Maria Morevna

Maria Morevna

Maria Morevna 1  – Maria morevna 2 Art by Ivan Bilibin (1902)

Once upon a time there was a certain prince, named Ivan, who had three sisters: Maria, Olga, and Anna. The time came when their father and mother, the tsar and tsaritsa, both died; and just before gave Ivan their last wishes concerning their three daughters. ”Ivan,” they said, ”if any man comes to you and asks for the hand of one of your sisters in marriage, give her to him. Do not keep any of them with you at home.”

    After the prince had buried his parents, he sadly went for a walk with his sisters in their green garden. Suddenly a black cloud overcast the sky, and there was a terrible clap of thunder. ”We had better go home, sisters,” Prince Ivan said. They had hardly entered the palace when they heard another clap of thunder, the ceiling split in two, and a white falcon flew down into their chamber. The falcon beat himself against the floor and changed into a handsome young man. ”Greetings, Prince Ivan,” said the newcomer. ”In former days I came as your guest, but now I have come to ask for the hand of your sister, Princess Maria.”

    ”If you love my sister,” Prince Ivan answered, ”I have no objection. May God bless her.” Princess Maria was agreeable to the marriage, so the falcon and she celebrated the wedding and he carried her off to his kingdom.

    Hour followed hour, day followed day, until a whole year had passed. Then one day Prince Ivan went with his two sisters for a walk in their green garden. Again a black cloud overcast the sky, and with it came a whirlwind and lightning. ”We had better go home, sisters,” said Prince Ivan. They had hardly entered the palace when there was another thunder-clap, the ceiling split in two, and an eagle flew down. He struck himself against the floor and changed into a handsome young man. ”Greetings, Prince Ivan,” he said. ”In past days I came as a guest, but now I have come as a suitor. I wish to marry Princess Olga.” Prince Ivan told him: ”If you love my sister Olga, and if it is her will, she may go with you. I shall have no objection.” Princess Olga agreed and took the eagle for her husband; they were married, and then the eagle caught her up and carried her to his kingdom.

    Another year had passed when one day Prince Ivan said to his youngest sister: ”Let us go for a walk in the green garden.” They had been walking for only a little while when there was a clap of thunder, with lightning. ”We had better go home, sister,” said the prince. They returned home, but before they could even sit down there was a thunder-clap, the ceiling parted, and a raven flew down. He beat himself against the floor and changed into a handsome young man: the falcon and the eagle had been good-looking enough, but this raven was even more strikingly handsome. ”Well, Prince Ivan,” he said, ”in past days I came as a guest, but now I have come as a suitor. Give me Princess Anna for my wife.”

    ”I shall not compel my sister against her will; if you have fallen in love with her, and she with you, she may go with you,” replied Ivan. Princess Anna agreed to be the raven”s wife, and he carried her off to his home.

    Now Prince Ivan lived alone.; and he spent a whole year without seeing his sisters. ”I will go and see how they are getting on,” he said to himself one day. He made ready for the journey, and set out. After travelling some distance he came to a field where a host of soldiers were lying dead. And he called: ”If there is any man left alive here, speak up and tell me: who killed all this mighty force?” Just one man was left alive, and he answered. ”All this mighty force was killed by Maria Morevna, the beautiful queen.” As the prince journeyed farther he came to white tents pitched in a field. And from one of them the beautiful queen Maria Morevna came to meet him.

    ”Greetings, Prince,” she said. ”Where are you going, to freedom or slavery?”

    ”Fine young men do not ride to slavery,” Prince Ivan replied.

    ”Well, since there is no hurry, be our guest, and enter our tents,” she invited him. The prince was glad of the invitation, and he spent two nights in the queen”s camp. He fell in love with her and she with him, and they were married.

    The beautiful Queen Maria Morevna took the prince with her to her own country, and they lived happily for some time. But then the queen decided to make war on another country, so she handed over the government of all her lands to Prince Ivan, and told him: ”Ride everywhere, and keep an eye on everything. But one thing you must not do: you must not even look into this boxroom,” and she showed him the door of the boxroom. Unfortunately, the prince could not restrain his curiosity; as soon as the queen had ridden away he ran to the boxroom, opened the door, looked in, and saw Kashchey the Deathless, fettered with twelve chains. When Kashchey saw the prince he pleaded: ”Have pity on me, give me some water to drink. For ten years I have been suffering torments here, being given neither food nor drink. And my throat is quite dry.” So the prince brought him a full bucket of water; he drank it all in one gulp and asked: ”Give me some more; my thirst cannot be quenched with a single bucketful.” So the prince brought him a second bucketful. Kashchey drank that, and asked for a third. But when he had drunk the third bucketful of water all his former strength was restored, he shook his chains, and snapped all twelve at once. ”Thank you, Prince Ivan,” Kashchey the Deathless said. ”Now you will never see Maria Morevna again any more than you can see your own ears.” He flew out of the window in a fearful gust of wind, overtook the beautiful Queen Maria Morevna on the road, caught her up and carried her off.

    The prince, left alone in his palace, wept bitterly over the loss of his beautiful Maria Morevna, but then he decided to go and search for her, and made ready for a long journey. ”No matter what happens,” he declared, ”I shall search till I find Maria Morevna.”

    He rode for one day, then a second, and at dawn of the third day he came to a wonderful palace. An oak was standing outside the palace, and in the oak a white falcon was sitting. The falcon flew down from the oak, beat itself against the ground, and turned into a handsome young man. He cried: ”Why, it is my brother-in-law! How is God treating you, Prince Ivan ?” Princess Maria, Ivan”s sister, heard the shout and ran out. She welcomed Ivan joyfully, asking about his health, and wanting to know all that had happened to him since she left. The prince stayed with his sister and brother-in-law as their guest for three days. But then he told them: ”I cannot stay with you longer; I am looking for my wife, the beautiful Queen Maria Morevna.”

    ”You will have difficulty in finding her,” the falcon said. ”But leave your silver spoon with us, just in case we can help. We shall look at it and it will remind us of you.” So Prince Ivan left his silver spoon with the falcon and went his way.

    He travelled for two days, and at dawn of the third day he saw ahead of him a palace still finer than the falcon’s. Outside it was an oak, and in the oak an eagle was sitting.

    When it saw Ivan the eagle flew down from the oak, turned into a handsome young man and cried: ”Get up, Princess Olga. Our dear brother Ivan has arrived.” Princess Olga ran out and greeted Ivan joyfully, embracing him, asking after his health and all that had happened to him since her marriage. Prince Ivan spent three days with his sister and brother-in-law, then he said: ”I cannot remain as your guest any longer. I am going to look for my wife, Maria Morevna, the beautiful queen.” The eagle told him, ”You will have difficulty in finding her. But leave your silver fork with us; we shall look at it from time to time to remind ourselves of you.” So the prince gave them his silver fork, said farewell, and rode off on his way.

