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There was once upon a time a lark who was the Tsar among the birds, and he took unto himself as his Tsaritsa a little shrew-mouse. They had a field all to themselves, which they sowed with wheat, and when the wheat grew up they divided it between them, when they found that there was one grain over! The mouse said, “Let me have it!” But the lark said, “No, let me have it!”––“What’s to be done?” thought they. They would have liked to take counsel of some one, but they had no parents or kinsmen, nobody at all to whom they could go and ask advice in the matter. At last the mouse said, “At any rate, let me have the first nibble!” The lark Tsar agreed to this; but the little mouse fastened her teeth in it and ran off into her hole with it, and there ate it all up. At this the Tsar lark was wrath, and collected all the birds of the air to make war upon the mouse Tsaritsa; but the Tsaritsa called together all the beasts to defend her, and so the war began. Whenever the beasts came rushing out of the wood to tear the birds to pieces, the birds flew up into the trees; but the birds kept in the air, and hacked and pecked the beasts wherever they could. Thus they fought the whole day, and in the evening they lay down to rest. Now when the Tsaritsa looked around upon her forces, she saw that the ant was taking no part in the war. She immediately went and commanded the ant to be there by evening, and when the ant came, the Tsaritsa ordered her to climb up the trees with her kinsmen and bite off the feathers round the birds’ wings.

Next day, when there was light enough to see by, the mouse Tsaritsa cried, “Up, up, my warriors!” Thereupon the birds also rose up, and immediately fell to the ground, where the beasts tore them to bits. So the Tsaritsa overcame the Tsar. But there was one eagle who saw there was something wrong, so he did not try to fly, but remained sitting on the tree. And lo! there came an archer along that way, and seeing the eagle on the tree, he took aim at it; but the eagle besought him and said, “Do not kill me, and I’ll be of great service to thee!” The archer aimed a second time, but the eagle besought him still more and said, “Take me down rather and keep me, and thou shalt see that it will be to thy advantage.” The archer, however, took aim a third time, but the eagle began to beg of him most piteously, “Nay, kill me not, but take me home with thee, and thou shalt see what great advantage it will be to thee!” The archer believed the bird. He climbed up the tree, took the eagle down, and carried it home. Then the eagle said to him, “Put me in a hut, and feed me with flesh till my wings have grown again.”

Now this archer had two cows and a steer, and he at once killed and cut up one of the cows for the eagle. The eagle fed upon this cow for a full year, and then he said to the archer, “Let me go, that I may fly. I see that my wings have already grown again!” Then the archer let him loose from the hut. The eagle flew round and round, he flew about for half a day, and then he returned to the archer and said, “I feel I have but little strength in me, slay me another cow!” And the archer obeyed him, and slew the second cow, and the eagle lived upon that for yet another year. Again the eagle flew round and round in the air. He flew round and about the whole day till evening, when he returned to the archer and said, “I am stronger than I was, but I have still but little strength in me, slay me the steer also!” Then the man thought to himself, “What shall I do? Shall I slay it, or shall I not slay it?” At last he said, “Well! I’ve sacrificed more than this before, so let this go too!” and he took the steer and slaughtered it for the eagle. Then the eagle lived upon this for another whole year longer, and after that he took to flight, and flew high up right to the very clouds. Then he flew down again to the man and said to him, “I thank thee, brother, for that thou hast been the saving of me! Come now and sit upon me!”––“Nay, but,” said the man, “what if some evil befall me?”––“Sit on me, I say!” cried the eagle. So the archer sat down upon the bird.

Then the eagle bore him nearly as high as the big clouds, and then let him fall. Down plumped the man; but the eagle did not let him fall to the earth, but swiftly flew beneath him and upheld him, and said to him, “How dost thou feel now?”––“I feel,” said the man, “as if I had no life in me.”––Then the eagle replied, “That was just how I felt when thou didst aim at me the first time.” Then he said to him, “Sit on my back again!” The man did not want to sit on him, but what could he do? Sit he must. Then the eagle flew with him quite as high as the big clouds, and shook him off, and down he fell headlong till he was about two fathoms from the ground, when the bird again flew beneath him and held him up. Again the eagle asked him, “How dost thou feel?” And the man replied, “I feel just as if all my bones were already broken to bits!”––“That is just how I felt when thou didst take aim at me the second time,” replied the eagle. “But now sit on my back once more.” The man did so, and the eagle flew with him as high as the small fleecy clouds, and then he shook him off, and down he fell headlong; but when he was but a hand’s-breadth from the earth, the eagle again flew beneath him and held him up, and said to him, “How dost thou feel now?” And he replied, “I feel as if I no longer belonged to this world!”––“That is just how I felt when thou didst aim at me the third time,” replied the eagle. “But now,” continued the bird, “thou art guilty no more. We are quits. I owe thee naught, and thou owest naught to me; so sit on my back again, and I’ll take thee to my master.”

They flew on and on, they flew till they came to the eagle’s uncle. And the eagle said to the archer, “Go to my house, and when they ask thee, ‘Hast thou not seen our poor child?’ reply, ‘Give me the magic egg, and I’ll bring him before your eyes!’” So he went to the house, and there they said to him, “Hast thou heard of our poor child with thine ears, or seen him with thine eyes, and hast thou come hither willingly or unwillingly?”––And he answered, “I have come hither willingly!”––Then they asked, “Hast thou smelt out anything of our poor youngster? for it is three years now since he went to the wars, and there’s neither sight nor sound of him more!”––And he answered, “Give me the magic egg, and I’ll bring him straightway before your eyes!”––Then they replied, “’Twere better we never saw him than that we should give thee the magic egg!”––Then he went back to the eagle and said to him, “They said, ‘’Twere better we never saw him than that we should give thee the magic egg.’”––Then the eagle answered, “Let us fly on farther!”

They flew on and on till they came to the eagle’s brother, and the archer said just the same to him as he had said to the eagle’s uncle, and still he didn’t get the egg. Then they flew to the eagle’s father, and the eagle said to him, “Go up to the hut, and if they ask for me, say that thou hast seen me and will bring me before their eyes.”––So he went up to the hut, and they said to him, “O Tsarevich, we hear thee with our ears and see thee with our eyes, but hast thou come hither of thine own free will or by the will of another?”––And the archer answered, “I have come hither of my own free will!”––Then they asked him, “Hast thou seen our son? Lo, these four years we have not had news of him. He went off to the wars, and perchance he has been slain there.”––And he answered them, “I have seen him, and if you will give me the magic egg, I will bring him before your eyes.”––And the eagle’s father said to him, “What good will such a thing do thee? We had better give thee the lucky penny!”––But he answered, “I don’t want the lucky penny, give me the magic egg!”––“Come hither then,” said he, “and thou shalt have it.” So he went into the hut. Then the eagle’s father rejoiced and gave him the egg, and said to him, “Take heed thou dost not break it anywhere on the road, and when thou gettest home, hedge it round and build a strong fence about it, and it will do thee good.”

So he went homeward. He went on and on till a great thirst came upon him. So he stopped at the first spring he came to, and as he stooped to drink he stumbled and the magic egg was broken. Then he perceived that an ox had come out of the egg and was rolling away. He gave chase to the ox, but whenever he was getting close to one side of it, the other side of it got farther away from him. Then the poor fellow cried, “I shall do nothing with it myself, I see.”––At that moment an old she-dragon came up to him and said, “What wilt thou give me, O man, if I chase this ox back again into the egg for thee?”––And the archer replied, “What can I give?”––The dragon said to him, “Give me what thou hast at home without thy will and wit!”––“Done!” said the archer. Then the dragon chased the ox nicely into the egg again, patched it up prettily and gave it into the man’s hand. Then the archer went home, and when he got home he found a son had been born to him there, and his son said to him, “Why didst thou give me to the old she-dragon, dad? But never mind, I’ll manage to live in spite of her.” Then the father was very grieved for a time, but what could he do? Now the name of this son was Ivan.

