Once upon a time...
there lived a fisherman who earned a living selling fish, making his rounds to thecustomers on a horse drawn cart loaded with his catch of the day. One cold winter day, while the fisherman was crossing the woods, a fox smelled the fish and began following the cart at a close distance.
The fisherman kept his trout in long wicker baskets and the sight of the fish made the fox's mouth water. The fox, however, was reluctant to jump on the cart to steal a fish because the fisherman had a long whip that he cracked from time to time to spur on the horse. But the smell of fresh fish was so enticing that the fox overcame her fear of the whip, leapt on to the cart and with a quick blow of her paw, dropped a wicker basket on the snow. The fisherman did not notice anything and continued his journey undisturbed.
The fox was very happy. She opened the basket and got ready to enjoy her meal. She was about to taste the first bite when a bear appeared.
"Where did you get all that marvelous trout?" the big bear asked with a hungry look on its face.
"I've been fishing," the fox answered, unperturbed.
"Fishing? How? The lake is frozen over," the bear said, incredulously. "How did you manage to fish?"
The fox was aware that, unless she could get rid of the bear with some kind of excuse, she would have had to share her fish. But the only plausible answer she could come up with was:
"I fished with my tail."
"With your tail?" said the bear, who was even more astonished.
"Sure, with my tail. I made a hole in the ice, I dropped my tail in the water and when I felt a bite I pulled it out and a fish was stuck on its end," the fox told the bear. The bear touched his tail and his mouth began watering. He said:
"Thanks for the tip. I'm going fishing too."
The lake was not too far away, but the ice was very thick and the bear had a hard time making a hole in it. Finally, his long claws got the job done. As time went by and evening approached, it got colder and colder. The bear shivered but he kept sitting by the hole with his tail in the water. No fish had bitten yet.
The bear was very cold and the water of the lake began freezing again around his tail. It was then that the bear felt something like a bite on the end of his frozen tail. The bear pulled with all his strength, heard something tear and at the same time felt a very sharp pain. He turned around to find out what kind of fish he had caught, and right then he realized that his tail, trapped in the ice, had been torn off.
Ever since then, bears have had a little stump instead of a long and thick tail.