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THERE was once upon a time a young girl named Japonel, the daughter of a wood-cutter, and of all things that lived by the woodside, she was the most fair.
Her hair in its net was like a snared sunbeam, and her face like a spring over which roses leaned down and birds hung fluttering to drink—such being the in-dwelling presence of her eyes and her laughing lips and her cheeks.
Whenever she crossed the threshold of her home, the birds and the flowers began calling to her, “Look up, Japonel! Look down, Japonel!” for the sight of the sweet face they loved so much. The squirrel called over its bough, “Look up, Japonel!” and the rabbit from between the roots, “Japonel, look down!” And Japonel, as she went, looked up and looked down, and laughed, thinking what a sweet-sounding place the world was.
Her mother, looking at her from day to day, became afraid: she said to the wood-cutter, “Our child is too fair; she will get no good of it.”
But her husband answered, “Good wife, why should it trouble you? What is there in these quiet parts that can harm her? Keep her only from the pond in the wood, lest the pond-witch see her and become envious.”
“Do not go near water, or you may fall in!” said her mother one day as she saw Japonel bending down to look at her face in a rain-puddle by the road.
Japonel laughed softly. “O silly little mother, how can I fall into a puddle that is not large enough for my two feet to stand in?”
But the mother thought to herself, when Japonel grows older and finds the pond in the wood, she will go there to look at her face, unless she has something better to see it in at home. So from the next pedlar who came that way she bought a little mirror and gave it to Japonel, that in it she might see her face with its spring-like beauty, and so have no cause to go near the pond in the wood. The lovely girl, who had never seen a mirror in her life, took the rounded glass in her hand and gazed for a long time without speaking, wondering more and more at her own loveliness. Then she went softly away with it into her own chamber, and wishing to find a name for a thing she loved so much, she called it, “Stream’s eye,” and hung it on the wall beside her bed.
In the days that followed, the door of her chamber would be often shut, and her face seldom seen save of herself alone. And “Look up, Japonel! Look down, Japonel!” was a sound she no longer cared to hear as she went through the woods; for the memory of “Stream’s eye” was like a dream that clung to her, and floated in soft ripples on her face.
She grew tall like an aspen, and more fair, but pale. Her mother said, “Woe is me, for now I have made her vain through showing her her great beauty.” And to Japonel herself she said, “Oh, my beautiful, my bright darling, though I have made thee vain, I pray thee to punish me not. Do not go near the pond in the wood to look in it, or an evil thing will happen to thee.” And Japonel smiled dreamily amid half-thoughts, and kissing her mother, “Dear mother,” she said, “does ‘Stream’s eye’ tell me everything of my beauty, or am I in other eyes still fairer?” Then her mother answered sadly, “Nay, but I trust the open Eye of God finds in thee a better beauty than thy mirror can tell thee of.”
Japonel, when she heard that answer, went away till she came to the pond in the wood. It lay down in a deep hollow, and drank light out of a clear sky, which, through a circle of dark boughs, ever looked down on it. “Perhaps,” she said to herself, “it is here that God will open His Eye and show me how much fairer I am than even ‘Stream’s eye’ can tell me.” But she thought once of her mother’s words, and went by.
Then she turned again, “It is only that my mother fears lest I become vain. What harm can come if I do look once? it will be in my way home.” So she crept nearer and nearer to the pond, saying to herself, “To see myself once as fair as God sees me cannot be wrong. Surely that will not make me more vain.” And when she came through the last trees, and stood near the brink, she saw before her a little old woman, dressed in green, kneeling by the water and looking in.
“There at least,” she said to herself, “is one who looks in without any harm happening to her. I wonder what it is she sees that she stays there so still.” And coming a little nearer, “Good dame,” called Japonel, “what is it you have found there, that you gaze at so hard?” And the old woman, without moving or looking up, answered, “My own face; but a hundred times younger and fairer, as it was in my youth.”
Then thought Japonel, “How should I look now, who am fair and in the full bloom of my youth? It is because my mother fears lest I shall become vain that she warned me.” So she came quickly and knelt down by the old woman and looked in. And even as she caught sight of her face gazing up, pale and tremulous (“Quick, go away!” its lips seemed to be saying), the old woman slid down from the bank and caught hold of her reflection with green, weed-like arms, and drew it away into the pool’s still depths below. Beneath Japonel’s face lay nothing now but blank dark water, and far away in, a faint face gazed back beseeching, and its lips moved with an imprisoned prayer that might not make itself heard. Only three bubbles rose to the surface, and broke into three separate sighs like the shadow of her own name. Then the pond-witch stirred the mud, and all trace of that lost image went out, and Japonel was left alone.
She rose, expecting to see nothing, to be blind; but the woods were there, night shadows were gathering to their tryst under the boughs, and brighter stars had begun blotting the semi-brightness of the sky. All the way home she went feebly, not yet resolved of the evil that had come upon her. She stole quietly to her own little room in the fading light, and took down “Stream’s eye” from the wall. Then she fell forward upon the bed, for all the surface of her glass was grown blank: never could she hope to look upon her own face again.
The next morning she hung her head low, for she feared all her beauty was flown from her, till she heard her father say, “Wife, each day it seems to me our Japonel grows more fair.” And her mother answered, sighing, “She is too fair, I know.”
Then Japonel set out once more for the pond in the wood. As she went the birds and the flowers sang to her, “Look up, Japonel; look down, Japonel!” but Japonel went on, giving them no heed. She came to the water’s side, and leaning over, saw far down in a tangle of green weeds a face that looked back to hers, faint and blurred by the shimmering movement of the water. Then, weeping, she wrung her hands and cried:
“Ah! sweet face of Japonel,
Beauty and grace of Japonel,
Image and eyes of Japonel,
‘Come back!’ sighs Japonel.”
And bubble by bubble a faint answer was returned that broke like a sob on the water’s surface:
“I am the face of Japonel,
The beauty and grace of Japonel;
Here under a spell, Japonel,
I dwell, Japonel.”
All day Japonel cried so, and was so answered. Now and again, green weeds would come skimming to the surface, and seem to listen to her reproach, and then once more sink down to their bed in the pond’s depths, and lie almost still, waving long slimy fingers through the mud.
The next day Japonel came again, and cried as before:
“Ah! sweet face of Japonel,
Beauty and grace of Japonel,
Image and eyes of Japonel,
‘Come back!’ cries Japonel.”
And her shadow in the water made answer:
“I am the face of Japonel,
The beauty and grace of Japonel;
Here under a spell, Japonel,
I dwell, Japonel.”
Now as she sat and sorrowed she noticed that whenever a bird flew over the pond it dropped something out of its mouth into the water, and looking she saw millet-seeds lying everywhere among the weeds of its surface; one by one they were being sucked under by the pond-witch.
Japonel stayed so long by the side of the pond, that on her way home it had fallen quite dark while she was still in the middle of the wood. Then all at once she heard a bird with loud voice cry out of the darkness, “Look up, Japonel!” The cry was so sudden and so strange, coming at that place and that hour, that all through her grief she heard it, and stopped to look up. Again in the darkness she heard the bird cry, “Why do you weep, Japonel?” Japonel said, “Because the pond-witch has carried away my beautiful reflection in the water, so that I can see my own face no more.”
