Part 4 out of 6
and poured out questions as to what had happened, and why he
looked like that. But the prince did not answer any of them.
'How is my wife?' he said. There was a pause.
Then the queen replied:
'She is dead.'
'Dead!' he repeated, stepping a little backwards. 'And my child?'
'He is dead too.'
The young man stood silent. Then he said, 'Show me their graves.'
At these words the king, who had been feeling rather
uncomfortable, took heart again, for had he not prepared two
beautiful tombs for his son to see, so that he might never, never
guess what had been done to his wife? All these months the king
and queen had been telling each other how good and merciful they
had been not to take her brother's advice and to put her to
death. But now, this somehow did not seem so certain.
Then the king led the way to the courtyard just behind the
palace, and through the gate into a beautiful garden where stood
two splendid tombs in a green space under the trees. The prince
advanced alone, and, resting his head against the stone, he burst
into tears. His father and mother stood silently behind with a
curious pang in their souls which they did not quite understand.
Could it be that they were ashamed of themselves?
But after a while the prince turned round, and walking past them
in to the palace he bade the slaves bring him mourning. For seven
days no one saw him, but at the end of them he went out hunting,
and helped his father rule his people. Only no one dared to speak
to him of his wife and son.
At last one morning, after the girl had been lying awake all
night thinking of her husband, she said to her friend the snake:
'You have all shown me much kindness, but now I am well again,
and want to go home and hear some news of my husband, and if he
still mourns for me!' Now the heart of the snake was sad at her
words, but he only said:
'Yes, thus it must be; go and bid farewell to my father and
mother, but if they offer you a present, see that you take
nothing but my father's ring and my mother's casket.'
So she went to the parent snakes, who wept bitterly at the
thought of losing her, and offered her gold and jewels as much as
she could carry in remembrance of them. But the girl shook her
head and pushed the shining heap away from her.
'I shall never forget you, never,' she said in a broken voice,
'but the only tokens I will accept from you are that little ring
and this old casket.'
The two snakes looked at each other in dismay. The ring and the
casket were the only things they did not want her to have. Then
after a short pause they spoke.
'Why do you want the ring and casket so much? Who has told you of
'Oh, nobody; it is just my fancy,' answered she. But the old
snakes shook their heads and replied:
'Not so; it is our son who told you, and, as he said, so it must
be. If you need food, or clothes, or a house, tell the ring and
it will find them for you. And if you are unhappy or in danger,
tell the casket and it will set things right.' Then they both
gave her their blessing, and she picked up her baby and went her
She walked for a long time, till at length she came near the town
where her husband and his father dwelt. Here she stopped under a
grove of palm trees, and told the ring that she wanted a house.
'It is ready, mistress,' whispered a queer little voice which
made her jump, and, looking behind her, she saw a lovely palace
made of the finest woods, and a row of slaves with tall fans
bowing before the door. Glad indeed was she to enter, for she was
very tired, and, after eating a good supper of fruit and milk
which she found in one of the rooms, she flung herself down on a
pile of cushions and went to sleep with her baby beside her.
Here she stayed quietly, and every day the baby grew taller and
stronger, and very soon he could run about and even talk. Of
course the neighbours had a great deal to say about the house
which had been built so quickly--so very quickly--on the
outskirts of the town, and invented all kinds of stories about
the rich lady who lived in it. And by and bye, when the king
returned with his son from the wars, some of these tales reached
'It is really very odd about that house under the palms,' he said
to the queen; 'I must find out something of the lady whom no one
ever sees. I daresay it is not a lady at all, but a gang of
conspirators who want to get possession of my throne. To-morrow I
shall take my son and my chief ministers and insist on getting
Soon after sunrise next day the prince's wife was standing on a
little hill behind the house, when she saw a cloud of dust coming
through the town. A moment afterwards she heard faintly the roll
of the drums that announced the king's presence, and saw a crowd
of people approaching the grove of palms. Her heart beat fast.
Could her husband be among them? In any case they must not
discover her there; so just bidding the ring prepare some food
for them, she ran inside, and bound a veil of golden gauze round
her head and face. Then, taking the child's hand, she went to the
door and waited.
In a few minutes the whole procession came up, and she stepped
forward and begged them to come in and rest.
'Willingly,' answered the king; 'go first, and we will follow
They followed her into a long dark room, in which was a table
covered with gold cups and baskets filled with dates and cocoa-
nuts and all kinds of ripe yellow fruits, and the king and the
prince sat upon cushions and were served by slaves, while the
ministers, among whom she recognised her own brother, stood
'Ah, I owe all my misery to him,' she said to herself. 'From the
first he has hated me,' but outwardly she showed nothing. And
when the king asked her what news there was in the town she only
'You have ridden far; eat first, and drink, for you must be
hungry and thirsty, and then I will tell you my news.'
'You speak sense,' answered the king, and silence prevailed for
some time longer. Then he said:
'Now, lady, I have finished, and am refreshed, therefore tell me,
I pray you, who you are, and whence you come? But, first, be
She bowed her head and sat down on a big scarlet cushion, drawing
her little boy, who was asleep in a corner, on to her knee, and
began to tell the story of her life. As her brother listened, he
would fain have left the house and hidden himself in the forest,
but it was his duty to wave the fan of peacock's feathers over
the king's head to keep off the flies, and he knew he would be
seized by the royal guards if he tried to desert his post. He
must stay where he was, there was no help for it, and luckily for
him the king was too much interested in the tale to notice that
the fan had ceased moving, and that flies were dancing right on
the top of his thick curly hair.
The story went on, but the story-teller never once looked at the
prince, even through her veil, though he on his side never moved
his eyes from her. When she reached the part where she had sat
weeping in the tree, the king's son could restrain himself no
'It is my wife,' he cried, springing to where she sat with the
sleeping child in her lap. 'They have lied to me, and you are not
dead after all, nor the boy either.! But what has happened? Why
did they lie to me? and why did you leave my house where you were
safe?' And he turned and looked fiercely at his father.
'Let me finish my tale first, and then you will know,' answered
she, throwing back her veil, and she told how her brother had
come to the palace and accused her of being a witch, and had
tried to persuade the king to slay her. 'But he would not do
that,' she continued softly, 'and after all, if I had stayed on
in your house, I should never have met the snake, nor have got my
hand back again. So let us forget all about it, and be happy once
more, for see! our son is growing quite a big boy.'
'And what shall be done to your brother?' asked the king, who was
glad to think that someone had acted in this matter worse than
'Put him out of the town,' answered she.
From 'Swaheli Tales,' by E. Steere.
The Bones of Djulung
In a beautiful island that lies in the southern seas, where
chains of gay orchids bind the trees together, and the days and
nights are equally long and nearly equally hot, there once lived
a family of seven sisters. Their father and mother were dead, and
they had no brothers, so the eldest girl ruled over the rest, and
they all did as she bade them. One sister had to clean the house,
a second carried water from the spring in the forest, a third
cooked their food, while to the youngest fell the hardest task of
all, for she had to cut and bring home the wood which was to keep
the fire continually burning. This was very hot and tiring work,
and when she had fed the fire and heaped up in a corner the
sticks that were to supply it till the next day, she often threw
herself down under a tree, and went sound asleep.
One morning, however, as she was staggering along with her bundle
on her back, she thought that the river which flowed past their
hut looked so cool and inviting that she determined to bathe in
it, instead of taking her usual nap. Hastily piling up her load
by the fire, and thrusting some sticks into the flame, she ran
down to the river and jumped in. How delicious it was diving and
swimming and floating in the dark forest, where the trees were so
thick that you could hardly see the sun! But after a while she
began to look about her, and her eyes fell on a little fish that
seemed made out of a rainbow, so brilliant were the colours he
'I should like him for a pet,' thought the girl, and the next
time the fish swam by, she put out her hand and caught him. Then
she ran along the grassy path till she came to a cave in front of
which a stream fell over some rocks into a basin. Here she put
her little fish, whose name was Djulung-djulung, and promising to
return soon and bring him some dinner, she went away.
By the time she got home, the rice for their dinner was ready
cooked, and the eldest sister gave the other six their portions
in wooden bowls. But the youngest did not finish hers, and when
no one was looking, stole off to the fountain in the forest where
the little fish was swimming about.
'See! I have not forgotten you,' she cried, and one by one she
let the grains of rice fall into the water, where the fish
gobbled them up greedily, for he had never tasted anything so
'That is all for to-day,' she said at last, 'but I will come
again to-morrow,' and biding him good-bye she went down the path.
Now the girl did not tell her sisters about the fish, but every
day she saved half of her rice to give him, and called him softly
in a little song she had made for herself. If she sometimes felt
hungry, no one knew of it, and, indeed, she did not mind that
much, when she saw how the fish enjoyed it. And the fish grew fat
and big, but the girl grew thin and weak, and the loads of wood
felt heavier every day, and at last her sisters noticed it.
Then they took counsel together, and watched her to see what she
did, and one of them followed her to the fountain where Djulung
lived, and saw her give him all the rice she had saved from her
breakfast. Hastening home the sister told the others what she had
witnessed, and that a lovely fat fish might be had for the
catching. So the eldest sister went and caught him, and he was
boiled for supper, but the youngest sister was away in the woods,
and did not know anything about it.
