There was a certain village wherein no one lived but really rich peasants, and just one poor one, whom they called the little peasant. He had not even so much as a cow, and still less money to buy one, and yet he and his wife did so wish to have one. One day he said to her, "Hark you, I have a good thought, there is our gossip the carpenter, he shall make us a wooden calf, and paint it brown, so that it look like any other, and in time it will certainly get big and be a cow." The woman also liked the idea, and their gossip the carpenter cut and planed the calf, and painted it as it ought to be, and made it with its head hanging down as if it were eating.
Next morning when the cows were being driven out, the little peasant called the cow-herd and said, "Look, I have a little calf there, but it is still small and has still to be carried." The cow-herd said, "All right, and took it in his arms and carried it to the pasture, and set it among the grass." The little calf always remained standing like one which was eating, and the cow-herd said, "It will soon run alone, just look how it eats already!" At night when he was going to drive the herd home again, he said to the calf, "If thou canst stand there and eat thy fill, thou canst also go on thy four legs; I don't care to drag thee home again in my arms." But the little peasant stood at his door, and waited for his little calf, and when the cow-herd drove the cows through the village, and the calf was missing, he inquired where it was. The cow-herd answered, "It is still standing out there eating. It would not stop and come with us." But the little peasant said, "Oh, but I must have my beast back again." Then they went back to the meadow together, but some one had stolen the calf, and it was gone. The cow-herd said, "It must have run away." The peasant, however, said, "Don't tell me that," and led the cow-herd before the mayor, who for his carelessness condemned him to give the peasant a cow for the calf which had run away.
And now the little peasant and his wife had the cow for which they had so long wished, and they were heartily glad, but they had no food for it, and could give it nothing to eat, so it soon had to be killed. They salted the flesh, and the peasant went into the town and wanted to sell the skin there, so that he might buy a new calf with the proceeds. On the way he passed by a mill, and there sat a raven with broken wings, and out of pity he took him and wrapped him in the skin. As, however, the weather grew so bad and there was a storm of rain and wind, he could go no farther, and turned back to the mill and begged for shelter. The miller's wife was alone in the house, and said to the peasant, "Lay thyself on the straw there," and gave him a slice of bread with cheese on it. The peasant ate it, and lay down with his skin beside him, and the woman thought, "He is tired and has gone to sleep." In the meantime came the parson; the miller's wife received him well, and said, "My husband is out, so we will have a feast." The peasant listened, and when he heard about feasting he was vexed that he had been forced to make shift with a slice of bread with cheese on it. Then the woman served up four different things, roast meat, salad, cakes, and wine.
Just as they were about to sit down and eat, there was a knocking outside. The woman said, "Oh, heavens! It is my husband!" She quickly hid the roast meat inside the tiled stove, the wine under the pillow, the salad on the bed, the cakes under it, and the parson in the cupboard in the entrance. Then she opened the door for her husband, and said, "Thank heaven, thou art back again! There is such a storm, it looks as if the world were coming to an end." The miller saw the peasant lying on the straw, and asked, "What is that fellow doing there?" - "Ah," said the wife, "the poor knave came in the storm and rain, and begged for shelter, so I gave him a bit of bread and cheese, and showed him where the straw was." The man said, "I have no objection, but be quick and get me something to eat." The woman said, "But I have nothing but bread and cheese." - "I am contented with anything," replied the husband, "so far as I am concerned, bread and cheese will do," and looked at the peasant and said, "Come and eat some more with me." The peasant did not require to be invited twice, but got up and ate. After this the miller saw the skin in which the raven was, lying on the ground, and asked, "What hast thou there?" The peasant answered, "I have a soothsayer inside it." - "Can he foretell anything to me?" said the miller. "Why not?" answered the peasant, "but he only says four things, and the fifth he keeps to himself." The miller was curious, and said, "Let him foretell something for once." Then the peasant pinched the raven's head, so that he croaked and made a noise like krr, krr. The miller said, "What did he say?" The peasant answered, "In the first place, he says that there is some wine hidden under the pillow." - "Bless me!" cried the miller, and went there and found the wine. "Now go on," said he. The peasant made the raven croak again, and said, "In the second place, he says that there is some roast meat in the tiled stove." - "Upon my word!" cried the miller, and went thither, and found the roast meat. The peasant made the raven prophesy still more, and said, "Thirdly, he says that there is some salad on the bed." - "That would be a fine thing!" cried the miller, and went there and found the salad. At last the peasant pinched the raven once more till he croaked, and said, "Fourthly, he says that there are some cakes under the bed." - "That would be a fine thing!" cried the miller, and looked there, and found the cakes.