So Ivan lost no time in going to the dragon, and the dragon said to him, “Go to my house and do me three tasks, and if thou dost them not, I’ll devour thee.” Now, round the dragon’s house was a large meadow as far as the eye could reach. And the dragon said to him, “Thou must in a single night weed out this field and sow wheat in it, and reap the wheat and store it, all in this very night; and thou must bake me a roll out of this self-same wheat, and the roll must be lying ready for me on my table in the morning.”

Then Ivan went and leaned over the fence, and his heart within him was sore troubled. Now near to him there was a post, and on this post was the dragon’s starveling daughter. So when he came thither and fell a-weeping, she asked him, “Wherefore dost thou weep?”––And he said, “How can I help weeping? The dragon has bidden me do something I can never, never do; and what is more, she has bidden me do it in a single night.”––“What is it, pray?” asked the dragon’s daughter. Then he told her. “Not every bush bears a berry!” cried she. “Promise to take me to wife, and I’ll do all she has bidden thee do.” He promised, and then she said to him again, “Now go and lie down, but see that thou art up early in the morning to bring her her roll.” Then she went to the field, and before one could whistle she had cleaned it of weeds and harrowed it and sown it with wheat, and by dawn she had reaped the wheat and cooked the roll and brought it to him, and said, “Now, take it to her hut and put it on her table.”

Then the old she-dragon awoke and came to the door, and was amazed at the sight of the field, which was now all stubble, for the corn had been cut. Then she said to Ivan, “Yes, thou hast done the work well. But now, see that thou doest my second task.” Then she gave him her second command. “Dig up that mountain yonder and let the Dnieper flow over the site of it, and there build a store-house, and in the store-house stack the wheat that thou hast reaped, and sell this wheat to the merchant barques that sail by, and everything must be done by the time I get up early next morning!” Then he again went to the fence and wept, and the maiden said to him, “Why dost thou weep?” and he told her all that the she-dragon had bidden him do. “There are lots of bushes, but where are the berries? Go and lie down, and I’ll do it all for thee.” Then she whistled, and the mountain was levelled and the Dnieper flowed over the site of it, and round about the Dnieper store-houses rose up, and then she came and woke him that he might go and sell the wheat to the merchant barques that sailed by that way, and when the she-dragon rose up early in the morning she was amazed to see that everything had been done which she had commanded him.

Then she gave him her third command. “This night thou must catch the golden hare, and bring it to me by the morning light.” Again he went to the fence and fell a-weeping. And the girl asked him, “Why art thou weeping?”––He said to her, “She has ordered me to catch her the golden hare.”––“Oh, oh!” cried the she-dragon’s daughter, “the berries are ripening now; only her father knows how to catch such a hare as that. Nevertheless, I’ll go to a rocky place I know of, and there perchance we shall be able to catch it.” So they went to this rocky place together, and she said to him, “Stand over that hole. I’ll go in and chase him out of the hole, and do thou catch him as he comes out; but mind, whatever comes out of the hole, seize it, for it will be the golden hare.”

So she went and began beating up, and all at once out came a snake and hissed, and he let it go. Then she came out of the hole and said to him, “What! has nothing come out?”––“Well,” said he, “only a snake, and I was afraid it would bite me, so I let it go.”––“What hast thou done?” said she; “that was the very hare itself. Look now!” said she, “I’ll go in again, and if any one comes out and tells you that the golden hare is not here, don’t believe it, but hold him fast.” So she crept into the hole again and began to beat for game, and out came an old woman, who said to the youth, “What art thou poking about there for?”––And he said to her, “For the golden hare.”––She said to him, “It is not here, for this is a snake’s hole,” and when she had said this she went away. Presently the girl also came out and said to him, “What! hast thou not got the hare? Did nothing come out then?”––“No,” said he, “nothing but an old woman who asked me what I was seeking, and I told her the golden hare, and she said, ‘It is not here,’ so I let her go.”––Then the girl replied, “Why didst thou not lay hold of her? for she was the very golden hare itself, and now thou never wilt catch it unless I turn myself into a hare and thou take and lay me on the table, and give me into my mother’s, the she-dragon’s hands, and go away, for if she find out all about it she will tear the pair of us to pieces.”

So she changed herself into a hare, and he took and laid her on the table, and said to the she-dragon, “There’s thy hare for thee, and now let me go away!” She said to him, “Very well––be off!” Then he set off running, and he ran and ran as hard as he could. Soon after, the old she-dragon discovered that it was not the golden hare, but her own daughter, so she set about chasing after them to destroy them both, for the daughter had made haste in the meantime to join Ivan. But as the she-dragon couldn’t run herself, she sent her husband, and he began chasing them, and they knew he was coming, for they felt the earth trembling beneath his tread. Then the she-dragon’s daughter said to Ivan, “I hear him running after us. I’ll turn myself into standing wheat and thee into an old man guarding me, and if he ask thee, ‘Hast thou seen a lad and a lass pass by this way?’ say to him, ‘Yes, they passed by this way while I was sowing this wheat!’”

A little while afterward the she-dragon’s husband came flying up. “Have a lad and a lass passed by this way?” said he. “Yes,” replied the old man, “they have.”––“Was it long ago?” asked the she-dragon’s husband.––“It was while this wheat was being sown,” replied the old man.––“Oh!” thought the dragon, “this wheat is ready for the sickle, they couldn’t have been this way yesterday,” so he turned back. Then the she-dragon’s daughter turned herself back into a maiden and the old man into a youth, and off they set again. But the dragon returned home, and the she-dragon asked him, “What! hast thou not caught them or met them on the road?”––“Met them, no!” said he. “I did, indeed, pass on the road some standing wheat and an old man watching it, and I asked the old man if he had seen a lad and a lass pass by that way, and he said, ‘Yes, while this wheat was being sown,’ but the wheat was quite ripe for the sickle, so I knew it was a long while ago and turned back.”––“Why didst thou not tear that old man and the wheat to pieces?” cried the she-dragon; “it was they! Be off after them again, and mind, this time tear them to pieces without fail.”

So the dragon set off after them again, and they heard him coming from afar, for the earth trembled beneath him, so the damsel said to Ivan, “He’s coming again, I hear him; now I’ll change myself into a monastery, so old that it will be almost falling to pieces, and I’ll change thee into an old black monk at the gate, and when he comes up and asks, ‘Hast thou seen a lad and a lass pass this way?’ say to him, ‘Yes, they passed by this way when this monastery was being built.’” Soon afterward the dragon came flying past, and asked the monk, “Hast thou seen a lad and a lass pass by this way?”––“Yes,” he replied, “I saw them what time the holy fathers began to build this monastery.” The dragon thought to himself, “That was not yesterday! This monastery has stood a hundred years if it has stood a day, and won’t stand much longer either,” and with that he turned him back. When he got home, he said to the she-dragon, his wife, “I met a black monk who serves in a monastery, and I asked him about them, and he told me that a lad and a lass had run past that way when the monastery was being built, but that was not yesterday, for the monastery is a hundred years old at the very least.”––“Why didst thou not tear the black monk to pieces and pull down the monastery? for ’twas they. But I see I must go after them myself, thou art no good at all.”

So off she set and ran and ran, and they knew she was coming, for the earth quaked and yawned beneath her. Then the damsel said to Ivan, “I fear me ’tis all over, for she is coming herself! Look now! I’ll change thee into a stream and myself into a fish––a perch.” Immediately after the she-dragon came up and said to the perch, “Oh, oh! so thou wouldst run away from me, eh!” Then she turned herself into a pike and began chasing the perch, but every time she drew near to it, the perch turned its prickly fins toward her, so that she could not catch hold of it. So she kept on chasing it and chasing it, but finding she could not catch it, she tried to drink up the stream, till she drank so much of it that she burst.

Then the maiden who had become a fish said to the youth who had become a river, “Now that we are alive and not dead, go back to thy lord-father and thy father’s house and see them, and kiss them all except the daughter of thy uncle, for if thou kiss that damsel thou wilt forget me, and I shall go to the land of Nowhere.” So he went home and greeted them all, and as he did so he thought to himself, “Why should I not greet my uncle’s daughter like the rest of them? Why, they’ll think me a mere pagan if I don’t!” So he kissed her, and the moment he did so he forgot all about the girl who had saved him.

