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The Brown Fairy Book by Andrew Lang

Part 3 out of 6

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The Sacred Milk of Koumongoe

Far way, in a very hot country, there once lived a man and woman
who had two children, a son named Koane and a daughter called

Early in the morning and late in the evenings the parents worked
hard in the fields, resting, when the sun was high, under the
shade of some tree. While they were absent the little girl kept
house alone, for her brother always got up before the dawn, when
the air was fresh and cool, and drove out the cattle to the
sweetest patches of grass he could find.

One day, when Koane had slept later than usual, his father and
mother went to their work before him, and there was only Thakane
to be seen busy making the bread for supper.

'Thakane,' he said, 'I am thirsty. Give me a drink from the tree
Koumongoe, which has the best milk in the world.'

'Oh, Koane,' cried his sister, 'you know that we are forbidden to
touch that tree. What would father say when he came home? For
he would be sure to know.'

'Nonsense,' replied Koane, 'there is so much milk in Koumongoe
that he will never miss a little. If you won't give it to me, I
sha'n't take the cattle out. They will just have to stay all day
in the hut, and you know that they will starve.' And he turned
from her in a rage, and sat down in the corner.

After a while Thakane said to him: 'It is getting hot, had you
better drive out the cattle now?'

But Koane only answered sulkily: 'I told you I am not going to
drive them out at all. If I have to do without milk, they shall
do without grass.'

Thakane did not know what to do. She was afraid to disobey her
parents, who would most likely beat her, yet the beasts would be
sure to suffer if they were kept in, and she would perhaps be
beaten for that too. So at last she took an axe and a tiny
earthen bowl, she cut a very small hole in the side of Koumongoe,
and out gushed enough milk to fill the bowl.

'Here is the milk you wanted,' said she, going up to Koane, who
was still sulking in his corner.

'What is the use of that?' grumbled Koane; 'why, there is not
enough to drown a fly. Go and get me three times as much!'

Trembling with fright, Thakane returned to the tree, and struck
it a sharp blow with the axe. In an instant there poured forth
such a stream of milk that it ran like a river into the hut.

'Koane! Koane!' cried she, 'come and help me to plug up the hole.
There will be no milk left for our father and mother.' But Koane
could not stop it any more than Thakane, and soon the milk was
flowing through the hut downhill towards their parents in the
fields below.

The man saw a white stream a long way off, and guessed what had

'Wife, wife,' he called loudly to the woman, who was working at a
little distance: 'Do you see Koumongoe running fast down the
hill? That is some mischief of the children's, I am sure. I
must go home and find out what is the matter.' And they both
threw down their hoes and hurried to the side of Koumongoe.

Kneeling on the grass, the man and his wife made a cup of their
hands and drank the milk from it. And no sooner had they done
this, than Koumongoe flowed back again up the hill, and entered
the hut.

'Thakane,' said the parents, severely, when they reached home
panting from the heat of the sun, 'what have you been doing? Why
did Koumongoe come to us in the fields instead of staying in the

'It was Koane's fault,' answered Thakane. 'He would not take the
cattle to feed until he drank some of the milk from Koumongoe.
So, as I did not know what else to do, I gave it to him.'

The father listened to Thakane's words, but made no answer.
Instead, he went outside and brought in two sheepskins, which he
stained red and sent for a blacksmith to forge some iron rings.
The rings were then passed over Thakane's arms and legs and neck,
and the skins fastened on her before and behind. When all was
ready, the man sent for his servants and said:

'I am going to get rid of Thakane.'

'Get rid of your only daughter?' they answered, in surprise.
'But why?'

'Because she has eaten what she ought not to have eaten. She has
touched the sacred tree which belongs to her mother and me
alone.' And, turning his back, he called to Thakane to follow
him, and they went down the road which led to the dwelling of an

They were passing along some fields where the corn was ripening,
when a rabbit suddenly sprang out at their feet, and standing on
its hind legs, it sang:

Why do you give to the ogre Your child, so fair, so fair?

'You had better ask her,' replied the man, 'she is old enough to
give you an answer.'

Then, in her turn, Thakane sang:

I gave Koumongoe to Koane, Koumongoe to the keeper of beasts; For
without Koumongoe they could not go to the meadows: Without
Koumongoe they would starve in the hut; That was why I gave him
the Koumongoe of my father.

And when the rabbit heard that, he cried: 'Wretched man! it is
you whom the ogre should eat, and not your beautiful daughter.'

But the father paid no heed to what the rabbit said, and only
walked on the faster, bidding Thakane to keep close behind him.
By-and-by they met with a troop of great deer, called elands, and
they stopped when they saw Thakane and sang:

Why do you give to the ogre Your child, so fair, so fair?

'You had better ask her, replied the man, 'she is old enough to
give you an answer.'

Then, in her turn, Thakane sang:

I gave Koumongoe to Koane, Koumongoe to the keeper of beasts; For
without Koumongoe they could not go to the meadows: Without
Koumongoe they would starve in the hut; That was why I gave him
the Koumongoe of my father.

And the elands all cried: 'Wretched man! it is you whom the ogre
should eat, and not your beautiful daughter.'

By this time it was nearly dark, and the father said they could
travel no further that night, and must go to sleep where they
were. Thakane was thankful indeed when she heard this, for she
was very tired, and found the two skins fastened round her almost
too heavy to carry. So, in spite of her dread of the ogre, she
slept till dawn, when her father woke her, and told her roughly
that he was ready to continue their journey.

Crossing the plain, the girl and her father passed a herd of
gazelles feeding. They lifted their heads, wondering who was out
so early, and when they caught sight of Thakane, they sang:

Why do you give to the ogre Your child, so fair, so fair?

'You had better ask her, replied the man, 'she is old enough to
answer for herself.'

Then, in her turn, Thakane sang:

I gave Koumongoe to Koane, Koumongoe to the keeper of beasts; For
without Koumongoe they could not go to the meadows: Without
Koumongoe they would starve in the hut; That was why I gave him
the Koumongoe of my father.

And the gazelles all cried: 'Wretched man! it is you whom the
ogre should eat, and not your beautiful daughter.'

At last they arrived at the village where the ogre lived, and
they went straight to his hut. He was nowhere to be seen, but in
his place was his son Masilo, who was not an ogre at all, but a
very polite young man. He ordered his servants to bring a pile
of skins for Thakane to sit on, but told her father he must sit
on the ground. Then, catching sight of the girl's face, which
she had kept down, he was struck by its beauty, and put the same
question that the rabbit, and the elands, and the gazelles had

Thakane answered him as before, and he instantly commanded that
she should be taken to the hut of his mother, and placed under
her care, while the man should be led to his father. Directly
the ogre saw him he bade the servant throw him into the great pot
which always stood ready on the fire, and in five minutes he was
done to a turn. After that the servant returned to Masilo and
related all that had happened.

Now Masilo had fallen in loved with Thakane the moment he saw
her. At first he did not know what to make of this strange
feeling, for all his life he had hated women, and had refused
several brides whom his parents had chosen for him. However,
they were so anxious that he should marry, that they willingly
accepted Thakane as their daughter-in-law, though she did bring
any marriage portion with her.

After some time a baby was born to her, and Thakane thought it
was the most beautiful baby that ever was seen. But when her
mother-in-law saw it was a girl, she wrung her hands and wept,

'O miserable mother! Miserable child! Alas for you! why were you
not a boy!'

Thakane, in great surprise, asked the meaning of her distress;
and the old woman told her that it was the custom in that country
that all the girls who were born should be given to the ogre to

Then Thakane clasped the baby tightly in her arms, and cried:

'But it is not the customer in MY country! There, when children
die, they are buried in the earth. No one shall take my baby
from me.'

That night, when everyone in the hut was asleep, Thakane rose,
and carrying her baby on her back, went down to a place where the
river spread itself out into a large lake, with tall willows all
round the bank. Here, hidden from everyone, she sat down on a
stone and began to think what she should do to save her child.

Suddenly she heard a rustling among the willows, and an old woman
appeared before her.

'What are you crying for, my dear?' said she.

And Thakane answered: 'I was crying for my baby--I cannot hide
her for ever, and if the ogre sees her, he will eat her; and I
would rather she was drowned than that.'

'What you say is true,' replied the old woman. 'Give me your
child, and let me take care of it. And if you will fix a day to
meet me here I will bring the baby.'

Then Thakane dried her eyes, and gladly accepted the old woman's
offer. When she got home she told her husband she had thrown it
in the river, and as he had watched her go in that direction he
never thought of doubting what she said.

On the appointed day, Thakane slipped out when everybody was
busy, and ran down the path that led to the lake. As soon as she
got there, she crouched down among the willows, and sang softly:

Bring to me Dilah, Dilah the rejected one, Dilah, whom her father
Masilo cast out!

