A very simple farmer loses his money as quickly as he gets it. Will he still think he made a good bargain at the end of the story?
The Good Bargain is a Brothers Grimm fairy tale about a simple farmer. He throws money to the frogs and leaves his meat with the dogs. Complaining to the king he almost gets a second wife and five hundred lashes on the back. People try to swindle him, but in the end he is the man of the good bargain.
The simple farmer lets frogs count his money
There was once a simple farmer who had driven his cow to the fair, and sold her for seven dollars (thalers in the orginal tale). On the way home he passed a pond and from far away you could already hear the frogs, “Aik, aik, aik, aik.”
“Well,” said he to himself, “what are they saying? Aik aik aik aik? Eight eight eight eight? Talking without rhyme or reason! I have received seven, not eight dollars.”
He got to the water and shouted, “Stupid animals that you are! Don’t you know better than that? I got seven dollars, not eight.” The frogs, however, continued with their “aik aik, aik, aik.”
“Come, then, if you don’t believe it, I can count it out to you.” And he took his money out of his pocket and counted out the seven dollars. The frogs, however, paid no attention to his reckoning, but still cried, “aik, aik, aik, aik.”
“What,” cried the simple farmer, quite angry, “since you are determined to know better than I, count it yourselves,” and threw all the money into the water to them. He stood still and wanted to wait until they were done and had brought him his own again, but the frogs maintained their opinion and cried continually, “aik, aik, aik, aik.”
Besides that, they also did not throw the money out again. He waited a long while until evening came on and he was forced to go home. Then he got so angry that he scolded them, “You water-splashers, you thick-heads, you goggle-eyes, you have great mouths and can screech till you hurt one’s ears, but you cannot count seven dollars! Do you think I’m going to stand here till you get done?”
And with that he went away, but the frogs still cried, “aik, aik, aik, aik,” after him till he went home quite angry.
The simple farmer makes a deal with a dog
After a while he bought another cow, which he killed. He made the calculation that if he sold the meat well he might gain as much as the two cows were worth, and have the skin into the bargain.
When he got to the town with the meat, a great troop of dogs was gathered together in front of the gate. At the head of them was a large greyhound, which jumped at the meat, snuffed at it, and barked, “Wow, wow, wow.”
As there was no stopping him, the simple farmer said to him, “Yes, yes, I know quite well that you are saying, ‘wow, wow, wow,’ because you want some of the meat. However I should fare badly if I were to give it to you.”
The dog kept going on with his “wow, wow.”
“Will you promise not to devour it all then, and will you vouch for your companions too?”
“Wow, wow, wow,” said the dog.
“Well, since you insist and seem to like this meat so much, I will leave it here for you. But, I know you well and I know your master. I need to have my money in three days or it will end bad for you. You bring the money to me.”
And so he unloaded the meat and turned back again. The dogs fell upon it and loudly barked, “wow, wow.”
The simple farmer, who heard them from afar, said to himself, “It seems all the dogs want a piece. Luckily I know that the big one is responsible to me for it.”
When three days had passed, the simple farmer thought, “Tonight my money will be in my pocket,” and was quite delighted. But no one came to pay.
“You can’t trust anybody these days,” he said. At last he lost his patience and went into the town to the butcher and demanded his money. The butcher thought it was a joke, but the farmer said, “Jesting apart, I will have my money! Did not the great dog bring you the whole of the slaughtered cow three days ago?”
The simple farmer brings his case to the king
Then the butcher grew angry, snatched a broomstick and drove him out. “You just wait,” said the farmer, “there is still some justice in the world!”
He went to the royal palace and begged for an audience. He was led before the King, who sat there with his daughter. The King asked him what injury he had suffered.
“Oh King!” he said, “the frogs and the dogs have taken from me what is mine, and the butcher has paid me for it with his stick.” He related at full length all that had happened.
When he was finished the King’s daughter began to laugh heartily, and the King said to him, “I cannot give you justice in this, but you shall marry my daughter! In her whole life she has never laughed so much as she has just done about you and I have promised her to him who could make her laugh. Thank God for your good fortune!
“Oh,” answered the farmer, “I will not have her. I have a wife and she is already one too many for me. When I go home, two wifes will be an unsolvable problem.”
The King grew angry and said, “You are a uneducated boor.” “Ah, Lord King,” replied the farmer, “what can you expect from an ox, but beef?”
“Stop,” answered the King, “you will get another reward. Be off now, but come back in three days, and then you will get five hundred counted out in full.”
