The Three Sillies

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This is an Anglish wending of the folk tale, The Three Sillies (or, The Three Noodles), first written by Charlotte S. Burne for Folk-Lore (vol. ii. p. 40.), and later gathered together in English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs, and English Fairy and Other Folk Tales by Edwin Sidney Hartland.

This reading is made of words only of Old English and otherwise unknown springs. Went by Wordwork.

The Writ

Once upon a time there was a tiller and his wife who had one daughter, and she was wooed by a goodman. Every evening he would come and see her, and stop to eat at the homestead, and the daughter would be sent down into the clove to draw the beer for evening meal. So, one evening she had gone down to draw the beer, and she befell to look up at the rafters while she was drawing, and she saw a hammer stuck in one of the beams. It must have been there a long, long time, but somehow or other she had never marked it before, and she began a-thinking. And she thought it was sore threatening to have that hammer there, for she said to herself: 'Fathom him and me was to be wed, and we was to have a son, and he was to grow up to be a man, and come down into the clove to draw the beer, like as I'm doing now, and the hammer was to fall on his head and kill him, what a dreadful thing it would be!' And she put down the candle and the jug, and sat herself down and began a-weeping.

Well, the lot began to wonder overhead how it was that she was so long drawing the beer, and her mother went down to see after her, and she found her sitting on the settle weeping, and the beer running over the floor. 'Why, whatever is the worry?' said her mother. 'Oh, mother!' says she, 'look at that frightful hammer! Fathom we was to be wed, and was to have a son, and he was to grow up, and was to come down to the clove to draw the beer, and the hammer was to fall on his head and kill him, what a dreadful thing it would be!' 'Dear, dear! what a dreadful thing it would be!' said the mother, and she sat down aside of the daughter and started a-weeping too. Then after a bit the father began to wonder that the two didn't come back, and he went down into the clove to look after them himself, and there the two sat a-weeping, and the beer running all over the floor. 'Whatever is the worry?' says he. 'Why,' says the mother, 'look at that frightful hammer. Only fathom, if our daughter and her sweetheart was to be wed, and was to have a son, and he was to grow up, and was to come down into the clove to draw the beer, and the hammer was to fall on his head and kill him, what a dreadful thing it would be!' 'Dear, dear, dear! So it would!' said the father, and he sat himself down aside of the other two, and started a-weeping.

A drawing of the three sillies, drawn by Donn P. Crane for the tale The Three Sillies, as written by Charlotte S. Burne, aped by Joseph Jacobs, and put in the book, The Treasure Chest of My Bookhouse, gathered by Olive Beaupré Miller.

Now the goodman became tired of stopping up in the kitchen by himself, and at last he went down into the clove, too, to see what the lot were after; and there the three sat a-weeping side by side, and the beer running all over the floor. And he ran straight and twisted the tap. Then he said: 'Whatever are you three doing, sitting there weeping, and letting the beer run all over the floor?' 'Oh!' says the father, 'look at that frightful hammer! Fathom you and our daughter was to be wed, and was to have a son, and he was to grow up, and was to come down into the clove to draw the beer, and the hammer was to fall on his head and kill him!' And then the three all started a-weeping worse than before. But the goodman burst out a-laughing, and reached up and pulled out the hammer, and then he said: 'I've gone many miles, and I never met three such great sillies as you three before; and now I shall start out on my way once more, and when I can find three greater sillies than you three, then I'll come back and wed your daughter.' So he wished them goodbye, and started off on his way, and left them all weeping for the girl had lost her sweetheart.

A drawing of the silly woman and her cow, drawn by John D. Batten for the book English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs.

Well, he set out, and he fared a long way, and at last he came to a woman's cot that had some grass growing on the roof. And the woman was fanding to have her cow to go up a ladder to the grass, and the sad thing durst not go. So the goodman asked the woman what she was doing. 'Why, lookye,' she said, 'look at all that lovely grass. I'm going to have the cow on to the roof to eat it. She'll be rather sound, for I shall tie a string 'bout her neck, and feed it down the smokestack, and tie it to my wrist as I go about the house, so she can't fall off without my knowing it.'
'Oh, you sad silly!' said the goodman, 'you should cut the grass and throw it down to the cow!' But the woman thought it was lighter to have the cow up the ladder than to have the grass down, so she shoved her and wheedled her and had her up, and tied a string about her neck, and fed it down the smokestack, and fastened it to her own wrist. And the goodman went on his way, but he hadn't gone far when the cow tumbled off the roof, and hung by the string tied about her neck, and it strangled her. And the weight of the cow tied to her wrist pulled the woman up the smokestack, and she stuck fast half-way and was smothered in the soot.

Well, that was one great silly.

And the goodman went on and on, and he went to an inn to stop the night, and it was so full at the inn that the innkeepers had to put him in a twin-bedded room, and another wayfarer was to sleep in the other bed. The other man was a full friendly fellow, and the two became much friendly together; but in the morning, when the two were both waking up, the goodman was shocked to see the other hang his breeches on the knobs of the chest of drawers and run over the room and fand to jump into them, and he sought over and over and couldn't handle it; and the goodman wondered whatever he was doing it for. At last he stopped and wiped his looker with his handcloth. 'Oh dear,' he says, 'I do think breeches are the most unwieldy kind of clothes that ever were. I can't think who could have thought-up such things. It takes me the best part of a stound to have into mine every morning, and I become so hot! How do you handle yours?' So the goodman burst out a-laughing, and showed him how to put them on; and he was so thankful to him, and said he never should have thought of doing it that way.

So that was another great silly.

Then the goodman went on his way once more; and he came to a thorp, and outside the thorp there was a pond, and about the pond was a crowd of folk. And the lot had rakes, and brooms, and pitchforks reaching into the pond; and the goodman asked what was the worry.

'Why,' say the men, 'worry enough! Moon's tumbled into the pond, and we can't rake her out anyhow!' So the goodman burst out a-laughing, and told them to look up into the heavens, and that it was only the shadow in the water. But the men wouldn't listen to him, and hexed him shamefully, and he had away as quick as he could.

So there was a whole lot of sillies greater than those three sillies at home. So the goodman went back home and wed the tiller's daughter, and if the lot didn't live blithe for ever after, that's nothing to do with you or me.