And in a moment the old woman appeared holding the baby in her
arms. Dilah had become so big and strong, that Thakane's heart
was filled with joy and gratitude, and she stayed as long as she
dared, playing with her baby. At last she felt she must return
to the village, lest she should be missed, and the child was
handed back to the old woman, who vanished with her into the

Children grow up very quickly when they live under water, and in
less time than anyone could suppose, Dilah had changed from a
baby to a woman. Her mother came to visit her whenever she was
able, and one day, when they were sitting talking together, they
were spied out by a man who had come to cut willows to weave into
baskets. He was so surprised to see how like the face of the
girl was to Masilo, that he left his work and returned to the

'Masilo,' he said, as he entered the hut, 'I have just beheld
your wife near the river with a girl who must be your daughter,
she is so like you. We have been deceived, for we all thought
she was dead.'

When he heard this, Masilo tried to look shocked because his wife
had broken the law; but in his heart he was very glad.

'But what shall we do now?' asked he.

'Make sure for yourself that I am speaking the truth by hiding
among the bushes the first time Thakane says she is going to
bathe in the river, and waiting till the girl appears.'

For some days Thakane stayed quietly at home, and her husband
began to think that the man had been mistaken; but at last she
said to her husband: 'I am going to bathe in the river.'

'Well, you can go,' answered he. But he ran down quickly by
another path, and got there first, and hid himself in the bushes.
An instant later, Thakane arrived, and standing on the bank, she

Bring to me Dilah, Dilah the rejected one, Dilah, whom her father
Masilo cast out!

Then the old woman came out of the water, holding the girl, now
tall and slender, by the hand. And as Masilo looked, he saw that
she was indeed his daughter, and he wept for joy that she was not
lying dead in the bottom of the lake. The old woman, however,
seemed uneasy, and said to Thakane: 'I feel as if someone was
watching us. I will not leave the girl to-day, but will take her
back with me'; and sinking beneath the surface, she drew the girl
after her. After they had gone, Thakane returned to the village,
which Masilo had managed to reach before her.

All the rest of the day he sat in a corner weeping, and his
mother who came in asked: 'Why are you weeping so bitterly, my

'My head aches,' he answered; 'it aches very badly.' And his
mother passed on, and left him alone.

In the evening he said to his wife: 'I have seen my daughter, in
the place where you told me you had drowned her. Instead, she
lives at the bottom of the lake, and has now grown into a young

'I don't know what you are talking about,' replied Thakane. 'I
buried my child under the sand on the beach.'

Then Masilo implored her to give the child back to him; but she
would not listen, and only answered: 'If I were to give her back
you would only obey the laws of your country and take her to your
father, the ogre, and she would be eaten.'

But Masilo promised that he would never let his father see her,
and that now she was a woman no one would try to hurt her; so
Thakane's heart melted, and she went down to the lake to consult
the old woman.

'What am I to do?' she asked, when, after clapping her hands, the
old woman appeared before her. 'Yesterday Masilo beheld Dilah,
and ever since he has entreated me to give him back his

'If I let her go he must pay me a thousand head of cattle in
exchange,' replied the old woman. And Thakane carried her answer
back to Masilo.

'Why, I would gladly give her two thousand!' cried he, 'for she
has saved my daughter.' And he bade messengers hasten to all the
neighbouring villages, and tell his people to send him at once
all the cattle he possessed. When they were all assembled he
chose a thousand of the finest bulls and cows, and drove them
down to the river, followed by a great crowd wondering what would

Then Thakane stepped forward in front of the cattle and sang:

Bring to me Dilah, Dilah the rejected one, Dilah, whom her father
Masilo cast out!

And Dilah came from the waters holding out her hands to Masilo
and Thakane, and in her place the cattle sank into the lake, and
were driven by the old woman to the great city filled with
people, which lies at the bottom.

[Contes Populaires des Bassoutos.]

The Wicked Wolverine

One day a wolverine was out walking on the hill-side, when, on
turning a corner, he suddenly saw a large rock.

'Was that you I heard walking about just now?' he asked, for
wolverines are cautious animals, and always like to know the
reasons of things.

'No, certainly not,' answered the rock; 'I don't know how to

'But I SAW you walking,' continued the wolverine.

'I am afraid that you were not taught to speak the truth,'
retorted the rock.

'You need not speak like that, for I have SEEN you walking,'
replied the wolverine, 'though I am quite sure that you could
never catch ME!' and he ran a little distance and then stopped to
see if the rock was pursuing him; but, to his vexation, the rock
was still in the same place. Then the wolverine went up close,
and struck the rock a blow with his paw, saying: 'Well, will you
catch me NOW?'

'I can't walk, but I can ROLL,' answered the rock.

And the wolverine laughed and said: 'Oh, that will do just as
well'; and began to run down the side of the mountain.

At first he went quite slowly, 'just to give the rock a chance,'
he thought to himself; but soon he quickened his pace, for he
found that the rock was almost at his heels. But the faster the
wolverine ran, the faster the rock rolled, and by-and-by the
little creature began to get very tired, and was sorry he had not
left the rock to itself. Thinking that if he could manage to put
on a spurt he would reach the forest of great trees at the bottom
of the mountain, where the rock could not come, he gathered up
all his strength, and instead of running he leaped over sticks
and stones, but, whatever he did, the rock was always close
behind him. At length he grew so weary that he could not even
see where he was going, and catching his foot in a branch he
tripped and fell. The rock stopped at once, but there came a
shriek from the wolverine:

'Get off, get off! can't you see that you are on my legs?'

'Why did you not leave me alone?' asked the rock. 'I did not
want to move--I hate moving. But you WOULD have it, and I
certainly sha'n't move now till I am forced to.'

'I will call my brothers,' answered the wolverine. 'There are
many of them in the forest, and you will soon see that they are
stronger than you.' And he called, and called, and called, till
wolves and foxes and all sorts of other creatures all came
running to see what was the matter.

'How DID you get under that rock?' asked they, making a ring
round him; but they had to repeat their question several times
before the wolverine would answer, for he, like many other
persons, found it hard to confess that he had brought his
troubles on himself.

'Well, I was dull, and wanted someone to play with me,' he said
at last, in sulky voice, 'and I challenged the rock to catch me.
Of course I thought I could run the fastest; but I tripped, and
it rolled on me. It was just an accident.'

'It serves you right for being so silly,' said they; but they
pushed and hauled at the rock for a long time without making it
move an inch.

'You are no good at all,' cried the wolverine crossly, for it was
suffering great pain, 'and if you cannot get me free, I shall see
what my friends the lightning and thunder can do.' And he called
loudly to the lightning to come and help him as quickly as

In a few minutes a dark cloud came rolling up the sky, giving out
such terrific claps of thunder that the wolves and the foxes and
all the other creatures ran helter-skelter in all directions.
But, frightened though they were, they did not forget to beg the
lightning to take off the wolverine's coat and to free his legs,
but to be careful not to hurt him. So the lightning disappeared
into the cloud for a moment to gather up fresh strength, and then
came rushing down, right upon the rock, which it sent flying in
all directions, and took the wolverine's coat so neatly that,
though it was torn into tiny shreds, the wolverine himself was
quite unharmed.

'That was rather clumsy of you,' said he, standing up naked in
his flesh. 'Surely you could have split the rock without tearing
my coat to bits!' And he stooped down to pick up the pieces. It
took him a long time, for there were a great many of them, but at
last he had them all in his hand.

'I'll go to my sister the frog,' he thought to himself, 'and she
will sew them together for me'; and he set off at once for the
swamp in which his sister lived.

'Will you sew my coat together? I had an unlucky accident, and
it is quite impossible to wear,' he said, when he found her.

'With pleasure,' she answered, for she had always been taught to
be polite; and getting her needle and thread she began to fit the
pieces. But though she was very good-natured, she was not very
clever, and she got some of the bits wrong. When the wolverine,
who was very particular about his clothes, came to put it on, he
grew very angry.

'What a useless creature you are!' cried he. 'Do you expect me
to go about in such a coat as that? Why it bulges all down the
back, as if I had a hump, and it is so tight across the chest
that I expect it to burst every time I breathe. I knew you were
stupid, but I did not think you were as stupid as that.' And
giving the poor frog a blow on her head, which knocked her
straight into the water, he walked off in a rage to his younger
sister the mouse.

'I tore my coat this morning,' he began, when he had found her
sitting at the door of her house eating an apple. 'It was all in
little bits, and I took it to our sister the frog to ask her to
sew it for me. But just look at the way she has done it! You
will have to take it to pieces and fit them together properly,
and I hope I shall not have to complain again.' For as the
wolverine was older than the mouse, he was accustomed to speak to
her in this manner. However, the mouse was used to it and only
answered: 'I think you had better stay here till it is done, and
if there is any alteration needed I can make it.' So the
wolverine sat down on a heap of dry ferns, and picking up the
apple, he finished it without even asking the mouse's leave.

At last the coat was ready, and the wolverine put it on.

'Yes, it fits very well,' said he, 'and you have sewn it very
neatly. When I pass this way again I will bring you a handful of
corn, as a reward'; and he ran off as smart as ever, leaving the
mouse quite grateful behind him.

He wandered about for many days, till he reached a place where
food was very scarce, and for a whole week he went without any.
He was growing desperate, when he suddenly came upon a bear that
was lying asleep. 'Ah! here is food at last!' thought he; but
how was he to kill the bear, who was so much bigger than himself?
It was no use to try force, he must invent some cunning plan
which would get her into his power. At last, after thinking
hard, he decided upon something, and going up to the bear, he
exclaimed: 'Is that you, my sister?'

