You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2012.
There was once a poor lad. He took the road, went to find himself a master. He met a priest on the road. Where are you going, my lad?’
‘I am going to find myself a master.’
‘Mine’s the very place for you, my lad, for I’ve another lad like you, and I have six oxen and a plough. Do you enter my service and plough all this field.’
The lad arose, and took the plough and the oxen, and went into the fields and ploughed two days. Luck and the Ogre came to him. And the Ogre said to Luck, ‘Go for him.’ Luck didn’t want to go for him; only the Ogre went. When the Ogre went for him, he laid himself down on his back, and unlaced his boots, and took to flight across the plain.
The other lad shouted after him, ‘Don’t go, brother; don’t go, brother.’
‘Bah! God blast your plough and you as well.’
Then he came to a city of the size of Bucharest. Presently he arrived at a watchmaker’s shop. And he leaned his elbows on the shop-board and watched the prentices at their work. Then one of them asked him, ‘Why do you sit there hungry?’
‘He said, ‘Because I like to watch you working.’
Then the master came out and said, ‘Here, my lad, I will hire you for three years, and will show you all that I am master of. For a year and a day,’ he continued, ‘you will have nothing to do but chop wood, and feed the oven fire, and sit with your elbows on the table, and watch the prentices at their work.’
Now the watchmaker had had a clock of the emperor’s fifteen years, and no one could be found to repair it; he had fetched watchmakers from Paris and Vienna, and not one of them had managed it. The time came when the emperor offered the half of his kingdom to whoso should repair it; one and all they failed. The clock had twenty-four tunes in it. And as it played, the emperor grew young again. Easter Sunday came; and the watchmaker went to church with his prentices. Only the old wife and the lad stayed behind. The lad chopped the wood up quickly, and went back to the table that they did their work at. He never touched one of the little watches, but he took the big clock, and set it on the table. He took out two of its pipes, and cleaned them, and put them back in their place; then the four-and-twenty tunes began to play, and the clock to go. Then the lad hid himself for fear; and all the people came out of the church when they heard the tunes playing.
The watchmaker, too, came home, and said, ‘Mother, who did me this kindness, and repaired the clock?’
His mother said, ‘Only the lad, dear, went near the table.’
And he sought him and found him sitting in the stable. He took him in his arms: ‘My lad, you were my master, and I never knew it, but set you to chop wood on Easter Day.’ Then he sent for three tailors, and they made him three fine suits of clothes. Next day he ordered a carriage with four fine horses; and he took the clock in his arms, and went off to the emperor. The emperor, when he heard it, came down from his throne, and took his clock in his arms and grew young. Then he said to the watchmaker, ‘Bring me him who mended the clock.’
He said, ‘I mended it.’
‘Don’t tell me it was you. Go and bring me him who mended it.’
He went then and brought the lad.
The emperor said, ‘Go, give the watchmaker three purses of ducats; but the lad you shall have no more, for I mean to give him ten thousand ducats a year, just to stay here and mind the clock and repair it when it goes wrong.’
So the lad dwelt there thirteen years.
The emperor had a grown-up daughter, and he proposed to find a husband for her. She wrote a letter, and gave it to her father. And what did she put in the letter? She put this: ‘Father, I am minded to feign to be dumb; and whoso is able to make me speak, I will be his.’
Then the emperor made a proclamation throughout the world: ‘He who is able to make my daughter speak shall get her to wife; and whoso fails him will I kill.’
Then many suitors came, but not one of them made her speak. And the emperor killed them all, and by and by no one more came.
Now the lad, the watchmaker, went to the emperor, and said, ‘Emperor, let me also go to the maiden, to see if I cannot make her speak.’
‘Well, this is how it stands, my lad. Haven’t you seen the proclamation on the table, how I have sworn to kill whoever fails to make her speak?’
‘Well, kill me also, Emperor, if I too fail.’
‘In that case, go to her.’
The lad dressed himself bravely, and went into her chamber. She was sewing at her frame. When the lad entered, he said, ‘Good-day, you rogue.’
Thank you, watchmaker. Well, sit you down since you have come, and take a bite.’
‘Well, all right, you rogue.’
He only was speaking. Then he tarried no longer, but came out and said, ‘Good-night, rogue.’
Next evening the emperor summoned him, to kill him. But the lad said, ‘Let me go one more night.’ Then the lad went again, and said, ‘Good-evening, rogue.’
‘Welcome, watchmaker. And since you have come, brother, pray sit down to table.’
Only he spoke, so at last he said, ‘Good-night, rogue.’
Next night the emperor summoned him. ‘I must kill you now, for you have reached your allotted term.’
Then said the lad, ‘Do you know, emperor, that there is thrice forgiveness for a man?’
‘Then go to-night, too.’
Then the lad went that night, and said, ‘How do you do, rogue?’
‘Thank you, watchmaker. Since you have come, sit at table.’
‘So I will, rogue. And see you this knife in my hand? I mean to cut you in pieces if you will not answer my question.’ And why should I not answer it, watchmaker?’
‘Well, rogue, know you the princess?’
‘And how should I not know her?’
‘And the three princes, know you them?’
‘I know them, watchmaker.’
‘Well and good, if you know them. The three brothers had an intrigue with the princess. They knew not that the three had to do with her. But what did the maiden? She knew they were brothers. The eldest came at nightfall, and she set him down to table and he ate. Then she lay with him and shut him up in a chamber. The middle one came at midnight, and she lay with him also and shut him up in another chamber. And that same night came the youngest, and she lay with him too. Then at daybreak she let them all out, and they sprang to slay one another, the three brothers. The maiden said, “Hold, brothers, do not slay one another, but go home and take each of you to himself ten thousand ducats, and go into three cities; and his I will become who brings me the finest piece of workmanship.” So the eldest journeyed to Bucharest, and there found a beautiful mirror. Now look you what kind of mirror it was. “Here, merchant, what is the price of your mirror?” “Ten thousand ducats, my lad.” “Indeed, is that not very dear, brother?” “But mark you what kind of mirror it is. You look in it and you can see both the dead and the living therein.” Now let’s have a look at the middle brother. He went to another city and found a robe. “You, merchant, what is the price of this robe?” “Ten thousand ducats, my son.”‘
‘What are you talking about, watchmaker? A robe cost ten thousand ducats!’
‘But look you, you rogue, what sort of robe it is. For when you step on it, it will carry you whither you will. So you may fancy he cries “Done!” Meanwhile the youngest also arrived in a city and found a Jew, and bought an apple from him. And the apple was such that when a dead man ate it he revived. He took it and came to his brothers. And when they were all come home they saw their sweet-heart dead. And they gave her the apple to eat and she arose. And whom then did she choose? She chose the youngest. What do you say?’
And the emperor’s daughter finally spoke. And the watchmaker took her to wife. And they made a marriage.
From Gypsy Folk Tales (1899) compiled by Francis Hindes Groome
The illustrated edition of this book will be published during the summer of 2012. The illustrations are currently being worked on by Dutch illustrator Maggie Gunzel.
NOTE: Yes, Roumanian is the correct spelling. This was the way it was spelt in 1881
Happy to have received such a handsome remuneration, the gardener with much trouble and pains made the garden in as good a state as it was before the folly of Dimitri. The marriage of the second daughter took place in a short space of time, and her father and his suite accompanied them also, to the frontier; Didine only remaining at home under the plea of indisposition. Dimitri repeated the same folly as on the marriage of the oldest sister, the only difference being that this time he wore the second suit belonging to the fairies. All was repeated as before, and to prevent his being beaten, Didine sent two handfuls of gold to the gardener in return for his flowers. Again he worked until the garden had once more got into good condition.
Shortly after this the Governor organised a great chase, and while hunting he narrowly escaped being torn to pieces by a wild boar; to celebrate his good fortune he raised a temporary kiosque in the wood, and bade all his friends come and make merry.
