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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Jacob (1785–1863) and Wilhelm (1786–1859) Grimm

Widow Fox’s Suitors

From “Household Tales”

ONCE upon a time there lived an old fox, who, strange to say, had nine tails, which did not, however, make him either wiser or better. He had a snug home near a wood, yet he was not happy, for he was jealous of his wife, and thought she was not true to him. At last he could bear it no longer, and he determined to find out by a cunning stratagem; and foxes, as we know, are very cunning.

So one day he lay down on a bench, stretched himself out at full length, held his breath, and kept as motionless as a dead mouse. When Mrs. Fox came into the room she thought he was dead, so she locked herself in a room with her maid, a young cat, and was very unhappy for a little while. But presently Mrs. Fox began to feel hungry, so she sent her young maid, pussy, down-stairs to cook something nice for supper.

The news of poor old fox’s death soon spread in the neighborhood, and even before the funeral several lovers came to sue for the hand of Widow Fox.

The young cat was busy frying sausages when she heard a knock at the door, so she went out to see who it could be, and there stood a young fox.

“Oh, it is you, Miss Kitty?” he said. “Are you asleep, or awake, and what are you doing?”

“Oh,” she replied, “I’m wide awake, never fear; and do you want to know what I’m doing? Well, I’m getting supper ready, and warming some beer with a piece of butter in it for my mistress. Will you come in, sir, and have supper with me?”

“Thank you, my dear,” said the fox; “but what is Widow Fox doing?”

“Oh,” replied the cat, “she does nothing but sit in her room all day and cry her eyes out, because Mr. Fox is dead.”

“Then go and tell her that a young fox is here, who wishes to become her suitor.”

“Very good, young sir,” said the cat, as she turned away to go to her mistress.

She tripped up-stairs, and, opening the room door, exclaimed, “Are you there, dear Mother Fox?”

“Yes, little puss; what is the matter?”

“There is a suitor come already.”

“Nonsense, child! What is he like?”

“Oh, he is a handsome young fox, with a bushy tail, and such whiskers!”

“Ah!” sighed the widow. “But has he nine beautiful tails, like my poor old husband had?”

“No,” answered the cat; “he has only one.”

“Then I won’t have him!” replied the widow.

The young cat went down and gave the message to the suitor, and sent him away. But soon after there came another knock at the door, and when the cat opened it there stood a fox who wished to court Widow Fox. He had two tails, but had no better success than the first.

And so they kept coming, one after the other, each with one tail more, till at last a fox made his appearance who had nine tails, like the widow’s dead husband. The cat ran upstairs to tell the widow, who asked, “Has the gentleman white stockings and a pointed nose?”

“No,” answered the cat.

“Ah, then he won’t do for me,” she said.

By and by came a wolf, a dog, a stag, a bear, and even a lion; but she would have nothing to do with any of them. By this time the old fox began to think that he had made a mistake about his wife; and, indeed, he was getting so hungry that he could hardly lie still and sham being dead any longer. He opened his eyes, and was just going to spring up and say, “Dear old wife, I’m not dead at all!” when in came the cat.

“Oh, Madam Fox!” she exclaimed, “there’s a young gentleman fox down-stairs, and he’s so handsome! He has nine tails, a scarlet tongue, white stockings, and a pointed nose, and he wants to become a suitor.”

“That is just the husband for me, pussy,” said Widow Fox; “and we’ll have such a splendid wedding! But first, open all the doors and windows, and throw the old fox out and bury him.”

At these words the old fox could stand it no longer. Up he started from his place under the bench, gave the whole party a good thrashing, turned the young cat and all the other servants and suitors out of the house, and Widow Fox after them. So he had the place all to himself, and made a firm resolve never to die again, if he could help it.