    Two more days he spent on the road, and at the dawn of the third he came to a palace even finer than either of the other two. Outside the palace an oak was growing, on the oak a raven was sitting. When it saw Ivan the raven flew down from the oak, beat against the ground, changed into a handsome young man, and cried: ”Princess Anna! Come quickly, our brother has arrived.” Princess Anna ran out and welcomed her brother joyfully, embracing him and asking after his health and all that had happened to him since she left. Prince Ivan was their guest for three days, then he said: ”Goodbye! I must be on my way to look for my wife, the beautiful Queen Maria Morevna.”

    ”You will have a hard task finding her,” the raven said. ”But leave your silver snuffbox with us; we will look at it occasionally to remind ourselves of you.” The prince gave them his silver snuffbox, said goodbye, and went his way.

    Two more days passed, but on the third he found his way to Maria Morevna. She saw her beloved husband coming, threw herself into his arms, and wept bitterly as she said: ”Ah, Prince Ivan, why did not you listen to me? Why did you look into the box-room and release Kashchey the Deathless?”

    ”Forgive me, Maria Morevna.” he pleaded. ”Do not reproach me with the past, but ride away with me before Kashchey the Deathless sees us. Perhaps we shall get too far for him to overtake us.” So they made ready and rode away. Kashchey was out hunting; as he returned home late in the afternoon his good horse stumbled under him. ”What is the matter with you, you old nag?” he demanded. ”What made you stumble? Have you scented some misfortune?” The horse answered: ”Prince Ivan has come and carried off Maria Morevna.”

    ”But can we overtake them?” Kashchey asked.

    ”You could sow your wheat, wait for it to grow, you could harvest it and thresh it, grind it into flour, bake bread from it in five ovens, and eat the bread, and only then set out in pursuit. And even so we would overtake them,” said the horse. So Kashchey galloped after and overtook Prince Ivan. ”Well,” he said to the prince, ”this first time I forgive you because of your kindness in giving me water to drink. And I will forgive you a second time. But if it happens a third time look out for yourself: I shall cut you into little pieces.” He took Maria Morevna from the prince and carried her off, while Ivan sat down on a stone and wept.

    He wept until he had no more tears to weep, then he set out again to carry off Maria Morevna. When he arrived Kashchey the Deathless happened to be out hunting. ”Let us go, Maria,” said the prince. But she answered: ”Ah, dear Ivan, he will overtake us.”

”Let him,” he said, ”we shall at least spend an hour or two together.” And as he insisted, they made ready and rode away. In the late afternoon Kashchey the

    Deathless was riding back home when his horse stumbled under him. ”What is the matter with you, old nag?” he demanded. ”Why did you stumble? Have you perhaps scented some misfortune?”

”Prince Ivan has come and carried Maria Morevna away,” the horse answered. ”Then can we overtake them?” he asked. ”You could sow barley, wait for it to grow, you could harvest and thresh it, brew beer from it, drink the beer till you were drunk, sleep it off completely and then ride in pursuit: and still we would catch them.” So Kashchey galloped after Prince Ivan, caught up with him, and said: ”Do you not remember my telling you would no more see Maria Morevna than you can see your own ears? But I forgive you this second time.” He took Maria Morevna from him and carried her off.

    Prince Ivan was left alone; he wept and wept, but then he went back a third time for Maria Morevna. Kashchey happened to be out when he arrived. ”Let us go, Maria,” he pleaded. ”Ah, Ivan” she answered, ”but he will overtake us, and then he will cut you into pieces.”

    ”Let him!” said Prince Ivan. ”I cannot live without you.” So they made ready and rode away. As Kashchey the Deathless was riding home that afternoon his good horse stumbled. ”What made you stumble?” he asked. The horse answered: ”Prince Ivan has arrived and carried off Maria Morevna yet again.” Kashchey did not stop to ask whether the horse could overtake them: he galloped after Ivan and Maria, caught up with them, cut Ivan into little pieces with his sword, and put the pieces into a tarred barrel. Then he ringed the barrel with iron hoops and flung it into the blue sea. And he carried Maria Morevna back to his palace.

    At the very moment that Kashchey cut Prince Ivan into pieces the silver articles the prince had left with his sisters were tarnished. ”Ah,” his brothers-in-law said, ”evidently some misfortune has happened to him.” The eagle flew up and saw the barrel floating in the sea, and dragged it on to the shore. The falcon flew to fetch spring water, and the raven for still water. Then all three flew to the spot where the barrel was lying, broke it open, took out the pieces of Prince Ivan, washed them, and put them together as they had been. The raven sprinkled the still water over the pieces, and they grew together and became one whole; the falcon sprinkled the spring water over the body, and Prince Ivan shuddered, sat up, and remarked: ”Why, what a long time I have been asleep!”

    ”You would have slept even longer if it had not been for us,” his brothers-in-law told him. ”Now come and be our guest.”

    ”No, dear brothers,” he answered. ”I must go and look for Maria Morevna.”

    So he set off once more, reached the palace where she was being held, and asked her: ”Find out from Kashchey the Deathless where he obtained such a splendid horse as he rides.” Maria Morevna waited for a favourable moment, and then asked Kashchey about the horse. And he told her. ”Beyond twenty-seven lands, in the thirtieth kingdom, the farther side of the River of Fire lives a witch, Baba Yaga. She has a mare on which she flies right round the world every day. She has many other remarkable mares too. I worked for her three days as a shepherd. She would not give me one of her mares in payment for my work, but she did give me one small foal.”

    ”But how did you get across the River of Fire ?” Maria asked.

    ”I have a magic handkerchief. I waved it three times to the right and a very high bridge arose, which the fire could not reach.” Maria Morevna listened carefully to what he said, and told Prince Ivan all she had found out. She managed to get hold of the magic handkerchief without Kashchey knowing, and gave it to the prince.

    So Prince Ivan used the handkerchief to cross the River of Fire, and hurried on to find the witch, Baba Yaga. He walked on and on for a long time without finding anything to eat or drink. At last he happened to see a bird with her little chicks, and he told her: ”I must eat one of your chicks.”

    ”Please do not do that, Prince Ivan,” she pleaded. ”Do not take any of my chicks, and sooner or later I shall be of service to you.”

So he went on. A little later, in the forest he saw a beehive, and he said: ”I will take some of the honey.” But the queen bee pleaded: ”Do not take any of my honey, Prince Ivan. Then some day I shall be of service to you.” So he did not touch the honey, and walked on. He saw a lioness with her cub coming towards him, and said: ”At any rate I must eat that cub. I am so hungry that I could eat anything.”

    ”Please do not hurt my cub, Prince Ivan,” the lioness pleaded. ”Some time or other I may be of service to you.”

    ”All right, just as you wish,” he said.

So he wandered on, feeling terribly hungry, until he came to the house of the witch, Baba Yaga. The house was surrounded by twelve poles; on eleven of the poles human heads were impaled, and only one pole was without a head. He went up to the witch and said:     ”Greetings, Grannie.”

    ”Greetings, Prince Ivan,” she answered. ”Why have you come to visit me, of your own free will or out of necessity?”