Didine only was not there, still on the plea of indisposition. Dimitri for the third time alone, recommenced his folly, and put on the third dress of the fairies which was embroidered with the sun on the chest, the moon on the back, and the morning and evening star on the sleeves.
This time he committed such havoc that it was impossible to re-arrange the garden.
The gardener’s rage knew no bounds and he was on the point of giving Dimitri a beating when Didine tapped at the window and asked for flowers.
With difficulty were two or three flowers found which had escaped the hoofs of the horse, but she gave him three handfuls of gold and begged him not to lay hands on Dimitri. In five weeks the garden was restored and Dimitri made to promise that he would never more commit such mischief.
The Governor began to be anxious about his daughter Didine for she kept to the house and seemed always sad, he proposed that she should marry the son of a neighbouring Boyard but she would not entertain the idea, so he called his council and asked their advice. “Governor!” said they “you must build a great tower with a gateway, and all the pretenders to the hand of Didine must pass under it, give to her a golden apple which she must throw to the one whom she desires for her husband.”
No sooner said than done, the tower was built, and it was soon spread abroad that all who wished to marry Didine must pass under this Archway. Many came, of both high and low degree, but still she did not throw the apple, and they began to believe that she had no wish to marry, until one of the councillors said, “Let all those who are in your court, all those who are employed on your estate, pass under also.” So they were called, and last of all came Dimitri who with great difficulty was persuaded to pass under. Didine at once flung the apple at him. The Governor seeing this exclaimed, “it is a mistake, she has hit the wrong man, let all pass through again.” This was done, and again Didine threw the apple to Dimitri. All agreed that there was no mistake this time, and so the father unwillingly consented to her choice.
They were married without any rejoicings and suffered to live in the Governor’s court, Dimitri earning their living as a water carrier. They were laughed at by all, the servants even throw dust and sweepings in the direction of their room. Inside it was very different, the horse had brought there all the wonders of the world, not even in King’s palaces were to be found such lovely things as in their wretched dwelling.
The other pretenders to the hand of Didine were so indignant at their rejection, that they united together to make war on the Governor. This caused him much pain, but he had no other alternative than to prepare for the struggle.
His two sons-in-law brought their retainers and Dimitri asked his wife to beg of the Governor to let him go to the battle. “Go from out of my sight,” said the father, “you have broken my peace for ever.” After much entreaty he was prevailed on to allow Dimitri to be there, if only as a water carrier for the soldiers.
So in a shabby working dress, astride a wretched horse, blind and lame, he set off in front. When the army caught him up, they found that his horse had sunk into a bog, and he was trying with all his might to extricate it. With laughs and jeers they passed on, leaving him alone to do the best he could. When they were out of sight, Dimitri swiftly donned the clothes of the fairies, and mounting his winged horse, sped to a commanding height, where he had a good view of the troops. Seeing that the enemy was eight times greater in number, he dashed into their midst, and slashing right and left, put them to rout in the greatest disorder. In the effort Dimitri cut his wrist, and the Governor gave him his handkerchief with which to bind it up.
When the Governor’s army returned victorious, they again came upon Dimitri, still trying to extricate the miserable mare from the bog; and being in good humour with their success, the Governor ordered his soldiers to come to his aid.
Shortly after this, the Governor fell ill and became totally blind. All the doctors, all the wise men, all the astrologers were called, but none could think of any remedy.
On awaking one morning, the Governor related that he had dreamt that if he washed his eyes with the milk of a wild red goat, he would regain his sight. Hearing this, his two sons-in-law set off in search of such a goat, without taking notice of Dimitri, or asking him to accompany them. He, on his side, went out alone, on his faithful steed, to the mountains where the red goats browsed.
Finding quickly both sheep and goats, Dimitri milked the sheep, disguised himself as a goat-herd, and was on the look out for his brothers-in-law. When they came up they asked him if he had milk to sell? He answered, yes, but that having heard of the Governor’s dream, he was going to take this reel goat’s milk to him. Enquiring if he would sell the milk to them, he said he would take no money for it, but that if they wished for the milk he would give them some, if they would allow him to mark them with his brand on their backs.
The sons-in-law taking council together, thought it would not do them much harm, so they consented to being branded, and taking the milk, set off quickly to the Governor. He took of the milk and drank it, he bathed his eyes with it, but it had no effect.
Sometime after came Didine with a wooden pail, saying, “Father, take this milk and use it, it is brought by my husband-drink it, and bathe your eyes with it, I entreat you.” The Governor answered, “What good has your stupid husband ever done to me? Is it likely he can be of any use now? Even your brothers-in-law who aided me in battle, are no good to me. Have I not forbade you my presence? How dare you intrude?” “I will submit to any punishment you may think fit, father, if you will but wash your eyes with this milk, which your loving daughter brings you.” The Governor seeing that she was so importunate, bathed his eyes with the milk again and again, until he began to see dimly; continuing this, in a few days his sight was quite restored to him.
On the Governor’s recovery he gave a great banquet, and Didine with her husband, Dimitri, were allowed to sit at the lower end of the table. While the festivity was at its height, Dimitri arose, and demanding pardon for the interruption, enquired of the Governor if it were right for slaves to sit at the same table as their masters. “Certainly not,” said the Governor. “If that be the case, and as all the world knows you to be a just man, give me justice, and bid your right hand and your left hand guest, arise, for they are my slaves, for proof of which you will find them both branded with my mark.”
When the sons-in-law heard this, they began to tremble, and were forced to confess the truth. They were bade to rise, and place themselves behind Dimitri’s chair.
Later on Dimitri drew from his pocket, the handkerchief which the Governor gave him to bind his wrist after the battle. “How did you come by this handkerchief?” said the Governor, “for I gave it to the powerful man. sent from God to aid me in the battle.” “Not at all,” said Dimitri, “for you gave it to me.” “Is it so? Could it have been you who stood us in such good stead.”
“I alone,” said Dimitri.
“It is impossible that I can believe this,” said the Governor, “unless you stand before me precisely as you were when I gave you the handkerchief.” Dimitri rose from the table, and going out quickly, returned clad in a suit of the fairies’ clothes, and with his golden hair let down, to the astonishment of the Governor and his guests. All rose and saluted him on his entrance, the Governor complimented Didine on her choice, and feeling that he was growing old, said he wished to relinquish the Governorship in favour of Dimitri. This done, Dimitri’s power and renown became world-wide talk. He pardoned his brothers-in-law, and gave them good posts in the country.
His winged horse returned to fairyland, bearing the three suits of charmed clothing, which he no longer needed. All that remained to him was his hair which was like threads of gold, from his having bathed in the magic bath.
His sons and daughters inherited his beautiful hair, and the old women to this day, believe that all true Dimitris ought to have hair as bright and golden as the ripe maize in their cornfields.
From Roumanian Fairy Tales and Legends (1881)
NOTE: Yes, “Roumanian” is the correct spelling. This was the way it was spelt in 1881
Once on a time there dwelt in a hollow of one of the great mountains a solitary Hermit, who had not seen the face of a human creature since he was a Child.
His only neighbours were the beasts of the forest, with whom he lived on very good terms.
One day when he had gone to fetch water from a neighbouring stream, he saw floating on its surface a tarred basket containing what seemed to be a bundle of clothes. To his astonishment the cries of a baby issued from this basket! Muttering a prayer, he plunged into the water, and with the aid of his staff drew the basket to the edge of the stream. In this basket was a boy of only a few weeks old. The Hermit took the little one in his arms, and its wailing ceased. On examining further he found attached to it a letter, saying that the infant was the unhappy son of a king’s daughter, who for fear of her shame being brought to light, had sent her little one clown the stream to the care of the good God. The Hermit received the gift with joy, but when he thought of his own incompetence, and his inability to procure milk, or any suitable food for his little charge, he was in despair. Suddenly there began to grow near the entrance of his Cave, a Vine whose branches spread and climbed quickly up to the top of the Cave. It already bore grapes, of which some were ripe, others still green, others hardly formed, others in flower; taking of the ripe grapes, and squeezing the juice into the mouth of the little one, he saw that he sucked it in with relish.
