Gypsy Folk Tales, by Francis Hindes Groome, , at sacred-texts.com
There were three brothers. The three were going on the road to seek for work. Night came upon them. They knew not where to go to get lodgings: it was night. They were travelling through a wood on an old road. They saw a small light, and they came to a cottage. They were hungry and tired. The door was open. They saw a table with food upon it.
Said the eldest brother, 'Go you in.'
'I am not going in; go in yourself.'
'Not I, indeed.'
'You are two fools,' said Jack. And in he went, and sat down at the table, and ate his bellyful. The other two watched him. They were afraid to enter the house. At last the other two went in, and sat down and ate.
Now a little old woman comes. Said the old woman, 'I have seen no man here for many years. Whence came ye hither?'
'We are seeking for work.'
'I will find work for you to-morrow.'
They went to bed. Up they rose in the morning. And there was a great pot on the fire, and porridge and milk. That was the food they ate. Now the old woman tells the eldest brother to go into the barn to get the tools, and to go into the wood to fell the trees. He took off his coat. There he is doing the work. There came an old dwarf, and asked him who told him to fell the wood. He could not see this little man, so small was he. He looked under his feet; he saw him in the stubble. The old dwarf hit him and beat him, until he bled, and there he left him. Now the maid comes with his dinner. The girl went home and told the two other brothers to come and carry him home and put him to bed.
In the morning the second brother goes to the wood.
[paragraph continues] The eldest brother told him it was a little man who beat him, and the second brother laughed at him. He went off now down to the woods. Here is something that asks him who told him to fell the trees. He looked around him; he could see nothing. At last he saw him in the stubble. 'Be off,' said he. The little stranger knocked him to pieces. The little maid came down to him with his dinner, and went home and told the two brothers to come and carry him home. The two brothers went down and brought him home.
Jack laughed at them: 'I am going down to-morrow myself.'
In the morning he went down to the wood. Here he is felling the trees. He heard something. He looked beneath his feet. He saw the little man in the stubble. Jack kicked him.
'You had better keep quiet,' said the little man.
The dwarf hit him. Down went Jack, and the dwarf half-killed him. There was Jack lying there now. The maid came with his dinner. Home went the maid, and told the two brothers to come and carry him home.
'No,' said Jack, 'leave me here and go.'
The two brothers went home. Jack was watching him, and the little man crept under a great stone. Up got Jack now, and home he went, and told his two brothers to go into the stable and get out four horses. They took a strong rope, and the three went with the horses and fastened the rope round the stone. They took the horses, and pulled it up, and found a well there.
'Go you down,' said one.
'Not I,' said the other; 'I am not going down.'
'I will go down,' says Jack. 'Fasten this rope and let me down, and when you hear me say "Pull up," pull me up; and when I say "Let go," let me go.'
Now the two brothers fastened him and let him down. Down he went a very little way. The little man beat him. 'Pull me up.' He goes down again. He forgets the word: 'Let me down.' He came into a beautiful country, and there he saw the old dwarf. The old dwarf spoke to him: 'Since you have come into this country, Jack, I will tell you something now.' The old man tells Jack what he is to do. 'You will find three castles. In the first one lives a giant with
two heads, and,' said the old dwarf, 'you must fight him. Take the old rusty sword. I will be there with you.'
'I am afraid of him.'
'Go on, and have no fear. I will be there with you.'
Here is Jack at the castle now. He knocked at the door.
The servant-maid came, and he asked for her master.
'He is at home. Do you wish to see him?'
'Yes,' said Jack, 'I want to fight with him.'
The maid went and told him to come out.
'Are you wanting something to eat?'
'No,' said Jack, 'come out, and I will fight with you.'
'Come here and choose your sword.' (Jack chose the old rusty sword.) 'Why do you take that old rusty sword? Take a bright one.'
'Not I. This one will do for me.'
The twain went out before the door. Off went one head. 'Spare my life, Jack. I will give you all my money.'
He struck off the other head; he killed him. (Now this was the Copper Castle: so they called it.)
Now Jack goes on to the next, the Silver Castle. A giant with three heads lived there. Jack chose the rusty sword, and struck two heads off.
'Don't kill me, Jack; let me live. I will give you the keys of my castle.'
'Not I,' said Jack; and off went the other head.
Now Jack goes on to the next, the Golden Castle. And there was a giant with four heads.
'Have you come here to fight with me?'
'Yes,' says Jack.
The giant told him to choose a sword, and he chose the old rusty sword; and out they went. Jack struck off three heads.
'Don't kill me, Jack. I will give you my keys.'
'Yes, I will,' said Jack; and off went the other head.
Now all the castles, and the money and the three fair ladies in the three castles, were his. Off Jack goes now and the lady with him. He goes back to the Silver Castle, and takes that lady. He goes to the Copper Castle, and takes that lady. And the four went on and came to the place where Jack descended. The old dwarf was there waiting for
him. Jack sent the three ladies up to his brothers. Now the old dwarf wanted meat. Jack went back to the castle, and cooked some meat for him. The old dwarf carried Jack up a bit; the old dwarf stopped; he wanted meat. Jack gave him meat. He went up a bit further; he stopped; he wanted meat. Jack gave him meat. He went up a bit higher. He wanted meat. Jack had none. Now he was a very little way from the surface. He knew not what to do. He drew his knife from his pocket, and cut a little meat off his leg, and gave it to the old dwarf. Up went Jack.
Two of the ladies and his two brothers had gone off. And the eldest brother had taken the fairest lady; and the second brother had taken the other lady; and they had left the ugly lady for Jack. Jack asked her where they had gone. The lady told him; and he hastened after them. He caught them by the church: they were going to be married. The fairest lady looked back, and saw Jack.
'That one's mine,' said Jack.
Jack took and married her. He left the other lady for his eldest brother to marry. There was only the second brother now, and he took the ugly lady. There are the three brothers and the three ladies.
Now they want to go down to the three castles. Jack told the old dwarf to carry them down.
'I will carry you down; you must give me food as I come down.'
'Yes,' said Jack, 'I will give you plenty of food.'
'I will take you down.'
He carried them all down. And the old dwarf went along with Jack. Jack put one brother and one lady in the Copper Castle, and the other brother in the Silver Castle; and Jack went to the Golden Castle. And Jack kept the old dwarf all his days. The old dwarf died, and at last Jack grew old himself.
There! you've done me.
A most interesting variant of our No. 20, the Bukowina-Gypsy story of 'Mare's Son,' and so of Grimm's 'Strong Hans' and Cosquin's 'Jean de l’Ours.' In one respect it is more perfect than 'Mare's Son,' that during the upward flight the hero cuts a piece out of his leg, which piece by rights the dwarf should have kept and restored (cf. p. 99). It is, however, contrary to every canon of the story-teller's art for the
dwarf to prove helpful to the hero; and the brother's treachery, in cutting the rope, is omitted. For the castles of copper, silver, and gold see pp. 233-4. One is left rather sorry for the ugly lady.