Swedish Folk Tales / To Live or to Die

Authored by:Folk tales
Chapter 1 / 1

To Live or to Die

There was a time when a greedy old woman lived in this world. And everyone lamented that she would soon die, and her cow would fall into the hands of strangers. She made up her mind to slaughter her cow and eat it before she dies. However, how can she know when death will come to her?

The old woman began to walk around visiting neighbors and asking everyone for advice. A joker just up and told her.

“You, grandma, go to the mountains. Climb as high as possible, stand on the top and shout: "To live or to die?". You will hear the answer immediately.

The old woman did so. She climbed a high mountain and screamed with all her might: “To live or to die?”. And an echo came to her in response.


The old woman returned home and slaughtered her cow. Then she kindled a fire in the hearth and cooked a full cauldron of beef. For many days she ate beef until she ate the last piece and gnawed the last bone.

A week passed, and then another, and the old woman did not die. She got angry, went to the neighbors and attacked the joker who gave her advice:

“Oh, you rascal, shameless are your eyes! Why did you deceive me?

And the joker asked her.

“How did you scream, grandmother?”

“To live or die,” the old woman replies.

“That's not true! It was necessary to shout "To die or to live?"”.

The next day the old woman once again went to the mountains, climbed up to the highest peak and shouted:

“Die or live?” And an echo came to her in response.


And so, the old woman lives to this day and she always regrets that she had eaten her cow ahead of time.


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