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

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No. 57.--Ashypelt

Once there was an old man and an old ’ooman livin' in the Forest o’ Dean. They ’ad twelve sons, and there was one son called Ashypelt. He was the youngest son, and they didn't never think but very little o’ Ashypelt, as ’ee was allus used to be i’ the esshole under the fire, an’ the brothers used to spit on ’im and laugh at ’im an’ make fun of ’im an’ that. He never spoke, didn't Ashypelt, nor hear nuthin’. These eleven brothers--they was nearly allus felling timber and that--used to go, they used to go off tel Saturdays for a week. They used to do that very reglar, and were bringing a lot of money in for the old man and the old ’ooman.

So the old ’ooman sez one day, 'Well, John, I sez, I think you an’ me ’as got enough money now to live on which will keep we all the days of our life. An’ we'll tell ’em to-night'--it was on a Saturday, an’ they was comin’ home again, they was comin' home with all the week's wages--'we'll say to ’em as the pressgang ’as been after ’em, as they've got to ’ear as we've got eleven very fine sons, and they wants to make soldiers of ’em. So I'll begin a-cryin’ when they comes ’ere to-night, and I'll say to ’em, "O my very dear sons, the pressgang's been after yous ’ere to-day. They want yous to go for soldiers, an’ the best you can do, my dear children"--the old ’ooman was cryin' very much, makin’ herself so--"is to go to sleep in the barn." An’ we'll put ’em to sleep in the barn, an’ give ’em their week's victuals with ’em' (what they used to take reglar), sez the old ’ooman to the old man. 'We can soon put Ashypelt out o’ the road.' (He was listenin’ all the time, the poor Ashypelt, listenin’ wot the old ’ooman was sayin'.) 'Soon as we've put the eleven sons in the barn we'll set fire to ’em about twelve o'clock and burn ’em: that's the best way to take it out of ’em. We'll burn ’em,' she sez.

Poor Ashypelt gets up out o’ the esshole--this was about the hour of eleven: they was sittin’ up till twelve to set the barn afire. He goes up to the barn, an’ ’ee throws ’is brothers up one after another neck and crop--an’ they was goin’ to kill ’im--an’ their week's victuals.

'Oo are you?' they sez.

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'I am your brother Ashypelt,' he sez, 'I am your brother Ashypelt.'

So one looks at ’im, an’ another looks at ’im, to find a certain mark as they know to him. They went to kill poor Ashypelt for throwing them up.

He sez, 'My father and mother is goin’ to set you afire, all the lot o’ you, that's the reason they put you in the barn. An’ come with me up on that back edge, an’ you'll see the barn goin’ afire directly,' sez Ashypelt.

They sat on this high edge tel twelve o'clock come, an’ they was lookin’ out, an’ they seen the old ’ooman an’ the old man go with a lantern, an’ puttin’ a light to the barn an’ all the straw what was in it. So they thanked Ashypelt very much for savin’ their lives, but they didn't injure their father or mother; but they all started to go on the road together. They comes to twelve cross-roads; an’ poor Ashypelt, never bein’ out o’ the esshole before, ’ee took very sleepy, through bein’ a very ’ot day.

So one brother sez to the other, 'We'll all take a road to ourselves. Each one will take a road, an’ in twelve months an’ a day we'll all meet ’ere agen.'

So poor Ashypelt the sun overcame ’im, an’ ’im never bein’ out o’ the esshole, ’ee fell asleep; an’ each brother left a mark on the road which way they went, for ’im to go ’is road to ’imself. When poor Ashypelt wakened up, ’ee began lookin’ round ’im an’ rubbin’ ’is eyes. They left ’im a very old nasty lane to go up, an old nasty lane with the mud up to your knees. Poor Ashypelt bein’ very weak, he got fast several times goin’ up this old lane, an’ tumbled down in the mud; an’ the ’edges was growed very high with ’em so meetin’ together; and the briers was scratching poor Ashypelt's eyes very near out, as ’ee was goin’ up this old lane. ’Ee travels on, over high dales an’ lofty mountains, where the cock never crowed and the divel never sounded ’is bugle horn. It'll last tel to-morrow night, but I don't mean to half tell you so long. 1 But poor Ashypelt got benighted up this old lane. ’Ee used to fall asleep, bein’ summer-time, an’ very early in the mornin’ come daylight ’ee wakens up, an’ ’ee kept on the same old lane all the way he was goin’. ’Ee travels on tel ’ee come to a castle an’ a new ’ouse, where

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there was a man, an’ ’ee axed this man could ’ee give ’im a job.

