When People told themselves their past with stories,
explained their present with stories,
foretold the future with stories,
the best place by the fire was kept for ...

~The Spider and The Fly

"Will you walk into my parlor?" said the spider to the fly;
"'Tis the prettiest little parlor that ever you did spy.
The way into my parlor is up a winding stair,
And I have many pretty things to show when you are there."
"O no, no," said the little fly, "To ask me is in vain,
For who goes up your winding stair can ne'er come down again."
"I'm sure you must be weary, dear, with soaring up so high;
Will you rest upon my little bed?" said the spider to the fly.
"There are pretty curtains drawn around, the sheets are fine and thin,
And if you like to rest awhile, I'll snugly tuck you in."
"O no, no," said the little fly, "for I've often heard it said,

They NEVER, NEVER WAKE again, who sleep upon YOUR bed."
Said the cunning spider to the fly, "Dear friend, what shall I do,
To prove the warm affection I've always felt for you?
I have within my pantry good store of all that's nice;
I'm sure you're very welcome; will you please to take a slice?
"O no, no," said the little fly, "kind sir, that cannot be;
I've heard what's in your pantry, and I do not wish to see."
"Sweet creature!" said the spider, "you're witty and you're wise,
How handsome are your gauzy wings, how brilliant are your eyes!
I have a little looking-glass upon my parlor shelf,
If you'll step in one moment dear, you shall behold yourself."
I thank you, gentle sir," she said, "for what you're pleased to say,
And bidding you good-morning NOW, I'll call ANOTHER day."
The spider turned him round about, and went into his den,
For well he knew the silly fly would soon be back again:

So he wove a subtle web, in a little corner sly,
And set his table ready to dine upon the fly.
Then he came out to his door again, and merrily did sing,
"Come hither, hither, pretty fly, with the pearl and silver wing:
Your robes are green and purple; there's a crest upon your head;
Your eyes are like the diamond bright, but mine are dull as lead."
Alas, alas! how very soon this silly little fly,
Hearing his wily flattering words, came slowly flitting by.
With buzzing wings she hung aloft, then near and nearer drew,
Thinking only of her crested head - POOR FOOLISH THING!
At last,
Up jumped the cunning spider, and fiercely held her fast.
He dragged her up his winding stair, into his dismal den,
Within his little parlor; but she ne'er came out again!
And now, dear little children, who may this story read,
To idle, silly, flattering words, I pray you ne'er give heed;
Unto an evil counselor close heart, and ear, and eye,
And take a lesson from this tale of the Spider and the Fly.

by Mary Howitt

~Jack and the Beanstalk

HERE was once upon a time a poor widow who had an only son named Jack, and a cow named Milky-white.
And all they had to live on was the milk the cow gave every morning, which they carried to the market and sold.
But one morning Milky-white gave no milk, and
they didn't know what to do.

"What shall we do, what shall we do?" said the widow,
wringing her hands.

"Cheer up, mother, I'll go and get work somewhere," said Jack.

"We've tried that before, and nobody would take you," said his mother; "we must sell Milky-white and with the money start shop, or something."

"All right, mother," says Jack; "it's market-day toe day,
and I'll soon sell Milky-white, and then we'll see what we can do."

So he took the cow's halter in his hand, and off he started.
He hadn't gone far when he met a funny looking old man,
who said to him: "Good morning, Jack."

"Good morning to you," said Jack, and wondered how he
knew his name.

"Well, Jack, and where are you off to?" said the man.
"I 'm going to market to sell our cow here."

"Oh, you look the proper sort of chap to sell cows," said the man; "I wonder if you know how many beans make five."

"Two in each hand and one in your mouth," says Jack,
as sharp as a needle.

Right you are," says the man, "and here they are, the very beans themselves," he went on, pulling out of his pocket a number of strange-looking beans. "As you are so sharp," says he,
"I don't mind doing a swop with you-your cow for these beans."