The bear turned round and saw the wolverine, and murmuring to
herself, so low that nobody could hear, 'I never heard before
that I had a brother,' got up and ran quickly to a tree, up which
she climbed. Now the wolverine was very angry when he saw his
dinner vanishing in front of him, especially as HE could not
climb trees like the bear, so he followed, and stood at the foot
of the tree, shrieking as loud as he could, 'Come down, sister;
our father has sent me to look for you! You were lost when you
were a little girl and went out picking berries, and it was only
the other day that we heard from a beaver where you were.' At
these words, the bear came a little way down the tree, and the
wolverine, seeing this, went on:

'Are you not fond of berries? I am! And I know a place where
they grow so thick the ground is quite hidden. Why, look for
yourself! That hillside is quite red with them!'

'I can't see so far,' answered the bear, now climbing down
altogether. 'You must have wonderfully good eyes! I wish I had;
but my sight is very short.'

'So was mine till my father smashed a pailful of cranberries, and
rubbed my eyes with them,' replied the wolverine. 'But if you
like to go and gather some of the berries I will do just as he
did, and you will soon be able to see as far as me.'

It took the bear a long while to gather the berries, for she was
slow about everything, and, besides, it made her back ache to
stoop. But at last she returned with a sackful, and put them
down beside the wolverine. 'That is splendid, sister!' cried the
wolverine. 'Now lie flat on the ground with your head on this
stone, while I smash them.'

The bear, who was very tired, was only too glad to do as she was
bid, and stretched herself comfortably on the grass.

'I am ready now,' said the wolverine after a bit; 'just at first
you will find that the berries make your eyes smart, but you must
be careful not to move, or the juice will run out, and then it
will have to be done all over again.'

So the bear promised to lie very still; but the moment the
cranberries touched her eyes she sprang up with a roar.

'Oh, you mustn't mind a little pain,' said the wolverine, 'it
will soon be over, and then you will see all sorts of things you
have never dreamt of.' The bear sank down with a groan, and as
her eyes were full of cranberry juice, which completely blinded
her, the wolverine took up a sharp knife and stabbed her to the

Then he took off the skin, and, stealing some fire from a tent,
which his sharp eyes had perceived hidden behind a rock, he set
about roasting the bear bit by bit. He thought the meat was the
best he ever had tasted, and when dinner was done he made up his
mind to try that same trick again, if ever he was hungry.

And very likely he did!

[Adapted from Bureau of Ethnology.]

The Husband of the Rat's Daughter

Once upon a time there lived in Japan a rat and his wife who came
of an old and noble race, and had one daughter, the loveliest
girl in all the rat world. Her parents were very proud of her,
and spared no pains to teach her all she ought to know. There
was not another young lady in the whole town who was as clever as
she was in gnawing through the hardest wood, or who could drop
from such a height on to a bed, or run away so fast if anyone was
heard coming. Great attention, too, was paid to her personal
appearance, and her skin shone like satin, while her teeth were
as white as pearls, and beautifully pointed.

Of course, with all these advantages, her parents expected her to
make a brilliant marriage, and, as she grew up, they began to
look round for a suitable husband.

But here a difficulty arose. The father was a rat from the tip
of his nose to the end of his tail, outside as well as in, and
desired that his daughter should wed among her own people. She
had no lack of lovers, but her father's secret hopes rested on a
fine young rat, with moustaches which almost swept the ground,
whose family was still nobler and more ancient than his own.
Unluckily, the mother had other views for her precious child.
She was one of those people who always despise their own family
and surroundings, and take pleasure in thinking that they
themselves are made of finer material than the rest of the world.
'HER daughter should never marry a mere rat,' she declared,
holding her head high. 'With her beauty and talents she had a
right to look for someone a little better than THAT.'

So she talked, as mothers will, to anyone that would listen to
her. What the girl thought about the matter nobody knew or
cared--it was not the fashion in the rat world.

Many were the quarrels which the old rat and his wife had upon
the subject, and sometimes they bore on their faces certain marks
which looked as if they had not kept to words only.

'Reach up to the stars is MY motto,' cried the lady one day, when
she was in a greater passion than usual. 'My daughter's beauty
places her higher than anything upon earth,' she cried; 'and I am
certainly not going to accept a son-in-law who is beneath her.'

'Better offer her in marriage to the sun,' answered her husband
impatiently. 'As far as I know there is nothing greater than

'Well, I WAS thinking of it,' replied the wife, 'and as you are
of the same mind, we will pay him a visit to-morrow.'

So the next morning, the two rats, having spent hours in making
themselves smart, set out to see the sun, leading their daughter
between them.

The journey took some time, but at length they came to the golden
palace where the sun lived.

'Noble king,' began the mother, 'behold our daughter! She is so
beautiful that she is above everything in the whole world.
Naturally, we wish for a son-in-law who, on his side, is greater
than all. Therefore we have come to you.'

'I feel very much flattered,' replied the sun, who was so busy
that he had not the least wish to marry anybody. 'You do me
great honour by your proposal. Only, in one point you are
mistaken, and it would be wrong of me to take advantage of your
ignorance. There is something greater than I am, and that is the
cloud. Look!' And as he spoke a cloud spread itself over the
sun's face, blotting out his rays.

'Oh, well, we will speak to the cloud,' said the mother. And
turning to the cloud she repeated her proposal.

'Indeed I am unworthy of anything so charming,' answered the
cloud; 'but you make a mistake again in what you say. There is
one thing that is even more powerful than I, and that is the
wind. Ah, here he comes, you can see for yourself.'

And she DID see, for catching up the cloud as he passed, he threw
it on the other side of the sky. Then, tumbling father, mother
and daughter down to the earth again, he paused for a moment
beside them, his foot on an old wall.

When she had recovered her breath, the mother began her little
speech once more.

'The wall is the proper husband for your daughter,' answered the
wind, whose home consisted of a cave, which he only visited when
he was not rushing about elsewhere; 'you can see for yourself
that he is greater than I, for he has power to stop me in my
flight.' And the mother, who did not trouble to conceal her
wishes, turned at once to the wall.

Then something happened which was quite unexpected by everyone.

'I won't marry that ugly old wall, which is as old as my
grandfather,' sobbed the girl, who had not uttered one word all
this time. 'I would have married the sun, or the cloud, or the
wind, because it was my duty, although I love the handsome young
rat, and him only. But that horrid old wall--I would sooner

And the wall, rather hurt in his feelings, declared that he had
no claim to be the husband of so beautiful a girl.

'It is quite true,' he said, 'that I can stop the wind who can
part the clouds who can cover the sun; but there is someone who
can do more than all these, and that is the rat. It is the rat
who passes through me, and can reduce me to powder, simply with
his teeth. If, therefore, you want a son-in-law who is greater
than the whole world, seek him among the rats.'

'Ah, what did I tell you?' cried the father. And his wife,
though for the moment angry at being beaten, soon thought that a
rat son-in-law was what she had always desired.

So all three returned happily home, and the wedding was
celebrated three days after.

[Contes Populaires.]

The Mermaid and the Boy

Long, long ago, there lived a king who ruled over a country by
the sea. When he had been married about a year, some of his
subjects, inhabiting a distant group of islands, revolted against
his laws, and it became needful for him to leave his wife and go
in person to settle their disputes. The queen feared that some
ill would come of it, and implored him to stay at home, but he
told her that nobody could do his work for him, and the next
morning the sails were spread, and the king started on his

The vessel had not gone very far when she ran upon a rock, and
stuck so fast in a cleft that the strength of the whole crew
could not get her off again. To make matters worse, the wind was
rising too, and it was quite plain that in a few hours the ship
would be dashed to pieces and everybody would be drowned, when
suddenly the form of a mermaid was seen dancing on the waves
which threatened every moment to overwhelm them.

'There is only one way to free yourselves,' she said to the king,
bobbing up and down in the water as she spoke, 'and that is to
give me your solemn word that you will deliver to me the first
child that is born to you.'

The king hesitated at this proposal. He hoped that some day he
might have children in his home, and the thought that he must
yield up the heir to his crown was very bitter to him; but just
then a huge wave broke with great force on the ship's side, and
his men fell on their knees and entreated him to save them.

So he promised, and this time a wave lifted the vessel clean off
the rocks, and she was in the open sea once more.

The affairs of the islands took longer to settle than the king
had expected, and some months passed away before he returned to
his palace. In his absence a son had been born to him, and so
great was his joy that he quite forgot the mermaid and the price
he had paid for the safety of his ship. But as the years went
on, and the baby grew into a fine big boy, the remembrance of it
came back, and one day he told the queen the whole story. From
that moment the happiness of both their lives was ruined. Every
night they went to bed wondering if they should find his room
empty in the morning, and every day they kept him by their sides,
expecting him to be snatched away before their very eyes.

At last the king felt that this state of things could not
continue, and he said to his wife:

'After all, the most foolish thing in the world one can do is to
keep the boy here in exactly the place in which the mermaid will
seek him. Let us give him food and send him on his travels, and
perhaps, if the mermaid ever blocs come to seek him, she may be
content with some other child.' And the queen agreed that his
plan seemed the wisest.

