One morning Renard the fox woke with a resolution. "I'm going to change," he said. "All my life I've robbed and cheated and tricked, but from now on I'm going to be different. First I'll see the priest and confess all my sins." And with that he leaped out of bed and trotted down the road toward the chapel.
When the priest saw Renard coming, he hid behind a pew. Renard found him and begged him to hear his confession.
The priest sighed. "Well, then, one at a time."
Renard began. "When I was just a young fellow I crept up on little chickens and gobbled them down. I stole from friends. I've cheated old ladies, and I've even lied to you, good priest. I've robbed from neighbors. Oh, if I keep going, I'll never finish."
"Well," said the priest, "with your history there's just one thing to do. You must make a pilgrimage to the pope and confess to him."
So Renard borrowed a pilgrim's cloak and set off for Rome. Before he had gone far, he grew tired. He spotted a flowery meadow full of ambling sheep. In the middle of the flock stood a big strong ram. Renard stopped to chat.
"What are you doing, sir?"
"Resting," said Ram. "I have a terrible master who works me too hard, and ever since I was a youngster he's put me in charge of the flock. But now that I am growing old, he talks of making me into a shepherd's pie and giving my fleece to someone who wants fancy cloaks to wear to Rome."
"That's where I'm headed," said Renard. "Why don't you borrow one of your master's cloaks and come along with me?
Ram agreed, and the two pilgrims set off. They had gone only a short way when they came upon a donkey standing in a ditch eating thistles.
"What are you doing dressed up like pilgrims?" Donkey asked.
"I've changed," Renard said, "and I'm on my way to Rome to confess to the pope. Would you like to come along?"
"Wouldn't mind," Donkey said, "as long as there's enough to eat along the way."
So Donkey joined them.
The three walked until the moon rose. Coming to the edge of a dark forest, they could hear growling sounds and thought they should wait until daylight to go further.
"Well," said Renard, "no better place than God's own land beneath God's own trees."
But Donkey wanted shelter, and so Renard said he would ask his friend Wolf for shelter.
Ram remembered terrible things that had happened to his ancestors because of wolves, but Renard persuaded him to go to Wolf's house.
When they arrived the house was empty, so Renard climbed in to look for food. He found plenty, so he called to his friends. They ate up all of Wolf's food and drank and drank. They began to sing. They were singing at the top of their lungs and would have done so all night if Wolf and his family hadn't come home.
When Wolf heard the singing, he peeked through the window. And when he saw Renard, he cried. "I'm coming in to eat you!"
Ram began to tremble, but Renard said, "I know just what to do. Donkey, I'll lift the latch just enough to let Wolf poke his head through, and when his head is inside, you bang the door closed again. Then, Ram, you charge!"
"I'm opening the door," Renard called, and the moment Wolf had his head through the door, Donkey slammed it shut.
Ram charged and charged again, and poor Wolf's head began to spin. His wife ran, howling, into the woods, and soon she returned with all her wolf relatives.
The wolves sniffed at the ground. "I have their scent!" Grandfather Wolf called, and they all began to dash after the pilgrims.
"Faster," Renard called to his comrades, "go faster." They ran and ran but became exhausted, so Renard said, "Quick, we'll climb this tree."
"I don't know how to climb trees," Donkey said.
"Never too late to learn," said Renard, and he scrambled up the tree. The other two managed to climb up awkwardly behind him.
When the wolves came to the tree, they lost the scent. "We'll rest until daylight," Grandfather said, "and we'll find them in the morning." They lay down and fell asleep.
Ram began to fidget, for he couldn't sleep up on the branch, and suddenly he lost his balance and fell, but instead of crashing to the ground, he fell on top of two sleeping wolves and squashed them flat. The rest of the pack were so frightened they fled. Renard climbed down.
"Here we are," said Renard, "safe and sound."
But Ram and Donkey were fed up and decided to go home.
"You're right," Renard said, "any fool can walk to Rome and believe he's better for it. But home's best, and so let's go there." And they all went back home.
They say that after that Renard returned to his trickster ways.