Half Rooster, an amazing Albanian fairy tale!

Once upon a time there was an old man and an old woman who owned nothing but a cat and a rooster. One day they got into a terrible argument and shouted at one another so furiously that they decided to separate forever. The old couple divided everything they had and the woman got the cat and the man got the rooster. The cat caught birds every day which the old woman cooked, so that she at least had something to live on.

But the old man had nothing to eat. So one day he said to the rooster, “Dear rooster, I am so sorry, but I really don’t know what to do. I am going to have to eat you.” The rooster understood and nodded. The old man sliced the rooster into two halves, cooked and ate one half and kept the other. From then on the second half of the rooster was known as ‘Half Rooster’.

Half Rooster decided that it was time to go on a journey and earn some money. And so he set off, hopping on one leg. At the edge of a pond, he met a frog and said to it, “Frog, why don’t you come with me. I’m on a journey to earn some money.” “All right, I will,” said the frog. It had a last drink of water, as much as it could swallow, and leapt into Half Rooster’s belly. Half Rooster continued on his way and met a fox. “Fox, let us become friends.” “All right, little Half Rooster,” replied the fox, “but where are you going?” “I’m off to see the world. Do you want to come with me?” “Sure, I’ll come,” said the fox and crawled into Half Rooster’s belly.

After continuing on his journey for a short time, Half Rooster met a wolf who asked him where he was going. “To make some money, dear wolf. Do you want to come with me?” “Oh yes, I’ll come,” it replied and crawled into Half Rooster’s belly too. They all set off and after a while met a mouse. The little mouse laughed and asked Half Rooster, “Aren’t you getting tired, Half Rooster, if you have to hop on one leg all the time?” “Not at all,” replied Half Rooster. When the mouse asked where he was going, Half Rooster replied that he wanted to see the world and make some money. Half Rooster persuaded the mouse to come along too, and the little mouse jumped into his belly, which was now almost bursting because it was so full.

One day Half Rooster got hungry. He hopped into a vegetable garden and began to crow, “Cock a doodle doo! Look, I’m here!” The king heard him and gave orders that the rooster be caught. The servants rushed out and surrounded the garden. But though Half Rooster was still crowing, they could not find him, so they cut off all the heads of cabbage in the garden to see where he was. Finally they found him in the last head of cabbage, seized him and stuck him in the oven to roast.

Half Rooster was in a desperate situation and cried out, “Frog, if you’ve ever been my friend, help me now!” The frog leapt out right away, spewed out all the water it had swallowed and put out the fire. Then the servants locked Half Rooster in a stable so that the horses would trample him to death with their hooves. “Wolf,” Half Rooster cried out, “if you’ve ever been my friend, help me now!” So the wolf leapt out and bit all the horses until they died. The king’s servants seized Half Rooster for the third time and locked him up with the geese so that they would peck at him with their beaks. But Half Rooster called his friend the fox who leapt out and ate up all the geese.

The king’s servants did not know what to do, so they locked Half Rooster up in a chest of gold, the strongest one they had. Half Rooster swallowed as many pieces of gold as he could and then called the mouse, “Mouse, if you’ve ever been my friend, help me now!” The mouse leapt out of his belly and gnawed a big hole in the chest so that both of them could escape.

Half Rooster hopped home quickly. On his way, he lost a piece of gold. When he got back to the old man, he said to him, “Master, from now on give me enough to eat and a soft place to sleep. Take the rod and hit me on the back with it every day.” The old man did as the rooster had told him. Every day, Half Rooster got plenty to eat and a soft place to sleep and every day the old man hit him on the back with the rod. Every time he hit the rooster, a piece of gold fell out and with the money the old man was able to live a good life.

When the old woman found out what had happened, she was furious and green with envy. She screamed at her cat, “Go on, you good for nothing! Go on a journey and make some money!” The cat obeyed, and on its way found and swallowed the piece of gold which Half Rooster had lost. It also found a lot of insects, salamanders, snakes and mice and ate them all, returning home to its mistress with a full belly. Just as Half Rooster had done, the cat said to the old women, “Give me enough to eat every day and a soft place to sleep, because I was on a journey and have made money.”

The old woman did as the cat had said and hit it on the back with a rod every day. The first day, a piece of gold fell out, but on the days that followed, only salamanders, snakes, mice and other little creatures came out to the fury of old woman. In her rage, she killed the cat and then died herself of anger and envy.

[Source: Pralla popullore shqiptare (Tirana: Instituti i Shkencave 1954). Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie.]

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