    ”I have come to earn an heroic horse from you,” he told her.

    ”By all means, Prince. And you will have to serve me for a year, only three altogether. If you graze my mares without losing one of them I will give you a horse fit for any hero. But if you fail, you must not mind if I stick your head on that empty pole.” The prince agreed to these terms, the witch gave him food and drink, and told him to begin working, but he had hardly driven the mares out into the field when they kicked up their hoofs and scattered all over the meadows; before he had time to look they had all disappeared from sight. He was plunged into despair, sat down on a stone, and began to weep; but he was so tired that he fell asleep. The sun was setting when he was awakened by the bird whose chick he had spared. ”Get up, Prince Ivan,” she said. ”And do not worry: the mares are already at home.” So the prince got up and went back to the witch”s house. There he found her shouting and screaming at the mares: ”Why have you come back home?”

    ”But what else were we to do?” they asked. ”Birds came flying from all over the world and all but pecked out our eyes.”

    ”In that case, tomorrow do not scatter over the meadows, but run into the dense forest,” she told them.

Prince Ivan had a good sleep that night, and in the morning the witch told him: ”Look to it, Prince! If you do not guard my mares properly, if you lose even one, your fair head will decorate that pole.” He went to the mares and drove them out into the field. But they immediately flourished their tails and scattered about the dense forest. In his despair the prince sat down on a stone and wept. But he felt tired after chasing the mares, and he fell asleep. As the sun was setting beyond the forest the lioness ran up to him and awakened him. ”Go home, Prince Ivan,” she told him. ”The mares are all rounded up.” So the prince went back to the house. There he found the witch raging and storming even more than before at the mares. ”Why have you come back home?” she demanded.

    ”But what else could we do?” they asked. ”Savage beasts from all over the world came running after us and all but tore us to pieces.”

    ”Well then,” she said, ”tomorrow you must run right into the blue sea.”

    The prince had another good sleep that night, and next morning the witch sent him out a third time to guard the mares. ”But if you lose one of them,” she warned him, ”your head will decorate the pole.” As soon as he drove the mares into the field they tossed their manes and disappeared from his sight, for they ran right into the blue sea. There they stood up to their necks in the water. Prince Ivan was in despair; he sat down on a stone and wept. And as he wept he fell asleep. The sun was setting when the queen bee flew up and told him: ”Get up, Prince. All the mares are rounded up. But when you go back, do not let the witch see you. Go into the stable and hide behind the mangers. In there you will see a sorry-looking foal rolling in the dung. Steal him, and in the dead of night ride away from the witch”s house.”

    Prince Ivan rose, went to the stable, and hid behind the mangers. As he lay there he heard Baba Yaga shouting and swearing at her mares: ”What have you come back for?” she demanded.

    ”But what else were we to do ?” they asked. ”Swarms of bees from all over the world flew up and stung us until they drew blood.”

    The witch went off to bed, and at midnight Prince Ivan took the sorry-looking foal, saddled it, and galloped off to the River of Fire. He rode up to the river, and waved Kashchey’s handkerchief three times to the right. Suddenly a magnificent, lofty bridge hung over the river, appearing from nowhere. He rode across the bridge, and waved the handkerchief to the left. But he waved it only twice, and a very slender bridge was left across the river. On the farther side, the prince gave the foal a good feed of grass in a green meadow, and it grew into a magnificent horse.

    Next morning when the witch woke up she could not find the prince, and soon discovered that the foal had gone. So she rushed in pursuit, riding in her iron mortar and urging it on with a pestle, sweeping away her tracks behind her with a besom. She rode up to the River of Fire, looked at the bridge, and thought: ”That is a good bridge!” But when she rode on to the bridge and reached the middle it collapsed, and she fell headlong into the River of Fire. There she met with a fearful death.

    Meanwhile, Prince Ivan rode once more to rescue Maria Morevna; she saw him coming, ran out, and flung her arms round his neck. ”How have you been restored to life ?” she asked him. He told her all that had happened to him, and said: ”Now ride home with me.”

    ”But I am afraid, Prince Ivan,” she answered. ”If Kashchey overtakes us he will cut you into little pieces again.”

    ”He will not overtake us this time,” he told her. ”Now I have a magnificent horse, good enough for any hero; it flies along like a bird.” So they mounted the horse and rode away.

    As Kashchey the Deathless was returning home in the afternoon his horse stumbled. ”What is the matter with you, old nag?” he asked it.

    ”Prince Ivan has come again and carried off Maria Morevna,” the horse told him.

    ”But can we overtake them?” he asked.

    ”Goodness knows!” the horse answered. ”Prince Ivan now has a horse fit for any hero, and it is even better than me.”

    ”No, I cannot endure the thought of his getting away,” Kashchey said. ”We will go in pursuit.” He rode long, he rode hard, and he caught up with Prince Ivan, sprang to the ground, and was about to cut him down with his sharp sword. But Ivan’s horse let fly with its hind hoofs, kicked Kashchey with all its force and smashed in his head. Ivan finished him off with a club. Then the prince made a pile of wood, set fire to it, burnt Kashchey the Deathless on the pyre, and scattered the ashes to the four winds.

    Maria Morevna seated herself on Kashchey’s horse, the prince mounted his, and they rode away to visit first the raven, then the eagle, and then the falcon. At each of the palaces they were welcomed joyfully. ”Ah, Prince Ivan,” his sisters and brothers-in-law said, ”we had given up all hope of ever seeing you again. But now we can see why you exposed yourself to such great danger. You could search all over the world for another queen as beautiful as Maria Morevna, and you would never find one.” At each of the three palaces they feasted and banqueted, and then they rode off to their own kingdoms. When they arrived home they once more lived in happiness.

The Little White Duck

The Little White Duck

Russian Folktales from the Collection of A. Afanasyev  Русские народные сказки из собрания А. Афанасьева  A Dual-Language Book  Translated and with an Introduction by SERGEY LEVCHIN  DOVER PUBLICATIONS, INC. Mineola, New York

One prince married a beautiful princess, and he  hadn’t yet his fill of gazing upon her and conversing with her and listening to her sweet words,  but the time came for them to part, he had to set out on a distant journey, leave his wife in others’  care. 

There’s no helping it! Like they say, you can’t  have a lifetime of caresses.

 The princess shed many tears, and all the while the prince pleaded with her and commanded her not to leave her lofty  tower, not to go to banquets,¹³ not to keep com pany with bad folk, not to listen to ill words. The  princess promised to keep all his commandments.

The prince went away; she’s locked herself in her  chambers and never goes out.  In good time, a woman comes to see her—and  so simple she seems, so sincere!

 “Why stay here  brooding?” she says. “Won’t you go out, see the light of day, stroll in the garden, drive away your  cares, cool your head?” 

For a long time the  princess protested, didn’t want to go, at last she  thought: there’s no harm in strolling in the garden,  and she went. 