’Ee sez, 'Yes, Ashypelt, I can give you a job,' ’ee sez. ’Ee sez, 'Wot can you do?'

Ashypelt sez, 'I can do everythink as you try to put me to.' 'Well, Ashypelt,' ’ee sez, 'I'll give you fifty pounds to sleep into the castle all night, an’ a good suit o’ clo’es.'

'Oh! yes,' ’ee sez; 'I'll sleep there,' ’ee sed.

So ’ee sez to Ashypelt, ’ee sez, 'You shall have a good bag o’ nuts to crack an’ plenty o’ ’bacca to smoke, an’ a good fire to sit by,' ’ee sez.

But ’ee allowed him no can o’ beer to drink, plenty o’ water, so as he wouldn't get trussicated. An’ ’appen about eleven o'clock at night ’ee sez, 'Now Ashypelt, it is about the time you've got to come in along o’ me.'

So ’ee takes Ashypelt with ’im about eleven o'clock to this castle. ’Ee opens the door, an’ ’ee sez, 'There you are, go an’ take your seat, an’ sit down.' ’Ee sez, 'Here is your bag o’ nuts, an’ plenty o’ ’bacca to smoke.'

So just now Ashypelt was sittin’ down, an’ just about the hour o’ twelve ’ee could ’ear a lot o’ noise about the room. ’Ee looks around behind ’im at the door, an’ ’ee sees a man naked.

So ’ee sez, 'Come up to the fire an’ warm you. You looks very cold.'

It was a sperrit, you see. ’Ee wouldn't come up to the fire, so Ashypelt went an’ fetched im. Ashypelt sez, 'Will you ’ave a smoke?' ’ee sez, an’ ’ee takes an’ ’ee fills ’im a new pipe. ’Ee sez, 'Will you crack some nuts?'

So ’ee smoked all poor Ashypelt's ’bacca, an’ cracked all ’is nuts, an’ poor Ashypelt ’ad none. But ’ee sez, 'You are a very greedy fellow indeed, I must say,' ’ee sed, 'after a man bringing you up to warm you at the fire, an’ taking every-think off ’im.'

Just about the hour o’ two o'clock away goes this man from ’im. So therefore Ashypelt sits contented down afore the fire to hisself.

So next mornin’ the master sez to ’im at the hour o’ six o'clock, 'Are you alive, Ashypelt?'

'Oh! yes,' ’ee sez to ’im, 'I am alive, sir. An’ there came a very rude man ’ere last night, an’ took all my

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[paragraph continues] ’bacca, an’ cracked all my nuts off me,' ’ee sez, 'for the kindness I done for ’im. ’Ee was naked, an’ I axed ’im to ’ave a warm.'

'Well,' ’ee sez to Ashypelt, 'come along an’ ’ave some breakfast, Ashypelt.' An’ ’ee takes ’im to the new ’ouse from the castle, to ’ave some breakfast. 'Would you wish to stop another night, Ashypelt?' ’ee sez, 'an’ I'll give you another fifty pounds.'

'Oh! yes,' sez Ashypelt, ’im never seein’ anythin’, an’ never knowin’ wot sperrits or ghostses was, ’im bein’ allus in the esshole.

So all day Ashypelt went up an’ down the garden, an’ learnin’ ’ow to dig in the garden an’ one thing or another, tel eleven o'clock came again the next night.

'Well, come, Ashypelt, my lad,' ’ee sed, 'it's time for you to go back to your room agen now.'

So the next night ’ee gave ’im very near ’alf a pound o’ ’bacca to smoke an’ a bigger bag o’ nuts. So about the hour o’ twelve o'clock ’ee turns round to the door again, an’ there was five or six of these ghostses came in to ’im this time an’ sperrits. So there was one stood up in the corner in ’is skeleton. There was five more runnin’ up and down the room pitity-pat, pitity-pat.