Then the bird said, “Why have you not done as the birds do? She is greedy; so they throw in millet-seeds, and then she does not steal the reflection of their wings when they pass over.” And Japonel answered, “Because I did not know that, therefore I am to-day the most miserable of things living.” Then said the bird, “Come to-morrow, and you shall be the happiest.”
So the next day Japonel went and sat by the pond in the wood, waiting to be made the happiest, as the bird had promised her. All day long great flocks of birds went to and fro, and the pond became covered with seeds. Japonel looked; “Why, they are poppy-seeds!” she cried. (Now poppy-seeds when they are eaten make people sleep.) Just as the sun was setting all the birds began suddenly to cry in chorus, “Look down, Japonel! Japonel, look down!” And there, on the pond’s surface, lay an old woman dressed in green, fast asleep, with all the folds of her dress and the wrinkles of her face full of poppy-seeds.
Then Japonel ran fast to the pond’s edge and looked down. Slowly from the depth rose the pale beautiful reflection of herself, untying itself from the thin green weeds, and drifting towards the bank. It looked up with tremulous greeting, half sadness, half pleasure, seeming so glad after that long separation to return to its sweet mistress. So as it came and settled below her own face in the water, Japonel stooped down over it and kissed it.
Then she sprang back from the brink and ran home, fast, fast in the fading light. And there, when she looked in her mirror, was once more the beautiful face she loved, a little blue and wan from its long imprisonment under water. And so it ever remained, beautiful, but wan, to remind her of the sorrow that had come upon her when, loving this too well, she had not loved enough to listen to the cry of the birds: “Look up, Japonel!” and, “Japonel, look down!”
An excerpt from : Moonshine and Clover
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HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!
Listen to the laughing Wizard with the pointed eyes!
IN OLD times there lived a King. He had only one daughter. He would not give her in marriage except to the man who could perform three great tasks even if he were most miserable of beggars. Many tried, but none succeeded.
Now not far away dwelt a poor man who had three sons. The eldest and wisest said:
“I am going to win the Princess.”
On the way thither he met an old Beggar, and he never even said good morning to him.
The Beggar said, “Whither do you speed, my Son?”
“What business is that of yours?” he growled in passing.
The old one answered, “Your going will be in vain.”
And so it was. The eldest and wisest returned home without having accomplished anything.
The second and wise son, now said he was going, and surely he would win the Princess. But it happened to him, as it had happened to the first.
Then the third and stupid son spoke:
“Since the two elder have been, I am going. Perhaps I shall succeed.”
“What can you do, when the wisest could not succeed?”
But he did not ask for anything, and set out for the King. He met the old Beggar, bowed to him, took off his cap, and wished him a good morning.
The old man thanked him, and asked where he was going. The lad showed him his whole heart, he hid nothing. The Beggar then gave him a whistle, and said:
“Today you will have to tend a hundred hares. Just whistle to them, and they will obey you.”
It happened as he said.
When the lad came to the King, the lad’s first word was:
“Where is your daughter? I want to see her, whether she pleases me.
When he had looked at her he said, “She pleases me. For her sake I will perform the three tasks.”
The King set him the task for that day, of tending a hundred hares. When they carried them to the field and turned them loose, the hares ran away in every direction.
At first the stupid son let them do as they wished; but when they were all out of sight, he wanted to see if they would obey him. He blew on his whistle, and the hares were there like lightning. He counted them, and missed none.
“Good! Run away again and feed. When I need you, I will whistle,” said he to the hundred.
I do not know who saw all this and reported it to the King. But he was in a great rage. He sent his wife to the lad that she might ask and beg for a hare. She dressed herself like an old woman, came slyly to the lad, and asked if he would give her just one hare, she needed it so much!
He answered, “I can neither sell it nor give it. The hares are not mine.”
She kept on begging and begging, “You could easily give me just one.”
He marked who she was, and finally said he would give her a hare, if she would give him a hearty kiss. She said no! and no! but when she saw it was the only way out she gave him a kiss.
She stuffed the hare into a covered basket, and went away happy, thinking she had deceived the stupid lad. He waited till she was near home, drew out his whistle, and whistled hard. Bang! the hare sprang against the cover and, heigh ho! leaped back to his master. The Queen stood still with her mouth open. The hare was gone!
That evening the stupid lad chased his hundred hares home, and handed them over to the King.
The next morning the old Beggar came again. He gave the lad a horn to call together horses. That day the King set him the task of herding a hundred horses, and of driving them all home at evening.
When they let the horses loose in the field, they ran away in every direction. But in a little while the lad sounded his horn, and they all came galloping up and stood around him.
Then the King told his wife to go and beg for a horse. But she would not go. She said she was afraid of horses, that he should go. The King disguised himself so that no one should know him, and rode to the field where the lad was, and asked him if he had a horse to sell.
“I have none, for sale,” said he.
Well, could it be borrowed?
Well, could it be given away?
“O if need be, I could give one, but only if you will kiss your donkey.”
The King twisted his mouth this way and that. But it was of no use! He had to kiss the donkey, or he would get no horse.
When he had done this, he placed himself joyfully on the horse, rode home, and shut the animal in the stable, thinking:
“I have certainly deceived that lad! There will be one of his horses missing tonight!”
The youngest son, not knowing that the King had already reached home, sounded his horn soon after the horse was in the stable. When the horse heard the horn, he sprang against the door. The door opened crick, crack! and the King hearing the noise ran to the window. All he could see was the whisk of a tail.
In the evening the lad chased the horses home, and drove them together into the stable.
On the third day, the King ordered him to tell lies into an empty sack till he, the king, called out:
The lad stuck his mouth into the sack, lied and fibbed as hard as he could, but the sack stayed empty. Then it came into his head to fill the sack with truth!
He began to relate how he had tended hares, and how the Queen had come to buy, but that he had given her nothing till she kissed him!
Ha! ha! ha! The King roared with laughter, and enjoyed the shame of his wife.
Now the lad began to tell further, that while he was herding the horses the King himself had come to get a horse, but that he, the lad, had given him nothing till he–the donkey–
“Bind the sack, quick!” cried out the King before the lad could finish. “It is full!”
And so the lad won the Princess, as easily as rolling off a log.
From “Wonder Tales from Baltic Wizards”
Eight-year-old Princess Irene lives a lonely life in a wild and desolate country full of mountains and valleys. Her fathers palace, built upon one of the mountains, was very grand and beautiful. The princess was born there, but, soon after her birth, she was sent away to be brought up by country people in a large house, half castle, half farm-house, on the side of another mountain, about halfway between its base and its peak.
Her father the king is normally absent attending to affairs of state, and her mother is dead. Irene has never known about the existence of the goblins which lurk in the underground mines, but her nursemaid Lootie does know about them. These goblins are grotesque and hideous beings, who centuries ago were human, but due to various reasons, they were driven underground and became malformed and distorted by their new lifestyle. This caused them to despise the humans above the ground and vow revenge against them.
