The Magpie who wanted his tail back

An old woman had milked her cow, set her milk-pail down on the ground, and gone to find some twigs and litter with which to light a fire and boil the milk. A magpie came along and dipped his bill into the milk-pail to get a drink of milk. The milk-pail was upset
‘and the milk was spilled upon the ground. Just then the old woman returns, and seizes the magpie by the tail. The magpie tries to fly, and his tail is left in the old woman’s hand. The magpie goes and flies up on to the wall, looks down at the old woman, and caws and begs, saying,” Old woman, old woman, give me my tail. Let me take it and fasten it on, and go and join my companions.” The old woman says,” Go, and bring me my milk.”



Then the magpie goes near the cow, and begs and says, ” Cow, cow, give me some milk ! I will take it to the old woman. The old woman will give me my tail. I will take it and fasten it on, and go and join my companions.”
And the cow says,” Go, bring me some grass.” The magpie goes to the field near by, and begs and says,”Field, field, give me some grass ! I will take it to the cow. The cow will give me some milk. I will take that to the old woman. The old woman will give me my tail. I will take it and fasten it on, and go and join my companions.

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And the field says,” Go, bring me some water.” Then the magpie goes to a water-carrier,and begs and says,” Water-carrier, water-carrier, give me some water ! I will take it to the field. The field will give me some grass. I will take it to the cow. The cow will give me some milk. I will take that to the old woman. The old woman will give me my tail. I will take it and fasten it on, and go and join my companions.”

And the water-carrier says,” Go, bring me an egg.” So the magpie goes to the hen, and begs and says,” Hen, hen, give me an egg! I will take it to the water-carrier. The water-carrier will give me some water. I will take it to the field. The field will give me some grass. I will take it to the cow. The cow will give me some milk. I will take that to the old woman. The old woman will give me my tail. I will take it and fasten it on, and go and join my companions.”



The hen’s heart is moved with pity for the magpie. She sits down and lays two eggs. The magpie takes them to the water-carrier. The water-carrier gives him some water. He takes it to the field. The field gives him some grass. He takes it to the cow. The cow gives him some milk. He takes it to the old woman. The old woman gives him his tail. He takes it and fastens it on, and flies away and joins his companions.

Folklore Society (Great Britain). ‘Folklore.’ London, Folk-lore Society.


Updated: May 21, 2013 — 11:11 pm

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