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The Small-Tooth Dog

March 5, 2011 in World Stories

Once upon a time there was a merchant who traveled about the world a great deal. On one of his journeys thieves attacked him, and they would have taken both his life and his money if a large dog had not come to his rescue and driven the thieves away.

When the dog had driven the thieves away he took the merchant to his house, which was a very handsome one, and dressed his wounds and nursed him till he was well.

As soon as he was able to travel the merchant began his journey home, but before starting he told the dog how grateful he was for his kindness, and asked him what reward he could offer in return, and he said he would not refuse to give the most precious thing he had.

And so the merchant said to the dog, “Will you accept a fish I have that can speak twelve languages?”

“No,” said the dog, “I will not.”

“Or a goose that lays golden eggs?”

“No,” said the dog, “I will not.”

“Or a mirror in which you can see what anybody is thinking about?”

“No,” said the dog, “I will not.”

“Then what will you have?” said the merchant.

“I will have none of such presents,” said the dog; “but let me fetch your daughter, and bring her to my house.”

When the merchant heard this he was grieved, but what he had promised had to be done, so he said to the dog, “You can come and fetch my daughter after I have been home for a week.”

So at the end of the week, the dog came to the merchant’s house to fetch his daughter, but when he got there he stayed outside the door, and would not go in.

But the merchant’s daughter did as her father told her, and came out of the house dressed for a journey and ready to go with the dog.

When the dog saw her he looked pleased, and said, “Jump on my back, and I will take you away to my house.”

So she mounted on the dog’s back, and away they went at a great pace, until they reached the dog’s house, which was many miles off.

But after she had been a month at the dog’s house she began to mope and cry.

“What are you crying for?” said the dog.

“Because I want to go back to my father,” she said.

The dog said, “If you will promise me that you will not stay there more than three days I will take you there. But first of all,” said he, “what do you call me?”

“A great, foul, small-tooth dog,” said she.

“Then,” said he, “I will not let you go.”

But she cried so pitifully that he promised again to take her home.

“But before we start,” he said, “tell me what you call me.”

“Oh,” she said, “your name is Sweet-as-a-Honeycomb.”

“Jump on my back,” said he, “and I’ll take you home.”

So he trotted away with her on his back for forty miles, when they came to a stile.

“And what do you call me?” said he, before they got over the stile.

Thinking she was safe on her way, the girl said, “A great, foul, small-tooth dog.”

But when she said this, he did not jump over the stile, but turned right round again at once, and galloped back to his own house with the girl on his back.

Another week went by, and again the girl wept so bitterly that the dog promised to take her to her father’s house.

So the girl got on the dog’s back again, and they reached the first stile, as before, and the dog stopped and said, “And what do you call me?”

“Sweet-as-a-Honeycomb,” she replied.

So the dog leaped over the stile, and they went on for twenty miles until they came to another stile.

“And what do you call me?” said the dog with a wag of his tail.

She was thinking more of her father and her own house than of the dog, so she answered, “A great, foul, small-tooth dog.”

Then the dog was in a great rage, and he turned right round about, and galloped back to his own house as before.

After she had cried for another week, the dog promised again to take her back to her father’s house. So she mounted upon his back once more, and when they got to the first stile, the dog said, “And what do you call me?”

“Sweet-as-a-Honeycomb,” she said.

So the dog jumped over the stile, and away they went — for now the girl made up her mind to say the most loving things she could think of — until they reached her father’s house.

When they got to the door of the merchant’s house, the dog said, “And what do you call me?”

Just at that moment the girl forgot the loving things she meant to say and began, “A great –,” but the dog began to turn, and she got fast hold of the door latch, and was going to say “foul,” when she saw how grieved the dog looked and remembered how good and patient he had been with her, so she said, “Sweeter-than-a-Honeycomb.”

When she had said this she thought the dog would have been content and have galloped away, but instead of that he suddenly stood upon his hind legs, and with his forelegs he pulled off his dog’s head and tossed it high in the air. His hairy coat dropped off, and there stood the handsomest young man in the world, with the finest and smallest teeth you ever saw.

Of course they were married, and lived together happily.

THE END

• Source: Sidney Oldall Addy, Household Tales and Other Traditional Remains (London and Sheffield, 1895), no. 1, pp. 1-4.

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