Next morning she went as usual to the cave, and sang her little
song, but no Djulung came to answer it; twice and thrice she
sang, then threw herself on her knees by the edge, and peered
into the dark water, but the trees cast such a deep shadow that
her eyes could not pierce it.
'Djulung cannot be dead, or his body would be floating on the
surface,' she said to herself, and rising to her feet she set out
homewards, feeling all of a sudden strangely tired.
'What is the matter with me?' she thought, but somehow or other
she managed to reach the hut, and threw herself down in a corner,
where she slept so soundly that for days no one was able to wake
At length, one morning early, a cock began to crow so loud that
she could sleep no longer and as he continued to crow she seemed
to understand what he was saying, and that he was telling her
that Djulung was dead, killed and eaten by her sisters, and that
his bones lay buried under the kitchen fire. Very softly she got
up, and took up the large stone under the fire, and creeping out
carried the bones to the cave by the fountain, where she dug a
hole and buried them anew. And as she scooped out the hole with a
stick she sang a song, bidding the bones grow till they became a
tree--a tree that reached up so high into the heavens that its
leaves would fall across the sea into another island, whose king
would pick them up.
As there was no Djulung to give her rice to, the girl soon became
fat again, and as she was able to do her work as of old, her
sisters did not trouble about her. They never guessed that when
she went into the forest to gather her sticks, she never failed
to pay a visit to the tree, which grew taller and more wonderful
day by day. Never was such a tree seen before. Its trunk was of
iron, its leaves were of silk, its flowers of gold, and its fruit
of diamonds, and one evening, though the girl did not know it, a
soft breeze took one of the leaves, and blew it across the sea to
the feet of one of the king's attendants.
'What a curious leaf! I have never beheld one like it before. I
must show it to the king,' he said, and when the king saw it he
declared he would never rest until he had found the tree which
bore it, even if he had to spend the rest of his life in visiting
the islands that lay all round. Happily for him, he began with
the island that was nearest, and here in the forest he suddenly
saw standing before him the iron tree, its boughs covered with
shining leaves like the one he carried about him.
'But what sort of a tree is it, and how did it get here?' he
asked of the attendants he had with him. No one could answer him,
but as they were about to pass out of the forest a little boy
went by, and the king stopped and inquired if there was anyone
living in the neighbourhood whom he might question.
'Seven girls live in a hut down there,' replied the boy, pointing
with his finger to where the sun was setting.
'Then go and bring them here, and I will wait,' said the king,
and the boy ran off and told the sisters that a great chief, with
strings of jewels round his neck, had sent for them.
Pleased and excited the six elder sisters at once followed the
boy, but the youngest, who was busy, and who did not care about
strangers, stayed behind, to finish the work she was doing. The
king welcomed the girls eagerly, and asked them all manner of
questions about the tree, but as they had never even heard of its
existence, they could tell him nothing. 'And if we, who live
close by the forest, do not know, you may be sure no one does,'
added the eldest, who was rather cross at finding this was all
that the king wanted of them.
'But the boy told me there were seven of you, and there are only
six here,' said the king.
'Oh, the youngest is at home, but she is always half asleep, and
is of no use except to cut wood for the fire,' replied they in a
'That may be, but perhaps she dreams,' answered the king.
'Anyway, I will speak to her also.' Then he signed to one of his
attendants, who followed the path that the boy had taken to the
Soon the man returned, with the girl walking behind him. And as
soon as she reached the tree it bowed itself to the earth before
her, and she stretched out her hand and picked some of its leaves
and flowers and gave them to the king.
'The maiden who can work such wonders is fitted to be the wife of
the greatest chief,' he said, and so he married her, and took her
with him across the sea to his own home, where they lived happily
for ever after.
From 'Folk Lore,' by A. F. Mackenzie.
The Sea King's Gift
There was once a fisherman who was called Salmon, and his
Christian name was Matte. He lived by the shore of the big sea;
where else could he live? He had a wife called Maie; could you
find a better name for her? In winter they dwelt in a little
cottage by the shore, but in spring they flitted to a red rock
out in the sea and stayed there the whole summer until it was
autumn. The cottage on the rock was even smaller than the other;
it had a wooden bolt instead of an iron lock to the door, a stone
hearth, a flagstaff, and a weather-cock on the roof.
The rock was called Ahtola, and was not larger than the market-
place of a town. Between the crevices there grew a little rowan
tree and four alder bushes. Heaven only knows how they ever came
there; perhaps they were brought by the winter storms. Besides
that, there flourished some tufts of velvety grass, some
scattered reeds, two plants of the yellow herb called tansy, four
of a red flower, and a pretty white one; but the treasures of the
rock consisted of three roots of garlic, which Maie had put in a
cleft. Rock walls sheltered them on the north side, and the sun
shone on them on the south. This does not seem much, but it
sufficed Maie for a herb plot.
All good things go in threes, so Matte and his wife fished for
salmon in spring, for herring in summer, and for cod in winter.
When on Saturdays the weather was fine and the wind favourable,
they sailed to the nearest town, sold their fish, and went to
church on Sunday. But it often happened that for weeks at a time
they were quite alone on the rock Ahtola, and had nothing to look
at except their little yellow-brown dog, which bore the grand
name of Prince, their grass tufts, their bushes and blooms, the
sea bays and fish, a stormy sky and the blue, white-crested
waves. For the rock lay far away from the land, and there were no
green islets or human habitations for miles round, only here and
there appeared a rock of the same red stone as Ahtola,
besprinkled day and night with the ocean spray.
Matte and Maie were industrious, hard-working folk, happy and
contented in their poor hut, and they thought themselves rich
when they were able to salt as many casks of fish as they
required for winter and yet have some left over with which to buy
tobacco for the old man, and a pound or two of coffee for his
wife, with plenty of burned corn and chicory in it to give it a
flavour. Besides that, they had bread, butter, fish, a beer cask,
and a buttermilk jar; what more did they require? All would have
gone well had not Maie been possessed with a secret longing which
never let her rest; and this was, how she could manage to become
the owner of a cow.
'What would you do with a cow?' asked Matte. 'She could not swim
so far, and our boat is not large enough to bring her over here;
and even if we had her, we have nothing to feed her on.'
'We have four alder bushes and sixteen tufts of grass,' rejoined
'Yes, of course,' laughed Matte, 'and we have also three plants
of garlic. Garlic would be fine feeding for her.'
'Every cow likes salt herring,' rejoined his wife. 'Even Prince
is fond of fish.'
'That may be,' said her husband. 'Methinks she would soon be a
dear cow if we had to feed her on salt herring. All very well for
Prince, who fights with the gulls over the last morsel. Put the
cow out of your head, mother, we are very well off as we are.'
Maie sighed. She knew well that her husband was right, but she
could not give up the idea of a cow. The buttermilk no longer
tasted as good as usual in the coffee; she thought of sweet cream
and fresh butter, and of how there was nothing in the world to be
compared with them.
One day as Matte and his wife were cleaning herring on the shore
they heard Prince barking, and soon there appeared a gaily
painted boat with three young men in it, steering towards the
rock. They were students, on a boating excursion, and wanted to
get something to eat.
'Bring us a junket, good mother,' cried they to Maie.
'Ah! if only I had such a thing!' sighed Maie.
'A can of fresh milk, then,' said the students; 'but it must not
'Yes, if only I had it!' sighed the old woman, still more deeply.
'What! haven't you got a cow?'
Maie was silent. This question so struck her to the heart that
she could not reply.
'We have no cow,' Matte answered; 'but we have good smoked
herring, and can cook them in a couple of hours.'
'All right, then, that will do,' said the students, as they flung
themselves down on the rock, while fifty silvery-white herring
were turning on the spit in front of the fire.
'What's the name of this little stone in the middle of the
ocean?' asked one of them.
'Ahtola,' answered the old man.
'Well, you should want for nothing when you live in the Sea
Matte did not understand. He had never read Kalevala and knew
nothing of the sea gods of old, but the students proceeded to
explain to him.[FN#2: Kalevala is a collection of old Finnish
songs about gods and heroes.]
'Ahti,' said they, 'is a mighty king who lives in his dominion of
Ahtola, and has a rock at the bottom of the sea, and possesses
besides a treasury of good things. He rules over all fish and
animals of the deep; he has the finest cows and the swiftest
horses that ever chewed grass at the bottom of the ocean. He who
stands well with Ahti is soon a rich man, but one must beware in
dealing with him, for he is very changeful and touchy. Even a
little stone thrown into the water might offend him, and then as
he takes back his gift, he stirs up the sea into a storm and
drags the sailors down into the depths. Ahti owns also the
fairest maidens, who bear the train of his queen Wellamos, and at
the sound of music they comb their long, flowing locks, which
glisten in the water.'
'Oh!' cried Matte, 'have your worships really seen all that?'
'We have as good as seen it,' said the students. 'It is all
printed in a book, and everything printed is true.'
'I'm not so sure of that,' said Matte, as he shook his head.