So he remained there half a year, and then bethought him of taking to himself a wife. So they betrothed him to a very pretty girl, and he accepted her and forgot all about the other girl who had saved him from the dragon, though she herself was the she-dragon’s daughter. Now the evening before the wedding they heard a young damsel crying Shishki in the streets. They called to the young damsel to go away, or say who she was, for nobody knew her. But the damsel answered never a word, but began to knead more cakes, and made a cock-dove and a hen-dove out of the dough and put them down on the ground, and they became alive. And the hen-dove said to the cock-dove, “Hast thou forgotten how I cleared the field for thee, and sowed it with wheat, and thou mad’st a roll from the corn which thou gavest to the she-dragon?”––But the cock-dove answered, “Forgotten! forgotten!”––Then she said to him again, “And hast thou forgotten how I dug away the mountain for thee, and let the Dnieper flow by it that the merchant barques might come to thy store-houses, and that thou mightst sell thy wheat to the merchant barques?” But the cock-dove replied, “Forgotten! forgotten!”––Then the hen-dove said to him again, “And hast thou forgotten how we two went together in search of the golden hare? Hast thou forgotten me then altogether?”––And the cock-dove answered again, “Forgotten! forgotten!” Then the good youth Ivan bethought him who this damsel was that had made the doves, and he took her to his arms and made her his wife, and they lived happily ever afterward.

– – – – – – –

From “Cossack Folk Tales and Fairy Tales” ISBN 978-1-907256-30-1

Cossack Fairy Tales and Folk Tales

In Novgorod in the old days there was a young man–just a boy he was–the son of a rich merchant who had lost all his money and died. So Sadko was very poor. He had not a kopeck in the world, except what the people gave him when he played his dulcimer for their dancing. He had blue eyes and curling hair, and he was strong, and would have been merry; but it is dull work playing for other folk to dance, and Sadko dared not dance with any young girl, for he had no money to marry on, and he did not want to be chased away as a beggar. And the young women of Novgorod, they never looked at the handsome Sadko. No; they smiled with their bright eyes at the young men who danced with them, and if they ever spoke to Sadko, it was just to tell him sharply to keep the music going or to play faster.

So Sadko lived alone with his dulcimer, and made do with half a loaf when he could not get a whole, and with crust when he had no crumb. He did not mind so very much what came to him, so long as he could play his dulcimer and walk along the banks of the little 1 river Volkhov that flows by Novgorod, or on the shores of the lake, making music for himself, and seeing the pale mists rise over the water, and dawn or sunset across the shining river.

“There is no girl in all Novgorod as pretty as my little river,” he used to say, and night after night he would sit by the banks of the river or on the shores of the lake, playing the dulcimer and singing to himself.

Sometimes he helped the fishermen on the lake, and they would give him a little fish for his supper in payment for his strong young arms.

And it happened that one evening the fishermen asked him to watch their nets for them on the shore, while they went off to take their fish to sell them in the square at Novgorod.

Sadko sat on the shore, on a rock, and played his dulcimer and sang. Very sweetly he sang of the fair lake and the lovely river–the little river that he thought prettier than all the girls of Novgorod. And while he was singing he saw a whirlpool in the lake, little waves flying from it across the water, and in the middle a hollow down into the water. And in the hollow he saw the head of a great man with blue hair and a gold crown. He knew that the huge man was the Tzar of the Sea. And the man came nearer, walking up out of the depths of the lake–a huge, great man, a very giant, with blue hair falling to his waist over his broad shoulders. The little waves ran from him in all directions as he came striding up out of the water.

Sadko did not know whether to run or stay; but the Tzar of the Sea called out to him in a great voice like wind and water in a storm,–

“Sadko of Novgorod, you have played and sung many days by the side of this lake and on the banks of the little river Volkhov. My daughters love your music, and it has pleased me too. Throw out a net into the water, and draw it in, and the waters will pay you for your singing. And if you are satisfied with the payment, you must come and play to us down in the green palace of the sea.”

With that the Tzar of the Sea went down again into the waters of the lake. The waves closed over him with a roar, and presently the lake was as smooth and calm as it had ever been.

Sadko thought, and said to himself: “Well, there is no harm done in casting out a net.” So he threw a net out into the lake.

He sat down again and played on his dulcimer and sang, and when he had finished his singing the dusk had fallen and the moon shone over the lake. He put down his dulcimer and took hold of the ropes of the net, and began to draw it up out of the silver water. Easily the ropes came, and the net, dripping and glittering in the moonlight.

“I was dreaming,” said Sadko; “I was asleep when I saw the Tzar of the Sea, and there is nothing in the net at all.”

And then, just as the last of the net was coming ashore, he saw something in it, square and dark. He dragged it out, and found it was a coffer. He opened the coffer, and it was full of precious stones–green, red, gold–gleaming in the light of the moon. Diamonds shone there like little bundles of sharp knives.

“There can be no harm in taking these stones,” says Sadko, “whether I dreamed or not.”

He took the coffer on his shoulder, and bent under the weight of it, strong though he was. He put it in a safe place. All night he sat and watched by the nets, and played and sang, and planned what he would do.

In the morning the fishermen came, laughing and merry after their night in Novgorod, and they gave him a little fish for watching their nets; and he made a fire on the shore, and cooked it and ate it as he used to do.

“And that is my last meal as a poor man,” says Sadko. “Ah me! who knows if I shall be happier?”

Then he set the coffer on his shoulder and tramped away for Novgorod.

“Who is that?” they asked at the gates.

“Only Sadko the dulcimer player,” he replied.

“Turned porter?” said they.

“One trade is as good as another,” said Sadko, and he walked into the city. He sold a few of the stones, two at a time, and with what he got for them he set up a booth in the market. Small things led to great, and he was soon one of the richest traders in Novgorod.

And now there was not a girl in the town who could look too sweetly at Sadko. “He has golden hair,” says one. “Blue eyes like the sea,” says another. “He could lift the world on his shoulders,” says a third. A little money, you see, opens everybody’s eyes.

But Sadko was not changed by his good fortune. Still he walked and played by the little river Volkhov. When work was done and the traders gone, Sadko would take his dulcimer and play and sing on the banks of the river. And still he said, “There is no girl in all Novgorod as pretty as my little river.” Every time he came back from his long voyages–for he was trading far and near, like the greatest of merchants–he went at once to the banks of the river to see how his sweetheart fared. And always he brought some little present for her and threw it into the waves.

For twelve years he lived unmarried in Novgorod, and every year made voyages, buying and selling, and always growing richer and richer. Many were the mothers in Novgorod who would have liked to see him married to their daughters. Many were the pillows that were wet with the tears of the young girls, as they thought of the blue eyes of Sadko and his golden hair.

And then, in the twelfth year since he walked into Novgorod with the coffer on his shoulder, he was sailing in a ship on the Caspian Sea, far, far away. For many days the ship sailed on, and Sadko sat on deck and played his dulcimer and sang of Novgorod and of the little river Volkhov that flows under the walls of the town. Blue was the Caspian Sea, and the waves were like furrows in a field, long lines of white under the steady wind, while the sails swelled and the ship shot over the water.

And suddenly the ship stopped.

In the middle of the sea, far from land, the ship stopped and trembled in the waves, as if she were held by a big hand.

“We are aground!” cry the sailors; and the captain, the great one, tells them to take soundings. Seventy fathoms by the bow it was, and seventy fathoms by the stern.

“We are not aground,” says the captain, “unless there is a rock sticking up like a needle in the middle of the Caspian Sea!”

“There is magic in this,” say the sailors.

“Hoist more sail,” says the captain; and up go the white sails, swelling out in the wind, while the masts bend and creak. But still the ship lay shivering and did not move, out there in the middle of the sea.

“Hoist more sail yet,” says the captain; and up go the white sails, swelling and tugging, while the masts creak and groan. But still the ship lay there shivering and did not move.

“There is an unlucky one aboard,” says an old sailor. “We must draw lots and find him, and throw him overboard into the sea.”

The other sailors agreed to this. And still Sadko sat, and played his dulcimer and sang.

