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

No. 10.--The Three Princesses and the Unclean Spirit

There was a king; and from youth to old age he had no son. In his old age three daughters were born to him. And the very morning of their birth the Unclean Spirit came and took them, the three maidens. And he fought to win a woman, the Serpent-Maiden; and half his moustache turned white, and half all the hair on his head, for the sake of the Serpent-Maiden. Time passed by, and he had no son; and his daughters the Unclean Spirit had carried away.

Then he took and thought. 'What am I to do, wife? I will go for three years (sic); and, when I return, let me find a son born of you. If in a year's time I find not one, I will kill you.'

He went and journeyed a year and a day. His wife took and thought. As she was a-thinking, a man went by with apples: whoso eats one of his apples shall conceive. Then she went, and took an apple, and ate the apple, and she conceived. The time came that she should bring forth. And she brought forth a son, and called his name Cosmas. So her king came that night, and sent a messenger to ask his wife.

She said, 'Your bidding is fulfilled.'

Then he went in, and, when he saw the lad, his heart was full.

And the time came when the lad grew big, and he looked the very picture of his father. The time came that his father died. By that time he felt himself a man, and he put forth his little finger, and lifted the palace up. Then he came back from hunting, and he lifted the foundation of the palace, and told his mother to place her breast beneath it. Then his mother placed her breast beneath the foundation, and he left it pressing upon her. Then she cried aloud.

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The lad said to her, 'Mother, tell me, why was my father's moustache half white?'

Then she said to him, 'Why, darling, your father fought nine years to win the Serpent-Maiden, and never won her.'

Then he asked, 'And have I no brother?'

'No,' she said; 'but you have three sisters, and the Unclean Spirit carried them away.'

And he asked, 'Whither did he carry them?'

Then she said he had carried them to the Land of the Setting Sun.

Then he took his father's saddle and his bridle and likewise his father's colt, and set out in quest of his sisters, and arrived at his sister's house, and hurled his mace, and smashed the plum-trees.

Then his sister came out and said to him, 'Why have you smashed the plum-trees? For the Unclean Spirit will come and kill you.'

Then he said, 'I would not have you think ill of me; but kindly come and give me a draught of wine and a morsel of bread.'

Then she brought bread and wine. As she was handing him the bread and wine, she noticed her father's colt, and recognised it. Then she said, 'This must be my father's horse.'

Take notice then that I also am his.'

Then she fell on his neck, and he on hers.

Then she said to him, 'My brother, the Unclean Spirit will come from the Twelfth Region. And he will come and destroy you.'

Then the Unclean Spirit came, and hurled his mace; and it opened twelve doors, and hung itself on its peg. Then Cosmas took it, and hurled it twelve regions away from him. Then the Unclean Spirit took it, and came home with it in his hand, and asked, 'Wife, I smell mortal man?'

(Meanwhile she had turned her brother into an ear-ring, and put him in her ear.)

Then she said, 'You're for ever eating corpses, and are meaning to eat me, too, for I also am mortal.'

Then he said to her, 'Don't tell lies; my brother-in-law has come.'

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'Well, then, and if your brother-in-law has come, will you eat him?'

Then he said, 'I will not.'

'Swear it on your sword that you will not eat him.'

Then she took him out of her ear, and set him at table. He ate at table with the Unclean Spirit.

Then the lad went outside, 1 and creeps into the fetlock of his colt, and hid himself there. Then the Unclean Spirit arose, and hunted everywhere, and failed to light on him. And he set his bugle to his mouth, and blew a blast, and summoned all the birds upon the horse, and they searched every hair of the horse. And just as he was coming to the fetlock, then the cocks crowed, and he fell.

Cosmas came forth, and went to him. 'Good day, brother-in-law.'

Then he asked him, 'Where were you?'

'Why, I was in the hay, before the horse.'

Then Cosmas took leave of them, and went to his other sisters, and did with them just as with this one.

Then his little sister asked him, 'Where are you going, my brother?'

'I am going to tend the white mare, and get one of her colts, and I am going to win the Serpent-Maiden.'

Then she said to him, 'Go, my brother, and if you get the colt, come to me.'

He went.

Now some peasants were hunting a wolf to slay it. The wolf said, 'Cosmas, don't abandon me. Send the peasants the wrong way, that they may not kill me; and take one of my hairs, 2 and put it in your pocket. And whenever you think of me, there I am, wherever you may be.'

Going further, he came on a crow that had broken its wing, and it said, 'Don't pass me by, Cosmas; bind my wing up; and I will give you a feather to put in your pocket, and whenever you are in any difficulty, I'll be with you.'