But the herring were now ready, and the students ate enough for
six, and gave Prince some cold meat which they happened to have
in the boat. Prince sat on his hind legs with delight and mewed
like a pussy cat. When all was finished, the students handed
Matte a shining silver coin, and allowed him to fill his pipe
with a special kind of tobacco. They then thanked him for his
kind hospitality and went on their journey, much regretted by
Prince, who sat with a woeful expression and whined on the shore
as long as he could see a flip of the boat's white sail in the
Maie had never uttered a word, but thought the more. She had good
ears, and had laid to heart the story about Ahti. 'How
delightful,' thought she to herself, 'to possess a fairy cow! How
delicious every morning and evening to draw milk from it, and yet
have no trouble about the feeding, and to keep a shelf near the
window for dishes of milk and junkets! But this will never be my
'What are you thinking of?' asked Matte.
'Nothing,' said his wife; but all the time she was pondering over
some magic rhymes she had heard in her childhood from an old lame
man, which were supposed to bring luck in fishing.
'What if I were to try?' thought she.
Now this was Saturday, and on Saturday evenings Matte never set
the herring-net, for he did not fish on Sunday. Towards evening,
however, his wife said:
'Let us set the herring-net just this once.'
'No,' said her husband, 'it is a Saturday night.'
'Last night was so stormy, and we caught so little,' urged his
wife; 'to-night the sea is like a mirror, and with the wind in
this direction the herring are drawing towards land.'
'But there are streaks in the north-western sky, and Prince was
eating grass this evening,' said the old man.
'Surely he has not eaten my garlic,' exclaimed the old woman.
'No; but there will be rough weather by to-morrow at sunset,'
'Listen to me,' said his wife, 'we will set only one net close to
the shore, and then we shall be able to finish up our half-filled
cask, which will spoil if it stands open so long.'
The old man allowed himself to be talked over, and so they rowed
out with the net. When they reached the deepest part of the
water, she began to hum the words of the magic rhyme, altering
the words to suit the longing of her heart:
Oh, Ahti, with the long, long beard,
Who dwellest in the deep blue sea,
Finest treasures have I heard,
And glittering fish belong to thee.
The richest pearls beyond compare
Are stored up in thy realm below,
And Ocean's cows so sleek and fair
Feed on the grass in thy green meadow.
King of the waters, far and near,
I ask not of thy golden store,
I wish not jewels of pearl to wear,
Nor silver either, ask I for,
But one is odd and even is two,
So give me a cow, sea-king so bold,
And in return I'll give to you
A slice of the moon, and the sun's gold.
'What's that you're humming?' asked the old man.
'Oh, only the words of an old rhyme that keeps running in my
head,' answered the old woman; and she raised her voice and went
Oh, Ahti, with the long, long beard,
Who dwellest in the deep blue sea,
A thousand cows are in thy herd,
I pray thee give one onto me.
'That's a stupid sort of song,' said Matte. 'What else should one
beg of the sea-king but fish? But such songs are not for Sunday.'
His wife pretended not to hear him, and sang and sang the same
tune all the time they were on the water. Matte heard nothing
more as he sat and rowed the heavy boat, while thinking of his
cracked pipe and the fine tobacco. Then they returned to the
island, and soon after went to bed.
But neither Matte nor Maie could sleep a wink; the one thought of
how he had profaned Sunday, and the other of Ahti's cow.
About midnight the fisherman sat up, and said to his wife:
'Dost thou hear anything?'
'No,' said she.
'I think the twirling of the weathercock on the roof bodes ill,'
said he; 'we shall have a storm.'
'Oh, it is nothing but your fancy,' said his wife.
Matte lay down, but soon rose again.
'The weathercock is squeaking now,' said he.
'Just fancy! Go to sleep,' said his wife; and the old man tried
For the third time he jumped out of bed.
'Ho! how the weather-cock is roaring at the pitch of its voice,
as if it had a fire inside it! We are going to have a tempest,
and must bring in the net.'
Both rose. The summer night was as dark as if it had been
October, the weather-cock creaked, and the storm was raging in
every direction. As they went out the sea lay around them as
white as now, and the spray was dashing right over the fisher-
hut. In all his life Matte had never remembered such a night. To
launch the boat and put to sea to rescue the net was a thing not
to be thought of. The fisherman and his wife stood aghast on the
doorstep, holding on fast by the doorpost, while the foam
splashed over their faces.
'Did I not tell thee that there is no luck in Sunday fishing?'
said Matte sulkily; and his wife was so frightened that she never
even once thought of Ahti's cows.
As there was nothing to be done, they went in. Their eyes were
heavy for lack of slumber, and they slept as soundly as if there
had not been such a thing as an angry sea roaring furiously
around their lonely dwelling. When they awoke, the sun was high
in the heavens, the tempest had cased, and only the swell of the
sea rose in silvery heavings against the red rock.
'What can that be?' said the old woman, as she peeped out of the
'It looks like a big seal,' said Matte.
'As sure as I live, it's a cow!' exclaimed Maie. And certainly it
was a cow, a fine red cow, fat and flourishing, and looking as if
it had been fed all its days on spinach. It wandered peacefully
up and down the shore, and never so much as even looked at the
poor little tufts of grass, as if it despised such fare.
Matte could not believe his eyes. But a cow she seemed, and a cow
she was found to be; and when the old woman began to milk her,
every pitcher and pan, even to the baler, was soon filled with
the most delicious milk.
The old man troubled his head in vain as to how she came there,
and sallied forth to seek for his lost net. He had not proceeded
far when he found it cast up on the shore, and so full of fish
that not a mesh was visible.
'It is all very fine to possess a cow,' said Matte, as he cleaned
the fish; 'but what are we going to feed her on?'
'We shall find some means,' said his wife; and the cow found the
means herself. She went out and cropped the seaweed which grew in
great abundance near the shore, and always kept in good
condition. Every one Prince alone excepted, thought she was a
clever beast; but Prince barked at her, for he had now got a
From that day the red rock overflowed with milk and junkets, and
every net was filled with fish. Matte and Maie grew fat on this
fine living, and daily became richer. She churned quantities of
butter, and he hired two men to help him in his fishing. The sea
lay before him like a big fish tank, out of which he hauled as
many as he required; and the cow continued to fend for herself.
In autumn, when Matte and Maie went ashore, the cow went to sea,
and in spring, when they returned to the rock, there she stood
'We shall require a better house,' said Maie the following
summer; 'the old one is too small for ourselves and the men.'
'Yes,' said Matte. So he built a large cottage, with a real lock
to the door, and a store-house for fish as well; and he and his
men caught such quantities of fish that they sent tons of salmon,
herring, and cod to Russian and Sweden.
'I am quite overworked with so many folk,' said Maie; 'a girl to
help me would not come amiss.'
'Get one, then,' said her husband; and so they hired a girl.
Then Maie said: 'We have too little milk for all these folk. Now
that I have a servant, with the same amount of trouble she could
look after three cows.'
'All right, then,' said her husband, somewhat provoked, 'you can
sing a song to the fairies.'
This annoyed Maie, but nevertheless she rowed out to sea on
Sunday night and sang as before:
Oh, Ahti, with the long, long beard,
Who dwellest in the deep blue sea,
A thousand cows are in thy herd,
I pray thee give three unto me.
The following morning, instead of one, three cows stood on the
island, and they all ate seaweed and fended for themselves like
the first one.
'Art thou satisfied now?' said Matte to his wife.
'I should be quite satisfied,' said his wife, 'if only I had two
servants to help, and if I had some finer clothes. Don't you know
that I am addressed as Madam?'
'Well, well,' said her husband. So Maie got several servants and
clothes fit for a great lady.
'Everything would now be perfect if only we had a little better
dwelling for summer. You might build us a two-storey house, and
fetch soil to make a garden. Then you might make a little arbour
up there to let us have a sea-view; and we might have a fiddler
to fiddle to us of an evening, and a little steamer to take us to
church in stormy weather.'
'Anything more?' asked Matte; but he did everything that his wife
wished. The rock Ahtola became so grand and Maie so grand that
all the sea-urchins and herring were lost in wonderment. Even
Prince was fed on beefsteaks and cream scones till at last he was
as round as a butter jar.
'Are you satisfied now?' asked Matte.
'I should be quite satisfied,' said Maie, 'if only I had thirty
cows. At least that number is required for such a household.'
'Go to the fairies,' said Matte.
His wife set out in the new steamer and sang to the sea-king.
Next morning thirty cows stood on the shore, all finding food for
'Know'st thou, good man, that we are far too cramped on this
wretched rock, and where am I to find room for so many cows?'
'There is nothing to be done but to pump out the sea.'
'Rubbish!' said his wife. 'Who can pump out the sea?'
'Try with thy new steamer, there is a pump in it.'
Maie knew well that her husband was only making fun of her, but
still her mind was set upon the same subject. 'I never could pump
the sea out,' thought she, 'but perhaps I might fill it up, if I
were to make a big dam. I might heap up sand and stones, and make
our island as big again.'
Maie loaded her boat with stones and went out to sea. The fiddler
was with her, and fiddled so finely that Ahti and Wellamos and
all the sea's daughters rose to the surface of the water to
listen to the music.