So the boy was called, and his father told him the story of the
voyage, as he had told his mother before him. The prince
listened eagerly, and was delighted to think that he was to go
away all by himself to see the world, and was not in the least
frightened; for though he was now sixteen, he had scarcely been
allowed to walk alone beyond the palace gardens. He began busily
to make his preparations, and took off his smart velvet coat,
putting on instead one of green cloth, while he refused a
beautiful bag which the queen offered him to hold his food, and
slung a leather knapsack over his shoulders instead, just as he
had seen other travellers do. Then he bade farewell to his
parents and went his way.

All through the day he walked, watching with interest the strange
birds and animals that darted across his path in the forest or
peeped at him from behind a bush. But as evening drew on he
became tired, and looked about as he walked for some place where
he could sleep. At length he reached a soft mossy bank under a
tree, and was just about to stretch himself out on it, when a
fearful roar made him start and tremble all over. In another
moment something passed swiftly through the air and a lion stood
before him.

'What are you doing here?' asked the lion, his eyes glaring
fiercely at the boy.

'I am flying from the mermaid,' the prince answered, in a quaking

'Give me some food then,' said the lion, 'it is past my supper
time, and I am very hungry.'

The boy was so thankful that the lion did not want to eat him,
that he gladly picked up his knapsack which lay on the ground,
and held out some bread and a flask of wine.

'I feel better now,' said the lion when he had done, 'so now I
shall go to sleep on this nice soft moss, and if you like you can
lie down beside me.' So the boy and the lion slept soundly side
by side, till the sun rose.

'I must be off now,' remarked the lion, shaking the boy as he
spoke; 'but cut off the tip of my ear, and keep it carefully, and
if you are in any danger just wish yourself a lion and you will
become one on the spot. One good turn deserves another, you

The prince thanked him for his kindness, and did as he was bid,
and the two then bade each other farewell.

'I wonder how it feels to be a lion,' thought the boy, after he
had gone a little way; and he took out the tip of the ear from
the breast of his jacket and wished with all his might. In an
instant his head had swollen to several times its usual size, and
his neck seemed very hot and heavy; and, somehow, his hands
became paws, and his skin grew hairy and yellow. But what
pleased him most was his long tail with a tuft at the end, which
he lashed and switched proudly. 'I like being a lion very much,'
he said to himself, and trotted gaily along the road.

After a while, however, he got tired of walking in this
unaccustomed way--it made his back ache and his front paws felt
sore. So he wished himself a boy again, and in the twinkling of
an eye his tail disappeared and his head shrank, and the long
thick mane became short and curly. Then he looked out for a
sleeping place, and found some dry ferns, which he gathered and
heaped up.

But before he had time to close his eyes there was a great noise
in the trees near by, as if a big heavy body was crashing through
them. The boy rose and turned his head, and saw a huge black
bear coming towards him.

'What are you doing here?' cried the bear.

'I am running away from the mermaid,' answered the boy; but the
bear took no interest in the mermaid, and only said: 'I am
hungry; give me something to eat.'

The knapsack was lying on the ground among the fern, but the
prince picked it up, and, unfastening the strap, took out his
second flask of wine and another loaf of bread. 'We will have
supper together,' he remarked politely; but the bear, who had
never been taught manners, made no reply, and ate as fast as he
could. When he had quite finished, he got up and stretched

'You have got a comfortable-looking bed there,' he observed. 'I
really think that, bad sleeper as I am, I might have a good night
on it. I can manage to squeeze you in,' he added; 'you don't
take up a great deal of room.' The boy was rather indignant at
the bear's cool way of talking; but as he was too tired to gather
more fern, they lay down side by side, and never stirred till
sunrise next morning.

'I must go now,' said the bear, pulling the sleepy prince on to
his feet; 'but first you shall cut off the tip of my ear, and
when you are in any danger just wish yourself a bear and you will
become one. One good turn deserves another, you know.' And the
boy did as he was bid, and he and the bear bade each other

'I wonder how it feels to be a bear,' thought he to himself when
he had walked a little way; and he took out the tip from the
breast of his coat and wished hard that he might become a bear.
The next moment his body stretched out and thick black fur
covered him all over. As before, his hands were changed into
paws, but when he tried to switch his tail he found to his
disgust that it would not go any distance. 'Why it is hardly
worth calling a tail!' said he. For the rest of the day he
remained a bear and continued his journey, but as evening came on
the bear-skin, which had been so useful when plunging through
brambles in the forest, felt rather heavy, and he wished himself
a boy again. He was too much exhausted to take the trouble of
cutting any fern or seeking for moss, but just threw himself down
under a tree, when exactly above his head he heard a great
buzzing as a bumble-bee alighted on a honeysuckle branch. 'What
are you doing here?' asked the bee in a cross voice; 'at your age
you ought to be safe at home.'

'I am running away from the mermaid,' replied the boy; but the
bee, like the lion and the bear, was one of those people who
never listen to the answers to their questions, and only said: 'I
am hungry. Give me something to eat.'

The boy took his last loaf and flask out of his knapsack and laid
them on the ground, and they had supper together. 'Well, now I
am going to sleep,' observed the bee when the last crumb was
gone, 'but as you are not very big I can make room for you beside
me,' and he curled up his wings, and tucked in his legs, and he
and the prince both slept soundly till morning. Then the bee got
up and carefully brushed every scrap of dust off his velvet coat
and buzzed loudly in the boy's ear to waken him.

'Take a single hair from one of my wings,' said he, 'and if you
are in danger just wish yourself a bee and you will become one.
One good turn deserves another, so farewell, and thank you for
your supper.' And the bee departed after the boy had pulled out
the hair and wrapped it carefully in a leaf.

'It must feel quite different to be a bee from what it does to be
a lion or bear,' thought the boy to himself when he had walked
for an hour or two. 'I dare say I should get on a great deal
faster,' so he pulled out his hair and wished himself a bee.

In a moment the strangest thing happened to him. All his limbs
seemed to draw together, and his body to become very short and
round; his head grew quite tiny, and instead of his white skin he
was covered with the richest, softest velvet. Better than all,
he had two lovely gauze wings which carried him the whole day
without getting tired.

Late in the afternoon the boy fancied he saw a vast heap of
stones a long way off, and he flew straight towards it. But when
he reached the gates he saw that it was really a great town, so
he wished himself back in his own shape and entered the city.

He found the palace doors wide open and went boldly into a sort
of hall which was full of people, and where men and maids were
gossiping together. He joined their talk and soon learned from
them that the king had only one daughter who had such a hatred to
men that she would never suffer one to enter her presence. Her
father was in despair, and had had pictures painted of the
handsomest princes of all the courts in the world, in the hope
that she might fall in love with one of them; but it was no use;
the princess would not even allow the pictures to be brought into
her room.

'It is late,' remarked one of the women at last; 'I must go to my
mistress.' And, turning to one of the lackeys, she bade him find
a bed for the youth.

'It is not necessary,' answered the prince, 'this bench is good
enough for me. I am used to nothing better.' And when the hall
was empty he lay down for a few minutes. But as soon as
everything was quiet in the palace he took out the hair and
wished himself a bee, and in this shape he flew upstairs, past
the guards, and through the keyhole into the princess's chamber.
Then he turned himself into a man again.

At this dreadful sight the princess, who was broad awake, began
to scream loudly. 'A man! a man!' cried she; but when the guards
rushed in there was only a bumble-bee buzzing about the room.
They looked under the bed, and behind the curtains, and into the
cupboards, then came to the conclusion that the princess had had
a bad dream, and bowed themselves out. The door had scarcely
closed on them than the bee disappeared, and a handsome youth
stood in his place.

'I knew a man was hidden somewhere,' cried the princess, and
screamed more loudly than before. Her shrieks brought back the
guards, but though they looked in all kinds of impossible places
no man was to be seen, and so they told the princess.

'He was here a moment ago--I saw him with my own eyes,' and the
guards dared not contradict her, though they shook their heads
and whispered to each other that the princess had gone mad on
this subject, and saw a man in every table and chair. And they
made up their minds that--let her scream as loudly as she might--
they would take no notice.

Now the princess saw clearly what they were thinking, and that in
future her guards would give her no help, and would perhaps,
besides, tell some stories about her to the king, who would shut
her up in a lonely tower and prevent her walking in the gardens
among her birds and flowers. So when, for the third time, she
beheld the prince standing before her, she did not scream but sat
up in bed gazing at him in silent terror.

'Do not be afraid,' he said, 'I shall not hurt you'; and he began
to praise her gardens, of which he had heard the servants speak,
and the birds and flowers which she loved, till the princess's
anger softened, and she answered him with gentle words. Indeed,
they soon became so friendly that she vowed she would marry no
one else, and confided to him that in three days her father would
be off to the wars, leaving his sword in her room. If any man
could find it and bring it to him he would receive her hand as a
reward. At this point a cock crew, and the youth jumped up
hastily saying: 'Of course I shall ride with the king to the war,
and if I do not return, take your violin every evening to the
seashore and play on it, so that the very sea-kobolds who live at
the bottom of the ocean may hear it and come to you.'