When the peaceful kingdom is menaced by an army of monstrous goblins, intent of revenge, the brave and beautiful princess Irene joins forces with, Curdie, a resourceful peasant boy to rescue the noble king and all his people. The lucky pair explore the mines and battle the evil power of the wicked goblin prince armed only with the gift of song, the miracle of love, and a magical shimmering thread given to her by a beautiful lady who lives in the attic of the great house. But just who is this beautiful lady and what does she want?
33% of the publishers profit from the sale of this book will be donated to charities.
ONCE upon a time there lived a man whose one wish and prayer was to get rich. Day and night he thought of nothing else, and at last his prayers were granted, and he became very wealthy. Now being so rich, and having so much to lose, he felt that it would be a terrible thing to die and leave all his possessions behind; so he made up his mind to set out in search of a land where there was no death. He got ready for his journey, took leave of his wife, and started. Whenever he came to a new country the first question that he asked was whether people died in that land, and when he heard that they did, he set out again on his quest. At last he reached a country where he was told that the people did not even know the meaning of the word death. Our traveller was delighted when he heard this, and said:
‘But surely there are great numbers of people in your land, if no one ever dies?’
`No,’ they replied, `there are not great numbers, for you see from time to time a voice is heard calling first one and then another, and whoever hears that voice gets up and goes away, and never comes back.’
`And do they see the person who calls them,’ he asked, `or do they only hear his voice?’
`They both see and hear him,’ was the answer.
Well, the man was amazed when he heard that the people were stupid enough to follow the voice, though they knew that if they went when it called them they would never return. And he went back to his own home and got all his possessions together, and, taking his wife and family, he set out resolved to go and live in that country where the people did not die, but where instead they heard a voice calling them, which they followed into a land from which they never returned. For he had made up his own mind that when he or any of his family heard that voice they would pay no heed to it, however loudly it called.
After he had settled down in his new home, and had got everything in order about him, he warned his wife and family that, unless they wanted to die, they must on no account listen to a voice which they might someday hear calling them.
For some years everything went well with them, and they lived happily in their new home. But one day, while they were all sit-ting together round the table, his wife suddenly started up, exclaiming in a loud voice:
`I am coming! I am coming!’
And she began to look round the room for her fur coat, but her husband jumped up, and taking firm hold of her by the hand, held her fast, and reproached her, saying:
`Don’t you remember what I told you? Stay where you are unless you wish to die.’
`But don’t you hear that voice calling me?’ she answered. `I am merely going to see why I am wanted. I shall come back directly.’
So she fought and struggled to get away from her husband, and to go where the voice summoned. But he would not let her go, and had all the doors of the house shut and bolted. When she saw that he had done this, she said:
‘Very well, dear husband, I shall do what you wish, and remain where I am.’
So her husband believed that it was all right, and that she had thought better of it, and had got over her mad impulse to obey the voice. But a few minutes later she made a sudden dash for one of the doors, opened it and darted out, followed by her husband. He caught her by the fur coat, and begged and implored her not to go, for if she did she would certainly never return. She said nothing, but let her arms fall backwards, and suddenly bending herself forward, she slipped out of the coat, leaving it in her husband’s hands. He, poor man, seemed turned to stone as he gazed after her hurrying away from him, and calling at the top of her voice, as she ran:
`I am coming! I am coming!’
When she was quite out of sight her husband recovered his wits and went back into his house, murmuring:
`If she is so foolish as to wish to die, I can’t help it. I warned and implored her to pay no heed to that voice, however loudly it might call.’
Well, days and weeks and months and years passed, and nothing happened to disturb the peace of the household. But one day the man was at the barber’s as usual, being shaved. The shop was full of people, and his chin had just been covered with a lather of soap, when, suddenly starting up from the chair, he called out in a loud voice:
`I won’t come, do you hear? I won’t come!’
The barber and the other people in the shop listened to him with amazement. But again looking towards the door, he exclaimed:
`I tell you, once and for all, I do not mean to come, so go away.’
And a few minutes later he called out again:
`Go away, I tell you, or it will be the worse for you. You may call as much as you like but you will never get me to come.’
And he got so angry that you might have thought that someone was actually standing at the door, tormenting him. At last he jumped up, and caught the razor out of the barber’s hand, exclaiming:
`Give me that razor, and I’ll teach him to let people alone for the future.’
And he rushed out of the house as if he were running after someone, whom no one else saw. The barber, determined not to lose his razor, pursued the man, and they both continued running at full speed till they had got well out of the town, when all of a sudden the man fell head foremost down a precipice, and never was seen again. So he too, like the others, had been forced against his will to follow the voice that called him.
The barber, who went home whistling and congratulating himself on the escape he had made, described what had happened, and it was noised abroad in the country that the people who had gone away, and had never returned, had all fallen into that pit; for till then they had never known what had happened to those who had heard the voice and obeyed its call.
But when crowds of people went out from the town to examine the ill-fated pit that had swallowed up such numbers, and yet never seemed to be full, they could discover nothing. All that they could see was a vast plain, that looked as if it had been there since the beginning of the world. And from that time the people of the country began to die like ordinary mortals all the world over.
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It is not known, now, for what length of time the Tuatha de Danaan had the sway over Ireland, and it is likely it was a long time they had it, but they were put from it at last.
It was at Inver Slane, to the north of Leinster, the sons of Gaedhal of the Shining Armour, the Very Gentle, that were called afterwards the Sons of the Gael, made their first attempt to land in Ireland to avenge Ith, one of their race that had come there one time and had met with his death.
It is under the leadership of the sons of Miled they were, and it was from the south they came, and their Druids had told them there was no country for them to settle in till they would come to that island in the west. “And if you do not get possession of it yourselves,” they said, “your children will get possession of it.”
But when the Tuatha de Danaan saw the ships coming, they flocked to the shore, and by their enchantments they cast such a cloud over the whole island that the sons of Miled were confused, and all they could see was some large thing that had the appearance of a pig.
And when they were hindered from landing there by enchantments, they went sailing along the coast till at last they were able to make a landing at Inver Sceine in the west of Munster.
From that they marched in good order as far as Slieve Mis. And there they were met by a queen of the Tuatha de Danaan, and a train of beautiful women attending on her, and her Druids and wise men following her. Amergin, one of the sons of Miled, spoke to her then, and asked her name, and she said it was Banba, wife of Mac Cuill, Son of the Hazel.
They went on then till they came to Slieve Eibhline, and there another queen of the Tuatha de Danaan met them, and her women and her Druids after her, and they asked her name, and she said it was Fodhla, wife of Mac Cecht, Son of the Plough.
They went on then till they came to the hill of Uisnech, and there they saw another woman coming towards them. And there was wonder on them while they were looking at her, for in the one moment she would be a wide-eyed most beautiful queen, and in another she would be a sharp-beaked, grey-white crow. She came on to where Eremon, one of the sons of Miled, was, and sat down before him, and he asked her who was she, and she said: “I am Eriu, wife of Mac Greine, Son of the Sun.”