There in the garden was a pool of  crystal-clear spring water. “What a hot day it is,”  says the woman, “the sun is scorching, and the cool water is gurgling and plashing—why don’t we  take a dip here?” — 

“No, no, I don’t want to!” but she thought to herself: there’s no harm in taking a  dip! She threw off her robe and leapt in the water. 

Just as she dipped down, the woman struck her on  the back: “Swim like a little white duck!” she says.  And the princess became a white duck, gliding on  the water.

Straightaway the witch got herself up in her dress and finery, painted her face and sat down  to wait for the prince. Soon as the pup whimpered  and the bell tinkled, off she goes, running to meet him, throwing herself in his arms, kissing him, caressing him. He was so happy, he put his arms out  to her, and didn’t see what she was.

Meanwhile the little white duck laid little eggs  and hatched little babes, two were nice and healthy, but the third was a sickling, and her little ones all  came out little boys; so then she raised them, and  soon they were up and down the river strutting,  golden fish plucking, rags picking, frockcoats  stitching, clambering up on the shore, to the meadow looking o’er.

 “Ah, do not go there, children!”  their mother told them. The children didn’t listen to her; now they’re playing in the grass, next they’re  running through the fields, farther and farther, till  they got into the prince’s yard.

The witch smelled them, and it set her teeth a-gnashing; now, she called them inside, gave them food and drink, and laid them down to sleep; then she ordered a fire to be lit, and cauldrons to be hung and knives to be sharpened. The two brothers lay down and slept, but the sickling—their mother bid them always to carry him in their bosoms,¹⁴ to keep him from catching a chill— the sickling isn’t sleeping, he sees and hears everything.

In the night the witch  comes to the door and asks: “Are you sleeping, lit-  tle ones?” 

The sickling answers: “We’re sleeping—  not sleeping, a pond’rous thought thinking, how they want to chop us into pieces, hot fires stoking,  seething cauldrons hanging, steel knives sharping!” — “Not sleeping!”

The witch went away, walked around a while, and  came back to the door: “Are you sleeping, little ones?” 

The sickling again says the same thing: “We’re sleeping—not sleeping, a pond’rous  thought thinking, how they want to chop us into pieces, hot fires stoking, seething cauldrons hanging, steel knives sharping!” 

 “It’s always the same voice,” thinks the witch, so she opens the door softly, lo: the two brothers are fast asleep,straightaway she drew a circle around them with a  dead hand¹⁵ – and they died. 

The next morning the white duck called her children; the children won’t come. Her heart sensed trouble, she up and flew to the prince’s yard. There  in the prince’s yard, white as kerchiefs, cold as  perches,¹⁶ the two brothers lay side by side. She rushed to them, threw herself onto them, her wings flailing, her little ones cradling and in a mother’s voice wailing:

Quack, quack, my little ones!  

Quack, quack, my turtledoves! 

I reared you in great need, 

 gave you my tears to drink,

  the night did not sleep,

  a morsel did not eat! 

“Wife, do you hear this marvel? A duck lamenting.”

“You’re hearing things! Chase that duck out of the yard!” They drive her away, but she circles in the air and flies back to her children. 

Quack, quack, my little ones! 

Quack, quack, my turtledoves! 

An old witch has brought you ruin, 

and old witch, a serpent cruel, 

a serpent cruel, lying in wait; 

she’s stolen away your father dear, 

your father dear—my husband true, 

she drowned us in a river swift,

turned us into ducklings white, 

while she herself is living-prospering! 

“So!” thought the prince and shouted: “Catch me the little white duck!”

Everyone rushed out, but the white duck is flitting about, won’t let anyone take her; the prince himself ran out, and she fell into his hands. 

He took her by the wing and says: “White birch, rise up behind me, a fair maiden before me!” 

A white birch sprang up behind him, and a fair maiden stood before him, and in the fair maiden he recognized his young princess. Straightaway they  caught a magpie, tied two phials to her, bid her fill one with living water, the other with speaking water.¹⁷ 

The magpie flew and brought back the water. They sprinkled the children with living water— they gave a start, they sprinkled them with speaking water—they were chattering. Then the prince had himself a full  family,¹⁸ and they all went on living this way, ever  prospering, never suffering. But the witch they tied  to a horse’s tail and broke her across the field:  where a leg fell off—a poker lay, a severed hand became a rake, the head was a bush and a tree stump; birds came down—pecked her flesh away, winds rose up—scattered her bones, and there was left of her neither trace nor memory!

¹³ In contemporary use беседа is a leisurely conversation, but surely here it is used in the sense recorded by Dahl: “a festive evening gathering among peasants.” Of course, there is nothing remarkable about the prince’s forbidding his wife to attend peasant par- ties—the storyteller is merely filling out the tale with details culled from his own experience.

¹⁴ I.e., inside the shirt, pressed against the chest.

¹⁵ According to a folk belief, thieves come in the night equipped with a dead man’s hand; they use it to draw a circle in the air about the sleeping owners, thus plunging them into a ’dead,’ wakeless sleep.” [Afanasyev’s note.]

¹⁶ Lit.: slabs; though it may seem like a gratuitous rhyme here, “large zander (pike-perch), cut into slabs [пластается] and cured” (Dahl) is probably what the storyteller has in mind with these mysterious slablets [пласточки].

¹⁷ We will encounter this particular resurrection technique a few more times in these tales: the magpie and the crow appear to have special knowledge concerning waters dead, living, etc. But are these birds outfitted with animal bladders or glass phials (both пузырек inRussian)? My sense is that it varies from tale to tale: naturally, bladders came first, but as the tale moved into the princely palace, these bladders were reinterpreted as glass phials. Translation follows instinct and context.

¹⁸ The tale is tantalizingly vague on whether the white duck’s children are actually ducks or humans—and there is conflicting evidence. On the one hand, they are said to have hatched as wee lads [ребяточки]; on the other hand, their mother does say in her dirge that the witch has turned them all into white ducks. Also, they are found lying dead in the yard, apparently evincing little concern from the household. Finally, here they are revived and chattering in human tongue. The business with the third “sickling” child is entirely murky. While the mother is transformed back into human form, the children seem to stay whatever they were to begin with. For the prince’s sake, let’s hope they were human children, though the folktale knows contrary examples, including hybrids



Image: – Source: Radoslav Katičić,  Gazdarica pred vratima

Mother Syra Zemia, the ancient Slavic Mother Earth Goddess, is probably one of the oldest and most important deities. Her name means Moist Mother Earth, thus describing this goddess as an eternally fertile, life-giving and reproductive force.

Mokoš, also spelled Mokosh, the goddess of life-giving in ancient Slavic mythology. She is the only female deity mentioned in the Old Kievan pantheon of AD 980 and has survived in East Slavic folk beliefs as Mokoša, or Mokuša. The name Mokosh comes from the root ‘mol’ meaning ‘moisture’, and is connected with the  slavic word mokro (‘wet’).  Her name is connected, on the one hand, with spinning and plaiting and, on the other, with moisture. Associations with spinning, plaiting, and moisture suggest early European roots: the Great Goddess, or Fate, the spinner of life’s thread, dispenser of life’s water.

