Sacred-Texts Legends & Sagas Index Previous Next
ONCE upon a time, the king of the Golden Land1 lost his way in a forest, and, notwithstanding all his efforts, could not find his way out. Presently he encountered a stranger, who said to him, “What are you doing here, my friend, in this gloomy forest, where only wild beasts dwell?” The king replied, “I have lost my way, and am trying to find the road home.” “If you will promise to give me the first living thing that meets you when you return to your palace, I will show you the right way,” said the stranger.2
The king reflected awhile, and then answered, “Why should I run the risk of losing my good hunting-dog? I may perhaps succeed in finding my way home by myself.” The stranger went p. 153 away, but the king wandered about in the wood till his provisions were exhausted, while he was unable to discover the least trace of the right path. Then the stranger met him a second time, and said, “Promise me the first living thing that meets you on your return to your palace.” But as the king was very obstinate, he refused to promise anything yet. He once more boldly explored the forest backwards and forwards, and at length sank down exhausted under a tree, and thought that his last hour had come. Then the stranger, who was none other than the Old Boy1 himself, appeared to the king for the third time, and said, “Don’t be a fool. How can you be so fond of your dog that you are unwilling to part with him to save your life? Only promise me what I require, and you will soon be relieved from your anxiety, and your life will be saved.” “My life is worth more than a thousand dogs,” answered the king. “The welfare of a whole country and people is at stake. Let it be so, I will grant your request, if you will only take me home.” He had hardly uttered the words when he found himself at once on the borders of the wood, and could see his palace p. 154 in the distance. He hurried thither, and the first thing which met him at the gate was the nurse with the royal infant, who stretched out his arms to his father. The king was horrified, and scolded the nurse, telling her to take the child away as quickly as possible. Directly afterwards came his faithful dog, and fawned upon his master, who repulsed his advances with a kick. Innocent dependants often suffer thus for the folly and ill-humour of their superiors.
As soon as the king’s anger had cooled a little, he exchanged his child, a promising boy, for the daughter of a peasant, and thus the prince was reared up in the house of poor people, while the peasant’s daughter slept in silken robes in the royal cradle. In a year’s time, the Old Boy made his appearance to demand his due, and took the little girl with him, supposing her to be the king’s child, for he knew nothing of the artifice by which the children had been changed. The king exulted at the success of his stratagem, and ordered a great feast. He loaded the parents of the stolen child with rich presents, that the prince might want for nothing in the cottage, but did not yet venture to reclaim his son, fearing lest the deception might be p. 155 discovered. The peasant family were well satisfied with the arrangement, for they had one mouth less to feed, and plenty of food and money.
Meantime the prince grew up to boyhood, and spent a very pleasant life in the house of his foster-parents. But still he was not quite happy, for as soon as he learned how the stratagem had succeeded, he was much grieved that a poor innocent girl should have to suffer the consequences of his father’s thoughtlessness in his place. He formed a fixed resolve either to release the poor girl, if this was possible, or to perish with her. He could not endure the thought of becoming king by the sacrifice of a maiden.1 One day he secretly disguised himself as a peasant lad, took a bag of peas on his shoulder, and went to the wood where his father had lost his way eighteen years before.
Soon after entering the wood he began to cry out, “O what an unfortunate boy I am! how far I must have wandered from the path! Who will show me the way out of this wood, for there is no human soul to be seen far or near!” Presently a stranger with a long grey beard and a leather pouch at his girdle, like a Tartar,1 made his appearance. He gave the youth a friendly greeting, adding, “I know this neighbourhood well, and can direct you anywhere you please, if you will promise me a good return.”
“What can a poor lad like me promise you?” answered the artful prince. “I have nothing more than my young life, for even the coat on my body belongs to the master whom I must serve in exchange for food and clothing.”
The stranger looked at the bag of peas on the lad’s shoulder, and remarked, “You can’t be quite destitute, for you carry a bag which seems to be very heavy.”
“There are peas in the bag,” said the prince. “My old aunt died last night, and has left me so p. 157 much as this, that I may be able to set boiled peas before the watchers of the dead1 as is the custom in this country. I have begged the peas from my host in the name of God, and was going away with them, when I struck into a forest path as a short cut, and it has led me astray, as you see.”