So the child was fed on the juice of the grape until he had teeth to share the roots and other hard fare of his protector.
As he grew bigger, the Hermit taught him to read and write, to gather roots for their daily food, and to shoot birds with a bow and arrow.
The boy had now grown into a youth, when the Hermit called him, and thus said: My son, Dimitri (for thus had he baptized him), I find myself getting weaker every day, as you see I am very old, and I warn you that in three days from this, I shall go to another world. I am not your real father, for I rescued you from the stream when you had been abandoned in a basket by your mother, so as to hide the shame, and the punishment of her fault. When I sleep the last long sleep, which you will recognize by the coldness of my body, there will come a Lion; have no fear of him, he will make my grave, and you will cover me over with earth. I have no legacy for you except a horse’s bridle. When I have left you for ever, then reach down from the top of the cave, the bridle, shake it, and a horse will appear at this summons, who will from henceforth be your guide.”
On the third day after this, the Hermit was no more. On his hard couch he slept his long sleep. The Lion with his claws dug the grave, and Dimitri placed him gently therein and covered him over with earth, and wept three days and three nights for his benefactor.
On the third day, hunger reminded him that he had not eaten, so going to his vine for support, his astonishment was extreme on finding it withered, and with no grapes on it. Calling to mind the last instructions of the Hermit, he entered the cave, and found the bridle, on shaking which, appeared a Winged Horse, who enquired, “Master, what are your commands?” The youth recounted to him his past life, and how the Hermit had stood him in the stead of a parent.
“Let us go to some other country,” said he, “for here with that grave before my eyes, I am always disposed to cry.” Said the horse, “Just so, my Master, we will go and live where there are other men like you.” “How,” said Dimitri, “are there other men like me and my father? and shall we live amongst them?” “Certainly,” answered the horse. Said the youth, “How is it that none of them have ever come here?”
“There is nothing to lead them to this mountain, we must go to them.”
“Let us set off,” said he, gleefully. “Yes,” said the horse, “but you must be clothed; where we are going, they don’t wear Lion and Tiger skins; put your hand in my right ear, and draw out what you will find.” To Dimitri’s surprise, there he found a suit of clothes, and aided by the instructions of the horse, he succeeded in putting them on. He mounted the horse, and submitted himself to its guidance.
On arriving at a City where men and women were moving about, as numerous as ants, our hero was dumb with astonishment and admiration at the houses, and at all which met his view.
Said the horse, “Master, here everyone has some trade, some occupation; you also must find something to do;” but the youth was unwilling, so after a few days sojourn, they set off again on their journey.
Soon they arrived at a Kingdom ruled over by three Fairies, and the horse advised Dimitri to try and enter their service.
With some difficulty he succeeded, and commenced his new duties. The horse visited him daily, and gave him instructions; he informed him that there was a room in the Fairies’ Palace which contained a bath, and that once in a hundred years, the water in this bath had the power of changing into gold, the hair of the one who bathed first in it. Also that in a chest in the same room was a bundle of three suits of clothes, which they preserved with a jealous care. The Fairies had given the youth orders to clean all parts of the Palace, excepting the bath room, which he was strictly forbidden to enter. The Fairies being called away to a fairy festival, the youth all alone entered the forbidden chamber, and saw all as described by the horse, but the bath was without water. On the next absence of the fairies, before leaving, knowing that the time of the filling of the fountain was approaching, they instructed Demitri that if he heard the slightest noise in the bath room, to take a horn and sound it three times, so that they might return quickly.
Shortly after their departure, came the sound of rushing water from the bath room, the youth called at once for the horse who bade him enter the bath and bathe, then steal the bundle of clothes from the chest, then mount the winged horse and fly away.
When they had quitted. the palace, it began to shake and tremble to its foundations. This brought back the fairies, who seeing that the bath had been used and was no good for another hundred years, their bundle of precious clothes gone, and their servant absent, they set off in pursuit of the latter. They had nearly laid hands on him, when he passed the frontier of their power, and came to a sudden stop. At this disappointment the fairies could not restrain their anger but cried, “Son of an elf, how you have cheated us, let us see at least your hair,” he shook loose his hair and they continued, “who ever saw such hair? as bright as gold–only give us back the bundle of clothes and we will pardon you.” “No!” said he, “I keep them instead of the wages you owe me,” and then with his horse continued his journey.
Arrived in a town, he covered his hair with a close fitting bladder, and went to the gardener of the Governor of the town to seek service as under gardener.
As he was in need of a help, he engaged him to water the grass, weed the garden, and lop the trees.
This Governor was the father of three daughters, who were somewhat neglected and left to themselves, owing to their father’s official duties. One day the eldest of the girls Anika, calling her sisters to her, said, “Let us each choose a melon to take to table for our father.” This was done, the melons being served on golden plates. The Governor was so astonished that he summoned his council together and asked them to guess the meaning of this act of his daughters. They decided to cut open the melons, and found that one of them was beginning slightly to decay, that another was just ripe enough to eat, and that a third was only ripening. Said the eldest councillor, “May your Excellence live many years! these melons are the ages of your daughters, and show the time is arrived for you to provide them with homes and with husbands.” So the Governor decided that his daughters should be married, and even on the next day negotiations were entered into for their hands.
The eldest, Anika, soon made her choice, and after the marriage, the Governor accompanied his son-in-law and daughter to the frontier.
Only the youngest, Didine, remained at home.
Our hero, the under gardener, seeing that the cortège had set off, let down his hair, put on one of the fairy suits, called his horse and mounting it, danced all over the garden, crushing and destroying the flowers.
He was unaware that Didine was at the window watching all his movements. When he saw the folly he had committed, he changed quickly his dress, and began to repair the damage he had done. On his arrival, the head gardener was so vexed with the state of things, that he was on the point of giving our here a hearty thrashing. Didine, still looking on, tapped at the window and asked the gardener to send her some flowers. He made her up a bouquet, in return for which she sent him gold, and a request not to beat his under gardener.
From Roumanian Fairy Tales and Legends (1881)
There was an emperor. He had been married ten years, but had no children. And God granted that his empress conceived and bore a son. Now that son was heroic; there was none other found like him. And the father lived half a year longer, and died. Then what is the lad to do? He took and departed in quest of heroic achievements. And he journeyed a long while, and took no heed, and came into a great forest. In that forest there was a certain house, and in that house were twelve dragons. Then the lad went straight thither, and saw that there was no one. He opened the door and went in, and he saw a sabre on a nail and took it, and posted himself behind the door, and waited for the coming of the dragons. They, when they came, did not go in all at once, but went in one by one. The lad waited, sabre in hand; and as each one went in, he cut off his head, flung it on the floor. So the lad killed eleven dragons, and the youngest dragon remained. And the lad went out to him, and took and fought with him, and fought half a day. And the lad vanquished the dragon, and took him and put him in a jar, and fastened it securely.
And the lad went to walk, and came on another house, where there was only a maiden. And when he saw the maiden, how did she please his heart. As for the maiden, the lad pleased her just as well. And the maiden was yet more heroic than the lad. And they formed a strong love. And the lad told the maiden how he had killed eleven dragons, and one he had left alive and put in a jar.
The maiden said, ‘You did ill not to kill it; but now let it be.’
And the lad said to the maiden, ‘I will go and fetch my mother, for she is alone at home.’
