The Four Friends ~ Folktales Stories for Kids
ONCE upon a time there were four friends, a Crow, a Rat, a large Turtle, and a Deer. Every day in the heat of the noontime sun, the four friends liked nothing better than to gather by Turtle's pond in a cool shady place and spend the long afternoon together discussing matters of philosophy, poetry, art and nature and sharing their thoughts on all matters.
One day, three of the four friends -- that is, Turtle, Rat, and Crow -- gathered at the usual noontime hour by Turtle's pond, and waited for Deer to arrive. But she did not. After awhile they became very much alarmed, and worried that she might have come upon some sort of accident. They determined to go in search of her.
Crow flew up into the air to see what discoveries she could make. To her horror, she saw at a distance poor Deer caught in a Hunter's net! Crow immediately flew back to the pond to share the terrible news with Rat and Turtle. You may be sure all three friends were terribly upset.
"The four of us have always been friends," said Turtle. "We can't just let poor Deer face death at the hands of some hunter. No! There must be some way for us to save her."
Crow said, "You know, Friend Rat can chew through the net that binds her foot and set her free! Friend Rat, I must carry you to Deer, and right away, too, before the Hunter returns and finishes her off!"
"Yes, of course," nodded Rat. "Why wait? Let's go at once."
So Crow carried Rat in her bill and delivered him to the place where Deer was trapped. Immediately, Rat started to chew upon the net that held Deer's foot, and had almost set her free by the time -- who should arrive -- but Turtle!
"Turtle!" cried Deer, "Why have you come here? You are so far now from the safety of your pond. I'm afraid you've put yourself in terrible danger."
"Alas!" replied Turtle, "I could not stay at home knowing that you were in danger."
"Oh, friend Turtle," said Deer, "your coming here troubles me more than the loss of my own freedom. For if the Hunter should happen to come at this very moment, what would you do to escape? For my part I am almost freed, thanks to Rat, and I'll run away; Crow will fly to safety; Rat will dive into any hole; only you, who are so slow of foot, can all-too-easily be caught by the Hunter."
No sooner had Deer spoken these words than the Hunter appeared. Deer, already loosened from her trap, ran away; Crow flew upward into the sky; Rat slipped into a hole; and, as Deer had said, only the slow-paced Turtle could find no safe place to hide.
When the Hunter arrived, he was surprised to discover his net torn and the deer gone. Annoyed, he looked about to see if he could discover who had done him the mischief. Then he noticed Turtle.
"Oh!" said the Hunter, smiling at Turtle. "Very well, I am glad enough to see you here. It looks like I shall not go home empty-handed after all. My deer may be gone, but here's a good-sized Turtle, and that's worth something, I'm sure."
With that he took up Turtle, dropped him in his sack, threw the sack over his shoulder, and trudged off.
When the Hunter had disappeared into the woods, the three friends came out of their hiding places. Oh, how they cried about the unhappy turn of events for poor Turtle! At last Crow said, "Dear friends, our moans and groans will do Turtle no good. We must try to think of a way to save his life."
"Well yes," said Rat. "And perhaps there's a way after all. Crow, if you fly upwards, you'll be able to see exactly where the hunter has gone to. Deer, if you run forward and overtake the Hunter, and then let him see you, surely he'll lay down his sack to run after you (and don't call me Shirley!). That will give us enough time to rescue poor Turtle."
"That's not a bad idea," replied Deer. "In fact, if I pretend to be injured in one leg, as I easily could have been from having worked free of his net, and then run limping by at a little distance before him, that will encourage the Hunter all the more to follow me. I'm sure I could draw him a good distance from his sack. Then you, friend Rat, will have enough time to chew the string on the sack and let poor Turtle out."
Everyone agreed to the plan. Immediately Deer ran before the Hunter, limping and appearing so faint and feeble that the Hunter was sure she would be an easy mark to catch. Setting down his sack, he ran after Deer with all his might. But as soon as he approached her, the cunning creature burst into a full-fledged chase, until she had dragged him deep into the woods. Then out scampered Rat, who gnawed the string that tied the sack. At last Turtle was free! Off he scrambled and hid himself in a thick bush.
Finally the Hunter, tired of running, gave up on catching Deer and returned to his sack. "Well," he said, approaching the sack, "at least I have something safe here: A Turtle is not nearly as fast as that stupid Deer. And even if you were," he said to the sack, "your legs couldn't do you any good tied up in my sack."
When the Hunter found that his sack was torn, and besides that, empty as well, he was much amazed, and thought himself in a place of hobgoblins and ghosts. He could not believe that a Deer should free herself out of his strong nets, then by and by appear hopping before him, and make a fool out of him, and then a Turtle, a poor feeble creature as everyone knows, should break the string of his sack by himself and escape! Struck with panic and fear, he ran home as if a thousand spirits were nipping at his heels.
Safe at last, the four friends congratulated each other on their escapes and declared anew their everlasting friendship.
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Adapted by Elaine L. Lindy from the story "The Two Friends" from Fables of Pilpay by W. Knatchbull, 1818, pp. 220-226.
Copyright Elaine L. Lindy. ©2006. All rights reserved.