The Land Baby — John Collier

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“What’s Friday got to do with the mockin’ bird?” (Zora Neale Hurston)

“What’s de matter, Ah don’t hear no birds?” complained Eugene Oliver. “It don’t seem natural.”

Everybody looked up at one time like cows in a pasture.

“Oh you know how come we don’t hear no birds. It’s Friday and de mocking bird ain’t here,” said Big Sweet after a period of observation.

“What’s Friday got to do with the mockin’ bird?” Eugene challenged.

“Dat’s exactly what Ah want to know,” said Joe Wiley.,

“Well,” said Big Sweet. “Nobody never sees no mockin’ bird on Friday. They ain’t on earth dat day.”

“Well, if they ain’t on earth, where is they?”

“They’s all gone to hell on Friday with a grain of sand in they mouth to help out they friend.” She continued:

Once there was a man and he was very wicked. He useter rob and steal and he was always in a fight and killin’ up people. But he was awful good to birds and mockin’ birds was his favorite. This was a long time ago before de man first started to buildin’ de Rocky Mountains. Well, ‘ way after while somebody kilt him, and being he had done lived so bad, when he died he went straight to hell.

De birds all hated it mighty bad when they seen him in hell, so they tried to git him out. But the fire was too hot so they give up–all but de mockin’ birds. They come together and decided to tote sand until they squenched de fire in hell. So they set a day and they all agreed on it. Every Friday they,totes sand to hell. And that’s how come nobody don’t never see no mockin’ birds on Friday.

 

Wolf and Birds and the Fish-Horse — Leo and Diane Dillon

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From The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales told by Virginia Hamilton.

“The Turnip” — The Brothers Grimm

“The Turnip”

by

The Brothers Grimm

English translation by Edgar Taylor and Marion Edwardes

There were two brothers who were both soldiers; the one was rich and the other poor. The poor man thought he would try to better himself; so, pulling off his red coat, he became a gardener, and dug his ground well, and sowed turnips.

When the seed came up, there was one plant bigger than all the rest; and it kept getting larger and larger, and seemed as if it would never cease growing; so that it might have been called the prince of turnips for there never was such a one seen before, and never will again. At last it was so big that it filled a cart, and two oxen could hardly draw it; and the gardener knew not what in the world to do with it, nor whether it would be a blessing or a curse to him. One day he said to himself, ‘What shall I do with it? if I sell it, it will bring no more than another; and for eating, the little turnips are better than this; the best thing perhaps is to carry it and give it to the king as a mark of respect.’ Continue reading ““The Turnip” — The Brothers Grimm”

“The Thanksgiving of the Wazir”

“The Thanksgiving of the Wazir”

A Punjabi Tale

Collected in Andrew Lang’s The Olive Fairy Book

Once upon a time there lived in Hindustan two kings whose countries bordered upon each other; but, as they were rivals in wealth and power, and one was a Hindu rajah and the other a Mohammedan bâdshah, they were not good friends at all. In order, however, to escape continual quarrels, the rajah and the bâdshah had drawn up an agreement, stamped and signed, declaring that if any of their subjects, from the least to the greatest, crossed the boundary between the two kingdoms, he might be seized and punished.

One morning the bâdshah and his chief wazir, or prime minister, were just about to begin their morning’s work over the affairs of the kingdom, and the bâdshah had taken up a pen and was cutting it to his liking with a sharp knife, when the knife slipped and cut off the tip of his finger.

‘Oh-he, wazir!’ cried the king, ‘I’ve cut the tip of my finger off!’

‘That is good hearing!’ said the wazir in answer.

‘Insolent one,’ exclaimed the king. ‘Do you take pleasure in the misfortunes of others, and in mine also? Take him away, my guards, and put him in the court prison until I have time to punish him as he deserves!’

Instantly the officers in attendance seized upon the luckless wazir, and dragged him out of the king’s presence towards the narrow doorway, through which unhappy criminals were wont to be led to prison or execution. As the door opened to receive him, the wazir muttered something into his great white beard which the soldiers could not hear.

‘What said the rascal?’ shouted the angry king. Continue reading ““The Thanksgiving of the Wazir””

“Two Queens” — Lydia Cabrera

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John Turturro Reads Italo Calvino’s Short Story “The False Grandmother”

John Turturro does Italo Calvino. “The False Grandmother,” illustrated by Kevin Ruelle, evokes dark shades of Little Red Riding Hood.