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Gypsy Folk Tales, by Francis Hindes Groome, [1899], at

No. 48.--Tale of a Wise Young Jew and a Golden Hen

There was once a rich nobleman who had lived with his wife for ten years without having any children. One time he dreamt that he would have a very warlike son. Another time he dreamt again that a Jewess was going to be confined on the same day as his lady. (This was true!) Next morning this lord arose and said to his wife, 'Wife, I dreamt that we are going to have a child.'

'That may really come to pass,' she answered.

He further told her of the Jewess; he said she would be brought to bed at the very same hour as her ladyship.

The good God ordained that she should be delivered of a child; the good God gave them a son. The boy's father was very joyful, as were also the mother and that Jewess, who was brought to bed at the very same hour as this lady.

The nobleman said to his wife, 'My lady, we must go to this Jewess, in order that our child may be brought up with hers.'

'Very well, husband.'

They brought thither the Jewess, and she made her home there, near this nobleman's dwelling.

He begins to grow up, this son of the nobleman. He is

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very wise; yet the son of the Jewess is still wiser. He is now ten years old, and is eager to go to school; he learns there to perfection. His father and mother are filled with delight.

Once the Jewish boy said to the lord's son, 'Look here, now, why not request your father to have some beautiful baths made for you in the fields?'

The nobleman's son approached his father, kissed his hand, as also his mother's. 'Father,' said he, 'I beg that you will build me some fine baths in the fields.'

Who should it happen to be that set themselves to this work? Two old retainers. They had seen in a town some time before a very beautiful princess. Well, what have they gone and done, these two servitors? They have caused the portrait of this princess to be painted on the walls of the baths. These two servants came back and announced to their lord, 'We have done everything we were ordered to do.'

'Very good. How much now do you ask for it?'

'We shall be satisfied with whatever your grace deigns to give us.'

The nobleman gave them four thousand florins. They accorded to their lord their best thanks. Then the Jew boy called to the nobleman's son, 'Come, the baths are now built, let us see what there is to be seen.'

Thither they went, but this young Jew was always wiser than the nobleman's son. They entered the first hall, where they saw painted upon the walls various kinds of birds, wolves; all which delighted the son of the lord. Then all by himself he enters the other apartment, and what does he behold there? The portrait of this lovely princess painted on one of the walls. He gazes at the likeness of the princess, and is so greatly enchanted with it that he swoons away. The young Jew sees him (swoon); he revives him with vinegar; and he asks the nobleman's son, 'What is the matter with you?'

'O brother, if I do not have this princess to wife I shall kill myself.'

'Hush, for the love of God,' replied the young Jew; 'do not cry so loud. For you shall perhaps have her indeed, only not so soon as you wish.'

He returned home very sick, this nobleman's son.

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'What ails him?' asks his father; but the young Jew was ashamed to own what had happened. Orders were given to fetch doctors with all speed; various remedies are administered; but he has nothing the matter with him, for he is quite well, only withering away for the sake of this princess.

'What's to be done with him?' this lord asks himself. He sends the mother to question her son, that he may reveal to her what it is that has happened.

The mother comes to him. 'What is the matter, my child? Don't be ashamed to tell me everything.'

'Ah, mother,' he answered, 'even though I were to tell you all, you would not be able to give me any advice.'

'On the contrary, my son, I will give you very good advice.'

Then he said to her, 'Mother, I have seen the likeness of a beautiful princess in these fine baths; if I do not have her to wife I shall kill myself.'

The mother hears this with delight. 'That is well, my son. In the meantime, where am I to find her?'

But the Jew lad said to the nobleman, 'My lord, I will go with him to seek the princess. I make myself answerable for his person, and if any harm befalls him, punish me.'

'Very well, then; get ready, and set out with the help of God.'

They set out, and on the further side of a large town the young Jew saw a beautiful wand on the road and a little key beside it.

'I shall dismount and pick up that wand,' said he.

But the nobleman's son said to him, 'What good will that wand do you? You can buy yourself a fine sword in any town.'

But the young Jew replied, 'I don't want a sword; I wish to take that wand.'

Well, he got down from his horse; he picked up this wand and the little key. He got into the saddle again, and they went on their way with the help of God. They came to a great forest, where night surprised them. They saw a light shining in this forest.