Then the maiden said, ‘Fetch her, but you will rue it. But go and fetch her, and dwell with her.’
So the lad departed to fetch his mother. He took his mother, and brought her into the house of the dragons whom he had slain. And he said to his mother, ‘Go into every room; only into this chamber do not go.’
His mother said, ‘I will not, darling.’
And the lad departed into the forest to hunt.
And his mother went into the room where he had told her not to go. And when she opened the door, the dragon saw her and said to her, ‘Empress, give me a little water, and I will do you much good.’
She went and gave him water and he said to her, ‘Dost love me, then will I take thee, and thou shalt be mine empress.’
‘I love thee,’ she said.
Then the dragon said to her, ‘What will you do, to get rid of your son, that we may be left to ourselves? Make yourself ill, and say you have seen a dream, that he must bring you a porker of the sow in the other world; that, if he does not bring it you, you will die; but that, if he brings it you, you will recover.’
Then she went into the house, and tied up her head, and made herself ill. And when the lad came home and saw her head tied up, he asked her, ‘What’s the matter, mother?’
She said, ‘I am ill, darling. I shall die. But I have seen a dream, to eat a porker of the sow in the other world.’
Then the lad began to weep, for his mother will die. And he took and departed. Then he went to his sweetheart, and told her. ‘Maiden, my mother will die. And she has seen a dream, that I must bring her a porker from the other world.’
The maiden said, ‘Go, and be prudent; and come to me as you return. Take my horse with the twelve wings, and mind the sow does not seize you, else she ‘Il eat both you and the horse.’
One of the new illustrations by Maggie Gunzel
So the lad took the horse and departed. He came there, and when the sun was midway in his course he went to the little pigs, and took one, and fled. Then the sow heard him, and hurried after him to devour him. And at the very brink (of the other world), just as he was leaping out, the sow bit off half of the horse’s tail. So the lad went to the maiden. And the maiden came out, and took the little pig, and hid it, and put another in its stead. Then he went home to his mother, and gave her that little pig, and she dressed it and ate, and said that she was well.
Three or four days later she made herself ill again, as the dragon had shown her.
When the lad came, he asked her, ‘What’s the matter now, mother?
‘I am ill again, darling, and I have seen a dream that you must bring me an apple from the golden apple-tree in the other world.’
So the lad took and departed to the maiden; and when the maiden saw him so troubled, she asked him, ‘What’s the matter, lad?’
‘What’s the matter! my mother is ill again. And she has seen a dream that I am to bring her an apple from the apple-tree in the other world.’
Then the maiden knew that his mother was compassing his destruction (lit. ‘was walking to eat his head’), and she said to the lad, ‘Take my horse and go, but be careful the apple-tree does not seize you there. Come to me, as you return.’
And the lad took and departed, and came to the brink of the world. And he let himself in, and went to the apple-tree at mid-day when the apples were resting. And he took an apple and ran away. Then the leaves perceived it and began to scream; and the apple-tree took itself after him to lay its hand on him and kill him. And the lad came out from the brink, and arrived in our world, and went to the maiden. Then the maiden took the apple, stole it from him, and hid it, and put another in its stead. And the lad stayed a little longer with her, and departed to his mother. Then his mother, when she saw him, asked him, ‘Have you brought it, darling?’
‘I’ve brought it, mother.’
So she took the apple and ate, and said there was nothing more the matter with her.
In a week’s time the dragon told her to make herself ill again, and to ask for water from the great mountains. So she made herself ill.
When the lad saw her ill, he began to weep and said, ‘My mother will die, God. She’s always ill.’ Then he went to her and asked her, ‘What’s the matter, mother?’
‘I am like to die, darling. But I shall recover if you will bring me water from the great mountains.’
Then the lad tarried no longer. He went to the maiden and said to her, ‘My mother is ill again; and she has seen a dream that I must fetch her water from the great mountains.’
The maiden said, ‘Go, lad; but I fear the clouds will catch you, and the mountains there, and will kill you. But do you take my horse with twenty-and-four wings; and when you get there, wait afar off till mid-day, for at mid-day the mountains and the clouds set themselves at table and eat. Then do you go with the pitcher, and draw water quickly, and fly.’
Then the lad took the pitcher, and departed thither to the mountains, and waited till the sun had reached the middle of his course. And he went and drew water and fled. And the clouds and the mountains perceived him, and took themselves after him, but they could not catch him. And the lad came to the maiden. Then the maiden went and took the pitcher with the water, and put another in its stead without his knowing it. And the lad arose and went home, and gave water to his mother, and she recovered.
Then the lad departed into the forest to hunt. His mother went to the dragon and told him, ‘He has brought me the water. What am I to do now with him?’
‘What are you to do! why, take and play cards with him. You must say, “For a wager, as I used to play with your father.”‘
So the lad came home and found his mother merry: it pleased him well. And she said to him at table, as they were eating, ‘Darling, when your father was alive, what did we do? When we had eaten and risen up, we took and played cards for a wager.’
Then the lad: ‘If you like, play with me, mother.’
So they took and played cards; and his mother beat him. And she took silken cords, and bound his two hands so tight that the cord cut into his hands.
And the lad began to weep, and said to his mother, ‘Mother, release me or I die.’
She said, ‘That is just what I was wanting to do to you.’ And she called the dragon, ‘Come forth, dragon, come and kill him.’
Then the dragon came forth, and took him, and cut him in pieces, and put him in the saddle-bags, and placed him on his horse, and let him go, and said to the horse, ‘Carry him, horse, dead, whence thou didst carry him alive.’
Then the horse hurried to the lad’s sweetheart, and went straight to her there. Then, when the maiden saw him, she began to weep, and she took him and put piece to piece; where one was missing, she cut the porker, and supplied flesh from the porker. So she put all the pieces of him in their place. And she took the water and poured it on him, and he became whole. And she squeezed the apple in his mouth, and brought him to life.
So when the lad arose, he went home to his mother, and drove a stake into the earth, and placed both her and the dragon on one great pile of straw. And he set it alight, and they were consumed. And he departed thence, and took the maiden, and made a marriage, and kept up the marriage three months day and night. And I came away and told the story.
From Gypsy Folk Tales Book One
NOTE: New illustrated edition due out in Summer 2012 with illustrations by Maggie Gunzel
Vassilissa, when she came back, searched for the skin, and when she could not find it her beautiful face grew sad and her bright eyes filled with tears. She said to Tsarevitch Ivan, her husband:
“Oh, dear Tsarevitch, what hast thou done? There was but a short time left for me to wear the ugly frogskin. The moment was near when we could have been happy together forever. Now I must bid thee good-by. Look for me in a far-away country to which no one knows the roads, at the palace of Kostshei the Deathless;” and Vassilissa turned into a white swan and flew away through the window.
Tsarevitch Ivan wept bitterly. Then he prayed to the almighty God, and making the sign of the cross northward, southward, eastward, and westward, he went on a mysterious journey.
No one knows how long his journey was, but one day he met an old, old man. He bowed to the old man, who said:
“Good-day, brave fellow. What art thou searching for, and whither art thou going?”
Tsarevitch Ivan answered sincerely, telling all about his misfortune without hiding anything.
“And why didst thou burn the frogskin? It was wrong to do so. Listen now to me. Vassilissa was born wiser than her own father, and as he envied his daughter’s wisdom he condemned her to be a frog for three long years. But I pity thee and want to help thee. Here is a magic ball. In whatever direction this ball rolls, follow without fear.”
Ivan Tsarevitch thanked the good old man, and followed his new guide, the ball. Long, very long, was his road. One day in a wide, flowery field he met a bear, a big Russian bear. Ivan Tsarevitch took his bow and was ready to shoot the bear.