And the names of those three queens were often given to Ireland in the after time.
The Sons of the Gael went on after that to Teamhair, where the three sons of Cermait Honey-Mouth, son of the Dagda, that had the kingship between them at that time held their court. And these three were quarrelling with one another about the division of the treasures their father had left, and the quarrel was so hot it seemed likely it would come to a battle in the end.
And the Sons of the Gael wondered to see them quarrelling about such things, and they having so fruitful an island, where the air was so wholesome, and the sun not too strong, or the cold too bitter, and where there was such a plenty of honey and acorns, and of milk, and of fish, and of corn, and room enough for them all.
Great grandeur they were living in, and their Druids about them, at the palace of Teamhair. And Amergin went to them, and it is what he said, that they must give up the kingship there and then, or they must leave it to the chance of a battle. And he said he asked this in revenge for the death of Ith, of the race of the Gael, that had come to their court before that time, and that had been killed by treachery.
When the sons of Cermait Honey-Mouth heard Amergin saying such fierce words, there was wonder on them, and it is what they said, that they were not willing to fight at that time, for their army was not ready. “But let you make an offer to us,” they said, “for we see well you have good judgment and knowledge. But if you make an offer that is not fair,” they said, “we will destroy you with our enchantments.”
At that Amergin bade the men that were with him to go back to Inver Sceine, and to hurry again into their ships with the rest of the Sons of the Gael, and to go out the length of nine waves from the shore. And then he made his offer to the Tuatha de Danaan, that if they could hinder his men from landing on their island, he and all his ships would go back again to their own country, and would never make any attempt to come again; but that if the Sons of the Gael could land on the coast in spite of them, then the Tuatha de Danaan should give up the kingship and be under their sway.
The Tuatha de Danaan were well pleased with that offer, for they thought that by the powers of their enchantments over the winds and the sea, and by their arts, they would be well able to keep them from ever setting foot in the country again.
So the Sons of the Gael did as Amergin bade them and they went back into their ship and drew up their anchors, and moved out to the length of nine waves from the shore. And as soon as the Men of Dea saw they had left the land, they took to their enchantments and spells, and they raised a great wind that scattered the ships of the Gael, and drove them from one another. But Amergin knew it was not a natural storm was in it, and Arranan, son of Miled, knew that as well, and he went up in the mast of his ship to look about him. But a great blast of wind came against him, and he fell back into the ship and died on the moment. And there was great confusion on the Gael, for the ships were tossed to and fro, and had like to be lost. And the ship that Donn, son of Miled, was in command of was parted from the others by the dint of the storm, and was broken in pieces, and he himself and all with him were drowned, four-and-twenty men and women in all. And Ir, son of Miled, came to his death in the same way, and his body was cast on the shore, and it was buried in a small island that is now called Sceilg Michill. A brave man Ir was, leading the Sons of the Gael to the front of every battle, and their help and their shelter in battle, and his enemies were in dread of his name.
And Heremon, another of the sons of Miled, with his share of the ships, was driven to the left of the island, and it is hardly he got safe to land. And the place where he landed was called Inver Colpa, because Colpa of the Sword, another of the sons of Miled, was drowned there, and he trying to get to land. Five of the sons of Miled in all were destroyed by the storm and the winds the Men of Dea had raised by their enchantments, and there were but three of them left, Heber, and Heremon, and Amergin.
And one of them, Donn, before he was swept into the sea, called out: “It is treachery our knowledgeable men are doing on us, not to put down this wind.” “There is no treachery,” said Amergin, his brother. And he rose up then before them, and whatever enchantment he did on the winds and the sea, he said these words along with it:
“That they that are tossing in the great wide food-giving sea may reach now to the land.
“That they may find a place upon its plains, its mountains, and its valleys; in its forests that are full of nuts and of all fruits; on its rivers and its streams, on its lakes and its great waters.
“That we may have our gatherings and our races in this land; that there may be a king of our own in Teamhair; that it may be the possession of our many kings.
“That the sons of Miled may be seen in this land, that their ships and their boats may find a place there.
“This land that is now under darkness, it is for it we are asking; let our chief men, let their learned wives, ask that we may come to the noble woman, great Eriu.”
After he had said this, the wind went down and the sea was quiet again on the moment.
And those that were left of the sons of Miled and of the Sons of the Gael landed then at Inver Sceine.
And Amergin was the first to put his foot on land, and when he stood on the shore of Ireland, it is what he said:
“I am the wind on the sea;
I am the wave of the sea;
I am the bull of seven battles;
I am the eagle on the rock;
I am a flash from the sun;
I am the most beautiful of plants;
I am a strong wild boar;
I am a salmon in the water;
I am a lake in the plain;
I am the word of knowledge;
I am the head of the spear in battle;
I am the god that puts fire in the head;
Who spreads light in the gathering on the hills?
Who can tell the ages of the moon?
Who can tell the place where the sun rests?”
- – - – - – -
An excerpt from “Of Gods and Fighting Men” – The Story of the Tuatha De Danaan ad of the Fianna of Ireland”.
THE stars shine down!
The Northern Lights flash over the sky,
and the Milky Way glows white!
Listen to the song of the Wizard
of the Crystal-Lighted Cavern!
AH! BEAUTIFUL was Linda the lovely daughter of Uko. She showed all the skypaths to the little birds, when they came flocking home in the springtime or flew away in autumn. She cared as gently and tenderly for the little birds, as a mother cares for her children. And just as a flower bespangled with a thousand drops of dew shines and smiles in the morning sunshine, so Linda shone while caring for her little winged ones.
Thus it was no wonder that all the world loved Linda. Every youth wished her for his bride, and crowds of suitors came to woo her.
In a handsome coach with six brown horses, the Pole Star drove up, and brought ten gifts. But Linda sent him away, with hurried words:
“You always have to stay in the same place. You cannot move about,” said she.
Then came the Moon in a silver coach drawn by ten brown horses. He brought her twenty gifts. But Linda refused the Moon, saying:
“You change your looks too often. You run in your same old way. You do not suit me.
Hardly had the Moon driven sorrowfully off, before the Sun drove up. In a golden coach with twenty red-gold horses, he rattled up to the door. He brought thirty presents with him. But all his pomp, shining splendor, and fine gifts did not help him. Linda said:
“I do not want you. You are like the Moon. Day after day you run in the same street.”
So the Sun went away sorrowful.
Then at midnight, in a diamond coach drawn by a thousand white horses, came the Northern Lights. His coming was so magnificent, that Linda ran to the door to meet him. A whole coach-load of gold, silver, pearls and jewelled ornaments, the servants of the Northern Lights carried into the house and his gifts pleased her, and she let him woo her.
“You do not always travel in the same course,” said Linda. “You flash where you will, and stop when you please. Each time you appear robed in new beauty and richness, and wear each time a different garment. And each time you ride about in a new coach with new horses. You are the true bridegroom!”
Then they celebrated their betrothal. But the Sun, Moon, and Pole Star looked sadly on. They envied the Northern Lights his happiness.
