The Fox and the Cat – Storytelling for Everyone

Ukrainian folktale

In a certain forest there once lived a fox, and near to the fox lived a man who had a black cat that had been a good mouser in its youth, but was now old and half blind. The man didn’t want puss any longer, but not liking to kill it, took it out into the forest and lost it there.

Then the fox came up and said, “Why, Mr. Shaggy Matthew! How d’ye do! What brings you here?”

“Alas!” said Pussy, “my master loved me as long as I could bite, but now that I can bite no longer and have left off catching mice––and I used to catch them finely once––he doesn’t like to kill me, but he has left me in the wood where I must perish miserably.”

“No, dear Pussy!” said the fox; “you leave it to me, and I’ll help you to get your daily bread.”

“You are very good, dear little sister foxey!” said the cat, and the fox built him a little shed with a garden round it to walk about in.

Now one day the hare came to steal the man’s cabbage. “Kreem-kreem-kreem!” he squeaked.

But the cat popped his head out of the window, and when he saw the hare, he put up his back and stuck up his tail and said, “Ft-t-t-t-t-Frrrrrrr!”

The hare was frightened and ran away and told the bear, the wolf, and the wild boar all about it.

“Never mind,” said the bear, “I tell you what, we’ll all four give a banquet, and invite the fox and the cat, and do for the pair of them. Now, look here! I’ll steal the man’s mead; and you, Mr. Wolf, steal his fat-pot; and you, Mr. Wildboar, root up his fruit-trees; and you, Mr. Bunny, go and invite the fox and the cat to dinner.”

So they made everything ready as the bear had said, and the hare ran off to invite the guests. He came beneath the window and said, “We invite your little ladyship Foxey-Woxey, together with Mr. Shaggy Matthew, to dinner”––and back he ran again.

“But you should have told them to bring their spoons with them,” said the bear.

“Oh, what a head I’ve got! if I didn’t quite forget!” cried the hare, and back he went again, ran beneath the window and cried, “Mind you bring your spoons!”

“Very well,” said the fox.

So the cat and the fox went to the banquet, and when the cat saw the bacon, he put up his back and stuck out his tail, and cried, “Mee-oo, mee-oo!” with all his might.

But they thought he said, “Ma-lo, ma-lo!”

“What!” said the bear, who was hiding behind the beeches with the other beasts, “here have we four been getting together all we could, and this pig-faced cat calls it too little! What a monstrous cat he must be to have such an appetite!”

So they were all four very frightened, and the bear ran up a tree, and the others hid where they could. But when the cat saw the boar’s bristles sticking out from behind the bushes he thought it was a mouse, and put up his back again and cried, “Ft! ft! ft! Frrrrrrr!”

Then they were more frightened than ever. And the boar went into a bush still farther off, and the wolf went behind an oak, and the bear got down from the tree, and climbed up into a bigger one, and the hare ran right away.

But the cat remained in the midst of all the good things and ate away at the bacon, and the little fox gobbled up the honey, and they ate and ate till they couldn’t eat any more, and then they both went home licking their paws.


Cossack Fairy Tales and Folk Tales collected by R. Nisbet Bain. London: George G. Harrap & Co., 1901.

The History of the Three Bears – Storytelling for Everyone

British Folklore

The story of the Three Bears is a familiar one. A troublesome interloper breaks into the home of three bears. She samples food and breaks furniture before being sent on her way. But, did you know that the housebreaker was originally an old woman, not a little girl named Goldilocks? Or, that the first Three Bears were friends instead of Mama Bear, Papa Bear and Baby Bear?

The Three Bears started as an oral tale and was first written down almost 200 years ago. Over the decades, the story has changed and grown into the tale we know today. The Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books has materials which reveal the history of The Three Bears story.

Eleanor Mure’s Manuscript

Eleanor Mure wrote the first recorded version of The Three Bears story in 1831. Osborne Collection has Mure’s original manuscript, a handmade book created as a gift for her nephew Horace Broke. The story is set at Cecil Lodge, the Mure family estate in Hertfordshire, England. Mure’s The Story of Three Bears (1831) is told in verse and illustrated with original watercolours.

Described as “the celebrated nursery tale,” the story was shared orally by Mure’s family long before she set it to paper. In Mure’s telling, the Bears are not a family. They are three friends who “fancy a home amongst the dwellings of men.” 

Instead of a little girl, the Bears’ house is invaded by an old woman. Mure’s old woman meets a bad end. As punishment for housebreaking, the Bears try to burn and drown the old woman. When nothing works, they “chuck her aloft on St. Paul’s church-yard steeple.”  

Robert Southey’s Published Story

In 1837, English poet Robert Southey released the first printed version of The Three Bears. The story appeared in Southey’s prose anthology The Doctor (1834-47). As with Mure’s family, The Three Bears was a popular story among Southey’s family. Southey likely heard The Three Bears from his uncle, William Tyler. Tyler was illiterate, but had a great memory for folktales. 

Southey’s story is the first version to discuss the Bears’ size. He introduces the Three Bears as Little, Small, Wee Bear; Middle Bear; and Great, Huge Bear. The story has no illustrations, but the Bears’ size is represented by typography. Great, Huge Bear speaks in large gothic letters. Little, Small, Wee Bear speaks in tiny italics.

