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  • 7/9/2003

How an Ox Became Mayor


Once upon a time there was a peasant who had a great deal of money but very little understanding. He was just plain stupid. He had no children, but he did have a wife, an ox, and a donkey.

This peasant had heard a lot said about the university, and that one could learn a lot there, so he became more and more curious about it. One day he was talking about it with a joker, who said, "What people have told you about the university is nothing. Did you know that there they can make educated people out of dumb animals?"

"You don't say so!" said the peasant. "I'm going to give that a try. My ox is so smart that when I say 'gideeup' to my donkey, he starts to walk as well."

So the peasant went toLeiden with his ox. He rang at the university, and a student came to him, asking him what he wanted.

"I would like to speak with the professor," said the peasant, "for my ox is going to go to the university."

"Oh," said the student, "then just come along with me." Of course he did not take the peasant to a professor, but rather to one of his fellow students. After the peasant had explained why he was there, the student said it was good, and that he would be able to leave the ox there. Then they spoke about the tuition charges, and to start, the peasant had to pay seventy guilders. He thought that was expensive, but he paid it nonetheless, and left his ox inLeiden.

A month later the peasant thought, "I really must go now and see how my student is doing," and he set forth on his way.

To be sure, the ox was not at home. "He just went to a lecture," said the student. "But it is good that you came, because more money is due." The peasant paid and went home again. Every time that he came he received the same message, and he had to pay. He was told that the ox was learning well.

This continued for about a year and a half, and it began to trouble the peasant that he always had to pay but was never able to see his animal. He became angry and said that he wanted to take back his ox.

"Didn't he write to you that he is just beginning his examinations?" said the student. "He will pass them, but it all costs money."

"Well," said the peasant, "in that case I'll pay another hundred guilders. But this is the very last time!"

After again hearing nothing, the peasant one day went toLeiden with the firm resolve to take the ox home with him. When he told the student his intentions, the latter said to him, "I don't understand! Didn't he write to you? He passed his examinations with honors and now has a very good position. He is the mayor ofAmsterdam."

"That was inconsiderate of him not to write to me," said the peasant. "But I'll get hold of him!"

So he went toAmsterdam. At that time, as it happened, there was a mayor there whose name was Ox. The student, of course, knew this.

The peasant rang at his door and asked if the mayor was at home. "Yes," replied his servant. "What do you want?"

The peasant explained that he was the mayor's owner, and had come to take him away. The servant did not understand this at all and thought he was dealing with a lunatic. The peasant persisted, and the two began cursing one another. Then the mayor happened by, and he told the servant to calm himself down. He invited the peasant to come in and say what he had to say.

He told the entire story about the ox and the university. But it was too much for the mayor when the peasant said in conclusion, "Now I'm going to put a halter on you so my wife can get a look at you as well." And the mayor had him thrown out the door.

So the peasant went away unsatisfied. Arriving home, he said to his wife, "Yes, it is true that they really can do things there inLeiden, for they made an educated man out of our ox. But there is not much in it for me."

Taken from:

The Education of an Ox
folktales of Aarne-Thompson type 1675
translated and/or edited by:D. L. Ashliman
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