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.

 

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From Roumanian Fairy Tales and Legends (1881)

ISBN: 978-0-9560584-9-2

URL: http://www.abelapublishing.com/cg_rft.html

 

Romanian Fairy Tales and Legends

 

 

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