The table, the ass and the stick is a fairy tale in which is described how we have to develop three skills to use our creative powers in a practical way. The skill to wish, the skill to give and the skill to refuse.
Once upon a time there were three brothers. They lived with their father, a poor tailor, on the edge of the village. The father didn’t earn much and therefore their old goat was very important to them, as it had to furnish them with milk to feed them. Some day the meadow was bare and there wasn’t any hay left, so the father said to his oldest son: ‘Boy, you take the goat onto the mountain. There you will find enough grass to feet our little goat.’ The boy took the goat and went on his way. He searched for the best meadow with the finest grass and the goat grazed until it couldn’t eat anymore.
When evening fell, the boy asked the goat if it was satisfied, and the goat answered: ‘more than satisfied’. The boy went home, led the goat to the stable and told his father he had done as he was told. The father went to the stable to milk the goat and asked whether it was satisfied. ‘Of course not’, the goat replied, ‘the boy just hung around at the inn and I had to see to myself to get some blades of grass to fill my stomach.’ Infuriated the father entered the house again, called the boy a sluggard and a parasite and hunted him out of the house.
The following day the second son had to take the goat onto the mountain. The boy thought to himself: ‘I will do better than my brother’ and picked out the best meadow abloom with juicy flowers. The goat ate and ate until it’s stomach was full. At the end of the day the boy asked if it had had enough. ‘More than enough,’ said the goat, but in the evening, when the father asked if it had had enough to eat,
the goat answered: ‘Of course not, the boy has been talking to his friends all day and I had to look after myself to find a blade of grass somewhere. The father became furious and hunted his son out of the house, too.
The third day it was the youngest son’s turn. He had seen what had happened twice now and, because he loved his brothers dearly, and therefore couldn’t believe they had failed in their duties, he feared the same harsh fate. His attempts to defend his brothers were of no avail, his father wouldn’t listen to reason, so he took the goat onto the mountain. The only thing he could do was to try as hard as he could. He provided the goat with delicious grass and asked if it was satisfied. He got the same answer, that he had taken good care of the goat, but he too was hunted out of the house by his raging father. Well, these boys weren’t wimps, like the old goat had said. They didn’t complain nor tried to have the last word. They accepted their fate and went into the world.
One of the brothers went apprentice to a joiner and when he had served his time, the joiner presented him with a small table. The table looked like any other ordinary table, but this really was an extraordinary table. If one said: ‘Table cover yourself’, the table was at once covered with the finest dishes, anything one might wish for, and everything was filled up again until everybody was satisfied. The boy was very happy with his present and, confidently, returned to his father’s house. He arrived at an inn and asked for accomodation. ‘Of course’, the innkeeper replied, ‘but I can’t supply you with food for I have too many guests.’ The boy then answered: ‘That’s no problem, I have my own food. I have enough for all your guests and also for you and your wife.’ One of the brothers went apprentice to a joiner and when he had served his time, the joiner presented him with a small table. The table looked like any other ordinary table, but this really was an extraordinary table.
If one said: ‘Table cover yourself’, the table was at once covered with the finest dishes, anything one might wish for, and everything was filled up again until everybody was satisfied. The boy was very happy with his present and, confidently, returned to his father’s house. He arrived at an inn and asked for accomodation. ‘Of course’, the innkeeper replied, ‘but I can’t supply you with food for I have too many guests.’ The boy then answered: ‘That’s no problem, I have my own food. I have enough for all your guests and also for you and your wife.’
The boy put the table on the ground and said: ‘Table, cover yourself’, and at once the table was filled with everything they wanted. Until everybody was satisfied. This wasn’t very smart of the boy, for who wouldn’t want to have such a table, especially the innkeeper. ‘That’s very convenient’, the innkeeper thought, ‘with this table I can supply all my guests with food without any cost!’ The innkeeper happened to have a table on the attic like the one of the boy. That night he sneaked into the boy’s room and changed the tables.
The next day the boy arrived at his father’s house. ‘Father’, he said, ‘invite everybody, family, friends and neighbours. I have something very special to show.’ The father invited everybody and the boy put the table in the middle of the room and said: ‘Table, cover yourself!’ But nothing happened. An icy silence fell and the boy desperately repeated: ‘Table, cover yourself!’ But still nothing happened. Family, friends and neighbours, they all went home grumbling and the father was angry with the boy for fooling him. The second son went apprentice to a willer and when his apprenticeship had finished, the willer gave him an ass. The animal looked somewhat shabby but the willer told him: ‘Take this cloth also. When you put the ass on this cloth and say ‘Bricklebrit’, it will spit out gold pieces, as many as you want.’
The second son was delighted and went home to show his father what he had obtained. The second son arrived at the same inn as his brother. When the innkeeper asked him if he would be able to pay, the boy answered: ‘Oh sure, just wait a minute.’ He went into the stable where the ass was stabled. The innkeeper became curious and followed the boy. Looking through the window he saw the boy putting the ass on a cloth and saying to it: ‘Bricklebrit.’ Before the eyes of the baffled innkeeper, the ass spit out gold pieces. The boy filled a purse with gold and took it to the innkeeper. ‘’I'm sure this will be enough,’ he said triumphantly. ‘Dear me,’ the innkeeper thought, ‘I must have that ass.’ I have an ass here which looks alike. And, when the boy was asleep, the innkeeper changed the two asses. The boy went home. ‘Father,’ he said, ‘invite the family, friends and neighbours.’ The father, somewhat afraid of another failure, hesitated, but the son was so sure of himself, that the father invited his family, friends and the neighbours. But alas, again nothing happened.
The third son went apprentice to a turner. His apprenticeship took longer. But when his time had finished, he got a sack from the turner and a stick within it. The turner told him: ‘When you say: ‘stick, out of the sack!’, the stick will spring out and beat on the back of your enemy.’ The boy thanked the turner and went on his way home. His brothers, in the meantime, had send him word of what had happened to them at the inn and so the third brother went to the inn. ‘What do you have in that sack?’, the innkeeper asked, greedy.
‘Oh, nothing special’, the boy replied in a flat voice. But he made sure that the innkeeper would think there was something very special in the sack. And when the boy had gone up to bed, pretending to be asleep, the innkeeper sneaked into his room and tried to change the sack with one which resembled it. The boy jumped from the bed: ‘Stick, out of the sack!’, he shouted and the stick kept beating on the back of the innkeeper, until he promised to give back the table and the ass. With these things the third brother went on his way home to his father. The three brothers were united again. All the gifts were back and the father invited all his family, friends and neighbours. Then they held a long and exuberant party.
And what happened to the goat?
As the father realized how foolish he had been for believing the goat, he ran into the stable, shaved the goat bold and send her away.
The goat was so embarrassed being bold, she flew into a cave and nobody and nothing could chase her out.
Then a little bee flew into the cave and stung her. The goat ran out of the cave and kept running around the world up until now.