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From The Plentiful Tablecloth," f. 351.
Slav Peasants and
French of Alex. Chodsko
Translated and Illustrated
by Emily J. Harding
London: George Allen
156 Charing Cross Road
Printed by Ballantyne, Hanson & Co.
At the Ballantyne Press
NOTE BY THE PUBLISHER
VERY few of the twenty fairy tales included in this
volume have been presented before in an English
dress; this will doubtless enhance their value in the eyes
of the young folk, for whom, principally, they are intended.
It is hoped that older readers will find some additional
interest in tracing throughout the many evidences of kin-
ship between these stories and those of more pronounced
The translation has been carefully revised by a well-
known writer, who has interfered as little as possible with
the original text, except in those instances where slight
alterations were necessary.
The illustrations speak for themselves, and are what
might have been expected from the artist who designed
those for the "Lullabies of Many Lands," issued last
THE ABODE OF THE GODS- PAGE
I. THE TWO BROTHERS 3
II. TIME AND THE KINGS OF THE ELEMENTS IO
III. THE TWELVE MONTHS 17
THE SUN; OR, THE THREE GOLDEN HAIRS OF THE OLD MAN
I. THE SOVEREIGN OF THE MINERAL KINGDOM 51
II. THE LOST CHILD. 60
THE MAID WITH HAIR OF GOLD .. 73
THE JOURNEY TO THE SUN AND THE MOON 93
THE DWARF WITH THE LONG BEARD 103
THE FLYING CARPET, THE INVISIBLE CAP, THE GOLD-GIVING
RING, AND THE SMITING CLUB 121
THE BROAD MAN, THE TALL MAN, AND THE MAN WITH EYES
OF FLAME. .......... 55
THE HISTORY OF PRINCE SLUGOBYL ; OR, THE INVISIBLE
THE SPIRIT OF THE STEPPES. 185
THE PRINCE WITH THE GOLDEN HAND 207
IMPERISHABLE. . 231
TEARS OF PEARLS 293
THE SLUGGARD 311
KINKACH MARTINKO 323
THE STORY OF THE PLENTIFUL TABLECLOTH, THE AVENGING
WAND, THE SASH THAT BECOMES A LAKE, AND THE
TERRIBLE HELMET 333
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
FRONTISPIECE To face Title
THE ABODE OF THE GODS-
I. THE Two BROTHERS. PAGE
Full-page design 5
II. TIME AND THE KINGS OF THE ELEMENTS.
Full-page design .13
III. THE TWELVE MONTHS.
Full-page design .. 23
THE SUN; OR, THE THREE GOLDEN HAIRS OF THE OLD MAN
Full-page design .35
I. THE SOVEREIGN OF THE MINERAL KINGDOM.
Full-page design .. 55
II. THE LOST CHILD.
Full-page design .. 65
xii LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
THE MAID WITH HAIR OF GOLD. PAGE
Heading . 75
Full-page design 81
THE JOURNEY TO THE SUN AND THE MOON.
Heading . 95
Full-page design .. 99
THE DWARF WITH THE LONG BEARD.
Full-page design III
THE FLYING CARPET, THE INVISIBLE CAP, THE GOLD-GIVING
RING, AND THE SMITING CLUB.
Full-page design 127
THE BROAD MAN, THE TALL MAN, AND THE MAN WITH
EYES OF FLAME
Full-page design 161
THE HISTORY OF PRINCE SLUGOBYL; OR, THE INVISIBLE
Full-page design 179
THE SPIRIT OF THE STEPPES.
Heading .. 187
Full-page design 191
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
THE PRINCE WITH THE GOLDEN HAND.
Full-page design .
Full-page design .
TEARS OF PEARLS.
Full-page design .
THE STORY OF THE PLENTIFUL TABLECLOTH, THE AVENGING
WAND, THE SASH THAT BECOMES A LAKE, AND THE
THE ABODE OF THE GODS
I. THE TWO BROTHERS
II. TIME AND THE KINGS
OF THE ELEMENTS
III. THE TWELVE MONTHS
O NCE upon a
were two brothers
whose father had left
them but a small
fortune. The eldest
grew very rich, but at
the same time cruel and
wicked, whereas there
was nowhere a more
honest or kinder man
than the younger. But
he remained poor,
and had many chil-
dren, so that at times
they could scarcely
get bread to eat. At
last, one day there
was not even this
in the house, so he
went to his rich
brother and asked
4 SLAV TALES
him for a loaf of bread. Waste of time! His rich brother
only called him beggar and vagabond, and slammed the door
in his face.
The poor fellow, after this brutal reception, did not know
which way to turn. Hungry, scantily clad, shivering with
cold, his legs could scarcely carry him along. He had not
the heart to go home, with nothing for the children, so he
went towards the mountain forest. But all he found there
were some wild pears that had fallen to the ground. He had
to content himself with eating these, though they set his
teeth on edge. But what was he to do to warm himself, for
the east wind with its chill blast pierced him through and
through. "Where shall I go?" he said; "what will become
of us in the cottage? There is neither food nor fire, and
my brother has driven me from his door." It was just then
he remembered having heard that the top of the mountain in
front of him was made of crystal, and had a fire for ever
burning upon it. "I will try and find it," he said, "and
then I may be able to warm myself a little." So he went
on climbing higher and higher till he reached the top, when
he was startled to see twelve strange beings sitting round
a huge fire. He stopped for a moment, but then said to
himself, "What have I to lose? Why should I fear? God
is with me. Courage !"
So he advanced towards the fire, and bowing respectfully,
said: "Good people, take pity on my distress. I am very
poor, no one cares for me, I have not even a fire in my
cottage; will you let me warm myself at yours?" They all
looked kindly at him, and one of them said: "My son,
come sit down with us and warm yourself."
THE TWO BROTHERS 7
So he sat down, and felt warm directly he was near
them. But he dared not speak while they were silent.
What astonished him most was that they changed seats
one after another, and in such a way that each one passed
round the fire and came back to his own place. When
he drew near the fire an old man with long white beard
and bald head arose from the flames and spoke to him
"Man, waste not thy life here; return to thy cottage,
work, and live honestly. Take as many embers as thou
wilt, we have more than we need."
And having said this he disappeared. Then the twelve
filled a large sack with embers, and, putting it on the poor
man's shoulders, advised him to hasten home.
Humbly thanking them, he set off. As he went he
wondered why the embers did not feel hot, and why they
should weigh no more than a sack of paper. He was
thankful that he should be able to have a fire, but imagine
his astonishment when on arriving home he found the sack
to contain as many gold pieces as there had been embers;
he almost went out of his mind with joy at the possession
of so much money. With all his heart he thanked those
who had been so ready to help him in his need.
He was now rich, and rejoiced to be able to provide for
his family. Being curious to find out how many gold pieces
there were, and not knowing how to count, he sent his
wife to his rich brother for the loan of a quart measure.
This time the brother was in a better temper, so he
lent what was asked of him, but said mockingly, "What can
such beggars as you have to measure?"
8 SLAV TALES
The wife replied, "Our neighbour owes us some wheat;
we want to be sure he returns us the right quantity."
The rich brother was puzzled, and suspecting something
he, unknown to his sister-in-law, put some grease inside the
measure. The trick succeeded, for on getting it back he
found a piece of gold sticking to it. Filled with astonish-
ment, he could only suppose his brother had joined a band
of robbers: so he hurried to his brother's cottage, and threa-
tened to bring him before the Justice of the Peace if he did
not confess where the gold came from. The poor man was
troubled, and, dreading to offend his brother, told the story
of his journey to the Crystal Mountain.
Now the elder brother had plenty of money for himself,
yet he was envious of the brother's good fortune, and be-
came greatly displeased when he found that his brother
won every one's esteem by the good use he made of his
wealth. At last he determined to visit the Crystal Mountain
"I may meet with as good luck as my brother," said he
Upon reaching the Crystal Mountain he found the twelve
seated round the fire as before, and thus addressed them:
"I beg of you, good people, to let me warm myself, for
it is bitterly cold, and I am poor and homeless."
