Bibliographic Information (best version for telling):

            Bungling Pedro.  “The Country Swain.”  p. 93.  Mehdevi, Alexander.  New York: Alfred A. Knopf , 1970.


Ethnic Origin:  


            Majorca, Spain


Running Time:          10 minutes



Power Center(s):

            Maturing through hard experience, establishing separate identity from parent, humor.  I wanted a funny story, and this one hit very close to home – I had a similar experience when I was an early teen (though not with my mother!)  



            Michael’s mother

            5 local girls (Anna, Maria, Catherine, Elizabeth, Joanna) and their families


            Michael meets Anna on street – “Why are you always at home?”

            Goes to Maria’s house – “Let’s go dancing!” in the middle of her father’s funeral

            Goes back to Maria’s – “May he go straight to heaven” during pig slaughter.

            Goes to Catherine’s – “May you have another, plump and juicy” while doctor looks at wart.

            Goes to Elizabeth’s – “May it dry up and blow away” while she plants a rosebush.

            Goes to Joanna’s – “May it sprout roots and grow for 1000 years” while she is pulling a splinter.  Rebels against mother’s advice and wins Joanna’s hand.



            Michael is a young man who wants to take a wife, but is too shy to talk to women.  His mother, who is not very bright, makes him promise that he will say what she tells him to say – problem is, she tells him to say the wrong thing at the wrong time, with disastrous consequences to his courtships.  Finally, when he knows he’s saying the wrong thing, he finds his own voice and wins a wife.


 Rhymes/Special Phrases/"Flavor":

            Hopefully the humor of each situation will emerge – not only does he say the wrong thing, but he says exactly the wrong thing at exactly the wrong time. 


Audience (why is this story appropriate for the audience? developmental characteristics?):

            This story deals with young adult themes on several levels: SEX: the difficulty of communicating with members of the opposite sex outside the family in a productive way, thinking about marriage, and taking on a new identity as a sexual being:  FAMILY: discovering that parents are not perfect and establishing an independence from them: FUTURE: taking on new responsibilities, and making good choices to achieve them.  (From Havighurst; Elliott & Feldman; Stover & Tway)


Bibliographic information on other versions/variants (at least two)?

            The Literal Fool, who takes (good or bad) advice to heart is found in stories like:


            Animals helping the hero succeed with tests are found in many cultures:

            “Silly Jean” in The Three Sneezes. Duvoisin, Roger.  New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1941.  (SILS J398 Duvoisin).

 »The Fool » in The Kaha Bird : Tales from the Steppes of Central Asia.  Ginsberg, Mirra.  New York :  Crown Publishers, 1971 (SILS J398.2 Ginsburg).

            Just Say Hic !.  Walker, Barbara K.  Chicago : Follett, 1965.  (SILS J398 Walker).

            « The Boy and the Cloth » in The Tiger’s Whisker.  Courlander, Harold.  New York : Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1959.


Brief comparison of all versions/variants in terms of language, rhythm, "tellability," "flavor," content, etc.  Stress the differences in style rather than those of content.

            “Silly Jean”, a Swiss variant, has a boy offending a variety of strangers as he tries to get from home to the mill, but each instruction he gets from his mother gets him into trouble with the next person he encounters.  However, this version has the small boy being beaten by the various adults he encounters, and ends with him having learned nothing, and with his mother resolving to keep him home – very negative.


            “The Fool”, a Turkmenian tale, offers an old man as the fool who learns the wrong lessons in his encounters – but he rebels against his wife’s advice and goes out on his own.  He continues to apply the wrong lesson with each person he meets, but ends up going home proud of himself (although his wife still realizes he is a fool).  This story has a real “peasant” flavor – he has his encounters while in the woods or on the road.  He also has more encounters, which makes for a longer story, and the sense is that, once again, he has learned nothing, but gotten repeated beatings for his foolishness.


            Had I discovered Just Say Hic first, I probably would have told it as my pre-school story.  A Turkish story, the fool is a little boy with a bad memory who is sent to market to buy some “Hic” (pronounced heech) or salt.  The word is also used for the term “nothing”.  In this variant, the boy repeats the word, bothers somebody who gives him another phrase to say, which bothers the next person he meets, and so on.  This time, however, the story comes full circle, with the final person telling him he should say nothing (“Hic”) and he remembers the salt he came to buy.  A happy ending, with silly encounters along the way, although the boy does get rocks thrown at him and is hit by a couple of strangers.