The Northern Lights could not stay long in the bride’s house, for he had to hurry back to the sky. When he said farewell, he promised to return soon for the wedding, and to drive Linda back with him to his home in the North. Meanwhile, they were to prepare Linda’s bridal garments.
Linda made her bridal robes, and waited and waited. One day followed the other, but the bridegroom did not come to hold the joyous wedding with his beloved. The winter passed, and the lovely spring adorned the earth with fresh beauty, while Linda waited in vain for her bridegroom. Nothing was seen of him!
Then she began to grieve bitterly and lament, and to sorrow day and night. She put on her bridal robes and white veil, and set the wreath on her head, and sat down in a meadow by a river. From her thousand tears little brooks ran into the valleys. In her deep heart-felt sorrow she thought only of her bridegroom.
The little birds flew tenderly about her head, brushing her with their soft wings, to comfort her. But she did not see them, nor did she take care of them anymore. So the little birds wandered about, flying here, flying there, for they did not know what to do or where to go.
Uko, Linda’s father, heard of her sorrow and how the little birds were untended. He ordered his Winds to fetch his daughter to him, to rescue her from such deep grief. And while Linda was sitting alone in the meadow weeping and lamenting, the Winds sank softly down beside her, and gently lifting her, bore her up and away. They laid her down in the blue sky.
And there is Linda now, dwelling in a sky-tent. Her white bridal veil spreads round her. And if you look up at the Milky Way, you will see Linda in her bridal robes. There she is, showing the way to little birds who wander.
Linda is happy! In winter she gazes towards the North. She waves her hand at the Northern Lights flashing nearer and nearer, then he again asks her to be his bride.
But though he flashes very close to Linda, heart to heart, he cannot carry her off. She must stay forever in the sky, robed in white, and must spread out her veil to make the Milky Way.
From WONDER TALES FROM BALTIC WIZARDS
This week we have two poems from the Hyaku-nin-isshiu, or ‘Single Verses by a Hundred People’, were collected together in A.D. 1235. They are placed in approximate chronological order, and range from about the year 670. Perhaps what strikes one most in connection with the Hyaku-nin-isshiu is the date when the verses were written; most of them were produced before the time of the Norman Conquest (of Britain – AD 1066), and one cannot but be struck with the advanced state of art and culture in Japan at a time when Europe was still in a very elementary stage of civilization.
The Collection consists almost entirely of love-poems and what the editor calls picture-poems, intended to bring before the mind’s eye some well-known scene in nature; and it is marvellous what effect little thumbnail sketches are compressed within thirty-one syllables. Some show the cherry blossoms which are doomed to fall, the dewdrops scattered by the wind, the mournful cry of the wild deer on the mountains, the dying crimson of the fallen maple leaves, the weird sadness of the cuckoo singing in the moonlight, and the loneliness of the recluse in the mountain wilds; while those verses which appear to be of a more cheerful type are rather of the nature of the ‘Japanese smile’, described by Lafcadio Hearn as a mask to hide the real feelings.
From: A Hundred Verses from Old Japan
THE IMPERIAL ADVISER YAKAMOCHI
Wataseru hashi ni
Oku shimo no
Shiroki wo mireba
Yo zo fuke ni keru.
WHEN on the Magpies’ Bridge I see
The Hoar-frost King has cast
His sparkling mantle, well I know
The night is nearly past,
Daylight approaches fast.
The author of this verse was Governor of the Province of Kōshū, and Viceroy of the more or less uncivilized northern and eastern parts of Japan; he died A.D. 785. There was a bridge or passageway in the Imperial Palace at Kyōto called the Magpies’ Bridge, but there is also an allusion here to the old legend about the Weaver and Herdsman. It is said, that the Weaver (the star Vega) was a maiden, who dwelt on one side of the River of the Milky Way, and who was employed in making clothes for the Gods. But one day the Sun took pity upon her, and gave her in marriage to the Herdboy (the star Aquila), who lived on the other side of the river. But as the result of this was that the supply of clothes fell short, she was only permitted to visit her husband once a year, viz. on the seventh night of the seventh month; and on this night, it is said, the magpies in a dense flock form a bridge for her across the river. The hoar frost forms just before day breaks. The illustration shows the Herdboy crossing on the Bridge of Magpies to his bride.
From: A Hundred Verses from Old Japan
(ONO NO KOMACHI)
Hana no iro wa
Utsuri ni keri na
Waga mi yo ni furu
Nagame seshi ma ni.
THE blossom’s tint is washed away
By heavy showers of rain;
My charms, which once I prized so much,
Are also on the wane,
Both bloomed, alas! in vain.
The writer was a famous poetess, who lived A.D. 834-880. She is remembered for her talent, her beauty, her pride, her love of luxury, her frailty, and her miserable old age. The magic of her art is said to have overcome a severe drought, from which the country suffered in the year 866, when prayers to the Gods had proved useless.
The first and last couplets may mean either ‘the blossom’s tint fades away under the continued downpour of rain in the world’, or ‘the beauty of this flower (i.e. herself) is fading away as I grow older and older in this life’; while the third line dividing the two couplets means, that the flower’s tint and her own beauty are alike only vanity. This verse, with its double meaning running throughout, is an excellent example of the characteristic Japanese play upon words.
From: A Hundred Verses from Old Japan
THE STORY OF A SHEPHERD WHO SLEPT ALL WINTER
Once upon a time there was a shepherd who was called Batcha. During the summer he pastured his flocks high up on the mountain where he had a little hut and a sheepfold.
One day in autumn while he was lying on the ground, idly blowing his pipes, he chanced to look down the mountain slope. There he saw a most amazing sight. A great army of snakes, hundreds and hundreds in number, was slowly crawling to a rocky cliff not far from where he was lying.
When they reached the cliff, every serpent bit off a leaf from a plant that was growing there. They then touched the cliff with the leaves and the rock opened. One by one they crawled inside. When the last one had disappeared, the rock closed.
Batcha blinked his eyes in bewilderment.
“What can this mean?” he asked himself. “Where are they gone? I think I’ll have to climb up there myself and see what that plant is. I wonder will the rock open for me?”
He whistled to Dunay, his dog, and left him in charge of the sheep. Then he made his way over to the cliff and examined the mysterious plant. It was something he had never seen before.
He picked a leaf and touched the cliff in the same place where the serpents had touched it. Instantly the rock opened.
Batcha stepped inside. He found himself in a huge cavern the walls of which glittered with gold and silver and precious stones. A golden table stood in the center and upon it a monster serpent, a very king of serpents, lay coiled up fast asleep. The other serpents, hundreds and hundreds of them, lay on the ground around the table. They also were fast asleep. As Batcha walked about, not one of them stirred.
Batcha sauntered here and there examining the walls and the golden table and the sleeping serpents. When he had seen everything he thought to himself:
“It’s very strange and interesting and all that, but now it’s time for me to get back to my sheep.”
It’s easy to say: “Now I’m going,” but when Batcha tried to go he found he couldn’t, for the rock had closed. So there he was locked in with the serpents.