Just as the princess had foretold, in three days the king set out
for the war with a large following, and among them was the young
prince, who had presented himself at court as a young noble in
search of adventures. They had left the city many miles behind
them, when the king suddenly discovered that he had forgotten his
sword, and though all his attendants instantly offered theirs, he
declared that he could fight with none but his own.

'The first man who brings it to me from my daughter's room,'
cried he, 'shall not only have her to wife, but after my death
shall reign in my stead.'

At this the Red Knight, the young prince, and several more turned
their horses to ride as fast as the wind back to the palace. But
suddenly a better plan entered the prince's head, and, letting
the others pass him, he took his precious parcel from his breast
and wished himself a lion. Then on he bounded, uttering such
dreadful roars that the horses were frightened and grew
unmanageable, and he easily outstripped them, and soon reached
the gates of the palace. Here he hastily changed himself into a
bee, and flew straight into the princess's room, where he became
a man again. She showed him where the sword hung concealed
behind a curtain, and he took it down, saying as he did so: 'Be
sure not to forget what you have promised to do.'

The princess made no reply, but smiled sweetly, and slipping a
golden ring from her finger she broke it in two and held half out
silently to the prince, while the other half she put in her own
pocket. He kissed it, and ran down the stairs bearing the sword
with him. Some way off he met the Red Knight and the rest, and
the Red Knight at first tried to take the sword from him by
force. But as the youth proved too strong for him, he gave it
up, and resolved to wait for a better opportunity.

This soon came, for the day was hot and the prince was thirsty.
Perceiving a little stream that ran into the sea, he turned
aside, and, unbuckling the sword, flung himself on the ground for
a long drink. Unluckily, the mermaid happened at that moment to
be floating on the water not very far off, and knew he was the
boy who had been given her before he was born. So she floated
gently in to where he was lying, she seized him by the arm, and
the waves closed over them both. Hardly had they disappeared,
when the Red Knight stole cautiously up, and could hardly believe
his eyes when he saw the king's sword on the bank. He wondered
what had become of the youth, who an hour before had guarded his
treasure so fiercely; but, after all, that was no affair of his!
So, fastening the sword to his belt, he carried it to the king.

The war was soon over, and the king returned to his people, who
welcomed him with shouts of joy. But when the princess from her
window saw that her betrothed was not among the attendants riding
behind her father, her heart sank, for she knew that some evil
must have befallen him. and she feared the Red Knight. She had
long ago learned how clever and how wicked he was, and something
whispered to her that it was he who would gain the credit of
having carried back the sword, and would claim her as his bride,
though he had never even entered her chamber. And she could do
nothing; for although the king loved her, he never let her stand
in the way of his plans.

The poor princess was only too right, and everything came to pass
exactly as she had foreseen it. The king told her that the Red
Knight had won her fairly, and that the wedding would take place
next day, and there would be a great feast after it.

In those days feasts were much longer and more splendid than they
are now; and it was growing dark when the princess, tired out
with all she had gone through, stole up to her own room for a
little quiet. But the moon was shining so brightly over the sea
that it seemed to draw her towards it, and taking her violin
under her arm, she crept down to the shore.

'Listen! listen! said the mermaid to the prince, who was lying
stretched on a bed of seaweeds at the bottom of the sea.
'Listen! that is your old love playing, for mermaids know
everything that happens upon earth.'

'I hear nothing,' answered the youth, who did not look happy. '
Take me up higher, where the sounds can reach me.'

So the mermaid took him on her shoulders and bore him up midway
to the surface. 'Can you hear now?' she asked.

'No,' answered the prince, 'I hear nothing but the water rushing;
I must go higher still.'

Then the mermaid carried him to the very top. 'You must surely
be able to hear now?' said she.

'Nothing but the water,' repeated the youth. So she took him
right to the land.

'At any rate you can hear now?' she said again.

'The water is still rushing in my ears,' answered he; ' but wait
a little, that will soon pass off.' And as he spoke he put his
hand into his breast, and seizing the hair wished himself a bee,
and flew straight into the pocket of the princess. The mermaid
looked in vain for him, and coated all night upon the sea; but he
never came back, and never more did he gladden her eyes. But the
princess felt that something strange was about her, though she
knew not what, and returned quickly to the palace, where the
young man at once resumed his own shape. Oh, what joy filled her
heart at the sight of him! But there was no time to be lost, and
she led him right into the hall, where the king and his nobles
were still sitting at the feast. 'Here is a man who boasts that
he can do wonderful tricks,' said she, ' better even than the Red
Knight's! That cannot be true, of course, but it might be well to
give this impostor a lesson. He pretends, for instance, that he
can turn himself into a lion; but that I do not believe. I know
that you have studied the art of magic,' she went on, turning to
the Red Knight, 'so suppose you just show him how it is done, and
bring shame upon him.'

Now the Red Knight had never opened a book of magic in his life;
but he was accustomed to think that he could do everything better
than other people without any teaching at all. So he turned and
twisted himself about, and bellowed and made faces; but he did
not become a lion for all that.

'Well, perhaps it is very difficult to change into a lion. Make
yourself a bear,' said the princess. But the Red Knight found it
no easier to become a bear than a lion.

'Try a bee,' suggested she. 'I have always read that anyone who
can do magic at all can do that.' And the old knight buzzed and
hummed, but he remained a man and not a bee.

'Now it is your turn,' said the princess to the youth. 'Let us
see if you can change yourself into a lion.' And in a moment
such a fierce creature stood before them, that all the guests
rushed out of the hall, treading each other underfoot in their
fright. The lion sprang at the Red Knight, and would have torn
him in pieces had not the princess held him back, and bidden him
to change himself into a man again. And in a second a man took
the place of the lion.

'Now become a bear,' said she; and a bear advanced panting and
stretching out his arms to the Red Knight, who shrank behind the

By this time some of the guests had regained their courage, and
returned as far as the door, thinking that if it was safe for the
princess perhaps it was safe for them. The king, who was braver
than they, and felt it needful to set them a good example
besides, had never left his seat, and when at a new command of
the princess the bear once more turned into a man, he was silent
from astonishment, and a suspicion of the truth began to dawn on
him. 'Was it he who fetched the sword?' asked the king.

'Yes, it was,' answered the princess; and she told him the whole
story, and how she had broken her gold ring and given him half of
it. And the prince took out his half of the ring, and the
princess took out hers, and they fitted exactly. Next day the
Red Knight was hanged, as he richly deserved, and there was a new
marriage feast for the prince and princess.

[Lapplandische Mahrchen.]

Pivi and Kabo

When birds were men, and men were birds, Pivi and Kabo lived in
an island far away, called New Claledonia. Pivi was a cheery
little bird that chirps at sunset; Kabo was an ugly black fowl
that croaks in the darkness. One day Pivi and Kabo thought that
they would make slings, and practice slinging, as the people of
the island still do. So they went to a banyan tree, and stripped
the bark to make strings for their slings, and next they repaired
to the river bank to find stones. Kabo stood on the bank of the
river, and Pivi went into the water. The game was for Kabo to
sling at Pivi, and for Pivi to dodge the stones, if he could.
For some time he dodged them cleverly, but at last a stone from
Kabo's sling hit poor Pivi on the leg and broke it. Down went
Pivi into the stream, and floated along it, till he floated into
a big hollow bamboo, which a woman used for washing her sweet

'What is that in my bamboo?' said the woman. And she blew in at
one end, and blew little Pivi out at the other, like a pea from a

'Oh!' cried the woman, 'what a state you are in! What have you
been doing?'

'It was Kabo who broke my leg at the slinging game,' said Pivi.

'Well, I am sorry for you,' said the woman; 'will you come with
me, and do what I tell you?'

'I will!' said Pivi, for the woman was very kind and pretty. She
took Pivi into a shed where she kept her fruit laid him on a bed
of mats, and made him as comfortable as she could, and attended
to his broken leg without cutting off the flesh round the bone,
as these people usually do.

'You will be still, won't you, Pivi?' she said. 'If you hear a
little noise you will pretend to be dead. It is the Black Ant
who will come and creep from your feet up to your head. Say
nothing, and keep quiet, won't you, Pivi?'

'Certainly, kind lady,' said Pivi, 'I will lie as still as can

'Next will come the big Red Ant--you know him?'

'Yes, I know him, with his feet like a grasshopper's.'

'He will walk over your body up to your head. Then you must
shake all your body. Do you understand, Pivi?'

'Yes, dear lady, I shall do just as you say.'

'Very good,' said the woman, going out and shutting the door.

Pivi lay still under his coverings, then a tiny noise was heard,
and the Black Ant began to march over Pivi, who lay quite still.
Then came the big Red Ant skipping along his body, and then Pivi
shook himself all over. He jumped up quite well again, he ran to
the river, he looked into the water and saw that he was changed
from a bird into a fine young man!

'Oh, lady,' he cried, 'look at me now! I am changed into a man,
and so handsome!'

'Will you obey me again?' said the woman.

'Always; whatever you command I will do it,' said Pivi, politely.

'Then climb up that cocoa-nut tree, with your legs only, not
using your hands,' said the woman.

Now the natives can run up cocoa-nut trees like squirrels, some
using only one hand; the girls can do that. But few can climb
without using their hands at all.

