There was once a small village located near a dense, unexplored forest. In the village lived many kind and happy people, and also one fool. His name was Fool, for this is what his grandmother called him, but the village-folk invented another name for him, and called him Janosh. Sometimes they called him Janosh the Fool. One day an amazing thing happened. This is not a true story, so I will tell it to you now in excruciating detail.
One morning Janosh's grandmother awoke with a start to find her cupboard nearly bare. "Fool!" she cried. "Come here at once, my foolish grandson, for I have something to say to you now." Janosh, who had been sitting happily in the lane watching the birds fly and the dogs walk, heard her call and went at once to the kitchen. "Grandmother," he asked, "why is the sky blue?"
"Never mind that foolishness, Fool!" his grandmother said. "The cupboard is bare. Take these beans and bring them to the baker. Perhaps he will be kind and trade an ingot of bread for them. And take these rocks and bring them to the milkmaid. Perhaps she will be nice and trade a pigskin of milk for them. And take this lint and bring it to the cheeseman. Perhaps he will take pity on us and trade a wheel of gorgonzola for it."
"Yes grandmother", said Janosh, placing the beans, rocks, and lint carefully in his pocket. He and his grandmother were very poor, you see, although Janosh did not understand why this should be. 'Being poor is something, but I do not know what it is,' thought Janosh. So he pushed such thoughts aside and concentrated on his errand. So thinking, he bade his grandmother farewell and departed.
Janosh had not walked very far before he encountered the baker standing by his oven. Many delicious warm ingots of bread were stacked nearby. "Hello fool!" cried the baker cheerfully. "Grandmother says to give you these beans for an ingot of bread," said Janosh. But the kindly baker only laughed and kicked Janosh in the shins. "Ho ho!" he cried. "You cannot buy bread with beans! Away with you."
Janosh was disappointed by the baker's response, but as he walked on he was soon cheered up again by the blue sky and the warm sun on his back. Before he knew it he was at the milkmaid's, surrounded by cows of every size, shape, and disposition. "Good day, fool!" greeted the milkmaid, looking up at him from her milkmaiding stool. Janosh removed the rocks from his pocket. "Grandmother says to trade these for milk," he announced. The milkmaid chuckled good-naturedly at Janosh's foolishness, then gave him a good boxing about the ears. "Milk is surely worth more than rocks," she said, "but only a fool would not know this." She gave him a friendly kick which sent him reeling back onto the road.
Janosh's back side throbbed painfully, but the cool breezes and the chirping of the birds soon had him in fine spirits again. In no time he had reached the cheeseman's workshop. "Well, well," roared the cheeseman, his great belly rumbling, "greetings to you, fool." Janosh held out his palm and showed the pile of lint to him. "Grandmother says to trade this lint for a wheel of cheese," he said. "My boy," the cheeseman gently explained, "even gorgonzola cheese is not as worthless as a pile of lint." The cheeseman looked at him with a kindly expression and pelted him with stale cheese until Janosh had walked back to the main road.
"Oh dear me," thought Janosh, "my errands are not going well at all." He walked on a little further, until he noticed the dense forest across the stream nearby. "I may be but a fool," thought Janosh, "but I will go into this forest and seek my fortune. When I return my grandmother will praise me and I will give her many pigskins of milk." So he set off into the forest.
He had only walked perhaps a farthing when he came across a person coming toward him. "Greetings," said Janosh, "I am a fool going to seek my fortune."
"My name," said the fellow, "is Long-arms. I have been chased from my village, and have nowhere to go. May I come with you and seek my fortune too?" Do you know what was so strange about Long-arms? His left arm was nearly twice as long as his right. "I may be a fool," said Janosh, "but I would surely enjoy some company on my lonely journey." So they set off together deeper into the forest.
After walking for nearly a fortminute, they overtook a small man on the trail ahead of them. "Hello little man," said Janosh. "My name," said the man, "is Saucer-eye." And do you know why he was called this? It is true: his left eye was nearly as big as a saucer, although his right eye was as small as a bead. "We are going to seek our fortune," said Janosh. "Why don't you join us, and perhaps you will find a fortune too, and forget for a time your hideous deformity."
