Once there lived two brothers. The rich older brother was spoiled, lazy, and selfish, but the younger brother— though he was a poor woodcutter—was filial, hardworking, and generous.
Each day, the younger brother rose at the crack of dawn and went up into the hills to cut and gather wood. One day, he had worked especially hard and he was resting under a tree when an acorn fell—ttuk—at his side. “This one’s for my father,” he said, and he picked it up.
Then another acorn fell—ttuk—and another, and another—ttuk ttuk—and the woodcutter picked them up, saying, “This one’s for my mother. This one’s for my older brother, and this one’s for his wife.” He put the acorns in his pocket and got up with his load of wood to make his way back home.
It was already twilight, and so he hurried down the path. But darkness came strangely early, and soon the woodcutter found himself in a pitch black night filled with the ominous cries of a cuckoo. He was frightened by the sudden eerie darkness, and soon he realized he had lost his way. Confused and fearful, he wandered aimlessly, this way and that and in circles, startled by the slightest sound. After the longest time, he found an old abandoned house in the woods. He was so tired he went inside to spend the night there, but even inside he was filled with anxious thoughts and he could not sleep. He was tossing and turning when he heard the sound of gruff voices, then a loud commotion coming from the entrance. Quickly, he got up and hid himself in the wall closet, leaving the door slightly cracked to he could see.
And not a moment too soon! A gang of goblins entered the room where he had been just a moment before, each carrying a large wooden club. They gathered in a big circle and began to pound their clubs on the floor.
Thump! Thump! Thump! They shouted, “Make gold! Ttukk! Ttakk!” and a pile of gold appeared on the floor. They shouted, “Make silver! Ttukk! Ttakk!” and a pile of silver appeared.
The younger brother was terrified—afraid to make even the smallest noise, he held his breath and watched as the goblins made piles and piles of treasure with their magic clubs. But even in his terror, the young man was hungry, and after a while he could not help it—his stomach rumbled.
Instantly, the goblins stopped their game. “What was that sound?” said one. They looked all around the room.
“Thunder,” said another goblin. “Let us hurry before the rain comes. The roof is leaky on this old shack.”
When the goblins started again, the poor woodcutter realized he was doomed if his stomach rumbled again. He had to eat something to make it quiet. He searched through his pockets and found the acorns he had picked up that day, and as quietly as he could, he put one in his mouth and gently bit down.
There was a loud crack!
The goblins suddenly leapt up and scattered from the room, crying “Get out! It’s the roof beam!”
The woodcutter’s heart nearly burst from fright. He stayed motionless in the wall closet all night, afraid that the goblins might return and find him at any moment. It was not until sunrise that he finally came out into the room and found it piled with gold, silver, and jewels.
He gazed at the treasures, open-mouthed with awe. Then he came to his senses. He took all the wood off his A-frame and piled on as much of the treasure as he could carry. As he left, he saw that one of the goblins had dropped his magic club, and so he took that, also.
When he returned, the younger brother was the richest man in town. He used the treasures to build a palatial house, and he invited his old parents to live with him in style. Whenever he needed money, all he had to do was thump the club on the floor, just as the goblins had done. If he said, “Make gold! Ttukk! Ttakk!” a pile of gold magically appeared, and if he said, “Make silver! Ttukk! Ttakk!” a pile of silver would appear.
The woodcutter’s older brother was terribly jealous. He visited his younger brother and demanded to know how he had come upon the treasure and the magic club. The younger brother was happy to tell him his story in great detail. On the outside, the older brother seemed to be listening attentively; but all could think of was the fabulous wealth he would get for himself, and though he nodded and demanded more detail, he was simply imagining the piles of gold, silver, and jewels—he was not paying attention.
That very night, he changed into his oldest clothes, shouldered his A-frame, and went up into the hills his younger brother had described. He chopped a load of firewood as quickly as he could, then found the old oak tree and sat under it. Soon, just as in his brother’s story, he herd a quiet thump! and an acorn fell at his side.
He quickly snatched it up. “An acorn for me,” he said with a smile. Just then, another one fell with a thump! “Another one for me to eat,” he said. Then another, and another fell, and each time the older brother put it in his pocket, saying, “Another acorn for me to eat!”
With his pocket full of acorns, the older brother went looking for the old house even before the sun was fully down. But the moment he found it, the sky suddenly grew dark and he heard the call of the cuckoo. Unlike his younger brother, he was not afraid because he was too excited by the idea of how wealthy he would become. Leaving his A-frame outside the front door, he went into the house and lay down in the room his brother had described.
He waited impatiently, and it seemed to take forever for the goblins to arrive. When finally he heard them approaching, he climbed into the wall closet and left the door open just a crack so he could see.
The goblins began their game the moment they entered the room, banging their clubs on the floor and shouting, “Make gold! Ttukk! Ttakk! Make silver! Ttukk! Ttakk!”
The older brother was so excited he could not wait any longer. He quickly put an acorn in his mouth and bit down as hard as he could. Crack! He could hear the sound echo through the room, and he expected the goblins to run for their lives just as they had for his younger brother, but when he peeked out of the wall closet the goblins were still there.
“So the greedy fool has returned,” said one of the goblins. “He tricked me out of my magic club last time. This time, let’s teach him a lesson!” He jerked open the door of the wall closet, and the older brother tumbled out.
The goblins began to beat him mercilessly with their clubs. One shouted, “Flatten him! Ttukk! Ttakk!” and when the club landed on him, the older brother flattened out, thin as a blanket. “Stretch him! Ttukk! Ttakk!” cried another goblin, and the older brother grew incredibly long and thin, thin like a bamboo pole.
All through the night, the goblins had their fun with him, pounding him flat stretching him long. At dawn, they finally went their way, leaving him long and thin. The older brother slung his empty A-frame over his thin, gangly shoulders and staggered back home.