'At the top of the tree you will find two cocoa-nuts. You must
not throw them down, but carry them in your hands; and you must
descend as you went up, using your legs only.'

'I shall try, at least,' said Pivi. And up he went, but it was
very difficult, and down he came.

'Here are your cocoa-nuts,' he said, presenting them to the

'Now, Pivi, put them in the shed where you lay, and when the sun
sets to cool himself in the sea and rise again not so hot in the
dawn you must go and take the nuts.'

All day Pivi played about in the river, as the natives do,
throwing fruit and silvery showers of water at each other. When
the sun set he went into the hut. But as he drew near he heard
sweet voices talking and laughing within.

'What is that? People chattering in the hut! Perhaps they have
taken my cocoa-nuts,' said Pivi to himself.

In he went, and there he found two pretty, laughing, teasing
girls. He hunted for his cocoanuts, but none were there.

Down he ran to the river. 'Oh, lady, my nuts have been stolen! '
he cried.

'Come with me, Pivi, and there will be nuts for you,' said the

They went back to the hut, where the girls were laughing and

'Nuts for you?' said the woman, 'there are two wives for you,
Pivi, take them to your house.'

'Oh, good lady,' cried Pivi, 'how kind you are!'

So they were married and very happy, when in came cross old Kabo.

'Is this Pivi?' said he. 'Yes, it is--no, it isn't. It is not
the same Pivi--but there is a kind of likeness. Tell me, are you

'Oh, yes!' said Pivi. 'But I am much better looking, and there
are my two wives, are they not beautiful?'

'You are mocking me, Pivi! Your wives? How? Where did you get
them? You, with wives! '

Then Pivi told Kabo about the kind woman, and all the wonderful
things that had happened to him.

'Well, well!' said Kabo, 'but I want to be handsome too, and to
have pretty young wives.'

'But how can we manage that?' asked Pivi.

'Oh, we shall do all the same things over again--play at
slinging, and, this time, you shall break my leg, Pivi!'

'With all the pleasure in life,' said Pivi, who was always ready
to oblige.

So they went slinging, and Pivi broke Kabo's leg, and Kabo fell
into the river, and floated into the bamboo, and the woman blew
him out, just as before. Then she picked up Kabo, and put him in
the shed, and told him what to do when the Black Ant came, and
what to do when the Red Ant came. But he didn't!

When the Black Ant came, he shook himself, and behold, he had a
twisted leg, and a hump back, and was as black as the ant.

Then he ran to the woman.

'Look, what a figure I am!' he said; but she only told him to
climb the tree, as she had told Pivi.

But Kabo climbed with both hands and feet, and he threw down the
nuts, instead of carrying them down, and he put them in the hut.
And when he went back for them there he found two horrid old
black hags, wrangling, and scolding, and scratching! So back he
went to Pivi with his two beautiful wives, and Pivi was very
sorry, but what could he do? Nothing, but sit and cry.

So, one day, Kabo came and asked Pivi to sail in his canoe to a
place where he knew of a great big shell-fish, enough to feed on
for a week. Pivi went, and deep in the clear water they saw a
monstrous shell-fish, like an oyster, as big as a rock, with the
shell wide open.

'We shall catch it, and dry it, and kipper it,' said Pivi, 'and
give a dinner to all our friends!'

'I shall dive for it, and break it off the rock,' said Kabo, 'and
then you must help me to drag it up into the canoe.'

There the shell-fish lay and gaped, but Kabo, though he dived in,
kept well out of the way of the beast.

Up he came, puffing and blowing: ' Oh, Pivi,' he cried, 'I cannot
move it. Jump in and try yourself!'

Pivi dived, with his spear, and the shell-fish opened its shell
wider yet, and sucked, and Pivi disappeared into its mouth, and
the shell shut up with a snap!

Kabo laughed like a fiend, and then went home.

'Where is Pivi?' asked the two pretty girls. Kabo pretended to
cry, and told how Pivi had been swallowed.

'But dry your tears, my darlings,' said Kabo, 'I will be your
husband, and my wives shall be your slaves. Everything is for
the best, in the best of all possible worlds.'

'No, no!' cried the girls, 'we love Pivi. We do not love anyone
else. We shall stay at home, and weep for Pivi!'

'Wretched idiots!' cried Kabo; 'Pivi was a scoundrel who broke my
leg, and knocked me into the river.'

Then a little cough was heard at the door, and Kabo trembled, for
he knew it was the cough of Pivi!

'Ah, dear Pivi!' cried Kabo, rushing to the door. 'What joy! I
was trying to console your dear wives.'

Pivi said not one word. He waved his hand, and five and twenty
of his friends came trooping down the hill. They cut up Kabo
into little pieces. Pivi turned round, and there was the good
woman of the river.

'Pivi,' she said, 'how did you get out of the living tomb into
which Kabo sent you?'

'I had my spear with me,' said Pivi. 'It was quite dry inside
the shell, and I worked away at the fish with my spear, till he
saw reason to open his shell, and out I came.' Then the good
woman laughed; and Pivi and his two wives lived happy ever

[Moncelon. Bulletin de la Societe d'Anthropologie. Series iii.
vol. ix., pp. 613-365.]

The Elf Maiden

Once upon a time two young men living in a small village fell in
love with the same girl. During the winter, it was all night
except for an hour or so about noon, when the darkness seemed a
little less dark, and then they used to see which of them could
tempt her out for a sleigh ride with the Northern Lights flashing
above them, or which could persuade her to come to a dance in
some neighbouring barn. But when the spring began, and the light
grew longer, the hearts of the villagers leapt at the sight of
the sun, and a day was fixed for the boats to be brought out, and
the great nets to be spread in the bays of some islands that lay
a few miles to the north. Everybody went on this expedition, and
the two young men and the girl went with them.

They all sailed merrily across the sea chattering like a flock of
magpies, or singing their favourite songs. And when they reached
the shore, what an unpacking there was! For this was a noted
fishing ground, and here they would live, in little wooden huts,
till autumn and bad weather came round again.

The maiden and the two young men happened to share the same hut
with some friends, and fished daily from the same boat. And as
time went on, one of the youths remarked that the girl took less
notice of him than she did of his companion. At first he tried
to think that he was dreaming, and for a long while he kept his
eyes shut very tight to what he did not want to see, but in spite
of his efforts, the truth managed to wriggle through, and then
the young man gave up trying to deceive himself, and set about
finding some way to get the better of his rival.

The plan that he hit upon could not be carried out for some
months; but the longer the young man thought of it, the more
pleased he was with it, so he made no sign of his feelings, and
waited patiently till the moment came. This was the very day
that they were all going to leave the islands, and sail back to
the mainland for the winter. In the bustle and hurry of
departure, the cunning fisherman contrived that their boat should
be the last to put off, and when everything was ready, and the
sails about to be set, he suddenly called out:

'Oh, dear, what shall I do! I have left my best knife behind in
the hut. Run, like a good fellow, and get it for me, while I
raise the anchor and loosen the tiller.'

Not thinking any harm, the youth jumped back on shore and made
his way up the steep hank. At the door of the hut he stopped and
looked back, then started and gazed in horror. The head of the
boat stood out to sea, and he was left alone on the island.

Yes, there was no doubt of it--he was quite alone; and he had
nothing to help him except the knife which his comrade had
purposely dropped on the ledge of the window. For some minutes
he was too stunned by the treachery of his friend to think about
anything at all, but after a while he shook himself awake, and
determined that he would manage to keep alive somehow, if it were
only to revenge himself.

So he put the knife in his pocket and went off to a part of the
island which was not so bare as the rest, and had a small grove
of trees. :From one of these he cut himself a bow, which he
strung with a piece of cord that had been left lying about the

When this was ready the young man ran down to the shore and shot
one or two sea-birds, which he plucked and cooked for supper.

In this way the months slipped by, and Christmas came round
again. The evening before, the youth went down to the rocks and
into the copse, collecting all the drift wood the sea had washed
up or the gale had blown down, and he piled it up in a great
stack outside the door, so that he might not have to fetch any
all the next day. As soon as his task was done, he paused and
looked out towards the mainland, thinking of Christmas Eve last
year, and the merry dance they had had. The night was still and
cold, and by the help of the Northern Lights he could almost sea
across to the opposite coast, when, suddenly, he noticed a boat,
which seemed steering straight for the island. At first he could
hardly stand for joy, the chance of speaking to another man was
so delightful; but as the boat drew near there was something, he
could not tell what, that was different from the boats which he
had been used to all his life, and when it touched the shore he
saw that the people that filled it were beings of another world
than ours. Then he hastily stepped behind the wood stack, and
waited for what might happen next.

The strange folk one by one jumped on to the rocks, each bearing
a load of something that they wanted. Among the women he
remarked two young girls, more beautiful and better dressed than
any of the rest, carrying between them two great baskets full of
provisions. The young man peeped out cautiously to see what all
this crowd could be doing inside the tiny hut, but in a moment he
drew back again, as the girls returned, and looked about as if
they wanted to find out what sort of a place the island was.