There are seven primordial gods in Slavic mythology, and only one of them is female: Mokosh. In the pantheon in the Kievan Rus’ state, she is the only goddess at all, and so her specific role in Slavic mythology is vast and varied, and, more aptly perhaps, foggy and damp. Mother earth and house spirit, tender of sheep, and spinner of fate, Mokosh is the supreme Slavic goddess.

“… Mother Moist Earth is  spinning and weaving, and her name is Mokosh. She also appears under the names Perinj and Vela, because she is also the mistress of the heavenly court, just as she is the gatekeeper  with the golden keys to the door of the underworld.“

The richly decorated door – which the Goddess opens and closes – is the door of a great heavenly court whose descending path leads to moisture and water that nurtures its springs hidden in the sedge. Mokosh opens and closes the gates of the upper (heavenly) and lower (gates of the green underworld, the dead and moisture).

The springs themselves (or wells) are located either inside the courtyard, behind the upper “heavenly” gates, or at the lower “underground” gates, towards which the heavenly gates open. The springs, filled with gold or silver, represent an abundance and preparation for the wedding of the divine children which is repeated every year. The Mokosh is represented as the Sun, God as the Moon, and the children as the Stars.

The Mokosh determines the human path, its destiny. While it allows for a desirable life path, it can also deny it. By this release and denial, she decides on both life and death.

The act of spinning is to create body tissue. The umbilical cord is the thread of life, transmitting moisture from the mother to the infant, twisted and coiled like the thread around a spindle. The final cloth of life is represented by the shroud or “winding sheet,” wrapped around a corpse in a spiral, as thread loops around a spindle.

Since weaving and yarn were also associated with Mokosh, it was very closely related to the very important and vital activities of women – making clothes and soaking them in water. The original attribute of weaving / spinning in Mokosh is primarily related to the life-giving influence of water.

Mokosh was also the goddess of marriage, love and sexuality / fertility. She is a wife who gives love and warmth, who knows how to please and satisfy, calm and cheer. She makes women’s handicrafts, weaves and weaves, washes and knits.

She sits on a wet swamp, where hemp and flax are soaked. It’s all watery and wet, and where it sits, the place stays wet. It is known that she sat down.

Its water is life-giving, and the thread it spins determines human life from birth to death.

She holds the keys to the underworld. Every spring, warm dew rushes through its doors and it welcomes the dead. She shows people her merciful and terrible face,she is tender even when she denies life. She is the Mother. “

In Slavic culture, elements of the goddess Mokosh can be found, disguised but noticeable, in embroidery, dances, songs, fairy tales and traditional customs.

Mokosh is embroidered on women’s aprons, exactly where the uterus is located, on fabrics used in the house, as well as on clothing. Some of its typical manifestations are symbols of a tree / flower / goddess with branches / arms / wings / and wheat, sometimes all at once.

You can invite Mokosh’s presence and open yourself to Her Blessings by tying a cloth to a birch or willow tree. Mokosh is associated with wells, springs, wells and moisture. It has a special connection with sheep, wool and weaving.

Sacrifices were offered to her by throwing into the well various fabrics, linen hemp, spun threads, and sheep’s wool. Friday was a day sacred to the goddess and was characterized by taboos on women’s work. She, when she was ruthless, could become very dangerous. Her prohibitions were that no untwisted hemp should be left overnight, on Fridays women should not spin or weave.

Historical references say she had a large head and long arms, a reference to her connection with spiders and spinning. A tall woman with a large head and long arms, she spins flax and wool at night and shears sheep Symbols associated with her include spindles and cloth, the rhombus (a nearly global reference to women’s genitals for at least 20,000 years), and the Sacred Tree or Pillar.

Mokosh brings the water of life and protects the waters that give life on which human and animal existence depends. She is also the goddess of destiny, spinning the thread of creation, giving life, when she cuts the threads, she brings death. The water spilled over the marshy plain, the network of rivers and their tributaries, is experienced as a weave of spun threads. 

All that this whole world is, is nothing but weaving on water. And on the water spins and weaves, the goddess Mokosh.

One of her epithets is “She who strikes with her wings”. The fact that she is a winged Goddess indicates her power and what she gives to her worshipers, to travel between worlds in trance, sleep and vision, for blessing and for healing on behalf of the community and all who are in need. The waters of the earth, birds, bees, animals and people … need the blessing and protection of Mokoš.

Truly she is the Great Mother, Mother Earth.

The Pigeon’s Bride – The Story of a Princess Who Kissed and Told – Slavic Folktale

The Pigeon’s Bride – The Story of a Princess Who Kissed and Told

Photo:  – Source: Jugoslav Folk and Fairy Tales, Author: Parker Fillmore, Published: 1921 – Publisher: Harcourt, Brace And Company, USA

There was once a King who had an only daughter. She was as lovely as a princess ought to be and by the time she reached a marriageable age the fame of her beauty had spread far and wide over all the world. Neighboring kings and even distant ones were already sending envoys to her father’s court begging permission to offer their sons as suitors to the Princess’s hand. As he had no son of his own the Princess’s father was delighted that the day was fast approaching when he might have a son-in-law, and long before even the name of any particular prince was discussed the Princess’s mother had planned the wedding down to its last detail.

The Princess alone was uninterested.

“I’m not ready to get married yet,” she’d say to her parents every day when they’d begin telling her about the various princes who were anxious to gain her favor. “Why such haste? I’m young and there’s plenty of time. Besides, just now I’m too busy with my embroidery to be bothered with a crowd of young men.”

With that, before the King could reprove her, the Princess would throw her arms about his neck, kiss him under the corner of his mustache, and go flying off to the tower-room where she had her embroidery frame.

Her mother, the Queen, was much upset by the Princess’s attitude.

“In my youth,” she said, “girls were not like this. We were brought up to think that courtship and marriage were the most important events in our lives. I don’t know what’s getting into the heads of the young girls nowadays!”

But the King, who was still smiling from the tickling little kiss which the Princess had planted under the corner of his mustache, always answered:

“Tut! Tut! We needn’t worry yet! Take my word for it when some particular young man comes along she’ll be interested fast enough!”

At this the Queen, ending the discussion every day with the same words, would shake her head and declare:

“I tell you it isn’t natural for a girl to be more interested in embroidery than in a long line of handsome young suitors!”

The Princess was interested in her embroidery—there’s no doubt about that. She spent every moment she could in the tower-room, working and singing. The tower was high up among the treetops. It was reached by winding stairs so narrow and so many that no one any older than the Princess would care to climb them. The Princess flew up them like a bird, scarcely pausing for breath. At the top of the stairs was a trap-door which was the only means of entrance into the tower-room. Once in the tower-room with the bolt of the trap-door securely fastened, the Princess was safe from interruption and could work away at her embroidery to her heart’s content. The tower had windows on all sides, so the Princess as she sat at her embroidery frame could look out north, east, south, and west.