The sailors cut pieces of string, all of a length, as many as there were souls in the ship, and one of those strings they cut in half. Then they made them into a bundle, and each man plucked one string. And Sadko stopped his playing for a moment to pluck a string, and his was the string that had been cut in half.

“Magician, sorcerer, unclean one!” shouted the sailors.

“Not so,” said Sadko. “I remember now an old promise I made, and I keep it willingly.”

He took his dulcimer in his hand, and leapt from the ship into the blue Caspian Sea. The waves had scarcely closed over his head before the ship shot forward again, and flew over the waves like a swan’s feather, and came in the end safely to her harbour.

“And what happened to Sadko?” asked Maroosia.

“You shall hear, little pigeon,” said old Peter, and he took a pinch of snuff. Then he went on.

Sadko dropped into the waves, and the waves closed over him. Down he sank, like a pebble thrown into a pool, down and down. First the water was blue, then green, and strange fish with goggle eyes and golden fins swam round him as he sank. He came at last to the bottom of the sea.

And there, on the bottom of the sea, was a palace built of green wood. Yes, all the timbers of all the ships that have been wrecked in all the seas of the world are in that palace, and they are all green, and cunningly fitted together, so that the palace is worth a ten days’ journey only to see it. And in front of the palace Sadko saw two big kobbly sturgeons, each a hundred and fifty feet long, lashing their tails and guarding the gates. Now, sturgeons are the oldest of all fish, and these were the oldest of all sturgeons.

Sadko walked between the sturgeons and through the gates of the palace. Inside there was a great hall, and the Tzar of the Sea lay resting in the hall, with his gold crown on his head and his blue hair floating round him in the water, and his great body covered with scales lying along the hall. The Tzar of the Sea filled the hall–and there is room in that hall for a village. And there were fish swimming this way and that in and out of the windows.

“Ah, Sadko,” says the Tzar of the Sea, “you took what the sea gave you, but you have been a long time in coming to sing in the palaces of the sea. Twelve years I have lain here waiting for you.”

“Great Tzar, forgive,” says Sadko.

“Sing now,” says the Tzar of the Sea, and his voice was like the beating of waves.

And Sadko played on his dulcimer and sang.

He sang of Novgorod and of the little river Volkhov which he loved. It was in his song that none of the girls of Novgorod were as pretty as the little river. And there was the sound of wind over the lake in his song, the sound of ripples under the prow of a boat, the sound of ripples on the shore, the sound of the river flowing past the tall reeds, the whispering sound of the river at night. And all the time he played cunningly on the dulcimer. The girls of Novgorod had never danced to so sweet a tune when in the old days Sadko played his dulcimer to earn kopecks and crusts of bread.

Never had the Tzar of the Sea heard such music.

“I would dance,” said the Tzar of the Sea, and he stood up like a tall tree in the hall.

“Play on,” said the Tzar of the Sea, and he strode through the gates. The sturgeons guarding the gates stirred the water with their tails.

And if the Tzar of the Sea was huge in the hall, he was huger still when he stood outside on the bottom of the sea. He grew taller and taller, towering like a mountain. His feet were like small hills. His blue hair hung down to his waist, and he was covered with green scales. And he began to dance on the bottom of the sea.

Great was that dancing. The sea boiled, and ships went down. The waves rolled as big as houses. The sea overflowed its shores, and whole towns were under water as the Tzar danced mightily on the bottom of the sea. Hither and thither rushed the waves, and the very earth shook at the dancing of that tremendous Tzar.

He danced till he was tired, and then he came back to the palace of green wood, and passed the sturgeons, and shrank into himself and came through the gates into the hall, where Sadko still played on his dulcimer and sang.

“You have played well and given me pleasure,” says the Tzar of the Sea. “I have thirty daughters, and you shall choose one and marry her, and be a Prince of the Sea.”

“Better than all maidens I love my little river,” says Sadko; and the Tzar of the Sea laughed and threw his head back, with his blue hair floating all over the hall.

And then there came in the thirty daughters of the Tzar of the Sea. Beautiful they were, lovely, and graceful; but twenty-nine of them passed by, and Sadko fingered his dulcimer and thought of his little river.

There came in the thirtieth, and Sadko cried out aloud. “Here is the only maiden in the world as pretty as my little river!” says he. And she looked at him with eyes that shone like stars reflected in the river. Her hair was dark, like the river at night. She laughed, and her voice was like the flowing of the river.

“And what is the name of your little river?” says the Tzar.

“It is the little river Volkhov that flows by Novgorod,” says Sadko; “but your daughter is as fair as the little river, and I would gladly marry her if she will have me.”

“It is a strange thing,” says the Tzar, “but Volkhov is the name of my youngest daughter.”

He put Sadko’s hand in the hand of his youngest daughter, and they kissed each other. And as they kissed, Sadko saw a necklace round her neck, and knew it for one he had thrown into the river as a present for his sweetheart.

She smiled, and “Come!” says she, and took him away to a palace of her own, and showed him a coffer; and in that coffer were bracelets and rings and earrings–all the gifts that he had thrown into the river.

And Sadko laughed for joy, and kissed the youngest daughter of the Tzar of the Sea, and she kissed him back.

“O my little river!” says he; “there is no girl in all the world but thou as pretty as my little river.”

Well, they were married, and the Tzar of the Sea laughed at the wedding feast till the palace shook and the fish swam off in all directions.

And after the feast Sadko and his bride went off together to her palace. And before they slept she kissed him very tenderly, and she said,–

“O Sadko, you will not forget me? You will play to me sometimes, and sing?”

“I shall never lose sight of you, my pretty one,” says he; “and as for music, I will sing and play all the day long.”

“That’s as may be,” says she, and they fell asleep.

And in the middle of the night Sadko happened to turn in bed, and he touched the Princess with his left foot, and she was cold, cold, cold as ice in January. And with that touch of cold he woke, and he was lying under the walls of Novgorod, with his dulcimer in his hand, and one of his feet was in the little river Volkhov, and the moon was shining.

“O grandfather! And what happened to him after that?” asked Maroosia.

“There are many tales,” said old Peter. “Some say he went into the town, and lived on alone until he died. But I think with those who say that he took his dulcimer and swam out into the middle of the river, and sank under water again, looking for his little Princess. They say he found her, and lives still in the green palaces of the bottom of the sea; and when there is a big storm, you may know that Sadko is playing on his dulcimer and singing, and that the Tzar of the Sea is dancing his tremendous dance down there, on the bottom, under the waves.”

“Yes, I expect that’s what happened,” said Ivan. “He’d have found it very dull in Novgorod, even though it is a big town.”

– – – – – – –

From “Old Peter’s Russian Tales” ISBN 978-1-907256-40-0

Old Peter's Russian Tales

BENDING WILLOW was the most beautiful girl in a tribe noted for its handsome women. She had many suitors, but she refused them all; for her love was given to a young warrior of a distant nation, who, she felt sure, would some day return to throw a red deer at her feet in token that he wished to marry her.

Among her suitors was a hideous old Indian, a chief who was very rich. He was scarred and wrinkled and his hair was as gray as the badger that burrows in the forest. He was cruel also, for when the young men were put to the torture to prove themselves worthy to be warriors, he devised tests more dreadful than any that the tribe had ever known. But the chief, who was rightly named No Heart, declared that he would marry Bending Willow, and, as he was powerful, her parents did not dare to refuse him. Bending Willow begged and pleaded in vain.

On the night before the day set for the marriage, she went into the woods, and throwing herself on the ground, sobbed as if her heart would break. All night she lay there, listening to the thunder of the great cataract of Niagara, which was but a woman’s journey from the village. At last it suggested to her a sure means of escape.

Early in the morning before any one was stirring, she went back to her father’s wigwam, took his canoe and dragged it to the edge of the river. Then stepping into it she set it adrift and it headed quickly towards the Falls. It soon reached the rapids and was tossed like a withered branch on the white-crested billows, but went on, on, swiftly and surely to the edge of the great fall.

For a moment only, she saw the bright, green water, and then she felt herself lifted and was borne on great, white wings which held her above the rocks. The water divided and she passed into a dark cave behind the rainbow.