"Go along," says Jack; "wouldn't you like it?"

"Ah! you don't know what these beans are," said the man;
"if you plant them over-night, by morning they grow right
up to the sky."
"Really?" said Jack; "you don't, say so."

"Yes, that is so, and if it doesn't turn out to be true you can have your cow back."

"Right," says Jack, and hands him over Milkywhite's halter and pockets the beans.

Back goes Jack home, and as he hadn't gone very far it wasn't dusk by the time he got to his door.

"Back already, lack?" said his mother; "I see you haven't got
Milky-white, so you've sold hero How much did you get for her?" "You'll never guess, mother," says Jack.

"No, you don't say so. Good boy! Five pounds, ten, fifteen,
no, it can't be twenty."

"I told you you couldn't guess. What do you say to these beans; they're magical, plant them overnight and-"

"What!" says Jack's mother, "have you been such a fool,
such a dolt, such an idiot, as to give away my Milky-white,
the best milker in the parish, and prime beef to boot, for a set of paltry beans? Take that! Take that! Take that!
And as for your precious beans here they go out of the window. And now off with you to bed. Not a sup shall you drink,
and not a bit shall you swallow this very night."

So Jack went upstairs to his little room in the attic,
and sad and sorry he was, to be sure, as much for his mother's sake, as for the loss of his supper.
At last he dropped off to sleep.

When he woke up, the room looked so funny.
The sun was shining into part of it, and yet all the rest was quite dark and shady. So Jack jumped up and dressed himself and went to the window. And what do you think he saw?
Why, the beans his mother had thrown out of the window into the garden, had sprung up into a big beanstalk which went up and up and up till it reached the sky. So the man spoke truth after all.

The beanstalk grew up quite close past Jack's window, so all he had to do was to open it and give a jump on to the beanstalk which ran up just like a big ladder. So Jack climbed, and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed till at last he reached the sky. And when he got there he found a long broad road going as straight as a dart.
So he walked along and he walked along and he walked along till he came to a great big tall house, and on the doorstep there was a great big tall woman.

"Good morning, mum," says Jack, quite politelike.
"Could you be so kind as to give me some breakfast?"
For he hadn't had anything to eat you know, the night before and was as hungry as a hunter,

"It's breakfast you want, is it?" says the great big tall woman, "it's breakfast you'll be if you don't move off from here. My man is an ogre and there's nothing he likes better than boys broiled on toast. You'd better be moving on or he'll soon be coming."

"Oh! please mum, do give me something to eat, mum.
I've had nothing to eat since yesterday morning, really and truly, mum," says Jack. "I may as well be broiled as die of hunger."

Well, the ogre's wife was not half so bad after all,
So she took Jack into the kitchen, and gave him a junk of bread and cheese and a jug of milk. But Jack hadn't half finished these when thump! thump! thump! the whole house bean to tremble with the noise of some one coming.

"Goodness gracious me! It's my old man," said the ogre's wife, "what on earth shall I do? Come along quick and jump in here." And she bundled Jack into the oven just as the ogre came in. He was a big one, to be sure. At his belt he had three calves strung up by the heels, and he unhooked them and threw them down on the table and said:

"Here, wife, broil me a couple of these for breakfast.
Ah! what's this I smell? Fee-fi-fo-fum,
I smell the blood of an Englishman,
Be he alive, or be he dead
I'll have his bones to grind my bread."

"Nonsense, dear," said his wife, "you're dreaming.
Or perhaps you smell the scraps of that little boy you liked so much for yesterday's dinner. Here, you go and have a wash and tidy up, and by the time you come back your breakfast'll be ready for you."

So off the ogre went, and Jack was just going to jump out of the oven and run away when the woman told him not.
"Wait till he 's asleep," says she; "he always has a doze after breakfast."

Well, the ogre had his breakfast, and after that he goes to a big chest and takes out of it a couple of bags of gold, and down he sits and counts till at last his head began to nod and he began to snore till the whole house shook again.