“Then I conclude, from what you say, that you are an orphan,” observed the stranger with a grin. “If you will enter my service, I happen just to be in want of a handy workman for my small household, and I’ve taken a fancy to you.”
“Why shouldn’t I, if we can come to terms?” replied the prince. “I was born to servitude, and a stranger’s bread is always bitter, so that it matters little to me what master I serve. But what will you promise me for a year’s service?”
“Well,” said the stranger, “you shall have fresh food every day, meat twice a week, and when you work out of doors, butter or herrings as a treat, a full suit of summer and winter clothing, besides two acres of land for your own use.”
“That will suit me,” said the crafty prince. “Let other people bury my aunt; I’ll go with you.”
The Old Boy seemed well pleased at having made such a good stroke of business, and spun round on one foot like a teetotum, hallooing so loud that the wood re-echoed. Then he started off on the road with his new servant, and enlivened the tedium of the way by a variety of jokes, without observing that his companion dropped a pea from his bag at every ten or fifteen paces. The travellers halted for the night in the forest under a large fir-tree, and continued their journey next morning. The sun was already high in the heavens when they reached a large stone. Here the old man stopped, looked sharply round on all sides, whistled loudly, and then stamped on the ground three times with his left foot.1 Suddenly a secret door opened under the stone, and revealed a covered way like the entrance to a cavern. Then the old man seized the prince’s arm, and said roughly, “Follow me!”
They were in utter darkness, but it seemed to the prince that the path led them deeper and deeper into the earth. After some time a glimmer of light again grew visible, but the light did not resemble that of either the sun or moon. The prince looked p. 159 up in some alarm, but could see neither sun nor sky; only a mass of shining clouds floated over him, which seemed to canopy this new world, in which everything had a strange appearance. Land and water, trees and plants, animals and birds, all had a different aspect from what he had seen before. But what seemed strangest to him was the wonderful silence around, for there was not a voice or a rustle to be heard anywhere. All was as still as in the grave, and even the prince’s own footsteps made no sound. Here and there a bird might be seen sitting on a bough with stretched-out neck and swelled throat, as if singing, but no sound was audible. The dogs opened their mouths to bark, and the bulls raised their heads to bellow, but neither bark nor bellow could be heard. The water flowed over the gravel without gushing, the wind waved the tops of the trees without rustling, and flies and beetles flew about without buzzing. The Old Boy did not speak a word, and when his companion tried to speak he felt his voice die away in his throat.
Nobody knows how long they travelled through this unearthly silent country. Terror seized on the heart of the prince, his hair stood on end p. 160 like bristles, and he shivered with fear, when at length, to his great joy, the first sound fell on his straining ears, and seemed to make a real country of this shadowy land. It seemed to him that a great herd of horses was toiling through swampy ground. At last the old man opened his mouth, and said, licking his lips, “The soup kettle’s boiling, and they are expecting us at home.” They went on some distance farther, when the prince thought he heard the sound of a sawmill, in which at least two dozen saws seemed to be at work, but the host said, “My old grandmother is already fast asleep and snoring.”
Presently they reached the top of a hill, and the prince could see the homestead of his new master at some distance, but there were so many buildings that it looked more like a village or an outlying suburb than the residence of a single owner. At length they arrived, and found an empty dog-kennel at the gate. “Creep in there,” said the master, “and lie quiet till I have spoken to my grandmother about you. She is very self-willed, like most old people, and can’t bear a stranger in the house.” The prince crept trembling into the dog-kennel, and began to repent p. 161 the rashness that had brought him into such a scrape.
After a time the host came back, called the prince from his hiding-place, and said with a wry face, “Take good note of the arrangements of our household, and take care not to go against them, or you might fare very badly.
|“Keep your eyes and ears both open,|
But your mouth fast closed for ever,
And obey without a question:
Think whatever it may please you;
Never speak without permission.”
