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SLAV TALES

[Illustration]

[Illustration: _From "The Plentiful Tablecloth," p. 351._]




Fairy Tales of the Slav Peasants and Herdsmen

From the French of Alex. Chodsko

Translated and Illustrated by Emily J. Harding


London: George Allen
156 Charing Cross Road

1896


Printed by Ballantyne, Hanson & Co.
At the Ballantyne Press




NOTE BY THE PUBLISHER


Very few of the twenty fairy tales included in this volume have been
presented before in an English dress; this will doubtless enhance
their value in the eyes of the young folk, for whom, principally, they
are intended. It is hoped that older readers will find some additional
interest in tracing throughout the many evidences of kinship between
these stories and those of more pronounced Eastern origin.

The translation has been carefully revised by a well-known writer, who
has interfered as little as possible with the original text, except in
those instances where slight alterations were necessary.

The illustrations speak for themselves, and are what might have been
expected from the artist who designed those for the "Lullabies of Many
Lands," issued last Christmas.

_November 1895._




CONTENTS


THE ABODE OF THE GODS -
I. THE TWO BROTHERS
II. TIME AND THE KINGS OF THE ELEMENTS
III. THE TWELVE MONTHS

THE SUN; OR, THE THREE GOLDEN HAIRS OF THE OLD MAN VSÉVÈDE

KOVLAD -
I. THE SOVEREIGN OF THE MINERAL KINGDOM
II. THE LOST CHILD

THE MAID WITH HAIR OF GOLD

THE JOURNEY TO THE SUN AND THE MOON

THE DWARF WITH THE LONG BEARD

THE FLYING CARPET, THE INVISIBLE CAP, THE GOLD-GIVING RING,
AND THE SMITING CLUB

THE BROAD MAN, THE TALL MAN, AND THE MAN WITH EYES OF FLAME

THE HISTORY OF PRINCE SLUGOBYL; OR, THE INVISIBLE KNIGHT

THE SPIRIT OF THE STEPPES

THE PRINCE WITH THE GOLDEN HAND

IMPERISHABLE

OHNIVAK

TEARS OF PEARLS

THE SLUGGARD

KINKACH MARTINKO

THE STORY OF THE PLENTIFUL TABLECLOTH, THE AVENGING WAND,
THE SASH THAT BECOMES A LAKE, AND THE TERRIBLE HELMET




LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


FRONTISPIECE

THE ABODE OF THE GODS -
I. THE TWO BROTHERS.
_Heading_
_Full-page design_
II. TIME AND THE KINGS OF THE ELEMENTS.
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_Full-page design_
III. THE TWELVE MONTHS.
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_Full-page design_

THE SUN; OR, THE THREE GOLDEN HAIRS OF THE OLD MAN VSÉVÈDE.
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_Full-page design_
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KOVLAD -
I. THE SOVEREIGN OF THE MINERAL KINGDOM.
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_Full-page design_
II. THE LOST CHILD.
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_Full-page design_
_Full-page design_

THE MAID WITH HAIR OF GOLD.
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_Full-page design_
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THE JOURNEY TO THE SUN AND THE MOON.
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_Full-page design_

THE DWARF WITH THE LONG BEARD.
_Heading_
_Full-page design_
_Full-page design_

THE FLYING CARPET, THE INVISIBLE CAP, THE GOLD-GIVING RING,
AND THE SMITING CLUB.
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_Full-page design_
_Full-page design_
_Full-page design_

THE BROAD MAN, THE TALL MAN, AND THE MAN WITH EYES OF FLAME.
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_Full-page design_
_Full-page design_

THE HISTORY OF PRINCE SLUGOBYL; OR, THE INVISIBLE KNIGHT.
_Heading_
_Full-page design_

THE SPIRIT OF THE STEPPES.
_Heading_
_Full-page design_
_Full-page design_

THE PRINCE WITH THE GOLDEN HAND.
_Heading_
_Full-page design_
_Full-page design_
IMPERISHABLE.
_Heading_
_Full-page design_
_Full-page design_
_Half-page design_
_Full-page design_

OHNIVAK.
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_Full-page design_
_Full-page design_
_Full-page design_

TEARS OF PEARLS.
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_Full-page design_
_Full-page design_

THE SLUGGARD.
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_Full-page design_

KINKACH MARTINKO.
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_Full-page design_