And now the two sat down to the table together, but the miller's wife was frightened to death, and went to bed and took all the keys with her. The miller would have liked much to know the fifth, but the little peasant said, "First, we will quickly eat the four things, for the fifth is something bad." So they ate, and after that they bargained how much the miller was to give for the fifth prophesy, until they agreed on three hundred thalers. Then the peasant once more pinched the raven's head till he croaked loudly. The miller asked, "What did he say?" The peasant replied, "He says that the Devil is hiding outside there in the cupboard in the entrance." The miller said, "The Devil must go out," and opened the house-door; then the woman was forced to give up the keys, and the peasant unlocked the cupboard. The parson ran out as fast as he could, and the miller said, "It was true; I saw the black rascal with my own eyes." The peasant, however, made off next morning by daybreak with the three hundred thalers.
At home the small peasant gradually launched out; he built a beautiful house, and the peasants said, "The small peasant has certainly been to the place where golden snow falls, and people carry the gold home in shovels." Then the small peasant was brought before the Mayor, and bidden to say from whence his wealth came. He answered, "I sold my cow's skin in the town, for three hundred thalers." When the peasants heard that, they too wished to enjoy this great profit, and ran home, killed all their cows, and stripped off their skins in order to sell them in the town to the greatest advantage. The Mayor, however, said, "But my servant must go first." When she came to the merchant in the town, he did not give her more than two thalers for a skin, and when the others came, he did not give them so much, and said, "What can I do with all these skins?"
Then the peasants were vexed that the small peasant should have thus overreached them, wanted to take vengeance on him, and accused him of this treachery before the Mayor. The innocent little peasant was unanimously sentenced to death, and was to be rolled into the water, in a barrel pierced full of holes. He was led forth, and a priest was brought who was to say a mass for his soul. The others were all obliged to retire to a distance, and when the peasant looked at the priest, he recognized the man who had been with the miller's wife. He said to him, "I set you free from the cupboard, set me free from the barrel." At this same moment up came, with a flock of sheep, the very shepherd who as the peasant knew had long been wishing to be Mayor, so he cried with all his might, "No, I will not do it; if the whole world insists on it, I will not do it!" The shepherd hearing that, came up to him, and asked, "What art thou about? What is it that thou wilt not do?" The peasant said, "They want to make me Mayor, if I will but put myself in the barrel, but I will not do it." The shepherd said, "If nothing more than that is needful in order to be Mayor, I would get into the barrel at once." The peasant said, "If thou wilt get in, thou wilt be Mayor." The shepherd was willing, and got in, and the peasant shut the top down on him; then he took the shepherd's flock for himself, and drove it away. The parson went to the crowd, and declared that the mass had been said. Then they came and rolled the barrel towards the water. When the barrel began to roll, the shepherd cried, "I am quite willing to be Mayor." They believed no otherwise than that it was the peasant who was saying this, and answered, "That is what we intend, but first thou shalt look about thee a little down below there," and they rolled the barrel down into the water.
After that the peasants went home, and as they were entering the village, the small peasant also came quietly in, driving a flock of sheep and looking quite contented. Then the peasants were astonished, and said, "Peasant, from whence comest thou? Hast thou come out of the water?" - "Yes, truly," replied the peasant, "I sank deep, deep down, until at last I got to the bottom; I pushed the bottom out of the barrel, and crept out, and there were pretty meadows on which a number of lambs were feeding, and from thence I brought this flock away with me." Said the peasants, "Are there any more there?" - "Oh, yes," said he, "more than I could do anything with." Then the peasants made up their minds that they too would fetch some sheep for themselves, a flock apiece, but the Mayor said, "I come first." So they went to the water together, and just then there were some of the small fleecy clouds in the blue sky, which are called little lambs, and they were reflected in the water, whereupon the peasants cried, "We already see the sheep down below!" The Mayor pressed forward and said, "I will go down first, and look about me, and if things promise well I'll call you." So he jumped in; splash! went the water; he made a sound as if he were calling them, and the whole crowd plunged in after him as one man. Then the entire village was dead, and the small peasant, as sole heir, became a rich man.
