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Anthony R. (Anthony Reubens) Montalba.

Fairy tales from all nations online

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from the East was just then lying concealed in his thicket, and the
charming little nightingale was silent, and hidden amongst the green
leaves of her oak. But a mysterious sensation shot through her little
heart as soon as the thirsty fangs of the wolf, her brother, were
bathed in the queen's blood.

Now when the chase was over, and the forest again was still, and the
sun had set, the prince came out of his dark recess, and leant sadly
against the stem of the green oak, wetting the grass with his tears,
as was his nightly custom; and his heart seemed more than usually
oppressed with sorrow. The little bird in the branches, however, began
to sing to him, as was her wont, and he fancied that she sang
differently from before, and with more enigmatical significance, and
almost in a human voice. And a shudder came over him, and in great
agitation he exclaimed, looking up amongst the branches: - "Little
bird, little bird, tell me, canst thou speak?"

And the little nightingale answered yes, just as human beings are wont
to answer, and wondered at herself that she was able to speak, and
for joy she began to weep, and for a long time was silent. Then again
she opened her little beak, and related to the man, in an audible
human voice, the whole history of her transformation, and that of her
brother, and by what a miracle he had again become a man. For in a
moment all had become clear in her mind, as if a spirit had whispered
it all to her.

The man exulted in his heart when he heard her tale, and he reflected
much within him, and revolved many a plan; and the little bird
frolicked and flew confidingly around him; yet although she now knew
her own history, and what had occurred so well, she knew not in the
least who he was. And he enticed the little bird, and caressed it, and
fondled it, and intreated it to come with him, and he would place it
in a garden where bloomed eternal spring, and where no falcon ever
entered, and no one ever fired a shot. That would be far pleasanter
than to flutter about in wild thickets, and have to tremble at the
thought of winter, and of hunters and birds of prey. But the little
bird would hear nothing of it, and praised freedom and her green oak,
and twittered, and sang, and fluttered round the man, who took no
heed, for he seemed plunged in other thoughts.

But see what were his thoughts! For before the little bird was aware,
the man had caught her by her little feet, and hastily made off, threw
himself on his horse, and flew full gallop as if pursued by a tempest
to an inn which he knew in the city, not far from the castle, took
there a solitary chamber, and shut himself up in it with his little
bird. When the little bird saw him take out the key, and give other
signs of its being her prison, she began to weep bitterly, and to
implore him to let her fly; for she felt quite oppressed and wretched
in the closed room, and could not but think of her green trees, and
her cherished liberty. But the man took no notice of her tears and
supplications, and would not let her fly.

Then the little bird grew angry, and began to transform herself into
various shapes, in order to terrify the man, that he might open the
doors and windows, and be glad that she should fly away. So she became
in succession a tiger and lion, an otter, a snake, a scorpion, a
tarantula, and at last a frightful dragon, which flew upon the man
with poisonous tongue. But none of these frightened him in the least,
but he kept his determination, and the little bird had all her trouble
for nothing, and was obliged to become a bird again.

And the man stood in deep thought, for something he had read in
ancient tales came into his mind. So he drew a knife from his pocket,
and cut a gash in the little finger of his left hand, where the
heart's blood flows most vigorously. And he smeared the blood on the
little head and body of the bird, which he had no sooner done than the
miracle was completed.

That very moment the little bird became a most lovely maiden, and the
prince lay at her feet and kissed her hand, respectfully and
submissively. The nightingale had now become the Princess Aurora, and
recognised in the man her bridegroom, the prince from the land of the
East. She was quite as young and beautiful as she was six years
before, at the time of her transformation. For it is a peculiarity of
transformations that the years during which persons are transformed do
not add to their age, but a thousand years do not count for more than
a second.

It is easy to imagine the joy of the pair; for when two loving hearts
which have remained faithful to each other, meet again, after a long
time, that is truly the greatest joy on earth. But they did not linger
long together, but caused the king to be informed that two foreign
princes from a distant land had arrived at his court, and requested
his royal hospitality. Then the king went out to welcome them, and
recognised his beloved sister Aurora, and his dear friend the prince
from the land of the East, and was overjoyed; and the nation rejoiced
with him, that all was restored as before, and that the kingdom no
longer belonged to strangers.

