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The story of Tiidu1 the Flute-player introduces us to a mysterious old man, and is therefore given a place after the narrative of the stolen prince. It contains many points of interest, including the cosmopolitan incident of the Nose-tree (which, however, some critics suggest is probably a recent addition); but it is long and tedious in the original, and therefore only an abstract is given here.
A POOR man with a large family had among them a lazy useless son who would do nothing but play tunes on a willow-pipe. One day a strange old man passed by, and asked what trade he would prefer. He replied that he would like to be rich and independent. The old man advised him to make use of the gift he had, and to earn money p. 304 enough by playing on his willow-flute to buy a flute.1 So Tiidu left his home without telling his parents of his intention, but they were glad enough to be rid of him. He wandered from village to village till he had earned enough money to buy a good flute, and in a few years he became a famous and prosperous flute-player. But his avarice left him no peace, and he heard so much of the wealth of the land of Kungla, that he longed to go there to make his fortune.
One day he arrived at the town of Narva, where he found a ship just sailing for Kungla; but as he could not afford to pay his passage, he contrived to smuggle himself on board with the aid of one of the sailors. On the following night, Tiidu’s friend threw him into the sea with a rope round his body, when Tiidu began to cry for help, and his friend roused the other sailors. The captain crossed himself thrice, and on being assured by the sailors that it was not a spirit but a mortal man, ordered a rope to be thrown to the aid of the swimmer. As soon as p. 305 Tiidu seized the rope, he cut away that which was fastened round him, and on being hauled on board, pretended to have swum from the shore. On this the captain offered him a free passage, and he amused the crew with his flute during the voyage.
When Tiidu reached Kungla, he set out for the capital, which he found to be a city of great wealth and splendour. He was afraid to try his luck with his flute, and after many days he succeeded in obtaining a post as kitchen-boy. All the utensils were of gold and silver, the food was cooked in silver pots, the cakes were baked in silver pans, and dinner was served up in golden cups and dishes, and even the pigs fed from silver pails. Tiidu’s month’s wages were larger than he would have earned in a year at home, but still he was very discontented.
One day Tiidu’s master gave a christening, and distributed fine clothes to his servants; and next Sunday Tiidu put them on and went to a pleasure-garden, where he met his old friend who had advised him to play the flute, and who now reproached him for having neglected to use it in Kungla. He made him fetch it and begin to play, when a crowd gathered round, who made a good collection for p. 306 Tiidu. The old man gave Tiidu full instructions how to follow the vocation of a flute-player profitably, and Tiidu followed his advice and grew very rich.
At last he decided to return home, and chartered a ship to convey himself and his treasures to his native land; but a great storm arose, the ship was wrecked, and only Tiidu contrived to struggle ashore. He lay dazed for a time, and dreamed that the old man visited him, and gave him a pull from his flask. Next morning, much refreshed, he wandered into the country, which he found to be an uninhabited island. He now repented of his undutiful conduct in leaving his parents, and felt his sad plight to be a fitting punishment for his fault.
All at once he saw a tree with beautiful red apples, feasted on them, lay down to sleep for the night, breakfasted on the apples, and walked on; but on stooping down to drink at a spring, he saw to his horror that his nose hung down to his middle, and looked like the wattles of an enraged turkey-cock; and the more he lamented his misfortune, the bigger and bluer became his nose. At last he discovered a nut-tree, and found that eating a few nuts restored his nose to its natural state. So he laid in a stock p. 307 of nuts, wove himself a basket, which he filled with apples, and then slept under the tree, when the old man appeared to him in a dream, advised him to return to the shore, and gave him a new flute.
When he reached the shore, he was picked up by a passing vessel, and returned to Kungla, where he disguised himself, sold the apples at the palace, and next day presented himself in another guise as a learned foreign physician to cure the king and the royal family of the turkey-disease. In return, Tiidu asked only as much reward as would enable him to purchase an estate on which he could live comfortably for the rest of his life, but the king cheerfully gave him three times as much as he asked, and Tiidu then went to the harbour and sailed home. First, however, he paid his passage-money to the captain who had rescued him from the desert island.
On reaching home, Tiidu found his father and several brothers and sisters still living, but his mother and some of his brothers were dead. He bought an estate, invited the whole family to a great feast, and revealed himself to them, and he insisted that they should all settle on his estate, p. 308 and that his father should stay with him in his own house as long as he lived.
A little later he married a good and pretty but dowerless girl, and on entering the bridal chamber they found that it contained all the treasures which Tiidu had lost at sea, with a paper attached: “Even the depths of the sea restore the treasures which they have stolen to a good son who cares for parents and relatives.” But Tiidu never discovered anything about the aged enchanter who had been his friend and protector.
1 Here, as well as in the stories relative to the Thunder-God’s musical instrument, Löwe calls it a bagpipe; but I do not find this meaning for the word in the dictionaries. Still, in the present story, it appears to have been a rather expensive instrument.