When the prince crossed the threshold, his eyes fell upon a young girl of great beauty, with brown eyes and curly hair. He thought to himself, “If the old man has many such daughters as this, I should be glad to become his son-in-law. The maiden is just to my taste.” The fair maiden laid the table without saying a word, set the food upon it, and then modestly took her place by the hearth, as if she had not observed the stranger. She took out needles and worsted, and began to knit a stocking. The master sat down alone at the table, and did not ask either the man or maid to join him, nor was p. 162 anything to be seen of the old grandmother. The Old Boy’s appetite was immeasurable, and in a very short time he had made a clean sweep of everything on the table, though it would have been plenty for at least a dozen people. When at last he allowed his jaws to rest, he said to the maiden, “Scrape out what is left at the bottom of the pot and kettle, and content yourselves with the fragments, but throw the bones to the dog.”
The prince’s countenance fell at the idea of this meal from the scrapings of the kettle, which he was to share with the pretty girl and the dog. But he soon recovered his spirits when he found a very nice meal placed on the table from these fragments. During supper he cast many stolen glances at the maiden, and would have given a great deal if he could have ventured to speak to her. But whenever he was on the point of speaking, he met the imploring glance of the maiden, which seemed to say, “Silence!” So the young man allowed his eyes to speak, and gave expression to this dumb language by his good appetite, for the maiden had prepared the supper, and it must be pleasant to her to see that the guest appreciated her cookery. p. 163 Meantime the old man had lain down on the stovebench, and made the walls re-echo with his snoring.
After supper he roused himself, and said to the prince, “You may rest for two days after your long journey, and look round the house. But come to me to-morrow evening and I will arrange your work for next day, for my household must always set about their work before I get up myself. The girl will show you your lodging.” The prince made an effort to speak, but the old man came down on him like a thunderbolt, and screamed out, “You dog of a servant! if you break the rules of the house, you’ll find yourself a head shorter without more ado. Hold your jaw, and off to bed with you!”
The maiden beckoned him to follow, unlocked a door and signed to him to enter. The prince thought he saw a tear glisten in her eye, and would have been only too glad to loiter on the threshold but he was too much afraid of the old man. “It’s impossible that this beautiful girl can be his daughter,” thought he, “for she has a kind heart. She must be the poor girl who was brought here in my place, and for whose sake I undertook this foolhardy enterprise.” He did not fall asleep for a long time, and even then his uneasy dreams gave him no p. 164 rest. He dreamed of all sorts of unknown dangers which threatened him, and it was always the form of the fair girl that came to his aid.
When he awoke next morning, his first thought was to do his best to ingratiate himself with the maiden. He found the industrious girl already at work, and helped her to draw water from the well and carry it into the house, chopped wood, kept up the fire under the pots, and helped her in all her other work. In the afternoon he went out to make himself better acquainted with his new abode, and was much surprised that he could find no trace of the old grandmother. He saw a white mare in the stable, and a black cow with a white-headed calf in the enclosure, and in other locked outhouses he thought he heard ducks, geese, fowls, &c. Breakfast and dinner were just as good as last night’s supper, and he would have been very well content with his position, but that it was so very hard to hold his tongue with the maiden opposite him. On the evening of the second day he went to the master to receive his instructions for next day’s work.
The old man said, “I’ll give you an easy job for to-morrow. Take the scythe, and mow as much grass as the white mare needs for her day’s provender, p. 165 and clean out the stable. But if I should come and find the manger empty or any litter on the floor, it will go badly enough with you. Take good heed!”
The prince was well pleased, for he thought, “I shall soon be able to manage this piece of work, for although I have never handled either plough or scythe before, I have often seen how easily the country-people manage these tools, and I am quite strong enough.” But when he was about to go to bed, the maiden crept in gently, and asked in a low voice, “What work has he given you?” “I’ve an easy task for to-morrow,” answered the prince. “I have only to mow grass for the white mare, and to clean out the stable; that’s all.” “O poor fellow!” sighed the maiden, “how can you ever accomplish it? The white mare is the master’s grandmother, and she is an insatiable creature, for whom twenty mowers could hardly provide the daily fodder, and another twenty would have to work from morning till night to clear the litter from the stable. How will you be able to manage both tasks alone? Take my advice, and follow it exactly. When you have thrown a few loads of grass to the p. 166 mare, you must plait a strong rope of willow-twigs in her sight. She will ask you what this is for, and you must answer, ‘To bind you up so tightly that you will not feel disposed to eat more than I give you, or to litter the stable after I have cleared it.’ ” As soon as the girl had finished speaking, she slid out of the room as gently as she had come, without giving the youth time to thank her. He repeated her instructions to himself several times, for fear of forgetting anything, and then went to sleep.