The clouds sailed by in the sky, the wind blew and at once the leaves in the treetops began murmuring and whispering among themselves, and the birds that went flying all over the world would often alight on some branch near the tower and sing to the Princess as she worked or chatter some exciting story that she could almost understand.

“What!” the Princess would think to herself as she looked out north, east, south, and west. “Leave my tower and my beautiful embroidery to become the wife of some conceited young man! Never!”

From this remark you can understand perfectly well that the particular young man of whom her father spoke had not yet come along. And I’m sure you’ll also know that shutting herself up in the tower-room and bolting the trap-door was not going to keep him away when it was time for him to come. Yet I don’t believe that you’d have recognized him when he did come any more than the Princess did. This is how it happened:

One afternoon when as usual she was working at her embroidery and singing as she worked, suddenly there was a flutter of wings at the eastern window and a lovely Pigeon came flying into the room. It circled three times about the Princess’s head and then alighted on the embroidery frame. The Princess reached out her hand and the bird, instead of taking fright, allowed her to stroke its gleaming neck. Then she took it gently in her hands and fondled it to her bosom, kissing its bill and smoothing its plumage with her lips.

“You beautiful thing!” she cried. “How I love you!”

“If you really love me,” the Pigeon said, “have a bowl of milk here at this same hour to-morrow and then we’ll see what we’ll see.”

With that the bird spread its wings and flew out the western window.

The Princess was so excited that for the rest of the afternoon she forgot her embroidery.

“Did the Pigeon really speak?” she asked herself as she stood staring out the western window, “or have I been dreaming?”

The next day when she climbed the winding stairs she went slowly for she carried in her hands a brimming bowl of milk.

“Of course it won’t come again!” she said, and she made herself sit down quietly before the embroidery frame and work just as though she expected nothing.

But exactly at the same hour as the day before there was a flutter of wings at the eastern window, the sound of a gentle coo! coo! and there was the Pigeon ready to be loved and caressed.

“You beautiful creature!” the Princess cried, kissing its coral beak and smoothing its neck with her lips, “how I love you! And see, I have brought you the bowl of milk that you asked for!”

The bird flew over to the bowl, poised for a moment on its brim, then splashed into the milk as though to take a bath.

The Princess laughed and clapped her hands and then, as she looked, she saw a strange thing happen. The bird’s feathers opened like a shirt and out of the feather shirt stepped a handsome youth.

(You remember I told you how surprised the Princess was going to be. And you’re surprised, too, aren’t you?)

He was so handsome that all the Princess could say was, “Oh!”

He came slowly towards her and knelt before her.

“Dear Princess,” he said, “do not be frightened. If it had not been for your sweet words yesterday when you said you loved me I should never have been able to leave this feather shirt. Do not turn from me now because I am a man and not a pigeon. Love me still if you can, for I love you. It was because I fell in love with you yesterday when I saw you working at your embroidery that I flew in by the open window and let you caress me.”

For a long time the Princess could only stare at the kneeling youth, too amazed to speak. He was so handsome that she forgot all about the pigeon he used to be, she forgot her embroidery, she forgot everything. She hadn’t supposed that any young man in the whole world could be so handsome! Why, just looking at him, she could be happy forever and ever and ever!

“Would you rather I were still a pigeon?” the young man asked.

“No! No! No!” the Princess cried. “I like you ever so much better this way!”

The young man gravely bowed his head and kissed her hand and the Princess blushed and trembled and wished he would do it again. She had never imagined that any kiss could be so wonderful!

They passed the afternoon together and it seemed to the Princess it was the happiest afternoon of all her life. As the sun was sinking the youth said:

“Now I must leave you and become a pigeon again.”

“But you’ll come back, won’t you?” the Princess begged.

“Yes, I’ll come back to-morrow but on one condition: that you don’t tell any one about me. I’ll come back every day at the same hour but if ever you tell about me then I won’t be able to come back any more.”

“I’ll never tell!” the Princess promised.

Then the youth kissed her tenderly, dipped himself in the milk, went back into his feather shirt, and flew off as a pigeon.

The next day he came again and the next and the next and the Princess fell so madly in love with him that all day long and all night long, too, she thought of nothing else. She no longer touched her embroidery but day after day sat idle in the tower-room just awaiting the hour of his arrival. And every day it seemed to the King and the Queen and all the people about the Court that the Princess was becoming more and more beautiful. Her cheeks kept growing pinker, her eyes brighter, her lovely hair more golden.

“I must say sitting at that foolish embroidery agrees with her,” the King said.

“No, it isn’t that,” the Queen told him. “It’s the big bowl of milk she drinks every afternoon. You know milk is very good for the complexion.”

“Milk indeed!” murmured the Princess to herself, and she blushed rosier than ever at thought of her wonderful secret.

But a princess can’t keep growing more and more beautiful without everybody in the world hearing about it. The neighboring kings soon began to feel angry and suspicious.

“What ails this Princess?” they asked among themselves. “Isn’t one of our sons good enough for her? Is she waiting for the King of Persia to come as a suitor or what? Let us stand together on our rights and demand to know why she won’t consider one of our sons!”

So they sent envoys to the Princess’s father and he saw at once that the matter had become serious.

“My dear,” he said to the Princess, “your mother and I have humored you long enough. It is high time that you had a husband and I insist that you allow the sons of neighboring kings to be presented to you next week.”

“I won’t do it!” the Princess declared. “I’m not interested in the sons of the neighboring kings and that’s all there is about it!”

Her father looked at her severely.

“Is that the way for a princess to talk? Persist in this foolishness and you may embroil your country in war!”

“I don’t care!” the Princess cried, bursting into tears. “I can’t marry any of them, so why let them be presented?”

“Why can’t you marry any of them?”

“I just can’t!” the Princess insisted.

At first, in spite of the pleadings of both parents, she would tell them no more, but her mother kept questioning her until at last in self-defense the Princess confessed that she had a true love who came to her in the tower every afternoon in the form of a pigeon.

“He’s a prince,” she told them, “the son of a distant king. At present he is under an enchantment that turns him into a pigeon. When the enchantment is broken he is coming as a prince to marry me.”

“My poor child!” the Queen cried. “Think no more about this Pigeon Prince! The enchantment may last a hundred years and then where will you be!”

“But he is my love!” the Princess declared, “and if I can’t have him I won’t have any one!”

When the King found that nothing they could say would move her from this resolution, he sighed and murmured:

“Very well, my dear. If it must be so, it must be. This afternoon when your lover comes, bring him down to me that I may talk to him.”

But that afternoon the Pigeon did not come. Nor the next afternoon either, nor the next, and then too late the Princess remembered his warning that if she told about him he could never come back.

So now she sat in the tower-room idle and heartbroken, reproaching herself that she had betrayed her lover and praying God to forgive her and send him back to her. And the roses faded from her cheeks and her eyes grew dull and the people about the Court began wondering why they had ever thought her the most beautiful princess in the world.

