A-Topic

A Tablecloth, Ram and a Club

A Latvian Folk Tale


Once upon a time a father had three sons. Two of the brothers were clever, but the third was considered a fool. One of the clever brothers began to pester his father to let him go to try his luck in the world. The father finally agreed. Off the clever chap went, but no matter how hard he tried, he could not find work. At last he met a man and asked if there wasn't a job for him. The man replied:

Latvian Folk Tale: A tablecloth, Raw and a Club
Drawings by Alexei Tertyshnikoff
"If you agree to work for the pay I'll give you at the end of a year on the basis of what I think you're worth, then come along."

The son was willing. Then a year passed, instead of wages, the man gave him a tablecloth arid said:

"You served me faithfully and well and consequently you shall be handsomely rewarded. This tablecloth is worth more than money. All you have to do is spread it oui and say: 'Tablecloth, set yourself! and all sorts of good food and drink will appear."

The son thanked him and set off for home. Halfway there, night overlook him and he turned in to a house and requested a night's lodging. The master had no objections but was cuious about his guest's tablecloth.

"It is a tablecloth to which you must not say: "Tablecloth, set yourself!" the son replied and went to bed.

When the son fell asleep, the master of the house took the cloth and said: "Tablecloth, set yourself!" At once good food and drink appeared. On seeing the miracle, the master hastily hid the tablecloth and substituted one of his own for it. The following day, suspecting nothing ill, the son came home and told his father to invite guests since his tablecloth would provide ample food for all. The guests gathered and the son said:

"Tablecloth, set yourself!"

But nothing happened. No food or drink appeared. The son was at his wit's end, but to no avail. The guests began to make fun of him and the father became angry, all his boasting had come 10 nought.

Soon the second son began to pester his father to let him go. The father did so. He trudged on and on, but he could not find work either. At last he met the same man as his brother and asked to be hired. The man replied:

"If you agree to work for the pay I'll give you at the end of a year on the basis of what I think you're worth, then come along".

The son was willing When the year was up, the man brought out a ram and said:

"You served me faithfully and well and consequently you shall be handsomely rewarded. This rarn is worth more than money. All you have to say is: 'Lamb, chew your cud!' and the ram will begin to spit out gold ducats."

The second son thanked him and started for home. Hallway there, night overtook him and he turned in to the same house that his brother had. The master received him, but was curious about the ram.

"It is a ram to whom you must not say: 'Lamb, chew your cud!'" the son replied and went to bed.

When the son fell asleep, the master of the house decided to substitute his own ram tor the other. In the morning the son arrived home and bade his father to invite guests, his ram would give them generous gifts. The guests assembled. The second son would show them of what his ram was capable. He said to the ram

"Lamb, chaw your cudi"

But nothing happened! No ducats came tumbling out of the ram's mouth. The son racked his brains while the guests, as on the previous occasion, made fun of him and the father was angry, all that boasting had come to nought.

A short time passed and the fool began to pester his father to let him go. The father said:

"Your clever brothers accomplished nothing, what can be expected from you?"

"Never mind, father, whether I accomplish anything or not, just let me go!" The father gave in. The fool tramped on and on until he met that same man. The fool begged him for work. The man replied:

"If you agree to work for the pay I'll give you at the end of a year on the basis of what I think you're worth, then come along".

Drawings by Alexei Tertyshnikoff for A tablecloth, Raw and a Club
Drawings by Alexei Tertyshnikoff
The fool agreed.

When the year ended the man handed the fool a club and said:

"You served me faithfully and well and consequently you snail be handsomely rewarded! This club is worth more than money".

"All you have to do is say. 'Club beat!' and the club will beat up anyone who has ill intentions towards you."

The fool thanked him and started for home. Halfway there, night overlook him and he turned in to that same house where his brothers had spent the night. The master received him, but was curious about the club.

"It is a club to which you must not say: 'Club, beat!'" the fool replied and curled up.

The fool lay sleeping while the master said to himself: "Since so much good has come out of the tablecloth and the ram, I imagine the club is even ot greater valuer!"

He seized the club and said: "Club, beat!"

The club at once obeyed and jumped on the master's back and began to beat him unmercifully. At first the wretch was ashamed to yell, but when he became covered all over with bruises he began to shout at the top of his voice. He ran and awakened the fool and implored him to rescue him from the club. The fool answered:

"If you return the tablecloth and the ram which you stole from my brothers then I'll save you from the club".

"I will, I will!".

In the morning the fool came home with the tablecloth, ram and the club and told his father to invite guests. The father privately thought that again he would be shamed by his son, but nevertheless invited the guests.

The guests gathered. But the fool did not shame his father. As soon as he cried, "Tablecloth, set yourself!" all sons of good food and drink appeared on the table. When all had eaten their fill, the fool led in the ram and commanded it to spit out gold ducats which he generously distributed among the guests. But the two clever brothers were none too pleased and they began to mutter that they had earned the tablecloth and the ram, not the fool. If he had earned something too, they would like to see it. The fool overheard their griping and was vexed.

"You'll see what I earnedl Club, beat!".

The club leaped on the brothers and began to belabour them unsparingly. They cried to the fool to rescue them, but he replied:

"Not until you promise never to call me a fool again."

The two promised and the fool took pity on them.

Article's Tags: folklore literature prose

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a-Topic, 2017