Early next morning he set to work. He plied the scythe lustily, and soon mowed down so much grass that he could rake several loads together. He took one load to the mare, but when he returned with the second he found with dismay that the manger was already empty, and that there was half a ton of litter on the floor. He saw now that he would have been lost without the maiden’s good advice, and resolved to follow it at once. He began to plait the rope, when the mare turned her head and asked in astonishment, “My dear son, what do you want with this rope?” “O nothing at all,” he answered; “I am only going to bind you up so tightly that you p. 167 won’t care to eat more than I choose to give you, or to drop more litter than I choose to carry away.” The white mare looked at him, and sighed deeply once or twice, but it was clear that she understood him, for long after midday there was still fodder in the manger and the floor remained clean. Presently the master came to inspect the work, and when he found everything in good order he was much surprised, and asked, “Are you clever enough to do this yourself, or did any one give you good advice?” But the prince was on his guard, and answered at once, “I have no one to help me but my own poor head and a mighty God in heaven.” The old man was silenced, and left the stable grumbling, but the prince was delighted that everything had succeeded so well.
In the evening the master said, “I have no particular work for you to-morrow, but as the maid has plenty to do in the house, you must milk the black cow. But take care not to leave a drop of milk in the udder. If I find that you have done so, it might cost you your life.” As the prince went away, he thought, “If there is not some trick in this, I cannot find the work hard. Thank God, I have strong fingers, and p. 168 will not leave a drop of milk behind.” But when he was about to retire to rest, the maiden came to him again, and asked, “What work have you to do to-morrow?” “I’ve a whole holiday to-morrow,” answered the prince. “All I have to do to-morrow is to milk the black cow, and not leave a drop of milk in the udder.” “O you unfortunate fellow!” sighed she, “how will you ever accomplish it? Know, dear young stranger, that if you were to milk the black cow from morning till evening, the milk would continue to flow in one unbroken stream. I am convinced that the old man is bent on your ruin. But fear nothing, for as long as I am alive no harm shall happen to you, if you will remember my advice, and follow it exactly. When you go milking, take a pan full of hot coals, and a smith’s tongs with you. When you reach the place, put the tongs in the fire, and blow the coals to a bright flame. If the black cow asks what this is for, answer her as I am about to whisper in your ear.” Then the maiden crept out of the room on tiptoe as she had come, and the prince lay down to sleep.
The prince got up almost before dawn next day, and went to the cowhouse with the milk-pail in p. 169 one hand, and a pan of live coals in the other. The black cow looked at his proceedings for a while in silence, and then asked, “What are you doing, my dear son?” “Nothing at all,” he replied; “but some cows have a bad habit of keeping back milk in their udders after they are milked, and in such cases I find hot tongs useful to prevent the chance of any waste.” The black cow sighed deeply and seemed scared. The prince then took the pail, milked the cow dry, and when he tried again after a while he found not a drop of milk in her udder. Some time after the master came into the cowhouse, and as he was also unable to draw a drop of milk, he asked angrily, “Are you so clever yourself, or did any one give you good advice?” But the prince answered as before, “I have no one to help me but my own poor head and a mighty God in heaven.” The old man went off in great vexation.
When the prince went to the master in the evening, the latter said, “There is still a heap of hay in the field that I should like to have brought under cover during dry weather. Bring the hay home to-morrow, but take care not to leave a particle behind, or it might cost you your life.” The prince left the room well pleased, p. 170 thinking, “It’s no great job to bring hay home. I have only to load it, and the mare must draw it. I won’t spare the master’s grandmother.” In the evening the maiden crept to his side, and asked about his work for to-morrow. The prince said smiling, “I am learning all sorts of farmwork here. I have to bring home a heap of hay to-morrow, and only to take care not to leave a scrap behind. This is all my work for to-morrow.” “O poor fellow!” sighed she, “how will you ever do it? If you were to set to work for a week, with the help of all the inhabitants of a large district, you could not remove this heap. Whatever you took away from the top would grow up again from the ground directly. Mark well what I say. You must get up to-morrow before daybreak, and lead the white mare from the stable, taking with you some strong cords. Then go to the haycock, fasten the cords round it, and then bind them to the mare. When this is done, climb on the haycock, and begin to count one, two, three, four, five, six, and so on. The mare will ask what you are counting, and you must answer her as I whisper.” Then the maiden left the room, and the prince went to bed.