“Do not kill me, kind Tsarevitch,” said the bear. “Who knows but that I may be useful to thee?” And Ivan did not shoot the bear.
Above in the sunny air there flew a duck, a lovely white duck. Again the Tsarevitch drew his bow to shoot it. But the duck said to him:
“Do not kill me, good Tsarevitch. I certainly shall be useful to thee some day.”
And this time he obeyed the command of the duck and passed by. Continuing his way he saw a blinking hare. The Tsarevitch prepared an arrow to shoot it, but the gray, blinking hare said:
“Do not kill me, brave Tsarevitch. I shall prove myself grateful to thee in a very short time.”
The Tsarevitch did not shoot the hare, but passed by. He walked farther and farther after the rolling ball, and came to the deep blue sea. On the sand there lay a fish. I do not remember the name of the fish, but it was a big fish, almost dying on the dry sand.
“O Tsarevitch Ivan!” prayed the fish, “have mercy upon me and push me back into the cool sea.”
The Tsarevitch did so, and walked along the shore. The ball, rolling all the time, brought Ivan to a hut, a queer, tiny hut standing on tiny hen’s feet.
“Izboushka! Izboushka!”—for so in Russia do they name small huts—”Izboushka, I want thee to turn thy front to me,” cried Ivan, and lo! the tiny hut turned its front at once. Ivan stepped in and saw a witch, one of the ugliest witches he could imagine.
“Ho! Ivan Tsarevitch! What brings thee here?” was his greeting from the witch.
“O, thou old mischief!” shouted Ivan with anger. “Is it the way in holy Russia to ask questions before the tired guest gets something to eat, something to drink, and some hot water to wash the dust off?”
Baba Yaga, the witch, gave the Tsarevitch plenty to eat and drink, besides hot water to wash the dust off. Tsarevitch Ivan felt refreshed. Soon he became talkative, and related the wonderful story of his marriage. He told how he had lost his dear wife, and that his only desire was to find her.
“I know all about it,” answered the witch. “She is now at the palace of Kostshei the Deathless, and thou must understand that Kostshei is terrible. He watches her day and night and no one can ever conquer him. His death depends on a magic needle. That needle is within a hare; that hare is within a large trunk; that trunk is hidden in the branches of an old oak tree; and that oak tree is watched by Kostshei as closely as Vassilissa herself, which means closer than any treasure he has.”
Then the witch told Ivan Tsarevitch how and where to find the oak tree. Ivan hastily went to the place. But when he perceived the oak tree he was much discouraged, not knowing what to do or how to begin the work. Lo and behold! that old acquaintance of his, the Russian bear, came running along, approached the tree, uprooted it, and the trunk fell and broke. A hare jumped out of the trunk and began to run fast; but another hare, Ivan’s friend, came running after, caught it and tore it to pieces. Out of the hare there flew a duck, a gray one which flew very high and was almost invisible, but the beautiful white duck followed the bird and struck its gray enemy, which lost an egg. That egg fell into the deep sea. Ivan meanwhile was anxiously watching his faithful friends helping him. But when the egg disappeared in the blue waters he could not help weeping. All of a sudden a big fish came swimming up, the same fish he had saved, and brought the egg in his mouth. How happy Ivan was when he took it! He broke it and found the needle inside, the magic needle upon which everything depended.
At the same moment Kostshei lost his strength and power forever. Ivan Tsarevitch entered his vast dominions, killed him with the magic needle, and in one of the palaces found his own dear wife, his beautiful Vassilissa. He took her home and they were very happy ever after.
From folk tales from the russian
Format: Currently only in PDF ebook format
In an old, old Russian tsarstvo, I do not know when, there lived a sovereign prince with the princess, his wife. They had three sons, all of them young, and such brave fellows that no pen could describe them. The youngest had the name of Ivan Tsarevitch. One day their father said to his sons:
“My dear boys, take each of you an arrow, draw your strong bow and let your arrow fly; in whatever court it falls, in that court there will be a wife for you.”
The arrow of the oldest Tsarevitch fell on a boyar-house just in front of the terem where women live; the arrow of the second Tsarevitch flew to the red porch of a rich merchant, and on the porch there stood a sweet girl, the merchant’s daughter. The youngest, the brave Tsarevitch Ivan, had the ill luck to send his arrow into the midst of a swamp, where it was caught by a croaking frog.
Ivan Tsarevitch came to his father: “How can I marry the frog?” complained the son. “Is she my equal? Certainly she is not.”
“Never mind,” replied his father, “you have to marry the frog, for such is evidently your destiny.”
Thus the brothers were married: the oldest to a young boyarishnia, a nobleman’s child; the second to the merchant’s beautiful daughter, and the youngest, Tsarevitch Ivan, to a croaking frog.
After a while the sovereign prince called his three sons and said to them:
“Have each of your wives bake a loaf of bread by to-morrow morning.”
Ivan returned home. There was no smile on his face, and his brow was clouded.
“C-R-O-A-K! C-R-O-A-K! Dear husband of mine, Tsarevitch Ivan, why so sad?” gently asked the frog. “Was there anything disagreeable in the palace?”
“Disagreeable indeed,” answered Ivan Tsarevitch; “the Tsar, my father, wants you to bake a loaf of white bread by to-morrow.”
“Do not worry, Tsarevitch. Go to bed; the morning hour is a better adviser than the dark evening.”
The Tsarevitch, taking his wife’s advice, went to sleep. Then the frog threw off her frogskin and turned into a beautiful, sweet girl, Vassilissa by name. She now stepped out on the porch and called aloud:
“Nurses and waitresses, come to me at once and prepare a loaf of white bread for to-morrow morning, a loaf exactly like those I used to eat in my royal father’s palace.”
In the morning Tsarevitch Ivan awoke with the crowing cocks, and you know the cocks and chickens are never late. Yet the loaf was already made, and so fine it was that nobody could even describe it, for only in fairyland one finds such marvelous loaves. It was adorned all about with pretty figures, with towns and fortresses on each side, and within it was white as snow and light as a feather.
The Tsar father was pleased and the Tsarevitch received his special thanks.
“Now there is another task,” said the Tsar smilingly. “Have each of your wives weave a rug by to-morrow.”
Tsarevitch Ivan came back to his home. There was no smile on his face and his brow was clouded.
“C-R-O-A-K! C-R-O-A-K! Dear Tsarevitch Ivan, my husband and master, why so troubled again? Was not father pleased?”
“How can I be otherwise? The Tsar, my father, has ordered a rug by to-morrow.”
“Do not worry, Tsarevitch. Go to bed; go to sleep. The morning hour will bring help.”
Again the frog turned into Vassilissa, the wise maiden, and again she called aloud:
“Dear nurses and faithful waitresses, come to me for new work. Weave a silk rug like the one I used to sit upon in the palace of the king, my father.”
Once said, quickly done. When the cocks began their early “cock-a-doodle-doo,” Tsarevitch Ivan awoke, and lo! there lay the most beautiful silk rug before him, a rug that no one could begin to describe. Threads of silver and gold were interwoven among bright-colored silken ones, and the rug was too beautiful for anything but to admire.
The Tsar father was pleased, thanked his son Ivan, and issued a new order. He now wished to see the three wives of his handsome sons, and they were to present their brides on the next day.
The Tsarevitch Ivan returned home. Cloudy was his brow, more cloudy than before.
“C-R-O-A-K!.C-R-O-A-K! Tsarevitch, my dear husband and master, why so sad? Hast thou heard anything unpleasant at the palace?”
“Unpleasant enough, indeed! My father, the Tsar, ordered all of us to present our wives to him. Now tell me, how could I dare go with thee?”
“It is not so bad after all, and might be much worse,” answered the frog, gently croaking. “Thou shalt go alone and I will follow thee. When thou hearest a noise, a great noise, do not be afraid; simply say: ‘There is my miserable froggy coming in her miserable box.'”
