Gypsy Folk Tales, by Francis Hindes Groome, , at sacred-texts.com
Somewhere far off were a quarryman and his wife. They had a son in their old age. They died. An old man comes to beg, and asks boy will he come with him to seek fortune. They go. 'Wish
me into a horse.' Boy does so. 'Jump on my back.' He does so. They take the road. Horse warns boy to help anything in distress. Boy finds a little fish cast up by the tide, and puts it back in the water. Fish promises gratitude. They cross the Beautiful Mountain. Horse warns boy to touch nothing. A feather blows in his mouth. He spits it out again and again, but it returns. He looks at it, thinks it pretty, puts it in his pocket. They descend other side of the mountain. Boy hears noise of bellowing in a castle. Finds sick giant in bed, without servant-maid. Boy gets him food. Giant promises gratitude. Horse asks boy if he touched anything on mountain. 'Nothing but this feather.' 'That feather will bring you sorrow, but keep it now you have it.' They come to a castle. Boy asks for work. Master tests his hand-writing. Engages him. Wants him to sleep indoors; he prefers stable beside his old horse (cf. Grimm, No. 126, ii. 155, also for pen). They marvel at his penmanship, done with this feather. One day the master's man steals the pen by a ruse, and brings it to master: 'Master, the man that got the feather can get the bird.' Boy tells horse what they want him to do. Horse tells him to ask for three days' leave and three sacks of gold. Horse and boy go off. They go and get the bird, choosing the dirtiest and ugliest bird (cf. Polish-Gypsy story, No. 49, for choosing bird in common cage). The master's man says, 'Master, the bird is fair, but fairer still the lady' (that owned it). Boy told to fetch lady; he tells horse. Horse reminds him that he said the feather would bring him trouble. Three more days and three purses of gold. Horse says, 'Wish me into a boat on the sea.' The boat is full of the finest silk. They sail under the castle. Lure lady on board to see silk. She goes into cabin. Boy weighs anchor and off. Lady comes up, and drops her keys into sea. They return. Man says to master, 'Master, the man that got the lady can get the castle.' Boy tells horse. Horse reminds him of unlucky feather. Three more days and bags of gold. They go. Horse reminds boy of giant's promise. Giant puts chain round castle and drags it along. The castle is walled round and locked. Lady demands her keys. Boy and horse go off, call the little fish. He fails to find keys. Tries again and brings them up. Keys given to lady. Lady says, 'Which would you prefer, Jack, to have your head cut off or your master's head cut off?' Boy says, 'Cut off mine, not his.' Lady says, 'You have spoken well. Had you not spoken thus, your own head would have been cut off. Now the master's head will fall, not yours.' Boy and lady wed, and live in the castle still. 'Now you've got it.'
It must at least be nearly five hundred years since the ancestors of our Welsh Gypsies parted from those of their kinsfolk in Bukowina; yet the resemblance between these two versions still is marvellous. The talking horse, the entering into service at the castle, the feather, the fetching the bird, the fetching a lady (in the Bukowina version not the lady), the cabin even, the fetching the lady's belongings, and the doom of the master--these eight details are common to both: the very order of them is identical. Non-Gypsy variants are Grimm's 'Ferdinand the Faithful' (No. 126; ii. 153, 425), Cosquin's 'Le Roi d’Angleterre et son Filleul' (No. 3, i. 32), his 'La Belle aux Cheveux d’Or' (No. 72, ii. 290), the Donegal story of 'The Red Pony' in W. Larmenie's West Irish Folk-tales (1893, pp. 211-218), a Russian story summarised by Ralston (p. 287), and Laura Gonzenbach's long Sicilian story, 'Die Geschichte von Caruseddu' (No. 83, ii. 143-155, 257-9). All six deserve careful study, but specially the last, which links these stories to the heroic version of 'The Master Thief' (supra, p. 51). For its plot, told briefly, is this:--Caruseddu and his two elder brothers go as gardeners to a drape (rendered 'menschenfresser' or 'ogre,' but query rather 'dragon'). By the Hop-o’-my-thumb device of changing caps, as in 'Tropsyn' (cf. also Hahn, ii. 179-180), Caruseddu deludes him into devouring his own three daughters. The brothers then take service with a king--Caruseddu as trusted servant, the others as gardeners. They are jealous of Caruseddu, and get the king to send him to steal first the dragu's talking horse, next his bed-cover with golden balls, and lastly the dragu himself. This last task he achieves by the trick of getting the dragu to try if a new coffin for (the supposed dead) Caruseddu is big enough. 1 Still at his brothers' suggestion, Caruseddu is now sent to fetch the daughter of the queen with the seven veils; he achieves this, like his former feats, with the help of the talking horse. The princess refuses to wed the king unless he recovers for her the veil and the ring she had lost on the way to him; Caruseddu recovers them by the aid of a grateful bird and a grateful fish (cf. the Welsh version). He also sifts a barnful of wheat, oats, and barley with the aid of grateful ants. Lastly, he has to plunge into a fiery furnace, but, smeared with foam snorted by the talking horse, he emerges uninjured, far fairer than before. The old and ugly king has to essay the same ordeal, and asks Caruseddu what he smeared himself with. Who, sickened at last by his master's ingratitude, answers, 'With fat.' So the king is burnt to ashes, and Caruseddu marries the princess. Reinhold Köhler, the learned annotator of Gonzenbach, compares Straparola, iii. 2 (Grimm, ii. 478) and a Wallachian story, where the hero bathes in boiling milk, which his magic horse blows cold, but in which the king himself perishes. Wratislaw gives a curious Servian story from Bosnia,--'The Bird-catcher' (No. 42, pp. 239-245). Here the hero, a bird-catcher, is advised by a grateful crow, but the horse comes in very mal-àpropos at the finish. Cf. also Hahn, ii. 180, 186; and Clouston's Eastern Romances, p. 499, 570.
109:1 Hahn has the selfsame story up to this point, only not so well told, 'Von dem Schönen and vom Drakos' (No. 3, i. 75-79, and ii. 178-86).