'Come up to the fire,' Ashypelt sez, 'an’ warm yous. Yous looks very cold all runnin’ about naked,' ’ee sed. ’Ee sez, 'There's some ’bacca there an’ some pipes. ’Ave a smoke apiece.'

So this poor fellow stood up in the corner.

'You come ’ere,' sed Ashypelt; 'you looks very cold, you're nuthin’ but bones.'

But ’ee gave Ashypelt no answer. So Ashypelt comes up to ’im, to pull ’im out up to the fire, an’ ’ee ’appened to give ’im a bit of a touch round the neck--somewhere under the jaw, I think it was--as ’ee wouldn't come for ’im. This fellow tumbled all into pieces, in small bits o’ pieces about ’alf an inch, tumbled all into pieces when Ashypelt ’it ’im.

'Now, Ashypelt,' sez one of ’em, 'if you don't put that fellow up agen as you fun’ ’im, we'll revour you alive.'

Poor Ashypelt got fixing one little bone on top of another, an’ one little bone on top of another, but ’ee got tumblin’ them down as quick as ’ee was fixing them very near.

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[paragraph continues] Well, ’ee fixed an’ fixed at last tel it come very near one o'clock that ’ee was bein’ with ’im, but ’ee got ’em together agen. So away they all goes just about two o'clock an’ leaves ’im; an’ when ’ee come to look for the ’bacca, every morsel ’ad gone, ’ee never ’ad one pipeful.

'Well,' ’ee sez, 'they're a greedy lot o’ fellows, them is,' ’ee sez. 'They served me worse agen to-night,' ’ee sez. So ’ee comes an’ sits ’imself down completely by ’is own fire agen.

Next morning at the hour o’ six o'clock the master comes for ’im agen. 'Are you alive, Ashypelt?' ’ee sez.

'Oh! yes,' ’ee sez, 'I'm alive.'

He sez, 'Did you ’ear anythin’ last night?'

'Yes,' sez Ashypelt, 'there come a lot o’ greedy fellows ’ere, an ’smoked all my ’bacca an’ cracked all my nuts off me.'

So ’ee sez, 'Come on down, Ashypelt, an’ ’ave your breakfast.' ’Ee takes ’im to the new ’ouse to ’ave ’is breakfast. But after ’ee 'd ’ad ’is breakfast, ' Now, Ashypelt,' ’ee sez, 'I will give you another fifty to stop another night.'

Well, poor Ashypelt, never ’avin’ no money, ’ee sed, Yes, ’ee would do it. Well, ’ee took ’im, as usual, up an’ down the garden agen next day with ’im, taking ’im up an’ down the garden tel eleven o'clock come the next night.

'So now, Ashypelt, my boy, it's time for me to take you up to your room,' ’ee sez. 'I'll give you a little extra ’bacca to-night. I'll give you a pound, an’ a bigger bag o’ nuts--altogether it might be a gohanna [guano] bag o’ nuts--an' a pound o’ ’bacca.'

So ’ee fastened ’em into the room before Ashypelt comes, an’ ’ee leaves ’im sittin’ ’down comfortable to ’isself ’avin’ a bit o’ a smoke o’ ’is ’bacca. But ’ee ’eard one o’ the terriblest noises ’ee ever ’eard in ’is life shoutin’ blue wilful murders, but ’ee couldn't see nuthin'. This was at the hour o’ twelve. Bangin’ one of ’is doors wide open, in comes a man to ’im with ’is throat cut from ’ere to there. Ashypelt axed ’im to come an’ ’ave a pipe o’ bacca, an’ to ’ave a warm. Well, poor Ashypelt never seein’ nuthin’, ’ee wasn't frightened a bit.

So the man sez to ’im, 'Now, Ashypelt, my boy, I see you are not frightened. Come with me, an’ I'll show you where I lies. My brother ’as killed me--it's my brother what gives you this money to stop ’ere. You come with me, Ashypelt, down these steps.'

