A father once called his three sons before him, and he gave to the first a cock, to the second a scythe, and to the third a cat. "I am already aged," said he, "my death is nigh, and I have wished to take thought for you before my end; money I have not, and what I now give you seems of little worth, but all depends on your making a sensible use of it. Only seek out a country where such things are still unknown, and your fortune is made."
After the father's death the eldest went away with his cock, but wherever he came the cock was already known; in the towns he saw him from a long distance, sitting upon the steeples and turning round with the wind, and in the villages he heard more than one crowing; no one would show any wonder at the creature, so that it did not look as if he would make his fortune by it.
At last, however, it happened that he came to an island where the people knew nothing about cocks, and did not even understand how to divide their time. They certainly knew when it was morning or evening, but at night, if they did not sleep through it, not one of them knew how to find out the time.
"Look!" said he, "what a proud creature! it has a ruby-red crown upon its head, and wears spurs like a knight; it calls you three times during the night, at fixed hours, and when it calls for the last time, the sun soon rises. But if it crows by broad daylight, then take notice, for there will certainly be a change of weather."
The people were well pleased; for a whole night they did not sleep, and listened with great delight as the cock at two, four, and six o'clock, loudly and clearly proclaimed the time. They asked if the creature were for sale, and how much he wanted for it? "About as much gold as an ass can carry," answered he. "A ridiculously small price for such a precious creature!" they cried unanimously, and willingly gave him what he had asked.
When he came home with his wealth his brothers were astonished, and the second said, "Well, I will go forth and see whether I cannot get rid of my scythe as profitably." But it did not look as if he would, for labourers met him everywhere, and they had scythes upon their shoulders as well as he.
At last, however, he chanced upon an island where the people knew nothing of scythes. When the corn was ripe there, they took cannon out to the fields and shot it down. Now this was rather an uncertain affair; many shot right over it, others hit the ears instead of the stems, and shot them away, whereby much was lost, and besides all this, it made a terrible noise. So the man set to work and mowed it down so quietly and quickly that the people opened their mouths with astonishment. They agreed to give him what he wanted for the scythe, and he received a horse laden with as much gold as it could carry.
And now the third brother wanted to take his cat to the right man. He fared just like the others; so long as he stayed on the mainland there was nothing to be done. Every place had cats, and there were so many of them that new-born kittens were generally drowned in the ponds.
At last he sailed over to an island, and it luckily happened that no cats had ever yet been seen there, and that the mice had got the upper hand so much that they danced upon the tables and benches whether the master were at home or not. The people complained bitterly of the plague; the King himself in his palace did not know how to secure himself against them; mice squeaked in every corner, and gnawed whatever they could lay hold of with their teeth. But now the cat began her chase, and soon cleared a couple of rooms, and the people begged the King to buy the wonderful beast for the country. The King willingly gave what was asked, which was a mule laden with gold, and the third brother came home with the greatest treasure of all.
The cat made herself merry with the mice in the royal palace, and killed so many that they could not be counted. At last she grew warm with the work and thirsty, so she stood still, lifted up her head and cried, "Mew. Mew!" When they heard this strange cry, the King and all his people were frightened, and in their terror ran all at once out of the palace. Then the King took counsel what was best to be done; at last it was determined to send a herald to the cat, and demand that she should leave the palace, or if not, she was to expect that force would be used against her. The councillors said, "Rather will we let ourselves be plagued with the mice, for to that misfortune we are accustomed, than give up our lives to such a monster as this." A noble youth, therefore, was sent to ask the cat "whether she would peaceably quit the castle?" But the cat, whose thirst had become still greater, merely answered, "Mew! Mew!" The youth understood her to say, "Most certainly not! most certainly not!" and took this answer to the King. "Then," said the councillors, "she shall yield to force." Cannon were brought out, and the palace was soon in flames. When the fire reached the room where the cat was sitting, she sprang safely out of the window; but the besiegers did not leave off until the whole palace was shot down to the ground.