But one of them replied, My son, the hour of thy birth
was favourable; thou art rich, but a miser; thou art wicked,
for thou hast dared to lie to us. Well dost thou deserve thy
Amazed and terrified he stood silent, not daring to speak.
Meanwhile the twelve changed places one after another, each
THE Two BROTHERS 9
at last returning to his owh seat. Then from the midst
of the flames arose the white-bearded old man and spoke
thus sternly to the rich man:
"Woe unto the wilful! Thy brother is virtuous, therefore
have I blessed him. As for thee, thou art wicked, and so
shalt not escape our vengeance."
At these words the twelve arose. The first seized the
unfortunate man, struck him, and passed him on to the
second; the second also struck him and passed him on to the
third; and so did they all in their turn, until he was given up
to the old man, who disappeared with him into the fire.
Days, weeks, months went by, but the rich man never
returned, and none knew what had become of him. I think,
between you and me, the younger brother had his suspicions
but he very wisely kept them to himself.
--- -- -.r.-
TIME AND THE KINGS OF THE ELEMENTS
THERE was once a married pair who loved each other
tenderly. The husband would not have given up his
wife for all the riches in the world, while her first thought
was how best to please him. So they were very happy, and
lived like two grains in one ear of corn.
One day while working in the fields, a great longing came
over him to see her: so without waiting for the hour of sunset
he ran home. Alas! she was not there. He looked high
and low, he ran here, there, and everywhere, he wept, he
called to her; in vain! his dear wife was not to be found.
THE KINGS OF THE ELEMENTS II
So heartbroken was he that he no longer cared to live.
He could think of nothing but the loss of his dear wife and
how to find her again. At last he determined to travel all
over the world in search of her. So he began to walk straight
on, trusting God to direct his steps. Sad and thoughtful,
he wandered for many days, until he reached a cottage close
by the shores of a large lake. Here he stopped, hoping to
find out news. On entering the cottage he was met -by a
woman, who tried to prevent him entering.
"What do you want here, unlucky wretch?" said she.
"If my husband sees you, he will kill you instantly."
"Who is your husband then ?" asked the traveller.
"What! you do not know him? My husband is the
Water-King; everything under water obeys him. Depart
quickly, for if he finds you here he will certainly devour
Perhaps after all he would take pity on me. But hide me
somewhere, for I am worn and weary, and without shelter
for the night."
So the Water-Queen was persuaded, and hid him behind
the stove. Almost immediately after the Water-King entered.
He had barely crossed the threshold when he called out,
"Wife, I smell human flesh; give it me quickly, for I am
hungry." She dared not disobey him, and so she had to tell
him of the traveller's hiding-place. The poor man became
terribly frightened, and trembled in every limb, and began to
stammer out excuses.
"I assure you I have done no harm. I came here in
search of news of my poor wife. Oh, do help me to find
her; I cannot live without her."
12 SLAV TALES
"Well," replied the Water-King, as you love your
wife so tenderly I will forgive you for coming here, but
I cannot help you to find her, for I do not know where
she is. Yet I remember seeing two ducks on the lake
yesterday, perchance she is one of them. But I should
advise you to ask my brother the Fire-King; he may be
able to tell you more."
Happy to have escaped so easily, he thanked the Water-
King and set out to find the Fire-King. But the latter
was unable to help him, and could only advise him to
consult his other brother, the Air-King. But the Air-King,
though he had travelled all over the earth, could only say
he thought he had seen a woman at the foot of the Crystal
But the traveller was cheered at tle news, and went to
seek his wife at the foot of the Crystal Mountain, which was
close to their cottage. On reaching it he began at once to
climb the mountain by making his way up the bed of the
torrent that came rushing down there. Several ducks that
were in the pools near the waterfall called out, "My good
man, don't go up there; you'll be killed."
But he walked fearlessly on till he came to some thatched
cottages, at the largest of which he stopped. Here a crowd
of wizards and witches surrounded him, screaming at the
top of their voices, What are you looking for ?"
"My wife," said he.
"She is here," they cried, "but you cannot take her away
unless you recognize her among two hundred women all
exactly like her."
"What! Not know my own wife? Why, here she is,"
THE KINGS OF THE ELEMENTS
said he, as he clasped her in his arms. And she, delighted
to be with him again, kissed him fondly. Then she
"Dearest, though you knew me to-day I doubt whether
you will to-morrow, for there will be so many of us all alike.
Now I will tell you what to do. At nightfall go to the top
of the Crystal Mountain, where live the King of Time and
his court. Ask him how you may know me. If you are good
and honest he will help you; if not, he will devour you whole
at one mouthful."
"I will do what you advise, dear one," he replied, "but
tell me, why did you leave me so suddenly ? If you only
knew what I have suffered I have sought you all over the
"I did not leave you willingly," said she. "A country-
man asked me to come and look at the mountain torrent.
When we got there he sprinkled some water over himself, and
at once I saw wings growing out of his shoulders, and he
soon changed his shape entirely into that of a drake; and I
too became a duck at the same time, and whether I would
or no I was obliged to follow him. Here I was allowed to
resume my own form; and now there is but the one difficulty
of being recognized by you."
So they parted, she to join the other women, he to
continue his way to the Crystal Mountain. At the top he
found twelve strange beings sitting round a large fire: they
were the attendants of the King of Time. He saluted them
"What dost thou want ? said they.
"I have lost my dear wife. Can you tell me how to
16 SLAV TALES
recognize her among two hundred other women all exactly
"No," said they, "but perhaps our King can."
Then arose from the midst of the flames an old man with
bald head and long white beard, who, on hearing his request,
replied: "Though all these women be exactly alike, thy wife
will have a black thread in the shoe of her right foot."
So saying he vanished, and the traveller, thanking the
twelve, descended the mountain.
Sure it is that without the black thread he would never
have recognized her. And though the Magician tried to
hide her, the spell was broken; and the two returned rejoicing
to their home, where they lived happily ever after.
THE TWELVE MONTHS
THERE was once a widow who had two daughters, Helen,
her own child by her dead husband, and Marouckla,
his daughter by his first wife. She loved Helen, but hated
the poor orphan, because she was far prettier than her own
daughter. Marouckla did not think about her good looks,
and could not understand why her stepmother should be
angry at the sight of her. The hardest work fell to her share;
she cleaned out the rooms, cooked, washed, sewed, spun,
wove, brought in the hay, milked the cow, and all this with-
out any help. Helen, meanwhile, did nothing but dress
herself in her best clothes and go to one amusement after
another. But Marouckla never complained; she bore the
scoldings and bad temper of mother and sister with a smile
on her lips, and the patience of a lamb. But this angelic
behaviour did not soften them. They became even more
tyrannical and grumpy, for Marouckla grew daily more
beautiful, while Helen's ugliness increased. So the step-
mother determined to get rid of Marouckla, for she knew that
while she remained her own daughter would have no suitors.
Hunger, every kind of privation, abuse, every means was used
to make the girl's life miserable. The most wicked of men
could not have been more mercilessly cruel than these two
vixens. But in spite of it all Marouckla grew ever sweeter
and more charming.
One day in the middle of winter Helen wanted some
"Listen," cried she to Marouckla; "you must go up the
mountain and find me some violets, I want some to put in
my gown; they must be fresh and sweet-scented-do you
"But, my dear sister, who ever heard of violets blooming
in the snow?" said the poor orphan.
"You wretched creature Do you dare to disobey me ?"
TJHE TWELVE MONTHS 19
said Helen. "Not another word; off with you. If you do
not bring me some violets from the mountain forest, I will
The stepmother also added her threats to those of Helen,
and with vigorous blows they pushed Marouckla outside
and shut the door upon her. The weeping girl made her
way to the mountain. The snow lay deep, and there was no
trace of any human being. Long she wandered hither and
thither, and lost herself in the wood. She was hungry, and
shivered with cold, and prayed to die. Suddenly she saw a
light in the distance, and climbed towards it, till she reached
the top of the mountain. Upon the highest peak burnt a large
fire, surrounded by twelve blocks of stone, on which sat twelve
strange beings. Of these the first three had white hair, three
were not quite so old, three were young and handsome, and
the rest still younger.