'See,' said the lord's son, 'there's a light shining over yonder.'

They came up to this light; they went into the room; there was no one within. There they see a beautiful bed,

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but unoccupied. They see that there is food for them. There is a golden goblet on the side next to the nobleman's son; and beside the young Jew there is a goblet of silver. The nobleman's son would have seated himself beside the silver goblet, but the young Jew said to him, 'Listen to me, brother. You are the son of a wealthy sire, and I am a poor man's son; your place therefore is beside the goblet of gold, and I will seat myself beside the silver goblet.'

Thereafter he disrobed him deftly, and made him lie down on the bed.

'Come you to bed, brother,' said the nobleman's son. 'I don't feel sleepy,' replied the young Jew.

'Well, I'm going to sleep at any rate.'

He placed himself beside the table, this young Jew, and pretended to fall asleep. Two ladies approached the young Jew, but they were not really ladies--they were fairies. 1 These ladies spoke thus to one another, 'Oh! this young Jew and this nobleman's son are going to a capital, where they wish to carry away the king's daughter. But,' said they, 'the young Jew did well to pick up that wand with the little key, for there will be an iron door, which with that key he will be able to open.'

These ladies went away with the help of God. The young Jew undressed himself and went to bed. They arose next morning; they came to that iron door; the young Jew dismounted and opened it. They see that this is the capital wherein dwells the princess. They went into this town; they see a gentleman passing. The young Jew asks him, 'Where is there a first-rate inn in this place?' The gentleman indicated such a one to them, and guided them to it. He paid him for his trouble. They ate until they were satisfied. The nobleman's son remained in the inn, and the young Jew sallied out into the town. He saw a gentleman passing.

'Stay, sir, I have something to ask of you.'

The gentleman stopped, and the young Jew asked him, 'Where is the principal goldsmith's in this town?'

He directed him there; the young Jew went to this goldsmith.

'Will you make me an old hen and her chickens of gold?

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[paragraph continues] The old hen must have eyes of diamonds and the young chickens also.'

'Very well.'

'But I stipulate further that she be alive.'

The goldsmith, who was a great wizard, replied, 'Very good, sir; I will do so if you will pay me.'

'I will pay you as much as ten thousand.'

Three days later he returned to get what he had ordered. He chose a Sunday, at the time when the princess was going to church. It was then he proposed to exhibit this golden hen and her chickens in such a way that the princess should see them. Well, he went to the goldsmith's; he got the golden hen with her young chickens. On the following Sunday, he went near the church, this young Jew; he placed a table there, and on it he exposed his golden hen with the young chicks. Nobody who passed that way thought any more about going to church, but all stopped to gaze with wonder at this golden hen with her young chickens. A throng of people gathered from all parts of the town to see this hen and her chickens. The priest himself does not go into the church, but stops before the hen and her chickens; he looks at them so greedily that his eyes are almost starting out of his head. At last the king's daughter comes to church. She looks to see what is going on there. A crowd of people, gentle and simple, gathered together. She had four lackeys with her.

'Go,' she said to one of them, ' see what is going on there.' He went and did not return.

She sent a second one; no more did he come back, so much was he enchanted. She despatched a third; neither did that one return--he was charmed. She sent the fourth, and he returned not either, being enchanted like the others.

'What can have happened there?' she asked herself. 'Has somebody been killed?'

She sent her maid, who forced her way with difficulty among the people; but she also came not back, so much did this golden hen delight her. Another was sent, who with great difficulty forced a passage through the crowd, but she too returned not, so charmed was she. She despatched her third maid-servant, who also penetrated the throng, but, being charmed, did not return. Finally she said

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to the fourth one, 'I am sending you to see what is happening there; but if you do not come back to tell me, I will have you put to death.'

This one too went. She forced her way after much difficulty through the crowd, but she came not back out of it, so greatly had that golden hen charmed her.

The princess then said to herself, 'What can be going on there? Here, I've sent eight persons, and not one of them has come back to tell me what's the matter.'

Then she went herself to see what had happened. Peasants and gentlemen gave way before her. She draws near and sees--a golden hen with her young chickens.

The Jew lad perceives her and asks her, 'Does this give pleasure to your royal highness?'

