This month is offiffiffic'ally Gratitude Month. Of course Thanksgiving shines over the entire month. This past week I did a Thanksgiving program, telling stories of gratitude, kindness, and thanksgiving. I had 19 stories, more stories than could fit one program. I did my favorite way of personalizing it by writing each story title on a separate strip of paper and putting all the strips in a cast iron pot, explaining it was the type of pot used to cook that first Thanksgiving feast. I said we would go around the room, letting participants reach in to pull out a story. We were able to go around more than once.
Not every story ended with gratitude or kindness. Today's story is one of those stories forming a warning about trusting all to end happily. It's called "Cat and Mouse in Partnership." Now what could possibly go wrong with a pairing like that?
I wanted to use here a picture by Arthur Rackham in a Public Domain book, Grimm's Fairy Tales, he did in 1909. The book was a breakthrough for Rackham. If you want to know more, go to https://vintageillustrators.weebly.com/grimms-fairy-tales-332160.html -- Rackham truly shaped book illustration. Unfortunately that book isn't online and I don't own it. I do, however, have a copy of his illustration of the story from the Weebly article and will insert it within this version from Household Stories on Gutenberg.org The online book is from the partnership of Lucy and Walter Crane and also produces some delightful illustrations, but in black and white.
"We must make provision for the winter," said the cat, "or we shall suffer hunger, and you, little mouse, must not stir out, or you will be caught in a trap."
So they took counsel together and bought a little pot of fat. And then they could not tell where to put it for safety, but after long consideration the cat said there could not be a better place than the church, for nobody would steal there; and they would put it under the altar and not touch it until they were really in want. So this was done, and the little pot placed in safety.
But before long the cat was seized with a great wish to taste it.
"Listen to me, little mouse," said he; "I have been asked by my cousin to stand god-father to a little son she has brought into the world; he is white with brown spots; and they want to have the christening to-day, so let me go to it, and you stay at home and keep house."
"Oh yes, certainly," answered the mouse, "pray go by all means; and when you are feasting on all the good things, think of me; I should so like a drop of the sweet red wine."
"Here you are at last," said the mouse; "I expect you have had a merry time."
"Oh, pretty well," answered the cat.
"And what name did you give the child?" asked the mouse.
"Top-off," answered the cat, drily.
"Top-off!" cried the mouse, "that is a singular and wonderful name! is it common in your family?"
"What does it matter?" said the cat; "it's not any worse than Crumb-picker, like your god-child."
A little time after this the cat was again seized with a longing.
"Again I must ask you," said he to the mouse, "to do me a favour, and keep house alone for a day. I have been asked a second time to stand god-father; and as the little one has a white ring round its neck, I cannot well refuse."
So the kind little mouse consented, and the cat crept along by the town wall until he reached the church, and going straight to the little pot of fat, devoured half of it.
"Nothing tastes so well as what one keeps to oneself," said he, feeling quite content with his day's work. When he reached home, the mouse asked what name had been given to the child.
"Half-gone," answered the cat.
"Half-gone!" cried the mouse, "I never heard such a name in my life! I'll bet it's not to be found in the calendar."
Soon after that the cat's mouth began to water again for the fat.
"Good things always come in threes," said he to the mouse; "again I have been asked to stand god-father, the little one is quite black with white feet, and not any white hair on its body; such a thing does not happen every day, so you will let me go, won't you?"
"Top-off, Half-gone," murmured the mouse, "they are such curious names, I cannot but wonder at them!"
"That's because you are always sitting at home," said the cat, "in your little grey frock and hairy tail, never seeing the world, and fancying all sorts of things."
So the little mouse cleaned up the house and set it all in order. Meanwhile the greedy cat went and made an end of the little pot of fat.
"Now all is finished one's mind will be easy," said he, and came home in the evening, quite sleek and comfortable. The mouse asked at once what name had been given to the third child.
"It won't please you any better than the others," answered the cat. "It is called All-gone."
"All-gone!" cried the mouse. "What an unheard-of-name! I never met with anything like it! All-gone! whatever can it mean?" And shaking her head, she curled herself round and went to sleep. After that the cat was not again asked to stand god-father.
When the winter had come and there was nothing more to be had out of doors, the mouse began to think of their store.
"Come, cat," said she, "we will fetch our pot of fat, how good it will taste, to be sure!"
"Of course it will," said the cat, "just as good as if you stuck your tongue out of window!"
So they set out, and when they reached the place, they found the pot, but it was standing empty.
"Oh, now I know what it all meant," cried the mouse, "now I see what sort of a partner you have been! Instead of standing god-father you have devoured it all up; first Top-off, then Half-gone, then"——
"Will you hold your tongue!" screamed the cat, "another word, and I devour you too!"
And the poor little mouse, having "All-gone" on her
tongue, out it came, and the cat leaped upon her and made
an end of her. And that is the way of the world.
This is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain." The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated. I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century. My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them. I hope you enjoy discovering new stories.
At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience. Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week. This is a return to my regular posting of a research project here. (Don't worry, this isn't dry research, my research is always geared towards future storytelling to an audience.) Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my other postings as often as I can manage it.
Other Public Domain story resources I recommend-
There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, maybe none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection. I have long recommended it and continue to do so. He has loaded Stith Thompson's Motif Index into his server as a database so you can search the whole 6 volumes for whatever word or expression you like by pressing one key. http://folkmasa.org/motiv/motif.htm
You may have noticed I'm no longer certain Dr. Perez has the largest database, although his offering the Motif Index certainly qualifies for those of us seeking specific types of stories. There's another site, FairyTalez claiming to be the largest, with "over 2000 fairy tales, folktales, and fables" and they are "fully optimized for phones, tablets, and PCs", free and presented without ads.
Between those two sites, there is much for story-lovers, but as they say in infomercials, "Wait, there's more!"