There they all sate silently looking at the fire. They were
the twelve months of the year. The great Setchene (January)
was placed higher than the others; his hair and moustache
were white as snow, and in his hand he held a wand. At
first Marouckla was afraid, but after a while her courage
returned, and drawing near she said:
"Men of God, may I warm myself at your fire? I am
chilled by the winter cold."
The great Setchene raised his head and answered:
"What brings thee here, my daughter? What dost thou
"I am looking for violets," replied the maiden.
"This is not the season for violets; dost thou not see
the snow everywhere ?" said Setchene.
20 SLAV TALES
"I know well, but my sister Helen and my stepmother
have ordered me to bring them violets from your mountain:
if I return without them they will kill me. I pray you, good
shepherds, tell me where they may be found? "
Here the great Setchene arose and went over to the
youngest of the months, and placing his wand in his hand,
"Brother Brezene (March), do thou take the highest
Brezine obeyed, at the same time waving his wand over
the fire. Immediately the flames rose towards the sky, the
snow began to melt and the trees and shrubs to bud; the
grass became green, and from between its blades peeped the
pale primrose. It was Spring, and the meadows were blue
"Gather them quickly, Marouckla," said Brezene.
Joyfully she hastened to pick the flowers, and having soon
a large bunch she thanked them and ran home. Helen and
the stepmother were amazed at the sight of the flowers, the
scent of which filled the house.
"Where did you find them ?" asked Helen.
"Under the trees on the mountain slope," said Marouckla.
Helen kept the flowers for herself and her mother; she
did not even thank her step-sister for the trouble she had
taken. The next day she desired Marouckla to fetch her
"Run," said she, "and fetch me strawberries from the
mountain: they must be very sweet and ripe."
"But who ever heard of strawberries ripening in the
snow ?" exclaimed Marouckla.
THE TWELVE MONTHS 21
"Hold your tongue, worm; don't answer me; if I don't
have my strawberries I will kill you."
Then the stepmother pushed her into the yard and bolted
the door. The unhappy girl made her way towards the moun-
tain and to the large fire round which sat the twelve months.
The great Setchene occupied the highest place.
"Men of God, may I warm myself at your fire? The
winter cold chills me," said she, drawing near.
The great Setchene raised his head and asked:
"Why comest thou here ? What dost thou seek ?"
"I am looking for strawberries," said she.
We are in the midst of winter," replied Setchene; "straw-
berries do not grow in the snow."
"I know," said the girl sadly, "but my sister and step-
mother have ordered me to bring them strawberries; if I do
not they will kill me. Pray, good shepherds, tell me where
to find them."
The great Setchene arose, crossed over to the month
opposite him, and putting the wand into his hand, said:
"Brother Tchervyne (June), do thou take the highest
Tchervine obeyed, and as he waved his wand over the
fire the flames leapt towards the sky. Instantly the snow
melted, the earth was covered with verdure, trees were clothed
with leaves, birds began to sing, and various flowers blossomed
in the forest. It was summer. Under the bushes masses of
star-shaped flowers changed into ripening strawberries. Be-
fore Marouckla had time to cross herself they covered the
glade, making it look like a sea of blood.
"Gather them quickly, Marouckla," said Tchervene.
Joyfully she thanked the months, and having filled her
apron ran happily home. Helen and her mother wondered
at seeing the strawberries, which filled the house with their
"Wherever did you find them ?" asked Helen crossly.
"Right up among the mountains; those from under the
beech trees are not bad."
Helen gave a few to her mother and ate the rest herself;
not one did she offer to her step-sister. Being tired of straw-
berries, on the third day she took a fancy for some fresh red
"Run, Marouckla," said she, "and fetch me fresh red
apples from the mountain."
"Apples in winter, sister? why, the trees have neither
leaves nor fruit."
"Idle slut, go this minute," said Helen; "unless you
bring back apples we will' kill you."
As before, the stepmother seized her roughly and turned
her out of the house. The poor girl went weeping up the
mountain, across the deep snow upon which lay no human
footprint, and on towards the fire round which were the twelve
months. Motionless sat they, and on the highest stone was
the great Setchene.
"Men of God, may I warm myself at your fire? The
winter cold chills me," said she, drawing near.
The great Setchene raised his head.
"Why com'st thou here? What dost thou seek?" asked he.
"I am come to look for red apples," replied Marouckla.
"But this is winter, and not the season for red apples,"
observed the great Setchene.
THE TWELVE MONTHS
"I know," answered the girl, "but my sister and step-
mother sent me to fetch red apples from the mountain; if I
return without them they will kill me."
Thereupon the great Setchene arose and went over to one
of the elderly months, to whom he handed the wand, saying:
"Brother Zar6 (September), do thou take the highest
Zare moved to the highest stone and waved his wand over
the fire. There was a flare of red flames, the snow disap-
peared, but the fading leaves which trembled on the trees
were sent by a cold north-east wind in yellow masses to the
glade. Only a few flowers of autumn were visible, such as
the fleabane and red gillyflower, autumn colchicums in the
ravine, and under the beeches bracken and tufts of northern
heather. At first Marouckla looked in vain for red apples.
Then she espied a tree which grew at a great height, and
from the branches of this hung the bright red fruit. Zare
ordered her to gather some quickly. The girl was delighted
and shook the tree. First one apple fell, then another.
"That is enough," said Zard, "hurry home."
Thanking the months, she returned joyfully. Helen mar-
velled and the stepmother wondered at seeing the fruit.
"Where did you gather them?" asked the step-sister.
"There are more on the mountain top," answered Ma-
Then why did you not bring more? said Helen angrily;
"you must have eaten them on your way back, you wicked
"No, dear sister, I have not even tasted them," said
Marouckla. "I shook the tree twice; one apple fell each
time. I was not allowed to shake it again, but was told to
May Perum smite you with his thunderbolt," said Helen,
Marouckla prayed to die rather than suffer such ill-treat-
ment. Weeping bitterly, she took refuge in the kitchen. Helen
and her mother found the apples more delicious than any
they had ever tasted, and when they had eaten both longed
"Listen, mother," said Helen. "Give me my cloak; I will
fetch some more apples myself, or else that good-for-nothing
wretch will eat them all on the way. I shall be able to find
the mountain and the tree. The shepherds may cry 'Stop,'
but I shall not leave go till I have shaken down all the
In spite of her mother's advice she put on her pelisse,
covered her head with a warm hood, and took the road to
the mountain. The mother stood and watched her till she
was lost in the distance.
Snow covered everything, not a human footprint was to
be seen on its surface. Helen lost herself and wandered
hither and thither. After a while she saw a light above
her, and following in its direction reached the mountain top.
There was the flaming fire, the twelve blocks of stone, and
the twelve months. At first she was frightened and hesitated;
then she came nearer and warmed her hands. She did not
ask permission, nor did she speak one polite word.
"What has brought thee here? What dost thou seek?"
said the great Setchene severely.
I am not obliged to tell you, old greybeard; what business
THE TWELVE MONTHS
is it of yours?" she replied disdainfully, turning her back on
the fire and going towards the forest.
The great Setchene frowned, and waved his wand over his
head. Instantly the sky became covered with clouds, the
fire went down, snow fell in large flakes, an icy wind howled
round the mountain. Amid the fury of the storm Helen
added curses against her step-sister. The pelisse failed to
warm her benumbed limbs. The mother kept on waiting
for her; she looked from the window, she watched from
the doorstep, but her daughter came not. The hours passed
slowly, but Helen did not return.
"Can it be that the apples have charmed her from her
home ? thought the mother. Then she clad herself in hood
and pelisse and went in search of her daughter. Snow fell
in huge masses; it covered all things, it lay untouched by
human footsteps. For long she wandered hither and thither;
the icy north-east wind whistled in the mountain, but no
voice answered her cries.
Day after day Marouckla worked and prayed, and waited;
but neither stepmother nor sister returned, they had been
frozen to death on the mountain. The inheritance of a
small house, a field, and a cow fell to Marouckla. In course
of time an honest farmer came to share them with her, and
their lives were happy and peaceful.