The two elder brothers arrived first with their wives, beautiful, bright, and cheerful, and dressed in rich garments. Both the happy bridegrooms made fun of the Tsarevitch Ivan.
“Why alone, brother?” they laughingly said to him. “Why didst thou not bring thy wife along with thee? Was there no rag to cover her? Where couldst thou have gotten such a beauty? We are ready to wager that in all the swamps in the dominion of our father it would be hard to find another one like her.” And they laughed and laughed.
Lo! what a noise! The palace trembled, the guests were all frightened. Tsarevitch Ivan alone remained quiet and said:
“No danger; it is my froggy coming in her box.”
To the red porch came flying a golden carriage drawn by six splendid white horses, and Vassilissa, beautiful beyond all description, gently reached her hand to her husband. He led her with him to the heavy oak tables, which were covered with snow-white linen and loaded with many wonderful dishes such as are known and eaten only in the land of fairies and never anywhere else. The guests were eating and chatting gayly.
Vassilissa drank some wine, and what was left in the tumbler she poured into her left sleeve. She ate some of the fried swan, and the bones she threw into her right sleeve. The wives of the two elder brothers watched her and did exactly the same.
When the long, hearty dinner was over, the guests began dancing and singing. The beautiful Vassilissa came forward, as bright as a star, bowed to her sovereign, bowed to the honorable guests and danced with her husband, the happy Tsarevitch Ivan.
While dancing, Vassilissa waved her left sleeve and a pretty lake appeared in the midst of the hall and cooled the air. She waved her right sleeve and white swans swam on the water. The Tsar, the guests, the servants, even the gray cat sitting in the corner, all were amazed and wondered at the beautiful Vassilissa. Her two sisters-in-law alone envied her. When their turn came to dance, they also waved their left sleeves as Vassilissa had done, and, oh, wonder! they sprinkled wine all around. They waved their right sleeves, and instead of swans the bones flew in the face of the Tsar father. The Tsar grew very angry and bade them leave the palace. In the meantime Ivan Tsarevitch watched for a moment to slip away unseen. He ran home, found the frogskin, and burned it in the fire.
From folk tales from the russian
Format: Currently only in PDF ebook format
THE VAMPIRE AND ST MICHAEL Part II – from COSSACK FAIRY TALES AND FOLK TALES
When night came, he took up his laths and boards and a basket of pears, and went to the church. He entrenched himself behind his boards, stood there and began to read. At dead of night there was a rustling and a rattling. O Lord! what was that? There was a shaking of the bier––bang! bang!––and the Tsarivna arose from her coffin and came straight toward him. She leaped upon the boards and made a grab at him and fell back. Then she leaped at him again, and again she fell back. Then he took his basket and scattered the pears. All through the church they rolled, she after them, and she tried to pick them up till cockcrow, and at the very first “Cock-a-doodle-doo!” she got into her bier again and lay still.
When God’s bright day dawned, the people came to clean out the church and sweep away his bones; but there he was reading his prayers, and the rumour of it went through the town and they were all filled with joy.
Next night it was the turn of the second uncle, and he began to beg and pray, “Go thou, simpleton, in my stead! Look now, thou hast already passed a night there, thou mayst very well pass another, and I’ll give thee all my ship.”––But he said, “I won’t go, I am afraid.”––But then St Michael said to him again, “Fear not, but go! Fence thee all about with thy boards, and take with thee a basket of nuts. When she rushes at thee, scatter thy nuts, and the nuts will go rolling all about the church, and it will take her till cockcrow to gather them all up. But do thou go on reading thy prayers, nor look thou up, whatever may happen.”
And he did so. He took his boards and the basket of nuts, and went to the church at nightfall and read. A little after midnight there was a rustling and an uproar, and the whole church shook. Then came a fumbling round about the coffin––bang! bang!––up she started, and made straight for him. She leaped and plunged, she very nearly got through the boards. She hissed, like seething pitch, and her eyes glared at him like coals of fire, but it was of no use. He read on and on, and didn’t once look at her. Besides, he scattered his nuts, and she went after them and tried to pick them all up till cockcrow. And at the first “Cock-a-doodle-doo!” she leaped into her coffin again and pulled down the lid. In the morning the people came to sweep away his bones, and lo! they found him alive.
The next night he had to go again in the third uncle’s stead. Then he sat down and cried and wailed, “Alas, alas! what shall I do? ’Twere better I had never been born!”––But St Michael said to him, “Weep not, ’twill all end happily. Fence thyself about with thy boards, sprinkle thyself all about with holy water, incense thyself with holy incense, and take me with thee. She shall not have thee. And the moment she leaves her coffin, do thou jump quickly into it. And whatever she may say to thee, and however she may implore thee, let her not get into it again until she says to thee, ‘My consort!’”
So he went. There he stood in the middle of the church, fenced himself about with his boards, strewed consecrated poppy-seed around him, incensed himself with holy incense, and read and read. About the middle of the night a tempest arose outside, and there was a rustling and a roaring, a hissing and a wailing. The church shook, the altar candelabra were thrown down, the holy images fell on their faces. O Lord, how awful! Then came a bang! bang! from the coffin, and again the Tsarivna started up. She left her coffin and fluttered about the church. She rushed at the boards and made a snatch at him, and fell back; she rushed at him again, and again she fell back. She foamed at the mouth, and her fury every instant grew worse and worse. She dashed herself about, and darted madly from one corner of the church to the other, seeking him everywhere. But he skipped into the coffin, with the image of St Michael by his side. She ran all over the church seeking him. “He was here––and now he is not here!” cried she. Then she ran farther on, felt all about her, and cried again, “He was here––and now he’s not here!” At last she sprang up to the coffin, and there he was. Then she began to beg and pray him, “Come down, come down! I’ll try and catch thee no more, only come down, come down!” But he only prayed to God, and answered her never a word. Then the cock crew once, “Cock-a-doodle-doo!”––“Alas! come down, come down, my consort!” cried she. Then he came down, and they both fell on their knees and began praying to God, and wept sore and gave thanks to God because He had had mercy on them both.
And at dawn of day crowds of people, with the Tsar at the head of them, came to the church. “Shall we find him reading prayers, or shall we only find his bones?” said they. And lo! there they both were on their knees praying fervently to God. Then the Tsar rejoiced greatly, and embraced both him and her. After that they had a grand service in the church, and sprinkled her with holy water, and baptized her again, and the unclean spirit departed from her. Then the Tsar gave the young man half his power and half his kingdom, but the merchants departed in their ships, with their nephew on board.
They lived together, and time went on and the young man still remained a bachelor, and was so handsome that words cannot describe it. But the Tsar lived alone with his daughter. She, however, grew sadder and sadder, and was no longer like her former self, so sorrowful was she. And the Tsar asked her, saying, “Wherefore art thou so sorrowful?”––“I am not sorrowful, father,” said she. But the Tsar watched her, and saw that she was sorrowful, and there was no help for it. Then he asked her again, “Art thou ill?”––“Nay, dear dad,” said she. “I myself know not what is the matter with me.”
And so it went on, till the Tsar dreamt a dream, and in this dream it was said to him, “Thy daughter grieves because she loves so much the youth who drove the unclean spirit out of her.” Then the Tsar asked her, “Dost thou love this youth?”––And she answered, “I do, dear father.”––“Then why didst thou not tell me before, my daughter?” said he. Then he sent for his heyducks and commanded them, saying, “Go this instant to such and such a kingdom, and there ye will find the youth who cured my daughter; bring him to me.” Then they went on and on until they found him, and he took just the same laths and boards that he had had before, and went with them. The Tsar met him, and bought all his boards, and when they split them in pieces, lo! they were full of precious stones. Then the Tsar took him to his own house and gave him his daughter. And they lived right merrily together.