The spirit of Cloud and Rain had gone to her rescue and had taken her into his lodge. He was a little, old man, with a white face and hair and beard of soft, white mist, like that which rises day and night from the base of the Falls. The door of his lodge was the green wave of Niagara, and the walls were of gray rock studded with white stone flowers.

Cloud and Rain gave her a warm wrapper and seated her on a heap of ermine skins in a far corner of the lodge where the dampness was shut out by a magic fire. This is the fire that runs beneath the Falls, and throws its yellow-and-green flames across the water, forming the rainbow.

He brought her dainty fish to eat and delicate jelly made from mosses which only the water spirits can find or prepare.

When she was rested he told her that he knew her story, and if she would stay with him he would keep her until her ugly old suitor was dead. “A great serpent,” added he, “lies beneath the village, and is even now poisoning the spring from which No Heart draws all the water that he uses, and he will soon die.”

Bending Willow was grateful, and said that she would gladly remain all her life in such a beautiful home and with such a kind spirit.

Cloud and Rain smiled; but he knew the heart of a young girl would turn towards her own home when it was safe for her to return. He needed no better proof of this than the questions she asked about the serpent which caused so much sickness among her people.

He told her that this serpent had lain there many years. When he once tasted human blood he could never be satisfied. He crept beneath a village and cast a black poison into the springs from which people drew water. When any one died the serpent stole out at night and drank his blood. That made him ravenous for more. So when one death occurred more followed until the serpent was gorged and went to sleep for a time.

“When you return,” said Cloud and Rain, “persuade your people to move their camp. Let them come near me, and should the serpent dare to follow I will defend them.”

Bending Willow stayed four months with Cloud and Rain, and he taught her much magic, and showed her the herbs which would cure sickness.

One day when he came in from fishing he said to her: “No Heart is dead. This night I will throw a bridge from the foot of the waters across the Falls to the high hills. You must climb it without fear, for I will hold it firmly until you are on the land.”

When the moon rose and lighted all the river, Cloud and Rain caused a gentle wind to raise the spray until it formed a great, white arch reaching from his cave to the distant hills. He led Bending Willow to the foot of this bridge of mist and helped her to climb until she was assured of her safety and could step steadily.

All the tribe welcomed her, and none were sorry that she had not married No Heart. She told them of the good spirit, Cloud and Rain, of his wonderful lodge, of his kindness, and of the many things he had taught her.

At first they would not entertain the idea of moving their village, for there were pleasant fishing-grounds where they lived, and by the Falls none but spirits could catch the fish. But when strong men sickened and some of the children of the Chief died, they took down their lodge poles and sought the protection of the good spirit.

For a long time they lived in peace and health; but after many moons the serpent discovered their new camp and made his way thither.

Cloud and Rain was soon aware of his arrival, and was very angry because the serpent dared to come so near his lodge.

He took a handful of the magic fire and moulded it into thunderbolts which he hurled at the monster. The first stunned him, the second wounded him severely, and the third killed him.

Cloud and Rain told them to drag the body to the rapids and hurl it into the water. It took all the women of the tribe to move it, for it was longer than the flight of twenty arrows. As it tossed upon the water, it looked as though a mountain had fallen upon the waves, and it drifted but slowly to the edge of the Great Fall. There it was drawn between the rocks and became wedged so firmly that it could not be dislodged, but coiled itself as if it had lain down to sleep. Its weight was so great that it bent the rocks, and they remain curved like a drawn bow to this day. The serpent itself was gradually washed to pieces and disappeared.

In the Moon of Flowers the young warrior whom Bending Willow loved came and cast a red deer at her feet, and they were happy ever after.

– – – – – – –

From “American Indian Fairy Tales” ISBN 978-1-907256-15-8

American Indian Fairy Tales

Once on a time, but it was a long, long time ago, there were two brothers, one rich and one poor. Now, one Christmas eve, the poor one hadn’t so much as a crumb in the house, either of meat or bread, so he went to his brother to ask him for something to keep Christmas with, in God’s name. It was not the first time his brother had been forced to help him, and you may fancy he wasn’t very glad to see his face, but he said—

“If you will do what I ask you to do, I’ll give you a whole flitch of bacon.”

So the poor brother said he would do anything, and was full of thanks.

“Well, here is the flitch,” said the rich brother, “and now go straight to Hell.”

“What I have given my word to do, I must stick to,” said the other; so he took the flitch and set off. He walked the whole day, and at dusk he came to a place where he saw a very bright light.

“Maybe this is the place,” said the man to himself. So he turned aside, and the first thing he saw was an old, old man, with a long white beard, who stood in an outhouse, hewing wood for the Christmas fire.

“Good even,” said the man with the flitch.

“The same to you; whither are you going so late?” said the man.

“Oh! I’m going to Hell, if I only knew the right way,” answered the poor man.

“Well, you’re not far wrong, for this is Hell,” said the old man; “when you get inside they will be all for buying your flitch, for meat is scarce in Hell; but mind, you don’t sell it unless you get the hand-quern which stands behind the door for it. When you come out, I’ll teach you how to handle the quern, for it’s good to grind almost anything.”

So the man with the flitch thanked the other for his good advice, and gave a great knock at the Devil’s door.

When he got in, everything went just as the old man had said. All the devils, great and small, came swarming up to him like ants round an anthill, and each tried to outbid the other for the flitch.

“Well!” said the man, “by rights my old dame and I ought to have this flitch for our Christmas dinner; but since you have all set your hearts on it, I suppose I must give it up to you; but if I sell it at all, I’ll have for it that quern behind the door yonder.”

At first the Devil wouldn’t hear of such a bargain, and chaffered and haggled with the man; but he stuck to what he said, and at last the Devil had to part with his quern. When the man got out into the yard, he asked the old woodcutter how he was to handle the quern; and after he had learned how to use it, he thanked the old man and went off home as fast as he could, but still the clock had struck twelve on Christmas eve before he reached his own door.

“Wherever in the world have you been?” said his old dame; “here have I sat hour after hour waiting and watching, without so much as two sticks to lay together under the Christmas brose.”

“Oh!” said the man, “I couldn’t get back before, for I had to go a long way first for one thing, and then for another; but now you shall see what you shall see.”

So he put the quern on the table, and bade it first of all grind lights, then a table-cloth, then meat, then ale, and so on till they had got everything that was nice for Christmas fare. He had only to speak the word, and the quern ground out what he wanted. The old dame stood by blessing her stars and kept on asking where he had got this wonderful quern, but he wouldn’t tell her.

“It’s all one where I got it from; you see the quern is a good one, and the mill-stream never freezes, that’s enough.”

So he ground meat and drink and dainties enough to last out till Twelfth Day, and on the third day he asked all his friends and kin to his house, and gave a great feast. Now, when his rich brother saw all that was on the table, and all that was behind in the larder, he grew quite spiteful and wild, for he couldn’t bear that his brother should have anything.

” ‘Twas only on Christmas eve,” he said to the rest, “he was in such straits that he came and asked for a morsel of food in God’s name, and now he gives a feast as if he were count or king;” and he turned to his brother and said—

“But whence, in Hell’s name, have you got all this wealth?”

“From behind the door,” answered the owner of the quern, for he didn’t care to let the cat out of the bag. But later on the evening, when he had got a drop too much, he could keep his secret no longer, and brought out the quern and said—

“There, you see what has gotten me all this wealth;” and so he made the quern grind all kind of things. When his brother saw it, he set his heart on having the quern, and, after a deal of coaxing, he got it; but he had to pay three hundred dollars for it, and his brother bargained to keep it till hay-harvest, for he thought, if I keep it till then, I can make it grind meat and drink that will last for years. So you may fancy the quern didn’t grow rusty for want of work, and when hay-harvest came, the rich brother got it, but the other took care not to teach him how to handle it.

It was evening when the rich brother got the quern home, and next morning he told his wife to go out into the hay-field and toss, while the mowers cut the grass, and he would stay at home and get the dinner ready. So, when dinner-time drew near, he put the quern on the kitchen table and said—

“Grind herrings and broth, and grind them good and fast.”

