Owls and Monkeys


“I’m tired of being a clown,” Till sighed one day. “I think I’ll leave the circus.”

So, still wearing his clown suit, he set out on his way through the German countryside. By the time the sun had set, Till was quite tired. He stopped in front of a little village bakery. Mmmm—the bread and rolls sure look good, the traveler thought. How I’d like to bite into one of those freshly baked rolls!

“I need a helper, friend,” said the baker, who suddenly appeared at the door to his shop. “Can you bake?”

“Bake, uh, why of course!” answered the clown with a smile. Now Till knew as much about baking as an elephant knows, but he was hungry and needed to earn some money.

“Fine, you’re hired,” the baker said, leading him inside. “Here’s your apron. Now let’s go to work.”

Till watched the baker carefully and did whatever his master showed him. This was fine for a while, but one morning the baker announced, “I’ve been invited to a wedding feast in a neighboring village, and I won’t be back until tomorrow. Tonight you’ll have to do all the baking yourself.”

Till was worried and thought, What can I do with no one here to show me? With a puzzled frown he turned to the baker and asked, “What shall I bake?”

“What should you bake? Ha-ha, what a joke! Bake owls and monkeys for all I care!” The master laughed, for he thought Till was just asking a silly question. Laughing uproariously, he repeated, “Bake owls and monkeys for all I care!” Then he left, slamming the door shut behind him.

“Owls and monkeys,” Till muttered. “Then owls and monkeys I shall bake.”

He mixed the dough just as his master always did. When it had raised to twice its size, he punched it down and broke off a piece about the size of a small ball. He squeezed and patted it until he had made a monkey figure with a long curling tail, and he used raisins for its eyes. He made tray after tray of monkeys until he had filled five trays.

With the remaining dough he shaped owls with round heads atop their small squat bodies. He gave them raisin eyes too. From ten o’clock at night until three o’clock in the morning he worked, baking nothing but owls and monkeys.

Early the next day the master baker returned, expecting to see the bread and rolls all finished. Instead he found the bakery full of owls and monkeys. “What is this—a zoo?” he shouted.

Till held up a final tray proudly. “See,” he said, “I baked owls and monkeys just as you suggested. Don’t they look real?”

“Out, out, you chowderhead!” cried the master. “But first you must pay me for the dough you’ve wasted.”

Till thought fast. “All right, I’ll pay, but only if you let me take the owls and monkeys with me.”

“Take them,” said the angry baker. “What do I want with such foolishness?”

Till paid the baker and gathered up all the owls and monkeys. He put them into a large sack and quickly left the bakery. Then he ran off to the marketplace in the center of town where people were beginning to arrive to do the day’s shopping. When they saw the funny clown with his baked animals, they were indeed amused.

“Owls and monkeys!” exclaimed one woman. “Look at these!”

People gathered to look and to buy, and soon everything was sold. Not one owl was left. Not one monkey remained. Someone had even bought the sack!

When the baker saw all the excitement, he rushed out of his shop. “I’ll get that rascal!” he cried. “I forgot to charge him for the wood he burned in the bake ovens. He owes me more money.”

The angry baker looked all around the marketplace, but Till had gone. All he saw was a crowd of happy people with their owls and monkeys.

And where was Till? Who can say!

[illustration] Illustrated by Dick Brown