There were five Tims all told, Old Time, Big Tim, Little Tim, Young Tim and Baby Tim, and they were all born wise. So whenever something was the matter in the village, or anything went wrong, or people for some cause were vexed or sorry for themselves, it became their habit to say "Let's go to the Tims about it, they'll know, they were born wise."

For instance, when Farmer John found out that the gypsies had slept without leave in his barn one night, his first thought was not, as you might suppose, "I'll fetch the constable and have the law on them!" but, "I'll see Old Tim about it, so I will!"

Then off he went to Old Tim, who was eighty years old, and he found him sitting on a gate, smoking his clay pipe.

"Morning, Big Tim," said Farmer John. "Morning, Farmer John," said Old Tim taking his clay pipe from his mouth. "I've had gypsies in my barn again, Old Tim," said Farmer John "Ah, have you now!"said Old Tim. "Ay, that I have," said Farmer John. "Ah, to be sure!," said Old Tim. "You were born wise, Old Tim," said Farmer John. "What would you do if you was me?"

Old Tim put his clay pipe in his mouth again and said, "If I was you, I'd ask Big Tim about it, for he was born wise too and is but sixty years old. So I be twenty years further off wisdom than he be."

Then off he went to Big Tim, who was Old Tim's son, and he found him sitting on a gate, smoking his briar.

"Morning, Big Tim," said Farmer John. "Morning, Farmer John," said Big Tim taking his briar from his mouth. "I've had gypsies in my barn again, Big Tim, and Old Tim sent me to ask what you would do if you was me, for you were born wise" said Farmer John. Big Tim put his briar in his mouth again and said, "If I was you, I'd ask Little Tim about it, for he was born wise too and is but forty years old which is twenty year nigher to wisdom than me."

Then off he went to Little Tim, who was Big Tim's son, and he found him lying in a haystack chewing a straw.

"Morning, Little Tim," said Farmer John. "Morning, Farmer John," said Little Tim taking the straw briar from his mouth. Then Farmer John put his case again, saying, " Big Tim told me to come to you about it, for you were born wise". Big Tim put the straw back in his mouth again and said, "Young Tim was born wise too and he's but twenty years old. You'll get wisdom fresher from him than from me."

Then off Farmer John to find Young Tim, who was Little Tim's son, and he found him staring into the mill pond, munching an apple.

"Morning, Young Tim," said Farmer John. "Morning, Farmer John," said Young Tim taking the apple from his mouth. Then Farmer John told his tale for the fourth time, and ended by saying, "Little Time thinks you'll know what I'd best do, for you were born wise". Young Tim took a new bite of his apple and said, "My son who was born last month was born wise too, and from him you'll get wisdom at the fountain-head, so to say."

Off went Farmer John to find Baby Tim, who was Young Tim's son, and he found him in his cradle with his thumb in his mouth.

"Morning, Baby Tim," said Farmer John. Baby Tim took his thumb out of his mouth and said nothing. "I've had gypsies in my barn again, Baby Tim," said Farmer John, "and Young Tim advised me to ask your advice upon it, for you was born wise. What would you do if you was me? I'll do whatever you say." Baby Tim put his thumb back in his mouth and said nothing. So Farmer John went home and did it.

And the gypsies went on to the next village and slept in the barn of Farmer George, and Farmer George called in the constable and had the law on them; and a week later his barn and his ricks were burned down, and his speckled hen was stolen away.

But the happy village went on being happy and doing nothing, either when the Miller's wife forgot herself one day and boxed the Miller's ears, nor when Molly Garden got a bad sixpence from the pedlar, nor when the parson once came home singing by moonlight. After consulting the Tims, the village did no more than trees do in a wood or crops in a field and so all these accidents got better before they got worse.

Until the day when Baby Tim died an unmarried man at one hundred years of age. After that the happy village became as other villages and did something.


Obviously Edward Ardizzone
considered Farmer John
a "gentleman" farmer
in this scanned illustration
from The Little Bookroom.


Eldrbarry's Comments

This is a typical Farjeon tale, gentle, simple and entertaining. To me, it illustrates the principle of turning the other cheek and not repaying offense for offense, or acting hastily, if one is looking for a moral in this tale. Just the process of going from Tim to Tim to Tim provided a significant "cooling off" period, and time for reflection on how serious the slight or offense really was.

From a storyteller's vantage point, it is well structured. There is an introduction, setting forth the premise "they were born wise", a situation (gypsies trespassing in the barn), five repetitive dialogs, and a conclusion with a punch line. The repetition of dialog between Farmer John and each of the Tim's, with the the details of a pipe, straw, apple or thumb in each mouth (representing the idea of thinking rather than acting rashly perhaps) makes it easy to learn and tell. A good teller will use a different voice for each character, and a distinctive body shift (the storytelling "v") as the dialogs proceed.

Delivering the repeated phrase "he was borne wise" is important. The last three paragraphs should be delivered fairly quickly as opposed to a more moderate pacing of the dialogs with good emphasis on the punch line at the end. "... became as other villages and did something." I did this as a skit, with my son as Farmer John, and myself as each of the Tims, each with his own hat (finally a baby bonnet) and a pipe/ straw/ apple/ thumb as props. Each should have his own voice too.
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