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THE story of the traveller who appropriates the magical properties over which the sons of a dead p. 25 magician are quarrelling is widely distributed, and frequently occurs as a mere incident in a story; as, for example, in that of Hasan of El Basrah in the Thousand and One Nights. In the Esthonian stary of the “Dwarf’s1 Quarrel,” the articles form the leading motif; but mixed up with details curiously resembling some Celtic fairy tales.

 A man passing through a wood came upon a small clearing, where he found three dwarfs beating, pushing, kicking, and biting each other, and tearing each other’s hair so that it was shocking to see them. They proved to be fighting over an old hat, composed of the parings of finger-nails,2 the wearer of which could see everything taking place in the world, whether near or far; a pair of bast shoes, which would carry the wearer anywhere at a step; and a stick which would demolish everything before it. Each of the dwarfs wanted to take all these articles, to go to a great wedding which was just taking place in Courland. The referee put on the hat, saw the wedding, and told the dwarfs to stand with their backs to him, when he demolished them p. 26 with the stick, only three drops of water being left where they had been standing. Then he went to the wedding in Courland, where he found a great number of people assembled, both high and low, for the entertainer was a very rich householder.

 As the wearer of the magic hat could see everything hidden as well as obvious, he saw when he lifted his eyes to the crossbeams1 that there were a vast crowd of little guests both there and on the door-posts, who seemed to be far more numerous than the invited guests. But no one else could see the little people. Presently some of them began to whisper, “Look there; our old uncle’s come to the feast too.” “No,” answered others, “it seems that this stranger has our uncle’s hat, shoes, and stick, but uncle himself isn’t here.” Meantime, covered dishes were brought in for the feast. Then the stranger saw what nobody else could perceive, that the good food was abstracted from the dishes with wonderful quickness, and worse put in its place. It went just the same with the jugs and bottles. Then the stranger asked for the master of the house, greeted him politely, and said, “Don’t be offended that I have come to the feast as an uninvited stranger.” p. 27 “You are welcome,” returned the host. “We have plenty to eat and drink, so that we are not inconvenienced by a few uninvited guests.” The stranger rejoined, “I can well believe that one or two uninvited guests would make no difference, but if the uninvited guests are far more numerous than those who are invited, the richest host may run short.” “I don’t understand you,” said the host. The stranger gave him the hat, saying, “Put my hat on, and raise your eyes to the crossbeams, and then you’ll see them.” The host did so, and when he saw the tricks that the little guests were playing with the feast, he turned as pale as death, and cried out with a trembling voice, “Ah! my friend, my heart never dreamed of such guests; and now I’ve taken off your hat, they’ve all vanished. How can I ever get rid of them?” The owner of the hat returned, “I will soon rid you of these little guests, if you will ask the invited guests to step out for a short time, closing the doors and windows carefully, and taking care that no chink or crack in the wall remains unstopped.” Although the founder of the feast did not quite understand what he meant, he consented to the stranger’s offer, and asked him to get rid of the little nuisances.

p. 28

 In a short time the room was cleared of all the invited guests, the doors, windows, and other openings were carefully closed, and the stranger was left alone with the little guests. Then he began to swing his cudgel towards the crossbeams and corners of the room so vigorously that it was a pleasure to behold. In a few moments the whole mob of little guests was annihilated, and as many drops of water were left on the floor as if it had been raining heavily. Only one auger-hole had been accidentally left unstopped, through which one of the dwarfs slipped out, although the cudgel might still have reached the fugitive. He fled across the enclosure, bellowing, “Oh, oh, what a calamity! Many a time have I been terrified at the arrows of old father Pikne,1 but they are nothing to this cudgel!”

 When the host had convinced himself, by the aid of the magic hat, that the room was cleared of the dwarfs, he invited the guests to re-enter. During the feast the omniscient man read the secret thoughts of the wedding-guests, and learned much which the others did not suspect. The bridegroom thought more of the wealth of his father-in-law than p. 29 of his young wife; and she, who was not altogether faultless, hoped that her husband and her matron’s cap would protect her from scandal. It’s a great pity that such a hat is no longer to be met with in our times.



p. 25

1 The Esthonian term is peculiar. “Ox-knee people”—i.e., people as tall as an ox’s knee.

2 Compare the Kalevipoeg, Cantos 13 and 14.

p. 26

1 Compare Croker’s Irish story of “Master and Man.”

p. 28

1 The Thunder-God.