Then Jack crept out on tiptoe from his oven, and as he was passing the ogre he took one of the bags of gold under his arm, and off he pelters till he came to the beanstalk, and then he threw down the bag of gold, which of course fell into his mother's garden. and then he climbed down and climbed down till at last he got home and told his mother and showed her the gold and said: "Well, mother, wasn't I right about the beans? They are really magical, you see."

So they lived on the bag of gold for some time, but at last they came to the end of it, and Jack made up his mind to try his luck once more up at the top of the beanstalk.
So one fine morning he rose up early, and got on to the beanstalk, and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed till at last he came out on to the road again and up to the great big tall house he had been to before. There, sure enough, was the great big tall woman a-standing on the doorstep.

"Good morning, mum," says Jack, as bold as brass,
"could you be so good as to give me something to eat?"

"Go away, my boy," said the big tall woman, "or else my man will eat you up for breakfast. But aren't you the youngster who came here once before? Do you know, that very day, my man missed one of his bags of gold."
"That's strange, mum," said Jack, "I dare say I could tell you something about that, but I 'm so hungry I can't speak till I've had something to eat."

Well the big tall woman was so curious that she took him in and gave him something to eat. But he had scarcely begun munching it as slowly as he could when thump! thump! thump! they heard the giant': footstep, and his wife hid Jack away in the oven.
All happened as it did before. In came the ogre as he did before, said: "Fee-fi-fo-fum," and had his breakfast off three broiled oxen. Then he said:

"Wife, bring me the hen that lays the golden eggs."
So she brought it, and the ogre said:
"Lay," and it laid an egg all of gold. And then the ogre began to nod his head, and to snore till the house shook.

Then Jack crept out of the oven on tiptoe and caught hold of the golden hen, and was off before you could say
"Jack Robinson." But this time the hen gave a cackle which woke the ogre, and just as Jack got out of the house he heard him calling: "Wife, wife, what have you done with my golden hen?"
And the wife said: "Why, my dear?"

But that was all Jack heard, for he rushed off to the beanstalk and climbed down like a house on fire. And when he got home he showed his mother the wonderful hen, and said
"Lay" to it; and it laid a golden egg every time he said "Lay."

Well, Jack was not content, and it wasn't very long before he determined to have another try at his luck up there at the top of the beanstalk. So one fine morning, he rose up early,
and got on to the beanstalk, and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed till he got to the top.
But this time he knew better than to go straight to the ogre's house. And when he got near. it, he waited behind a bush till he saw the ogre's wife come out with a pail to get some water,
and then he crept into the house and got into the copper.
He hadn't been there long when he heard thump! thump! thump! as before, and in come the ogre and his wife.

"Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of an English. man," cried out the ogre. "I smell him, wife; I smell him."
"Do you, my dearie?" says the ogre's wife.

'Then, if it's that little rogue that stole your gold and the hen that laid the golden eggs he's sure to have got into the oven."
And they both rushed to the oven. But Jack wasn't there,
luckily, and the ogre's wife said: "There you are again with your fee-fi-fo-fum. Why of course it's the boy you caught last night that I've just broiled for your breakfast. How forgetful I am,
and how careless you are not to know the difference between live and dead after all these years."

So the ogre sat down to the breakfast and ate it, but every now and then he would mutter: "Well, I could have sworn-"
and he'd get up and search the larder and the cupboards and everything, only, luckily, he didn't think of the copper.

After breakfast was over, the ogre called out,
"Wife, wife, bring me my golden harp." So she brought it and put it on the table before him. Then he said: "Sing!" and the golden harp sang most beautifully. And it went on singing till the ogre fell asleep, and commenced to snore like thunder.

Then Jack lifted up the copper-lid very quietly and got down like a mouse and crept on hands and knees till he came to the table, when up he crawled, caught hold of the golden harp and dashed with it towards the door. But the harp called out quite loud: "Master! Master!" and the ogre woke up just in time to see Jack running off with his harp.