THE STORY OF THE PLENTIFUL TABLECLOTH, THE AVENGING WAND,
THE SASH THAT BECOMES A LAKE, AND THE TERRIBLE HELMET.
_Heading_
_Half-page design_




THE ABODE OF THE GODS

I. THE TWO BROTHERS
II. TIME AND THE KINGS OF THE ELEMENTS
III. THE TWELVE MONTHS




[Illustration: The Two Brothers]

Once upon a time there were two brothers whose father had left them
but a small fortune. The eldest grew very rich, but at the same time
cruel and wicked, whereas there was nowhere a more honest or kinder
man than the younger. But he remained poor, and had many children, so
that at times they could scarcely get bread to eat. At last, one day
there was not even this in the house, so he went to his rich brother
and asked him for a loaf of bread. Waste of time! His rich brother
only called him beggar and vagabond, and slammed the door in his face.

The poor fellow, after this brutal reception, did not know which way
to turn. Hungry, scantily clad, shivering with cold, his legs could
scarcely carry him along. He had not the heart to go home, with
nothing for the children, so he went towards the mountain forest. But
all he found there were some wild pears that had fallen to the ground.
He had to content himself with eating these, though they set his teeth
on edge. But what was he to do to warm himself, for the east wind with
its chill blast pierced him through and through. "Where shall I go?"
he said; "what will become of us in the cottage? There is neither food
nor fire, and my brother has driven me from his door." It was just
then he remembered having heard that the top of the mountain in front
of him was made of crystal, and had a fire for ever burning upon it.
"I will try and find it," he said, "and then I may be able to warm
myself a little." So he went on climbing higher and higher till he
reached the top, when he was startled to see twelve strange beings
sitting round a huge fire. He stopped for a moment, but then said to
himself, "What have I to lose? Why should I fear? God is with me.
Courage!"

So he advanced towards the fire, and bowing respectfully, said: "Good
people, take pity on my distress. I am very poor, no one cares for me,
I have not even a fire in my cottage; will you let me warm myself at
yours?" They all looked kindly at him, and one of them said: "My son,
come sit down with us and warm yourself."

[Illustration]

So he sat down, and felt warm directly he was near them. But he dared
not speak while they were silent. What astonished him most was that
they changed seats one after another, and in such a way that each one
passed round the fire and came back to his own place. When he drew
near the fire an old man with long white beard and bald head arose
from the flames and spoke to him thus:

"Man, waste not thy life here; return to thy cottage, work, and live
honestly. Take as many embers as thou wilt, we have more than we
need."

And having said this he disappeared. Then the twelve filled a large
sack with embers, and, putting it on the poor man's shoulders, advised
him to hasten home.

Humbly thanking them, he set off. As he went he wondered why the
embers did not feel hot, and why they should weigh no more than a sack
of paper. He was thankful that he should be able to have a fire, but
imagine his astonishment when on arriving home he found the sack to
contain as many gold pieces as there had been embers; he almost went
out of his mind with joy at the possession of so much money. With all
his heart he thanked those who had been so ready to help him in his
need.

He was now rich, and rejoiced to be able to provide for his family.
Being curious to find out how many gold pieces there were, and not
knowing how to count, he sent his wife to his rich brother for the
loan of a quart measure.

This time the brother was in a better temper, so he lent what was
asked of him, but said mockingly, "What can such beggars as you have
to measure?"

The wife replied, "Our neighbour owes us some wheat; we want to be
sure he returns us the right quantity."

The rich brother was puzzled, and suspecting something he, unknown to
his sister-in-law, put some grease inside the measure. The trick
succeeded, for on getting it back he found a piece of gold sticking to
it. Filled with astonishment, he could only suppose his brother had
joined a band of robbers: so he hurried to his brother's cottage, and
threatened to bring him before the Justice of the Peace if he did not
confess where the gold came from. The poor man was troubled, and,
dreading to offend his brother, told the story of his journey to the
Crystal Mountain.

Now the elder brother had plenty of money for himself, yet he was
envious of the brother's good fortune, and became greatly displeased
when he found that his brother won every one's esteem by the good use
he made of his wealth. At last he determined to visit the Crystal
Mountain himself.

"I may meet with as good luck as my brother," said he to himself.

