One winter, it was so cold that the dawn froze solid. The sun got caught between two ice blocks, and the earth iced up so much that it couldn’t turn. The first rays of sunlight froze halfway over the mountain tops. They looked like yellow icicles dripping towards the ground.
Back in the old days, I had a successful bake-shop in Albany. I had a good business, a plump wife, and a big family. I was a happy man. But trouble came to my shop one year in the guise of an ugly old woman. She entered my shop a few minutes before closing and said: “I wish to have a dozen cookies.” She pointed to my special Saint Nicholas cookies that were sitting out on a tray. So I counted out twelve cookies for her…
Claas Schlaschenschlinger was a wealthy cobbler living on New Street in New Amsterdam. He was a contented bachelor who could afford eight – eight mind you! – pairs of breeches and he had a little side business selling geese. He cut quite a figure in New Amsterdam society, and was happy being single, until he met the fair Anitje! She was as pretty as a picture, and Claas fell head over heels for her. He was not her only suitor, by any means. The local burgomaster was also courting the fair Anitje. But the burgomaster was a stingy, hard man, and in the end, Anitje gave her heart and hand to Claas…
Two little children lived with their old grandmother in a remote place in the Canadian forest. They were twin children—a boy and a girl, Pierre and Estelle by name—and except for their dress it was not easy to tell them apart. Their father and mother had died in the springtime, and in the summer, they had left their old home because of its many sad memories and had gone to live with their old grandmother in a new home elsewhere.
Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, on the night before Christmas, a little child was wandering all alone through the streets of a great city. There were many people on the street, fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, uncles and aunts, and even gray-haired grandfathers and grandmothers, all of whom were hurrying home with bundles of presents for each other and for their little ones. Fine carriages rolled by, express wagons rattled past, even old carts were pressed into service, and all things seemed in a hurry and glad with expectation of the coming Christmas morning
At the time when the Christ Child was born all the people, the animals, and the trees, and plants were very happy. The Child was born to bring peace and happiness to the whole world. People came daily to see the little One, and they always brought gifts with them.
Once upon a time, a man lost his favorite axe in the river. After much searching, he sat down on the bank in grief and began to weep.
The Water-sprite heard the man crying and took pity on him. He brought a gold axe out of the river, and said: “Is this your axe?”
Long, long ago, on St. Lawrence Island in Alaska, there lived an old woman with her little grandson. They were very poor, so poor that the old woman had a hard time to feed and care for the boy. It was always cold and stormy, and sometimes they had almost nothing to eat for days at a time, because the wind blew so hard that the little boy could not stay out to catch tom-cods.
Long ago, when crows were white, a crow and an owl sat on a log, talking together.
The crow said he did not like his color, and the owl said, “I wish I had some pretty spots on my back.”
“So do I,” said the crow. “Let us paint each other with black oil from the lamp.”
One day, Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox and Brer Coon and Brer Bear and a lot of other animals decided to work together to plant a garden full of corn for roasting. They started early in the morning and raked and dug and raked some more, breaking up the hard ground so it would be ready for planting. It was a hot day, and Brer Rabbit got tired mighty quick. But he kept toting off the brush and clearing away the debris ’cause he didn’t want no one to call him lazy.
Well now, Brother Deer and Brother Terrapin were both courting of Mr. Coon’s daughter. Brother Deer was right sure enough a gentleman, that he was, while old Brother Terrapin was a poor, slow, old man. All the creatures wondered how the girl could smile on Brother Terrapin with Brother Deer around, but I tell you old man Terrapin had a real taking way with the girls when he put his mind to it.
One fine morning, Brer Fox decided to plant him a patch of goober peas. He set to with a will and before you know it, he had raked and hoed out a beautiful patch of ground and he put in a fine planting of peas. It didn’t take too long before those goober vines grew tall and long and the peas ripened up good and smart.