Going still further, he came on a fish, which said, 'Cosmas, don't pass me by. Tie me to your horse's tail, and put me in the water, for I will do you much good.'

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He did so, and put it in the water.

Then he came to the old woman who owned the white mare; and she sat before her door; and he said to her, 'Will you give me a colt of the white mare, old one?'

The old wife said, 'If you can find her three days running, one of her colts is yours. But if you can't find her, I will cut off your head, and stick it on yonder stake.'

'I'll find her,' he said.

And she gave him the white mare, and away he went with her to try and find her. So the mare ran in among the sheep, and took and hid herself in the earth. And the lad arose and searched for the mare, and failed to light on her. And the wolf came into his mind; and he thought of him.

And the wolf came and asked him, 'What's the matter, lad?'

He said, 'I can't find the white mare.'

The wolf said, 'Do you see this. one, the biggest of the sheep? that is she. Go, and give her a taste of the stick.'

So the lad took and called her, and she became a horse. And he went with her to the old woman.

And the old woman said, You have two more days.'

'All right, old lady,' said the lad.

So next day also he took and went off with the mare, to try and find her. (The old woman had thrashed the mare for not hiding herself properly, so that he could not have found her. And the white mare had said, 'Forgive me, old woman. This time I will hide in the clouds, and he never will find me.')

So the lad went off with her, to try and find her; and she went into the clouds. So the lad set to work, and searched from morning till noon. And the crow came into his mind; and, as he thought of it, the crow came and asked him, 'What's the matter, lad?'

'Why, I have lost the white mare, and cannot light on her.'

So the crow summoned all the crows, and they searched upon every side, till they lighted on her. So they took her in their beaks, and brought her to the lad. So the lad took her, and led her to the old woman.

'You have one day more,' said the old woman.

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So the day came when the lad had to find the mare once more. (That night the old woman had thrashed the white mare and pretty nigh killed it. And the mare had said to the old woman, 'If he lights on me this time, old woman, you may know I have burst, for I will go right into the sea.)

So when the lad departed with her, she went into the sea. And the lad searched for her, and. it wanted but little of night. And the fish came into his mind. So the fish emerged before him and said, 'What's the matter, lad?'

'I don't know where the white mare has gone to.'

And the fish went and summoned all the fishes; and they gave up the white mare with her colt behind her. And the lad took her. He went with her to the old wife, and she said to him, 'Take, deary, whichever pleases you.'

The lad chose the youngest colt.

And the old wife said, 'Don't take that one, my lad; it isn't a good one. Take a handsomer.'

And the lad said, 'Let be.'

And the lad went further; and the colt turned a somersault, 1 and became golden, with twenty-and-four wings. And the Serpent had none like his. And he went to his sisters, and took the three of them, and took too the Serpent-Maiden, and went with them home. Neither the Unclean Spirit nor the dragon could catch him. And he went home. So he made a marriage; and they ate and drank. And I left them there, and came and told my tale to your lordships.

A valuable story, but confused and imperfect. Who the dragon was is left to conjecture; and the serpent-maiden--she must have been a real old (serpent) maid--is barely mentioned. In no collection can I find any exact parallel to this story; but it offers many analogies, e.g. to 'Childe Rowland' (J. Jacobs' English Fairy Tales, i. 117-124, 238-245); and to Von Sowa's Bohemian-Gypsy story of 'The Three Dragons' (infra, No. 44). The 'Apples of Pregnancy' form the theme of another Roumanian-Gypsy story (No. 16). The hurling the mace occurs in Miklosich's Bukowina-Gypsy story, 'Pretty-face' (No. 29), and in 'Sir Peppercorn' (Denton's Serbian Folklore, p. 124). For 'the cocks crowed, and he fell,' cf. Ralston, p. 316; and for blowing a blast and summoning all the birds, the Welsh-Gypsy story of 'The Green Man of Noman's Land' (No. 62). For the latter part of the story

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reference should be made to Ralston, pp. 92, 98, 103-4; Krauss, i. 362; and especially the close of the Bulgarian story of 'The Golden Apples and the Nine Peahens' (Wratislaw's Sixty Slavonic Folk-tales, pp. 193-198), where we get the watching of a mare for three successive days, and the finding of her by the help of a grateful fish, fox, and crow. Cf. too, Wratislaw's Croatian story, 'The Daughter of the King of the Vilas' (No. 53, pp. 278-283).


38:1 There is obviously an omission, at this point, of a wager or something of that sort.

38:2 See note on No. 46.

40:1 See footnote 2 on p. 16.

Next: No. 11.--The Two Thieves