THE THREE GOLDEN HAIRS OF THE
OLD MAN VSEViEDE
THE SUN; OR, THE THREE GOLDEN HAIRS
OF THE OLD MAN VSEVEDE
CAN this be a true story ? It is said that once there was
a king who was exceedingly fond of hunting the wild
beasts in his forests. One day he followed a stag so far and
so long that he lost his way. Alone and overtaken by night,
he was glad to find himself near a small thatched cottage in
which lived a charcoal-burner.
"Will you kindly show me the way to the high-road?
You shall be handsomely rewarded."
"I would willingly," said the charcoal-burner, but
God is going to send my wife a little child, and I cannot
leave her alone. Will you pass the night under our roof?
There is a truss of sweet hay in the loft where you may
rest, and to-morrow morning I will be your guide."
The king accepted the invitation and went to bed in the
loft. Shortly after a son was born to the charcoal-burner's
wife. But the king could not sleep. At midnight he heard
noises in the house, and looking through a crack in the flooring
he saw the charcoal-burner asleep, his wife almost in a faint,
and by the side of the newly-born babe three old women
dressed in white, each holding a lighted taper in her hand, and
all talking together. Now these were the three Soudich6 or
Fates, you must know.
The first said, "On this boy I bestow the gift of con-
fronting great dangers."
The second said, I bestow the power of happily escaping
all these dangers, and of living to a good old age."
The third said, I bestow upon him for wife the princess
born at the selfsame hour as he, and daughter of the very
king sleeping above in the loft."
At these words the lights went out and silence reigned
Now the king was greatly troubled, and wondered ex-
ceedingly; he felt as if he had received a sword-thrust in
the chest. He lay awake all night thinking how to prevent
the words of the Fates from coming true.
With the, first glimmer of morning light the baby began
THE SUN 33
to cry. The charcoal-burner, on going over to it, found that
his wife was dead.
Poor little orphan," he said sadly, "what will become of
thee without a mother's care?"
Confide this child to me," said the king, I will look after
it. He shall be well provided for. You shall be given a sum
of money large enough to keep you without having to burn
The poor man gladly agreed, and the king went away
promising to send some one for the child. The queen and
courtiers thought it would be an agreeable surprise for the
king to hear that a charming little princess had been born
on the night he was away. But instead of being pleased he
frowned, and calling one of his servants, said to him, "Go
to the charcoal-burner's cottage in the forest, and give the
man this purse in exchange for a new-born infant. On
your way back drown the child. See well that he is drowned,
for if he should in any way escape, you yourself shall suffer
in his place."
The servant was given the child in a basket, and on
reaching the centre of a narrow bridge that stretched across
a wide and deep river, he threw both basket and baby into
"A prosperous journey to you, Mr. Son-in-Law," said the
king, on hearing the servant's story: for he fully believed
the child was drowned. But it was far from being the case;
the little one was floating happily along in its basket cradle,
and slumbering as sweetly as if his mother had sung him
to sleep. Now it happened that a fisherman, who was mend-
ing his nets before his cottage door, saw the basket floating
34 SLAV TALES
down the river. He jumped at once into his boat, picked
it up, and ran to tell his wife the good news.
"Look," said he, "you have always longed for a son;
here is a beautiful little boy the river has sent us."
The woman was delighted, and took the infant and loved
it as her own child. They named him Plavacek (the floater),
because he had come to them floating on the water.
The river flowed on. Years passed away. The little
baby grew into a handsome youth; in all the villages round
there were none to compare with him. Now it happened
that one summer day the king was riding unattended. And
the heat being very great he reined in his horse before the
fisherman's door to ask for a drink of water. Plavacek
brought the water. The king looked at him attentively, then
turning to the fisherman, said, "That is a good-looking lad;
is he your son ? "
"He is and he isn't," replied the fisherman. "I found
him, when he was quite a tiny baby, floating down the stream
in a basket. So we adopted him and brought him up as
our own son."
The king turned as pale as death, for he guessed that he
was the same child he had ordered to be drowned. Then
recovering himself he got down from his horse and said: "I
want a trusty messenger to take a letter to the palace, could
you send him with it?"
"With pleasure! Your majesty may be sure of its safe
Thereupon the king wrote to the queen as follows-
"The man who brings you this letter is the most dan-
gerous of all my enemies. Have his head cut off at once;
no delay, no pity, he must be executed before my return.
Such is my will and pleasure."
This he carefully folded and sealed with the royal seal.
Plavacek took the letter and set off immediately. But
the forest through which he had to pass was so large, and
the trees so thick, that he missed the path and was over-
taken by the darkness before the journey was nearly over.
In the midst of his trouble he met an old woman who
said, "Where are you going, Plavacek? Where are you
going ? "
"I am the bearer of a letter from the king to the queen,
but have missed the path to the palace. Could you, good
mother, put me on the right road ?"
"Impossible to-day, my child; it is getting dark, and you
would not have time to get there. Stay with me to-night.
You will not be with strangers, for I am your godmother."
Plavacek agreed. Thereupon they entered a pretty little
cottage that seemed suddenly to sink into the earth. Now
while he slept the old woman changed his letter for another,
which ran thus:-
"Immediately upon the receipt of this letter introduce
the bearer to the princess our daughter. I have chosen this
young man for my son-in-law, and it is my wish they should
be married before my return to the palace. Such is my
The letter was duly delivered, and when the queen had
read it, she ordered everything to be prepared for the wed-
ding. Both she and her daughter greatly enjoyed Plavacek's
society, and nothing disturbed the happiness of the newly
Within a few days the king returned, and on hearing what
had taken place was very angry with the queen.
"But you expressly bade me have the wedding before
your return. Come, read your letter again, here it is,"
He closely examined the letter; the paper, handwriting,
seal-all were undoubtedly his. He then called his son-in-
law, and questioned him about his journey. Plavacek hid
nothing: he told how he had lost his way, and how he had
passed the night in a cottage in the forest.
"What was the old woman like ?" asked the king.
From Plavacek's description the king knew it was the
very same who, twenty years before, had foretold the marriage
of the princess with the charcoal-burner's son. After some
moments' thought the king said, "What is done is done.
But you will not become my son-in-law so easily. No, i' faith!
As a wedding present you must bring me three golden hairs
from the head of Dede-Vs&vMde."
In this way he thought to get rid of his son-in-law, whose
very presence was distasteful to him. The young fellow took
leave of his wife and set off. I know not which way to go,"
said he to himself, "but my godmother the witch will surely
But he found the way easily enough. He walked on and
on and on for a long time over mountain, valley, and river,
until he reached the shores of the Black Sea. There he
found a boat and boatman.
"May God bless you, old boatman," said he.
"And you, too, my young traveller. Where are you
going ? "
"To Dede-Vsevede's castle for three of his golden
"Ah, then you are very welcome. For a long weary while
I have been waiting for such a messenger as you. I have
been ferrying passengers across for these twenty years, and
not one of them has done anything to help me. If you will
promise to ask Dede-Vs6vede when I shall be released from
my toil I will row you across."
Plavacek promised, and was rowed to the opposite bank.
He continued his journey on foot until he came in sight of
a large town half in ruins, near which was passing a funeral
procession. The king of that country was following his father's
coffin, and with the tears running down his cheeks.
"May God comfort you in your distress," said Plavacek.
"Thank you, good traveller. Where are you going ?"
"To the house of Dnde-Vs6vede in quest of three of his
"To the house of Dede-Vs6vede? indeed! What a pity
you did not come sooner, we have long been expecting such
a messenger as you. Come and see me by and bye."
When Plavacek presented himself at court the king said
"We understand you are on your way to the house of
Dede-Vs6vede? Now we have an apple-tree here that bears
the fruit of everlasting youth. One of these apples eaten by
a man, even though he be dying, will cure him and make
him young again. For the last twenty years neither fruit
nor flower has been found on this tree. Will you ask Dede-
Vs6evde the cause of it ?"
"That I will, with pleasure."