After a few days he set the royal crown upon his head, and began to
govern in his father's stead. He celebrated his sister's nuptials with
the greatest magnificence, and there was dancing and feasting and
knightly games. She and the prince also received from him a noble
establishment both of land and attendants, so that they were able to
live almost like kings. Aurora had, however, begged her brother to
give her the wood, wherein as a bird she had fluttered through so many
cheerful, and also sorrowful days, and this he willingly granted her.
She built there a stately royal castle by the stream where she had so
often sat and sung, and the thick green oak came into the centre of
the palace-garden, and flourished yet many a year after her, so that
her posterity still played beneath its shadow. She, however, caused a
command to be issued that the wood should to all times be left in its
natural majesty; she also gave peace to all little singing-birds, and
forbade, in the strongest manner, traps or snares to be set within
those sacred precincts, or that the little creatures should be
molested in any way. And her brother reigned as a great and pious
king, and she and her brave husband lived in happy love till they
arrived at a snow-white age, and saw their children's children around
them, till at length, accompanied by the blessing of God and men, they
sank softly to sleep. It has been a custom ever since, amongst their
children and descendants, that the eldest prince of their house should
be christened Rossignol, and the eldest princess Philomela; for she
desired to establish a pious recollection through all times of the
marvellous misfortune that befel her when she was transformed into a
nightingale. For Rossignol means, in fact, Rose-bird - the nightingales
sing chiefly in the rose season - and Philomela, friend of song. The
word nightingale means, however, songstress of the night, and this is
the best of all.




THE ENCHANTED CROW.

[Polish.]


In a royal palace dwelt, once upon a time, three fair sisters, all
equally young and pretty; the youngest, however, although not at all
more beautiful than the two elder, was the best and most amiable of
them all.

About half a mile distant from the palace, stood another lordly
dwelling, but which had then fallen into decay, although it still
could boast of a beautiful garden. In this garden the youngest
princess took great pleasure to wander.

Once as she was walking up and down between the lime trees, a black
crow hopped from under a rose-bush. The poor bird was all mutilated
and bloody, and the princess was moved with compassion for him. The
crow no sooner perceived this than he broke out into the following
discourse: -

"No black crow am I by birth, but an unhappy prince, suffering under a
malediction, and doomed to pass my years in this miserable condition.
If thou wilt, oh youthful princess, thou canst rescue me. But to do
so, thou must resolve to be ever my companion, to forsake thy sisters,
and to live in this castle. There is a habitable chamber in it,
wherein stands a golden bed; in that chamber thou must live in
solitude. But forget not, that whatsoever thou mayest see and hear by
night, thou must let no cry of fear escape thee; for if thou shouldst
utter but one single moan my tortures will be doubled."

The kind-hearted princess did forsake her father and sisters, and
hastened to the castle; and there dwelt in the chamber which contained
the golden bed. She was so full of anxious thought that she could not
sleep. As midnight drew near she heard, to her no small terror, some
one creeping in. The door opened wide, and a whole band of evil
spirits entered the chamber. They kindled a great fire on the hearth,
and placed over it a large cauldron, full of boiling water. With great
noise and loud cries they approached the bed, tore from it the
trembling maiden, and dragged her to the cauldron.

She was almost dead from fear, but she uttered no sound. Then suddenly
the cock crew, and all vanished. The crow immediately appeared, and
hopped joyfully about the room, and thanked the princess for her
courageous behaviour, for the sufferings of the unhappy bird were
already lessened.

One of her elder sisters, who had much curiosity in her disposition,
having heard of this, came to visit the princess in her ruined castle.
She besought her so earnestly, that the kind-hearted maiden at length
permitted her to pass one night beside her, in the golden bed. When
the evil spirits appeared as usual about midnight, the elder sister
shrieked aloud from fear, and immediately the cry of a bird in pain
was heard.

The young sister from that time never received the visits of either of
her sisters. Thus did she live; solitary by day, and suffering by
night the most terrible alarm from the evil spirits; but the crow came
daily to her, and thanked her for her endurance, assuring her that his
dreadful sufferings were greatly mitigated.