Jack ran as fast as he could, and the ogre came rushing after, and would soon have caught him only Jack had a start and dodged him a bit and knew where he was going.
When he got to the beanstalk the ogre was not more than
twenty yards away when suddenly he saw Jack disappear
like, and when he came to the end of the road he saw Jack underneath climbing down for dear life.
Well, the ogre didn't like trusting himself to such a ladder,
and he stood and waited, so Jack got another start.
But just then the harp cried out: "Master! Master!" and the ogre swung himself down on to the beanstalk, which shook with his weight. Down climbs Jack, and after him climbed the ogre.
By this time Jack had climbed down and climbed down and climbed down till he was very nearly home.
So he called out: "Mother! Mother! bring me an axe, bring me an axe." And his mother came rushing out with the axe in her hand, but when she came to the beanstalk she stood stock still with fright for there she saw the ogre with his legs just through the clouds.

But Jack jumped down and got hold of the axe and gave a chop at the beanstalk which cut it half in two.
The ogre felt the beanstalk shake and quiver so he stopped to see what was the matter. Then Jack gave another chop with the axe, and the beanstalk was cut in two and began to topple over.
Then the ogre fell down and broke his crown, and the bean stalk came toppling after.

Then Jack showed his mother his golden harp, and what with showing that and selling the golden eggs, Jack and his mother became very rich, and he married a great princess; and they lived happy ever after.

(from English Folk and Fairy Tales , by Joseph Jacobs)

~Little Red Riding Hood

Once upon a time in the middle of a thick forest stood a small cottage, the home of a pretty little girl known to everyone as Little Red Riding Hood.
One day, her Mummy waved her goodbye at the garden gate, saying: "Grandma is ill. Take her this basket of cakes,
but be very careful. Keep to the path through the
wood and don't ever stop.
That way, you will come to no harm." 

Little Red Riding Hood kissed her mother and ran off.
"Don't worry," she said, "I'll run all the way to Grandma's
without stopping."
Full of good intentions, the little girl made her way
through the wood, but she was soon to forget her mother's
wise words. "What lovely strawberries! And so red." 
Laying her basket on the ground, Little Red Riding Hood bent over the strawberry plants. "They're nice and ripe, and so big! Yummy! Delicious! Just another one. And one more.
This is the last. Well, this one Mmmm."
The red fruit peeped invitingly through the leaves in the grassy glade, and Little Red Riding Hood ran back and forth popping strawberries into her mouth. Suddenly she remembered her mother, her promise, Grandma and the basket and hurried back towards the path. The basket was still in the grass and, humming to herself, Little Red Riding Hood walked on.
The wood became thicker and thicker. Suddenly a yellow butterfly fluttered down through the trees.
Little Red Riding Hood started to chase the butterfly. 
"I'll catch you! I'll catch you!" she called. Suddenly she saw some large daisies in the grass.
"Oh, how sweet!" she exclaimed and, thinking of Grandma,
she picked a large bunch of flowers. 
In the meantime, two wicked eyes were spying on her from behind a tree a strange rustling in the woods made Little Red Riding Hood's heart thump.
Now quite afraid she said to herself. "I must find the path and run away from here!"
At last she reached the path again but her heart leapt into her mouth at the sound of a gruff voice which said:
"Where are you going, my pretty girl, all alone in the woods?" 
"I'm taking Grandma some cakes.
She lives at the end of the path," said Little Riding Hood
in a faint voice.
When he heard this, the wolf (for it was the big bad wolf himself) politely asked: "Does Grandma live by herself?"
"Oh, yes," replied Little Red Riding Hood, "and she never opens the door to strangers!"
"Goodbye. Perhaps we'll meet again," replied the wolf.
Then he loped away thinking to himself "I'll gobble the grandmother first, then lie in wait for the grandchild!"
At last, the cottage came in sight. Knock! Knock!
The wolf rapped on the door.
"Who's there?" cried Grandma from her bed. 
"It's me, Little Red Riding Hood.
I've brought you some cakes because you're ill," replied the wolf, trying hard to hide his gruff voice.
"Lift the latch and come in," said Grandma, unaware of anything amiss, till a horrible shadow appeared on the wall.
Poor Grandma!
For in one bound, the wolf leapt across the room and, in a single mouthful, swallowed the old lady. Soon after,
Little Red Riding Hood tapped on the door. 
"Grandma, can I come in?" she called. 
Now, the wolf had put on the old lady's shawl and cap
and slipped into the bed. Trying to imitate Grandma's
quavering little voice, he replied: "Open the latch and come in! 