晚上，牧人打算赶着牛群回村。 他对小木牛说："既然你能吃就吃个够吧。等你吃饱了准能自己回村的。我可不想再抱着你走了。"可是小农夫站在门口等着，看到牧牛人赶着牛进了村，没见到小木牛，就问牧人小牛在哪儿。 "还在牧场吃草呢。它不肯跟我回来。"小农夫说："我一定得把小牛找回来。"
他们一起来到牧场，没见到牛犊，也不知道什么人把它偷走了。 牧人说："准是它自己跑了。"小农夫说："别跟我来这一套。"拉着牧人就找镇长评理去了。 镇长判牧人粗心，罚他赔一头小牛给农夫。
就这样，小农夫和妻子有了一头自家的牛。 他们打心眼里为这盼望已久的事情感到高兴。 可是他们太穷了，没东西喂给它吃，所以没过多久就只得把牛杀了。 他们将牛肉腌制起来，把牛皮扒了下来，打算卖掉之后再买头小牛回来。 他路过一家磨坊，看到一只折断了翅膀的乌鸦。 他同情地把它捡了起来，用牛皮裹好。 这时天上突然下起了暴雨，他不得不到磨坊躲雨。 磨坊主的妻子独自在家，她对小农夫说："躺在那边的草垛上吧。"又给了他一片面包和一小块干酪。 农夫吃完就把牛皮放在身边，自己在草垛上躺下了。 磨坊主的妻子以为他累了在那儿睡熟了。 这时，教区牧师来了，磨坊主的妻子热情地接待他，说："我丈夫不在家，我们可以好好吃一顿了。"小农夫听到他们大谈美食，又想到自己只吃了一块面包和一点干酪，心里很不痛快。 只见妇人端出四种不同的美食来：烤肉、沙拉、蛋糕和酒。
他们正要坐下享用，听到外面有人敲门。 妇人说："天哪！是我丈夫！"她赶忙将烤肉藏到烤炉里，把酒塞到枕头底下，把蛋糕藏到床下面，沙拉藏到床上，最后将牧师藏到门廊上的壁橱里，然后才去给丈夫开门，说："谢天谢地，你总算回来了！暴风雨那么大，简直像到了世界末日一样。"磨坊主看到躺在草垛上的小农夫，问："这家伙在这里干什么？""哦，可怜的家伙赶上暴雨了，来请求躲雨。我给了他一块面包和一点干酪，然后把他领到这里来了。"丈夫说："行了，快点弄些吃的来吧。"可妇人说："除了面包和干酪，别的就什么都没了。""随便什么都行。"丈夫回答，"我现在能有面包和干酪就觉得挺不错的了。"他看着小农夫，问："你也来和我一起吃点儿吧。"农夫毫不客气，赶紧起来吃。 这时，磨坊主看到了地上的牛皮和乌鸦，问："那是什么？""里面是个占卜的。"农夫回答。 "能预言点什么？"磨坊主问。 "怎么不能！"农夫说，"不过它每次只说四件事，第五件只有它自己知道。"磨坊主好奇地说："那就让它说点什么吧。"磨坊主说。 于是农夫捅了捅乌鸦，使它"呀、呀"地叫了几声。 磨坊主问："它说啥？"农夫说："它说，首先枕头下面有一瓶酒。""天哪！"磨坊主喊着冲向枕头，真的从它下面拿出一瓶酒来。 "让它接着说。"磨坊主说。 农夫又捅了捅乌鸦，让它叫出声来，说："这次它说烤炉里有烤肉。""唉呀！"磨坊主惊叫着跑向烤炉，果然找到了烤肉。 农夫再次让乌鸦预言，说："这次它说床上有沙拉。""太棒了！"说着磨坊主就走到床边，在那里找到了沙拉。 农夫最后一次捅了捅乌鸦，说："第四件，床底下有蛋糕。""这倒不错！"磨坊主说着就朝床下看，真的有一盘蛋糕在那里。
