Gypsy Folk Tales, by Francis Hindes Groome, , at sacred-texts.com
Once upon a time there lived a countryman and his old wife; he had three daughters, but he was very poor. One
day he and his young daughter went into the forest to gather mushrooms. And there he met with a great lord. The old peasant bared his head, and, frightened at the sight of the nobleman, said apologetically, 'I am not chopping your honour's wood with my hatchet, I am only gathering what is lying on the ground.'
'I would willingly give thee all this forest,' replies the nobleman; and he then asks the peasant if that is his wife who is with him.
'No, my lord, she is my daughter.'
'Wilt thou sell her to me?'
'Pray, my lord, do not mock and laugh at my daughter, since none but a great lady is a fitting match for your lordship.'
'That matters little to thee; all thou hast to do is to sell her to me.'
As the peasant did not name the price he asked for her, the nobleman give him two handfuls of ducats. The peasant, quite enraptured, grasped the money, but instead of going home to his wife, he went to a Jew's. He asked the Jew to give him something to eat and drink, but the Jew refused, being certain that he had no money to pay him with; however, as soon as the peasant had shown him the large sum that he had, the delighted Jew seated him at the table and gave him food and drink. He made the old peasant drunk, and stole away all his money. The peasant went home to his wife. She asked him where had he left his daughter?
'Wife, I have placed her in service with a great lord.'
The wife asked him if he had brought anything to her. He replied that he was himself hungry, but that this nobleman had said to him that he had taken one daughter, and that he would take the two others as well. His wife bade him take them away. He went away with these two daughters, and one of them he sold to another lord. This one gave him a hatful of money. Then the peasant said to his remaining daughter, 'Wait for me here in the forest; I will bring thee something to eat and drink; do not stray from here.' He went to the same Jew that had robbed him of his money. This Jew again stole from him the money he had received from the other lord. The peasant returned to his daughter, and brought her some bread, which she ate with
delight. There came a third nobleman, who purchased this third girl.
'Do not go to the Jew,' said this lord to the peasant, 'but go straight home to thy wife, and hand over thy money to her, so that she may take charge of it; else this Jew will rob thee once more.'
The peasant went home to his wife, who was very glad.
This great lord spoke thus to him: 'There is in a forest a beautiful castle covered with silver. Go to the town, buy some fine horses and harness, engage some peasants to work, and rest thou thyself; make the peasants do the work.'
He got into a carriage; he took his peasants; and they set out with the help of God. They came, by a magnificent road, smooth as glass, into a great forest. They met a beggar, who asked this great lord (this peasant, once poor, now grown rich) where his daughters were.
Soon after these peasants discover that they are clean bewildered; they find themselves surrounded by deep ravines and insurmountable obstacles, so that they cannot get out, for they have lost their way.
There came an old beggar who asked them, 'Why do you tarry here? why are you not getting on?'
'Alas!' they answered, 'we cannot get out of this; we had a beautiful road, but we have lost it.'
'Whip up your horses a bit,' said the old man, 'perhaps they will go on.'
A lad touched up the horses, and all of a sudden the peasants see a magnificent road before them. They wish to thank this beggar, but he has vanished. The peasants fall to weeping, for, say they to themselves, 'This was no beggar; more likely was it the good God himself.' They reach the castle; the peasant is in ecstasies with it. The peasants work for him, and he and his wife take their ease.
Ten years rolled by. Once he had three daughters, whom he had already forgotten. 'The good God,' said he, 'gave me three daughters, but I have never yet had a son.'
One day the good God so ordered it that this peasant woman was brought to bed. She was delivered (pray excuse me) of a boy. This boy grew exceedingly; he was already three years old; he was very intelligent. When he was
twelve years old his father put him to school. He was an apt scholar: he knew German, and could read anything.
One day this boy, having returned home, asked his father, 'How do you do, father?' His mother gave him some food, and sent him to bed. Next day he got up, and went to school. Two little boys who passed along said the one to the other, 'There goes the little boy whose father sold his daughters to the devils.' The boy reached the school filled with anger; he wrote his task quickly, for he could not calm his angry feelings. He went home to his father as quickly as possible; he took two pistols, and called on his father to come to him. As soon as his father came into the room, the boy locked the door on them both.