So the quern began to grind herrings and broth; first of all, all the dishes full, then all the tubs full, and so on till the kitchen floor was quite covered. Then the man twisted and twirled at the quern to get it to stop, but for all his twisting and fingering the quern went on grinding, and in a little while the broth rose so high that the man was like to drown. So he threw open the kitchen door and ran into the parlour, but it wasn’t long before the quern had ground the parlour full too, and it was only at the risk of his life that the man could get hold of the latch of the house door through the stream of broth. When he got the door open, he ran out and set off down the road, with the stream of herrings and broth at his heels, roaring like a waterfall over the whole farm.

Now, his old dame, who was in the field tossing hay, thought it a long time to dinner, and at last she said—

“Well! though the master doesn’t call us home, we may as well go. Maybe he finds it hard work to boil the broth, and will be glad of my help.”

The men were willing enough, so they sauntered homewards; but just as they had got a little way up the hill, what should they meet but herrings, and broth, and bread, all running and dashing, and splashing together in a stream, and the master himself running before them for his life, and as he passed them he bawled out,—”Would to heaven each of you had a hundred throats! but take care you’re not drowned in the broth.”

Away he went, as though the Evil One were at his heels, to his brother’s house, and begged him for God’s sake to take back the quern that instant; for, said he—

“If it grinds only one hour more, the whole parish will be swallowed up by herrings and broth.”

But his brother wouldn’t hear of taking it back till the other paid him down three hundred dollars more.

So the poor brother got both the money and the quern, and it wasn’t long before he set up a farm-house far finer than the one in which his brother lived, and with the quern he ground so much gold that he covered it with plates of gold; and as the farm lay by the sea-side, the golden house gleamed and glistened far away over the sea. All who sailed by put ashore to see the rich man in the golden house, and to see the wonderful quern, the fame of which spread far and wide, till there was nobody who hadn’t heard tell of it.

So one day there came a skipper who wanted to see the quern; and the first thing he asked was if it could grind salt.

“Grind salt!” said the owner; “I should just think it could. It can grind anything.”

When the skipper heard that, he said he must have the quern, cost what it would; for if he only had it, he thought he should be rid of his long voyages across stormy seas for a lading of salt. Well, at first the man wouldn’t hear of parting with the quern; but the skipper begged and prayed so hard, that at last he let him have it, but he had to pay many, many thousand dollars for it. Now, when the skipper had got the quern on his back, he soon made off with it, for he was afraid lest the man should change his mind; so he had no time to ask how to handle the quern, but got on board his ship as fast as he could, and set sail. When he had sailed a good way off, he brought the quern on deck and said—

“Grind salt, and grind both good and fast.”

Well, the quern began to grind salt so that it poured out like water; and when the skipper had got the ship full, he wished to stop the quern, but whichever way he turned it, and however much he tried, it was no good; the quern kept grinding on, and the heap of salt grew higher and higher, and at last down sunk the ship.

There lies the quern at the bottom of the sea, and grinds away at this very day, and that’s why the sea is salt.

From “Popular Tales of the Norse” ISBN 978-1-907256-49-3

Link –

Norse Tales

TWO women quarrelled, and one of them went out secretly at night and dug a deep pit in the middle of the path leading from her enemy’s house to the village well.

Early next morning, when all were going to the well for water with jars balanced on their heads, this woman fell into the pit and cried loudly for help.

Her friends ran to her and, seizing her by the hair, began to pull her out of the pit. To their surprise, her hair stretched as they pulled, and by the time she was safely on the path, her hair was as long as a man’s arm.

This made her very much ashamed, and she ran away and hid herself.

But after a while she realized that her long hair was beautiful, and then she felt very proud and scorned all the short-haired women, jeering at them. When they saw this, they were consumed with jealousy, and began to be ashamed of their short hair. “We have men’s hair,” they said to one another. “How beautiful it would be to have long hair!”

So one by one they jumped into the pit, and their friends pulled them out by the hair.

And in this way they, and all women after them, had long hair.

– – –

From Yoruba Legends by M.I. Ogumefu ISBN 978-1-907256-33-2

Yoruba Legends


There was once a Padishah (Shah) who one day found a little insect. The Padishah called his lala and they both examined the tiny creature. What could it be? What could it feed on? Every day an animal was killed for its sustenance, and by thus living it grew and grew until it was as big as a cat. Then they killed it and skinned it, hanging up the skin on the palace gate. The Padishah now issued a proclamation that whoever could guess correctly to what animal the skin belonged should receive the Sultan’s daughter in marriage.

A great crowd collected and examined the skin from all sides, but no one was found wise enough to answer the question. The story of the skin spread far and wide until it reached the ears of a Dew (a supernatural being). “That is exceedingly fortunate for me,” thought he to himself, “I have had nothing to eat for three days; now I shall be able to satisfy myself with the Princess.” So he went to the Padishah, told him the name of the creature, and immediately demanded the maiden.

“Woe is me” groaned the Padishah, “how can I give this Dew my only daughter?” He offered him, in ransom for her, as many slaves as he liked, but all in vain! The Dew insisted on having the Sultan’s daughter. Therefore the Padishah called the maiden and told her to prepare for the journey, as her kismet was the Dew. All weeping and wailing were fruitless. The maiden put on her clothes, while the Dew waited for her outside the palace.

The Padishah had a horse that drank attar of roses and ate grapes; Kamer-taj, or Moon-horse, was its name. This was the creature on which the Sultan’s daughter was to accompany the Dew to his abode. A cavalcade escorted her a portion of the way and then, turning, rode back. Now the maiden offered up a prayer to Allah to deliver her from the fiend.

Suddenly the Moon-horse began to speak: “Lady, fear not! shut both your eyes and hold my mane firmly.” Hardly had she shut her eyes when she felt the horse rise with her, and when she opened her eyes again she found herself in the garden of a lovely palace on an island in the midst of the sea.

The Dew was very angry at the disappearance of the maid. “Still, never mind!” he said, “I will soon find her,” and went his way home alone.

Not far from the island a Prince sat in a canoe with his lala. The Prince, seeing on the calm surface of the water the reflection of the golden-hued steed, said to his lala that perhaps someone had arrived at his palace. They rode to the island, got out of the canoe, and entered the garden. Here the youth saw the beautiful Princess, who, however much she essayed to veil her face, could not succeed in hiding from him her loveliness.

“Oh, Peri!” said the Prince, “fear me not; I am not an enemy!”
“I am only a Sultan’s daughter, a child of man and no Peri,” announced the Princess, and told the Prince how she had been delivered from the Dew (a Peri is and exquisite, winged, fairy-like creature). The Prince assured her that she could not have come to a better place. His father also was a Padishah; with her permission he would take her to him, and by the grace of Allah he would make her his wife. So they went to the Padishah, the Prince told him of the maiden’s adventure, and in the end they were married, merriment and feasting lasting forty days and forty nights.

For a time they lived in undisturbed bliss, but war broke out with a neighbouring kingdom and, in accordance with the custom of that period, the Padishah also must set out for the campaign. Hearing of this the Prince went to his father and asked permission to go to the war. The Padishah was unwilling to consent, saying: “you are young, also you have a wife whom you must not forsake.” But the son begged so assiduously that in the end the Padishah agreed to stay at home and let Prince go in his stead.

The Dew discovered that the Prince would be on the battlefield, and he also made the further discovery that during his absence a son and a daughter had been born to him.

At that time Tartars were employed as messengers and carried letters between the Padishah at home and the Prince at the seat of war. One of these messengers was intercepted by the Dew and invited into a coffee house. There the Dew entertained him so long that night came on. The messenger now wished to be off, but was persuaded that it would be better to remain till morning.

The Prince sees the reflection.

At midnight, while he was asleep, the Dew searched his letter-bag and found a letter from the Padishah to the Prince informing the latter that a baby son and daughter had come to the palace during his absence. Tearing up this letter, the Dew wrote another to the effect that a

couple of dogs had been born. “Shall we destroy them or keep them till your return?” wrote the Dew in the false letter. This missive he placed in the original envelope, and in the morning the Tartar arose, took his sack of letters, and went into the Prince’s camp.

When the Prince had read his father’s letter he wrote the following answer: “Shah and father, do not destroy the young dogs, but keep them until I return.” This was given to the Tartar, who set out on his return journey.