Unlike Mure’s telling, the Southey’s bears do not punish the intruding old woman. Instead she makes an escape through an open window. Southey speculates that she might be “sent to the House of Correction” for vagrancy, or perhaps “she broke her neck in the fall.”

Southey’s The Three Bears was an instant hit. Within months publisher George Nicol released his own version of The Story of the Three Bears (1837). Nicol’s story was in verse, but otherwise was a direct retelling of Southey’s version.

A Girl with Metallic Hair

In early tellings of The Three Bears, the protagonist was an old woman. But in 1850, Joseph Cundall wrote the first retelling featuring a little girl. Cundall called his character Silver-Hair and justified the switch by saying “there are so many other stories of old women.” Published in A Treasury of Pleasure Books for Young Children (1850), Cundall’s retelling otherwise closely followed Southey’s version of The Three Bears.

Following Cundall’s publication, little girl protagonists named Silver-Hair became a common feature of The Three Bears retellings. The character was sometimes called Silver-Locks, Golden Hair and other variant names. 

Goldilocks Popularized

The name Goldilocks was first used for the Bears’ nemesis in two 1904 fairy tale anthologies. Old Nursery Rhymes and Stories (1904) and Old Fairy Tales for Children (1904) both feature “Little Goldilocks” as The Three Bears’ intruder. It is possible that the name Goldilocks was inspired by an entirely different fairy tale. French fairy tale writer Madame d’Aulnoy‘s story, The Beauty with Golden Hair, is sometimes translated as The Story of Pretty Goldilocks. 

In the 20th century, Goldilocks became the character’s standard name. Popular fairy tale collections like Flora Annie Steel’s English Fairy Tales (1918) used the Goldilocks name. Now the story is sometimes simply titled Goldilocks without any mention of The Three Bears. 



The Apple Tree – Storytelling for Everyone

Jewish Folktale

In a great oak forest where the trees grew tall and majestic, there was once a little apple tree. It was the only apple tree in that forest and so it stood alone.

One night the little apple tree looked up at the sky and saw a wonderful sight. The stars in the sky appeared to be hanging on the branches of the oak trees.

“Oh God, oh God,” whispered the little apple tree, “how lucky those oak trees are to have such beautiful stars hanging on their branches. I want more than anything in the world to have stars on my branches, just like the oak trees. Then I would feel truly special.”

God looked down at the apple tree and said, “Have patience, little apple tree.”

Time passed.  The snows melted and spring came to the land. Tiny white and pink apple blossoms appeared on the branches of the apple tree. Birds came to rest on its branches.  People walked by and admired the beautiful blossoms. The apple tree continued to grow all summer long. The branches filled with leaves and blossoms, forming a canopy overhead.

Night after night, the little tree looked up at the millions upon millions of stars in the sky and cried out, Oh God, I want more than anything in the world to have stars in my tree, on my branches and in my leaves – just like those oak trees.”

God looked down and said, “You already have gifts. Isn’t it enough to have shade to offer people and fragrant blossoms, and branches for birds to rest upon so they can sing you their songs?”

The apple tree sighed and answered simply, “Dear God, I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but that is not special enough.  I do appreciate how much pleasure I give to others, but what I want more than anything in the world is to have stars, not blossoms on my branches.  Then I would feel truly special.”

God smiled and said, “Be patient, little apple tree.”

The seasons changed again.  Soon the apple tree was filled with beautiful apples.  People, walking in the forest, reached up and picked apples to eat.

Still, when night fell on the forest, the apple tree looked at the stars in the oak trees and called out, “Oh God, I want more than anything in the world to have stars on my branches.  Then I would feel truly special.”

God asked, “Isn’t it enough that you now have wonderful apples to offer?  Doesn’t that satisfy you? Doesn’t that give you enough pleasure and make you feel special?”

Without saying a word, the apple tree answered by shaking its branches from side to side.  God caused a hard wind to blow. The great oak trees began to sway and the apple tree began to shake. An apple fell from the top branch and split open when it hit the ground.

“Look,” commanded God.  “Look inside yourself.  What do you see?”

The little apple tree looked down and saw that right in the center of the apple – was a star.

“A star. I have a star!”

God laughed a gentle laugh and added, “So you do have stars on your branches.  They’ve been there all along.  You just didn’t know it.”


Note:  We usually cut an apple by holding it with the stem up. In order to find the star, turn it on its side.

If we change direction in life, we can find the spark that ignites the star within each of us. Look carefully and you’ll find that beautiful star.

Note: Chopped apples are often part of the Passover meal.


Source: This story was published as an illustrated book by Peninnah Schram and Rachayl Eckstein Davis, The Apple Tree’s Discovery. Illustrated by Wendy W. Lee. Minneapolis MN: Kar Ben Publishing, 2012.

This story also appears in the following anthology: Schram, Peninnah, Editor. CHOSEN TALES: STORIES TOLD BY JEWISH STORYTELLERS. Published by Jason Aronson Inc., an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield, 1995. Sixty‑eight stories written by storytellers/rabbis/educators. Foreword by Rabbi Avraham Weiss. National Jewish Book Award winner in Folklore. “The Apple Tree’s Discovery” appears on pp. 1-4.