'What is that shining so brightly in the waves?' asked Maie.
'That is sea foam glinting in the sunshine,' answered the
'Throw out the stones,' said Maie.
The people in the boat began to throw out the stones, splash,
splash, right and left, into the foam. One stone hit the nose of
Wellamos's chief lady-in-waiting, another scratched the sea queen
herself on the cheek, a third plumped close to Ahti's head and
tore off half of the sea-king's beard; then there was a commotion
in the sea, the waves bubbled and bubbled like boiling water in a
'Whence comes this gust of wind?' said Maie; and as she spoke the
sea opened and swallowed up the steamer. Maie sank to the bottom
like a stone, but, stretching out her arms and legs, she rose to
the surface, where she found the fiddler's fiddle, and used it as
a float. At the same moment she saw close beside her the terrible
head of Ahti, and he had only half a beard!'
'Why did you throw stones at me?' roared the sea-king.
'Oh, your majesty, it was a mistake! Put some bear's grease on
your beard and that will soon make it grow again.'
'Dame, did I not give you all you asked for--nay, even more?'
'Truly, truly, your majesty. Many thanks for the cows.'
'Well, where is the gold from the sun and the silver from the
moon that you promised me?'
'Ah, your majesty, they have been scattered day and night upon
the sea, except when the sky was overcast,' slyly answered Maie.
'I'll teach you!' roared the sea-king; and with that he gave the
fiddle such a 'puff' that it sent the old woman up like a sky-
rocket on to her island. There Prince lay, as famished as ever,
gnawing the carcase of a crow. There sat Matte in his ragged grey
jacket, quite alone, on the steps of the old hut, mending a net.
'Heavens, mother,' said he, 'where are you coming from at such a
whirlwind pace, and what makes you in such a dripping condition?'
Maie looked around her amazed, and said, 'Where is our two-storey
'What house?' asked her husband.
'Our big house, and the flower garden, and the men and the maids,
and the thirty beautiful cows, and the steamer, and everything
'You are talking nonsense, mother,' said he. 'The students have
quite turned your head, for you sang silly songs last evening
while we were rowing, and then you could not sleep till early
morning. We had stormy weather during the night, and when it was
past I did not wish to waken you, so rowed out alone to rescue
'But I've seen Ahti,' rejoined Maie.
'You've been lying in bed, dreaming foolish fancies, mother, and
then in your sleep you walked into the water.'
'But there is the fiddle,' said Maie.
'A fine fiddle! It is only an old stick. No, no, old woman,
another time we will be more careful. Good luck never attends
fishing on a Sunday.'
From Z. Topelius.
The Raspberry Worm
'Phew!' cried Lisa.
'Ugh!' cried Aina.
'What now?' cried the big sister.
'A worm!' cried Lisa.
'On the raspberry!' cried Aina.
'Kill it!' cried Otto.
'What a fuss over a poor little worm!' said the big sister
'Yes, when we had cleaned the raspberries so carefully,' said
'It crept out from that very large one,' put in Aina.
'And supposing someone had eaten the raspberry,' said Lisa.
'Then they would have eaten the worm, too,' said Aina.
'Well, what harm?' said Otto.
'Eat a worm!' cried Lisa.
'And kill him with one bite!' murmured Aina.
'Just think of it!' said Otto laughing.
'Now it is crawling on the table,' cried Aina again.
'Blow it away!' said the big sister.
'Tramp on it!' laughed Otto.
But Lisa took a raspberry leaf, swept the worm carefully on to
the leaf and carried it out into the yard. Then Aina noticed that
a sparrow sitting on the fence was just ready to pounce on the
poor little worm, so she took up the leaf, carried it out into
the wood and hid it under a raspberry bush where the greedy
sparrow could not find it. Yes, and what more is there to tell
about a raspberry worm? Who would give three straws for such a
miserable little thing? Yes, but who would not like to live in
such a pretty home as it lives in; in such a fresh fragrant dark-
red cottage, far away in the quiet wood among flowers and green
Now it was just dinner time, so they all had a dinner of
raspberries and cream. 'Be careful with the sugar, Otto,' said
the big sister; but Otto's plate was like a snowdrift in winter,
with just a little red under the snow.
Soon after dinner the big sister said: 'Now we have eaten up the
raspberries and we have none left to make preserve for the
winter; it would be fine if we could get two baskets full of
berries, then we could clean them this evening, and to-morrow we
could cook them in the big preserving pan, and then we should
have raspberry jam to eat on our bread!'
'Come, let us go to the wood and pick,' said Lisa.
'Yes, let us,' said Aina. 'You take the yellow basket and I will
take the green one.'
'Don't get lost, and come back safely in the evening,' said the
'Greetings to the raspberry worm,' said Otto, mockingly. 'Next
time I meet him I shall do him the honour of eating him up.'
So Aina and Lisa went off to the wood. Ah! how delightful it was
there, how beautiful! It was certainly tiresome sometimes
climbing over the fallen trees, and getting caught in the
branches, and waging war with the juniper bushes and the midges,
but what did that matter? The girls climbed well in their short
dresses, and soon they were deep in the wood.
There were plenty of bilberries and elder berries, but no
raspberries. They wandered on and on, and at last they came ...
No, it could not be true! ... they came to a large raspberry
wood. The wood had been on fire once, and now raspberry bushes
had grown up, and there were raspberry bushes and raspberry
bushes as far as the eye could see. Every bush was weighted to
the ground with the largest, dark red, ripe raspberries, such a
wealth of berries as two little berry pickers had never found
Lisa picked, Aina picked. Lisa ate, Aina ate, and in a little
while their baskets were full.
'Now we shall go home,' said Aina. 'No, let us gather a few
more,' said Lisa. So they put the baskets down on the ground and
began to fill their pinafores, and it was not long before their
pinafores were full, too.
'Now we shall go home,' said Lina. 'Yes, now we shall go home,'
said Aina. Both girls took a basket in one hand and held up her
apron in the other and then turned to go home. But that was
easier said than done. They had never been so far in the great
wood before, they could not find any road nor path, and soon the
girls noticed that they had lost their way.
The worst of it was that the shadows of the tress were becoming
so long in the evening sunlight, the birds were beginning to fly
home, and the day was closing in. At last the sun went down
behind the pine tops, and it was cool and dusky in the great
The girls became anxious but went steadily on, expecting that the
wood would soon end, and that they would see the smoke from the
chimneys of their home.
After they had wandered on for a long time it began to grow dark.
At last they reached a great plain overgrown with bushes, and
when they looked around them, they saw, as much as they could in
the darkness, that they were among the same beautiful raspberry
bushes from which they had picked their baskets and their aprons
full. Then they were so tired that they sat down on a stone and
began to cry.
'I am so hungry,' said Lisa.
'Yes,' said Aina, 'if we had only two good meat sandwiches now.'
As she said that, she felt something in her hand, and when she
looked down, she saw a large sandwich of bread and chicken, and
at the same time Lisa said: 'How very queer! I have a sandwich in
'And I, too,' said Aina. 'Will you dare to eat it?'
'Of course I will,' said Lisa. 'Ah, if we only had a good glass
of milk now!'
Just as she said that she felt a large glass of milk between her
fingers, and at the same time Aina cried out, 'Lisa! Lisa! I have
a glass of milk in my hand! Isn't it queer?'
The girls, however, were very hungry, so they ate and drank with
a good appetite. When they had finished Aina yawned, stretched
out her arms and said: 'Oh, if only we had a nice soft bed to
sleep on now!'
Scarcely had she spoken before she felt a nice soft bed by her
side, and there beside Lisa was one too. This seemed to the girls
more and more wonderful, but tired and sleepy as they were, they
thought no more about it, but crept into the little beds, drew
the coverlets over their heads and were soon asleep.
When they awoke the sun was high in the heavens, the wood was
beautiful in the summer morning, and the birds were flying about
in the branches and the tree tops.
At first the girls were filled with wonder when they saw that
they had slept in the wood among the raspberry bushes. They
looked at each other, they looked at their beds, which were of
the finest flax covered over with leaves and moss. At last Lisa
said: 'Are you awake, Aina?'
'Yes,' said Aina.
'But I am still dreaming,' said Lisa.
'No,' said Aina, 'but there is certainly some good fairy living
among these raspberry bushes. Ah, if we had only a hot cup of
coffee now, and a nice piece of white bread to dip into it!'
Scarcely had she finished speaking when she saw beside her a
little silver tray with a gilt coffee-pot, two cups of rare
porcelain, a sugar basin of fine crystal, silver sugar tongs, and
some good fresh white bread. The girls poured out the beautiful
coffee, put in the cream and sugar, and tasted it; never in their
lives had they drunk such beautiful coffee.
'Now I should like to know very much who has given us all this,'
said Lisa gratefully.
'I have, my little girls,' said a voice just then from the
The children looked round wonderingly, and saw a little kind-
looking old man, in a white coat and a red cap, limping out from
among the bushes, for he was lame in his left foot; neither Lisa
nor Aina could utter a word, they were so filled with surprise.
'Don't be afraid, little girls,' he said smiling kindly at them;
he could not laugh properly because his mouth was crooked.
