Mighty Mikko (The Grateful Fox)
There was once an old woodsman and his wife who had an only son named
Mikko. As the mother lay dying, the young man wept bitterly.
"When you are gone, my dear mother," he said, "there will be no one left to think of me."
The poor woman comforted him as best she could and said to him, "You will still have your father."
Shortly after the woman's death, the old man, too, was taken ill.
"Now, indeed, I shall be left desolate and alone," Mikko thought, as he
sat beside his father's bedside and saw him grow weaker and weaker.
"My boy," the old man said just before he died, "I have nothing to
leave you but the three snares that I have caught wild animals with
which these many years. Those snares are yours now. When I am dead, go
into the woods and if you find a wild creature caught in any of them,
free it gently and bring it home alive."
After his father's death, Mikko remembered the snares and went out to
the woods to see them. The first was empty and also the second, but in
the third he found a little red fox. He carefully lifted the spring
that had shut down on one of the fox's feet and then carried the little
creature home in his arms. He shared his supper with it, and when he
lay down to sleep the fox curled up at his feet. They lived together
some time until they became close friends.
"Mikko," said the fox one day, "why are you so sad?"
"Because I'm lonely."
"Pooh!" said the fox. "That's no way for a young man to talk! You ought to get married! Then you wouldn't feel lonely!"
"Married!" Mikko repeated. "How can I get married? I cannot marry a
poor girl because I'm too poor myself and a rich girl wouldn't marry
"Nonsense!" said the fox. "You're a fine well set up young man and you're kind and gentle. What more could a princess ask?"
Mikko laughed to think of a princess wanting him for a husband. "I mean
what I say!" the fox insisted. "Take our own princess now. What would
you think of marrying her?"
Mikko laughed louder than before.
"I have heard," he said, "that she is the most beautiful princess in the world! Any man would be happy to marry her."
"Very well," the fox said, "if you feel that way about her then I'll arrange the wedding for you."
With that the little fox actually did trot off to the royal castle and gain audience with the king.
"My master sends you greetings," the fox said, "and he begs you to loan him your bushel measure."
"My bushel measure!" the king repeated in surprise. "Who is your master and why does he want my bushel measure?"
"Ssh!" the fox whispered as though he did not want the courtiers to
hear what he was saying. Then slipping up quite close to the king he
murmured in his ear, "Surely you have heard of Mikko, haven't you?
Mighty Mikko as he's called."
The king had never heard of any Mikko who was known as Mighty Mikko
but, thinking that perhaps he should have heard of him, he shook his
head and murmured, "H'm! Mikko! Mighty Mikko! Oh, of course-"
"My master is about to start off on a journey and he needs a bushel measure for a very particular reason."
"I understand! I understand!" the king said, although he didn't
understand at all, and he gave orders that the bushel measure which
they used in the storeroom of the castle be brought in and given to the
The fox carried off the measure and hid it in the woods. Then he
scurried about to all sorts of little out of the way nooks and crannies
where people had hidden their savings and he dug up a gold piece here
and a silver piece there till he had a handful. Then he went back to
the woods and stuck the various coins in the cracks of the measure. The
next day he returned to the king.
"My master, Mighty Mikko," he said, "sends you thanks for the use of your bushel measure."
The king held out his hand and when the fox gave him the measure he
peeped inside to see if by chance it contained any trace of what had
recently been measured. His eye of course at once caught the glint of
the gold and silver coins lodged in the cracks.
"Ah!" he said, thinking Mikko must be a very mighty lord indeed to be
so careless of his wealth; "I should like to meet your master. Won't
you and he come and visit me?"
This was what the fox wanted the king to say but he pretended to hesitate.
"I thank your Majesty for the kind invitation,"he said, "but I fear my
master cannot accept it just now. He wants to get married soon and we
are about to start off on a long journey to inspect a number of foreign
This made the king all the more anxious to have Mikko visit him at once
for he thought that if Mikko should see his daughter before he saw
those foreign princesses he might fall in love with her and marry her.
So he said to the fox, "My dear fellow, you must prevail on your master
to make me a visit before he starts out on his travels! You will, won't
The fox looked this way and that as if he were too embarrassed to speak.
"Your Majesty," he said at last, "I pray you pardon my frankness. The
truth is you are not rich enough to entertain my master and your castle
isn't big enough to house the immense retinue that always attends him."
The king, who by this time was frantic to see Mikko, lost his head
completely. "My dear fox," he said, "I'll give you anything in the
world if you prevail on your master to visit me at once! Couldn't you
suggest to him to travel with a modest retinue this time?"
The fox shook his head.
"No. His rule is either to travel with a great retinue or to go on foot disguised as a poor woodsman attended only by me/*
"Couldn't you prevail on him to come to me disguised as a poor
woodsman?" the king begged. "Once he was here, I could place gorgeous
clothes at his disposal"
But still the fox shook. his head.
"I fear Your Majesty's wardrobe doesn't contain the kind of clothes my master is accustomed to."
