In the early days of teaching Latin, I spent a lot of time in the university library with random books of fairy tales, looking for good stories to tell in Latin. Back then, I needed ten or so stories a week, so I didn't have the luxury of being picky. A lot of the stories were just okay, and have long dropped out of my repertoire. This story, however, is a mainstay, because of how memorably odd it is. The older students mention it cryptically in front of the new, and its fame grows from one year to the next. Since I'll never find the book I took it from, here it is, as best as I can remember it.
There once lived a man in the deep of the woods, far from village and town, and with him lived his three sons. The man loved the first two of his sons, but the third and youngest son he hated, because he was a fool.
As winter drew on, the man saw that it would be long and bitter, and that he did not have enough firewood for the cold months ahead. He went therefore to his oldest son, and giving him wine, cheese, and an axe, he told him to go into the woods to fell trees and gather logs for the winter. Which the son did.
But as the son was walking through the woods in search of a tree to fell, he chanced upon an old man, who begged him for a bite of his cheese, and a drink of his wine. The son refused the old man, and for that, the man cursed him. As he was felling a tree, the axe slipped, and he chopped his leg off.
When the oldest son returned to his home, his father was much grieved, for his most beloved son was maimed, and he had no firewood to show for the injury. Going therefore to his second son, he gave him wine, cheese, and an axe, and told him to go into the woods to fell trees and gather logs for the winter. Which the second son did.
But like his brother before him, the second son came upon the old man, who asked him to share his cheese and wine, and cursed the boy when he was refused. While he was felling a tree, the axe slipped, and so he too was maimed.
When the second son returned home, his father was sorely grieved, and furthermore he still had no firewood to last the winter. Going therefore reluctantly to his third son, whom he hated, he gave him not wine and cheese, but water and dry bread, and handing the boy an axe, told him to go into the woods and fell trees and gather logs for the winter. Which the third son did.
As the third son was walking through the woods, the old man begged him for a bite of his bread and a drink of his water. The boy, though he was a fool, was kind, and gave the old man all he had. For this, the old man blessed him, and told him to go to a certain tree, and to chop it down, and to take what he found there.
The boy went to that tree, and chopped it down. And when it had fallen, he discovered within the hollow of its trunk a goose looking out at him. Then the goose spoke, saying, "I see that you are a fool, and that you have no wits or fortune about you. Do not return to your home. Your father and brothers do not love you. Instead, go to the castle, and take me with you, for I am a magic goose, and will make you rich and loved. So the boy took the goose, and went to the castle.
On the journey, he came upon a house where lived three sisters, and being weary from his long walking, he begged them to let him stay the night and rest. They gave him food and a bed, and put his goose in the yard while he slept.
While the boy rested, though, one of the sisters saw his goose, and that it was lovely and plump, and desired to steal it from him. She went into the yard and reached out her hand to snatch the goose. But as soon as her hands touched the goose, she was stuck to it, for the magic of the goose was that it was sticky.
Unable to free herself, the girl called out to her sisters. The second sister came to her aid, but as she tried to free her sister from the goose's grasp, she too touched it, and became stuck. Then both of them called out to the third sister, who came to help, and touching the goose, was stuck as well.
In all this time, the boy slept peacefully. When he woke, he could not find the three girls, so he went out to the yard and called for his goose. When the goose came, all three sisters were stuck to it, but the boy was such a fool that he did not notice. Then he and the goose set off towards the castle.
Along the way, it happened that a priest in the road saw the boy and the goose and the girls. When he saw how the girls all chased after the young man, he thought it immodest, and went to tell the girls not to behave so indecently. But he was unable to persuade them, and finally, laid hands on the goose himself, and was stuck. But though he and the girls all cried for help, the boy did not notice, for he was a fool.
Further along the road, as they all approached the castle, there were two workmen in the fields, who saw the three girls and the priest, and heard their shouts for help, and rushed to their aid. But they were unable to free the four, and themselves became stuck to the sticky goose.
Then the boy and the goose and the three sisters and the priest and the two workmen came to the castle. Now, in those days, the king had only a daughter, and she never laughed or smiled in all her life. The king was so troubled by this, that he had sworn that any man who could make his daughter laugh would have her in marriage and be his heir.
As the boy and the goose and their entourage passed under the castle walls, the girls and the priest and the workmen all crying for help, and the boy apparently oblivious to their plight, it chanced that the king's daughter looked out and saw them, and thought the whole thing so ridiculous that she could not help but laugh.
The king kept his word. The boy was married to his daughter, and became rich and well-loved, as the goose had promised.