Saint Nicholas and the Mouse

by Christine Natale

Gentle stories in the Waldorf tradition for the days before St. Nicholas Day, December 6 + a bonus story

December 1 – The Little Boy Nicholas
December 2 – Bishop Nicholas
December 3 – Bishop Nicholas and the Family
December 4 – The Girl and the Wolf
December 5 – Bishop Nicholas and Rupert
December 6 – Saint Nicholas and Knecht Rupert

Bonus Story – Saint Nicholas and the Mouse

During his life on Earth, our beloved Saint Nicholas helped many people in many ways. He traveled many days, many years and many miles bringing food, clothes, medicines and other good things to people in need. He protected children and young people from many dangers and as you know, he rescued dear Rupert who became his loving servant.

One time it happened that Nicholas and Rupert came to a farming village. They were invited into the home of one of the farmers and given a nice hot soup to eat along with a lovely loaf of freshly baked bread. This bread was made with the flour ground from the wheat that the village grew. It was very good wheat and its flour made delicious bread. The little village was as prosperous as a little village can be because there was usually a bountiful harvest of wheat and plenty to sell to nearby villages and towns or to barter for other kinds of food and goods.

Bishop Nicholas, as he was then, thanked his host and commented on how exceptional the bread was. His host, the mayor of the little village said that he was happy to share his village's bread, but that it was in peril due to a plague of rats that were getting into the storehouses every night and destroying much of the wheat that was in reserve for the winter and coming Spring until the new wheat would be ready.

Hearing this, Rupert spoke up and reminded Nicholas that they had recently passed through a town that was just covered in cats! There were cats and kittens at every corner. They were loved by the townspeople and pampered and cared for, but truly, there were an awful lot of them. Perhaps the people of the town could be persuaded to trade some of their cats for some of the villages wonderful wheat, so that the cats could chase away the rats.

This was such a good idea, that Bishop Nicholas, Rupert and the Mayor set off the next day to visit the town and make their proposal. Luckily, the townspeople agreed that they did have more than enough cats and they were happy to round up some basketfuls, pile the baskets on a donkey cart and bring them to the village in exchange for some sacks of the wheat they heard so much about.

All went very well. Bishop Nicholas and Rupert stayed for a few days to see how it would work out with the cats. All of the families took in a few cats and gave them cream and a place by the fire during the day. But at night, they took them to the storehouses and let them loose on the rats. It really didn't take long for the rats to be gone and it was sure that they would not be coming back any time soon.

On the last night of their stay, Bishop Nicholas had just laid himself down on his mat to sleep when he heard a small, squeaking sound. He sat up again and lit his candle. There at his feet were a dozen or so mice. Through the power of God's Love in his heart, their squeaks were turned into words inside his head. The mice told him that they had never had anything to do with the wheat in the storehouse. They lived in the barns among the horses and the hay. But now, the cats were after them, too. The winter was getting very deep and cold and they had no place to go and it was too late to dig nests among the trees in the nearby forest. They would not be able to return safely to the open fields until it was warm again at Easter. In their own little way, they were crying and begging for help from good Bishop Nicholas.

Our good Bishop Nicholas promised to help them the next day, which was Christmas Day and allowed them to sleep curled up on his mantle on the floor.

The next day, Bishop Nicholas prepared for Christmas Mass. He asked Rupert to run to each house in the village and to give them a particular message. When it was time for Mass, all of the villagers came with their cats! Most of the cats were comfortably carried in baskets and many wore gay ribbons and still had traces of cream on their whiskers.

Bishop Nicholas carried out the Christmas Mass as usual. When the time came to give his sermon, he spoke about Christ's compassion for the poor and for every living thing on Earth, no matter how small. He reminded everyone of what Saint Matthew had said about the birds in the sky and the lilies in the field. As he spoke, the cats in the baskets sat up and looked for all of the world like they were listening to what Bishop Nicholas was saying. At the end of the sermon, Bishop Nicholas looked around the church, at each of the many cats and asked them to please continue their work against the rats, but to please leave the mice alone. As long as they were in the hay barns and not in the storehouses, they were doing no harm, so please not to harm them in turn.

Even years later, everyone who had been in church that Christmas morning insisted that all of the cats, at the same time, bowed their heads in assent, even if a few had a lick of a paw to make it seem accidental.

The mice safely returned to the hay barns and the cats did a fine job with the rats for as long as anyone can remember.

But one little mouse loved Bishop Nicholas so much, that when he and Rupert finally set off to continue their journey, he hid himself in the sack that Rupert always carried for Nicholas. When they stopped along the road the following evening, he came out and introduced himself to Bishop Nicholas. Nicholas picked him up and agreed to allow him to come with them for as long as the little mouse wished to. But he told the little mouse that it would be much better for him to travel in the inner pocket of his mantle, close to his heart where it was warmer. The little mouse agreed and he traveled with Bishop Nicholas and his companion, Rupert as long as he lived. And whenever they stayed in someone's house, Nicholas always had a quick word with the house cat!

The other stories in this series

December 1 – The Little Boy Nicholas
December 2 – Bishop Nicholas

December 3 – Bishop Nicholas and the Family
December 4 – The Girl and the Wolf
December 5 – Bishop Nicholas and Rupert
December 6 – Saint Nicholas and Knecht Rupert

By Christine Natale, who used them in her Waldorf kindergarten. Used by permission.

Musings on Saint Nicholas or How to Play Saint Nicholas
by Christine Natale
Saint Nicholas — The Scroll by Christine Natale

Fairy Tales by Christine Natale, Straw Into Gold Press, 2010. A collection of fifteen original fairy tales, 3-4 for each season, gentle stories created for Waldorf kindergarten.

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