Once upon a time, many long years ago, there
lived a man by the name of Kelev. One day his wife gave him some money,
"Go to the market and buy some butter.
Taking a hollow gourd in which to put the butter, Kelev mounted his donkey and rode off to the market.
While on his way back home, Kelev decided to stop and take a rest.
He climbed down from the donkey, set the gourd filled with butter on the ground, and began looking for a spot to tether his donkey. But the area was barren and smooth, with not even the smallest blade of grass in sight. Then his eye fell upon the gourd, and he decided to tether the donkey to the crook of its neck.
"What a clever one I am!" Kelev thought to himself as he lay down on the ground.
Soon the donkey grew tired of standing still; it stretched out its neck and brayed, and then went ambling off, dragging the gourd behind. Kelev jumped up and set off in pursuit. Many a time he was about to catch the beast, but the donkey quickened its pace until it was flying along at a full trot.
The gourd went bouncing from one hill to the next until it shattered into small bits and pieces, and the donkey disappeared from view.
There was nothing for Kelev to do but to go searching for the donkey. Along the way he met a man.
"Have you seen my donkey?"
Guessing that Kelev was a simple-minded fellow, the man decided to have a little fun.
"He's in the palace; he's been called up to duty as a judge."
Without another thought, Kelev ran to the judge's house, dragged him out into the street, and began shouting:
"Well now, let's get moving!"
People heard the commotion and soon a crowd of spectators had formed around Kelev and the judge.
"Kelev, where are you dragging him?"
"Home. It's my donkey! I tethered him to a gourd with butter and he got away. The gourd burst into pieces and the butter all spilled out. Am I supposed to go without my donkey as well?" Kelev related his story to the crowd and then shouted once again at the judge: "Well, get a move on!"
The judge was at a loss as to what to do: people were laughing and Kelev was still pressing him.
"The wisest thing would be to pay him off," thought the judge to himself, and gave him money to compensate for the donkey, gourd, and butter.
Kelev took the money and set off for home. But one of the judge's retainers grew greedy:
"How could that simpleton have gotten away with all that money? There must be a way of getting it back."
He ran up ahead of Kelev and sat down on the road with two watermelons. When he saw Kelev approaching, he sliced one of them open and began to eat. It so happened that Kelev was terribly thirsty. The judge's retainer cut off a slice and gave it to him.
"Very tasty indeed!" Kelev said.
"But this watermelon is even more delicious," said the deceiver.
"And it will soon bear a foal."
"How much does your watermelon cost?" asked Kelev.
"It costs exactly the same as one donkey."
"What a great deal," Kelev thought. "I'll quench my thirst, and have a horse in place of the donkey."
Kelev paid for the watermelon, and the judge's retainer said:
"Don't cut the watermelon until you get home, or the foal will run away."
Kelev walked along carrying the watermelon like a jug full of water, and he stumbled. The watermelon flew out of his hands and split open as it landed on the ground.
It so happened that a hare had been dozing in the very same spot. Startled by the loud noise, it went bounding off.
"That's my foal getting away," Kelev thought when he heard the commotion.
He gave a weary sigh and went trudging on home.
When his wife saw him she asked:
"But where's the butter?"
In a fit of temper Kelev answered:
"Foolish woman, I just lost a foal, and all you can think about is butter!"
Kelev told her of all his misadventures and she said:
"What a simpleton I have for a husband!"