'Welcome to my kingdom! Have you slept well and eaten well and
drunk well?' he asked.
'Yes, indeed we have,' said both the girls, 'but tell us ...' and
they wanted to ask who the old man was, but were afraid to.
'I will tell you who I am,' said the old man; 'I am the raspberry
king, who reigns over all this kingdom of raspberry bushes, and I
have lived here for more than a thousand years. But the great
spirit who rules over the woods, and the sea, and the sky, did
not want me to become proud of my royal power and my long life.
Therefore he decreed that one day in every hundred years I should
change into a little raspberry worm, and live in that weak and
helpless form from sunrise to sunset. During that time my life is
dependent on the little worm's life, so that a bird can eat me, a
child can pick me with the berries and trample under foot my
thousand years of life. Now yesterday was just my transformation
day, and I was taken with the raspberry and would have been
trampled to death if you had not saved my life. Until sunset I
lay helpless in the grass, and when I was swept away from your
table I twisted one of my feet, and my mouth became crooked with
terror; but when evening came and I could take my own form again,
I looked for you to thank you and reward you. Then I found you
both here in my kingdom, and tried to meet you both as well as I
could without frightening you. Now I will send a bird from my
wood to show you the way home. Good-bye, little children, thank
you for your kind hearts; the raspberry king can show that he is
not ungrateful.' The children shook hands with the old man and
thanked him, feeling very glad that they had saved the little
raspberry worm. They were just going when the old man turned
round, smiled mischievously with his crooked mouth, and said:
'Greetings to Otto from me, and tell him when I meet him again I
shall do him the honour of eating him up.'
'Oh, please don't do that,' cried both the girls, very
'Well, for your sake I will forgive him,' said the old man, 'I am
not revengeful. Greetings to Otto and tell him that he may expect
a gift from me, too. Good-bye.'
The two girls, light of heart, now took their berries and ran off
through the wood after the bird; and soon it began to get lighter
in the wood and they wondered how they could have lost their way
yesterday, it seemed so easy and plain now.
One can imagine what joy there was when the two reached home.
Everyone had been looking for them, and the big sister had not
been able to sleep, for she thought the wolves had eaten them up.
Otto met them; he had a basket in his hand and said: 'Look, here
is something that an old man has just left for you.'
When the girls looked into the basket they saw a pair of most
beautiful bracelets of precious stones, dark red, and made in the
shape of a ripe raspberry and with an inscription: 'To Lisa and
Aina'; beside them there was a diamond breast pin in the shape of
a raspberry worm: on it was inscribed 'Otto, never destroy the
Otto felt rather ashamed: he quite understood what it meant, but
he thought that the old man's revenge was a noble one.
The raspberry king had also remembered the big sister, for when
she went in to set the table for dinner, she found eleven big
baskets of most beautiful raspberries, and no one knew how they
had come there, but everyone guessed.
And so there was such a jam-making as had never been seen before,
and if you like to go and help in it, you might perhaps get a
little, for they must surely be making jam still to this very
From Z. Topelius.
The Stones of Plouhinec
Perhaps some of you may have read a book called 'Kenneth; or the
Rear-Guard of the Grand Army' of Napoleon. If so, you will
remember how the two Scotch children found in Russia were taken
care of by the French soldiers and prevented as far as possible
from suffering from the horrors of the terrible Retreat. One of
the soldiers, a Breton, often tried to make them forget how cold
and hungry they were by telling them tales of his native country,
Brittany, which is full of wonderful things. The best and warmest
place round the camp fire was always given to the children, but
even so the bitter frost would cause them to shiver. It was then
that the Breton would begin: 'Plouhinec is a small town near
Hennebonne by the sea,' and would continue until Kenneth or Effie
would interrupt him with an eager question. Then he forgot how
his mother had told him the tale, and was obliged to begin all
over again, so the story lasted a long while, and by the time it
was ended the children were ready to be rolled up in what ever
coverings could be found, and go to sleep. It is this story that
I am going to tell to you.
Plouhinec is a small town near Hennebonne by the sea. Around it
stretches a desolate moor, where no corn can be grown, and the
grass is so coarse that no beast grows fat on it. Here and there
are scattered groves of fir trees, and small pebbles are so thick
on the ground that you might almost take it for a beach. On the
further side, the fairies, or korigans, as the people called
them, had set up long long ago two rows of huge stones; indeed,
so tall and heavy were they, that it seemed as if all the fairies
in the world could not have placed them upright.
Not far off them this great stone avenue, and on the banks of the
little river Intel, there lived a man named Marzinne and his
sister Rozennik. They always had enough black bread to eat, and
wooden shoes or sabots to wear, and a pig to fatten, so the
neighbours thought them quite rich; and what was still better,
they thought themselves rich also.
Rozennik was a pretty girl, who knew how to make the best of
everything, and she could, if she wished, have chosen a husband
from the young men of Plouhinec, but she cared for none of them
except Bernez, whom she had played with all her life, and Bernez,
though he worked hard, was so very very poor that Marzinne told
him roughly he must look elsewhere for a wife. But whatever
Marzinne might say Rozennik smiled and nodded to him as before,
and would often turn her head as she passed, and sing snatches of
old songs over her shoulder.
Christmas Eve had come, and all the men who worked under Marzinne
or on the farms round about were gathered in the large kitchen to
eat the soup flavoured with honey followed by rich puddings, to
which they were always invited on this particular night. In the
middle of the table was a large wooden bowl, with wooden spoons
placed in a circle round it, so that each might dip in his turn.
The benches were filled, and Marzinne was about to give the
signal, when the door was suddenly thrown open, and an old man
came in, wishing the guests a good appetite for their supper.
There was a pause, and some of the faces looked a little
frightened; for the new comer was well known to them as a beggar,
who was also said to be a wizard who cast spells over the cattle,
and caused the corn to grow black, and old people to die, of
what, nobody knew. Still, it was Christmas Eve, and besides it
was as well not to offend him, so the farmer invited him in, and
gave him a seat at the table and a wooden spoon like the rest.
There was not much talk after the beggar's entrance, and everyone
was glad when the meal came to an end, and the beggar asked if he
might sleep in the stable, as he should die of cold if he were
left outside. Rather unwillingly Marzinne gave him leave, and
bade Bernez take the key and unlock the door. There was certainly
plenty of room for a dozen beggars, for the only occupants of the
stable were an old donkey and a thin ox; and as the night was
bitter, the wizard lay down between them for warmth, with a sack
of reeds for a pillow.
He had walked far that day, and even wizards get tired sometimes,
so in spite of the hard floor he was just dropping off to sleep,
when midnight struck from the church tower of Plouhinec. At this
sound the donkey raised her head and shook her ears, and turned
towards the ox.
'Well, my dear cousin,' said she, 'and how have you fared since
last Christmas Eve, when we had a conversation together?'
Instead of answering at once, the ox eyed the beggar with a long
look of disgust.
'What is the use of talking,' he replied roughly, 'when a good-
for-nothing creature like that can hear all we say?'
'Oh, you mustn't lose time in grumbling,' rejoined the donkey
gaily, 'and don't you see that the wizard is asleep?'
'His wicked pranks do not make him rich, certainly,' said the ox,
'and he isn't even clever enough to have found out what a piece
of luck might befall him a week hence.'
'What piece of luck?' asked the donkey.
'Why, don't you know,' inquired the ox, 'that once very hundred
years the stones on Plouhinec heath go down to drink at the
river, and that while they are away the treasures underneath them
'Ah, I remember now,' replied the donkey, 'but the stones return
so quickly to their places, that you certainly would be crushed
to death unless you have in your hands a bunch of crowsfoot and
of five-leaved trefoil.'
'Yes, but that is not enough,' said the ox; 'even supposing you
get safely by, the treasure you have brought with you will
crumble into dust if you do not give in exchange a baptised soul.
It is needful that a Christian should die before you can enjoy
the wealth of Plouhinec.'
The donkey was about to ask some further questions, when she
suddenly found herself unable to speak: the time allowed them for
conversation was over.
'Ah, my dear creatures,' thought the beggar, who had of course
heard everything, 'you are going to make me richer than the
richest men of Vannes or Lorient. But I have no time to lose; to-
morrow I must begin to hunt for the precious plants.'
He did not dare to seek too near Plouhinec, lest somebody who
knew the story might guess what he was doing, so he went away
further towards the south, where the air was softer and the
plants are always green. From the instant it was light, till the
last rays had faded out of the sky, he searched every inch of
ground where the magic plants might grow; he scarcely gave
himself a minute to eat and drink, but at length he found the
crowsfoot in a little hollow! Well, that was certainly a great
deal, but after all, the crowsfoot was of no use without the
trefoil, and there was so little time left.
He had almost give up hope, when on the very last day before it
was necessary that he should start of Plouhinec, he came upon a
little clump of trefoil, half hidden under a rock. Hardly able to
breathe from excitement, he sat down and hunted eagerly through
the plant which he had torn up. Leaf after leaf he threw aside in
disgust, and he had nearly reached the end when he gave a cry of
joy-- the five-leaved trefoil was in his hand.
