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The Human Stupidity, by Ion Creangă (1874)

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Cat

There was a time, when it was, that if it weren’t, it wouldn’t be told.

We haven’t been since the stories, but we’ve been there for about two or three days, since the flea was shod with ninety-nine iron goats on one leg, and it still seemed to him easy.

He was once a married man, and that man lived together with his mother-in-law. His wife, who had a baby, was a bit stupid; but his mother-in-law was not exactly too clever.

One day, our man leaves home as he should, like every man. His wife, after bathing her child, wrapped him and nursed him, put him in the bed by the stove, for it was winter; then she swung him and caressed him until he fell asleep. After she put him to sleep, she thought for a while and then began to cry out loud: “Woe! My baby, my baby!”

Her mother, who was spinning after the chimney, frightened, threw far away the spindle from her hand and the fork from her belt, and, jumping suddenly, asked her in fear:

”What do you have, my dear, what are you ?!”

”Mother, mother! My baby is going to die!”

”When and how?”

”Here’s how. Do you see the drop of salt on the chimney?”

”I see it. So?”

”If the cat gets up, it will hit him right in the child’s head and kill him!”

”Woe to me and me, you are right, my daughter; it can be seen that the little one’s days are over!”

And, with their eyes nailed to the drop of salt on the chimney and their hands clasped, as if someone had tied them, they both began to mourn him, like mad women, being heard throughout the house. While they were getting ugly this way, as I tell you, the child’s father entered the door, hungry and annoyed like woe to him.

”What is it ? What happened to you, crazy women?”

Then the women, coming a little to their senses, began to wipe away their tears and tell him with great sorrow about the incident. The man, after listening to them, said in astonishment:

”Well! I have seen many fools in my life, but I have never seen someone like you. I’m … going all over the world! If I will find people more stupid than you I’ll come back home, and if not, no.”

With that said, he sighed heavily, left the house without saying good morning, and left angry and bitter as a poor man!

And walking aimlessly, not knowing where he was going, after a while, stopping in one place, it happened to him again to see something he had never seen before: a man was holding a deserted bushel with its mouth to the sun, then he quickly grabbed it and entered in a hut with it; then he went out again, put it in the sun again, and did the same … Our hiker, puzzled, said:

”Hello, good man!”

“Hello, my friend!”

”So what are you doing here?”

”Well, I’ve been working for about two or three days to carry the little sun in the hut, so that I have light, and I can’t even …”

“Man, what a toil!” said the hiker. ”Don’t you have an ax at hand?”

”Yes, I have.”

“Take him by the tail, break here the hut, and the sun will go in by itself.”

He immediately did so, and the sunlight entered the hut.

“Great miracle, good man,” said the host. ”If God hadn’t brought you to us, I would have grown old carrying the sun on my bushel.”

“Another fool,” said the hiker to himself, and left.

And as he went on, he came to a village after a while, and by chance stopped at a man’s house. The host man, being a blacksmith, had worked a cart and finished it in the house, in its entirety; and now, wanting to get him out, he was pulling hard with all his might, but the cart would not come out. Do you know why? Thus: the doors were narrower than the cart. The blacksmith now wanted to widen the door so he can get the cart out. Luckily, however, the hiker taught him to undo it in all its parts, to take them out one by one and then to assemble it again.

“Thank you very much, good man,” said the blacksmith; ”you taught me well! Just think about it! I was going to demolish the house because of the cart …”

From here, our hiker, counting another goofy, walked on until he reached a house again. There, what to see! A man, with a big spike in his hand, wanted to throw some nuts from the porch into the attic.

“I come across more and more idiots,” said the hiker himself.

“Why are you so upset, good man?”

”Well, I want to throw some nuts in the attic, and this bastard spike, it’s of no use …”

“You toil in vain, man! You can curse it as much as you want, the spike has no idea how disgusting do you think it is. Do you have a bushel?”

”Sure, why not?!”

”Put the nuts in it, take it on your shoulder and climb it nicely into the attic; the spike is for straw and hay, not for nuts.”

The man listened, and the work was done at once. The hiker did not linger here much, but left, counting another fool.

Then he walked on from here until he came to see another mischief. A man had tied a cow with a rope around his neck and, climbing on a barn, where he had thrown haystacks, was pulling hard on the rope to get the cow on the barn. The cow was roaring terribly, and a obosit foarte tare …

”Man!” said the hiker, making his cross; ”what do you want to do?”

”What should I do, you ask me? Don’t you see?”

”I see, I just don’t understand.”

”Well, this animal is full of hunger and he doesn’t want to come after me upstairs, on this barn, to eat hay …”

“Wait a minute, man, you’re hanging the cow! Take the hay and put it down to the cow!”

”Didn’t he waste it? …”

”Don’t be expensive for bran and cheap for flour.”

Then the man listens and the cow escapes alive.

“You taught me well, good man! For a trifle, I was about to strangle my cow!”

Thus, our hiker, marveling at this great stupidity, said to himself: “The cat could still have taken the drop of salt off the chimney; but to carry the sun in the house with the bushel, to throw the nuts in the attic with the spike, and to pull the cow on the barn to the hay, I never thought!”

Then the hiker returned home and spent time with his family, whom he considered more witty than those he had seen on his journey.

© 2021 Most Beautiful Romanian Short Stories, Vol. 1 – Translator: Nicolae Sfetcu

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