Thus had passed two years, when the crow came to her, and thus
addressed her: -

"In one year more I shall be delivered from the punishment to which I
am condemned; for then seven years will have passed over my head. But
before I can re-assume my real form, and gain possession of my
treasures, thou must go out into the wide world, and become a
servant."

Obedient to the will of her betrothed, the young princess served for a
whole year as a maid, and notwithstanding her youth and beauty, she
escaped all the snares laid for her by the ill-disposed.

One evening while she was spinning flax, and her white hands were
wearied with work, she heard a rustling, and an exclamation of joy. A
handsome young man entered her presence, knelt before her, and kissed
the little weary white hands.

"It is I," cried he, "I am the prince, whom thou, by thy goodness,
whilst I wandered in the form of a black crow, didst deliver from the
most dreadful tortures. Return with me now to my castle, there will we
live together in happiness."

They went together to the castle where she had undergone so much
terror. The palace was, however, no longer recognisable, it was so
improved and adorned, and in it did they dwell together for a hundred
happy and joyous years.




THE DRAGON-GIANT AND HIS STONE-STEED.

[Russian.]


Not one amongst the numerous wives of Vladimir the Great was
comparable in beauty to the Bulgarian Princess Milolika. Her eyes
resembled those of the falcon; the fur of the sable was not more
glossy than her eyebrows, and her breast was whiter than snow.

She had been carried off by robbers of the Volga, from the vicinity of
Boogord, the capital of her native country, and on account of her rare
beauty they deemed her worthy to be a wife of the great monarch. They
therefore conducted her to Kiev, the residence of the mighty Vladimir,
and presented her to him. Vladimir, a good judge of female charms, the
moment he beheld her, was enchanted by the surpassing beauty of the
Bulgarian princess, and in a short time his love for her became so
great that he made her his consort, and dismissed all his other
wives. The proud heart of the king's daughter was touched by this
proof of his affection, and she rewarded his tenderness with
reciprocal and true love.

The life of Vladimir was now one of great happiness. His conquests had
procured him riches in superfluity; a long period of peace had
augmented the prosperity of his country; his subjects loved him as
their father; and the tenderness of Milolika made earth seem to him as
heaven.

One day as in company with his consort and his Bojars, he sat in the
golden chamber by his oaken table, holding a festival in memory of a
victory over the Greeks, the sound of a warrior's horn was heard at a
distance. The rejoicings in the lofty hall suddenly ceased. The
monarch and the Bojars cast their eyes to the ground, full of thought
and heaviness. Swâtorad alone, the spirited Voivode of Kiev, started
up from the table, and leaving his goblet undrained, approached the
great monarch. "Thou art," spake he, as he bent low before him, "thou
art our father and our lord, thou art the child of renown: wherefore
sinks thy head? Why does the sound of the warrior's horn make thy
heart heavy? Even if it be a hostile knight who now appears before
the capital, hast thou not enough brave heroes to confront any foe?
Away then! Send forth thy heralds to demand who dares to defy the
country of the Russians?"

Vladimir looked friendly upon the gallant Swâtorad, and thus replied
to his address: "I thank thee for thy zeal, good Swâtorad; but my
anxiety does not arise from fear. I have defeated hosts, made myself
master of fortified cities, and overthrown kings: how should I know
fear? But it was my desire henceforth to preserve to my subjects the
blessing of peace, and that alone is the cause that this challenge to
combat makes me sorrowful. If however it must be so, I will defend my
country and myself. Go and send heralds to demand who dares to come
forth against Kiev, to challenge Vladimir to battle?"

The brave Swâtorad immediately sent forth two heralds, who sprang upon
their horses and rushed to the open plain, where they at once beheld a
monstrous tent, before which a horse of unusual size was grazing. As
soon as the horse perceived them, he stamped upon the ground, and
cried aloud in a human voice: "Awake powerful son of the dragon,
Tugarin awake! Kiev sends heralds to thee."

This marvel considerably astounded the heralds, and their amazement
was increased when they beheld issuing from the tent a giant of the
most monstrous kind, beneath whose footsteps the earth resounded. Yet
they did not lose their composure, but discharged their commission as
beseemed them well. "Who art thou?" cried they, after they had
courteously bent before him. "Who art thou, bold youth from a foreign
land? What is thy name, and how stands thy report in thy father-land?
Art thou a Czar, or a Czarewitsch? A king or a king's son? We are sent
by the invincible prince of Kiev, the son of renown, by Vladimir, to
ask thee why thou darest to advance against Kiev? - how thou darest to
challenge him to combat?"

