The Three Wishes – English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs

ONCE upon a time, and be sure ’twas a long time ago, there lived a poor woodman in a great forest, and every day of his life he went out to fell timber.

So one day he started out, and the goodwife filled his wallet and slung his bottle on his back, that he might have meat and drink in the forest. He had marked out a huge old oak, which, thought he, would furnish many and many a good plank. And when he was come to it, he took his axe in his hand and swung it round his head as though he were minded to fell the tree at one stroke. But he hadn’t given one blow, when what should he hear but the pitifullest entreating, and there stood before him a fairy who prayed and beseeched him to spare the tree. He was dazed, as you may fancy, with wonderment and affright, and he couldn’t open his mouth to utter a word. But he found his tongue at last, and, “Well,” said he, “I’ll e’en do as thou wishest.”


“You’ve done better for yourself than you know,” answered the fairy, “and to show I’m not ungrateful, I’ll grant you your next three wishes, be they what they may.” And therewith the fairy was no more to be seen, and the woodman slung his wallet over his shoulder and his bottle at his side, and off he started home.

But the way was long, and the poor man was regularly dazed with the wonderful thing that had befallen him, and when he got home there was nothing in his noddle but the wish to sit down and rest. Maybe, too, ‘t was a trick of the fairy’s. Who can tell? Anyhow down he sat by the blazing fire, and as he sat he waxed hungry, though it was a long way off supper-time yet.

“Hasn’t thou naught for supper, dame?” said he to his wife.

“Nay, not for a couple of hours yet,” said she.

“Ah!” groaned the woodman, “I wish I’d a good link of black pudding here before me.”

No sooner had he said the word, when clatter, clatter, rustle, rustle, what should come down the chimney but a link of the finest black pudding the heart of man could wish for.

If the woodman stared, the goodwife stared three times as much. “What’s all this?” says she.

Then all the morning’s work came back to the woodman, and he told his tale right out, from beginning to end, and as he told it the goodwife glowered and glowered, and when he had made an end of it she burst out, “Thou bee’st but a fool, Jan, thou bee’st but a fool; and I wish the pudding were at thy nose, I do indeed.”

And before you could say Jack Robinson, there the goodman sat and his nose was the longer for a noble link of black pudding.

He gave a pull but it stuck, and she gave a pull but it stuck, and they both pulled till they had nigh pulled the nose off, but it stuck and stuck.

“What’s to be done now?” said he.

“‘T isn’t so very unsightly,” said she, looking hard at him.

Then the woodman saw that if he wished, he must need wish in a hurry; and wish he did, that the black pudding might come off his nose. Well! there it lay in a dish on the table, and if the goodman and goodwife didn’t ride in a golden coach, or dress in silk and satin, why, they had at least as fine a black pudding for their supper as the heart of man could desire.

Source.—Steinberg’s Folk-Lore of Northamptonshire, 1851, but entirely rewritten by Mr. Nutt, who has introduced from other variants one touch at the close—viz., the readiness of the wife to allow her husband to remain disfigured.

Parallels.—Perrault’s Trois Souhaits is the same tale, and Mr. Lang has shown in his edition of Perrault (pp. xlii.-li.) how widely spread is the theme throughout the climes and the ages. I do not, however, understand him to grant that they are all derived from one source—that represented in the Indian Pantschatantra. In my Æsop, i., 140-1, I have pointed out an earlier version in Phædrus where it occurs (as in the prose versions) as the fable of Mercury and the two Women, one of whom wishes to see her babe when it has a beard; the other, that everything she touches which she would find useful in her profession, may follow her. The babe becomes bearded, and the other woman raising her hand to wipe her eyes finds her nose following her hand—dénouement on which the scene closes. M. Bédier, as usual, denies the Indian origin, Les Fabliaux, pp. 177, seq.

Remarks.—I have endeavoured to show, l.c., that the Phædrine form is ultimately to be derived from India, and there can be little doubt that all the other variants, which are only variations on one idea, and that an absurdly incongruous one, were derived from India in the last resort. The case is strongest for drolls of this kind.

Collected and Edited by
Editor of “Folk-Lore”

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