When he awoke next morning, the first thing he remembered was the maiden’s good advice. So he took some strong ropes with him, led out the white mare, and rode on her back to the haycock, but found that the so-called haycock contained at least fifty loads. The prince did all that the maiden had told him, and when he was sitting on the heap, and had counted up to twenty, the white mare asked in surprise, “What are you counting, my dear son?” “Nothing at all,” said he; “I was only amusing myself by counting up the packs of wolves1 in the forest, but there are so many that I can’t reckon them all up.” He had hardly spoken when the white mare darted off like the wind, and the haycock was safely housed in a few moments. The master was not a little surprised, when he came out after breakfast, to find that the new labourer had already finished his day’s work. He put him the same question as before, and received the same reply; and he went off shaking his head and cursing.
In the evening, the prince went as usual to inquire about his work, and the old man said, p. 172 “To-morrow you must take the white-headed calf to pasture, but take care that he doesn’t run away, or it might cost you your life.” The prince thought, “There are many ten-year old farm-boys who have whole herds to manage, and surely I can’t find it so very difficult to look after one calf.” But when the maiden heard of it she said, “Know that this calf is so wild that he would run three times round the world in a day.1 Take this silk thread, and bind one end to the left fore-leg of the calf, and the other to the little toe of your left foot, and then the calf will not be able to stir a step from your side, whether you are walking, standing, or lying down.” Then she left him, and the prince lay down, but it vexed him to think that he had again forgotten to thank her for her good advice.
Next morning he followed the advice of the friendly maiden, and led the calf to the pasture by the silken thread. It remained by his side like a faithful dog, and in the evening he led it back to the stall, where the old man met him p. 173 angrily, and, after the usual question and answer, went off in a fury, and the prince thought it must be the mention of the holy name which kept him under restraint.
Late in the evening the prince went to his master for instructions, when the old man gave him a bag of barley, saying, “I will give you a holiday to-morrow, and you may sleep as long as you like, but you must work hard to-night instead. Sow me this barley, which will spring up and ripen quickly; then you must cut it, thresh it, and winnow it, so that you can malt it and grind it. You must brew beer of this malt, and when I wake to-morrow morning, you must bring me a jug of fresh beer for my morning drink. Take care to follow my instructions exactly, or it might easily cost you your life.”
This time the prince was quite confounded, and on leaving the room, he stood outside weeping bitterly, and said to himself, “This is my last night, for no mortal can do this work, and the clever maiden’s aid will avail me no longer. O unhappy wretch that I am! why was I so thoughtless as to leave the king’s palace, and thrust myself into this danger! I cannot even lament my unhappy lot to p. 174 the stars in heaven, for here there are neither stars nor sky. But yet God reigns over all.”
He was still standing with the bag of barley in his hand when the house-door opened and the kind maiden came out. She asked what troubled him so much, and he replied, “Alas! my last hour has come, and we must part for ever. I will tell you all before I die. I am the only son of a great king, from whom I should inherit a mighty empire; but now all hope and happiness are at an end.” Then he told the maiden with tears of the task the old man had laid upon him; but it pained him to see that she did not seem to share his trouble. When he had finished his long story, she smiled and said, “My dear prince, you may sleep quietly to-night, and enjoy yourself all day to-morrow. Take my advice, and don’t despise it because I am only a poor servant-girl. Take this little key, which unlocks the third hen-house, where the Old Boy keeps the spirits who serve him.1 Throw the bag of barley into the house, and repeat word for word the commands that you have received from the master, and add, ‘If you depart a hair’s breadth from my p. 175 instructions, you will all perish together; but if you want help, the door of the seventh pen will be open to-night, in which dwell the most powerful of the old man’s spirits.’ ”
The prince carried out all her instructions, and then lay down to sleep. When he awoke in the morning and went to the beer tub, he found it full of beer violently working, with the foam flowing over the edge. He tasted the beer, filled a large jug with the foaming drink, and brought it to his master, who was just getting up. But instead of the thanks which he expected from him, the old man broke out in uncontrollable fury, “That’s not from yourself. I see you have good friends and helpers. All right! we’ll talk again this evening.”