Upon reaching the Crystal Mountain he found the twelve seated round
the fire as before, and thus addressed them:

"I beg of you, good people, to let me warm myself, for it is bitterly
cold, and I am poor and homeless."

But one of them replied, "My son, the hour of thy birth was
favourable; thou art rich, but a miser; thou art wicked, for thou hast
dared to lie to us. Well dost thou deserve thy punishment."

Amazed and terrified he stood silent, not daring to speak. Meanwhile
the twelve changed places one after another, each at last returning to
his own seat. Then from the midst of the flames arose the
white-bearded old man and spoke thus sternly to the rich man:

"Woe unto the wilful! Thy brother is virtuous, therefore have I
blessed him. As for thee, thou art wicked, and so shalt not escape our
vengeance."

At these words the twelve arose. The first seized the unfortunate man,
struck him, and passed him on to the second; the second also struck
him and passed him on to the third; and so did they all in their turn,
until he was given up to the old man, who disappeared with him into
the fire.

Days, weeks, months went by, but the rich man never returned, and none
knew what had become of him. I think, between you and me, the younger
brother had his suspicions but he very wisely kept them to himself.





[Illustration]

II

TIME AND THE KINGS OF THE ELEMENTS


There was once a married pair who loved each other tenderly. The
husband would not have given up his wife for all the riches in the
world, while her first thought was how best to please him. So they
were very happy, and lived like two grains in one ear of corn.

One day while working in the fields, a great longing came over him to
see her: so without waiting for the hour of sunset he ran home. Alas!
she was not there. He looked high and low, he ran here, there, and
everywhere, he wept, he called to her; in vain! his dear wife was not
to be found.

So heartbroken was he that he no longer cared to live. He could think
of nothing but the loss of his dear wife and how to find her again. At
last he determined to travel all over the world in search of her. So
he began to walk straight on, trusting God to direct his steps. Sad
and thoughtful, he wandered for many days, until he reached a cottage
close by the shores of a large lake. Here he stopped, hoping to find
out news. On entering the cottage he was met by a woman, who tried to
prevent him entering.

"What do you want here, unlucky wretch?" said she. "If my husband sees
you, he will kill you instantly."

"Who is your husband then?" asked the traveller.

"What! you do not know him? My husband is the Water-King; everything
under water obeys him. Depart quickly, for if he finds you here he
will certainly devour you."

"Perhaps after all he would take pity on me. But hide me somewhere,
for I am worn and weary, and without shelter for the night."

So the Water-Queen was persuaded, and hid him behind the stove. Almost
immediately after the Water-King entered. He had barely crossed the
threshold when he called out, "Wife, I smell human flesh; give it me
quickly, for I am hungry." She dared not disobey him, and so she had
to tell him of the traveller's hiding-place. The poor man became
terribly frightened, and trembled in every limb, and began to stammer
out excuses.

"I assure you I have done no harm. I came here in search of news of my
poor wife. Oh, do help me to find her; I cannot live without her."

"Well," replied the Water-King, "as you love your wife so tenderly I
will forgive you for coming here, but I cannot help you to find her,
for I do not know where she is. Yet I remember seeing two ducks on the
lake yesterday, perchance she is one of them. But I should advise you
to ask my brother the Fire-King; he may be able to tell you more."

Happy to have escaped so easily, he thanked the Water-King and set out
to find the Fire-King. But the latter was unable to help him, and
could only advise him to consult his other brother, the Air-King. But
the Air-King, though he had travelled all over the earth, could only
say he thought he had seen a woman at the foot of the Crystal
Mountain.

But the traveller was cheered at the news, and went to seek his wife
at the foot of the Crystal Mountain, which was close to their cottage.
On reaching it he began at once to climb the mountain by making his
way up the bed of the torrent that came rushing down there. Several
ducks that were in the pools near the waterfall called out, "My good
man, don't go up there; you'll be killed."

But he walked fearlessly on till he came to some thatched cottages, at
the largest of which he stopped. Here a crowd of wizards and witches
surrounded him, screaming at the top of their voices, "What are you
looking for?"

"My wife," said he.

"She is here," they cried, "but you cannot take her away unless you
recognise her among two hundred women all exactly like her."