At last she went to the King, her father, and said:

“As my love can no longer come back to me because I forgot my promise and betrayed him, I must go out into the world and hunt him. Unless I find him life will not be worth the living. So do not oppose me, father, but help me. Have three pairs of iron shoes made for me and three iron staffs. I will wander over the wide world until these are worn out and then, if by that time I have not found him, I will come home to you.”

So the King had three pairs of iron shoes made for the Princess and three iron staffs and she set forth on her quest. She traveled through towns and cities and many kingdoms, over rough mountains and desert places, looking everywhere for her enchanted love. But nowhere could she find any trace of him.

At the end of the first year she had worn out the first pair of iron shoes and the first iron staff. At the end of the second year she had worn out the second pair of iron shoes and the second iron staff. At the end of the third year, when she had worn out the third pair of iron shoes and the third staff, she returned to her father’s palace looking thin and worn and sad.

“My poor child,” the King said, “I hope now you realize that the Pigeon Prince is gone forever. Think no more about him. Go back to your embroidery and when the roses begin blooming in your cheeks again we’ll find some young prince for you who isn’t enchanted.”

But the Princess shook her head.

“Let me try one thing more, father,” she begged, “and then if I don’t find my love I’ll do as you say.”

The King agreed to this.

“Well, then,” the Princess said, “build a public bath-house and have the heralds proclaim that the King’s daughter will sit at the entrance and will allow any one to bathe free of charge who will tell her the story of the strangest thing he has ever heard or seen.”

So the King built the bath-house and sent out his heralds far and wide. Men and women from all over the world came and bathed and told the Princess stories of this marvel and that, but never, alas, a word of an enchanted pigeon.

The days went by and the Princess grew more and more discouraged.

“Isn’t it sad,” the courtiers began whispering, “how the Princess has lost her looks! Do you suppose she ever was really beautiful or did we just imagine it?”

And the neighboring kings when they heard this remarked softly among themselves:

“It’s just as well we didn’t hurry one of our sons into a marriage with this young woman!”

Now there was a poor widow who lived near the bath-house. She had a daughter, a pretty young girl, who used to sit at the window and watch the Princess as people came and told her their stories.

“Mother,” the girl said one day, “every one in the world goes to the bath-house and I want to go, too!”

“Nonsense!” the mother said. “What story could you tell the Princess?”

“But everybody else goes and I don’t see why I can’t!”

“Well, my dear,” the mother promised, “you may just as soon as you see or hear something strange. Talk no more about it now but go, fetch me a pitcher of water from the town well.”

The girl obediently took an empty pitcher and went to the town well. Just as she had filled the pitcher she heard some one say:

“Mercy me, I fear I’ll be late!”

She turned around and what do you think she saw? A rooster in wooden shoes with a basket under his wing!

“I fear I’ll be late! I fear I’ll be late!” the rooster kept repeating as he hurried off making a funny little clatter with his wooden shoes.

“How strange!” the girl thought to herself. “A rooster with wooden shoes! I’m sure the Princess would love to hear about him! I’ll follow him and see what he does.”

He went to a garden where he filled his basket with fresh vegetables—with onions and beans and garlic. Then he hurried home to a little house. The girl slipped in after him and hid behind the door.

“Thank goodness, I’m on time!” the rooster murmured.

He put a big bowl on the table and filled it with milk.

“There!” he said. “Now I’m ready for them!”

Presently twelve beautiful pigeons came flying in by the open door. Eleven of them dipped in the bowl of milk, their feather shirts opened, and out they stepped eleven handsome youths. But the Twelfth Pigeon perched disconsolately on the windowsill and remained a pigeon. The eleven laughed at him and said:

“Poor fellow, your bride betrayed you, didn’t she? So you have to remain shut up in your feather shirt while we go off and have a jolly time!”

“Yes,” the Twelfth Pigeon said, “she broke her promise and now she goes wandering up and down the world hunting for me. If she doesn’t find me I shall nevermore escape the feather shirt but shall have to fly about forever as a pigeon. But I know she will find me for she will never stop until she does. And when she finds me, then the enchantment will be broken forever and I can marry her!”

The eleven youths went laughing arm in arm out of the house and in a few moments the solitary Pigeon flew after them. Instantly the girl slipped out from behind the door and hurried home with her pitcher of water. Then she ran quickly across to the bath-house and all out of breath she cried to the Princess:

“O Princess, I have such a wonderful story to tell you all about a rooster with wooden shoes and twelve pigeons only eleven of them are not pigeons but handsome young men and the twelfth one has to stay in his feather shirt because—”

At mention of the enchanted pigeons, the Princess turned pale. She held up her hand and made the girl pause until she had her breath, then she questioned her until she knew the whole story.

“It must be my love!” the Princess thought to herself. “Thank God I have found him at last!”

The next day at the same hour she went with the girl to the town well and when the rooster clattered by in his wooden shoes they followed him home and slipping into the house they hid behind the door and waited. Presently twelve pigeons flew in. Eleven of them dipped in the milk and came out handsome young men. The Twelfth sat disconsolately on the window sill and remained a pigeon. The eleven laughed at him and twitted him with having had a bride that had betrayed him. Then the eleven went away laughing arm in arm. Before the Twelfth could fly after them, the Princess ran out from behind the door and cried:

“My dear one, I have found you at last!”

The Pigeon flew into her hands and she took him and kissed his coral beak and smoothed his gleaming plumage with her lips. Then she put him in the milk and the feather shirt opened and her own true love stepped out.

She led him at once to her father and when the King found him well trained in all the arts a prince should know he accepted him as his future son-in-law and presented him to the people.

So after all the Princess’s mother was able to give her daughter the gorgeous wedding she had planned for years and years. Preparations were begun at once but the Queen insisted on making such vast quantities of little round cakes and candied fruits and sweetmeats of all kinds that it was three whole months before the wedding actually took place. By that time the roses were again blooming in the Princess’s cheeks, her eyes were brighter than before, and her long shining hair was more golden than ever.

All the neighboring kings were invited to the wedding and when they saw the bride they shook their heads sadly and said among themselves:

“Lost her looks indeed! What did people mean by saying such a thing? Why, she’s the most beautiful princess in the world! What a pity she didn’t marry one of our sons!”

But when they met the Prince of her choice, they saw at once why the Princess had fallen in love with him.

“Any girl would!” they said.

It was a big wedding, as I told you before, and the only guest present who was not a king or a queen or a royal personage of some sort was the poor girl who saw the rooster with wooden shoes in the first place. The Queen, of course, had wanted only royalty but the Princess declared that the poor girl was her dear friend and would have to be invited. So the Queen, when she saw that the Princess was set on having her own way, had the poor girl come to the palace before the wedding and decked her out in rich clothes until people were sure that she was some strange princess whom the bride had met on her travels.

“My dear,” whispered the Princess as they sat down beside each other at the wedding feast, “how beautiful you look!”

“But I’m not as beautiful as you!” the girl said.

The Princess laughed.

“Of course not! No one can be as beautiful as I am because I have the secret of beauty!”

