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Little Mouk

By Willhelm Hauff

Retold by Sybille Sterk

Note: This was one of my favourite stories when I was little, in fact, all Willhelm Hauff's stories were. Unfortunately, they are not very well known outside Germany, so here's a taster. A picture of Little Moukcan be seen here

Little Mouk was a curious character: he was only three feet tall but with a huge head covered with an even bigger turban. On his feet he wore large slippers and in his hand he held a lion-headed walking stick. A dagger was stuck through a sash that held his trousers up.
He only went out once a month, and when he did a crowd of street urchins was already waiting outside to make fun of him.
Little Mouk did not mind. He waved and smiled at them.

A long time ago, when Mouk had been about sixteen, his father had died and left him nothing but his clothes. Mouk threw away his own rags and cut down his fathers clothes until they fit him.

Dressed in his father’s finest he left to explore the world.
Little Mouk never had been outside the house before, because his father had been ashamed of his strange looking dwarf of a son.
Mouk was very excited about all the new sights and smells and cheerfully walked and walked and walked until his feet hurt too much to walk anymore.
He stopped and ate fruit growing wild beside the path and drank from streams and slept in soft grass.
Two days later he was just beginning to feel lonely, when he saw a town at the horizon.
He walked ever so quickly but he did not reach it until midday of the third day.
How disappointed he was when he found that nobody would invite him in to eat and rest his weary feet. He did not know the ways of the world and had fully expected that everyone would only be too happy to give him a bed and dinner.
He wandered the streets of the town for many hours until the shadows grew long and his face even longer.
Suddenly he heard an old woman’s voice calling out, “Come one, come all. Dinner is on the table for every one of you.”
Mouk was so happy to hear this, he ran as quickly as his little legs would carry him so he would not miss his chance for a warm dinner.
The old woman was surprised to see Little Mouk. “What do you want?” she asked him.
“I’ve heard you invite one and all for dinner. I am very hungry so I came,” Mouk explained.
The woman pointed at the cats and dogs milling around behind her. “Everyone knows I only cook for my cats, and sometimes I invite their friends.”
Little Mouk made to turn away, but the old woman took pity on him, “I can see you’re half starved and only little, so you won’t eat much. Come in.”
Little Mouk smiled his thanks.
The old woman told him he could stay if he promised to help look after her six cats and the little dog.
Mouk thought his luck was made and he agreed to do his very best.
For a while everything was well, but then he got bored. The work was easy, but the cats did not like him much and only the dog became a friend.
Whenever the old woman went out, she left Mouk in charge, but the cats ran rings around him and behaved quite badly. Furniture, crystal goblets, cushions, everything that got in the way of their playing and chasing each other was brushed out of the way. However, when the old woman came back they sat back on their haunches, pretending to be well-behaved. The old woman blamed the mess on Little Mouk, which upset him greatly and made him think of leaving the old woman.One day, when the old woman had gone out again, Mouk decided to leave. However, he did not want to leave before he discovered the secret of the room the old woman always locked before she went out. He looked everywhere for a key, and was very disappointed when he could not find one.
The little dog, his only friend, noticed this and pulled him by his trousers to a secret door that led to the room. [...]

Copyright, Sybille Sterk 2002 - 2004
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