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He took ’im down steps, down steps, down steps. Ashypelt axed ’im ’ow much further ’ee ’ad to go, an’ it ’ad been very dark goin’ down these steps. Ashypelt couldn't see ’is way, but when ’ee got to the bottom there was a very fine light.

'Now, Ashypelt,' ’ee sez, 'come with me,' ’ee sez. ' I'm that man as you struck in the room an’ knocked all to pieces. Now, Ashypelt, I'll make you a gentleman for life if you'll do one thing for me. Come along o’ me,' ’ee sez to Ashypelt. Then ’ee sez, 'Lift up that flag,' ’ee sez.

'No, sir,' sez Ashypelt, 'I can't lift it up,' ’ee sez to ’im; 'but lift it you.'

'Put your ’and down to it, an’ try to lift it up,' ’ee sed.

Ashypelt done what ’ee told ’im, puttin’ ’is ’and down to lift the flag, an’ he draws the flag up. What was under that but a big pot o’ gold spade-ace guineas an’ that.'

So ’ee sez, 'Come along o’ me, Ashypelt,' ’ee sez, 'on further,' ’ee sez. ’Ee sez, 'Rise that flag up, Ashypelt.'

Ashypelt doin' so, ’ee told ’im to rise one flag up, ’ee sez, 'Rise the other one, Ashypelt, next to it.'

Ashypelt rises the other one, an’ there this ’ere skeleton was lyin’ in the coffin. That's where ’ee was buried; ’is brother buried ’im there into the coffin. This was the older brother tel what the one was that was alive, that was dead. But they got fallin’ out which would ’ave the castle. The next brother killed the old one, an’ buried ’im there.

'Now,' sez this man with his throat cut from ’ere to there, 'Ashypelt, I want you to do me a favourite, an’,' ’ee sez, 'you'll never be troubled no more.' You can sleep in that room all your lifetime,' ’ee sez, 'nuthin’ will ever trouble you no more. Now, in the mornin’,' ’ee sez, 'when my brother comes for you, ’ee'll ax you what sort o’ night's rest you ’ad. So you say, "All right, only they smoked all my ’bacca an’ cracked all my nuts agen." An’ the first town you get to, Ashypelt, an’ you leaves here, you make a report as ’ee's killed ’is own brother; an’ when they calls for witnesses, Ashypelt, I'll repear into the hall with my throat cut from ’ere to there. You can come back, Ashypelt, an’ take the castle, 'cause there's nobody takes the castle barrin’ me an’ my brother.'

So Ashypelt goes to the next town as ’ee could meet with,

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an' ’ee goes an’ makes a ’larm to a magistrate; an’ the magistrate sent some pleecemen with ’im, back to fetch this gentleman, an’ Ashypelt goes with ’em.

'Hello!' sez ’ee to Ashypelt,' what brings you back ’ere?' ’ee sed.

So the pleeceman got close to this man. 'For you,' ’ee sez, an’ catches 'out of ’im, 'They are come back for you, for killin’ yourn brother,' takin’ im' off back to the town agen, an’ Ashypelt along with ’im, takin’ ’im an’ tryin’ ’im. When they were tryin’ ’im, at the hour o’ twelve the magistrate cries out for witnesses, an’ the man repears with ’is throat cut from ’ere to there, just as they cried out for witnesses. 'Is brother got life--twenty years; an’ ’ee died shortly after ’ee got life. ’Ee broke ’is ’eart.

Well, Ashypelt goes back to the castle an’ lives there, an’ got a servant or two with ’im into the castle. One day ’ee bethought 'isself about ’is brothers where ’ee ’ad to meet them. ’Ee gets a pair of ’orses and a carriage, an’ ’ee buys eleven suits o’ clo’es, thinkin’ upon ’is poor brothers. So ’ee drives ahead until ’ee comes to these twelve roads, where ’ee ’ad to meet ’em twelve months an’ a day. So ’ee was drivin’ up to these ’ere twelve roads, an’ there they was all lyin' down.

'Hello! my men,' ’ee sez, 'what are you men all lyin’ down for?' (Ashypelt bein’ dressed up, lookin’ gentleman, they didn't know ’im.)

'We're waitin’ for a brother of ours by the name o’ Ashypelt,' they sed.

