Bald Stories: Folktales About Hairless Men

The Man and His Two Wives


A middle-aged man had two wives, one who was old and one who was young. Each one desired to see him like herself. Now the man's hair was turning gray, which the young wife did not like, as it made him look too old for her husband. So every night she used to comb his hair and pull out the white ones. But the elder wife saw her husband growing gray with great pleasure, for she did not like to be mistaken for his mother. So every morning she used to arrange his hair and pull out as many of the black ones as she could. In consequence the man soon found himself entirely bald.

Moral: Yield to all and you will soon have nothing to yield.
Source: Joseph Jacobs, The Fables of Aesop (London, 1894), no. 63.

The Middle-Aged Man and the Two Widows

Jean de La Fontaine

A man of middle age,
Fast getting gray,
Thought it would be but sage
To fix the marriage day.
He had in stocks,
And under locks,
Money enough to clear his way.

Such folks can pick and choose; all tried to please
The moneyed man; but he, quite at his ease,
Showed no great hurry,
Fuss, nor scurry.
"Courting," he said, "was no child's play."

Two widows in his heart had shares —
One young; the other, rather past her prime,
By careful art repairs
What has been carried off by Time.

The merry widows did their best
To flirt and coax, and laugh and jest;
Arranged, with much of bantering glee,
His hair, and curled it playfully.

The eldest, with a wily theft,
Plucked one by one the dark hairs left.
The younger, also plundering in her sport,
Snipped out the gray hair, every bit.
Both worked so hard at either sort,
They left him bald — that was the end of it.

"A thousand thanks, fair ladies," said the man;
"You've plucked me smooth enough;
Yet more of gain than loss, so quantum suff.,
For marriage now is not at all my plan.

She whom I would have taken t'other day
To enroll in Hymen's ranks,
Had but the wish to make me go her way,
And not my own;
A head that's bald must live alone;
For this good lesson, ladies, many thanks.

Source: Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695) Fables, book 1, fable 17. Translated by Walter Thornbury.

The Bald Old Man


Long, long ago an old man had a young mistress, though he kept the affair secret. He let her pull out all his white hair, so that he might not look so old. His wife noticed that he had less white hair, and guessed that he must be keeping a mistress. So she abused him roundly for deceiving her.

Her husband feigned ignorance and protested, "Certainly not! I would never do a thing like that." Then to prove his innocence he let his wife pull out his black hair. In her jealousy she pulled it all out, so that he might no longer be attractive to his mistress. And so the old man became completely bald.

Source: Zong In-Sob, Folk Tales from Korea (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 1952), no. 88, p. 191. No copyright notice.
Zong In-Sob's source: Told by Gim Du-Ri; Tong-yong (1950).

The Mix-up


A student, a barber, and a bald man were traveling together. One night in an inn they felt ill at ease, so they decided to take turns keeping watch. They drew lots, and the barber got the first turn. While he was keeping watch he took out his razor and shaved the student's head completely bald. When the student's time came to keep watch, the barber awakened him.

Still half asleep, the student scratched his head, and finding no hair, he said, "That stupid fool of a barber made a mistake and woke up the bald man instead of me."

Source: Leander Petzoldt, Deutsche Schwnke (Stuttgart: Philipp Reclam jun., 1979), no. 144, p. 177.
Petzoldt's Source: Julius Wilhelm Zincgref, Facetiae Pennalium (1618), edited by Dieter Mertens and Theodor Verweyen (T bingen, 1978), no. 20, p. 8.
This story is a type 1284 folktale.

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