'Greatly though it pleases me, sir,' she answered, 'you will not give it to me.'

He took this hen and presented it to the princess; then, with the help of the good God, he went away. But the princess called after him, and invited him to dine at her father's. The young Jew returned to the inn, where the nobleman's son was asleep. He knew nothing of what the young Jew had done. The king sent a very fine carriage to fetch the young Jew; he got into it and drove off. The princess was amusing herself with the hen and its young golden chickens. The king proposed to him that he should live with his daughter.

'Very well,' said the young Jew to him. 'I will live with her.'

Well, they eat, they drink, and at length towards night the young Jew sent some one to fetch the nobleman's son. When he arrived, all three went out to walk in the garden. Then the young Jew said to the princess, 'Will you go away from here with us?'

'Yes, I will go away,' she replied.

They set out with her and hurried away, with the help of the good God. The father of the princess knew not where she had gone to; neither did he know whence the young Jew and the nobleman's son had come. The nobleman's son arrived at his father's house. The father and mother are well satisfied that he has been so successful in bringing home the princess.

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'And now, my son,' said his father to him, 'you must marry her.'

So he married her, and they live together with the help of God. The young Jew has also married a wife, and they live together with the help of God.

Obviously an incomplete story; for of the beautiful wand the young Jew makes no use at all, of the key very little. It offers analogies to 'Baldpate' (No. 2), to 'The Dead Man's Gratitude' (No. 1), and to Miklosich's Bukowina-Gypsy story of 'The Rivals.' The last may be summarised thus:--

An emperor's daughter on her brow had the sun, on her breast the moon, on her back the stars. An old lady had a sow with twelve little golden pigs; and her servant tended them. He goes into the forest and grazes them along the road, and on three successive days the princess gets a little pig by revealing to him her birth-marks. The emperor makes proclamation for them to come and guess her birth-marks. A prince, who is in love with her and knows her marks, guesses them; so too does the swine-herd. So the emperor shuts up the three of them in a room. 'And the boy bought himself bread and sweet apples and sweet cakes, and put them in his bosom. And the prince lay with the girl in his arms, and the boy at her back. The princess was hungry. The boy was eating cakes. She asked him, "What are you eating, boy?" "I am eating my lips." "Give me some." And he gave to her. "God! how sweet." And the prince said, "Mine are sweeter." And he took his knife, and cut off his lips, and gave them to her. She flung them on the ground. Again the boy was eating apples. "What are you eating now, boy?" "I am eating my nose." "Give me some." He gave her. "God! how delicious." And the prince, "Mine is sweeter." He took his knife and cut off his nose, and gave it to her. She flung it on the ground. The boy eats bread. "What are you eating now, boy?" "I am eating my ears." "Give me some." He gave to her. "God! how delicious." And the prince, "Mine are sweeter." He took his knife, cut off his ears, and gave them to her. She flung them on the ground. By daybreak the prince was dead; the girl was all over blood from him, and she shoved his corpse on the ground, and took the boy in her arms. And the emperor came and found the two locked in an embrace. Straightway the emperor clad him, and joined them in marriage.'

Denton's 'The Shepherd and the King's Daughter,' in Serbian Folk-lore, p. 172, is closely akin to Miklosich's story over the first six pages, but is probably Bowdlerised. Cf. too, 'The Emperor's Daughter and the Swineherd,' in Krauss's Sagen and Märchen der Südslaven, ii. 302; and

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[paragraph continues] Hahn, ii. 180. Mr. David MacRitchie suggested in the Gypsy Lore Journal (ii. 381) that by the golden hen and her chickens in the Polish-Gypsy story is to be understood a planetarium of the Pleiades, the popular Roumanian name for the Pleiades being 'the golden hen with her golden chickens.' The suggestion is most ingenious; but in Laura Gonzenbach's Sicilian story, 'Vom Re Porco' (No. 42, i. 291-293) the true bride purchases permission from the false bride to pass three nights with the bridegroom with the contents of three nuts--(1) a golden hen with many golden chickens; (2) a little golden schoolmistress, with little golden pupils, who sew and embroider; and (3) a lovely golden eagle. Cf. also Hahn, i. 188.


178:1 The Gypsy word, rashani, originally means 'priestess.'

Next: No. 49.--The Golden Bird and the Good Hare