He was again met by the Dew, who enticed him into a coffeehouse and detained him till next morning. During the night the Dew abstracted the letter and wrote another, which said: “Shah and father, take my wife and her two children and throw them down a precipice, and bind the Moon-horse with a fifty-ton chain.”

In the evening of the day following the Tartar delivered the letter to the Padishah. When the Princess saw the Tartar she hastened joyfully to the monarch that he might show her her husband’s letter. The Padishah, having read it, was astonished and dared not show it to the Princess, so he denied that any letter had arrived. The woman answered: “I have indeed seen the letter with my own eyes; perchance some misfortune has happened to him and you are keeping it from me.” Then catching a glimpse of the letter she put forth her hand quickly and took it. Having read it the poor woman wept bitterly. The monarch did his best to comfort her, but she refused to remain longer in the palace. Taking her children she left the city and went forth into the wide world.

Days and weeks passed away and she was without food to appease her hunger or bed on which to rest her tired body, until worn out with fatigue she could go no step farther. “Let not my children die of hunger!” she prayed. Behold! instantly water gushed forth from the earth and flour fell from the skies, and making bread with these she fed her children.

In the meantime the Dew heard of the woman’s fate and set out immediately to destroy the children. The Princess saw the Dew coming and in her terrible agony she cried: “Hasten, my Kamer-taj, or I die!” In the far-off land the magic horse heard this cry for help; he strained at his fifty-ton fetters but could not break them. The nearer the Dew came the more the poor Princess’s anguish increased. Clasping her children to her breast, she sent up another despairing cry to the Moon-horse. The fettered steed strained still more at his chain, but it was of no avail. The Dew was now quite close upon her, and for the last time the poor mother shrieked with all her remaining strength. Kamer-taj, hearing it, put forth all the force he could muster, broke his chain, and appeared before the Princess. “Fear not, lady!” he said, “shut your eyes and grasp my mane,” and immediately they were on the other side of the ocean. Thus the Dew went away hungry once more.

The Moon-horse took the Princess to his own country. He felt that his last hour had now come, and told his beloved mistress that he must die. She implored him not to leave her alone with her children. If he did, who would protect them from the evil designs of the Dew? “Fear not,” the horse comforted her, “no evil will befall you here. When I am dead, off my head and set it in the earth. Slit up my stomach, and having done this, lay yourself and your children within it.” Saying these words the magic horse breathed his last.

The Princess now cut off his head and stuck it in the ground, then opened his stomach and laid herself and her children in it. Here they fell fast asleep. When she awoke she saw that she was in a beautiful palace; one finer than either her father’s or her husband’s. She was lying in a lovely bed, and hardly had she risen when slaves appeared with water: one bathed her, others clothed her. The twins lay in a golden cradle, and nurses stood around them, soothing them with sweet songs. At dinnertime, gold and silver dishes appeared laden with delicious food. It was like a dream; but days and weeks passed away, weeks passed into months, and the months into a year, and still the dream–if dream it was–did not come to an end.

Meanwhile the war was over and the Prince hastened home. Seeing nothing of his wife he asked his father what had become of her and her children. The Padishah was astonished at this strange question. The letters were produced, and the Tartar messenger was sent for. Being closely questioned he related the account of his meeting with the Dew on both occasions. They now realized that the Dew had tampered with the messenger and the correspondence. There was no more thought of peace for the Prince until he had discovered his wife. With that intention he set out in the company of his lala.

They wandered on and on unceasingly. Six months had passed already, yet they-continued their way-over hill and down dale, never stopping to rest. One day they reached the foot of a mountain, whence they could see the palace of the Moon-horse. The Prince was entirely exhausted and said to his lala: “Go to that palace and beg a crust of bread and a little water, that we may-continue our journey.

When he reached the palace gate, the lala was met by two little children, who invited him in to rest. Entering, he found the floor of the apartment so beautiful that he hardly dared set his foot upon it. But the children pulled him to the divan and made him sit down while food and drink were set before him. The lala excused himself, saying that outside waited his tired son, to whom he wished to take the refreshment.

“Father Dervish,” said the children, “eat first yourself, then you can take food to your son.” So the lala ate, drank coffee, and smoked, and while he was preparing to return to the Prince, the children went to tell their mother about their guest.

Looking out of the window, the Princess recognised the Prince her husband. She took food with her own hands, and putting it in golden vessels sent it out by the lala. On receiving it the Prince was struck with the richness of the service. He lifted the cover of one of the dishes, set it on the ground, and it rolled back to the palace of its own accord. The same happened with the other dishes, and when the last had disappeared, a slave came to invite the stranger to take coffee in the palace.

While this was happening the Princess gave each of her children a wooden horse, and sent them to the gate to receive the guests. “When the dervish comes with his son,” said their mother, “take them to such and such an apartment.” The dervish and his son came up, the two children on their wooden horses greeted them with a salaam and escorted them to their apartments. Again the Princess took dishes of food and said to the children: “Take these to our guests and press them to eat. If they say they have already had sufficient and ask you to partake of the food, answer that you also are satisfied, but perhaps your horses are hungry, and put them to the table. They will then probably ask, how can wooden horses eat? And you must reply” (here she whispered something into the children’s ears).

The children did as their mother had commanded them. The food was so delicious that the guests tried to eat a second time, but becoming satisfied very soon, they asked: “Will you not eat also, children?” “We cannot eat,” answered the children, “but perhaps our horses are hungry,” so saying they drew them up to the table. “Children,” remonstrated the Prince, “wooden horses cannot eat.” “That you seem to know,” answered the children, “but apparently you do not know that it is impossible for little dogs to become human children such as we are.” The Prince sprang up with a cry of joy, kissed and embraced both his children. His wife entering at the moment, he humbly begged her pardon for the suffering she had experienced. They related to each other all that had befallen them during the time of their separation, and their joy knew no bounds. Now the Princess and her children prepared to accompany the Prince back to his own kingdom. After they had gone some distance, they turned to take a farewell look at the palace, and lo! the windswept over the place as though no building had ever been there.

The Dew was lurking on the wayside, but the Prince caught him and killed him, and after that they arrived home without further adventure. Soon afterwards the old Padishah died, and the Prince became chief of the land.

Three apples have fallen from the sky. One belongs to the storyteller, the second to the listener, the third to me.

– – –

From “Forty-Four Turkish Fairy Tales” by Dr Ignacz Kunos, Illustrated by Willy Pogany ISBN 978-1-907256-37-0

Forty-four Turkish Fairy Tales

PRINCE LLEWELYN had a favourite grey-hound named Gellert that had been given to him by his father-in-law, King John. He was as gentle as a lamb at home but a lion in the chase. One day Llewelyn went to the chase and blew his horn in front of his castle. All his other dogs came to the call but Gellert never answered it. so he blew a louder blast on his horn and called Gellert by name, but still the greyhound did not come. At last Prince Llewelyn could wait no longer and went off to the hunt without Gellert. He had little sport that day because Gellert was not there, the swiftest and boldest of his hounds.
He turned back in a rage to his castle, and as he came to the gate, who should he see but Gellert come bounding out to meet him. But when the hound came near him, the Prince was startled to see that his lips and fangs were dripping with blood. Llewelyn started back and the grey-hound crouched down at his feet as if surprised or afraid at the way his master greeted him.
Now Prince Llewelyn had a little son a year old with whom Gellert used to play, and a terrible thought crossed the Prince’s mind that made him rush towards the child’s nursery. And the nearer he came the more blood and disorder he found about the rooms. He rushed into it and found the child’s cradle overturned and daubed with blood.
Prince Liewelyn grew more and more terrified, and sought for his little son everywhere. He could find him nowhere but only signs of some terrible conflict in which much blood had been shed. At last he felt sure the dog had destroyed his child, and shouting to Gellert, “Monster, thou hast devoured my child,” he drew out his sword and plunged it in the greyhound’s side, who fell with a deep yell and still gazing in his master’s eyes.