"What a deep voice you have," said the little girl in surprise. 
“The better to greet you with," said the wolf. 
"Goodness, what big eyes you have." 
"The better to see you with."
"And what big hands you have!" exclaimed Little Red Riding Hood, stepping over to the bed. 
"The better to hug you with," said the wolf. 
"What a big mouth you have," the little girl murmured in a weak voice. 
"The better to eat you with!" growled the wolf, and jumping out of bed, he swallowed her up too.
Then, with a fat full tummy, he fell fast asleep. 

In the meantime, a hunter had emerged from the wood,
and on noticing the cottage, he decided to stop and
ask for a drink.
He had spent a lot of time trying to catch a large wolf that had been terrorizing the neighborhood, but had lost its tracks.
The hunter could hear a strange whistling sound;
it seemed to be coming from inside the cottage.
He peered through the window and saw the large wolf himself, with a fat full tummy, snoring away in Grandma's bed. 
"The wolf! He won't get away this time!" 
Without making a sound, the hunter carefully loaded
his gun and gently opened the window.
He pointed the barrel straight at the wolf's head and BANG!
The wolf was dead. 

"Got you at last!" shouted the hunter in glee.
"You'll never frighten anyone again. 
He cut open the wolf's stomach and to his amazement,
out popped Grandma and Little Red Riding Hood,
safe and unharmed. 
"You arrived just in time," murmured the old lady,
quite overcome by all the excitement.
"It's safe to go home now," the hunter told Little Red Riding Hood. "The big bad wolf is dead and gone, and there is no danger on the path.
Still scared, the little girl hugged her grandmother.
Oh, what a dreadful fright!"
Much later, as dusk was falling, Little Red Riding Hood's
mother arrived, all out of breath, worried because her
little girl had not come home.
And when she saw Little Red Riding Hood, safe and sound,
she burst into tears of joy.
After thanking the hunter again,
Little Red Riding Hood and her mother set off towards the wood. As they walked quickly through the trees,
the little girl told her mother: "We must always keep
to the path and never stop.
That way, we come to no harm!"

by The Brothers Grimm

~The Gingerbread Man

Once upon a time there was a little old woman
and a little old man, and they lived all alone in a little old house. They hadn't any little girls or any little boys, at all.
So one day, the little old woman made a boy out of gingerbread; she made him a chocolate jacket, and put cinnamon seeds
in it for buttons; his eyes were made of fine, fat currants;
his mouth was made of rose-colored sugar; and he had a
gay little cap of orange sugar-candy.
When the little old woman had rolled him out, and dressed him up, and pinched his gingerbread shoes into shape,
she put him in a pan; then she put the pan in the oven
and shut the door; and she thought,
"Now I shall have a little boy of my own."

story book

When it was time for the Gingerbread Boy to be done
she opened the oven door and pulled out the pan.
Out jumped the little Gingerbread Boy on to the floor,
and away he ran, out of the door and down the street!
The little old woman and the little old man ran after him as
fast as they could, but he just laughed, and shouted,--

"Run! run! as fast as you can!
"You can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Man!"
And they couldn't catch him.

