Three Wishes – Storytelling for Everyone

English Folktale

Once there lived a poor woodsman in a great forest, and every day of his life he went out to fell timber. One day he started out, and the goodwife filled the pack he slung on his back that he might have meat and drink in the forest.

He went deeper into the forest than he’d ever gone before and there he found a huge, great oak tree.

“Ah, that one will give me many planks of wood.”

He took his axe in his hand and swung it round his head as though he were minded to fell the tree at one stroke. But he hadn’t given one blow, when what should he hear but the pitifullest entreating, and there stood before him a fairy who prayed and beseeched him to spare the tree. It was her home.

He was dazed, as you may fancy, with wonderment and fear, and he couldn’t open his mouth to utter a word. But he found his tongue at last, and said, “Well, I’ll do as thou wish.”

“You’ve done better for yourself than you know,” answered the fairy, “and to show I’m grateful, I’ll grant you your next three wishes, be they what they may.”

The fairy was no more to be seen, and the woodsman slung his pack over his shoulder and off he started home.

But the way was long, and the poor man was dazed with the wonderful thing that had befallen him, and when he got home there was nothing in his noddle, but to rest. Maybe, too, ‘t was a trick of the fairy’s. Who can tell?

Anyhow down he sat by the blazing fire, and as he sat he became hungry, though it was a long way off supper-time yet.

“Hasn’t thou naught for supper?” said he to his wife.

“Nay, not for a couple of hours yet,” said she.

“Ah!” groaned the woodsman, “I wish I’d a good link of sausage here before me.”

No sooner had he said the word, when clatter, clatter, rustle, rustle—what should come down the chimney but a link of the finest sausage.

If the woodsman stared, the goodwife stared three times as much. “What’s all this?” says she.

Then all the morning’s work came back to the woodsman, and he told his tale right out, from beginning to end, and as he told it the goodwife glowered and glowered, and when he had made an end of it she burst out.

“Thou bee’st but a fool, Jan, thou bee’st but a fool; you wasted a wish on somethin’ stupid. I wish the sausage were at the end of your nose.”

And before you could say Jack Robinson, the sausage hung at the end of his nose.

He gave a pull but it stuck, and she gave a pull but it stuck, and they both pulled till they had nigh pulled his nose off, but it stuck and stuck.

“‘T’isn’t so very unsightly,” said she, looking hard at him.

Then the woodsman saw that if he wished, he must need wish in a hurry; and wish he did, that the sausage might come off his nose. Well! There it lay in a plate on the table.

And if the goodman and goodwife didn’t ride in a golden coach, or dress in silk and satin, why, they had at least as fine a sausage for their supper as the heart of man could want.


Source: More English Fairy Tales, collected and edited by Joseph Jacobs. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York and London, 1894.

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