[Illustration]

"What! Not know my own wife? Why, here she is," said he, as he clasped
her in his arms. And she, delighted to be with him again, kissed him
fondly. Then she whispered:

"Dearest, though you knew me to-day I doubt whether you will
to-morrow, for there will be so many of us all alike. Now I will tell
you what to do. At nightfall go to the top of the Crystal Mountain,
where live the King of Time and his court. Ask him how you may know
me. If you are good and honest he will help you; if not, he will
devour you whole at one mouthful."

"I will do what you advise, dear one," he replied, "but tell me, why
did you leave me so suddenly? If you only knew what I have suffered! I
have sought you all over the world."

"I did not leave you willingly," said she. "A countryman asked me to
come and look at the mountain torrent. When we got there he sprinkled
some water over himself, and at once I saw wings growing out of his
shoulders, and he soon changed his shape entirely into that of a
drake; and I too became a duck at the same time, and whether I would
or no I was obliged to follow him. Here I was allowed to resume my own
form; and now there is but the one difficulty of being recognised by
you."

So they parted, she to join the other women, he to continue his way to
the Crystal Mountain. At the top he found twelve strange beings
sitting round a large fire: they were the attendants of the King of
Time. He saluted them respectfully.

"What dost thou want?" said they.

"I have lost my dear wife. Can you tell me how to recognise her among
two hundred other women all exactly alike?"

"No," said they, "but perhaps our King can."

Then arose from the midst of the flames an old man with bald head and
long white beard, who, on hearing his request, replied: "Though all
these women be exactly alike, thy wife will have a black thread in the
shoe of her right foot."

So saying he vanished, and the traveller, thanking the twelve,
descended the mountain.

Sure it is that without the black thread he would never have
recognised her. And though the Magician tried to hide her, the spell
was broken; and the two returned rejoicing to their home, where they
lived happily ever after.





[Illustration]

III

THE TWELVE MONTHS


There was once a widow who had two daughters, Helen, her own child by
her dead husband, and Marouckla, his daughter by his first wife. She
loved Helen, but hated the poor orphan, because she was far prettier
than her own daughter. Marouckla did not think about her good looks,
and could not understand why her stepmother should be angry at the
sight of her. The hardest work fell to her share; she cleaned out the
rooms, cooked, washed, sewed, spun, wove, brought in the hay, milked
the cow, and all this without any help. Helen, meanwhile, did nothing
but dress herself in her best clothes and go to one amusement after
another. But Marouckla never complained; she bore the scoldings and
bad temper of mother and sister with a smile on her lips, and the
patience of a lamb. But this angelic behaviour did not soften them.
They became even more tyrannical and grumpy, for Marouckla grew daily
more beautiful, while Helen's ugliness increased. So the stepmother
determined to get rid of Marouckla, for she knew that while she
remained her own daughter would have no suitors. Hunger, every kind of
privation, abuse, every means was used to make the girl's life
miserable. The most wicked of men could not have been more mercilessly
cruel than these two vixens. But in spite of it all Marouckla grew
ever sweeter and more charming.

One day in the middle of winter Helen wanted some wood-violets.

"Listen," cried she to Marouckla; "you must go up the mountain and
find me some violets, I want some to put in my gown; they must be
fresh and sweet-scented - do you hear?"

"But, my dear sister, who ever heard of violets blooming in the snow?"
said the poor orphan.

"You wretched creature! Do you dare to disobey me?" said Helen. "Not
another word; off with you. If you do not bring me some violets from
the mountain forest, I will kill you."

The stepmother also added her threats to those of Helen, and with
vigorous blows they pushed Marouckla outside and shut the door upon
her. The weeping girl made her way to the mountain. The snow lay deep,
and there was no trace of any human being. Long she wandered hither
and thither, and lost herself in the wood. She was hungry, and
shivered with cold, and prayed to die. Suddenly she saw a light in the
distance, and climbed towards it, till she reached the top of the
mountain. Upon the highest peak burnt a large fire, surrounded by
twelve blocks of stone, on which sat twelve strange beings. Of these
the first three had white hair, three were not quite so old, three
were young and handsome, and the rest still younger.

There they all sate silently looking at the fire. They were the twelve
months of the year. The great Setchène (January) was placed higher
than the others; his hair and moustache were white as snow, and in his
hand he held a wand. At first Marouckla was afraid, but after a while
her courage returned, and drawing near she said:

"Men of God, may I warm myself at your fire? I am chilled by the
winter cold."

