Sixty Folk-Tales from Exclusively Slavonic Sources, by A.H. Wratislaw, , at sacred-texts.com
THE man contended with Kurent for the earth. Unable to decide their dispute by agreement, they seized each other, and struggled together up and down the earth for full seven years; but neither could Kurent overcome the man, nor the man Kurent. At that time they kicked the earth about and broke it up, so that it became such as it now is: where there was formerly nothing but wide plains, they dug out ravines with their heels, and piled up mountains and hills. When they were wearied with fighting, they both fell down like dead corpses, and lay for a hundred and a hundred years; and the mighty Dobrin hastened to the earth, bound both the man and Kurent, and ruled the world. But the two woke up, and, looking about them, observed Dobrin's cords, and wondered who had thrown spider's webs over them. Raising themselves, they broke their bonds as mere spiders' webs, seized Dobrin, bound him with golden fetters, and handed him over to a fiery dragon, to plait the lady-dragon's hair and wash her white hands. Then said Kurent to the man: 'See, by quarrelling we got tired out, and fell asleep, and a good-for-nothing came to us and ruled the world. We have handed him over to the fiery dragon, but if we contend as before, a stronger than Dobrin will come to us, and will conquer both me and you, and we shall suffer like silly Dobrin. But let us give up disputing; you are a hero, and I think I am, too; the hills and abysses are our
witnesses, when they crashed under our heels. Hear, therefore, and follow my advice. I have a garden, and in my garden is a mysterious plant, the hundred-leaved rose. By the root it is attached to the bottom of the earth, imprisoning a terrible creature--the living fire. In vain does the creature endeavour to release and free itself from its bonds, the roots. But woe to us, if you pull up the hundred-leaved rose out of the earth! The creature 'living-fire' would force its way through, and the earth, and all that is in it, would become nothing but a mighty desert where the water has dried up. Such is the root of the hundred-leaved rose. But don't seize hold of its top, either. It is in your power to pull it off; it is neither too strong nor lofty, but it conceals within it wondrous powers--lightning and thunder. They would knock to pieces both you and the earth, and all that is beneath it and above it; the hundred-leaved rose would alone remain; but a hundred and a hundred of God's years would elapse before a new earth grew up around it, and a living race was again produced. Such is the garden of the hundred-leaved rose. But it also possesses extraordinary petals. I have often sat a day at a time under them, and the petals would comfort me, and sing songs sweeter than even the slender throat of a Vila singing ever uttered. But from the petals there is no danger; pluck them, and next morning they will sprout forth handsomer than ever. But up to the present time I have not injured them, but have noticed in the night, how they fell and raised themselves again; and I easily understood how the stars and the moon go round, for all came up in the sky just like the petals of the hundred-leaved rose. Come, then; let us ask the wondrous plant, and then make peace together. The first petal is yours, the second mine, the third belongs to neither of us, and so on till we pluck all the petals: let him who pulls off the last petal be ruler on the earth, but not for
ever, for that would be a disgrace to a hero, but for one of God's hours, a hundred terrestrial years; and when the hour passes, let that one rule again to whom that luck does not fall the first time, whether it be I or you, so that we may arrange to succeed each other in a friendly manner without dispute and dangerous discord. But the beginning is difficult; let us have no suspicion, either I as to you, or you as to me, but let all be of goodwill, and without trickery; let us ask the hundred-leaved rose, with whom there is no unrighteousness. The man agreed to what Kurent said; one hero trusted the other. They went off to the garden, and asked the hundred-leaved rose. The man pulled a petal, Kurent pulled one, and the third petal remained unowned. 'I am yours,' 'you are mine,' 'each is his own;' 'I am yours,' 'you are mine,' 'each is his own;' so said both heroes, as they pulled the mysterious petals. But it was not the will of the hundred-leaved rose that one autocrat should rule the earth. There were still three petals, the first belonging to the man, the second to Kurent, and the third to neither, and this was the only one remaining on the hundred-leaved rose. Kurent and the man saw that it was not destined for either to rule or to humble himself; they parted in grief, and roamed through the wide world, each afraid of the other, so that they did not venture even to go to sleep at night. An hour of God, a hundred terrestrial years, elapsed, and then both heroes met again. For the second time they consulted the hundred-leaved rose, and it arranged it so, that Kurent was to humble himself, and the man, who pulled off the last petal, was to rule. The hero humbled himself to him, but the man did not know how to rule, but allowed himself to be deluded, and lay down on a plain to rest and sleep. Thus he lay for a whole hour of God, a hundred terrestrial years, and the wild beasts came up and made game of him: foxes littered in his ear, and
predaceous kites nested in his thick hair. The man was a great simpleton, but also a mighty hero, as tall, as a plain, the end of which you cannot see, is long, and as shaggy as a wooded mountain. But the hour of God had elapsed, and Kurent came to the sleeper, and woke him up in no agreeable fashion. The man saw that he had slept through his term of rule, and that it was his, according to the agreement, to serve during an hour of God, a hundred terrestrial years. Kurent began to rule, but he didn't go to sleep, but made use of his rule, and exercised his power to the full. He invited the man to dinner, and treated him in a courteous and friendly manner, that he might soon forget his servitude. Kurent kept this in view, and drew him a cup of wine straight from his own vineyard. The simpleton was tricked, and drank it up; but it tasted sour to him, so he grumbled: 'Bad drink at a bad host's!' Kurent did not get angry at this, but drew him a second cup of old red wine: 'Drink, and don't find fault with what is God's.' The second time the man was tricked and drank it up. It did not taste sour to him, but he said: 'Wondrous drink at a wondrous host's!' Kurent drew him a third cup, of wonderful wine, which the first plant, the first planted, yielded, of the first autumn in the first created year. The third time the man was tricked, but for ever. After drinking it up, he threw his arms round Kurent's neck, and cried out: 'Oh, good drink at a good host's! Treat me with this wine, and rule both my body and soul, not only for one hour of God, but from henceforth for evermore.' Kurent was delighted, and plied the man with sweet wine, and the man drank, and cried without ceasing, that he had no need of freedom so long as there was wine to be had with Kurent. Kurent laughed at him, seeing how the man's powers had decayed through wine, and that nobody could any more contend with him for the sovereignty of the earth.