“Dear Princess,” the poor girl begged, “won’t you tell me the secret of beauty?”

The Princess leaned over and whispered something in the poor girl’s ear.

It was only one word:


The Vilas’ Spring – The Story of the Brother Who Knew that Good was Stronger than Evil – Slavic Folktale

The Vilas’ Spring – The Story of the Brother Who Knew that Good was Stronger than Evil

Source:  Parker Fillmore, Jugoslav Folk and Fairy Tales  Photo: 1vilas_spring  Artgate_Fondazione_Cariplo_-_Giuliano_Bartolomeo,_Le_Villi

There was once a rich man who had two sons. The older son was overbearing, greedy, and covetous. He was dishonest, too, and thought nothing of taking things that belonged to others. The younger brother was gentle and kind. He was always ready to share what he had and he was never known to cheat or to steal.

“He’s little better than a fool!” the older brother used to say of him scornfully.

When the brothers grew to manhood the old father died leaving directions that they divide his wealth between them, share and share alike.

“Nonsense!” the older brother said. “That fool would only squander his inheritance! To every poor beggar that comes along he’d give an alms until soon my poor father’s savings would be all gone! No! I’ll give him three golden ducats and a horse and tell him to get out and if he makes a fuss I won’t give him that much!”

So he said to his younger brother:

“You’re a fool and you oughtn’t to have a penny from our father’s estate. However, I’ll give you three golden ducats and a horse on condition that you clear out and never come back.”

“Brother,” the younger one said quietly, “you are doing me a wrong.”

“What if I am?” sneered the older. “Wrong is stronger than Right just as I am stronger than you. Be off with you now or I’ll take from you even these three golden ducats and the horse!”

Without another word the younger brother mounted the horse and rode away.

Time went by and at last the brothers chanced to meet on the highway.

“God bless you, brother!” the younger one said.

“Don’t you go God-blessing me, you fool!” the older one shouted. “It isn’t God who is powerful in this world but the Devil!”

“No, brother,” the other said, “you are wrong. God is stronger than the Devil just as Good is stronger than Evil.”

“Are you sure of that?”

“Yes, brother, I’m sure.”

“Well, then, let us make a wager. I’ll wager you a golden ducat that Evil is stronger than Good and we’ll let the first man we meet on this road decide which of us is right. Do you agree?”

“Yes, brother, I agree.”

They rode a short distance and overtook a man who seemed to be a monk. He wasn’t really a monk but the Devil himself disguised in the habit of a monk. The older brother put the case to him and the false monk at once answered:

“That’s an easy question to decide. Of course Evil is stronger than Good in this world.”

Without a word the younger brother took out one of his golden ducats and handed it over.

“Now,” sneered the older one, “are you convinced?”

“No, brother, I am not. No matter what this monk says I know that Good is stronger than Evil.”

“You do, do you? Then suppose we repeat the wager and ask the next man we meet to decide between us.”

“Very well, brother, I’m willing.”

The next man they overtook looked like an old farmer, but in reality he was the Devil again who had taken the guise of a farmer. They put the question to him and of course the Devil made the same answer:

“Evil is stronger than Good in this world.”

So again the younger brother paid his wager but in sisted that he still believed Good to be stronger than Evil.

“Then we’ll make a third wager,” the other said.

With the Devil’s help the older brother won the third golden ducat which was all the money the younger one had. Then the older brother suggested that they wager their horses and the Devil, disguised in another form, again acted as umpire and the younger one of course lost his horse.

“Now I have nothing more to lose,” he said, “but I am still so sure that Good is stronger than Evil that I am willing to wager the very eyes out of my head!”

“The more fool you!” the other one cried brutally.

Without another word he knocked his younger brother down and gouged out his eyes.

“Now let God take care of you if He can! As for me I put my trust in the Devil!”

“May God forgive you for speaking so!” the younger one said.

“I don’t care whether He does or not! Nothing can harm me! I’m strong and I’m rich and I know how to take care of myself. As for you, you poor blind beggar, is there anything you would like me to do for you before I ride away?”

“All I ask of you, brother, is that you lead me to the spring that is under the fir tree not far from here. There I can bathe my wounds and sit in the shade.”

“I’ll do that much for you,” the older one said, taking the blinded man by the hand. “For the rest, God will have to take care of you.”

With that he led him over to the fir tree and left him. The blinded man groped his way to the spring and bathed his wounds, then sat down under the tree and prayed God for help and protection.

When night came he fell asleep and he slept until midnight when he was awakened by the sound of voices at the spring. A company of Vilas were bathing and playing as they bathed. He was blind, as you remember, so he couldn’t see their beautiful forms but he knew that they must be Vilas from their voices which were as sweet as gurgling waters and murmuring treetops. Human voices are never half so lovely. Yes, they must be Vilas from the mountains and the woods.

“Ho, sisters!” cried one of them, “if only men knew that we bathed in this spring, they could come to-morrow and be healed in its water—the maimed and the halt and blind! To-morrow this water would heal even the king’s daughter who is afflicted with leprosy!”

When they were gone the blind man crept down to the spring and bathed his face. At the first touch of the healing water his wounds closed and his sight was restored. With a heart full of gratitude he knelt down and thanked God for the miracle. Then when morning came he filled a vessel with the precious water and hurried to the king’s palace.

“Tell the king,” he said to the guards, “that I have come to heal his daughter.”

The king admitted him at once to the princess’s chamber and said to him:

“If you succeed in healing the princess you shall have her in marriage and in addition I shall make you heir to my kingdom.”

The moment the princess was bathed in the healing water she, too, was restored to health and at once the proclamation was sent forth that the princess was recovered and was soon to marry the man who had cured her.

Now when the evil older brother heard who this fortunate man was, he could scarcely contain himself for rage and envy.

“How did that fool get back his sight?” he asked himself. “What magic secret did he discover that enabled him to heal the princess of leprosy? Whatever it was he got it under the fir tree for where else could he have got it? I’ve a good mind to go to the fir tree myself to-night and see what happens.”

The more he thought about it the surer he became that if he went to the fir tree in exactly the same condition as his brother he, too, would have some wonderful good fortune. So when night came he seated himself under the tree, gouged out his eyes with a knife, and then waited to see what would happen. At midnight he heard the Vilas at the spring but their voices were not sweet but shrill and angry.

“Sisters,” they cried to each other, “have you heard? The princess is healed of leprosy and it was with the water of this, our spring! Who has spied on us?”

“While we were talking last night,” said one, “some man may have been hiding under the fir tree.”

“Let us see if there is any one there to-night!” cried another.

With that they all rushed to the fir tree and took the man they found sitting there and in a fury tore him to pieces as though he were a bit of old cloth. So that was the end of the wicked older brother. And you will notice that in his hour of need his friend, the Devil, was not on hand to help him.

So after all it was the younger brother who finally inherited all his father’s wealth. In addition he married the princess and was made heir to the kingdom. So you see Good is stronger than Evil in this world.