Belarusian Folk Tales

Wit Wins, not Strength

A man went to the forest to make firewood. Having cut much wood, he sat down on a stump to rest a little.

A bear came up to him:

"Hey, Man! Let's wrestle!"

The man glanced at the bear: so huge one! And he thought, "It is impossible to wrestle with him. He will squeeze me between his paws - and the end".

"Oh", the man said, "Why should I wrestle with you! First let's see whether you have any strength".

"And how can we see that?" the bear asked.

The man took his axe, made a cleft through the top of the stump, thrust a wedge into the cleft and said:

"If you split this stump in half with your paw, it will be a sign of your strength. Then we shall wrestle with each other".

And the bear quickly stuck his paw into the cleft. At this moment the man banged the stump with the butt of his axe and the wedge sprang out.

So the stump squeezed the bear's paw like pincers.

The bear roared, danced on his three paws, but couldn't free himself from the cleft.

"Well then", the man said, "will you wrestle with me now?"

"No!" the bear roared, "I won't!"

"Well," the man said, "strength is good, but wit is better".

He thrust the wedge back into the cleft, the bear pulled out his paw and ran away. Ever since then he has been afraid of meeting a man.


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