The questions displeased the giant, and he fell into fierce wrath.
Lightning flashed from his eyes, his nose sent forth sparks, and he
addressed the heralds in a voice of thunder: "Contemptible wights, how
dare ye to put such questions to me? The herald's staff alone protects
you from my fury. Return, and tell your prince that I am come to fetch
his head, in order to carry it to the great king, Trewul, of Bulgaria,
who is wrath with him, for the abduction of his sister Milolika. Tell
him, that nought can save him; neither the summit of the mountain,
nor the darkness of the forest, and that he cannot redeem his head by
gold, nor by silver, by jewels, nor by pearls. What I am called, and
what my report is in my country, it needs not that you should know;
sufficient, that I show you what I can perform." At these words, he
grasped an enormous stone, which lay near the tent, and flung it with
such force into the air, that it resembled a little speck.

Full of terror, the heralds returned to Kiev, and presenting
themselves before the monarch, related what they had seen and heard.
When Milolika heard that the horse had called the stranger knight
Tugarin, Son of the Dragon, she grew pale, and a stream of tears
bedewed her cheeks. "Ah," cried she, "beloved husband, we are lost!
Nought can save us, but our flight to the sacred Bug. Tugarin is an
invincible enchanter. His magic power ceases only on the shores of the
Bug. Thither let us fly."[1]

[Footnote 1: The river Bug was especially held sacred by the
Slavonians, and its waters possessed the power to destroy all kinds of
magic.]

Vladimir endeavoured to re-assure his consort. He represented to her
that the brave warriors, and the walls of the impregnable Kiev, would
afford them sufficient protection; but Milolika was not to be
comforted. "Thou knowest not, beloved husband," said she, sobbing and
crying, "how dangerous is this giant, Tugarin, to me and my family,
and how bitterly he must hate thee, since he was my betrothed, and
awaited my hand." Vladimir besought Milolika to explain to him this
enigma, and she related the following: -

"I am the daughter of the Bulgarian king, Bogoris, and of the princess
Kuridana. My birth-place is the city Shikotin, where my parents were
wont to pass the summer months. As this city lies on the banks of the
Volga, it offers great facilities for fishing, a diversion to which my
mother was extremely partial.

"Once, when my father was fighting against a neighbouring nation, my
mother endeavoured to while away her grief at his absence by her
accustomed diversion, and caused the nets to be spread in the Volga.
The fish were very plentiful, and a great number of barks and boats
covered the river, amongst which, the vessel in which my mother was
embarked, was distinguishable by its magnificence and elegance.
Surrounded by her ladies, and her body-guard, Kuridana stood in the
centre of the vessel, and beheld with pleasure the spectacle of the
fishery, when suddenly a mountain, that was situated on the other side
of the river, burst with a tremendous crash. Every eye was directed
to the spot, and they saw issue from the aperture, a man of rude, and
terrific aspect, seated on a car of shining steel drawn by two winged
horses. He directed his course towards the river, and when he reached
the water, the steel car rolled over the waves, as if they had been
firm land. When it was perceived that he was bending his way to my
mother's bark, heralds were dispatched in a boat, to inquire why he
presumed to approach the princess without permission. But the fierce
being, who was a powerful and malignant enchanter, did not permit the
unfortunate heralds to discharge their commission. As they began to
speak, he blew upon their boat, overset it, and all who were in it
were buried beneath the waves. At this melancholy sight, my mother's
attendants seized their bows, and discharged a shower of arrows
against the intruder; but in vain, for the arrows rebounded from him,
and fell shivered into the water.

"The greatest amazement now seized all present, for they became
petrified when the magician with a single word, bound every boat, with
its crew, so that they stood motionless, whilst he, with outstretched
arms, hastened towards my mother, and endeavoured to remove her into
his car. But some unseen power crippled all his efforts. Each time he
endeavoured to seize Kuridana, his arms sank powerless, and he was, at
length, obliged to desist from the vain enterprise. He then sprang
into the bark, cast himself on his knees before her, and in the most
moving, and earnest expressions, besought her love. He promised her
all the treasures of the world, and the highest earthly happiness, if
she would reward his vehement love with reciprocal affection, or only
lay aside the talisman which she wore upon her breast. This talisman,
which now preserved her, she had received at her birth from a
beneficent enchantress, and as she well knew its force, she had drawn
it out of the case where she usually concealed it, and held it before
his eyes.

