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1001 Stories Collection

The Cow on the Roof

Added on 26th June 2020

Oral tradition Welsh folktale

A comical folktale about a married couple who decide to swap chores for the day.


There was once a grumpy farmer who complained to his wife that she wasn’t doing her household jobs very well. After many days of his moaning, the wife suggested that they swap jobs. So the next day, she went out to work in the fields leaving her husband to mind the house…

Why we chose it

A humorous story, which is fun to tell. This is one of the stories from our original audio stories collection

Where it came from

A traditional story, from Wales, told and passed down orally. The same story can be found elsewhere in Europe. In 1882 the nursery rhyme There Was an Old Man, Who Lived in a Wood was included in a collection by English nursery rhyme and fairy tale collector James Orchard Halliwell Phillips. Another version, The Husband Who Was To Mind The House was published in Norway by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe in their collection of Norwegian Folktales in 1843.

Where it went next

Eric Maddern retold the story in 2006, in his book The Cow on the Roof, with illustrations by Paul Hess.

Associated stories

There are many stories similar stories based around a husband and wife swapping roles. The Brothers Grimm have a story called The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage, in which all three characters swap jobs with both comic and tragic effects.

Added on 26th June 2020

Oral tradition Welsh folktale