Multilingual Folk Tale Database


Author: Jean de La Fontaine - 1668

Translated into English
  by Frederick Colin Tilney - 1913

Original title (French):
Le Savetier et le Financier

Country of origin: France


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The Cobbler and the Financier

Jean de La Fontaine / Frederick Colin Tilney

There was once a cobbler who was so light hearted that he sang
from morning to night. It was wonderful to watch him at his work, and
more wonderful still to hear his runs and trills. He was in fact happier
than the Seven Sages.

This merry soul had a neighbour who was exactly the reverse. He sang
little and slept less; for he was a financier, and made of money, as
they say. Whenever it happened that after a sleepless night he would
doze off in the early morning, the cobbler, who was always up betimes,
would wake him up again with his joyful songs. "Ha!" thought the man of
wealth, "what a misfortune it is that one cannot buy sleep in the open
market as one buys food and drink!" Then an idea came to him. He
invited the cobbler to his house, where he asked him some questions.

"Tell me, Master Gregory, what do you suppose your earnings amount to in
a year?"

"In a year," laughed the cobbler, "that's more than I know. I never keep
accounts that way, nor even keep one day from another. So long as I can
make both ends meet, that's good enough for me!"

"Really!" replied the financier. "But what can you earn in one day?"

"Oh, sometimes more and sometimes less. The mischief of it is that there
are so many fête days and high-days and fast-days crowded into the year,
on which, as the priest tells us, it is wicked to work at all; and worse
still he keeps on finding some new saint or other to give weight to his
sermons. If it were not for that, cobbling would be a fine paying game."

At this the wealthy man laughed. "Look here, my friend, to-day I'll lift
you to the seats of the mighty! Here is a hundred pounds. Guard them and
use them with care."

When the cobbler held the bag of money in his hand he imagined that it
must be as much as would be coined in a hundred years.

Returning home he buried the cash in his cellar. Alas! he buried his joy
with it, for there were no more songs. From the moment he came into
possession of this wealth, the love of which is the root of all evil,
his voice left him, and not only his voice, but his sleep also. And in
place of these came anxiety, suspicion, and alarms; guests which abode
with him constantly. All day he kept his eye on the cellar door. Did a
cat make a noise in the night, then for a certainty that cat was after
his money.

At last, in despair, the wretched cobbler ran to the financier whom he
now no longer kept awake. "Oh, give me back my joy in life, my songs, my
sleep; and take your hundred pounds again."