Well now, that rascal Brer Fox hated Brer Rabbit on account of he was always cutting capers and bossing everyone around. So, Brer Fox decided to capture and kill Brer Rabbit if it was the last thing he ever did! He thought and he thought until he came up with a plan. He would make a tar baby!
Back in the old days, Brother Lizard was an awful lot like Brother Frog, meaning he could sit upright like a dog. Things were like this for quite a spell. Then one day when they were walking down the road by their swamp, Brother Lizard and Brother Frog spotted some real nice pastureland with a great big pond that was on the far side of a great big fence.
Well now, out of all the animals that live in the woods, Brother Bear had the biggest house. The house was warm and cozy on the inside, but it was also very crowded on account of Brother Bear having him a plump wife and two plump young ‘uns named Simon and Susannah.
Well now, one winter it was so cold that all the geese flew backward and all the fish moved south and even the snow turned blue. Late at night, it got so frigid that all spoken words froze solid afore they could be heard. People had to wait until sunup to find out what folks were talking about the night before…
Now everyone knows that Alfred Bulltop Stormalong was the ultimate sailor. He was the captain of a mighty ship known as the Courser, which was so wide that she couldn’t sail into Boston Harbor and so tall that the mast was hinged into the middle so it could be taken down to avoid the sun and the moon whenever they passed by.
Now it happened that there was a mining camp in Colorado where more than an average number of the miners were bald. An enterprising hair tonic salesman from Kentucky decided to take advantage of this golden opportunity, so he made the trip north. It was a rainy summer evening. The salesman was headed towards the mining camp with four bottles of hair tonic under his arm. As he was crossing one of the trout streams which lead to the Arkansas River, the salesman slipped and dropped two bottles of hair tonic into the water. The bottles broke, and the hair tonic spilled into the stream…
Long, long ago, when the world was still new, the Inuit lived in darkness in their home in the fastness of the north. They had never heard of daylight, and when it was first explained to them by Crow, who traveled back and forth between the northlands and the south, they did not believe him.
Davy Crockett done married the prettiest, the sassiest, the toughest gal in the West, don’t ya know! Her name was Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind and she was all that and then some! She was tougher than a grumpy she-bear and faster than a wildcat with his tail on fire and sweeter than honey, so that even hornets would let her use their nest for a Sunday-go-to-Meeting hat.
Shmul was on his way to the market in Chelm one afternoon when he saw his good friend Bein on the street.
“Sholom aleichem,” called Shmul to his friend.
“Go to blazes,” Bein said without missing a beat.
Rabbit and Possum each wanted a wife, but no one would marry either of them. They talked over the matter and Rabbit said, “We can’t get wives here. Let’s go to the next village. I’ll say I’m messenger for the council and that everybody must marry at once, and then we’ll be sure to get wives.”
Now, my cousin P. S. Woodin is a successful businessman, and he’s got a pretty solid head on his shoulders. But when he told me that he owned a haunted house, I told him that he was plumb crazy. It was a nice, redbrick house about a half-mile above the bridge, and it sat right in front of an old Indian burial ground. Woodin had rented out the house more than once, but no one ever stayed there for long.
Well now, when old Johnson came to town, I knew there’d be trouble. That Yankee Peddler was a scoundrel if ever I saw one. But I was laid up with my rheumatism when he arrived, so I couldn’t do anything about it.
Now Rabbit had a favorite place on the river where he always went to drink water. It was on a bend in the river, and two Snakes lived there, one on the upper side of the bend and one on the lower. Rabbit soon learned that neither of the Snakes knew that the other Snake lived there.
It was so cold. Snow fell constantly, and ice formed over all the waters. The animals had never seen snow before. At first, it was a novelty, something to play in. But the cold increased tenfold, and they began to worry. The little animals were being buried in the snow drifts and the larger animals could hardly walk because the snow was so deep. Soon, all would perish if something were not done.
Heron and Hummingbird were very good friends, even though one was tall and gangly and awkward and one was small and sleek and fast. They both loved to eat fish. The Hummingbird preferred small fish like minnows and Heron liked the large ones.