The squirrel that wouldn’t learn to sweep
Once upon a time, in a beautiful beech forest, there were eleven little squirrel brothers, all eleven of them living together. They had made their home on an old crow’s nest, at a high enfourchure. They played from morning to night among the sunny branches at hide-and-seek, perched squirrel, jumping squirrel, or danced rounds in the clearing.
And their old grandmother, who was no longer very alert, watched over them from the doorway, always knitting mufflers for them and coughing with a nice clear cough, as a warning, when one of her eleven grandsons started something foolish.
The smallest was called Guerlinguet. He was a little lazy and especially very obstinate, but so funny, so lively and quick, with such a pretty and smart face that one had to love him in spite of everything.
Every evening, as soon as dinner was over, a squirrel would put away the walnut shell dishes and fold the yellowed leaf napkins. And another squirrel would sweep the cabin with his tail. Guerlinguet removed the dishes with reasonable grace, but he didn’t like to sweep. When he couldn’t dodge the chore, he would turn the room three times and flick the moss carpet three times. Not a crumb was even moved, and his older brothers would be forced to redo his chore, which made them very angry.
And his good grandmother would say to him, I know, Guerlinguet, I know why you don’t want to learn to sweep. You’re afraid to spoil your beautiful varnished red tail, like the autumn nannyberry, bushy and long as can be. But it would not spoil it, my boy. When a tail gets dusty, you wash it with the morning dew, running it through the green leaves, wipe it on the thin bark of the beech tree, then strut in the sun to finish drying it. This gives strength to the hair. It grows brighter and thicker. But Guerlinguet shook his head, and didn’t sweep any more.
One day, when he had been left in front of the work, and had gone to build himself a ladder, without even pretending to dust, his elders lost their patience, and his grandmother finally said:
Listen, Guerlinguet, this can’t go on. Since you don’t want to learn to sweep, we’ll kick you out of the house. You will have to eat dinner by heart (see definition); you will sleep under the stars; if you wish to have fun, you will waltz alone with your tail, and maybe, by bad luck, you will be eaten by the wolf.
And the little Guerlinguet, who was very stubborn, answered his grandmother:
– I don’t mind eating dinner by heart, I don’t mind sleeping under the stars, I don’t mind being eaten by the wolf, but I don’t want to learn to sweep.
– Agreed, said the grandmother: you may take your baluchọn and seek lodging wherever you wish.
Guerlinguet took his bundle and walked away without looking...
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