'Would you know ’im if you would see ’im?' ’ee sed.

'Oh! yes, we would know ’im very well. Twelve months an’ a day we ’ad to meet on these roads.'

So ’ee sez to ’em, 'I'm your brother Ashypelt,' ’ee sed to the one.

So they looks at ’im.

'If you're our brother Ashypelt, show your arm; you ’ave a mark on it what we know to.'

So they looks at this mark.

'Oh! it is my brother Ashypelt,' they sez, blessin’ ’im an’ kissin' ’im an’ slobberin’, an’ so on.

So ’ee gives ’em a suit o’ clo'es apiece, these eleven brothers, to put on.

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'Now,' ’ee sez, 'I think we'll go back an’ see the old ’ooman an’ the old man, how they are gettin’ on, from ’ere,' sez Ashypelt to ’is brothers. 'An’ when we get nigh ’ome, you eleven brothers stop behind, an’ I'll drive up to the little farm, an’ ax the old lady what came of her eleven sons what she ’ad.'

So poor Ashypelt drives up to the ’ouse.

'Hello! my old lady,' ’ee sez, 'what's come of all the eleven sons as you ’ad?'

'Oh!' sez ’er, 'they all went off for soldiers.'

So ’ee calls ’is eleven brothers up, an’ ’ee sez, 'Didn't you try to burn my eleven brothers in that barn,' ’ee sez, 'when you set the barn alight, an’ told ’em as the pressgang o’ soldiers was after ’em?'

So she sez, 'No--true--no,' she sed.

I tell you, sir, they give me a shilling for telling you that lie.

The name Ashypelt (Scottish Ashypet, Irish Ashiepelt, etc.; cf. Engl. Dialect Dict., pp. 80, 8i) must be of Teutonic origin--akin to the familiar High German Aschenbrödel ('Cinderella') and the Norse Askefot ('Boots'). The form coming nearest to it is also the oldest known to me: the mystic, Johann Tauler (c. 1300-61), says, in the Medulla Animæ, 'I thy stable-boy and poor Aschenbaltz.' See Grimm's Household Tales, i. 366-7. In another story told by Cornelius Price, The Black Dog of the Wild Forest,' the hero is hidden by an old witch in the ash-hole under the fire. In the Polish-Gypsy tale of 'A Foolish Brother and a Wonderful Bush' (No. 45), that brother crouches over his stove; in Dasent's Tales from the Norse, Boots sits all his life in the ashes (pp. 90, 232, 382); in Ralston's story 'Ivan Popyalof' (p. 66), from the Chernigof government, the third brother, a simpleton, 'for twelve whole years lay among the ashes from the stove, but then he arose and shook himself, so that six poods of ashes fell off from him'; and in Leger's Bohemian story (Contes Slaves, p. 130) of 'La Montre Enchantée,' which is a variant of our No. 54, the third brother, a fool, does nothing but begrime himself with the cinders from the stove. The idea, then, extends beyond the Teutonic area; but how the name Ashypelt has found its way to South Wales is past my telling.

Compare Grimm's No. 4 (i. 11), 'The Story of the Youth who went forth to learn what Fear was,' with the variants on pp. 342-347; also a fragment from Calver, Derbyshire, 'The Boy who Feared Nothing,' in Addy's Household Tales. From a London tinker Campbell of Islay got a story of a cutler and a tinker who 'travel together, and sleep in an empty haunted house for a reward. They are beset by ghosts and spirits of murdered ladies and gentlemen, and the inferior, the tinker, shows most courage, and is the hero. "He went into the cellar to draw beer, and there he found a little chap a-sittin'’ on a barrel with a red cap

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on ’is ’ed; and sez he, sez he, 'Buzz.' 'Wot's Buzz?' sez the tinker. 'Never you mind wot's buzz,' sez he. 'That's mine; don't you go for to touch it,'" etc., etc., etc.' (Tales of the West Highlands, vol. i. p. xlvii.). And in vol. ii. p. 276, Campbell gives a Gaelic story, The Tale of the Soldier' (our No. 74), which was told by a tinker.


236:1 See note 1 on p. 212.

Next: No. 58.--Twopence-Halfpenny