The Goose's Reward
None for you! None for the idiot! Stupid Child! You shall never accomplish anything!
There once was a woodsman who had a wife and three sons. Two sons were big and strong and quick-witted. The third son, however, was thin and weak and slow of speech. His family mocked the third son tirelessly, calling him stupid and jeering at his faults.
One day, when food was scarce, the woodsman sent his first son out to find food. As he searched, he came across a hooded beggar in the woods.
"Alms for the poor?" the beggar pleaded.
The first son, a hard-hearted man, completely ignored the beggar, walking past him without a glance. As he strode by, his head held haughtily high, he slipped and fell into a ditch, twisting his ankle badly. The first son hobbled all the way home, empty-handed and in terrible pain.
The next day, the second son went out in search of food. He, too, came across the very beggar his brother had encountered.
"Alms for the poor?" the beggar implored.
The second son laughed at the beggar and said that it was the beggar's own fault he had nothing to eat. He strode on and found, to his delight, a bush laden with berries. Hungry and eager, he selfishly swallowed some, only to discover they made him violently ill. He stumbled home, retching and ill, empty-handed and shivering.
The next day, the family felt they had no choice but to send their stupid third son out to find food.
"Let him go!" cried the first son. "So he can break his leg in a ditch!"
"Let him go!" snapped the second son. "So he can eat poison berries and choke on his own vomit!"
So the third son set off into the woods, searching for something to eat. Soon enough, though. He too came upon the beggar in the woods.
"Alms for the poor?"
The third son, unlike his brothers, took pity on the man. He searched through his pockets and found only a single coin. Not hesitating, he bent down and humbly gave it to the beggar.
The beggar smiled beneath his hood. "I have been watching your home for some time," he admitted. "Both your brothers passed me by with cold hearts and jeers. You are the only one who took pity on me. For your kindness, you deserve a reward."
"I'm out here looking for food," the third son explained. "If you could show me where to find some, I would be very happy."
"But if I give you food, then your unkind family will take it from you," the beggar replied. "Are you sure this is all you want?"
"Oh yes," said the third son. "If I succeed where my brothers have failed, maybe they will finally like me and learn that I am not stupid."
The beggar gave a sad sigh and pointed over toward a clump of thorn bushes. The third son wandered over and found an enormous goose entangled it thorns. The third son plucked it from the branches, delighted by his luck, and hurried home with his prize in hand. A goose this size would be enough to feed his family for at least two days.
The family was stunned when they saw the sizable goose the third son had brought in. The mother took the goose, snapped its neck, plucked and gutted the beast then and there. She set it on a spit in the fireplace and cooked it for hours, filling the house with the delicious smell of roast goose.
At long last, the goose was set at the table before the ravenous family, but as the third son reached for the delicious meat, his brothers slapped his hand away.
"None for you, stupid!" snapped the first.
"None for you, idiot!" laughed the second.
"But it was I that found the goose and brought it home," the third son protested.
The family laughed meanly at him. "You?! Found this goose? More likely it wandered into the yard on its own," said the father.
"Pathetic child, you shall never accomplish anything," scoffed the mother.
The first two brothers took the goose's heart and entrails and threw them at the third brother's feet. "There's your share," they said, cruelly.
The third son sat miserably aside while his family ate without him. They tore into the roasted meat and chomped down with gnashing teeth, sucking on bones and licking their fingers. Very soon, nothing remained of the goose but white bones and the discarded guts at the third son's feet.
As they picked the last bits of flesh from their teeth, the ungrateful family felt something terribly wrong. Their full bellies were churning and boiling within them. Their throats burned. Their lips and tongues swelled up. Their skin turned grey. The family began to retch and choke, pinkish foam seeping from their swollen mouths.
The third son watched in horror as, one-by-one, his family members began to seize and tremble. They fell to the floor, one after the other, writhing and twitching. Soon, their twitching stopped, their wheezy breaths became quiet, and the four lay on the floor, stone dead.
The third son stood there, stunned by what had just happened, when he heard a noise behind him. He spun around to see the beggar from earlier was now in his house, grinning down at him from under his hood.
"The meat of that bird was a terrible poison," the beggar said. "I knew your family would take it from you and devour it themselves. But I have not forgotten your reward."
The beggar bent down and picked up the goose's heart and squeezed it. From within the bloody muscle and sinew popped a small, egg-shaped nugget of pure gold on a long gold chain. The beggar placed the chain around the third son's neck.
"Not far from here," said the beggar. "You will find a band of children without families or a home, much like yourself. Join them. Have them help you bury these ungrateful louts with all the dignity you feel they deserve. These children will allow you to accompany them you should follow them wherever they may lead. Be warned though, my little friend, that gold is for you and you alone. Should anyone other than you put a hand on it...well, just look at your family."
With that, the beggar gave a horrible cackle and, with a wave of his hand, disappeared before the eyes of the third son.