In the evening the old man said, “I have no work for you to-morrow, but you must come to my bedside to-morrow morning, and shake hands with me.”
The prince was amused at the old man’s queer whim, and laughed when he told the maiden. But when she heard it she became very serious, and said, “Now you must look to yourself, for the old man intends to eat you to-morrow morning, and there is only one way of escape. You must heat a p. 176 shovel red-hot in the stove,1 and offer it to him instead of your own hand.” Then she hastened away, and the prince went to bed. Next morning he took good care to heat the shovel red-hot before the old man awoke. At last he heard him shouting, “What has become of you, you lazy fellow? Come and shake hands with me.” But when the prince entered the room with the red-hot shovel in his hand, the old man cried out with a whining voice, “I am very ill to-day, and cannot take your hand. But come back this evening to receive my orders.”
The prince loitered about all day, and went to the old man in the evening as usual to receive his commands for the morrow. He found him very friendly, and he said, “I am well pleased with you. Come to me to-morrow morning with the maiden, for I know that you have long been attached to each other, and I will give her to you as your bride.”
The prince would have liked to dance and shout for joy, but by good luck he remembered the strict rules of the house, and kept silent. But when he p. 177 spoke to his betrothed of his good fortune, and expected that she would receive the news with equal delight, he saw her turn as white as the wall with terror, and her tongue seemed to be paralysed. As soon as she recovered herself a little, she said, “The Old Boy has discovered that I have been your counsellor, and has resolved to destroy us both. We must fly this very night, or we are lost. Take an axe, and strike off the head of the white-headed calf with a heavy blow, and then split the skull in two with a second stroke. In the brain of the calf you will find a shining red reel, which you must bring me. I will arrange whatever else is needful.” The prince thought, “I would rather kill an innocent calf than sacrifice both myself and this dear girl, and if our flight succeeds, I shall see my home once more. The peas I sowed must have sprung up by this time, so that we cannot miss our way.”
He went into the stall, and found the cow and the calf lying asleep near together, and they slept so fast that they did not hear his approach. But when he struck off the calf’s head, the cow groaned very loud, as if she had had a bad dream. He hastened to split the calf’s skull with the second p. 178 blow, and lo! the whole stall suddenly became as light as if it was day. The red reel fell out of the brain, and shone like a little sun. The prince wrapped it carefully in a cloth, and hid it in his bosom. It was fortunate that the cow did not wake, or she would have begun to roar so loud that she might easily have roused her master too.
The prince found the maiden waiting for him, at the gate with a small bundle on her arm. “Where is the reel?” she whispered. “Here,” replied the prince, and gave it to her. “Now we must hasten our flight,” said she, and she unravelled a small part of the reel from the cloth that its shining light might illuminate the darkness of the way like a lantern. As the prince had expected, the peas had all sprung up, so that they could not miss the way. The maiden then told the prince that she had once overheard a conversation between the old man and his grandmother, and had learned that she was a princess whom the Old Boy had stolen from her parents by a trick. The prince knew the real state of the case better, but kept silence, rejoicing inwardly that he had succeeded in freeing the poor girl. The p. 179 travellers must have gone a long way before the day began to break.
The Old Boy did not wake till late in the morning, and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes for a long time before he remembered that he was going to devour the couple. After waiting for them a good while he said to himself, “Perhaps they haven’t quite finished their preparations for the wedding.” But at last he got tired of waiting so long, and shouted out, “Ahoy, man and maid, what has become of you?” He repeated the cry several times, shouting and cursing, but neither man nor maid appeared. At last he scrambled out of bed in a rage, and went in search of the defaulters. But he found the house empty, and discovered, too, that the beds had not been slept in. Then he rushed into the stall, and when he saw the calf slaughtered and the magic reel stolen, he comprehended all. He cursed till everything was black, and opened the third spirit-house, sending his messengers forth to seek the fugitives. “Bring me them just as you find them, for I must have them,” said the Old Boy, and the spirits flew forth like the wind.