He was a philosophical fellow and so, after puzzling a moment, he shrugged his shoulders and said:
“Well, if I can’t get out I suppose I’ll have to stay here for the night.”
With that he drew his cape about him, lay down, and was soon fast asleep.
He was awakened by a rustling murmur. Thinking that he was in his own hut, he sat up and rubbed his eyes. Then he saw the glittering walls of the cavern and remembered his adventure.
The old king serpent still lay on the golden table but no longer asleep. A movement like a slow wave was rippling his great coils. All the other serpents on the ground were facing the golden table and with darting tongues were hissing:
“Is it time? Is it time?”
The old king serpent slowly lifted his head and with a deep murmurous hiss said:
“Yes, it is time.”
He stretched out his long body, slipped off the golden table, and glided away to the wall of the cavern. All the smaller serpents wriggled after him.
Batcha followed them, thinking to himself:
“I’ll go out the way they go.”
The old king serpent touched the wall with his tongue and the rock opened. Then he glided aside and the serpents crawled out, one by one. When the last one was out, Batcha tried to follow, but the rock swung shut in his face, again locking him in.
The old king serpent hissed at him in a deep breathy voice:
“Hah, you miserable man creature, you can’t get out! You’re here and here you stay!”
“But I can’t stay here,” Batcha said. “What can I do in here? I can’t sleep forever! You must let me out! I have sheep at pasture and a scolding wife at home in the valley. She’ll have a thing or two to say if I’m late in getting back!”
Batcha pleaded and argued until at last the old serpent said:
“Very well, I’ll let you out, but not until you have made me a triple oath that you won’t tell anyone how you came in.”
Batcha agreed to this. Three times he swore a mighty oath not to tell anyone how he had entered the cavern.
“I warn you,” the old serpent said, as he opened the wall, “if you break this oath a terrible fate will overtake you!”
Without another word Batcha hurried through the opening.
Once outside he looked about him in surprise. Everything seemed changed. It was autumn when he had followed the serpents into the cavern. Now it was spring!
“What has happened?” he cried in fright. “Oh, what an unfortunate fellow I am! Have I slept through the winter? Where are my sheep? And my wife—what will she say?”
With trembling knees he made his way to his hut. His wife was busy inside. He could see her through the open door. He didn’t know what to say to her at first, so he slipped into the sheepfold and hid himself while he tried to think out some likely story.
While he was crouching there, he saw a finely dressed gentleman come to the door of the hut and ask his wife where her husband was.
The woman burst into tears and explained to the stranger that one day in the previous autumn her husband had taken out his sheep as usual and had never come back.
“Dunay, the dog,” she said, “drove home the sheep and from that day to this nothing has ever been heard of my poor husband. I suppose a wolf devoured him, or the witches caught him and tore him to pieces and scattered him over the mountain. And here I am left, a poor forsaken widow! Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!”
Her grief was so great that Batcha leaped out of the sheepfold to comfort her.
“There, there, dear wife, don’t cry! Here I am, alive and well! No wolf ate me, no witches caught me. I’ve been asleep in the sheepfold—that’s all. I must have slept all winter long!”
At sight and sound of her husband, the woman stopped crying. Her grief changed to surprise, then to fury.
“You wretch!” she cried. “You lazy, good-for-nothing loafer! A nice kind of shepherd you are to desert your sheep and yourself to idle away the winter sleeping like a serpent! That’s a fine story, isn’t it, and I suppose you think me fool enough to believe it! Oh, you—you sheep’s tick, where have you been and what have you been doing?”
She flew at Batcha with both hands and there’s no telling what she would have done to him if the stranger hadn’t interfered.
“There, there,” he said, “no use getting excited! Of course he hasn’t been sleeping here in the sheepfold all winter. The question is, where has he been? Here is some money for you. Take it and go along home to your cottage in the valley. Leave Batcha to me and I promise you I’ll get the truth out of him.”
The woman abused her husband some more and then, pocketing the money, went off.
As soon as she was gone, the stranger changed into a horrible looking creature with a third eye in the middle of his forehead.
“Good heavens!” Batcha gasped in fright. “He’s the wizard of the mountain! Now what’s going to happen to me!”
Batcha had often heard terrifying stories of the wizard, how he could himself take any form he wished and how he could turn a man into a ram.
“Aha!” the wizard laughed. “I see you know me! Now then, no more lies! Tell me: where have you been all winter long?”
At first Batcha remembered his triple oath to the old king serpent and he feared to break it. But when the wizard thundered out the same question a second time and a third time, and grew bigger and more horrible looking each time he spoke, Batcha forgot his oath and confessed everything.
“Now come with me,” the wizard said. “Show me the cliff. Show me the magic plant.”
What could Batcha do but obey? He led the wizard to the cliff and picked a leaf of the magic plant.
“Open the rock,” the wizard commanded.
Batcha laid the leaf against the cliff and instantly the rock opened.
“Go inside!” the wizard ordered.
But Batcha’s trembling legs refused to move.
The wizard took out a book and began mumbling an incantation. Suddenly the earth trembled, the sky thundered, and with a great hissing whistling sound a monster dragon flew out of the cavern. It was the old king serpent whose seven years were up and who was now become a flying dragon. From his huge mouth he breathed out fire and smoke. With his long tail he swished right and left among the forest trees and these snapped and broke like little twigs.
The wizard, still mumbling from his book, handed Batcha a bridle.
“Throw this around his neck!” he commanded.
Batcha took the bridle but was too terrified to act. The wizard spoke again and Batcha made one uncertain step in the dragon’s direction. He lifted his arm to throw the bridle over the dragon’s head, when the dragon suddenly turned on him, swooped under him, and before Batcha knew what was happening he found himself on the dragon’s back and he felt himself being lifted up, up, up, above the tops of the forest trees, above the very mountains themselves.
For a moment the sky was so dark that only the fire, spurting from the dragon’s eyes and mouth, lighted them on their way.
The dragon lashed this way and that in fury, he belched forth great floods of boiling water, he hissed, he roared, until Batcha, clinging to his back, was half dead with fright.
Then gradually his anger cooled. He ceased belching forth boiling water, he stopped breathing fire, his hisses grew less terrifying.
“Thank God!” Batcha gasped. “Perhaps now he’ll sink to earth and let me go.”
But the dragon was not yet finished with punishing Batcha for breaking his oath. He rose still higher until the mountains of the earth looked like tiny ant-hills, still up until even these had disappeared. On, on they went, whizzing through the stars of heaven.
At last the dragon stopped flying and hung motionless in the firmament. To Batcha this was even more terrifying than moving.
“What shall I do? What shall I do?” he wept in agony. “If I jump down to earth I’ll kill myself and I can’t fly on up to heaven! Oh, dragon, have mercy on me! Fly back to earth and let me go and I swear before God that never again until death will I offend you!”
Batcha’s pleading would have moved a stone to pity but the dragon, with an angry shake of his tail, only hardened his heart.
Suddenly Batcha heard the sweet voice of the skylark that was mounting to heaven.