"Then the evil one trembled so violently, that at last, as if stricken
by lightning, he fell to the ground, and not until Kuridana had again
enclosed the talisman, did he recover from his insensibility. He then
sprang up, and mounted his steel car, uttering the most fearful
threats, 'Think not,' cried he, foaming with shame and rage, 'think
not to escape my hands; I will possess thee, and will force Bogoris
himself, by the most dreadful devastation of his country, to yield
thee to me. Behold, I swear by Tschernobog,[2] that I will either,
slay, or gain possession of thee. Thou shalt see me soon again,' With
these words he disappeared.

[Footnote 2: Tschernobog was the evil spirit of the Slavonians, and no
one could swear more solemnly, than by Tschernobog.]

"Kuridana then left the spot, and not believing herself secure in
Shikotin, retired to the strong city of Boogord, where she awaited, in
great anxiety, the result of this alarming adventure.

"The very next morning, appeared on the plain before the capital city,
a dreadful two-headed monster, of that dragon species which, in the
language of my country, is called Sylant. It devoured herbs, and
flocks, and men, and devastated the surrounding country with its
poisonous breath. In a short time, the region round Boogord became a
desert, and many brave warriors, who sought to free their country of
this demon, fell victims to their patriotism and valour. The Sylant
appeared each morning before the walls, and bellowed out with a
fearful voice,: 'Bogoris, give me Kuridana, or I will make thy country
a desert!'

"No sooner did my father hear of the misfortune which menaced his
people, and his beloved Kuridana, than he left his career of victory,
and hastened to the capital. What were his feelings when he beheld
the misery which the monster had spread over his land! But greater
bitterness still awaited him, for when the first tempest of joy and
grief, which his return had excited in the hearts of all, and
especially in that of Kuridana, had subsided, this noble-minded
princess proposed herself as a willing sacrifice for the king, and the
good Bulgarians. 'No!' cried Bogoris, 'sooner will I perish, than lose
thee. I will combat the Dragon. Perhaps the Gods will grant me
victory, and if I am vanquished in the fight, at least I shall die for
thee, and for my country,' The most generous dispute now arose between
the magnanimous pair, and finally they agreed to appeal to the
decision of the magnates of the empire, who should decide the dispute.

"The king assembled them, and when they had heard Kuridana's
resolution, they loaded her with panegyrics, and expressions of
gratitude. 'Thy magnanimous sacrifice alone, Kuridana,' said the
eldest of the assembly, an aged man, of a hundred years, 'can rescue
us and Bulgaria. For, supposing that Bogoris were to fight with the
Sylant, and fall, would not our misfortune be greater still? No,
Prince! thou must preserve thyself for thy people, in order to heal
the wounds which the Dragon has inflicted. Kuridana alone can save
us.' All the magnates coincided with the old man, and Bogoris was in
despair.

"It was morning, and the dreadful words: 'Bogoris, give me thy wife!'
at that moment resounded round the palace. Kuridana courageously
arose, embraced her speechless husband, and bade him an eternal
farewell.

"At the words '_for ever_,' Bogoris sank senseless on the ground.
Manly as his heart had been up to that hour, it could not endure
separation from the beloved Kuridana. The high-minded wife bedewed him
with her tears, but at length, turning to the nobles, who stood round
her weeping, she said: 'Lead me where you will. I am prepared to
endure everything for my husband and my country,' They now
reverentially supported her trembling steps, and conducted her as
rapidly as her weak state permitted, to the front of the city.

"Meanwhile the altars smoked with incense, and both priests and people
supplicated for the deliverance of their noble princess.

"Shortly after the magnates had left the palace with Kuridana, Bogoris
came to himself, and when he perceived that he was alone, he guessed
his misfortune, and his despair knew no bounds. He drew his sword,


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Online LibraryAnthony R. (Anthony Reubens) MontalbaFairy tales from all nations → online text (page 7 of 19)