"I assure you I've got some very good clothes,"the king said. "Come
along this minute and we'll go through them and I'm sure you'll find
some that your master would wear."
So they went to a room which was like a big wardrobe with hundreds and
hundreds of hooks on which were hung hundreds of coats and breeches and
embroidered shirts. The king ordered his attendants to bring the
costumes down one by one and place them before the fox.
They began with the plainer clothes.
"Good enough for most people," the fox said, "but not for my master."
Then they took down garments of a finer grade.
"I'm afraid you're going to all this trouble for nothing," the fox
said. "Frankly now, don't you realize that my master couldn't possibly
put on any of these things!"
The king, who had hoped to keep for his own use his most gorgeous clothes of all, now ordered these to be shown.
The fox looked at them sideways, sniffed them critically, and at last
said, "Well, perhaps my master would consent to wear these for a few
days. They are not what he is accustomed to wear but I will say this
for him: he is not proud."
The king was overjoyed.
"Very well, my dear fox, I'll have the guest chambers put in readiness
for your master's visit and I'll have all these, my finest clothes,
laid out for him. You won't disappoint me, will you?"
"Ill do my best," the fox promised. With that he bade the king a civil good day and ran home to Mikko.
The next day as the princess was peeping out of an upper window of the
castle, she saw a young woodsman approaching, accompanied by a fox. He
was a fine stalwart youth and the princess, who knew from the presence
of the fox that he must he Mikko, gave a long sigh and confided to her
serving maid, "I think I could fall in love with that young man if he
really were only a woodsman!"
Later when she saw him arrayed in her father's finest clothes which
looked so well on Mikko that no one even recognized them as the king's,
she lost her heart completely and when Mikko was presented to her she
blushed and trembled just as any ordinary girl might before a handsome
All the court was equally delighted with Mikko. The ladies went into
ecstasies over his modest manners, his fine figure, and the
gorgeousness of his clothes, and the old graybeard councilors, nodding
their heads in approval, said to each other, "Nothing of the coxcomb
about this young fellow! In spite of his great wealth see how politely
he listens to us when we talk!"
The next day the fox went privately to the king, and said, "My master
is a man of few words and quick judgement. He bids me tell you that
your daughter, the princess, pleases him mightily and that, with your
approval, he will make his addresses to her at once."
The king was greatly agitated and began, "My dear fox -"
But the fox interrupted him to say, "Think the matter over carefully and give me your decision tomorrow."
So the king consulted with the princess and with his Councilors and in
a short time the marriage was arranged and the wedding ceremony
"Didn't I tell you?" the fox said, when he and Mikko were alone after the wedding.
"Yes," Mikko acknowledged, "you did promise that I should marry the
princess. But, tell me, now that I am married, what am I to do? I
cannot live on here forever with my wife."
"Put your mind at rest," the fox said. "I've thought of everything.
Just do as I tell you and you'll have nothing to regret. Tonight say to
the king: "It is now only fitting that you should visit me and see for
yourself the sort of castle that your daughter is hereafter to be
When Mikko said this to the king, the king was overjoyed for now that
the marriage had actually taken place he was wondering whether he
hadn't perhaps been a little hasty. Mikko's words reassured him and he
eagerly accepted the invitation. On the morrow the fox said to Mikko:
"Now I'll run on ahead and get things ready for
"But where are you going?" Mikko said, frightened at the thought of being deserted by his little friend.
The fox drew Mikko aside and whispered softly, "A few days' march from
here there is a very gorgeous castle belonging to a wicked old dragon
who is known as the worm. I think the worm's castle would just about
"I'm sure it would,"Mikko agreed. "But how are we to get it away from the worm?"
"Trust me," the fox said. "All you need do is this: lead the king and
his courtiers along the main highway till by noon tomorrow you reach a
crossroads. Turn there to the left and go straight on till you see the
tower of the worm's castle. If you meet any men by the wayside,
shepherds or the like, ask them whose men they are and show no surprise
at their answer. So now, dear master, farewell till we meet again at
your beautiful castle."
The little fox trotted off at a smart pace and Mikko and the princess
and the king attended by the whole court followed in more leisurely
The little fox, when he had left the main highway at the crossroads,
soon met ten woodsmen with axes over their shoulders. They were all
dressed in blue smocks of the same cut.
"Good day," the fox said politely. "Whose men are you?"
"Our master is known as the worm," the woodsmen told him.
"My poor, poor lads!" the fox said, shaking his head sadly.
"What's the matter?" the woodsmen asked.
For a few moments the fox pretended to be too overcome with emotion to
speak. Then he said, "My poor lads, don't you know that the king is
coming with a great force to destroy the worm and all his people?"
The woodsmen were simple fellows and this news threw them into great consternation.
"Is there no way for us to escape?" they asked.
The fox put his paw to his head and thought.
