There was once a mother goat who had five little kids, and these kids were so dear to her that nothing could have been dearer.
One day the mother goat was going to the forest to gather some wood for her fire. “Now, my little kids,” said she, “you must be very careful while I am away. Bar the door behind me, and open it to nobody until I return. If the wicked wolf should get in he would certainly eat you.”
The little kids promised they would be careful, and then their mother started out, and as soon as she had gone they barred the door behind her.
Now it so happened the old wolf was on the watch that day. He saw the mother goat trotting away toward the forest, and as soon as she was out of sight, he crept down to the house and knocked at the door — rap-tap-tap!
“Who is there?” called the little kids within.
“It is I, your mother, my dears,” answered the wolf in his great rough voice. “Open the door and let me in.”
But the kids were very clever little kids. “No, no,” they cried. “You are not our mother. Our mother has a soft, sweet voice, and your voice is harsh and rough. You must be the wolf.”
When the wolf heard this he was very angry. He battered and battered at the door, but they would not let him in. Then he turned and galloped away as fast as he could until he came to a dairy. There he stuck his head in at the window, and the woman had just finished churning her butter.
“Woman, woman,” cried the wolf, “give me some butter. If you do not I will come in and upset your churn.”
The woman was frightened. At once she gave him a great deal of butter — all he could eat.
The wolf swallowed it down, and then he ran back to the goat’s house and knocked at the door — rat-tat-tat!
“Who is there?” asked the little goats within.
“Your mother, my dears,” answered the wolf, and now his voice was very soft and smooth because of the butter he had swallowed.
“It is our mother,” cried the little kids, and they were about to open the door, but the littlest kid of all, who was a very wise little kid, stopped them.
“Wait a bit,” said he. “It sounds like our mother’s voice, but before we open the door we had better be very, very sure it is not the wolf.” Then he called through the door, “Put your paws up on the windowsill.”
The wolf suspected nothing. He put his paws up on the windowsill, and as soon as the little kids saw them they knew at once that it was not their mother. “No, no,” they cried, “you are not our mother. Our mother has pretty white feet, and your feet are as black as soot. You must be the wolf.”
When the wolf heard this he was angrier than ever. He turned and galloped away again, and as he galloped he growled to himself and gnashed his teeth.
Presently he came to a baker’s shop, and there he stuck his head in at the window.
“Baker, baker, give me some dough,” he cried. “If you do not I will upset your pans and spoil your baking.”
The baker was frightened. At once he gave the wolf all the dough he wanted. The wolf seized it and ran away with it. He ran until he came to the goat’s house. There he sat down and covered his black feet all over with the white dough. Then he knocked at the door — rat-tat-tat!
“Who is there?” cried the little goats within.
“Your mother, my dears, come home again,” answered the wolf, in his smooth buttery voice.
“Put your paws up on the windowsill.”
The wolf put his paws up on the windowsill, and they looked quite white because of the dough. Then the little kids felt sure it was their mother, and they gladly opened the door.
“Woof!” In bounded the wicked wolf.
The little goats cried out and away they ran, some in one direction, and some in another. They hid themselves one behind the door, and one in the dough-trough, and one in the wash-tub, and one under the bed, and one (and he was the littlest one of all) hid in the tall clock-case. The wolf stood there glaring about him, and not as much as a tail of one of them could he see.
Then he began to hunt about for them, but he had to be in a hurry, because he was afraid the mother goat would come home again.
He found the kid behind the door, and he was in such a hurry he swallowed it whole without hurting it in the least. He found the one in the wash-tub, and he swallowed it whole, too. He found the one in the dough-trough, and it, too, he swallowed whole. He found the one under the bed and he swallowed it whole. The only one he did not find was the one in the clock-case, and he never thought of looking there. He hunted around and hunted around, and he was afraid to stay any longer for fear their mother would come home.
But now the old wolf felt very heavy and sleepy. He looked around for a place to go in order to lie down and rest.
Not far away were some rocks and trees that made a pleasant shadow. Here the wolf stretched himself out, and presently he was snoring so loudly that the leaves of the trees shook overhead.
Soon after this the mother goat came home. As soon as she saw the door of the house standing open, she knew at once that some misfortune had happened. She went in and looked about her. The furniture was all upset and scattered about the room. “Alas, alas! My dear little kids!” cried the mother. “The wicked wolf has certainly been here and eaten them all.”
“He didn’t eat me,” said a little voice in the clock-case.
The mother goat opened the door of the clock-case and the littlest kid of all hopped out.
“But why were you in the clock-case? And what has happened?” asked the mother.
Then the little kid told her all about how the wolf had come there with his buttery voice and his whitened paws, and how they had let him in, and how he had swallowed all four of the other little kids, so that he alone was left.
After the mother goat had heard the story she went to the door and looked about. Then she heard the old wolf snoring where he lay asleep under the nut-trees in the shade of the rocks.
“That must be the old wolf snoring,” said the mother goat, “and he cannot be far away. Do not make a noise, my little kid, but come with me.”
The mother goat stole over to the heap of rocks, and the little kid followed her on tiptoes. She peeped and peered, and there lay the old wolf so fast asleep that nothing less than an earthquake would have wakened him.
“Now, my little kid,” whispered the mother, “run straight home again as fast as you can, and fetch me my shears and a needle and some stout thread.”
This the little kid did, and he ran so softly over the grass that not even a mouse could have heard him.
As soon as he returned the mother goat crept up to the old wolf, and with the sharp shears she slit his hide up just as though it had been a sack. Out popped one little kid, and out popped another little kid, and another, and another, and there they all were, just as safe and sound as though they had never been swallowed. And all this while the old wolf never stirred nor stopped snoring.
“And now, my little kids,” whispered the mother, “do you each one of you bring me a big round stone, but be very quick and quiet, for your lives depend upon it.”
So the little kids ran away, and hunted around, and each fetched her back a big round stone, and they were very quick and quiet about it, just as their mother had bade them be.
The old goat put the stones inside the wolf, where the little kids had been, and then she drew the hide together and sewed it up, using the stout, strong thread. After that she and the little kids hid themselves behind the rocks, and watched and waited.
Presently the old wolf yawned and opened his eyes. Then he got up and shook himself, and when he did so the stones inside him rattled together so that the goat and the little kids could hear them, where they hid behind the rocks.
“Oh, dear! Oh, dear me!” groaned the wolf;
“What rattles, what rattles against my poor bones?
Not little goats, I fear, but only big stones.”
Now what with the stones inside of him and the hot sun overhead the wolf grew very thirsty. Near by was a deep well, with water almost up to the brink of it. The old wolf went to drink. He leaned over, and all the stones rolled up to his head and upset him. Plump! he went down into the water, and the stones carried him straight to the bottom. He could not swim at all, and so he was drowned.
But all the little kids ran out from behind the rocks and began to dance around the well.
“The old wolf is dead, A-hey! A-hey!
The old wolf is dead, A-hey!”
they sang, and the mother goat came and danced with them, they were all so delighted.