As Gellert raised his dying yell, a little child’s cry answered it from beneath the cradle, and there Llewelyn found his child unharmed and just awakened from sleep. But just beside him lay the body of a great gaunt wolf all torn to pieces and covered with blood. Too late, Llewelyn learned what had happened while he was away. Gellert had stayed behind to guard the child and had fought and slain the wolf that had tried to destroy Llewelyn’s heir.
In vain was all Llewelyn’s grief; he could not bring his faithful dog to life again. So he buried him outside the castle walls
within sight of the great mountain of Snowdon, where every passer-by might see his grave, and raised over it a great cairn of stones. And to this day the place is called Beth Gellert, or the Grave of Gellert.

NOTE: The town of Beth Gellert is now known as Beddgelert

– – –

From “Celtic Fairy Tales” ISBN 978-1-907256-05-9

Celtic Fairy Tales

When life ends you may arise and have peace with Droma, but nevertheless it’s a great calamity when the rock rolls down the mountain and takes your life.
Tibetan Proverb.

ONCE upon a time, on the top of a mountain which was quite flat and covered with grass and flowers, a frog and a rabbit were playing around, having a good time. In the midst of their fun, they found a beautiful golden pot. The frog exclaimed, “See what I have found. It’s all mine! What a lot of money I shall have.”
The rabbit said angrily, “It’s mine, I saw it first.”
And soon they were fighting fiercely. But all at once the rabbit stopped and remarked, “This won’t do, let’s go to the foot of the mountain and race back to the top, and the one that gets here first and gets in the pot shall have it, to-morrow to be the day of the race.”
The rabbit was sure of success because he knew he could run and was certain the frog couldn’t. The frog knew well enough he couldn’t possibly win in that kind of race, so he thought of a scheme. He found two of his friends exactly like himself in every way. One, he took to the top of the mountain and put in the pot, the other he placed half way down the mountain, and located himself at the base. When the rabbit came next morning and they were ready to start on the race, the frog gave a few hops while the rabbit skipped on ahead. Much to his astonishment, when he got half way up the mountain, there was the frog hopping wildly along in front of him. He said to himself, “I must do better than this,” and away he flew like the wind. But on reaching the summit there sat the frog in the pot. The rabbit had lost the race and also the gold.
Now, the frog didn’t know how to get that big pot down the mountain, and while he was puzzling over it, a big duck, very dark in color, with mouse-colored breast, flew over him, stopped a minute, and asked his trouble. The frog told him what was the matter and asked if he could carry the pot to the bottom of the mountain. The duck said he could and would do so if he might have half. As there was nothing else to be done, the frog agreed and the duck carried it down for him, so there it was divided and the duck thought it was so beautiful that he took his half and smeared it on his breast, and that’s where the sacred duck got his beautiful golden breast.
Note: On the tops of the mountains in Tibet and near the lakes are found these beautiful ducks. They are very tame and have no fear of people, as they are held to be sacred by the Tibetans, who believe them to be a reincarnation of some holy man because of the beautiful yellow color, which is their sacred color.

From Tibetan Folk Tales ISBN 978-1-907256-28-8

Tibetan Folk Tales

Most of us know the poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas written by Clement Clarke Moore almost 190 years ago even if we are not American. But how would it fare if applied to another far older, culture – like the Vikings for instance? Just how would it translate? :-

– – –

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the Hall
Not a creature was stirring, not a warrior nor thrall.
And I in my armour, my shield and my helm
Was drunker than anyone else in the Realm.

I staggered upstairs and fell into bed
While four quarts of mead were ablaze in my head.
Then up from below came the sounds of a brawl
So I grabbed up my axe and ran down to the Hall.

I missed the last step and crashed down in a heap
Thinking, “Why can’t those low-lifes downstairs go to sleep!”
When what to my wondering eyes should appear
But two brawny strangers, wielding mallet and spear.

I said to myself, “We’ll soon have them beat!”
Then I noticed ten warriors laid out at their feet.
I gave out a yell and leapt into the fray…
I’ll always regret my poor choice of that day.

For the one laid his hammer to the side of my nose
And up, up, up to the rafters I rose.
Then came a lone frightened voice from the floor,
“Those are no mortal warriors — that’s Odin and Thor!”

Then they looked at each other and they said, “Battle’s done.
Now they know who we are, it no longer is fun.”
Then Thor raised his hammer, and his elbow he bent,
And with a loud crash, through the ceiling they went.

I crawled through the Hall and flung open the door,
Not really sure that I’d seen them before.
The snow bathed in starlight, the moon like a glede,
I saw them ride off on an eight-legged steed.
And I heard them exclaim, ‘ere they flew out of sight,

– – –

Clement Clarke Moore (1779 – 1863) wrote the poem Twas the night before Christmas (also called “A Visit from St. Nicholas”) in 1822. It is now the tradition in many American families to read the poem every Christmas Eve. The poem has redefined our image of Christmas and Santa Claus. It could also be argued that exports of sentimental Christmas movies from Hollywood have also done their bit to popularise this poem. It is important to note that prior to the creation of the story of ‘Twas the night before Christmas’ St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children, had never been associated with a sleigh or reindeers!

Clement Moore was a reticent man and it is believed that a family friend, Miss H. Butler, sent a copy of the poem to the New York Sentinel who published the poem. The condition of publication was that the author of Twas the night before Christmas was to remain anonymous. The first publication date was 23rd December 1823 and it was an immediate success.

It was not until 1844 that Clement Clarke Moore claimed ownership when the work was included in a book of his poetry. Would Clement have approved of this “translation” of his classic poem? Maybe he would, maybe he wouldn’t?

Wishing all fans and members a very merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

Twas the Night Before Christmas (Viking Style) can be found in Tiivistelmä (ISBN 978-0-956558-44-7) a book of Viking poetry and mythology for Viking Skalds and tellers of Viking tales

Tiivistelma Cover

Tiivistelma Cover

There was an old woman, as I’ve heard tell,
She went to the market her eggs for to sell;
She went to the market, all on a market-day,
And she fell asleep on the king’s highway.

There came by a pedlar, whose name was Stout,
He cut her petticoats round about;
He cut her petticoats up to the knees,
Which made the old woman to shiver and freeze.

When this old woman first did wake,
She began to shiver, and she began to shake;
She began to wonder, and she began to cry —
‘Lawkamercyme, this is none of I!

‘But if it bet, as I do hope it be,
I’ve a little dog at home, and he’ll know me;
If it be I, he’ll wag his little tail,
And if it be not I, he’ll loudly bark and wail.’

Home went the little woman, all in the dark;
Up got the little dog, and he began to bark;
He began to bark, so she began to cry —
‘Lawkamercyme, this is none of I !’

– – –

From “More English Fairy Tales” – ISBN 978-1-907256-09-7

Joseph Jacob’s first volume—English Fairy Tales [1890]—did not exhaust the scanty remains of traditional English folktales. Most of the forty-four tales that appear in “More English Fairy Tales” had never before appeared in print.

Lawkamercyme (page 58) is local slang for “Lord Have Mercy on Me”. Exactly which part of England it was taken from is unfortunately unknown.

In compiling More English Fairy Tales [1894], Joseph Jacobs flouted the Florklorist’s creed, choosing to present stories that would fill children’s imaginations “with bright trains of images”. Vividly painted princesses, Pied Pipers, pots of gold, giants, speaking cats, Kings, Hoybahs, wise men, washerwomen, and more overflow from this volume, all bound by the
common threads of basic moral lessons. You might say that these are the classic fairy tales of Olde England.

Many of the tales were recorded verbatim from storytellers as was Lawkamercyme. They are by no means in an authorised form, and even touch on the “vulgar” using archaic and colloquial English. In the times following Jacob’s original printing, the literary establishment objected to the use of such archaic colloquialisms.

Becuase these tales were told for generations in a form that used these dialects and “vulgar” words for effect.  Jacobs chose to stick with the vernacular. In my opinion the traditional form makes these stories all the richer in a modern setting.

The Folklore Society of the day, considered this to be vulgar and unsuitable. Yet Jacobs, Campbell and Lang all chose to follow their hearts and put their publications to the test letting the public decide who was correct. Fortunately for us the Victorians decided for the folklorists and not the society.

More English Fairy Tales