The beggar scrambled to his feet, and without a pause walked
quickly down the road that led northwards. The moon was bright,
and for some hours he kept steadily on, not knowing how many
miles he had gone, nor even feeling tired. By and bye the sun
rose, and the world began to stir, and stopping at a farmhouse
door, he asked for a cup of milk and slice of bread and
permission to rest for a while in the porch. Then he continued
his journey, and so, towards sunset on New Year's Eve, he came
back to Plouhinec.
As he was passing the long line of stones, he saw Bernez working
with a chisel on the tallest of them all.
'What are you doing there?' called the wizard, 'do you mean to
hollow out for yourself a bed in that huge column?'
'No,' replied Bernez quietly, 'but as I happened to have no work
to do to-day, I thought I would just carve a cross on this stone.
The holy sign can never come amiss.'
'I believe you think it will help you to win Rozennik,' laughed
the old man.
Bernez ceased his task for a moment to look at him.
'Ah, so you know about that,' replied he; 'unluckily Marzinne
wants a brother-in-law who has more pounds than I have pence.'
'And suppose I were to give you more pounds than Marzinne ever
dreamed of?' whispered the sorcerer glancing round to make sure
that no one overheard him.
'And what am I to do to gain the money,' inquired Bernez, who
knew quite well that the Breton peasant gives nothing for
'What I want of you only needs a little courage,' answered the
'If that is all, tell me what I have got to do, and I will do
it,' cried Bernez, letting fall his chisel. 'If I have to risk
thirty deaths, I am ready.'
When the beggar knew that Bernez would give him no trouble, he
told him how, during that very night, the treasures under the
stones would be uncovered, and how in a very few minutes they
could take enough to make them both rich for life. But he kept
silence as to the fate that awaited the man who was without the
crowsfoot and the trefoil, and Bernez thought that nothing but
boldness and quickness were necessary. So he said:
'Old man, I am grateful, indeed, for the chance you have given
me, and there will always be a pint of my blood at your service.
Just let me finish carving this cross. It is nearly done, and I
will join you in the fir wood at whatever hour you please.'
'You must be there without fail an hour before midnight,'
answered the wizard, and went on his way.
As the hour struck from the great church at Plouhinec, Bernez
entered the wood. He found the beggar already there with a bag in
each hand, and a third slung round his neck.
'You are punctual,' said the old man, 'but we need not start just
yet. You had better sit down and think what you will do when your
pockets are filled with gold and silver and jewels.'
'Oh, it won't take me long to plan out that,' returned Bernez
with a laugh. 'I shall give Rozennik everything she can desire,
dresses of all sorts, from cotton to silk, and good things of all
kinds to eat, from white bread to oranges.'
'The silver you find will pay for all that, and what about the
'With the gold I shall make rich Rozennik's relations and every
friend of hers in the parish,' replied he.
'So much for the gold; and the jewels?'
'Then,' cried Bernez, 'I will divide the jewels amongst everybody
in the world, so that they may be wealthy and happy; and I will
tell them that it is Rozennik who would have it so.'
'Hush! it is close on midnight--we must go,' whispered the
wizard, and together they crept to the edge of the wood.
With the first stroke of twelve a great noise arose over the
silent heath, and the earth seemed to rock under the feet of the
two watchers. The next moment by the light of the moon they
beheld the huge stones near them leave their places and go down
the slope leading to the river, knocking against each other in
their haste. Passing the spot where stood Bernez and the beggar,
they were lost in the darkness. It seemed as if a procession of
giants had gone by.
'Quick,' said the wizard, in a low voice, and he rushed towards
the empty holes, which even in the night shone brightly from the
treasures within them. Flinging himself on his knees, the old man
began filling the wallets he had brought, listening intently all
the time for the return of the stones up the hill, while Bernez
more slowly put handfuls of all he could see into his pockets.
The sorcerer had just closed his third wallet, and was beginning
to wonder if he could carry away any more treasures when a low
murmur as of a distant storm broke upon his ears.
The stones had finished drinking, and were hastening back to
On they came, bent a little forward, the tallest of them all at
their head, breaking everything that stood in their way. At the
sight Bernez stood transfixed with horror, and said,
'We are lost! They will crush us to death.'
'Not me!' answered the sorcerer, holding up the crowsfoot and the
five-leaved trefoil, 'for these will preserve me. But in order to
keep my riches, I was obliged to sacrifice a Christian to the
stones, and an evil fate threw you in my way.' And as he spoke he
stretched out the magic herbs to the stones, which were advancing
rapidly. As if acknowledging a power greater than theirs, the
monstrous things instantly parted to the right and left of the
wizard, but closed their ranks again as they approached Bernez.
The young man did not try to escape, he knew it was useless, and
sank on his knees and closed his eyes. But suddenly the tall
stone that was leading stopped straight in front of Bernez, so
that no other could get past.
It was the stone on which Bernez had carved the cross, and it was
now a baptized stone, and had power to save him.
So the stone remained before the young man till the rest had
taken their places, and then, darting like a bird to its own
hole, came upon the beggar, who, thinking himself quite safe, was
staggering along under the weight of his treasures.
Seeing the stone approaching, he held out the magic herbs which
he carried, but the baptized stone was no longer subject to the
spells that bound the rest, and passed straight on its way,
leaving the wizard crushed into powder in the heather.
Then Bernez went home, and showed his wealth to Marzinne, who
this time did not refuse him as a brother-in-law, and he and
Rozennik were married, and lived happy for ever after.
From 'Le Royer Breton,' par Emile Souvestre.
The Castle of Kerglas
Peronnik was a poor idiot who belonged to nobody, and he would
have died of starvation if it had not been for the kindness of
the village people, who gave him food whenever he chose to ask
for it. And as for a bed, when night came, and he grew sleepy, he
looked about for a heap of straw, and making a hole in it, crept
in, like a lizard. Idiot though he was, he was never unhappy, but
always thanked gratefully those who fed him, and sometimes would
stop for a little and sing to them. For he could imitate a lark
so well, that no one knew which was Peronnik and which was the
He had been wandering in a forest one day for several hours, and
when evening approached, he suddenly felt very hungry. Luckily,
just at that place the trees grew thinner, and he could see a
small farmhouse a little way off. Peronnik went straight towards
it, and found the farmer's wife standing at the door holding in
her hands the large bowl out of which her children had eaten
'I am hungry, will you give me something to eat?' asked the boy.
'If you can find anything here, you are welcome to it,' answered
she, and, indeed, there was not much left, as everybody's spoon
had dipped in. But Peronnik ate what was there with a hearty
appetite, and thought that he had never tasted better food.
'It is made of the finest flour and mixed with the richest milk
and stirred by the best cook in all the countryside,' and though
he said it to himself, the woman heard him.
'Poor innocent,' she murmured, 'he does not know what he is
saying, but I will cut him a slice of that new wheaten loaf,' and
so she did, and Peronnik ate up every crumb, and declared that
nobody less than the bishop's baker could have baked it. This
flattered the farmer's wife so much that she gave him some butter
to spread on it, and Peronnik was still eating it on the doorstep
when an armed knight rode up.
'Can you tell me the way to the castle of Kerglas?' asked he.
'To Kerglas? are you really going to Kerglas?' cried the woman,
'Yes; and in order to get there I have come from a country so far
off that it has taken me three months' hard riding to travel as
far as this.'
'And why do you want to go to Kerglas?' said she.
'I am seeking the basin of gold and the lance of diamonds which
are in the castle,' he answered. Then Peronnik looked up.
'The basin and the lance are very costly things,' he said
'More costly and precious than all the crowns in the world,'
replied the stranger, 'for not only will the basin furnish you
with the best food that you can dream of, but if you drink of it,
it will cure you of any illness however dangerous, and will even
bring the dead back to life, if it touches their mouths. As to
the diamond lance, that will cut through any stone or metal.'
'And to whom do these wonders belong?' asked Peronnik in
'To a magician named Rogear who lives in the castle,' answered
the woman. 'Every day he passes along here, mounted on a black
mare, with a colt thirteen months old trotting behind. But no one
dares to attack him, as he always carries his lance.'
'That is true,' said the knight, 'but there is a spell laid upon
him which forbids his using it within the castle of Kerglas. The
moment he enters, the basin and lance are put away in a dark
cellar which no key but one can open. And that is the place where
I wish to fight the magician.'
'You will never overcome him, Sir Knight,' replied the woman,
shaking her head. 'More than a hundred gentlemen have ridden past
this house bent on the same errand, and not one has ever come
'I know that, good woman,' returned the knight, 'but then they
did not have, like me, instructions from the hermit of Blavet.'
'And what did the hermit tell you?' asked Peronnik.
'He told me that I should have to pass through a wood full of all
sorts of enchantments and voices, which would try to frighten me
and make me lose my way. Most of those who have gone before me
have wandered they know not where, and perished from cold,
hunger, or fatigue.'
'Well, suppose you get through safely?' said the idiot.
'If I do,' continued the knight, 'I shall then meet a sort of
fairy armed with a needle of fire which burns to ashes all it
touches. This dwarf stands guarding an apple-tree, from which I
am bound to pluck an apple.'