The little Gingerbread Boy ran on and on, until he came to a cow, by the roadside. "Stop, little Gingerbread Boy," said the cow;
"I want to eat you." The little Gingerbread Boy laughed, and said,--

"I have run away from a little old woman,
"And a little old man,
"And I can run away from you, I can!"

And, as the cow chased him, he looked over his shoulder and cried,--

"Run! run! as fast as you can!
"You can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Man!"
And the cow couldn't catch him.

The little Gingerbread Boy ran on, and on, and on,
till he came to a horse, in the pasture. "Please stop, little Gingerbread Boy," said the horse, "you look very good to
eat." But the little Gingerbread Boy laughed out loud.
"Oho! oho!" he said,--

"I have run away from a little old woman,
"A little old man,
"A cow,
"And I can run away from you, I can!"

And, as the horse chased him, he looked over his shoulder and cried,--

"Run! run! as fast as you can!
"You can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Man!"
And the horse couldn't catch him.

By and by the little Gingerbread Boy came to a barn full of threshers. When the threshers smelled the Gingerbread Boy,
they tried to pick him up, and said, "Don't run so fast, little Gingerbread Boy; you look very good to eat." But the little Gingerbread Boy ran harder than ever, and as he ran he cried out,-

"I have run away from a little old woman,
"A little old man,
"A cow,
"A horse,
"And I can run away from you, I can!"

And when he found that he was ahead of the threshers,
he turned and shouted back to them,--

"Run! run! as fast as you can!
"You can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Man!"
And the threshers couldn't catch him.

Then the little Gingerbread Boy ran faster than ever.
He ran and ran until he came to a field full of mowers.
When the mowers saw how fine he looked, they ran after him, calling out, "Wait a bit! wait a bit, little Gingerbread Boy,
we wish to eat you!" But the little Gingerbread Boy
laughed harder than ever, and ran like the wind.
"Oho! oho!" he said,--

"I have run away from a little old woman,
"A little old man,
"A cow, A horse, A barn full of threshers,
"And I can run away from you, I can!"

And when he found that he was ahead of the mowers,
he turned and shouted back to them,--

"Run! run! as fast as you can!
"You can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Man!"
And the mowers couldn't catch him.

By this time the little Gingerbread Boy was so proud
that he didn't think anybody could catch him.
Pretty soon he saw a fox coming across a field.
The fox looked at him and began to run. But the little
Gingerbread Boy shouted across to him, "You can't catch me!"
The fox began to run faster, and the little Gingerbread Boy
ran faster, and as he ran he chuckled,--

"I have run away from a little old woman,
"A little old man, A cow, A horse,
A barn full of threshers, A field full of mowers,
And I can run away from you, I can!
"Run! run! as fast as you can!
"You can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Man!"

"Why," said the fox, "I would not catch you if I could.
I would not think of disturbing you."


Just then, the little Gingerbread Boy came to a river.
He could not swim across, and he wanted to keep running
away from the cow and the horse and the people.

"Jump on my tail, and I will take you across," said the fox.

So the little Gingerbread Boy jumped on the fox's tail,
and the fox swam into the river. When he was a little
way from shore he turned his head, and said,
"You are too heavy on my tail, little Gingerbread Boy,
I fear I shall let you get wet; jump on my back."

The little Gingerbread Boy jumped on his back.

A little farther out, the fox said, "I am afraid the water
will cover you, there; jump on my shoulder."

The little Gingerbread Boy jumped on his shoulder.

In the middle of the stream the fox said, "Oh, dear! little Gingerbread Boy, my shoulder is sinking; jump on my nose,
and I can hold you out of water."

So the little Gingerbread Boy jumped on his nose.

The minute the fox got on shore he threw back his head,
and gave a snap!

"Dear me!" said the little Gingerbread Boy, "I am a quarter gone!" The next minute he said, "Why, I am half gone!"
The next minute he said, "My goodness gracious,
I am three quarters gone!"

And after that, the little Gingerbread Boy never said anything more at all.

from Stories to Tell to Children
by Sara Cone Bryant