The great Setchène raised his head and answered:

"What brings thee here, my daughter? What dost thou seek?"

"I am looking for violets," replied the maiden.

"This is not the season for violets; dost thou not see the snow
everywhere?" said Setchène.

"I know well, but my sister Helen and my stepmother have ordered me to
bring them violets from your mountain: if I return without them they
will kill me. I pray you, good shepherds, tell me where they may be
found?"

Here the great Setchène arose and went over to the youngest of the
months, and placing his wand in his hand, said:

"Brother Brezène (March), do thou take the highest place."

Brezène obeyed, at the same time waving his wand over the fire.
Immediately the flames rose towards the sky, the snow began to melt
and the trees and shrubs to bud; the grass became green, and from
between its blades peeped the pale primrose. It was Spring, and the
meadows were blue with violets.

"Gather them quickly, Marouckla," said Brezène.

Joyfully she hastened to pick the flowers, and having soon a large
bunch she thanked them and ran home. Helen and the stepmother were
amazed at the sight of the flowers, the scent of which filled the
house.

"Where did you find them?" asked Helen.

"Under the trees on the mountain slope," said Marouckla.

Helen kept the flowers for herself and her mother; she did not even
thank her step-sister for the trouble she had taken. The next day she
desired Marouckla to fetch her strawberries.

"Run," said she, "and fetch me strawberries from the mountain: they
must be very sweet and ripe."

"But who ever heard of strawberries ripening in the snow?" exclaimed
Marouckla.

"Hold your tongue, worm; don't answer me; if I don't have my
strawberries I will kill you."

Then the stepmother pushed her into the yard and bolted the door. The
unhappy girl made her way towards the mountain and to the large fire
round which sat the twelve months. The great Setchène occupied the
highest place.

"Men of God, may I warm myself at your fire? The winter cold chills
me," said she, drawing near.

The great Setchène raised his head and asked:

"Why comest thou here? What dost thou seek?"

"I am looking for strawberries," said she.

"We are in the midst of winter," replied Setchène; "strawberries do
not grow in the snow."

"I know," said the girl sadly, "but my sister and stepmother have
ordered me to bring them strawberries; if I do not they will kill me.
Pray, good shepherds, tell me where to find them."

The great Setchène arose, crossed over to the month opposite him, and
putting the wand into his hand, said:

"Brother Tchervène (June), do thou take the highest place."

Tchervène obeyed, and as he waved his wand over the fire the flames
leapt towards the sky. Instantly the snow melted, the earth was
covered with verdure, trees were clothed with leaves, birds began to
sing, and various flowers blossomed in the forest. It was summer.
Under the bushes masses of star-shaped flowers changed into ripening
strawberries. Before Marouckla had time to cross herself they covered
the glade, making it look like a sea of blood.

"Gather them quickly, Marouckla," said Tchervène.

Joyfully she thanked the months, and having filled her apron ran
happily home. Helen and her mother wondered at seeing the
strawberries, which filled the house with their delicious fragrance.

"Wherever did you find them?" asked Helen crossly.

"Right up among the mountains; those from under the beech trees are
not bad."

Helen gave a few to her mother and ate the rest herself; not one did
she offer to her step-sister. Being tired of strawberries, on the
third day she took a fancy for some fresh red apples.

"Run, Marouckla," said she, "and fetch me fresh red apples from the
mountain."

"Apples in winter, sister? why, the trees have neither leaves nor
fruit."

"Idle slut, go this minute," said Helen; "unless you bring back apples
we will kill you."

As before, the stepmother seized her roughly and turned her out of the
house. The poor girl went weeping up the mountain, across the deep
snow upon which lay no human footprint, and on towards the fire round
which were the twelve months. Motionless sat they, and on the highest
stone was the great Setchène.

"Men of God, may I warm myself at your fire? The winter cold chills
me," said she, drawing near.

The great Setchène raised his head.

"Why com'st thou here? What dost thou seek?" asked he.

"I am come to look for red apples," replied Marouckla.

"But this is winter, and not the season for red apples," observed the
great Setchène.

[Illustration]

"I know," answered the girl, "but my sister and stepmother sent me to
fetch red apples from the mountain; if I return without them they will
kill me."

Thereupon the great Setchène arose and went over to one of the elderly
months, to whom he handed the wand, saying:

"Brother Zaré (September), do thou take the highest place."


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