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The Master Thief

Popular with: Universal, peasants
Unpopular with: Nobility
Less known by: NA

"A tradesman had a young daughter, who was always getting into mischief of one sort or another. She was called Chameleon because of her skill at hiding. Hoping to keep her out of trouble, Chameleon’s father sent her to a neighboring village on an errand. However, on the way a great storm arose, and the girl sought shelter in a house. This particular house was actually a den of thieves. When the girl entered, they seized her and threatened to kill her.

Chameleon told the thieves she would be a valuable asset to their team if they would allow her to live. She bragged of her sneaking and hiding skills. Laughing, the thieves did not believe her, but were bored, so they agreed to test her for the sport of it.

By this time the storm had abated, and a man was driving an ox to the next town to sell. The thieves told the girl she must steal the ox. Chameleon smiled and said she would.

The girl ran ahead of the man and left her shoe with a silver buckle in the road. The man with the ox saw it and thought it would be good if only he had the other, and continued on. Chameleon then took the shoe and ran through the countryside, to leave it in the road again. When the man saw the ‘second’ shoe, he left his ox and went back to find the other. While he was gone, the girl drove the ox to the thieves’ den.

The thieves’ were astonished at Chameleon’s success. They agreed to spare her life, but said she must prove herself a second time in order to join their band. The girl agreed.

A rich, corrupt official and two of his guards walked down the road on his way to the neighboring town. One of the guards carried a box containing a beautiful tapestry the official meant to give as a gift to an important person. The thieves told Chameleon she must steal the tapestry.

Chameleon took some rope, climbed a tree, and hanged herself along the road, so to those on the road she appeared dead. The official and his guards were disturbed to see a young girl hanged from a tree and so hurried on their way. Once they had passed, Chameleon, quick on her feet, ran ahead and hanged herself again, and then a third time. The third time the official and his guards were convinced there was terrible dark magic in the area. They fled back to their town, leaving the tapestry behind because of its weight. Chameleon climbed down from the tree, and took the tapestry to the thieves.

Although astounded by her skill, the thieves grumbled at the thought of a young girl being part of their group. They told her she could not join because her addition would make their number unlucky. Angry with their double-talk, Chameleon said that she would pass a third test. If she completed it, they must call her Master Thief and make her their leader. She made them swear the most solemn of oaths. They agreed, for they were certain that her luck could not continue for a third test.

The man from whom she had stolen an ox had gone home to get a second ox to sell. The thieves’ told Chameleon she must steal this ox as her third test. They laughed to themselves, confident that the man could never be fooled twice by the young girl.

Chameleon went into the woods and made sounds like an ox bellowing and blundering along. The man, thinking it was his stolen oxen, tied his second ox to a tree, and plunged into the woods to search. The girl led him deep into the woods until she slipped past him and returned to his second ox. She led it to the thieves den. The thieves were not pleased, but, bound by their oath; they called the girl Master Thief. However, within the hour, all the thieves abandoned the group to go their own way.

The Master Thief loaded the oxen with all the thieves’ treasure. She found the man she had stolen the oxen from, and offered him one of the treasure laden oxen for the other ox and as payment for the inconvenience she had caused him. The man happily agreed.

Then the Master Thief took her ox and remaining treasure and returned home to her father."