“Skylark!” he called. “Dear skylark, bird that God loves, help me, for I am in great trouble! Fly up to heaven and tell God Almighty that Batcha, the shepherd, is hung in midair on a dragon’s back. Tell Him that Batcha praises Him forever and begs Him to deliver him.”
The skylark carried this message to heaven and God Almighty, pitying the poor shepherd, took some birch leaves and wrote on them in letters of gold. He put them in the skylark’s bill and told the skylark to drop them on the dragon’s head.
So the skylark returned from heaven and, hovering over Batcha, dropped the birch leaves on the dragon’s head.
The dragon instantly sank to earth, so fast that Batcha lost consciousness.
When he came to himself he was sitting before his own hut. He looked about him. The dragon’s cliff had disappeared. Otherwise everything was the same.
It was late afternoon and Dunay, the dog, was driving home the sheep. There was a woman coming up the mountain path.
Batcha heaved a great sigh.
“Thank God I’m back!” he said to himself. “How fine it is to hear Dunay’s bark! And here comes my wife, God bless her! She’ll scold me, I know, but even if she does, how glad I am to see her!”
From: THE SHOEMAKER’S APRON – 20 Czech & Slovak Folk Tales
eBooks: http://abelapublishing.com/the-shoemakers-apron–20-czech-and-slovak-folk-tales_p24975669.htm PDF & ePub formats – only US$0.50 or GBP0.25
ONCE upon a time there was a mother who had three daughters. There was to be a market in the next town, and she said she would go to it. She asked the daughters what she should bring them back. Two of them named a great number of things; she must buy all of them, they said. You know the sort of women, and the sort of things they would want. Well, when they had asked for more than enough, the mother asked the third daughter:
“And you, don’t you want anything?” “No, I don’t want anything; but, if you like, you can bring me three roses, please.”
If she wanted no more than that, her mother was ready to bring them.
When the mother knew all she wanted, she went off to market. She bought all she could, piled it all on her back, and started for home. But she was overtaken by nightfall, and the poor mother completely lost her way and could go no farther. She wandered through the forest till she was quite worn out, and at last she came to a palace, though she had never before heard of any palace there. There was a large garden full of roses, so beautiful that no painter alive could paint them, and all the roses were smiling at her. So she remembered her youngest daughter, who had wished for just such roses. She had forgotten it entirely till then. Surely that was because she was so old! Now she thought: “There are plenty of roses here, so I will take these three.”
So she went into the garden and took the roses. At once a basilisk came and demanded her daughter in exchange for the roses. The mother was terrified and wanted to throw the flowers away. But the basilisk said that wouldn’t be any use, and he threatened to tear her to pieces. So she had to promise him her daughter. There was no help for it, and so she went home.
She took the three roses to her daughter and said: “Here are the roses, but I had to pay dearly for them. You must go to yonder castle in payment for them, and I don’t even know whether you will ever come back.”
But Mary seemed as though she didn’t mind at all, and she said she would go. So the mother took her to the castle. There was everything she wanted there. Soon the basilisk appeared and told Mary that she must nurse him in her lap for three hours every day. There was no way out, do it she must, and so the basilisk came and she nursed him for three hours. Then he went out, but he came next day and the day after that. On the third day he brought a sword and told poor Mary to cut his head off.
She protested that she wasn’t used to doing things like that, and do it she could not. But the basilisk said in a rage that, if that was so, he would tear her to pieces. As there was no choice, she went up to him and cut his head off. And as the basilisk’s head rolled on the ground, there came forth from his body a long serpent, hissing horribly. He asked her to cut his head off again. Mary did not hesitate this time, but cut his head off at once.
The serpent (by the way, he held the golden keys of that palace in his mouth) was immediately changed into a beautiful youth, and he said in a pleasant voice: “This castle belongs to me, and, as you have delivered me, there is no help for it: I must marry you.”
So there was a great wedding, the castle was full of their attendants, and they all had to play and dance. But the floor was of paper, so I fell through it, and here I am now.
From: The Key of Gold – 23 Czech folk tales
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There is a dreadful place in Persia called the “Valley of the Angel of Death.” That terrific minister of God’s wrath, according to tradition, has resting-places upon the earth and his favourite abodes. He is surrounded by ghools, horrid beings who, when he takes away life, feast upon the carcasses.
The natural shape of these monsters is terrible; but they can assume those of animals, such as cows or camels, or whatever they choose, often appearing to men as their relations or friends, and then they do not only transform their shapes, but their voices also are altered. The frightful screams and yells which are often heard amid these dreaded ravines are changed for the softest and most melodious notes. Unwary travellers, deluded by the appearance of friends, or captivated by the forms and charmed by the music of these demons, are allured from their path, and after feasting for a few hours on every luxury, are consigned to destruction.
The number of these ghools has greatly decreased since the birth of the Prophet, and they have no power to hurt those who pronounce his name in sincerity of faith. These creatures are the very lowest of the supernatural world, and, besides being timid, are extremely stupid, and consequently often imposed upon by artful men.
The natives of Isfahan, though not brave, are the most crafty and acute people upon earth, and often supply the want of courage by their address. An inhabitant of that city was once compelled to travel alone at night through this dreadful valley. He was a man of ready wit, and fond of adventures, and, though no lion, had great confidence in his cunning, which had brought him through a hundred scrapes and perils that would have embarrassed or destroyed your simple man of valour.
This man, whose name was Ameen Beg, had heard many stories of the ghools of the “Valley of the Angel of Death,” and thought it likely he might meet one. He prepared accordingly, by putting an egg and a lump of salt in his pocket. He had not gone far amidst the rocks, when he heard a voice crying, “Holloa, Ameen Beg Isfahânee! you are going the wrong road, you will lose yourself; come this way. I am your friend Kerreem Beg; I know your father, old Kerbela Beg, and the street in which you were born.” Ameen knew well the power the ghools had of assuming the shape of any person they choose; and he also knew their skill as genealogists, and their knowledge of towns as well as families; he had therefore little doubt this was one of those creatures alluring him to destruction. He, however, determined to encounter him, and trust to his art for his escape.
“Stop, my friend, till I come near you,” was his reply. When Ameen came close to the ghool, he said, “You are not my friend Kerreem; you are a lying demon, but you are just the being I desired to meet. I have tried my strength against all the men and all the beasts which exist in the natural world, and I can find nothing that is a match for me. I came therefore to this valley in the hope of encountering a ghool, that I might prove my prowess upon him.”
The ghool, astonished at being addressed in this manner, looked keenly at him, and said, “Son of Adam, you do not appear so strong.” “Appearances are deceitful,” replied Ameen, “but I will give you a proof of my strength. There,” said he, picking up a stone from a rivulet, “this contains a fluid; try if you can so squeeze it that it will flow out.” The ghool took the stone, but, after a short attempt, returned it, saying, “The thing is impossible.” “Quite easy,” said the Isfahânee, taking the stone and placing it in the hand in which he had before put the egg. “Look there!” And the astonished ghool, while he heard what he took for the breaking of the stone, saw the liquid run from between Ameen’s fingers, and this apparently without any effort.