父亲死了以后，大儿子带着公鸡出发了，但是他无论走到哪儿那儿都有公鸡。 在每个城镇，很远他就看见教堂的尖塔上都站着一只公鸡随风转动（其实那不过是风向风速器，也就是风信鸡），各个乡村，公鸡的叫声到处都可以听到，他的鸡一点也不新奇。 看来他发财的机会似乎很渺茫。 但他并不灰心，继续不停地找，终于还是找到了这样一个地方。 他到了一座岛上，岛上的人从来没有听到过鸡叫，也不知道如何计时，他们知道早晨或者晚上，但到了夜里睡觉时，就不知道时间过去了多少。 他对他们说："你们看吧！这是一只多么高贵的动物啊！它多么像一个骑士。瞧！它头戴鲜红的头盔，脚蹬锡马刺，每天晚上隔一段时间它就叫一次，第三次叫时，太阳不久就要升起来了。不仅这样，它还能预报天气，如果它在大白天叫，就是提醒你们天气要变了。"听了他的介绍，当地的人们非常高兴，他们整夜没有睡觉，怀着兴奋的心情，等着听这只公鸡的啼叫，每次鸡叫都使他们激动不已。 鸡在两点、四点、六点共叫了三次。 于是他们问他这鸡是不是卖，要卖多少钱，他说："大约要一匹毛驴所能驮的金子。"他们齐声叫道："这是一只高贵的动物，这个价钱很公正。"他们给了他所要的那些金子。
当他带着所得的财富回到家里时，两个弟弟非常惊讶。 老二说："我现在也要出去，看是能否用这把长柄镰刀换来好财运。"可他出来一试，就觉得希望太小了。 因为，不管他走到哪里，他都能遇到农夫肩上扛着和自己一样的长柄镰刀的情形。 他并不气馁，跑了一个又一个地方。 真是功夫不负有心人，他最终还是交上了好运：他也来到了一个岛上，那儿的人们连长柄镰刀的名字听都没听说过。 不久麦子熟了，他们来到农田将麦子拔了起来，但这样收获非常劳累，而且许多麦子都掉下来浪费了。 老二用他的长柄大镰刀来收割，很快就割完了全部的庄稼，人们张大嘴巴站在那儿，用惊奇的目光看着这一切，纷纷愿意出他所要的任何价钱来换取这把奇妙的工具，他要了一匹驮满金子的马回到了家。
老三现在也想出去看看能用猫换取到什么东西，于是他出发了，开始他的命运也和前两个哥哥一样，跑了不少地方都没有成功，陆地上到处都有猫 ，真是太多了，以致许多刚出生的小猫都被扔进水里淹死了。 最后他在海上寻找机会，终于在一个岛国如愿以偿。 岛上的人从来没有看到过猫，那儿老鼠泛滥成灾，不管房屋的主人在家或不在家，这些讨厌的小家伙都在桌子上椅子上窜来跳去，人们叫苦不迭。 国王在他的宫殿里也不知道该怎样办，每个角落里都有老鼠在吱吱叫个不停。 凡是它们的牙齿能够咬的东西都被咬坏了。 老三为猫在这里找到了用武之地，猫一下地，马上就开始捉老鼠，一转眼的功夫，就把两间房子里的老鼠清理完毕。 这时人们恳求国王买下这只奇异的动物，用多少钱都行。 国王乐意地满足了老三的要求，给了他一匹驮满了金子和宝石的骡子。 因此，老三带着比他两个哥哥更值钱的财宝回到了家里。
猫留在了岛上，它在王宫里捕捉老鼠，快活极了，追来追去，忙个不停，咬死的老鼠数也数不清。 终于它累得精疲力竭，口也渴得冒烟，于是静静地站在那儿，伸着脖子仰着头叫了起来，"咪--，咪--"。 听到这奇怪的叫声，国王把所有的大臣都召集起来了，看看采取什么措施最好。 最后，他决定派一名传令官去见猫，警告猫立刻离开王宫大院，否则就要用武力来赶它出去。 那些顾问说："我们宁愿和老鼠共处，也不愿冒生命危险和这只猫共处。"一个小听差应命走了进去，他问猫："你是否愿意离开王宫？"但这只猫口渴得更厉害了，一个劲地叫着"咪--，咪--"。 这小听差以为猫是说"不！不！"所以就把这个意思告诉了国王。 顾问们一听，马上说："好吧！那我们就用武力来对付它吧。"他们架起火炮向王宫轰去，王宫四周燃起了大火，当火烧到猫待的那间房子时，它从窗口跳了出去，围攻的士兵都没有看到它。 大火一直烧个不停，最后，整个宫殿都化成了灰烬。