The Foolish Wolf and the Clever Fox / El lobo bobo y la zorra astuta

img_9628Once upon a time there was a fox who had two young kits. Near her house, which was a little shack, lived a wolf, her children’s godfather. One day she went over and saw that he had done many renovations on his house, making it look like a palace. Her neighbor invited her in to see it and she saw that it had a sitting room, a bedroom, a kitchen and even a pantry, which was very well stocked.

“Neighbor,” said the fox, “it looks like what you are missing is a jar of honey.”

“That is true,” answered the wolf.

And with perfect timing, a man came down the street calling, “Honeybee honey! Nectar of the flowers!” which the wolf bought, filling a jar saying to the fox that, after finishing work on his house, he would invite her to dinner and they would eat the honey. But the work was unending and the fox was drooling for the honey, she was dying to gobble it all up.

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One day she said to the wolf, “Neighbor, I have been invited to be the godmother at a baptism and I wondered if you, sir, would do me the favor of coming to my house and watching over my kits while I am away.”

The wolf accepted and the fox, instead of going to the baptism, got into the wolf’s house, ate a good portion of the honey, grabbed walnuts, hazelnuts, figs, pears, almonds, and as much as she could plunder; and then she went out to the pastures to cheerfully devour it all with some shepherds who gave her milk and cheese in return.

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When she arrived back at her house, the wolf said to her, “So, neighbor, how was the baptism?”

“Very nice,” responded the fox.

“And what is the baby’s name?”

Beginny,” replied the supposed godmother.

“Oh, what a name!” said the wolf.

“That one does not appear on the calendar. It is a lesser known saint[1],” responded the fox.

“And the sweets?” asked her neighbor.

“There was not a single one,” replied the fox.

“Oh, my Lord, what a baptism!” responded the wolf, scowling, “that is unheard of! I have stayed here all day like a nanny with the kits, much as I wanted to eat them, and you come back with empty paws. Well, I have had it!” And he went off, cross.

Not long after, the fox again desperately craved the honey and used the same ruse to get the wolf out of his house, promising him that she would bring sweets from the baptism. With these pleasant words she convinced the wolf, and when she returned that evening after spending a nice day in the countryside and having eaten half of the honey, the wolf asked her what they had named the baby. She told him, “Halfi.”

“What a name!” said the wolf, who it would seem was rather foolish, “I have never heard a name like that in my life.”

“He is a Muslim saint,” she replied to her neighbor.

The wolf was quite convinced by this rubbish, and he asked about the sweets.

“I lay down for a spell to sleep under an olive tree. Along came some starlings and carried them off, one in each claw and another in their beaks,” responded the fox.

The wolf indignantly stormed off, cursing the starlings.

A little while later, the fox went to her neighbor with the same pretense.

“I will not go!” he said, “I have to sing a nursery rhyme to your kits to put them to sleep and I have no desire to spend the rest of my days as a babysitter, without you ever bringing back a single treat from the baptisms to which you are invited.”

But she was so silver-tongued and promised so winningly to bring sweets to her neighbor, that in the end she convinced the wolf to stay at her little shack.

When the fox returned, having eaten all of what was left of the honey, the wolf asked what they had named the baby, to which she responded, “Finishy.”

“What a name! I have never heard of it!” said the wolf.

“That saint does not like the sound of his own name,” responded the fox.

“But, the sweets?” asked her neighbor.

“The stone fire oven collapsed and they all burned up,” replied the fox.

The wolf got was outraged, saying, “Neighbor, I hope that all the sweets that your supposed god-children Beginny, Halfi, and Finishy put in their mouths turn to pebbles.”

Some time passed, and the fox said to the wolf, “Neighbor, it has come time to make good on your promise. Your house is renovated and you have to make me the dinner you promised.”

The wolf, who was still irritated, did not want to do so; but in the end, he allowed himself to be cajoled and he put together the feast for the fox.

When it came time for dessert, he brought out the honey jar, as promised, and as he carried it he said, “my, how light this jar is! Honey weighs so little!” But, when he removed the lid, he was dumbfounded to see it empty.

“What is this?” he said.

“What does it look like!” replied the fox. “You have eaten it all so as not to have to give me any!”

“I did not even taste it,” said the wolf.

“What!? And what is more, you cannot even remember.”

“I am telling you, I did no such thing, dang it!  What has happened is that you, ma’am, have robbed me and that your three god-children Beginny, Halfi, and Finishy, have been beginning, halfway through, and finishing with my honey.”

“What are you on about? You ate all the honey so you would not have to share with me, and on top of that you raise false testimony? Edacious sweet-toothed slanderer, how do you not hang your muzzle in shame, sir?”

“I did not eat it, darn it! The one who ate it was you, madam, you liar, you are a devious scoundrel and a thief, and so I shall go to the lion and give testimony.”

“Listen now, neighbor, and do not be so hasty,” said the fox. “While slumbering in the sun, the one who ate the honey will sweat it out. Did you not know this?”

“I did not,” said the wolf.

“Well, it is very true,” persisted the fox. “Let us take a nap in the sun, and when we wake up, the one whose belly sweats honey will prove to be the very one who ate the honey.”

They agreed, then, and lay down to sleep in the sun.

As soon as the fox heard her neighbor snore, she got up, scraped the bottom of the jar and spread his belly with the honey she had gathered. She licked her paws and went to sleep.

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When the wolf awoke and saw that his belly was covered in honey, he said, “Oh! I sweat honey! It is true, then, I ate it all. But I swear to you, neighbor, that I did not remember. Forgive me. The devil with it, let us make peace.”

[1] In cultures with catholic traditions, it is common to name children after one of the numerous saints and then to celebrate the day of their saint; for example, a child named Valentine would celebrate his or her saint’s day on Valentine’s Day. Children receive their “Christian name” at their baptism.

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This made me hungry for honey and cheese. It made me think of one my favorite dessert in Catalonia, mel i mató (honey and mató cheese, a moist white cheese similar to ricotta).

One aspect which complicated the translation of this story was the relationship between the wolf and the fox. In the Spanish original, they refer to each other as compadre and comadre, which is the relationship between a parent and the godparent of their child. In the English speaking US culture, I could not find a term for this. We have adopted the term compadre to mean friend, but “friend” oversimplifies the relationship that exists in this story and many Spanish-speaking cultures between comadres/compadres. They coparent, hence the prefix co-. So, in the story I simply chose to say neighbor when they call each other compadre/comadre. They are, after all, neighbors and in the past the relationship between neighbors, sharing burdens and helping each other out, was quite similar to a coparenting relationship.

This story is a fun one—no nonchalant deaths or over gendered tropes)—though for me, the classic trope of the lobo bobo / stupid wolf is difficult to picture unless they are cartoons. Wolfs to me are regal and have wise eyes. Foxes, however, do seem quite astute and clever. Do you feel sorry for the wolf at the end? What do you think the moral is? Is there a moral?

Here is the original EL LOBO BOBO Y LA ZORRA ASTUTA

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