Ameen, aided by the darkness, placed the stone upon the ground while he picked up another of a darker hue. “This,” said he, “I can see contains salt, as you will find if you can crumble it between your fingers; “but the ghool, looking at it, confessed he had neither knowledge to discover its qualities nor strength to break it. “Give it me,” said his companion impatiently; and, having put it into the same hand with the piece of salt, he instantly gave the latter all crushed to the ghool, who, seeing it reduced to powder, tasted it, and remained in stupid astonishment at the skill and strength of this wonderful man. Neither was he without alarm lest his strength should be exerted against himself, and he saw no safety in resorting to the shape of a beast, for Ameen had warned him that if he commenced any such unfair dealing, he would instantly slay him; for ghools, though long-lived, are not immortal.
Under such circumstances he thought his best plan was to conciliate the friendship of his new companion till he found an opportunity of destroying him.
“Most wonderful man,” he said, “will you honour my abode with your presence? it is quite at hand there you will find every refreshment; and after a comfortable night’s rest you can resume your journey.”
“I have no objection, friend ghool, to accept your offer; but, mark me, I am, in the first place, very passionate, and must not be provoked by any expressions which are in the least disrespectful; and, in the second, I am full of penetration, and can see through your designs as clearly as I saw into that hard stone in which I discovered salt. So take care you entertain none that are wicked, or you shall suffer.”
The ghool declared that the ear of his guest should be pained by no expression to which it did not befit his dignity to listen; and he swore by the head of his liege lord, the Angel of Death, that he would faithfully respect the rights of hospitality and friendship.
Thus satisfied, Ameen followed the ghool through a number of crooked paths, rugged cliffs, and deep ravines, till they came to a large cave, which was dimly lighted. “Here,” said the ghool, “I dwell, and here my friend will find all he can want for refreshment and repose.” So saying, he led him to various apartments, in which were hoarded every species of grain, and all kinds of merchandise, plundered from travellers who had been deluded to this den, and of whose fate Ameen was too well informed by the bones over which he now and then stumbled, and by the putrid smell produced by some half-consumed carcasses. “This will be sufficient for your supper, I hope,” said the ghool, taking up a large bag of rice; “a man of your prowess must have a tolerable appetite.” “True,” said Ameen, “but I ate a sheep and as much rice as you have there before I proceeded on my journey. I am, consequently, not hungry, but will take a little lest I offend your hospitality.” “I must boil it for you,” said the demon; “you do not eat grain and meat raw, as we do. Here is a kettle,” said he, taking up one lying amongst the plundered property. “I will go and get wood for a fire, while you fetch water with that,” pointing to a bag made of the hides of six oxen.
Ameen waited till he saw his host leave the cave for the wood, and then with great difficulty he dragged the enormous bag to the bank of a dark stream, which issued from the rocks at the other end of the cavern, and, after being visible for a few yards, disappeared underground.
“How shall I,” thought Ameen, “prevent my weakness being discovered? This bag I could hardly manage when empty; when full, it would require twenty strong men to carry it; what shall I do? I shall certainly be eaten up by this cannibal ghool, who is now only kept in order by the impression of my great strength.” After some minutes’ reflection the Isfahânee thought of a scheme, and began digging a small channel from the stream towards the place where his supper was preparing.
“What are you doing?” vociferated the ghool, as he advanced towards him; “I sent you for water to boil a little rice, and you have been an hour about it. Cannot you fill the bag and bring it away?” “Certainly I can,” said Ameen; “if I were content, after all your kindness, to show my gratitude merely by feats of brute strength, I could lift your stream if you had a bag large enough to hold it. But here,” said he, pointing to the channel he had begun,” here is the commencement of a work in which the mind of a man is employed to lessen the labour of his body. This canal, small as it may appear, will carry a stream to the other end of the cave, in which I will construct a dam that you can open and shut at pleasure, and thereby save yourself infinite trouble in fetching water. But pray let me alone till it is finished,” and he began to dig. “Nonsense!” said the ghool, seizing the bag and filling it; “I will carry the water myself, and I advise you to leave off your canal, as you call it, and follow me, that you may eat your supper and go to sleep; you may finish this fine work, if you like it, tomorrow morning.”
Ameen congratulated himself on this escape, and was not slow in taking the advice of his host. After having ate heartily of the supper that was prepared, he went to repose on a bed made of the richest coverlets and pillows, which were taken from one of the store-rooms of plundered goods. The ghool, whose bed was also in the cave, had no sooner laid down than he fell into a sound sleep. The anxiety of Ameen’s mind prevented him from following his example; he rose gently, and having stuffed a long pillow into the middle of his bed, to make it appear as if he was still there, he retired to a concealed place in the cavern to watch the proceedings of the ghool. The latter awoke a short time before daylight, and rising, went, without making any noise, towards Ameen’s bed, where, not observing the least stir, he was satisfied that his guest was in a deep sleep; so he took up one of his walking-sticks, which was in size like the trunk of a tree, and struck a terrible blow at what he supposed to be Ameen’s head. He smiled not to hear a groan, thinking he had deprived him of life; but to make sure of his work, he repeated the blow seven times. He then returned to rest, but had hardly settled himself to sleep, when Ameen, who had crept into the bed, raised his head above the clothes and exclaimed, “Friend ghool, what insect could it be that has disturbed me by its tapping? I counted the flap of its little wings seven times on the coverlet. These vermin are very annoying, for, though they cannot hurt a man, they disturb his rest!”
The ghool’s dismay on hearing Ameen speak at all was great, but that was increased to perfect fright when he heard him describe seven blows, any one of which would have felled an elephant, as seven flaps of an insect’s wing. There was no safety, he thought, near so wonderful a man, and he soon afterwards arose and fled from the cave, leaving the Isfahânee its sole master.
When Ameen found his host gone, he was at no loss to conjecture the cause, and immediately began to survey the treasures with which he was surrounded, and to contrive means for removing them to his home.
After examining the contents of the cave, and arming himself with a matchlock, which had belonged to some victim of the ghool, he proceeded to survey the road. He had, however, only gone a short distance when he saw the ghool returning with a large club in his hand, and accompanied by a fox.
Ameen’s knowledge of the cunning animal instantly led him to suspect that it had undeceived his enemy, but his presence of mind did not forsake him.
“Take that,” said he to the fox, aiming a ball at him from his matchlock, and shooting him through the head,—”Take that for your not performing my orders. That brute,” said he, “promised to bring me seven ghools, that I might chain them, and carry them to Isfahan, and here he has only brought you, who are already my slave.” So saying, he advanced towards the ghool; but the latter had already taken to flight, and by the aid of his club bounded so rapidly over rocks and precipices that he was soon out of sight.
Ameen having well marked the path from the cavern to the road, went to the nearest town and hired camels and mules to remove the property he had acquired. After making restitution to all who remained alive to prove their goods, he became, from what was unclaimed, a man of wealth, all of which was owing to that wit and art which ever overcome brute strength and courage.
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From Oriental Folklore and Legends – Tales from Along the Silk Route.