Their sharp eyes soon discovered the form of a man crouching
behind the bundles of sticks, and at first they felt a little
frightened, and started as if they would run away. But the youth
remained so still, that they took courage and laughed gaily to
each other. 'What a strange creature, let us try what he is made
of,' said one, and she stooped down and gave him a pinch.

Now the young man had a pin sticking in the sleeve of his jacket,
and the moment the girl's hand touched him she pricked it so
sharply that the blood came. The girl screamed so loudly that
the people all ran out of their huts to see what was the matter.
But directly they caught sight of the man they turned and fled in
the other direction, and picking up the goods they had brought
with them scampered as fast as they could down to the shore. In
an instant, boat, people, and goods had vanished completely.

In their hurry they had, however, forgotten two things: a bundle
of keys which lay on the table, and the girl whom the pin had
pricked, and who now stood pale and helpless beside the wood

'You will have to make me your wife,' she said at last, 'for you
have drawn my blood, and I belong to you.'

'Why not? I am quite willing,' answered he. 'But how do you
suppose we can manage to live till summer comes round again?'

'Do not be anxious about that,' said the girl; 'if you will only
marry me all will be well. I am very rich, and all my family are
rich also.'

Then the young man gave her his promise to make her his wife, and
the girl fulfilled her part of the bargain, and food was
plentiful on the island all through the long winter months,
though he never knew how it got there. And by-and-by it was
spring once more, and time for the fisher-folk to sail from the

'Where are we to go now?' asked the girl, one day, when the sun
seemed brighter and the wind softer than usual.

'I do not care where I go,' answered the young man; 'what do you

The girl replied that she would like to go somewhere right at the
other end of the island, and build a house, far away from the
huts of the fishing-folk. And he consented, and that very day
they set off in search of a sheltered spot on the banks of a
stream, so that it would be easy to get water.

In a tiny bay, on the opposite side of the island they found the
very thing, which seemed to have been made on purpose for them;
and as they were tired with their long walk, they laid themselves
down on a bank of moss among some birches and prepared to have a
good night's rest, so as to be fresh for work next day. But
before she went to sleep the girl turned to her husband, and
said: 'If in your dreams you fancy that you hear strange noises,
be sure you do not stir, or get up to see what it is.'

'Oh, it is not likely we shall hear any noises in such a quiet
place,' answered he, and fell sound asleep.

Suddenly he was awakened by a great clatter about his ears, as if
all the workmen in the world were sawing and hammering and
building close to him. He was just going to spring up and go to
see what it meant, when he luckily remembered his wife's words
and lay still. But the time till morning seemed very long, and
with the first ray of sun they both rose, and pushed aside the
branches of the birch trees. There, in the very place they had
chosen, stood a beautiful house--doors and windows, and
everything all complete!

'Now you must fix on a spot for your cow-stalls,' said the girl,
when they had breakfasted off wild cherries; 'and take care it is
the proper size, neither too large nor too small.' And the
husband did as he was bid, though he wondered what use a
cow-house could be, as they had no cows to put in it. But as he
was a little afraid of his wife, who knew so much more than he,
he asked no questions.

This night also he was awakened by the same sounds as before, and
in the morning they found, near the stream, the most beautiful
cow-house that ever was seen, with stalls and milk-pails and
stools all complete, indeed, everything that a cow-house could
possibly want, except the cows. Then the girl bade him measure
out the ground for a storehouse, and this, she said, might be as
large as he pleased; and when the storehouse was ready she
proposed that they should set off to pay her parents a visit.

The old people welcomed them heartily, and summoned their
neighbours, for many miles round, to a great feast in their
honour. In fact, for several weeks there was no work done on the
farm at all; and at length the young man and his wife grew tired
of so much play, and declared that they must return to their own
home. But, before they started on the journey, the wife
whispered to her husband: 'Take care to jump over the threshold
as quick as you can, or it will be the worse for you.'

The young man listened to her words, and sprang over the
threshold like an arrow from a bow; and it was well he did, for,
no sooner was he on the other side, than his father-in-law threw
a great hammer at him, which would have broken both his legs, if
it had only touched them.

When they had gone some distance on the road home, the girl
turned to her husband and said: 'Till you step inside the house,
be sure you do not look back, whatever you may hear or see.'

And the husband promised, and for a while all was still; and he
thought no more about the matter till he noticed at last that the
nearer he drew to the house the louder grew the noise of the
trampling of feet behind him. As he laid his hand upon the door
he thought he was safe, and turned to look. There, sure enough,
was a vast herd of cattle, which had been sent after him by his
father-in-law when he found that his daughter had been cleverer
than he. Half of the herd were already through the fence and
cropping the grass on the banks of the stream, but half still
remained outside and faded into nothing, even as he watched them.

However, enough cattle were left to make the young man rich, and
he and his wife lived happily together, except that every now and
then the girl vanished from his sight, and never told him where
she had been. For a long time he kept silence about it; but one
day, when he had been complaining of her absence, she said to
him: 'Dear husband, I am bound to go, even against my will, and
there is only one way to stop me. Drive a nail into the
threshold, and then I can never pass in or out.'

And so he did.

[Lapplandische Mahrchen.]

How Some Wild Animals Became Tame Ones

Once upon a time there lived a miller who was so rich that, when
he was going to be married, he asked to the feast not only his
own friends but also the wild animals who dwelt in the hills and
woods round about. The chief of the bears, the wolves, the
foxes, the horses, the cows, the goats, the sheep, and the
reindeer, all received invitations; and as they were not
accustomed to weddings they were greatly pleased and flattered,
and sent back messages in the politest language that they would
certainly be there.

The first to start on the morning of the wedding-day was the
bear, who always liked to be punctual; and, besides, he had a
long way to go, and his hair, being so thick and rough, needed a
good brushing before it was fit to be seen at a party. However,
he took care to awaken very early, and set off down the road with
a light heart. Before he had walked very far he met a boy who
came whistling along, hitting at the tops of the flowers with a

'Where are you going?' said he, looking at the bear in surprise,
for he was an old acquaintance, and not generally so smart.

'Oh, just to the miller's marriage,' answered the bear
carelessly. 'Of course, I would much rather stay at home, but
the miller was so anxious I should be there that I really could
not refuse.'

'Don't go, don't go!' cried the boy. 'If you do you will never
come back! You have got the most beautiful skin in the world--
just the kind that everyone is wanting, and they will be sure to
kill you and strip you of it.'

'I had not thought of that,' said the bear, whose face turned
white, only nobody could see it. 'If you are certain that they
would be so wicked--but perhaps you are jealous because nobody
has invited you?'

'Oh, nonsense!' replied the boy angrily, 'do as you see. It is
your skin, and not mine; I don't care what becomes of it!' And he
walked quickly on with his head in the air.

The bear waited until he was out of sight, and then followed him
slowly, for he felt in his heart that the boy's advice was good,
though he was too proud to say so.

The boy soon grew tired of walking along the road, and turned off
into the woods, where there were bushes he could jump and streams
he could wade; but he had not gone far before he met the wolf.

'Where are you going?' asked he, for it was not the first time he
had seen him.

'Oh, just to the miller's marriage,' answered the wolf, as the
bear had done before him. 'It is rather tiresome, of course--
weddings are always so stupid; but still one must be

'Don't go!' said the boy again. 'Your skin is so thick and warm,
and winter is not far off now. They will kill you, and strip it
from you.'

The wolf's jaw dropped in astonishment and terror. 'Do you
really think that would happen?' he gasped.

'Yes, to be sure, I do,' answered the boy. 'But it is your
affair, not mine. So good-morning,' and on he went. The wolf
stood still for a few minutes, for he was trembling all over, and
then crept quietly back to his cave.

Next the boy met the fox, whose lovely coat of silvery grey was
shining in the sun.

'You look very fine!' said the boy, stopping to admire him, 'are
you going to the miller's wedding too?'

'Yes,' answered the fox; 'it is a long journey to take for such a
thing as that, but you know what the miller's friends are like--
so dull and heavy! It is only kind to go and amuse them a

'You poor fellow,' said the boy pityingly. 'Take my advice and
stay at home. If you once enter the miller's gate his dogs will
tear you in pieces.'

'Ah, well, such things have occurred, I know,' replied the fox
gravely. And without saying any more he trotted off the way he
had come.

His tail had scarcely disappeared, when a great noise of crashing
branches was heard, and up bounded the horse, his black skin
glistening like satin.

'Good-morning,' he called to the boy as he galloped past, 'I
can't wait to talk to you now. I have promised the miller to be
present at his wedding-feast, and they won't sit down till I

'Stop! stop!' cried the boy after him, and there was something in
his voice that made the horse pull up. 'What is the matter?'
asked he.

'You don't know what you are doing,' said the boy. 'If once you
go there you will never gallop through these woods any more. You
are stronger than many men, but they will catch you and put ropes
round you, and you will have to work and to serve them all the
days of your life.'

The horse threw back his head at these words, and laughed

'Yes, I am stronger than many men,' answered he, 'and all the
ropes in the world would not hold me. Let them bind me as fast
as they will, I can always break loose, and return to the forest
and freedom.'

And with this proud speech he gave a whisk of his long tail, and
galloped away faster than before.