The fugitives were just crossing a great plain, p. 180 when the maiden suddenly stopped and said, “All is not as it should be. The reel moves in my hand, and we are certainly pursued.” When they looked back, they saw a black cloud rushing towards them with great speed. Then the maiden turned the reel thrice in her hand and said:
|“Hear me, reel, and reel, O hearken;|
Fain would 1 become a streamlet,
Where as fish my lover’s swimming.”
Instantly they were both transformed. The maiden flowed away like a brook, and the prince swam in the water like a little fish. The spirits, rushed past, and turned after a time, and flew back home; but they did not touch the brook or the fish. As soon as the pursuers were gone, the brook became a maiden, and the fish a youth, and they continued their journey in human form.
When the spirits returned, weary and empty-handed, the Old Boy asked if they had not noticed anything unusual on their journey.
“Nothing at all,” they answered, “but a brook on the plain, with a single fish swimming in it.”
The old man growled angrily, “There they were! there they were!” lmmediately he threw open the doors of the fifth pen and let out the spirits p. 181 commanding them to drink up the water of the brook, and to capture the fish; and the spirits flew off like the wind.
The travellers were just approaching the edge of a wood, when the maiden stopped, saying, “All is not as it should be. The reel moves again in my hand.” They looked round, and saw another cloud in the sky, darker than the first, and with red borders. “These are our pursuers,” she cried, and turned the reel three times round in her hand, saying:
|“Hear me, reel, and reel, O hear me;|
Change us bath upan the instant:
I’ll become a wild rose-briar,
And my love a rose upon it.”
Instantly the maiden was changed into a wild rose-bush, and the youth hung upon it in the form of a rose. The spirits rushed away over their heads, and did not return for some time; but they saw nothing of the brook and the fish, and they did not trouble about the wild rose-tree. As soon as their pursuers were gone, the rose-tree and the rose again became a maiden and a youth, and after their short rest they hurried away.
“Have you found them?” cried the old man, p. 182 when the spirits returned and crouched before him.
“No,” answered their leader; “we found neither brook nor fish on the plain.”
“Did you see nothing else remarkable on the way?” asked their master. The leader answered, “We saw nothing but a wild rose-bush on the edge of the wood, with a single rose upon it.” “Fools!” cried the old man, “there they were! there they were!” He threw open the door of the seventh pen, and sent out his most powerful spirits to search for the fugitives. “Bring them me just as you find them, for I must have them, dead or alive. Tear up the accursed rose-tree by the roots, and bring everything else with you that looks strange.” And the spirits rushed forth like a tempest.
The fugitives were just resting in the shade of a wood, and strengthening themselves for further efforts with food and drink. Suddenly the maiden cried out, “All is not right, for the reel feels as if it was being pulled from my bosom. We are certainly again pursued, and the danger is close at hand, but the wood still hides us from our enemies.” Then she took the reel from her bosom, p. 183 and turned it over three times in her hand, saying:
|“Hear me reel, and reel, O hear me;|
To a puff of wind transform me,
To a gnat transform my lover.”
Instantly they were both transformed, and the maiden rose into the air as a puff of wind, and the prince sported in the breeze like a gnat. The mighty host of spirits swept over them like a tempest, and returned some time afterwards, as they could neither find the rose-bush nor anything else remarkable. But they were hardly gone before the youth and the maiden resumed their proper forms, and the maiden cried out, “Now we must make haste, before the old man himself comes to look for us, for he would know us under any disguise.”
They ran on for some distance till they reached the dark passage, which they could easily climb up by the bright light of the reel. They were breathless and exhausted when they reached the great rock; when the maiden again turned the reel three times round, saying:
|“Hear me, reel, and reel, O hear me;|
Let the rock aside be lifted,
And a portal opened for us.”
Instantly the rock was lifted, and they found themselves once more upon the earth. “God be praised,” cried the maiden, “we are saved. The Old Boy has no further power over us here, and we can guard against his cunning. But now, my friend, we must part. Do you go to your parents, and I will go to mine.” “By no means,” replied the prince, “I cannot part from you, and you must come with me, and become my wife. You have passed days of sorrow with me, and now it is only right that we should enjoy days of happiness together.” The maiden resisted for a time, but at last she consented to accompany the youth.