From COSSACK FAIRY TALES AND FOLK TALES
Format: Currently only in PDF ebook format
Once upon a time in a certain village there lived two neighbours; one was rich, very rich, and the other so poor that he had nothing in the world but a little hut, and that was tumbling about his ears. At length things came to such a pass with the poor man that he had nothing to eat, and could get work nowhere. Full of grief, he bethought him what he should do. He thought and thought, and at last he said, “Look ye, wife! I’ll go to my rich neighbour. Perchance he will lend me a silver rouble; that, at any rate, will be enough to buy bread with.” So he went.
He came to the rich man. “Good health to my lord!” cried he.––“Good health!”––“I have come on an errand to thee, dear little master!”––“What may thine errand be?” inquired the rich man.––“Alas! would to God that I had no need to say it. It has come to such a pass with us that there’s not a crust of bread nor a farthing of money in the house. So I have come to thee, dear little master; lend us but a silver rouble and we will be ever thankful to thee, and I’ll work myself old to pay it back.”––“But who will stand surety for thee?” asked the rich man.––“I know not if any man will, I am so poor. Yet, perchance, God and St Michael will be my sureties,” and he pointed at the ikon in the corner. Then the ikon of St Michael spoke to the rich man from the niche and said, “Come now! lend it him, and put it down to my account. God will repay thee!”––“Well,” said the rich man, “I’ll lend it to thee.” So he lent it, and the poor man thanked him and returned to his home full of joy.
But the rich man was not content that God should give him back his loan by blessing him in his flocks and herds, and in his children, and in his health, and in the blessed fruits of the earth. He waited and waited for the poor man to come and pay him back his rouble, and at last he went to seek him. “Thou son of a dog,” he shouted, before the house, “why hast thou not brought me back my money? Thou knowest how to borrow, but thou forgettest to repay!” Then the wife of the poor man burst into tears. “He would repay thee indeed if he were in this world,” said she, “but lo now! he died but a little while ago!” The rich man snarled at her and departed, but when he got home he said to the ikon, “A pretty surety thou art!” Then he took St Michael down from the niche, dug out his eyes, and began beating him.
He beat St Michael again and again, and at last he flung him into a puddle and trampled on him. “I’ll give it thee for standing me surety so scurvily,” said he. While he was thus abusing St Michael, a young fellow about twenty years old came along that way, and said to him, “What art thou doing, my father?”––“I am beating him because he stood surety and has played me false. He took upon himself the repayment of a silver rouble, which I lent to the son of a pig, who has since gone away and died. That is why I am beating him now.”––“Beat him not, my father! I’ll give thee a silver rouble, but do thou give me this holy image!”––“Take him if thou wilt, but see that thou bring me the silver rouble first.”
Then the young man ran home and said to his father, “Dad, give me a silver rouble!”––“Wherefore, my son?”––“I would buy a holy image,” said he, and he told his father how he had seen that heathen beating St Michael.––“Nay, my son, whence shall we who are poor find a silver rouble to give to him who is so rich?”––“Nay, but give it me, dad!” and he begged and prayed till he got it. Then he ran back as quickly as he could, paid the silver rouble to the rich man, and got the holy image. He washed it clean and placed it in the midst of sweet-smelling flowers. And so they lived on as before.
Now this youth had three uncles, rich merchants, who sold all manner of merchandise, and went in ships to foreign lands, where they sold their goods and made their gains. One day, when his uncles were again making ready to depart into foreign lands, he said to them, “Take me with you!”––“Why shouldst thou go?” said they; “we have wares to sell, but what hast thou?”––“Yet take me,” said he.––“But thou hast nothing.”––“I will make me laths and boards and take them with me,” said he.––His uncles laughed at him for imagining such wares as these, but he begged and prayed them till they were wearied. “Well, come,” they said, “though there is naught for thee to do; only take not much of these wares of thine with thee, for our ships are already full.”––Then he made him laths and boards, put them on board the ship, took St Michael with him, and they departed.
They went on and on. They sailed a short distance and they sailed a long distance, till at last they came to another tsardom and another empire. And the Tsar of this tsardom had an only daughter, so lovely that the like of her is neither to be imagined nor divined in God’s fair world, neither may it be told in tales. Now this Tsarivna one day went down to the river to bathe, and plunged into the water without first crossing herself, whereupon the Evil Spirit took possession of her. The Tsarivna got out of the water, and straightway fell ill of so terrible a disease that it may not be told of. Do what they would––and the wise men and the wise women did their utmost––it was of no avail. In a few days she grew worse and died. Then the Tsar, her father, made a proclamation that people should come and read the prayers for the dead over her dead body, and so exorcise the evil spirit, and whosoever delivered her was to have half his power and half his tsardom.
And the people came in crowds––but none of them could read the prayers for the dead over her, it was impossible. Every evening a man went into the church, and every morning they swept out his bones, for there was naught else of him remaining. And the Tsar was very wrath. “All my people will be devoured,” cried he. And he commanded that all the foreign merchants passing through his realm should be made to read prayers for the dead over his daughter’s body. “And if they will not read,” said he, “they shall not depart from my kingdom.”
The Tsarivna arose from her coffin
So the foreign merchants went one by one. In the evening a merchant was shut up in the church, and in the early morning they came and found and swept away his bones. At last it came to the turn of the young man’s uncles to read the prayers for the dead in the church. They wept and lamented and cried, “We are lost! we are lost! Heaven help us!” Then the eldest uncle said to the lad, “Listen, good simpleton! It has now come to my turn to read prayers over the Tsarivna. Do thou go in my stead and pass the night in the church, and I’ll give thee all my ship.”––“Nay, but,” said the simpleton, “what if she tear me to pieces too? I won’t go!”––But then St Michael said to him, “Go and fear not! Stand in the very middle of the church, fenced round about with thy laths and boards, and take with thee a basket full of pears. When she rushes at thee, take and scatter the pears, and it will take her till cockcrow to pick them all up. But do thou go on reading thy prayers all the time, and look not up, whatever she may do.”
From COSSACK FAIRY TALES AND FOLK TALES
Format: Currently only in PDF ebook format
Time went on, and the old woman grew tired of being only a lady. And at last there came a day when she sent into the yard to tell the old man to come before her. The poor old man combed his hair and cleaned his boots, and came into the house, and bowed low before the old woman.
“Be off with you, you old good-for-nothing!” says she. “Go and find your golden fish, and tell him from me that I am tired of being a lady. I want to be Tzaritza, with generals and courtiers and men of state to do whatever I tell them.”
The old man went along to the seashore, glad enough to be out of the courtyard and out of reach of the stablemen with their whips. He came to the shore, and cried out in his windy old voice,–
“Head in air and tail in sea,
Fish, fish, listen to me.”
And there was the golden fish looking at him with its wise eyes.
“What’s the matter now, old man?” says the fish.
“My old woman is going on worse than ever,” says the old fisherman. “My back is sore with the whips of her grooms. And now she says it isn’t enough for her to be a lady; she wants to be a Tzaritza.”
“Never you worry about it,” says the fish. “Go home and praise God;” and with that the fish turned over and went down into the sea.
The old man went home slowly, for he did not know what his wife would do to him if the golden fish did not make her into a Tzaritza.
But as soon as he came near he heard the noise of trumpets and the beating of drums, and there where the fine stone house had been was now a great palace with a golden roof. Behind it was a big garden of flowers, that are fair to look at but have no fruit, and before it was a meadow of fine green grass. And on the meadow was an army of soldiers drawn up in squares and all dressed alike. And suddenly the fisherman saw his old woman in the gold and silver dress of a Tzaritza come stalking out on the balcony with her generals and boyars to hold a review of her troops. And the drums beat and the trumpets sounded, and the soldiers cried “Hurrah!” And the poor old fisherman found a dark corner in one of the barns, and lay down in the straw.
