Half Rooster

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Half Rooster

An Albanian folk tale told by David Heathfield


Once upon a time, there was an old man and an old woman. And all they had in the world was one cat and one rooster.

They were very poor and they were very hungry. And they got into a terrible row and they decided that they would separate forever.

And the old woman had the cat. And the old man had the rooster.

Well, with the cat, the cat would catch small birds and she would roast the birds and she had something to eat.

But the old man had nothing to eat at all.

Time passed, and one day he went to the rooster and said, ‘I am sorry… I am going to have to cut you in half and eat half of you.’

And the rooster nodded.

And he cut the rooster in half. And from that day on he was called ‘Half Rooster’ or, in Albanian, ‘Gjysma Gjeli’.

Gjysma Gjeli lived with the old man. But after a while he thought, ‘I have got to go and get some money.’

So Gjysma Gjeli set off hopping on one foot along the road to make his way in the world.

And along the way he met a frog in a pond:

‘Ribbit… where are you going… ribbit?’

‘I am making my way in the world.’

Take me with you all the way
And I will help you night and day
.’

‘Gjysma Gjeli jump in my belly.’

And the frog jumped into the belly of the half rooster, and along the way he hopped until he came to a fox:

‘Where are you going?’

‘I am making my way in the world.’

Take me with you all the way
And I will help you night and day
.’

‘Gjysma Gjeli jump in my belly.’

And the fox jumped into the half rooster’s belly, and along the way he hopped until he came to a wolf:

‘Where are you going?’

‘I am making my way in the world.’

Take me with you all the way
And I will help you night and day
.’

‘Gjysma Gjeli jump in my belly.’

And the wolf jumped into the belly of the half rooster, and along the way he hopped until he came to a little mouse:

‘Where are you going?’

‘I am making my way in the world.’

Take me with you all the way
And I will help you night and day
.’

‘Gjysma Gjeli jump in my belly.’

And the little mouse jumped into the belly of the half rooster, and along the way he hopped.

But now his belly was rather full and Gjysma Gjeli he went into the gardens of the palace of the King. And there in the cabbage patch he crowed as only a Gjysma Gjeli half rooster can.

Well, the King came rushing out. ‘What is all this noise? Catch that rooster!’

And the King’s men went looking through the cabbage patch for the rooster. And they cut the heads off every one of the cabbages until they came to the last one. And there, inside the cabbage, they found Gjysma Gjeli.

‘Well,’ said the King, ‘roast that half rooster!’

So they seized Gjysma Gjeli and they put him in the oven… ‘Save me!’

The frog jumped out of his belly, and all of the water that the frog had swallowed from the pond came whooshing out over that fire and put out the flames.

‘Ohhh, well,’ said the King. ‘Hmmm… Let the geese peck that half rooster to death!’

So there he was, put among the geese. And the geese got ready to peck. And just as they started pecking, he said… ‘Save me!’

And out of his belly jumped the fox and the fox ate up all of the geese.

‘Ahhh, well,’ said the King. ‘Hmmm… Put him in the stables. Let the King’s horses trample him to death!’

So the King’s men put Gjysma Gjeli into the stables and they closed the stable door and bolted the stable door and the horses reared up with their great hooves about to trample Gjysma Gjeli… ‘Save me!’

And out of his belly jumped the wolf and the wolf killed all of the King’s horses.

‘Well,’ said the King, ‘lock him up tight in a great treasure chest!’

So they opened the King’s greatest treasure chest and they put Gjysma Gjeli inside and they locked it tight.

And the treasure chest was full of gold coins, and Gjysma Gjeli pecked up those gold coins one by one by one until they were all inside his belly… ‘Save me!’

And out of his belly jumped the mouse and the mouse gnawed a hole in the side of the treasure chest.

And out of that hole squeezed Gjysma Gjeli with all of those gold coins inside, and went hopping back along the way, back towards the old man. And as he hopped, with the King’s men coming after him (but they weren’t quick enough), one gold coin dropped from his beak along the way.

On he hopped until he came back to the old man.

‘I will live with you,’ said Gjysma Gjeli. ‘But you must feed me enough and give me somewhere soft to sleep. Remember to beat me with your rod every day.’

Well, the old man beat Gjysma Gjeli with a rod, and out of his beak dropped one gold coin.

The old man, with that gold coin, had enough to eat and more to spare.

The next day, he beat Gjysma Gjeli again, and another gold coin, and the next day another; and everyday a new gold coin.

Well, the old woman was jealous when she found out that the old man had all these gold coins, so she sent her cat to find gold coins.

And the cat set off along the way, and came along the way to where that gold coin had dropped from Gjysma Gjeli’s beak. And the cat ate up that gold coin and went on its way.

But after that it found no more gold coins, it just swallowed other things.

And when the cat returned to the old woman, she took her rod and beat the cat. And sure enough a gold coin came out of its mouth.

She was happy… for a day.

But the next day, when she beat the cat, what came out of his mouth was a salamander.

The cat eats something strangeAnd the next day, when she beat him, what came out of his mouth was a rat.

And the third day, what came out of the cat was a snake.

And she became so angry that she beat the cat to death and died herself of anger.

And so it was that Gjysma Gjeli and the old man lived the rest of their days in comfort.