'Now, father, tell me the truth; had I ever any sisters? If you do not confess the truth to me, I will fire one of these pistols at you and the other at myself.'
The father answered, 'You had three sisters, my child, but I have sold them to I know not whom.'
He sent his father to the town, and bade him, 'Buy for me, father, an apple weighing one pound.'
The father came back home, and gave the apple to his son. The latter was delighted with it, and he made preparations for going out into the world. He embraced his father and mother. 'The good God be with you,' he said to them, 'for it may be I shall never see you more; perchance I may perish.'
He came to a field, where he saw two boys fighting terribly. The father of these two boys had, when dying, left to the one a cloak and to the other a saddle. The little boy went up to these boys and asked them, 'What are you fighting about?'
'Excuse us, my lord,' replied the younger, 'our parents are dead; they have left to one of us a cloak and to the other a saddle; my elder brother wants to take both cloak and saddle, and not to give me anything.'
This little nobleman said to them, 'Come now, I will put you right. Here is an apple which I will throw far out into this field; and whichever of you gets it first shall have both of these things.'
He flung away the apple, and while the boys were running to get it, this little nobleman purloined both cloak and
saddle. He resumed his journey, and went away, with the help of God. He came to a field, he stopped, he examined the cloak he had just stolen, and to the saddle he cried, 'Bear me away to where my youngest sister lives.' The saddle took hold of him, lifted him into the air, and carried him to the dwelling of his youngest sister. He cried to his youngest sister, ' Let me in, sister.'
Her answer was, ' Twenty years have I been here, and have never seen anybody all that time; and you--you will break my slumber.'
'Sister, if you do not believe I am your brother, here is a handkerchief which will prove that I am.'
His sister read thereon the names of her father, her mother, and her brother. Then she let him enter, and fainted away. 'Where am I to hide you now, brother? for if my husband comes he will devour you.'
'Have no fear on my account,' he replied, 'I have a cloak which renders me invisible whenever I wear it.'
Her husband came home; she served some food to him; and then, employing a little artifice, ' Husband,' she said, 'I dreamt that I had a brother.'
'If he were to come here, you would not harm him, would you, husband?'
'What harm should I do to him? I would give him something to eat and to drink.'
At this she called out, 'Brother, let my husband see you.'
The young lad's brother-in-law saw him, and was greatly pleased with his appearance; he gave him food and something to drink. He went out and called his brothers. They, well satisfied with the state of things, entered, along with the boy's two other sisters. The latter were brimming over with delight. A lovely lady also came, who enchanted him.
'Is this young lady married?' he asked his sister.
'No,' she replied, 'she has no husband; you can marry her if you like.'
They fell in love with each other; they were married.
Ten years they lived there. At last this youth said to his sister, 'I must return home to my father; perchance he is dead by now.'
He got up next morning; his brother-in-law gave him large sums of gold and silver.
They drew near to the house, he and his wife. Not far from this house was a small wood through which they had to pass, and in it they noticed a beautiful wand.
'Let us take this wand,' said his wife to him, 'it is very pretty; we will plant it at home.'
He obeyed her, and took the wand. He reached the house; the father was very happy that his son was now married.
Five years passed away. The good God gave them a son. He went to the town to invite the godfathers. After the christening they came back from church; they ate, they drank, and at last everybody went away; he remained alone with his wife. One day he went to the town. When he came home, he saw that his wife was no longer there, and that the sapling also had disappeared. (It was no sapling, but a demon.) He began to lament.
'Why do you lament?' asked his father.
'Do not anger me, father,' he said, 'for I am going out into the world.'
He got ready for the road; he set out. He came into a great forest. As it was beginning to rain, he took shelter under an oak; and in that very oak his wife was concealed. He slept for a little while; then he heard a child weeping.
'Who is this that is crying?' he asked of his wife.
'It is your child.'
And he recognised her and cried, 'Wife, hearken to what I am going to say to you. Ask this dragon of yours where it is that he hides the key of his house.'
'Very well,' she assented.
The dragon came home; she flung her arms round his neck and said to him, 'Husband, tell me truly, where is the key of our house?'