两人这时一起吃了起来，磨坊主的妻子则吓了个半死。 她把所有橱柜门都锁了起来，把钥匙拿在手里上床睡了。 可磨坊主还想知道第五件事，农夫说："我还是先快点吃这四样东西吧，第五件可不是什么好东西。"等吃饱了喝足了，磨坊主还是想知道到底是什么，所以他们就开始讲条件，最后谈定三百金币。 农夫捅了捅乌鸦的脑袋，疼得它"哇、哇"大叫起来。 磨坊主问："它说什么？"农夫说："它说魔鬼藏在你家门廊上的柜子里了。""那一定得把它赶走才行。"磨坊主说着打开房门，妇人只好交出钥匙。 农夫替她打开了柜子门，牧师撒腿就跑。 磨坊主说："还真是的！我亲眼看到那黑黑的恶棍了！"就这样，农夫第二天一早带着三百金币离开了磨坊。
小农夫渐渐讲究起来，而且修起了新房子。 村子里的农夫说："小农夫准是到了天上落金子的地方，那里的人准是用铁锹铲了金子扛回家的。"于是他们把小农夫带到镇长那儿，逼他说出他的财富是从哪儿来的。 他回答说："我在城里把牛皮卖了，得了三百个金币。"其他农夫一听牛皮居然能卖那么高的价，纷纷跑回家将牛杀了，扒了皮，希望拿到城里去卖个好价钱。 镇长说："让我的仆人先去。"仆人来到城里，收牛皮的商人只出两个金币买一张牛皮。 等其他农夫也赶来时，商人连这个价也不肯出了，说："我拿这么多牛皮干什么？"
那些农夫觉得自己被愚弄了，气急败坏地想要报复。 他们以小农夫在镇长面前说谎的罪名控告他，并一致同意判无辜的小农夫死刑，要把他装进满是洞眼的酒桶沉到河里去。 于是小农夫被带到牧师跟前作最后的忏悔。 这种时候，其他人是必须走开的。 小农夫认出牧师就是那晚在磨坊主家的那个，就说："我把你从柜子里放了出来，你也该把我从桶里放出来才对。"这时，有个牧羊人赶着一群羊走来。 小农夫知道他一直渴望当镇长，于是大喊："不！我不当！即是全世界的人要我当我也不当！"牧羊人听了走过来问："你在喊啥？你不当什么？"农夫说："他们说只要我愿意把自己装在这桶里就让我当镇长。我可不愿意！""如果当镇长只需要这么做，我倒是很愿意。"说着就放出小农夫，自己钻了进去。 小农夫替他盖上桶盖，赶着他的羊群走了。 牧师回到大伙那儿说祈祷做完了，他们就过来朝河里推酒桶。 桶开始滚动的时候，他们听到有人在里面说："我很愿意当镇长。"可他们以为是小农夫在说话，就说："我们的确打算让你当。不过你得先在下面四处瞧瞧。"说完就把桶推下河去了。
农夫们从村子一头往家走，小农夫赶着羊群从另一头默默进了村，样子十分满足。 他们大为惊讶地问："你从哪儿来？是从水里吗？""是的，"小农夫说，"我一直往下沉啊沉啊，最后沉到河底，推开桶盖一看，原来是一片美丽的大草原，无数只羔羊在那里吃草。所以我就带了一群回来了。"农夫们又问："那里还有吗？""有啊！"他回答，"多得我想要都要不完。"农夫们决定也去赶一群羊回来。 可是镇长说："我先去。"他们一起来到河边，蓝天里正好飘过朵朵白云倒映在水中，农夫们喊道："我们已经看到下面的羊群了！"镇长挤到前面说："我先下去察看一下，如果真的很多我再叫你们。"说着就"扑嗵"一声跳进水里，那声音像是在喊岸上的人们下去，于是一群人一齐跳了下去，这下子，全村人都死光了，小农夫成了唯一继承人，一下成为了大富翁。