Multilingual Folk Tale Database


Author: Jean de La Fontaine - 1668

Translated into English
  by Frederick Colin Tilney - 1913

Original title (French):
Le Mal MariƩ

Country of origin: France


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English - aligned

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The Unhappily Married Man

Jean de La Fontaine / Frederick Colin Tilney

If goodness were always the comrade of beauty I would seek a
wife to-morrow; but as divorce between these two is no new thing, and as
there are so few lovely forms that enshrine lovely souls, thus uniting
both one and the other delight, do not take it amiss that I refrain from
seeking such a rare combination.

I have seen many marriages, but not one of them has held out allurements
for me. Nevertheless, nearly the whole four quarters of mankind
courageously expose themselves to this the greatest of all hazards,
and—the whole four quarters usually repent it.

I will tell you of one who, having repented, found that there was
nothing for it but to send home again his quarrelsome, avaricious, and
jealous spouse. She was one whom nothing pleased; for her, nothing was
right. For her, one rose too late; one retired too early. First it was
this, then it was that, and then again 'twas something else. The
servants raged. The husband was at his wit's end. "You think of nothing,
sir." "You spend too much." "You gad about, sir." "You are idle."
Indeed she had so much to say that, in the end, tired of hearing such a
termagant, he sent her to her parents in the country. There she mixed
with those who minded the turkeys and pigs until she was thought to be
somewhat tamed, when the husband sent for her again.

"Well, my dear, how have you been getting on? How did you spend your
time? Did you like the simple life of the country?"

"Oh, pretty well!" she said, "but what annoyed me was to see the
laziness of those people. They are worse there than here. They showed no
care whatever for the herds and flocks they were supposed to mind. I
didn't forget to let them know what I thought of them. Of course, they
didn't like it, and they all hated me in the end."

"Ah! my dear. If you fell foul of people whom you saw for but a moment
or so in the day and when they returned in the evening—if you made them
tired of you; what will the servants in this house become, who must have
you railing at them the whole day long? And what will your poor husband
do whom you expected to have near you all day and night too? Return to
the village, my dear. Adieu! and if during my life the idea should
possess me to have you back again, may I, for my sins, have two such as
you for ever at my elbows in the world to come."