What good would it do you if I told you?' he replied. 'Well, then, listen. In a certain forest there is a great cask; inside this cask there is a cow; in this cow there is a calf; in this calf a goose; in this goose a duck; in this duck an egg; and it is inside this egg that the key is to be found.'
'Very good; that is one secret I know.'
She then asked him wherein lay his strength.
The dragon owned this to his wife: 'When I am dressed as a lord, I cannot be killed; neither could any one kill me when I am dressed as a king; but it is only at the moment I am putting on my boots that I can be killed.'
'Very good; now I know both these secrets.'
He smelt at his feather, and all his three brothers-in-law appeared beside him. They lay in wait till the moment when the dragon was drawing on his boots, and then they slew him. They betook themselves to that forest, they smashed the cask, they killed the cow that was inside it, they killed the goose that was inside the calf, then the duck that was inside the goose; they broke open the egg, and out of it they drew the key. He took this key, he came back to where his wife was, he opened the oak, and he let his wife out.
'Now, my brothers-in-law, the good God be with you. As for me, I am setting out to follow my way of happiness; now I shall no more encounter any evil thing.'
He returned with his wife to his father's house. His father was very glad to see him come back with his wife; he gave them something to eat and drink, and he said to his son, 'Hearken to me now, my child. We are old now, I and my wife; thou must stay beside me.'
And he answered him, 'It is well, my father; if thou sendest me not away, I will dwell with thee.'
This story of the prig of a little nobleman--a blend of George Washington and little Lord Fauntleroy--is somewhat incoherent, and presents a good many obvious lacunæ. Thus Kopernicki remarks, 'the narrator had omitted to mention the feather in the fourth paragraph from the end. In many Polish and Russniak tales one meets with a bird's feather or a horse-hair possessing the magical power of making anybody immediately appear. One has only to burn this feather a little, and then to smell it. In this Gypsy tale, therefore, the hero's brothers-in-law had evidently given him such a feather at the time of his departure. But the narrator had forgotten to mention this though he remembered the feather when he reached that point at which the hero had need of it to summon his brothers-in-law to kill the dragon.' Such a feather, however, is by no means exclusively Slavonic; it occurs in our Roumanian-Gypsy story (No. 10), and in a Turkish-Gypsy one (Paspati, p. 523): 'He gave the old man a feather, and he said to the old man, "Take it and carry it to your daughter, and if she puts it in the fire I will comer."' Cf. too, Hahn, i. 93; Carnoy and Nicolaides'
[paragraph continues] Traditions de l’Asie Mineure (1889), p. 140; Legrand's Contes Grecs 0881), pp. 69, 71, 72, 73 (hero burns bee's wing with a cigar), 89; and the Arabian Nights ('Conclusion of the Story of the Ladies of Baghdad'):--'She gave me a lock of her hair, and said, "When thou desirest my presence, burn a few of these hairs, and I will be with thee quickly."' Precisely the same idea occurs frequently in F. A. Steel's Wide-awake Stories from the Panjab and Kashmir: e.g. 'Only take this hair out of my beard; and if you should get into trouble, just burn it in the fire. I'll come to your aid' (p. 13; cf. also pp. 32, 34, 413-14, and Knowles's Folk-tales of Kashmir, pp. 3, 12).
I can offer no exact variant of this story, but many analogies suggest themselves, e.g. in No. 5, 'The Three Princesses and the Unclean Spirit,' in No. 44, 'The Three Dragons,' and in 'The Weaver's Son and the Giant of the White Hill' (Curtin's Myths and Folklore of Ireland, p. 64), where also one gets the wool, fin, and feather. For the invisible cloak, cf. Clouston, i. 72, etc. In Maive Stokes's Indian Fairy Tales, No. 22, p. 156, the hero finds four fakirs quarrelling for the possession of a travelling bed, a Fortunatus bag, a water-supplying stone bowl, and a stick and rope that bind and lay on. He shoots four arrows, and whilst the fakirs are searching for the fourth one, decamps with these objects (so, too, Knowles's Folk-tales of Kashmir, p. 87). An invisible cap occurs in F. A. Steel's Wide-awake Stories, p. 37.