The simple farmer shares his five hundred
When the peasant went out by the gate, the soldier standing guard said, “You made the King’s daughter laugh, that will be worth something, yes?”
“I think so,” answered the farmer; “five hundred are to be counted out to me.”
“Please,” said the soldier, “give me some of it. After all, what do you need all that money for?”
“Because it is you who asks,” said the farmer, “you shall have two hundred; present yourself in three days’ time before the King, and he will pay you.”
A moneylender who was standing by and had heard the conversation, ran after the farmer, held him by the coat, and said, “Oh, dear sir! What a lucky person you are! I will change it for you, I will change it for you into small coins. These big dollars are too unpractical.”
“Moneylender,” said the farmer, “three hundred can you still have; give it to me at once in coin, in three days you will be paid for it by the King.”
The moneylender was delighted with the profit and brought the sum in old coins, three of which were worth two good ones.
Going to the King to collect the five hundred
After three days had passed, according to the King’s command, the farmer went before the King. “Pull his coat off,” said the King, “and he shall have his five hundred.”
“Ah!” said the farmer, “they no longer belong to me. I presented two hundred of them to the soldier, and three hundred the moneylender has changed for me, so by right nothing at all belongs to me.”
In the meantime the soldier and the moneylender entered and claimed what they had gained from the farmer. They received the blows strictly counted out. The soldier bore it patiently and knew already how it tasted, but the moneylender said sorrowfully, “Alas, alas, are these the heavy dollars?”
The King could not help laughing at the farmer, and as all his anger was gone, he said, “Well, it seems you have managed to lose your reward already before you received it. I will give you something in place of it. Go into my treasure chamber and get some money for yourself, as much as you want.”
The farmer did not need to be told twice and stuffed his big pockets full. Afterwards he went to an inn and counted out his money. The moneylender had crept after him and heard how he muttered to himself, “That rogue of a King has cheated me after all, why could he not have given me the money himself, and then I should have known what I had? How can I tell now if what I have had the luck to put in my pockets is right or not?”
“Good heavens!” said the moneylender to himself, “that man is speaking disrespectfully of our lord the King, I will run and inform, and then I shall get a reward and he will be punished.”
When the King heard of the farmer’s words he fell into a rage, and commanded the moneylender to go and bring the offender to him. The moneylender ran to the farmer, “You are to go at once to the lord King in the very clothes you have on.”
“I know what’s right better than that,” answered the simple farmer, “I shall have a new coat made first. Do you think that a man with so much money in his pockets is to go there in his ragged old coat?”
The moneylender saw that the farmer would not stir without another coat. He feared that if the King’s anger cooled, he himself would lose his reward, and the farmer his punishment. So he said, “I will out of pure friendship lend you a coat for the short time. What will people not do for love!”
The farmer was contented with this, put the moneylenders coat on and went off with him.
The moneylender receives more stripes on his back
The King reproached the farmer because of the evil speaking of which the moneylender had informed him. “Ah,” said the farmer, “what this moneylender says is always false and tricky—no true word ever comes out of his mouth! That rascal there is capable of maintaining that I have his coat on.”
“What is that?” shrieked the moneylender. “Is the coat not mine? Have I not lent it you out of pure friendship, in order that you might appear before the lord King?”
When the King heard that, he said, “The moneylender has assuredly deceived one or the other of us, either myself or the farmer,” and again he ordered something to be counted out to him in hard dollars on his back.
The farmer went home in the good coat with the good money in his pocket, and said to himself, “This time I made a good bargain!”
Tips for Telling
- The simple farmer in this story is a character you find in many fairy tales. Because of his stupidity he gets in and out of many funny situations. It works better when you initially tell these situations with a neutral face. And then laugh with your listeners when they find something funny.
- The coins talked about in the original story (thalers) don’t exist anymore. When you adapt this story for your own telling, use your local money. In the same way the sounds of the frogs and dogs are slightly different in each country and language. Use your local frog-and-dog sounds!
- Be aware that when the Brothers Grimm recorded this story 200 years ago, they included antisemitic elements. I rewrote these parts of the fairy tale. Stories like this have been told in various cultures and countries before without the antisemitic elements.
All Questions Answered
It was written down by the Brothers Grimm. It is the 7th story in their book ‘Grimm’s Fairy Tales’.
The Brothers Grimm collected this story and wrote this complete version down in 1819 in their book ‘Grimm’s Fairy Tales’. This story is not in the first edition (1812). It was told long before it was written down.
The version that the Brothers Grimm included in their book of fairy tales is antisemitic. It features a Jew as a typical unsympathetic character. I changed that in the version presented on this website.