'And next?' inquired Peronnik.
'Next I shall find the flower that laughs, protected by a lion
whose mane is formed of vipers. I must pluck that flower, and go
on to the lake of the dragons and fight the black man who holds
in his hand the iron ball which never misses its mark and returns
of its own accord to its master. After that, I enter the valley
of pleasure, where some who conquered all the other obstacles
have left their bones. If I can win through this, I shall reach a
river with only one ford, where a lady in black will be seated.
She will mount my horse behind me, and tell me what I am to do
He paused, and the woman shook her head.
'You will never be able to do all that,' said she, but he bade
her remembered that these were only matters for men, and galloped
away down the path she pointed out.
The farmer's wife sighed and, giving Peronnik some more food,
bade him good-night. The idiot rose and was opening the gate
which led into the forest when the farmer himself came up.
'I want a boy to tend my cattle,' he said abruptly, 'as the one I
had has run away. Will you stay and do it?' and Peronnik, though
he loved his liberty and hated work, recollected the good food he
had eaten, and agreed to stop.
At sunrise he collected his herd carefully and led them to the
rich pasture which lay along the borders of the forest, cutting
himself a hazel wand with which to keep them in order.
His task was not quite so easy as it looked, for the cows had a
way of straying into the wood, and by the time he had brought one
back another was off. He had gone some distance into the trees,
after a naughty black cow which gave him more trouble than all
the rest, when he heard the noise of horse's feet, and peeping
through the leaves he beheld the giant Rogear seated on his mare,
with the colt trotting behind. Round the giant's neck hung the
golden bowl suspended from a chain, and in his hand he grasped
the diamond lance, which gleamed like fire. But as soon as he was
out of sight the idiot sought in vain for traces of the path he
This happened not only once but many times, till Peronnik grew so
used to him that he never troubled to hide. But on each occasion
he saw him the desire to possess the bowl and the lance became
One evening the boy was sitting alone on the edge of the forest,
when a man with a white beard stopped beside him. 'Do you want to
know the way to Kerglas?' asked the idiot, and the man answered
'I know it well.'
'You have been there without being killed by the magician?' cried
'Oh! he had nothing to fear from me,' replied the white-bearded
man, 'I am Rogear's elder brother, the wizard Bryak. When I wish
to visit him I always pass this way, and as even I cannot go
through the enchanted wood without losing myself, I call the colt
to guide me.' Stooping down as he spoke he traced three circles
on the ground and murmured some words very low, which Peronnik
could not hear. Then he added aloud:
Colt, free to run and free to eat.
Colt, gallop fast until we meet,
and instantly the colt appeared, frisking and jumping to the
wizard, who threw a halter over his neck and leapt on his back.
Peronnik kept silence at the farm about this adventure, but he
understood very well that if he was ever to get to Kerglas he
must first catch the colt which knew the way. Unhappily he had
not heard the magic words uttered by the wizard, and he could not
manage to draw the three circles, so if he was to summon the colt
at all he must invent some other means of doing it.
All day long, while he was herding the cows, he thought and
thought how he was to call the colt, for he felt sure that once
on its back he could overcome the other dangers. Meantime he must
be ready in case a chance should come, and he made his
preparations at night, when everyone was asleep. Remembering what
he had seen the wizard do, he patched up an old halter that was
hanging in a corner of the stable, twisted a rope of hemp to
catch the colt's feet, and a net such as is used for snaring
birds. Next he sewed roughly together some bits of cloth to serve
as a pocket, and this he filled with glue and lark's feathers, a
string of beads, a whistle of elder wood, and a slice of bread
rubbed over with bacon fat. Then he went out to the path down
which Rogear, his mare, and the colt always rode, and crumbled
the bread on one side of it.
Punctual to their hour all three appeared, eagerly watched by
Peronnik, who lay hid in the bushes close by. Suppose it was
useless; suppose the mare, and not the colt, ate the crumbs?
Suppose--but no! the mare and her rider went safely by, vanishing
round a corner, while the colt, trotting along with its head on
the ground, smelt the bread, and began greedily to lick up the
pieces. Oh, how good it was! Why had no one ever given it that
before, and so absorbed was the little beast, sniffing about
after a few more crumbs, that it never heard Peronnik creep up
till it felt the halter on its neck and the rope round its feet,
and--in another moment--some one on its back.
Going as fast as the hobbles would allow, the colt turned into
one of the wildest parts of the forest, while its rider sat
trembling at the strange sights he saw. Sometimes the earth
seemed to open in front of them and he was looking into a
bottomless pit; sometimes the trees burst into flames and he
found himself in the midst of a fire; often in the act of
crossing a stream the water rose and threatened to sweep him
away; and again, at the foot of a mountain, great rocks would
roll towards him, as if they would crush him and his colt beneath
their weight. To his dying day Peronnik never knew whether these
things were real or if he only imagined them, but he pulled down
his knitted cap so as to cover his eyes, and trusted the colt to
carry him down the right road.
At last the forest was left behind, and they came out on a wide
plain where the air blew fresh and strong. The idiot ventured to
peep out, and found to his relief that the enchantments seemed to
have ended, though a thrill of horror shot through him as he
noticed the skeletons of men scattered over the plain, beside the
skeletons of their horses. And what were those grey forms
trotting away in the distance? Were they--could they be--wolves?
But vast through the plain seemed, it did not take long to cross,
and very soon the colt entered a sort of shady park in which was
standing a single apple-tree, its branches bowed down to the
ground with the weight of its fruit. In front was the korigan--
the little fairy man--holding in his hand the fiery sword, which
reduced to ashes everything it touched. At the sight of Peronnik
he uttered a piercing scream, and raised his sword, but without
appearing surprised the youth only lifted his cap, though he took
care to remain at a little distance.
'Do not be alarmed, my prince,' said Peronnik, 'I am just on my
way to Kerglas, as the noble Rogear has begged me to come to him
'Begged you to come!' repeated the dwarf, 'and who, then, are
'I am the new servant he has engaged, as you know very well,'
'I do not know at all,' rejoined the korigan sulkily, 'and you
may be a robber for all I can tell.'
'I am so sorry,' replied Peronnik, 'but I may be wrong in calling
myself a servant, for I am only a bird-catcher. But do not delay
me, I pray, for his highness the magician expects me, and, as you
see, has lent me his colt so that I may reach the castle all the
At these words the korigan cast his eyes for the first time on
the colt, which he knew to be the one belonging to the magician,
and began to think that the young man was speaking the truth.
After examining the horse, he studied the rider, who had such an
innocent, and indeed vacant, air that he appeared incapable of
inventing a story. Still, the dwarf did not feel quite sure that
all was right, and asked what the magician wanted with a bird-
'From what he says, he wants one very badly,' replied Peronnik,
'as he declares that all his grain and all the fruit in his
garden at Kerglas are eaten up by the birds.'
'And how are you going to stop that, my fine fellow?' inquired
the korigan; and Peronnik showed him the snare he had prepared,
and remarked that no bird could possible escape from it.
'That is just what I should like to be sure of,' answered the
korigan. 'My apples are completely eaten up by blackbirds and
thrushes. Lay your snare, and if you can manage to catch them, I
will let you pass.'
'That is a fair bargain,' and as he spoke Peronnik jumped down
and fastened his colt to a tree; then, stopping, he fixed one end
of the net to the trunk of the apple tree, and called to the
korigan to hold the other while he took out the pegs. The dwarf
did as he was bid, when suddenly Peronnik threw the noose over
his neck and drew it close, and the korigan was held as fast as
any of the birds he wished to snare.
Shrieking with rage, he tried to undo the cord, but he only
pulled the knot tighter. He had put down the sword on the grass,
and Peronnik had been careful to fix the net on the other side of
the tree, so that it was now easy for him to pluck an apple and
to mount his horse, without being hindered by the dwarf, whom he
left to his fate.
When they had left the plain behind them, Peronnik and his steed
found themselves in a narrow valley in which was a grove of
trees, full of all sorts of sweet-smelling things--roses of every
colour, yellow broom, pink honeysuckle--while above them all
towered a wonderful scarlet pansy whose face bore a strange
expression. This was the flower that laughs, and no one who
looked at it could help laughing too. Peronnik's heart beat high
at the thought that he had reached safely the second trial, and
he gazed quite calmly at the lion with the mane of vipers
twisting and twirling, who walked up and down in front of the
The young man pulled up and removed his cap, for, idiot though he
was, he knew that when you have to do with people greater than
yourself, a cap is more useful in the hand than on the head.
Then, after wishing all kinds of good fortune to the lion and his
family, he inquired if he was on the right road to Kerglas.
'And what is your business at Kerglas?' asked the lion with a
growl, and showing his teeth.
'With all respect,' answered Peronnik, pretending to be very
frightened, 'I am the servant of a lady who is a friend of the
noble Rogear and sends him some larks for a pasty.'
'Larks?' cried the lion, licking his long whiskers. 'Why, it must
be a century since I have had any! Have you a large quantity with
'As many as this bag will hold,' replied Peronnik, opening, as he
spoke, the bag which he had filled with feathers and glue; and to
prove what he said, he turned his back on the lion and began to
imitate the song of a lark.