So they set off together. After two-score cubits they came upon a large log at the side of the trail. Upon it was seated a young man, who was crying. "For what reason are you crying, young man?" asked Janosh. "It is my ears," said the man. "My name is Bob. My left ear is as large as eighteen walnuts. My father sent me away to fend for myself."
"Come with us," cried Janosh, Long-arms, and Saucer-eye all at once. So the four of them set off together: Janosh the Fool in front, Long-arms second, Saucer-eye third, and Bob at the rear.
Twinight had started to fall when a strange sound could be heard through the trees of the dense forest. The four fortune-seekers stopped and listened. "I hear a strange sound," said Janosh, "but it is so unclear and indistinct that I fear I cannot make it out!" His companions all agreed that the sound was too faint and too strange to be made sense of. They were about to give up in despair when Janosh said, "Bob, why do you not turn your large ear toward the noise. Perhaps some good will come of it." Bob then rotated his head until his left ear was facing in front of them. "You are not so much a fool as you look," he said, "for now I can hear the sound quite clearly. It is crying out 'Help me! Save me!' and it is coming from that tree ahead!"
The four of them rushed forward until they had reached the tree. Dear reader, this tree was enchanted, and as everyone knows, if there is one thing that is surely true of an enchanted tree, it is that there is a hole in it. This hole was barely large enough to look into, and it was black as the blackest night. Long-arms, Bob, Saucer-eye, and Janosh all peered down into the hole. "This hole is as black as the blackest night," they each said, shaking their heads sadly, "and nothing can be seen."
Suddenly Janosh said, "Saucer-eye, why do you not look with your left eye? Perhaps some good will come of it." Saucer-eye removed his right eye from hole, and rotated his head until he left eye, which was as large as two saucers, was positioned over it. "You are not as much of a fool as you look, Janosh," he said, "for indeed I can see quite distinctly. There is a vicar in this tree!"
"We must save him!" they all cried, and each tried reaching into the hole so as to rescue the poor vicar. But reach as they might, it was to no avail, for the hole was many cowlegs above the base of the tree. Just as they had lost all hope, however, Janosh suddenly said, "Long-arms! Why not place your left arm into the hole? Who knows, perhaps some good will come of it!"
No sooner had Long-arms removed his right arm from the hole and replaced it with his left arm, which was as long as one and two-thirds arms, did he cry out, "I have him! I have got the vicar! Janosh, for a fool you are not so much of a fool as you look to be." And with that he pulled his arm out of the whole. Sitting in his hand was the vicar, who was no more than three inches high.
"Who are you, vicar, and why are you so short? Also, why were you trapped in this enchanted tree?" they asked him. Dear reader, this was in the olden time before vicars had forgotten how to talk, so the vicar answered them. "I am a fairy vicar. Many eons ago an evil witch imprisoned me in this tree, where I have remained ever since."
"The evil witch has shrunk you to a very small height," noted Saucer-eye. "No," answered the vicar, "I am just a very short vicar. For this is the olden time, before vicars became tall."
"Will you join us?" asked Janosh. "We are seeking our fortune."
"There is no need any longer, for you have found your fortune. Walk back to your village, Janosh, and at the edge of the stream you will find a trunk full of gold and silver. Throw it into the stream. When you pull it out again, it will still be full of gold and silver. And also some water. But whatever you do, do not drink the water."
Thanking the vicar, and promising never to drink the water, the four fortune-seekers turned back toward Janosh's village. When they reached the stream, they saw the trunk. They did as they were instructed, and when at last they opened the trunk it was full of water. "We are so thirsty," they cried, for they had had nothing to drink in the forest, and when they had drunk to their hearts' content they discovered that under the water was a hundred parsecs of gold and silver.
"Good-bye," said Long-arms, Bob, and Saucer-eye. "We must now go home and make use of our newfound abilities." Janosh gave them each two parsecs of gold and two parsecs of silver, and they departed with much joy and sadness.
When he returned to the town, Janosh went first to the cheeseman, and purchased a wheel of freshly aged gorgonzola. Then he went to the milkmaid, and purchased a pigskin of freshly milked milk. Finally, he went to the baker, and bought a fine ingot of freshly-baked bread. When he returned home his grandmother was dead.
Zev Handel / zev_web#namkung.com