(a Norwegian tale)
Once upon a time, Gudbrand and his wife lived on a farm high upon a hill, and they were a happy pair, always generous and kind and proud of each other. One day, Gudbrand’s wife said, “Let’s sell one of our cows. Don’t you think that’s a good idea, dear husband? After all, we have two.”
“A perfect idea,” Gudbrand said, for he believed his wife was always wise. “I’ll take the cow to market tomorrow.”
Early the next morning, Gudbrand set off with the cow, but as he was walking, he came upon a man with a horse.
“Care to trade?” the man asked, and Gudbrand did.
Soon he passed a man with a pig, and once again he traded. “A pig is good,” he said.
But later, when he came upon a man with a goat, he traded again. A little while after that, he traded the goat for a sheep.
Soon he met a man with a goose, and he traded the sheep, and when he met a man with a rooster, he traded once more.
As he walked along with his rooster, Gudbrand thought, “I’m very hungry,” so he sold his rooster for a little money and bought himself some food. “My wife always says it’s best to save one’s life before one saves money.”
He turned and began to walk home, and when he reached his neighbor’s farm, he stopped to say hello.
“How did things go with the cow?” his neighbor asked.
“Ah, it was a busy day,” Gudbrand said, and he told his neighbor the whole story.
When he was finished, the neighbor shook his head. “Ah, you are in for trouble, my friend,” he said. “Your wife won’t like that!”
But Gudbrand only smiled. “My wife shall praise me. I promise!”
The neighbor did not believe him.
“Let us bet $100 on it,” Gudbrand proposed. “Back home, we have $100 hidden in a chest. I’ll bet you my wife will offer me nothing but praise.”
“A deal, then — $100!” the neighbor said.
So the two men walked together up to the house upon the hill. The neighbor stood outside to eavesdrop, and Gudbrand walked inside, empty-handed.
“Good evening!” he called to his wife, and she greeted him with a smile and a kiss.
“How good to see you home again,” she said. “How did it go in the market?”
“Well,” Gudbrand began, “while I was walking, I came upon a man with a horse, and I traded the cow for a horse.”
“You are the finest husband!” said the wife. “Now we shall have a horse to carry us to church!”
“Ah,” Gudbrand said, “I’m afraid I have no horse, for I traded the horse for a pig.”
The wife smiled. “It will be good to have some bacon in the house, better than having to care for a horse, don’t you agree? You are a wise man indeed.”
“Wise perhaps,” Gudbrand said, “but I swapped the pig for a goat.”
“Bless you, dear husband,” the wife said. “A pig would only make a mess, but with a goat we shall have milk and cheese.”
“Yes, we would if we still had the goat,” Gudbrand said, “but when I met a man with a sheep, I traded the goat.”
“What a brilliant man you are,” his wife said, “always thinking of me, for if we had a goat, I’d have to chase it up and down the hill, but now with a sheep we can shear the wool, and I will make some lovely new clothing.”
“Oh, how fine that would be,” Gudbrand said, “but I haven’t got the sheep, for you see, I traded him for a goose.”
“Thank you, my beloved,” said the wife. “I have no spinning wheel, which would cost money, but a roast goose will taste delicious!”
“Oh, how it would if I had the goose, but I traded that goose for a rooster,” Gudbrand explained.
“Oh my!” said his wife. “Now we shall never sleep too late! Besides, I don’t know how to roast a goose. How grand that we never have to worry about waking.”
“Grand it would be,” admitted Gudbrand, “but I’m afraid I was hungry, so I traded that rooster for coins to buy some food.”
“Thank heavens, what would I do if you should starve?” cried his wife. “You are my blessing, and now we shall sleep in as long as we like. Thank heavens I have such a wise husband — far better than a cow or a horse or a pig or a goat or a sheep or a goose or a rooster. I can think of nothing I want more than you.”
Gudbrand smiled as he opened the door, and there stood the neighbor. “My wife is right, it seems,” he said. “I am a wise husband with a very wise wife.”
The neighbor had to agree, and he owed Gudbrand $100.
The neighbor’s wife was not happy.