40 SLAV TALES
Then Plavacek continued his journey, and as he went
he came to a large and beautiful city where all was sad and
silent. Near the gate was an old man who leant on a stick
and walked with difficulty.
May God bless you, good old man."
"And you, too, my handsome young traveller. Where
are you going ?"
"To Dbde-TVs6vde's palace in search of three of his
"Ah, you are the very messenger I have so long waited
for. Allow me to take you to my master the king."
On their arrival at the palace, the king said, "I hear you
are an ambassador to Dede-Vs6evde. We have here a well,
the water of which renews itself. So wonderful are its effects
that invalids are immediately cured on drinking it, while a
few drops sprinkled on a corpse will bring it to life again.
For the past twenty years this well has remained dry: if
you will ask old Dede-Vsevede how the flow of water may
be restored I will reward you royally."
Plavacek promised to do so, and was dismissed with good
wishes. He then travelled through deep dark forests, in
the midst of which might be seen a large meadow; out of
it grew lovely flowers, and in the centre stood a castle built
of gold. It was the home of Dede-Vsdvede. So brilliant
with light was it that it seemed to be built of fire. When
he entered there was no one there but an old woman
"Greeting, Plavacek, I am well pleased to see you."
She was his godmother, who had given him shelter in
her cottage when he was the bearer of the king's letter.
THE SUN 41
"Tell me what brings you here from such a distance,"
she went on.
"The king would not have me for his son-in-law, unless
I first got him three golden hairs from the head of Dede-
Vs6vede. So he sent me here to fetch them."
The Fate laughed. Dede-Vsevede indeed! Why, I am
his mother, it is the shining sun himself. He is a child at
morning time, a grown man at midday, a decrepit old man,
looking as if he had lived a hundred years, at eventide.
But I will see that you have the three hairs from his head;
I am not your godmother for nothing. All the same you
must not remain here. My son is a good lad, but when
he comes home he is hungry, and would very probably order
you to be roasted for his supper. Now I will turn this empty
bucket upside down, and you shall hide underneath it."
Plavacek begged the Fate to obtain from Dede-Vsevede
the answers to the three questions he had been asked.
"I will do so certainly, but you must listen to what he
Suddenly a blast of wind howled round the palace, and
the Sun entered by a western window. He was an old man
with golden hair.
"I smell human flesh," cried he, "I am sure of it.
Mother, you have some one here."
"Star of day," she replied, "whom could I have here that
you would not see sooner than I? The fact is that in your
daily journeys the scent of human flesh is always with you,
so when you come home at evening it clings to you still."
The old man said nothing, and sat down to supper.
When he had finished he laid his golden head on the Fate's
lap and went to sleep. Then she pulled out a hair and threw
it on the ground. It fell with a metallic sound like the
vibration of a guitar string.
"What do you want, mother?" asked he.
"Nothing, my son; I was sleeping, and had a strange
"What was it, mother ?"
"I thought I was in a place where there was a well, and
the well was fed from a spring, the water of which cured
all diseases. Even the dying were restored to health on
drinking that water, and the dead who were sprinkled with
it came to life again. For the last twenty years the well
has run dry. What must be done to restore the flow of
"That is very simple. A frog has lodged itself in the
opening of the spring, this prevents the flow of water. Kill
the frog, and the water will return to the well."
He slept again, and the old woman pulled out another
golden hair, and threw it on the ground.
Mother, what do you want ?"
"Nothing, my son, nothing; I was dreaming. In my
dream I saw a large town, the name of which I have for-
gotten. And there grew an apple-tree the fruit of which
had the power to make the old young again. A single apple
eaten by an old man would restore to him the vigour and
freshness of youth. For twenty years this tree has not borne
fruit. What can be done to make it fruitful?"
"The means are not difficult. A snake hidden among
the roots destroys the sap. Kill the snake, transplant the
tree, and the fruit will grow as before."
THE SUN 45
He again fell asleep, and the old woman pulled out another
"Now look here, mother, why will you not let me sleep?"
said the old man, really vexed; and he would have got up.
Lie down, my darling son, do not disturb yourself. I
am sorry I awoke you, but I have had a very strange dream.
It seemed that I saw a boatman on the shores of the Black
Sea, and he complained that he had been toiling at the ferry
for twenty years without any one having come to take his
place. For how much longer must this poor old man con-
tinue to row?"
"He is a silly fellow. He has but to place his oars in
the hands of the first comer and jump ashore. Whoever
receives the oars will replace him as ferryman. But leave me
in peace now, mother, and do not wake me again. I have
to rise very early, and must first dry the eyes of a princess.
The poor thing spends all night weeping for her husband who
has been sent by the king to get three of my golden hairs."
Next morning the wind whistled round Dede-Vsevede's
palace, and instead of an old man, a beautiful child with
golden hair awoke on the old woman's lap. It was the
glorious sun. He bade her good-bye, and flew out of the
eastern window. The old woman turned up the bucket and
said to Plavacek, "Look, here are the three golden hairs.
You now know the answers to your questions. May God
direct you and send you a prosperous journey. You will
not see me again, for you will have no further need of me."
He thanked her gratefully and left her. On arriving at
the town with the dried-up well, he was questioned by the
king as to what news he had brought.
46 SLAV TALES
"Have the well carefully cleaned out," said he, "kill the
frog that obstructs the spring, and the wonderful water will
The king did as he was advised, and rejoiced. to see the
water return. He gave Plavacek twelve swan-white horses,
and as much gold and silver as they could carry.
On reaching the second town and being asked by the
king what news he had brought, he replied, "Excellent; one
could not wish for better. Dig up your apple-tree, kill the
snake that lies among the roots, transplant the tree, and it
will produce apples like those of former times."
And all turned out as he had said, for no sooner was the
tree replanted than it was covered with blossoms that gave
it the appearance of a sea of roses. The delighted king
gave him twelve raven-black horses, laden with as much wealth
as they could carry. He then journeyed to the shores of
the Black Sea. There the boatman questioned him as to
what news he had brought respecting his release. Plavacek
first crossed with his twenty-four horses to the opposite bank,
and then replied that the boatman might gain his freedom
by placing the oars in the hands of the first traveller who
wished to be ferried over.
Plavacek's royal father-in-law could not believe his eyes
when he saw Dade-Vsivede's three golden hairs. As for
the princess, his young wife, she wept tears, but of joy, not
sadness, to see her dear one again, and she said to him,
"How did you get such splendid horses and so much wealth,
dear husband ?"
And he answered her, "All this represents the price paid
for the weariness of spirit I have felt; it is the ready money
THE SUN 47
for hardships endured and services given. Thus, I showed
one king how to regain possession of the Apples of Youth:
to another I told the secret of reopening the spring of water
that gives health and life."
"Apples of Youth! Water of Life !" interrupted the king.
"I will certainly go and find these treasures for myself. Ah,
what joy! having eaten of these apples I shall become young
again having drunk of the Water of Immortality, I shall live
And he started off in search of these treasures. But he
has not yet returned from his search.
I. THE SOVEREIGN OF THE
II. THE LOST CHILD
THE SOVEREIGN OF THE MINERAL
ONCE upon a time, and a long long time ago it was,
there lived a widow who had a very pretty daughter.
The mother, good honest woman, was quite content with her
station in life. But with the daughter it was otherwise; she,
like a spoilt beauty, looked contemptuously upon her many
admirers, her mind was full of proud and ambitious thoughts,
and the more lovers she had, the prouder she became.
One beautiful moonlight night the mother awoke, and
being unable to sleep, began to pray God for the happiness
of her only child, though she often made her mother's life
miserable. The fond woman looked lovingly at the beautiful
daughter sleeping by her side, and she wondered, as she
saw her smile, what happy dream had visited her. Then
she finished her prayer, and laying her head on the girl's
pillow, fell asleep. Next day she said, "Come, darling child,
tell me what you were dreaming about last night, you looked
so happy smiling in your sleep."
"Oh yes, mother, I remember. I had a very beautiful
dream. I thought a rich nobleman came to our house, in
a splendid carriage of brass, and gave me a ring set with
stones, that sparkled like the stars of heaven. When I entered
the church with him, it was full of people, and they all
thought me divine and adorable, like the Blessed Virgin."
