Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

November 5, 2013
The Woodcutter’s Woes

(a French folktale)

Once upon a time lived a poor woodcutter who had grown tired of his life. He worked day and night but never had enough money. One morning at dawn, as he walked about the forest, he began to wail: “Woe is me! Today is the day I shall end my life! My family will be better off without me.”

Just at that moment, in a puff of air, a man appeared, standing in the woodcutter’s path. “Wait,” said the man — who was Jupiter — “I’m king of the universe, and I can grant you three wishes.”

The woodcutter stared and wondered if he was dreaming. “Are you real?” he asked.

“Real I am,” Jupiter said, “Three wishes. Take care to wish for things that will make you happy.”

“Whatever I want?” the woodcutter asked.

“Just say, ‘I wish,’ three times,” Jupiter replied.

The woodcutter’s spirits soared, and he raced back home. His wife was wise and he wanted her advice in this serious matter. Besides, how happy she would be!

“Mon cherie, my love, we shall be rich and happy from this day on!” he cried to his wife, who stood at the stove cooking porridge.

“What do you mean?” she asked, so he sat her down and told her the story.

The moment he had finished, he saw that his wife was dreaming.

And oh, how she dreamed! But she was smart and knew they must take care. “It is better not to be impatient,” she said. “Let us wait until tomorrow before we make a single wish.”

The woodcutter agreed, and they decided that they must go about their day. He spent the day working hard in the cold air. She cleaned and cooked and cared for their children.

That evening, after the children were in bed, the woodcutter said, “Before we make our wishes, let’s enjoy this last night of our present life.”

“Let’s drink some wine and sit before the fire,” his wife said.

He built a fire in the fireplace and opened a bottle of wine, and the couple laughed together as they had not in a long, long time.

The woodcutter smiled at his beautiful wife, sipped the wine, leaned back and sighed, “What a lovely evening. This wine tastes so good. Though a nice sausage would taste well with it, don’t you think?”

“It would,” his wife agreed.

“I wish we had a nice measure of sausage,” the woodcutter said, and the moment those words were out of his mouth, he realized his error. And to his horror, a long link of sausage appeared before their eyes on the table.

“Look what you’ve done!” his wife cried. She had just been dreaming of the beautiful house they might wish for, or the buckets of gold, or a sailing ship, or a nice, big farm, or sacks full of emeralds, or even a palace. “What a fool you are! How could you wish for a sausage when there is so much in this world I would love?”

The woodcutter was mortified. “I’m sorry, mon cherie, I’m so sorry. I promise I shall do better with our second wish.”

But the wife was furious, and she could think of nothing more than all they had lost. “You are a fool!” she repeated. And then she repeated it again. But the third time she said it, the woodcutter lost his temper. In his heart he wished his wife would be quiet, but he was wise enough not to say this out loud.

But his wife could not stop. “Why did I marry a fool? I could have married anyone, and instead I married a man who wishes for sausage!”

The woodcutter could not help himself. “A curse on all of this!” he said. “A curse on sausages. A curse on you! I wish that sausage were hanging from the end of your nose!”

Naturally, the king of the universe heard this wish, and before the woodcutter’s wife could open her mouth to speak, a sausage was attached to her nose.

It did not suit her, but then, a sausage on the nose suits few people, and besides looking funny, it was uncomfortable, and it made it difficult for her to talk.

The woodcutter did not mind that his wife could not talk in that moment, but he did feel terrible. He loved his wife. He loved her pretty nose. This would never do!

He looked at her and sighed. “With the last wish I might make myself a king,” he said. “I might make myself a single man living in a great palace. I might wish for a brand-new life. I might wish to begin again and leave all this behind!”

His wife opened her eyes wide, but each time she tried to speak, the sausage plopped into her mouth. She was terrified and sad. Most of all, more than her fear of living forever with a sausage on her nose, she could not bear the thought of losing her beloved husband.

The woodcutter smiled. “But I do not wish to live in a palace without my love,” he said. “I do not wish to have a brand-new life without you. I want your happiness, my love, so you must decide. Do you wish to be my queen in a palace with a sausage on your nose, or do you wish to be only a simple woodcutter’s wife?”

She smiled as best she could with a sausage on her nose. She liked her life, after all. It was a nice life in a fine little cottage with a loving husband.

And so the woodcutter wished his wife were the woman she had been.

They did not become rich. They did not live in a palace. They did not have buckets of gold or sacks of jewels. But they were happy, for they had each other and their cottage and their wine and their children. And they lived happily ever after.

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