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The Three Goats


Three goats went into a grove to eat leaves. The first had one little belly, the second had two little bellies, and the third had three little bellies.

The one with one little belly was soon full and was the first to go home. But a wolf laid himself across the narrow mountain path and said, "Run! Run, or I'll eat you up!"

The goat said, "Don't eat me up. I am very skinny, but a goat will soon come who has two little bellies. He will fill you up." And the wolf let him go.

Then came the second goat, the one with two little bellies, and who was now full. The wolf said to him as well, "Run! Run, or I'll eat you up!"

He said, "Don't eat me up. I am only half meat, but a goat will soon come who has three little bellies, and who will fill you up completely." And the wolf let him go as well.

Then came the third goat, the one with three little bellies. He had finally gotten full.

The wolf said to him, "Run! Run, or I'll eat you up!"

This goat said nothing in return, but instead, brave and forward as he was, lowered his horns and gave the wolf such a blow that he fell from the cliff into the chasm below and broke his right leg. And there the poor rascal lay. He wanted the biggest and fattest mouthfull, but instead got nothing — but pain.

  • Source: Karl Haupt, "Die drei Ziegen," Sagenbuch der Lausitz, v. 2 (Leipzig: Verlag von Wilhelm Engelmann, 1863), no. 320, p. 222.

  • Translated by D. L. Ashliman.

  • The original text does not identify the goats' natural (as opposed to grammatical) gender. I have arbitrarily made them masculine.

  • This fable is from Lusatia (German Lausitz, which historically was centred on the Neisse and upper Spree rivers, and contained a mixed Slavic and German population. The eastern part of Lusatia now belongs to Poland, the western part to Germany.