'Come,' exclaimed the lion, whose mouth watered, 'show me the
birds! I should like to see if they are fat enough for my
'I would do it with pleasure,' answered the idiot, 'but if I once
open the bag they will all fly away.'
'Well, open it wide enough for me to look in,' said the lion,
drawing a little nearer.
Now this was just what Peronnik had been hoping for, so he held
the bag while the lion opened it carefully and put his head right
inside, so that he might get a good mouthful of larks. But the
mass of feathers and glue stuck to him, and before he could pull
his head out again Peronnik had drawn tight the cord, and tied it
in a knot that no man could untie. Then, quickly gathering the
flower that laughs, he rode off as fast as the colt could take
The path soon led to the lake of the dragons, which he had to
swim across. The colt, who was accustomed to it, plunged into the
water without hesitation; but as soon as the dragons caught sight
of Peronnik they approached from all parts of the lake in order
to devour him.
This time Peronnik did not trouble to take off his cap, but he
threw the beads he carried with him into the water, as you throw
black corn to a duck, and with each bead that he swallowed a
dragon turned on his back and died, so that the idiot reached the
other side without further trouble.
The valley guarded by the black man now lay before him, and from
afar Peronnik beheld him, chained by one foot to a rock at the
entrance, and holding the iron ball which never missed its mark
and always returned to its master's hand. In his head the black
man had six eyes that were never all shut at once, but kept watch
one after the other. At this moment they were all open, and
Peronnik knew well that if the black man caught a glimpse of him
he would cast his ball. So, hiding the colt behind a thicket of
bushes, he crawled along a ditch and crouched close to the very
rock to which the black man was chained.
The day was hot, and after a while the man began to grow sleepy.
Two of his eyes closed, and Peronnik sang gently. In a moment a
third eye shut, and Peronnik sang on. The lid of a fourth eye
dropped heavily, and then those of the fifth and the sixth. The
black man was asleep altogether.
Then, on tiptoe, the idiot crept back to the colt which he led
over soft moss past the black man into the vale of pleasure, a
delicious garden full of fruits that dangled before your mouth,
fountains running with wine, and flowers chanting in soft little
voices. Further on, tables were spread with food, and girls
dancing on the grass called to him to join them.
Peronnik heard, and, scarcely knowing what he did drew the colt
into a slower pace. He sniffed greedily the smell of the dishes,
and raised his head the better to see the dancers. Another
instant and he would have stopped altogether and been lost, like
others before him, when suddenly there came to him like a vision
the golden bowl and the diamond lance. Drawing his whistle from
his pocket, he blew it loudly, so as to drown the sweet sounds
about him, and ate what was left of his bread and bacon to still
the craving of the magic fruits. His eyes he fixed steadily on
the ears of the colt, that he might not see the dancers.
In this way he was able to reach the end of the garden, and at
length perceived the castle of Kerglas, with the river between
them which had only one ford. Would the lady be there, as the old
man had told him? Yes, surely that was she, sitting on a rock, in
a black satin dress, and her face the colour of a Moorish
woman's. The idiot rode up, and took off his cap more politely
than ever, and asked if she did not wish to cross the river.
'I was waiting for you to help me do so,' answered she. 'Come
near, that I may get up behind you.'
Peronnik did as she bade him, and by the help of his arm she
jumped nimbly on to the back of the colt.
'Do you know how to kill the magician?' asked the lady, as they
were crossing the ford.
'I thought that, being a magician, he was immortal, and that no
one could kill him,' replied Peronnik.
'Persuade him to taste that apple, and he will die, and if that
is not enough I will touch him with my finger, for I am the
plague,' answered she.
'But if I kill him, how am I to get the golden bowl and the
diamond lance that are hidden in the cellar without a key?'
'The flower that laughs opens all doors and lightens all
darkness,' said the lady; and as she spoke, they reached the
further bank, and advanced towards the castle.
In front of the entrance was a sort of tent supported on poles,
and under it the giant was sitting, basking in the sun. As soon
as he noticed the colt bearing Peronnik and the lady, he lifted
his head, and cried in a voice of thunder:
'Why, it is surely the idiot, riding my colt thirteen months
'Greatest of magicians, you are right,' answered Peronnik.
'And how did you manage to catch him?' asked the giant.
'By repeating what I learnt from your brother Bryak on the edge
of the forest,' replied the idiot. 'I just said--
Colt, free to run and free to eat,
Colt, gallop fast until we meet,
and it came directly.'
'You know my brother, then?' inquired the giant. 'Tell me why he
sent you here.'
'To bring you two gifts which he has just received from the
country of the Moors,' answered Peronnik: 'the apple of delight
and the woman of submission. If you eat the apple you will not
desire anything else, and if you take the woman as your servant
you will never wish for another.'
'Well, give me the apple, and bid the woman get down,' answered
The idiot obeyed, but at the first taste of the apple the giant
staggered, and as the long yellow finger of the woman touched him
he fell dead.
Leaving the magician where he lay, Peronnik entered the palace,
bearing with him the flower that laughs. Fifty doors flew open
before him, and at length he reached a long flight of steps which
seemed to lead into the bowels of the earth. Down these he went
till he came to a silver door without a bar or key. Then he held
up high the flower that laughs, and the door slowly swung back,
displaying a deep cavern, which was as bright as the day from the
shining of the golden bowl and the diamond lance. The idiot
hastily ran forward and hung the bowl round his neck from the
chain which was attached to it, and took the lance in his hand.
As he did so, the ground shook beneath him, and with an awful
rumbling the palace disappeared, and Peronnik found himself
standing close to the forest where he led the cattle to graze.
Though darkness was coming on, Peronnik never thought of entering
the farm, but followed the road which led to the court of the
duke of Brittany. As he passed through the town of Vannes he
stopped at a tailor's shop, and bought a beautiful costume of
brown velvet and a white horse, which he paid for with a handful
of gold that he had picked up in the corridor of the castle of
Kerglas. Thus he made his way to the city of Nantes, which at
that moment was besieged by the French.
A little way off, Peronnik stopped and looked about him. For
miles round the country was bare, for the enemy had cut down
every tree and burnt every blade of corn; and, idiot though he
might be, Peronnik was able to grasp that inside the gates men
were dying of famine. He was still gazing with horror, when a
trumpeter appeared on the walls, and, after blowing a loud blast,
announced that the duke would adopt as his heir the man who could
drive the French out of the country.
On the four sides of the city the trumpeter blew his blast, and
the last time Peronnik, who had ridden up as close as he might,
'You need blow no more,' said he, 'for I myself will free the
town from her enemies.' And turning to a soldier who came running
up, waving his sword, he touched him with the magic lance, and he
fell dead on the spot. The men who were following stood still,
amazed. Their comrade's armour had not been pierced, of that they
were sure, yet he was dead, as if he had been struck to the
heart. But before they had time to recover from their
astonishment, Peronnik cried out:
'You see how my foes will fare; now behold what I can do for my
friends,' and, stooping down, he laid the golden bowl against the
mouth of the soldier, who sat up as well as ever. Then, jumping
his horse across the trench, he entered the gate of the city,
which had opened wide enough to receive him.
The news of these marvels quickly spread through the town, and
put fresh spirit into the garrison, so that they declared
themselves able to fight under the command of the young stranger.
And as the bowl restored all the dead Bretons to life, Peronnik
soon had an army large enough to drive away the French, and
fulfilled his promise of delivering his country.
As to the bowl and the lance, no one knows what became of them,
but some say that Bryak the sorcerer managed to steal them again,
and that any one who wishes to possess them must seek them as
From 'Le Foyer Breton,' par Emile Souvestre.
The Battle of the Birds
There was to be a great battle between all the creatures of the
earth and the birds of the air. News of it went abroad, and the
son of the king of Tethertown said that when the battle was
fought he would be there to see it, and would bring back word who
was to be king. But in spite of that, he was almost too late, and
every fight had been fought save the last, which was between a
snake and a great black raven. Both struck hard, but in the end
the snake proved the stronger, and would have twisted himself
round the neck of the raven till he died had not the king's son
drawn his sword, and cut off the head of the snake at a single
blow. And when the raven beheld that his enemy was dead, he was
grateful, and said:
'For thy kindness to me this day, I will show thee a sight. So
come up now on the root of my two wings.' The king's son did as
he was bid, and before the raven stopped flying, they had passed
over seven bens and seven glens and seven mountain moors.
'Do you see that house yonder?' said the raven at last. 'Go
straight for it, for a sister of mine dwells there, and she will
make you right welcome. And if she asks, "Wert thou at the battle
of the birds?" answer that thou wert, and if she asks, "Didst
thou see my likeness?" answer that thou sawest it, but be sure
thou meetest me in the morning at this place.'
The king's son followed what the raven told him and that night he
had meat of each meat, and drink of each drink, warm water for
his feet, and a soft bed to lie in.
Thus it happened the next day, and the next, but on the fourth
meeting, instead of meeting the raven, in his place the king's
son found waiting for him the handsomest youth that ever was
seen, with a bundle in his hand.
'Is there a raven hereabouts?' asked the king's son, and the