"Well," he said at last, "there is one way you might escape and that is by telling every one who asks you
that you are the Mighty Mikko's men. But if you value your lives never again say that your master is the worm-"
"We are Mighty Mikko's men!" the woodsmen at once began repeating over and over. "We are Mighty Mikko's men!"
A little farther on the road the fox met twenty grooms, dressed in the
same blue smocks, who were tending a hundred beautiful horses. The fox
talked to the twenty grooms as he had talked to the woodsmen and before
he left them they, too, were shouting, "We are Mighty Mikko's men!"
Next the fox came to a huge flock of a thousand sheep tended by thirty
shepherds all dressed in the worm's blue smocks. He stopped and talked
to them till he had them roaring out, "We are Mighty Mikko's men!"
Then the fox trotted on till he reached the castle of the worm. He
found the worm himself inside lolling lazily about. He was a huge
dragon and had been a great warrior in his day. In fact his castle and
his lands and his servants and his possessions had all been won in
battle. But now for many years no one had cared to fight him and he had
grown fat and lazy.
"Good day," the fox said, pretending to be very breathless and frightened. "You're the worm, aren't you?"
"Yes," the dragon said, boastfully, "I am the great Worm!"
The fox pretended to grow more agitated.
"My poor fellow, I am sorry for you! But of course none of us can
expect to live forever. Well, I must hurry along. I thought I would
just stop and say goodbye."
Made uneasy by the fox's words, the worm cried out, "Wait just a minute! What's the matter?"
The fox was already at the door but at the worm's entreaty he paused
and said over his shoulder, "Why, my poor fellow, you surely know,
don't you? that the king with a great force is coming to destroy you
and all your people!"
"What!" the worm, gasped, turning a sickly green with fright. He knew
he was fat and helpless and could never again fight as in the years
"Don't go just yet!" he begged the fox. "When is the king coming?"
"He's on the highway now! That's why I must be going! Goodbye!"
"My dear fox, stay just a moment and I'll reward you richly! Help me to
hide so that the king won't find me! What about the shed where the
linen is stored? I could crawl under the linen and then if you locked
the door from the outside the king could never find me."
"Very well," the fox agreed, "but we must hurry!"
So they ran outside to the shed where the linen was kept and the worm
hid himself under the linen. The fox locked the door, then set fire to
the shed, and soon there was nothing left of that wicked old dragon,
the worm, but a handful of ashes.
The fox now called together the dragon's household and talked them over
to Mikko as he had the woodsmen and the grooms and the shepherds.
Meanwhile the king and his party were slowly covering the ground over
which the fox had sped so quickly. When they came to the ten woodsmen
in blue smocks, the king said, "I wonder whose woodsmen those are?"
One of his attendants asked the woodsmen and the ten of them shouted
out at the top of their voices, "We are Mighty Mikko's men!"
Mikko said nothing, and the king and all the court were impressed anew with his modesty.
A little farther on they met the twenty grooms with their hundred
prancing horses. When the grooms were questioned, they answered with a
shout, "We are Mighty Mikko's men!"
"The fox certainly spoke the truth," the king thought to himself, "when he told me of Mikko's riches!"
A little later the thirty shepherds when they were questioned made
answer in a chorus that was deafening to hear, "We are Mighty Mikko's
The sight of the thousand sheep that belonged to his son-in-law made
the king feel poor and humble in comparison and the courtiers whispered
among themselves, "For all his simple manner, Mighty Mikko must be a
richer, more powerful lord than the king himself! In fact it is only a
very great lord indeed who could be so simple!"
At last they reached the castle which from the blue smocked soldiers
that guarded the gateway they knew to be Mikko's. The fox came out to
welcome the king's party and behind him in two rows all the household
servants. These, at a signal from the fox, cried out in one voice, "We
are Mighty Mikko's men!"
Then Mikko in the same simple manner that he would have used in his
father's mean little hut in the woods bade the king and his followers
welcome and they all entered the castle where they found a great feast
already prepared and waiting.
The king stayed on for several days and the more he saw of Mikko the
better pleased he was that he had him for a son-in-law. When he was
leaving he said to Mikko, "Your castle is so much grander than mine
that I hesitate ever asking you back for a visit."
But Mikko reassured the king by saying earnestly, "My dear
father-in-law, when first I entered your castle I thought it was the
most beautiful castle in the world!"
The king was flattered and the courtiers whispered among themselves,
"How affable of him to say that when he knows very well how much
grander his own castle is!"
When the king and his followers were safely gone, the little red fox
came to Mikko and said, "Now, my master, you have no reason to feel sad
and lonely. You are lord of the most beautiful castle in the world and
you have for wife a sweet and lovely princess. You have no longer any
need of me, so I am going to bid you farewell."
Mikko thanked the little fox for all he had done and the little fox trotted off to the woods.
So you see that Mikko's poor old father, although he had no wealth to
leave his son, was really the cause of all Mikko's good fortune, for it
was he who told Mikko in the first place to carry home alive anything
he might find caught in the snares.