Time went on, and at last the old woman was tired of being Tzaritza.
She thought she was made for something better. And one day she said to her chamberlain,–
“Find me that ragged old beggar who is always hanging about in the courtyard. Find him, and bring him here.”
The chamberlain told his officers, and the officers told the servants, and the servants looked for the old man, and found him at last asleep on the straw in the corner of one of the barns. They took some of the dirt off him, and brought him before the Tzaritza, sitting proudly on her golden throne.
“Listen, old fool!” says she. “Be off to your golden fish, and tell it I am tired of being Tzaritza. Anybody can be Tzaritza. I want to be the ruler of the seas, so that all the waters shall obey me, and all the fishes shall be my servants.”
“I don’t like to ask that,” said the old man, trembling.
“What’s that?” she screamed at him. “Do you dare to answer the Tzaritza? If you do not set off this minute, I’ll have your head cut off and your body thrown to the dogs.”
Unwillingly the old man hobbled off. He came to the shore, and cried out with a windy, quavering old voice,–
“Head in air and tail in sea,
Fish, fish, listen to me.”
The old man thought of his wife, and what would happen to him if she were still Tzaritza when he came home. Again he called out,–
“Head in air and tail in sea,
Fish, fish, listen to me.”
Nothing happened, nothing at all.
A third time, with the tears running down his face, he called out in his windy, creaky, quavering old voice,–
“Head in air and tail in sea,
Fish, fish, listen to me.”
Suddenly there was a loud noise, louder and louder over the sea. The sun hid itself. The sea broke into waves, and the waves piled themselves one upon another. The sky and the sea turned black, and there was a great roaring wind that lifted the white crests of the waves and tossed them abroad over the waters. The golden fish came up out of the storm and spoke out of the sea.
“What is it now?” says he, in a voice more terrible than the voice of the storm itself.
“O fish,” says the old man, trembling like a reed shaken by the storm, “my old woman is worse than before. She is tired of being Tzaritza. She wants to be the ruler of the seas, so that all the waters shall obey her and all the fishes be her servants.”
The golden fish said nothing, nothing at all. He turned over and went down into the deep seas. And the wind from the sea was so strong that the old man could hardly stand against it. For a long time he waited, afraid to go home; but at last the storm calmed, and it grew towards evening, and he hobbled back, thinking to creep in and hide amongst the straw.
As he came near, he listened for the trumpets and the drums. He heard nothing except the wind from the sea rustling the little leaves of birch trees. He looked for the palace. It was gone, and where it had been was a little tumbledown hut of earth and logs. It seemed to the old fisherman that he knew the little hut, and he looked at it with joy. And he went to the door of the hut, and there was sitting his old woman in a ragged dress, cleaning out a saucepan, and singing in a creaky old voice. And this time she was glad to see him, and they sat down together on the bench and drank tea without sugar, because they had not any money.
They began to live again as they used to live, and the old man grew happier every day. He fished and fished, and many were the fish that he caught, and of many kinds; but never again did he catch another golden fish that could talk like a human being. I doubt whether he would have said anything to his wife about it, even if he had caught one every day.
From OLD PETER’S RUSSAIN TALES
Early in the morning she woke the old man again, and he had to get up and go down to the seashore. He was very much afraid, because he thought the fish would not take it kindly. But at dawn, just as the red sun was rising out of the sea, he stood on the shore, and called out in his windy old voice,–
“Head in air and tail in sea,
Fish, fish, listen to me.”
And there in the morning sunlight was the golden fish, looking at him with its wise eyes.
“I beg your pardon,” says the old man, “but could you, just to oblige my wife, give us some sort of trough to put the bread in?”
“Go home,” says the fish; and down it goes into the blue sea.
The old man went home, and there, outside the hut, was the old woman, looking at the handsomest bread trough that ever was seen on earth. Painted it was, with little flowers, in three colours, and there were strips of gilding about its handles.
“Look at this,” grumbled the old woman. “This is far too fine a trough for a tumble-down hut like ours. Why, there is scarcely a place in the roof where the rain does not come through. If we were to keep this trough in such a hut, it would be spoiled in a month. You must go back to your fish and ask it for a new hut.”
“I hardly like to do that,” says the old man.
“Get along with you,” says his wife. “If the fish can make a trough like this, a hut will be no trouble to him. And, after all, you must not forget he owes his life to you.”
“I suppose that is true,” says the old man; but he went back to the shore with a heavy heart. He stood on the edge of the sea and called out, doubtfully,–
“Head in air and tail in sea,
Fish, fish, listen to me.”
Instantly there was a ripple in the water, and the golden fish was looking at him with its wise eyes.
“Well?” says the fish.
“My old woman is so pleased with the trough that she wants a new hut to keep it in, because ours, if you could only see it, is really falling to pieces, and the rain comes in and –.”
“Go home,” says the fish.
The old fisherman went home, but he could not find his old hut at all. At first he thought he had lost his way. But then he saw his wife. And she was walking about, first one way and then the other, looking at the finest hut that God ever gave a poor moujik to keep him from the rain and the cold, and the too great heat of the sun. It was built of sound logs, neatly finished at the ends and carved. And the overhanging of the roof was cut in patterns, so neat, so pretty, you could never think how they had been done. The old woman looked at it from all sides. And the old man stood, wondering. Then they went in together. And everything within the hut was new and clean. There were a fine big stove, and strong wooden benches, and a good table, and a fire lit in the stove, and logs ready to put in, and a samovar already on the boil–a fine new samovar of glittering brass.
You would have thought the old woman would have been satisfied with that. Not a bit of it.
“You don’t know how to lift your eyes from the ground,” says she. “You don’t know what to ask. I am tired of being a peasant woman and a moujik’s wife. I was made for something better. I want to be a lady, and have good people to do the work, and see folk bow and curtsy to me when I meet them walking abroad. Go back at once to the fish, you old fool, and ask him for that, instead of bothering him for little trifles like bread troughs and moujiks’ huts. Off with you.”
The old fisherman went back to the shore with a sad heart; but he was afraid of his wife, and he dared not disobey her. He stood on the shore, and called out in his windy old voice,–
“Head in air and tail in sea,
Fish, fish, listen to me.”
Instantly there was the golden fish looking at him with its wise eyes.
“Well?” says the fish.
“My old woman won’t give me a moment’s peace,” says the old man; “and since she has the new hut–which is a fine one, I must say; as good a hut as ever I saw–she won’t be content at all. She is tired of being a peasant’s wife, and wants to be a lady with a house and servants, and to see the good folk curtsy to her when she meets them walking abroad.”
“Go home,” says the fish.
The old man went home, thinking about the hut, and how pleasant it would be to live in it, even if his wife were a lady.
But when he got home the hut had gone, and in its place there was a fine brick house, three stories high. There were servants running this way and that in the courtyard. There was a cook in the kitchen, and there was his old woman, in a dress of rich brocade, sitting idle in a tall carved chair, and giving orders right and left.
“Good health to you, wife,” says the old man.
“Ah, you, clown that you are, how dare you call me your wife! Can’t you see that I’m a lady? Here! Off with this fellow to the stables, and see that he gets a beating he won’t forget in a hurry.”
Instantly the servants seized the old man by the collar and lugged him along to the stables. There the grooms treated him to such a whipping that he could hardly stand on his feet. After that the old woman made him doorkeeper. She ordered that a besom should be given him to clean up the courtyard, and said that he was to have his meals in the kitchen. A wretched life the old man lived. All day long he was sweeping up the courtyard, and if there was a speck of dirt to be seen in it anywhere, he paid for it at once in the stable under the whips of the grooms.
From OLD PETER’S RUSSAIN TALES