The rascal looked at the soup, stared, he was thinking hard. He didn't know what to do since he didn't have a spoon.

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The Dog Who Wouldn't Eat His Spoon

(A Hungarian folktale)

Many thanks to good friend Sándor Fenyvesi, an air traffic controller at Budapest Approach, who told me about this folktale--then was was kind enough to translate it for me AND provide illustrations (from Magyar Népmesék). The star of the show, the Dog or Rascal, is translated from Hundcut, a German word that was adopted from the swear word hundsfut during the long rule of the Austrian monarchy and that now has a softer meaning--rascal or imp--than it did originally.

Once upon a time there was a king, King Matias, who had heard about a hundcut (rascally "dog") in his country who could get the best of anyone. The King thought he could outwit him, so he asked him to dinner in the royal castle.

When this rascal arrived at the door of the castle, he was stopped by a guard who asked him where he wanted to go and what he wanted to do there.

"The king invited me to dinner," he said.

"Aha, you're sure to get a rich gift then," the guard said. "I'll let you in if you promise me half of it." And the rascal was forced to agree.

But at the next door he met with another guard. This guard asked for the same favor, and the rascal again promised so that he could get inside.

The long table was already set for dinner. The grand seigniors were sitting around it, and King Matias was sitting at the head of it. The king had arranged with the serving-men that the rascal would not be given a spoon to eat with. Now he offered a seat to his rascally guest, and the feast began.

The first course was a good, rich soup. The king made a toast, implying that only a hundcut would fail to eat such an excellent soup. And everyone began to eat. Finally the king said, "Look, the Dog isn't eating! Then the king and the nobles watched him, amused, to see what the man would do.

The rascal looked at the soup, stared, he was thinking hard. He didn't know what to do since he didn't have a spoon. Then he saw a small loaf of bread beside his plate. He pulled the soft bread out of the middle and used the bread-crust as a spoon. Then he ate his soup to the last drop. When he finished he said: "So now I'm the Dog who doesn't eat his spoon"--in effect, toasting his spoon and implying that those who couldn't eat their spoons were hundcuts.

Then he ate his bread-crust all up.

The king enjoyed the jest so much that he asked the rascal what gift he would like in return for it.

"Oh, just 100 hard whacks on my back."

Everyone was surprised to hear this, but the king suspected something was up, so he ordered the court deathsman to come and administer the blows.

When the deathsman arrived and prepared to horsewhip the man, the man stopped him: "Oh no, stop! this payment is not for me, your majesty, but for the two guards who stand at your palace doors. I promised each half of whatever gift I might receive if only they would let me in.

Thus the two guards were whipped, 50 blows each.

The king was so much amused that he ordered the rascal to be given not one, but two big sacks of gold. And so the poor scoundrel became a rich man. He returned to his village, and he is still alive there today unless he is dead.