But when he reached the miller's house everything happened as the
boy had said. While he was looking at the guests and thinking
how much handsomer and stronger he was than any of them, a rope
was suddenly flung over his head, and he was thrown down and a
bit thrust between his teeth. Then, in spite of his struggles,
he was dragged to a stable, and shut up for several days without
any food, till his spirit was broken and his coat had lost its
gloss. After that he was harnessed to a plough, and had plenty
of time to remember all he had lost through not listening to the
counsel of the boy.

When the horse had turned a deaf ear to his words the boy
wandered idly along, sometimes gathering wild strawberries from a
bank, and sometimes plucking wild cherries from a tree, till he
reached a clearing in the middle of the forest. Crossing this
open space was a beautiful milk-white cow with a wreath of
flowers round her neck.

'Good-morning,' she said pleasantly, as she came up to the place
where the boy was standing.

'Good-morning,' he returned. 'Where are you going in such a

'To the miller's wedding; I am rather late already, for the
wreath took such a long time to make, so I can't stop.'

'Don't go,' said the boy earnestly;' when once they have tasted
your milk they will never let you leave them, and you will have
to serve them all the days of your life.'

'Oh, nonsense; what do yon know about it?' answered the cow, who
always thought she was wiser than other people. 'Why, I can run
twice as fast as any of them! I should like to see anybody try to
keep me against my will.' And, without even a polite bow, she
went on her way, feeling very much offended.

But everything turned out just as the boy had said. The company
had all heard of the fame of the cow's milk, and persuaded her to
give them some, and then her doom was sealed. A crowd gathered
round her, and held her horns so that she could not use them,
and, like the horse, she was shut in the stable, and only let out
in the mornings, when a long rope was tied round her head, and
she was fastened to a stake in a grassy meadow.

And so it happened to the goat and to the sheep.

Last of all came the reindeer, looking as he always did, as if
some serious business was on hand.

'Where are you going?' asked the boy, who by this time was tired
of wild cherries, and was thinking of his dinner.

'I am invited to the wedding,' answered the reindeer, 'and the
miller has begged me on no account to fail him.'

'O fool!' cried the boy, 'have you no sense at all? Don't you
know that when you get there they will hold you fast, for neither
beast nor bird is as strong or as swift as you?'

'That is exactly why I am quite safe,' replied the reindeer. 'I
am so strong that no one can bind me, and so swift that not even
an arrow can catch me. So, goodbye for the present, you will
soon see me back.'

But none of the animals that went to the miller's wedding ever
came back. And because they were self-willed and conceited, and
would not listen to good advice, they and their children have
been the servants of men to this very day.

[Lapplandische Mahrchen.]

Fortune and the Wood-Cutter

Several hundreds of years ago there lived in a forest a wood-
cutter and his wife and children. He was very poor, having only
his axe to depend upon, and two mules to carry the wood he cut to
the neighbouring town; but he worked hard, and was always out of
bed by five o'clock, summer and winter.

This went on for twenty years, and though his sons were now grown
up, and went with their father to the forest, everything seemed
to go against them, and they remained as poor as ever. In the
end the wood-cutter lost heart, and said to himself:

'What is the good of working like this if I never am a penny the
richer at the end? I shall go to the forest no more! And
perhaps, if I take to my bed, and do not run after Fortune, one
day she may come to me.'

So the next morning he did not get up, and when six o'clock
struck, his wife, who had been cleaning the house, went to see
what was the matter.

'Are you ill?' she asked wonderingly, surprised at not finding
him dressed. 'The cock has crowed ever so often. It is high
time for you to get up.'

'Why should I get up?' asked the man, without moving.

'Why? to go to the forest, of course.'

'Yes; and when I have toiled all day I hardly earn enough to give
us one meal.'

'But what can we do, my poor husband?' said she. 'It is just a
trick of Fortune's, who would never smile upon us.'

'Well, I have had my fill of Fortune's tricks,' cried he. 'If
she wants me she can find me here. But I have done with the wood
for ever.'

'My dear husband, grief has driven you mad! Do you think Fortune
will come to anybody who does not go after her? Dress yourself,
and saddle the mules, and begin your work. Do you know that
there is not a morsel of bread in the house?'

'I don't care if there isn't, and I am not going to the forest.
It is no use your talking; nothing will make me change my mind.'

The distracted wife begged and implored in vain; her husband
persisted in staying in bed, and at last, in despair, she left
him and went back to her work.

An hour or two later a man from the nearest village knocked at
her door, and when she opened it, he said to her: 'Good-morning,
mother. I have got a job to do, and I want to know if your
husband will lend me your mules, as I see he is not using them,
and can lend me a hand himself?'

'He is upstairs; you had better ask him,' answered the woman.
And the man went up, and repeated his request.

'I am sorry, neighbour, but I have sworn not to leave my bed, and
nothing will make me break my vow.'

'Well, then, will you lend me your two mules? I will pay you
something for them.'

'Certainly, neighbour. Take them and welcome.'

So the man left the house, and leading the mules from the stable,
placed two sacks on their back, and drove them to a field where
he had found a hidden treasure. He filled the sacks with the
money, though he knew perfectly well that it belonged to the
sultan, and was driving them quietly home again, when he saw two
soldiers coming along the road. Now the man was aware that if he
was caught he would be condemned to death, so he fled back into
the forest. The mules, left to themselves, took the path that
led to their master's stable.

The wood-cutter's wife was looking out of the window when the
mules drew up before the door, so heavily laden that they almost
sank under their burdens. She lost no time in calling her
husband, who was still lying in bed.

'Quick! quick! get up as fast as you can. Our two mules have
returned with sacks on their backs, so heavily laden with
something or other that the poor beasts can hardly stand up.'

'Wife, I have told you a dozen times already that I am not going
to get up. Why can't you leave me in peace?'

As she found she could get no help from her husband the woman
took a large knife and cut the cords which bound the sacks on to
the animals' backs. They fell at once to the ground, and out
poured a rain of gold pieces, till the little court-yard shone
like the sun.

'A treasure!' gasped the woman, as soon as she could speak from
surprise. 'A treasure!' And she ran off to tell her husband.

'Get up! get up!' she cried. 'You were quite right not to go to
the forest, and to await Fortune in your bed; she has come at
last! Our mules have returned home laden with all the gold in the
world, and it is now lying in the court. No one in the whole
country can be as rich as we are!'

In an instant the wood-cutter was on his feet, and running to the
court, where he paused dazzled by the glitter of the coins which
lay around him.

'You see, my dear wife, that I was right,' he said at last.
'Fortune is so capricious, you can never count on her. Run after
her, and she is sure to fly from you; stay still, and she is sure
to come.'

[Traditions Populaires de l'Asie Mineure.]

The Enchanted Head

Once upon a time an old woman lived in a small cottage near the
sea with her two daughters. They were very poor, and the girls
seldom left the house, as they worked all day long making veils
for the ladies to wear over their faces, and every morning, when
the veils were finished, the other took them over the bridge and
sold them in the city. Then she bought the food that they needed
for the day, and returned home to do her share of veil-making.

One morning the old woman rose even earlier than usual, and set
off for the city with her wares. She was just crossing the
bridge when, suddenly, she knocked up against a human head, which
she had never seen there before. The woman started back in
horror; but what was her surprise when the head spoke, exactly as
if it had a body joined on to it.

'Take me with you, good mother!' it said imploringly; 'take me
with you back to your house.'

At the sound of these words the poor woman nearly went mad with
terror. Have that horrible thing always at home? Never! never!
And she turned and ran back as fast as she could, not knowing
that the head was jumping, dancing, and rolling after her. But
when she reached her own door it bounded in before her, and
stopped in front of the fire, begging and praying to be allowed
to stay.

All that day there was no food in the house, for the veils had
not been sold, and they had no money to buy anything with. So
they all sat silent at their work, inwardly cursing the head
which was the cause of their misfortunes.

When evening came, and there was no sign of supper, the head
spoke, for the first time that day:

'Good mother, does no one ever eat here? During all the hours I
have spent in your house not a creature has touched anything.'

'No,' answered the old woman, 'we are not eating anything.'

'And why not, good mother?'

'Because we have no money to buy any food.'

'Is it your custom never to eat?'

'No, for every morning I go into the city to sell my veils, and
with the few shillings I get for them I buy all we want. To-day
I did not cross the bridge, so of course I had nothing for food.'

'Then I am the cause of your having gone hungry all day?' asked
the head.

'Yes, you are,' answered the old woman.

'Well, then, I will give you money and plenty of it, if you will
only do as I tell you. In an hour, as the clock strikes twelve,
you must be on the bridge at the place where you met me. When
you get there call out "Ahmed," three times, as loud as you can.
Then a negro will appear, and you must say to him: "The head,
your master, desires you to open the trunk, and to give me the
green purse which you will find in it."'

'Very well, my lord,' said the old woman, 'I will set off at once
for the bridge.' And wrapping her veil round her she went out.

Midnight was striking as she reached the spot where she had met
the head so many hours before.

'Ahmed! Ahmed! Ahmed!' cried she, and immediately a huge negro,
as tall as a giant, stood on the bridge before her.

'What do you want?' asked he.

'The head, your master, desires you to open the trunk, and to
give me the green purse which you will find in it.'

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