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Georgian Folk Tales, by Marjory Wardrop [1894], at


The Cunning Old Man and the Demi

THERE was once an old man. He might have worked but he was lazy. His children went out to the fields, but this old man sat by the fire, and if they did not show him great respect, he kept them out of the house. His daughters-in-law quarrelled with him, and ended by turning him out of the house. He begged of his eldest daughter-in-law, saying: 'Give me a jar of flour, an egg, 1 and an awl, then I shall go away.' She gave him these things.

The old man went on day and night, and came to the

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bank of a stream; he looked over, and saw on the other side a demi, to whom he cried: 'Carry me across this river.' The demi answered: 'I shall not carry thee, but thou shalt carry me across, or I shall turn thee into dust.' The demi seized a stone, struck it on the rocky bank, and turned the great stone into powder. The old man also took his jar of flour, struck it on the rock, and dust arose. The demi was astonished, and said: 'How has he turned this stone into powder?' The demi took another stone, squeezed it in his hand, and said: 'I shall crush thee like this stone.' Then the old man took out the egg, squeezed it, and when the moisture began to ooze out, the demi was alarmed: he came over the stream, took the old man on his shoulder, and carried him across.

In the middle of the stream, the demi said to the old man: 'How light thou art!' The old man answered: 'I am holding on to the sky with one hand, if I let go, thou wouldst fall under my weight.' The demi said: 'Just leave go for a moment.' The old man took out the awl, and stuck it in the demi's neck. The demi cried: 'Lay hold of the sky again!' The old man put the awl in his pocket.

When they had reached the other side, the demi said to the old man: 'I shall drive in game, and thou canst meet it here.' So the demi went and drove in the game. The old man was afraid of wild beasts, and hid himself in the forest, where he found a dead red-breast. 1 When the demi returned, he asked: 'What hast thou done with the game?' The old man replied: 'Thou didst not drive the game properly, or how could any beast that walks on earth escape from me, that could catch this bird on the wing?'

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The demi went and killed two deer, two wild goats, two boars, two hares; some he boiled, some he roasted, he made ready two measures (kilas of 36 to 40 pounds) of millet, two cocas (a coca = 25 bottles) of wine, and said: 'Let us sit down and eat.' The old man said: 'Make me a bridge over this river, there will I sup.' The demi built him a little bridge, on which he seated himself. The demi gave him one deer, one wild goat, one boar, one hare, one kila of millet, one coca of wine, and then sat down near him in the field. The demi ate, but the old man threw the food into the river. The demi thought the old man was eating everything, and was afraid, thinking: 'It would seem that he can eat more than I can.' Lower down the stream, wolves caught and ate the meat the old man threw away. The old man asked for another deer. The demi brought it, and the old man threw it in the water. The demi did not know this. The old man said: 'I have had a snack this evening.'

Next day, the demi invited the old man to his house. They went there. The demi went out alone to hunt. He met a wolf and a jackal, and said to them: 'Come and hunt with me. To my house there has come a guest who can eat ten deer and wild goats; yesterday evening we had two deer, but they were a mere snack to him.' The wolf and the jackal said to the demi: 'Thy guest did not eat one of them, he threw everything into the river, we caught it and ate it, the old man ate nothing.' The demi said to the wolf and the jackal: 'Then let us go and expose this old man's fraud.'

There went with the demi nine wolves and jackals, to give evidence against the old man. The old man looked out, and saw the demi coming along in front, with the wolves

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and jackals behind him. The old, man cried to the demi: 'Dost thou not owe me more than ten wolves and jackals?' The wolves and jackals exchanged glances, and said: 'It would seem that this demi has betrayed us.' They threw themselves on the demi and turned him into dust. 1


129:1 A variant substitutes a cheese for an egg.

130:1 ? Finch.

132:1 Another Mingrelian version of this story tells that the demi took the old man home, and left him his house, wife and children. As he was going away, the jackal met him, and asked whither he was going. The demi replied that the old man had almost killed him, and he was going to hide himself. The jackal told him to go home, and have no fear of the old man, for it would choke him. The demi tied the jackal to himself, with a stout rope, and went back. The old man met them with the following words: 'This is splendid, my jackal--thou wast to bring me nine Bemis, thou hast brought eight already, and this will make the ninth.' The demi was alarmed, he rushed off, dragging after him the jackal, whom he knocked against twenty trees, and disappeared. The old man stayed in the demi's house all the days of his life.

Cf. also 'The Strong Man and the Dwarf,' p. 547; Sir John Malcolm's Sketches of Persia, ch. xvi. The Story of Ameen Beg of Ispahan,' and 'The Goat and the Lion' in the Panchatantra.

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