"Ah! my child, what sin! May God keep you from
But the daughter ran away singing, and busied herself
about the house. The same day a handsome young farmer
drove into the village in his cart and begged them to come
and share his country bread. He was a kind fellow, and
the mother liked him much. But the daughter refused his
invitation, and insulted him into the bargain.
Even if you had driven in a carriage of brass," she said,
"and had offered me a ring set with stones shining as the
stars in heaven, I would never have married you-you, a
The young farmer was terribly upset at her words, and
with a prayer for her soul, returned home a saddened man.
But her mother scolded and reproached her.
The next night the woman again awoke, and taking her
rosary prayed with still greater fervour, that God would bless
her child. This time the girl laughed as she slept.
"What can the poor child be dreaming about?" she
said to herself: and sighing she prayed for her again. Then
SOVEREIGN OF THE MINERAL KINGDOM 53
she laid her head upon her pillow and tried in vain to sleep.
In the morning, when her daughter was dressing, she said:
"Well, my dear, you were dreaming again last night, and
laughing like a maniac."
"Was I? Listen, I dreamt a nobleman came for me
in a silver carriage, and gave me a golden diadem. When
I entered the church with him, the people admired and
worshipped me more than the Blessed Virgin."
"Ay me, what a terrible dream! what a wicked dream!
Pray God not to lead you into temptation."
Then she scolded her daughter severely and went out,
slamming the door after her. That same day a carriage drove
into the village, and some gentlemen invited mother and
daughter to share the bread of the lord of the manor. The
mother considered such an offer a great honour, but the
daughter refused it and replied to the gentlemen scornfully:
"Even if you had come to fetch me in a carriage of solid
silver and had presented me with a golden diadem, I would
never have consented to be the wife of your lord."
The gentlemen turned away in disgust and returned home;
the mother rebuked her severely for so much pride.
"Miserable, foolish girl!" she cried, "pride is a breath
from hell. It is your duty to be humble, honest, and sweet-
The daughter replied by a laugh.
The third night she slept soundly, but the poor woman at
her side could not close her eyes. Tormented with dark fore-
bodings, she feared some misfortune was about to happen,
and counted her beads, praying fervently. All at once the
young sleeper began to sneer and laugh.
54 SLAV TALES
"Merciful God! ah me!" cried the poor woman, "what
are these dreams that worry her poor brain !"
In the morning she said, "What made you sneer so fright-
fully last night? You must have had bad dreams again,
my poor child."
"Now, mother, you look as if you were going to preach
"No, no; but I want to know what you were dreaming
"Well, I dreamt some one drove up in a golden carriage
and asked me to marry him, and he brought me a mantle
of cloth of pure gold. When we came into church, the crowd
pressed forward to kneel before me."
The mother wrung her hands piteously, and the girl left
the room to avoid hearing her lamentations. That same
day three carriages entered the yard, one of brass, one of
silver, and one of gold. The first was drawn by two, the
second by three, the third by four magnificent horses. Gentle-
men wearing scarlet gloves and green mantles got out of
the brass and silver carriages, while from the golden carriage
alighted a prince who, as the sun shone on him, looked as
if he were dressed in gold. They all made their way to the
widow and asked for her daughter's hand.
"I fear we are not worthy of so much honour," replied
the widow meekly, but when the daughter's eyes fell upon
her suitor she recognized in him the lover of her dreams, and
withdrew to weave an aigrette of many-coloured feathers.
In exchange for this aigrette which she offered her bridegroom,
he placed upon her finger a ring set with stones that shone
like the stars in heaven, and over her shoulders a mantle
SOVEREIGN OF THE MINERAL KINGDOM 57
of cloth of gold. The young bride, beside herself with joy,
retired to complete her toilette. Meanwhile the anxious
mother, a prey to the blackest forebodings, said to her son-
in-law, "My daughter has consented to share your bread, tell
me of what sort of flour it is made ?"
"In our house we have bread of brass, of silver, and of
gold; my wife will be free to choose."
Such a reply astonished her more than ever, and made
her still more unhappy. The daughter asked no questions,
was in fact content to know nothing, not even what her
mother suffered. She looked magnificent in her bridal
attire and golden mantle, but she left her home with the
prince without saying good-bye either to her mother or to
her youthful companions. Neither did she ask her mother's
blessing, though the latter wept and prayed for her safety.
SAfter the marriage ceremony they mounted the golden
carriage and set off, followed by the attendants of silver and
brass. The procession moved slowly along the road without
stopping until it reached the foot of a high rock. Here,
instead of a carriage entrance, was a large cavern which led
out into a steep slope down which the horses went lower and
lower. The giant Zimo-tras (he who makes the earthquakes)
closed the opening with a huge stone. They made their
way in darkness for some time, the terrified bride being
reassured by her husband.
"Fear nothing," said he, "in a little while it will be
clear and beautiful."
Grotesque dwarfs, carrying lighted torches, appeared on
all sides, saluted and welcomed their King Kovlad as they
illumined the road for him and his attendants. Then for
58 SLAV TALES
the first time the girl knew she had married Kovlad, but this
mattered little to her. On coming out from these gloomy
passages into the open they found themselves surrounded
by large forests and mountains, mountains that seemed to
touch the sky. And, strange to relate, all the trees of what-
soever kind, and even the mountains that seemed to touch
the sky, were of solid lead. When they had crossed these
marvellous mountains the giant Zdmo-tras closed all the
openings in the road they had passed. They then drove
out upon vast and beautiful plains, in the centre of which
was a golden palace covered with precious stones. The
bride was weary with looking at so many wonders, and
gladly sat down to the feast prepared by the dwarfs. Meats
of many kinds were served, roast and boiled, but lo! they
were of metal-brass, silver, and gold. Every one ate heartily
and enjoyed the food, but the young wife, with tears in her
eyes, begged for a piece of bread.
"Certainly, madam, with pleasure," answered Kovlad.
But she could not eat the bread which was brought, for it was
of brass. Then the king sent for a piece of silver bread, still
she could not eat it; and again for a slice of golden bread,
that too she was unable to bite. The servants did all they,
could to get something to their mistress's taste, but she found
it impossible to eat anything.
"I should be most happy to gratify you," said Kovlad
"but we have no other kind of food."
Then she realized for the first time in whose power she
had placed herself, and she began to weep bitterly and wish
she had taken her mother's advice.
"It is of no use to weep and regret," said Kovlad,
SOVEREIGN OF THE MINERAL KINGDOM 59
"you must have known the kind of bread you would have
to break here; your wish has been fulfilled."
And so it was, for nothing can recall the past. The
wretched girl' was obliged henceforth to live underground
with her husband Kovlad, the God of Metals, in his golden
palace. And this because she had set her heart upon nothing
but the possession of gold, and had never wished for any-
THE LOST CHILD
LONG long ago there lived a very rich nobleman. But
though he was so rich he was not happy, for he had no
children to whom he could leave his wealth. He was, besides,
THE LOST CHILD
no longer young. Every day he and his wife went to church
to pray for a son. At last, after long waiting, God sent them
what they desired. Now the evening before its arrival the
father dreamed that its chance of living would depend upon
one condition, namely, that its feet never touched the earth
until it was twelve years old. Great care was taken that this
should be avoided, and when the little stranger came, only
trustworthy nurses were employed to look after him. As
the years passed on the child was diligently guarded, some-
times he was carried in his nurses' arms, sometimes rocked
in his golden cradle, but his feet never touched the ground.
Now when the end of the time drew near the father began
preparations for a magnificent feast which should be given
to celebrate his son's release. One day while these were in
progress a frightful noise, followed by most unearthly yells,
shook the castle. The nurse dropped the child in her terror
and ran to the window: that instant the noises ceased. On
turning to take up the boy, imagine her dismay when she
found him no longer there, and remembered that she had
disobeyed her master's orders.
