and tied a knot at the top. Then she ran all the way home and didn’t stop till she was safe in her little red henhouse. The fox woke up and went on his way, hungry for his supper. ‘This hen is heavy!’ he said to himself, licking his lips. ‘She’ll make a good meal.’ ‘Is the pot boiling, Mother?’ he called at the den. ‘Look who I’ve got! It’s the little red hen.’ ‘Throw her in, son,’ said his mother. ‘She’ll make a nice snack.’ So the sly fox opened up the sack. Into the boiling water crashed the stones with a SPLASH! And that was the end of the sly fox and his mother. And the little red hen lived happily ever after in her little red henhouse, searching for grain with a peck, peck, peck and a cluck, cluck, cluck.
A Stolen Horse
It was in South America. A rich Spaniard was riding home when suddenly the horse fell lame.5
Then the Spaniard was asked to swear that the horse was his own and he had had it for many years. Then the Indian asked to send for the horse. This was done. And the Indian said: ‘This man swears that he has had this horse for many years; let him, therefore tell you in which of the eyes the horse is blind.’
The Spaniard said at once: ‘In the right eye.’
‘You are wrong’, said the Indian. ‘Neither in the right nor in the left, it is not blind at all.’
And so the horse was returned to the Indian.
Once Swift went on a journey, accompanied by his servant. They were both on horseback.8
In the morning Swift asked for his boots. The servant brought them, but the writer saw that they were as dirty as the night before. ‘Why haven’t you cleaned my boots?’ he asked his lazy servant.
‘Well, sir, as you are going to ride today, I thought that if I cleaned them, they would soon be dirty again’.
‘All right, get the horses ready,9
‘Well, let’s go on.’
‘But, sir, I’m hungry, I haven’t had my breakfast yet.’
‘Never mind, if you had, you would soon be hungry again’, the author replied and rode away. The lazy servant had to follow his master, but he never forgot the lesson he had been taught.
A Traveller’s Tale
In the autumn of 1935, when I was a young man, I was traveling in the north-west of India. One evening, after hunting in the forest all day, I was returning alone to the place where I had put up my tent. It was getting dark,10
What could I do? Should I jump into the river and hope to save my life by swimming? I looked to the right. In the river there was an immense crocodile waiting to welcome me with its mouth wide open.
I was so frightened that I shut my eyes. I heard branches moving as the tiger jumped. I opened my eyes. What do you think had happened? The tiger had jumped right over me and was now in the jaws of the crocodile. That’s a true story, believe it or not!
The Letter-Box Key
Once an Englishman went to the seashore for his summer holidays. He asked his housekeeper to post him all letters that she would receive during his absence. She promised him to do that.
The Englishman rested very well. A month passed but he received no letters. He thought it strange and he rang up his housekeeper:
‘Why didn’t you post my letters?’
‘Because you didn’t leave me the key of the letter-box,’ was the reply.
The Englishman apologized and promised to send her the key. In some days he put the key into an envelope, wrote down his address on it and posted the letter.
Another month was passing but still he did not receive the letters.
When at the end of the month he returned home, he spoke angrily with his housekeeper.
‘But what could I do?’ asked the poor woman. ‘The key which you posted was in the locked letter-box too.’
The Emperor’s New Clothes
Many years ago there was an Emperor so fond of12
In the great city where he lived, life was always gay. Every day many strangers came to town, and among them one day came two swindlers. They let it be known they were weavers, and they said they could weave the most magnificent fabrics imaginable. Not only were their colors and patterns uncommonly fine, but clothes made of this cloth had a wonderful way of becoming invisible to anyone who was unfit for his office, or who was unusually stupid.
‘Those would be just the clothes for me,’ thought the Emperor. ‘If I wore them I would be able to discover which men in my empire are unfit for their posts. And I could tell the wise men from the fools. Yes, I certainly must get some of the stuff woven for me right away.’ He paid the two swindlers a large sum of money to start work at once.
They set up two looms and pretended to weave, though there was nothing on the looms. All the finest silk and the purest old thread which they demanded went into their traveling bags, while they worked the empty looms far into the night.
‘I’d like to know how those weavers are getting on with the cloth,’ the Emperor thought, but he felt slightly uncomfortable when he remembered that those who were unfit for their position would not be able to see the fabric. It couldn’t have been that he doubted himself, yet he thought he’d rather send someone else to see how things were going. The whole town knew about the cloth’s peculiar power, and all were impatient to find out how stupid their neighbors were.
‘I’ll send my honest old minister to the weavers,’ the Emperor decided. ‘He’ll be the best one to tell me how the material looks, for he’s a sensible man and no one does his duty better.’
So the honest old minister went to the room where the two swindlers sat working away at their empty looms.
‘Heaven help me,’ he thought as his eyes flew wide open, ‘I can’t see anything at all’. But he did not say so.
Both the swindlers begged him to be so kind as to come near to approve the excellent pattern, the beautiful colors. They pointed to the empty looms, and the poor old minister stared as hard as he dared. He couldn’t see anything, because there was nothing to see. ‘Heaven have mercy,’ he thought. ‘Can it be that I’m a fool? I’d have never guessed it, and not a soul must know. Am I unfit to be the minister? It would never do to let on that I can’t see the cloth.’
‘Don’t hesitate to tell us what you think of it,’ said one of the weavers.
‘Oh, it’s beautiful – it’s enchanting.’ The old minister peered through his spectacles. ‘Such a pattern, what colors!’ I’ll be sure to tell the Emperor how delighted13
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