They met with a woodcutter in the wood, who told them that there was great trouble in the palace and throughout the whole country, because of the unaccountable disappearance of the king’s son, every trace of whom had been lost for years.1 The maiden made use of the magic reel to provide the prince with suitable robes in which to present himself to his father. Meanwhile she stayed behind p. 185 in a peasant’s cottage, till the prince should have informed his father of his adventures.1
But the old king had died before the prince’s arrival, for trouble at the loss of his only son had shortened his life. On his death-bed he repented bitterly of his thoughtless promise, and of his treachery in delivering a poor innocent maiden to the old rascal, for which God had punished him by the loss of his son. The prince mourned for the death of his father, as befitted a good son, and buried him with great honours. Then he mourned for three days, refusing all food and drink. On the fourth morning he presented himself to the people as their new ruler, assembled his councillors, and related to them the wonderful things that he had seen and experienced in the Old Boy’s dwelling, and did not forget to say how the clever maiden had saved his life. Then the councillors all exclaimed with one voice, “She must become your consort and our queen.”
When the young king set out to seek his bride, he was much surprised to meet the maiden p. 186 advancing in regal state. The magic reel had provided her with everything that was necessary, and all the people supposed that she must be the daughter of some very wealthy king, and came from a distant country. Then the wedding festivities commenced, which lasted four weeks, and they lived together in happiness and prosperity for many a pleasant year.1
1 Löwe suggests that Kungla is meant, which appears not improbable.
2 This has been a common motif in folk-tales from the time of Jephthah downwards; but the manner in which the different stories are worked out is very various.
1 The usual Esthonian euphemism for the Devil.
1 The moral tone of some of these Esthonian tales is much higher than usual in folk-tales. In the story of the “Northern Frog,” we shall see that it is considered a wrong action, involving Karmic punishment, even to steal a talisman from a demon who is trying to entrap your soul. In most folk-tales, the basest cruelly and treachery is looked upon as quite laudable when your own interests require it, even against your best friend or most generous benefactor, and much more so against a Jew or a demon. But there are other Esthonian tales (“Slyboots,” for instance), in which the morality is not much superior to that of average folk-tales.
1 Here we find the Devil compared to a Tartar, just as in the 10th canto of the Kalevipoeg a water-demon is compared to a Lett.
1 Boiled peas and salt are provided on such occasions, as mentioned in other stories.
1 The Kalevide was directed to stamp with his right foot to open the gates of Pōrgu.
1 In Esthonian legends, the wolf is the great enemy of the devil. See vol. ii. Beast-stories.
1 We meet with similar miraculously swift animals in other Esthonian tales.
1 The outhouses in Sarvik’s palace (Kalevipoeg, Canto 14) contained mere ordinary stores.
1 A not very unusual incident in folk-tales, though it often takes the form of offering an iron bar instead of your own hand to a giant who wishes to shake hands with you.
1 A visit to any description of non-human intelligent beings in Esthonian tales almost always extends to years, though it may have apparently lasted for only a day or two.
1 In most stories of this class, the hero forgets his companion on reaching home, either by a charm or by breaking a taboo.
1 Another instance of a child being asked for by an ambiguous request is to be found in the story of the Clever Countrywoman (Jannsen), which must not be confounded with one in Kreutzwold’s collection with a nearly similar title, and of which we append an abstract. The story ends, rather unusually, in a subterfuge. A herd-boy returned one evening, and reported to his mistress that a cow was missing. The woman went herself, but everything round her was changed by magic, and she could not find her way home. However, as the mist rose from the moor, a little white man appeared, whom she recognised as one of the moor-dwellers. He took her home, and returned her cow, on her promising him what she would carry night and day under her heart. From thenceforth she took care always to wear her apron. A year afterwards, she became the mother of a fine boy, and when he was nine weeks old, the window was opened one night, and the intruder cried out, “Give me what you have carried night and day under your heart, as you promised.” The woman flung him her apron, crying out, “In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, receive what I promised you;” and he instantly vanished with the apron.