Hearing her screams and lamentations, all the servants
of the castle ran to her. The father soon followed, asking,
"What is the matter? What has happened? Where is my
child?" The nurse, trembling and weeping, told of the dis-
appearance of his son, his only child. No words can tell
the anguish of the father's heart. He sent servants in every
direction to hunt for his boy, he gave orders, he begged and
prayed, he threw away money right and left, he promised
everything if only his son might be restored to him. Search
was made without loss of time, but no trace of him could be
62 SLAV TALES
discovered; he had vanished as completely as if he had never
Many years later the unhappy nobleman learnt that in one
of the most beautiful rooms of the castle, footsteps, as of
some one walking up and down, and dismal groans, were
heard every midnight. Anxious to follow the matter up,
for he thought it might in some way concern his lost son, he
made known that a reward of three hundred gold pieces would
be given to any one who would watch for one whole night
in the haunted room. Many were willing, but had not the
courage to stay till the end; for at midnight, when the dismal
groans were heard, they would run away rather than risk their
lives for three hundred gold pieces. The poor father was
in despair, and knew not how to discover the truth of this
Now close to the castle dwelt a widow, a miller by trade,
who had three daughters. They were very poor, and hardly
earned enough for their daily needs. When they heard of
the midnight noises in the castle and the promised reward,
the eldest daughter said, "As we are so very poor we have
nothing to lose; surely we might try to earn these three hun-
dred gold pieces by remaining in the room one night. I
should like to try, mother, if you will let me."
The mother shrugged her shoulders, she hardly knew
what to say; but when she thought of their poverty and
the difficulty they had to earn a living she gave permis-
sion for her eldest daughter to remain one night in the
haunted room. Then the daughter went to ask the noble-
"Have you really the courage to watch for a whole night
THE LOST CHILD
in a room haunted by ghosts? Are you sure you are not
afraid, my good girl ? "
"I am willing to try this very night," she replied. "I
would only ask you to give me some food to cook for my
supper, for I am very hungry."
Orders were given that she should be supplied with every-
thing she wanted, and indeed enough food was given her, not
for one supper only, but for three. With the food, some dry
firewood and a candle, she entered the room. Like a good
housewife, she first lit the fire and put on her saucepans, then
she laid the table and made the bed. This filled up the early
part of the evening. The time passed so quickly that she was
surprised to hear the clock strike twelve, while at the last
stroke, footsteps, as of some one walking, shook the room,
and dismal groans filled the air. The frightened girl ran from
one corner to the other, but could not see any one. But the
footsteps and the groans did not cease. Suddenly a young
man approached her and asked, "For whom is this food
cooked ? "
"For myself," she said.
The gentle face of the stranger saddened, and after a short
silence he asked again, "And this table, for whom is it laid?"
For myself," she replied.
The brow of the young man clouded over, and the beauti-
ful blue eyes filled with tears as he asked once more, "And
this bed, for whom have you made it ? "
"For myself," replied she in the same selfish and indif-
Tears fell from his eyes as he waved his arms and
Next morning she told the nobleman all that had
happened, but without mentioning the painful impression her
answers had made upon the stranger. The three hundred
golden crowns were paid, and the father was thankful to have
at last heard something that might possibly lead to the dis-
covery of his son.
On the following day the second daughter, having been
told by her sister what to do and how to answer the stranger,
went to the castle to offer her services. The nobleman will-
ingly agreed, and orders were given that she should be
provided with everything she might want. Without loss of
time she entered the room, lit the fire, put on the saucepans,
spread a white cloth upon the table, made the bed, and
awaited the hour of midnight. When the young stranger
appeared and asked, "For whom is this food prepared?
for whom is the table laid? for whom is the bed made?"
she answered as her sister had bidden her, "For me, for
As on the night before, he burst into tears, waved his
arms, and suddenly disappeared.
Next morning she told the nobleman all that had happened
except the sad impression her answers had made upon the
stranger. The three hundred gold pieces were given her, and
she went home.
On the third day the youngest daughter wanted to try her
"Sisters," said she, "as you have succeeded in earning
three hundred gold crowns each, and so helping our dear
mother, I too should like to do my part and remain a night
in the haunted room."
THE LOST CHILD
Now the widow loved her youngest daughter more dearly
than the others, and dreaded to expose her to any danger;
but as the elder ones had been successful, she allowed her
to take her chance. So with the instructions from her sisters
as to what she should do and say, and with the nobleman's
consent and abundant provisions, she entered the haunted
room. Having lit the fire, put on the saucepans, laid the
table and made the bed, she awaited with hope and fear the
hour of midnight.
As twelve o'clock struck, the room was shaken by the
footsteps of some one who walked up and down, and the air
was filled with cries and groans. The girl looked everywhere,
but no living being could she see. Suddenly there stood
before her a young man who asked in a sweet voice, "For
whom have you prepared this food?"
Now her sisters had told her how to answer and how to
act, but when she looked into the sad eyes of the stranger
she resolved to treat him more kindly.
"Well, you do not answer me; for whom is the food
prepared?" he asked again impatiently, as she made no
reply. Somewhat confused, she said, "I prepared it for
myself, but you too are welcome to it."
At these words his brow grew more serene.
"And this table, for whom is it spread? "
"For myself, unless you will honour me by being my
A bright smile illumined his face.
"And this bed, for whom have you made it ?"
"For myself, but if you have need of rest it is for you."
He clapped his hands for joy and replied, "Ah, that's
68 SLAV TALES
right; I accept the invitation with pleasure, and all that you
have been so kind as to offer me. But wait, I pray you
wait for me; I must first thank my kind friends for the care
they have taken of me."
A fresh warm breath of spring filled the air, while at the
same moment a deep precipice opened in the middle of
the floor. He descended lightly, and she, anxious to see
what would happen, followed him, holding on to his mantle.
Thus they both reached the bottom of the precipice. Down
there a new world opened itself before her eyes. To the
right flowed a river of liquid gold, to the left rose high
mountains of solid gold, in the centre lay a large meadow
covered with millions of flowers. The stranger went on,
the girl followed unnoticed. And as he went he saluted
the field flowers as old friends, caressing them and leaving
them with regret. Then they came to a forest where the
trees were of gold. Many birds of different kinds began to
sing, and flying round the young stranger perched familiarly
on his head and shoulders. He spoke to and petted each one.
While thus engaged, the girl broke off a branch from one of the
golden trees and hid it in remembrance of this strange land.
Leaving the forest of gold, they reached a wood where all
the trees were of silver. Their arrival was greeted by an
immense number of animals of various kinds. These crowded
together and pushed one against another to get close to their
friend. He spoke to each one and stroked and petted them.
Meanwhile the girl broke off a branch of silver from one of the
trees, saying to herself, "These will serve me as tokens of this
wonderful land, for my sisters would not believe me if I only
told them of it."
THE LOST CHILD
When the young stranger had taken leave of all his friends
he returned by the paths he had come, and the girl followed
without being seen. Arrived at the foot of the precipice, he
began to ascend, she coming silently after, holding on to his
mantle. Up they went higher and higher, until they reached
the room in the castle. The floor closed up without trace of
the opening. The girl returned to her place by the fire, where
she was standing when the young man approached.
"All my farewells have been spoken," said he, "now we
can have supper."
She hastened to place upon the table the food so hurriedly
prepared, and sitting side by side they supped together. When
they had made a good meal he said, "Now it is time to rest."
He lay down on the carefully-made bed, and the girl
placed by his side the gold and silver branches she had
picked in the Mineral Land. In a few moments he was
Next day the sun was already high in the sky, and yet the
girl had not come to give an account of herself. The noble-
man became impatient; he waited and waited, becoming more
and more uneasy. At last he determined to go and see for
himself what had happened. Picture to yourself his surprise
and joy, when on entering the haunted chamber he saw his
long-lost son sleeping on the bed, while beside him sat the
widow's beautiful daughter. At that moment the son awoke.
The father, overwhelmed with joy, summoned the attendants
of the castle to rejoice with him in his new-found happiness.
Then the young man saw the two branches of metal, and
said with astonishment, "What do I see ? Did you then follow
me down there? Kfiow that by this act you have broken
72 SLAV TALES
the spell and released me from the enchantment. These two
branches will make two palaces for our future dwelling."
Thereupon he took the branches and threw them out of
the window. Immediately there were seen two magnificent
palaces, one of gold, the other of silver. And there they lived
happily as man and wife, the nobleman's son and the miller's
daughter. And if not dead they live there still.
THE MAID WITH
HAIR OF GOLD
THE MAID WITH HAIR OF GOLD
T HERE was once a king so wise and clever that he
understood the language of all animals. You shall hear
how he gained this power.
76 SLAV TALES
One day an old woman came to the palace and said, "I
wish to speak to his majesty, for I have something of great
importance to tell him." When admitted to his presence she
presented him with a curious fish, saying, Have it cooked for
yourself, and when you have eaten it you will understand all
that is said by the birds of the air, the animals that walk the
earth, and the fishes that live under the waters."
The king was delighted to know that which every one else
was ignorant of, so he rewarded the old woman generously, and
told a servant to cook the fish very carefully.
"But take care," said the monarch, "that you do not
taste it yourself, for if you do you will be killed."
George, the servant, was astonished at such a threat, and
wondered why his master was so anxious that no one else
should eat any of the fish. Then examining it curiously he
said, "Never in all my life have I seen such an odd-looking
fish; it seems more like a reptile. Now where would be the
harm if I did take some? Every cook tastes of the dishes he
When it was fried he tasted a small piece, and while taking
some of the sauce heard a buzzing in the air and a voice
speaking in his ear.
Let us taste a crumb : let us taste a little," it said.
He looked round to see where the words came from,
but there were only a few flies buzzing about in the
kitchen. At the same moment some one out in the yard
said in a harsh jerky voice, "Where are we going to settle?
And another answered, "In the miller's barley-field; ho!
for the miller's field of barley."
THE MAID WITH HAIR OF GOLD
When George looked towards where this strange talk came
he saw a gander flying at the head of a flock of geese.
"How lucky," thought he; "now I know why my master
set so much value on this fish and wished to eat it all
George had now no doubt that by tasting the fish he had
learnt the language of animals, so after having taken a little
more he served the king with the remainder as if nothing had
When his majesty had dined he ordered George to saddle
two horses and accompany him for a ride. They were soon
off, the master in front, the servant behind.
While crossing a meadow George's horse began to prance
and caper, neighing out these words, "I say, brother, I feel so
light and in such good spirits to-day that in one single bound
I could leap over those mountains yonder."
"I could do the same," answered the king's horse, "but
I carry a feeble old man on my back; he would fall like a log
and break his skull."
"What does that matter to you? So much the better if
he should break his head, for then, instead of being ridden by
an old man you would probably be mounted by a young one."
The servant laughed a good deal upon hearing this con-
versation between the horses, but he took care to do so on the
quiet, lest the king should hear him. At that moment his
majesty turned round, and, seeing a smile on the man's face,
asked the cause of it.
Oh, nothing, your majesty, only some nonsense that
came into my head."
The king said nothing, and asked no more questions, but
78 SLAV TALES
he was suspicious, and distrusted both servant and horses; so
he hastened back to the palace.
When there he said to George, "Give me some wine, but
mind you only pour out enough to fill the glass, for if you put
in one drop too much, so that it overflows, I shall certainly
order my executioner to cut off your head."
While he was speaking two birds flew near the window, one
chasing the other, who carried three golden hairs in his beak.
"Give them me," said one, "you know they are mine."
"Not at all, I picked them up myself."
"No matter, I saw them fall while the Maid with Locks of
Gold was combing out her hair. At least, give me two, then
you can keep the third for yourself."
"No, not a single one."
Thereupon one of the birds succeeded in seizing the hairs
from the other bird's beak, but in the struggle he let one fall,
and it made a sound as if a piece of metal had struck the
ground. As for George, he was completely taken off his guard,
and the wine overflowed the glass.
The king was furious, and feeling convinced that his
servant had disobeyed him and had learnt the language of
animals, he said, "You scoundrel, you deserve death for
having failed to do my bidding, nevertheless, I will show
you mercy upon one condition, that you bring me the Maid
with the Golden Locks, for I intend to marry her."
Alas, what was to be done ? Poor fellow, he was willing
to do anything to save his life, even run the risk of losing it
on a long journey. He therefore promised to search for
the Maid with the Golden Locks: but he knew not where or
how to find her.
THE MAID WITH HAIR OF GOLD 79
When he had saddled and mounted his horse he allowed
it to go its own way, and it carried him to the outskirts of a
dark forest, where some shepherds had left a bush burning.
The sparks of fire from the bush endangered the lives of a
large number of ants which had built their nest close by, and
the poor little things were hurrying away in all directions,
carrying their small white eggs with them.
"Help us in our distress, good George," they cried in a
plaintive voice; "do not leave us to perish, together with our
children whom we carry in these eggs."
George immediately dismounted, cut down the bush, and
put out the fire.
"Thank you, brave man: and remember, when you are
in trouble you have only to call upon us, and we will help you
in our turn." The young fellow went on his way far into
the forest until he came to a very tall fir tree. At the top of
the tree was a raven's nest, while at the foot, on the ground,
lay two young ones who were calling out to their parents and
saying, "Alas, father and mother, where have you gone?
You have flown away, and we have to seek our food, weak
and helpless as we are. Our wings are as yet without feathers,
how then shall we be able to get anything to eat? Good
George," said they, turning to the young man, "do not leave
us to starve."
Without stopping to think, the young man dismounted,
and with his sword slew his horse to provide food for the
young birds. They thanked him heartily, and said, "If ever
you should be in distress, call to us and we will help you at
After this George was obliged to travel on foot, and he
walked on for a long time, ever getting further and further
into the forest. On reaching the end of it, he saw stretching
before him an immense sea that seemed to mingle with
the horizon. Close by stood two men disputing the posses-
sion of a large fish with golden scales that had fallen into
"The net belongs to me," said one, "therefore the fish
must be mine."
"Your net would not have been of the slightest use, for
it would have been lost in the sea, had I not come with my
boat just in the nick of time."
"Well, you shall have the next haul I make."
"And suppose you should catch nothing? No; give me
this one and keep the next haul for yourself."
"I am goirg to put an end to your quarrel," said George,
addressing them. "Sell me the fish: I will pay you well, and
you can divide the money between you."
Thereupon he put into their hands all the money the king
had given him for the journey, without keeping a single coin
for himself. The fishermen rejoiced at the good fortune which
had befallen them, but George put the fish back into the water.
The fish, thankful for this unexpected freedom, dived and dis-
appeared, but returning to the surface, said, "Whenever you
may need my help you have but to call me, I shall not fail to
show my gratitude."
"Where are you going?" asked the fisherman.
I am in search of a wife for my old master; she is known
as the Maid with the Golden Locks: but I am at a loss where
to find her."
"If that be all, we can easily give you information,"
THE MAID WITH HAIR OF GOLD 83
answered they. "She is Princess Zlato Vlaska, and daughter
of the king whose crystal palace is built on that island
yonder. The golden light from the princess's hair is reflected
on sea and sky every morning when she combs it. If you
would like to go to the island we will take you there for
nothing, in return for the clever and generous way by which
you made us stop quarrelling. But beware of one thing:
when in the palace do not make a mistake as to which is the
princess, for there are twelve of them, but only Zlato Vlaska
has hair of gold."
When George reached the island he lost no time in making
his way to the palace, and demanded from the king the hand
of his daughter, Princess Zlato Vlaska, in marriage to the
king his master.
"I will grant the request with pleasure," said his majesty,
"but only on one condition, namely, that you perform certain
tasks which I will set you. These will be three in number,
and must be done in three days, just as I order you. For
the present you had better rest and refresh yourself after your
On the next day the king said, "My daughter, the Maid
with the Golden Hair, had a string of fine pearls, and the
thread having broken, the pearls were scattered far and wide
among the long grass of this field. Go and pick up every one
of the pearls, for they must all be found."
George went into the meadow, which was of great length
and stretched away far out of sight. He went down on his
knees and hunted between the tufts of grass and bramble
from morning until noon, but not a single pearl could he