East of the Sun and West of the Moon (Norwegian Folktale)


Once on a time there was a poor husbandman who had so many children that he hadn’t much of either food or clothing to give them. Pretty children they all were, but the prettiest was the youngest daughter, who was so lovely there was no end to her loveliness.

So one day, ’twas on a Thursday evening late at the fall of the year, the weather was so wild and rough outside, and it was so cruelly dark, and rain fell and wind blew, till the walls of the cottage shook again. There they all sat round the fire, busy with this thing and that. But just then, all at once something gave three taps on the window-pane. Then the father went out to see what was the matter; and, when he got out of doors, what should he see but a great big White Bear.

“Good-evening to you!” said the White Bear.

“The same to you!” said the man.

“Will you give me your youngest daughter? If you will, I’ll make you as rich as you are now poor,” said the Bear.

Well, the man would not be at all sorry to be so rich; but still he thought he must have a bit of a talk with his daughter first; so he went in and told them how there was a great White Bear waiting outside, who had given his word to make them so rich if he could only have the youngest daughter.

The lassie said “No!” outright. Nothing could get her to say anything else; so the man went out and settled it with the White Bear that he should come again the next Thursday evening and get an answer. Meantime he talked his daughter over, and kept on telling her of all the riches they would get, and how well off she would be herself; and so at last she thought better of it, and washed and mended her rags, made herself as smart as she could, and was ready to start. I can’t say her packing gave her much trouble.

“Well, mind and hold tight by my shaggy coat, and then there’s nothing to fear,” said the Bear, so she rode a long, long way.
Next Thursday evening came the White Bear to fetch her, and she got upon his back with her bundle, and off they went. So, when they had gone a bit of the way, the White Bear said:

“Are you afraid?”

“No,” she wasn’t.

“Well! mind and hold tight by my shaggy coat, and then there’s nothing to fear,” said the Bear.

So she rode a long, long way, till they came to a great steep hill. There, on the face of it, the White Bear gave a knock, and a door opened, and they came into a castle where there were many rooms all lit up; rooms gleaming with silver and gold; and there, too, was a table ready laid, and it was all as grand as grand could be. Then the White Bear gave her a silver bell; and when she wanted anything, she was only to ring it, and she would get it at once.

Well, after she had eaten and drunk, and evening wore on, she got sleepy after her journey, and thought she would like to go to bed, so she rang the bell; and she had scarce taken hold of it before she came into a chamber where there was a bed made, as fair and white as any one would wish to sleep in, with silken pillows and curtains and gold fringe. All that was in the room was gold or silver; but when she had gone to bed and put out the light, a man came and laid himself alongside her. That was the White Bear, who threw off his beast shape at night; but she never saw him, for he always came after she had put out the light, and before the day dawned he was up and off again. So things went on happily for a while, but at last she began to get silent and sorrowful; for there she went about all day alone, and she longed to go home to see her father and mother and brothers and sisters. So one day, when the White Bear asked what it was that she lacked, she said it was so dull and lonely there, and how she longed to go home to see her father and mother and brothers and sisters, and that was why she was so sad and sorrowful, because she couldn’t get to them.

“Well, well!” said the Bear, “perhaps there’s a cure for all this; but you must promise me one thing, not to talk alone with your mother, but only when the rest are by to hear; for she’ll take you by the hand and try to lead you into a room alone to talk; but you must mind and not do that, else you’ll bring bad luck on both of us.”

So one Sunday the White Bear came and said, now they could set off to see her father and mother. Well, off they started, she sitting on his back; and they went far and long. At last they came to a grand house, and there her brothers and sisters were running about out of doors at play, and everything was so pretty, ’twas a joy to see.

“This is where your father and mother live now,” said the White Bear; “but don’t forget what I told you, else you’ll make us both unlucky.”

“No! bless her, she’d not forget;”—and when she had reached the house, the White Bear turned right about and left her.

Then, when she went in to see her father and mother, there was such joy, there was no end to it. None of them thought they could thank her enough for all she had done for them. Now, they had everything they wished, as good as good could be, and they all wanted to know how she got on where she lived.

Well, she said, it was very good to live where she did; she had all she wished. What she said beside I don’t know, but I don’t think any of them had the right end of the stick, or that they got much out of her. But so, in the afternoon, after they had done dinner, all happened as the White Bear had said. Her mother wanted to talk with her alone in her bedroom; but she minded what the White Bear had said, and wouldn’t go upstairs.

“Oh! what we have to talk about will keep!” she said, and put her mother off. But, somehow or other, her mother got round her at last, and she had to tell her the whole story. So she said, how every night when she had gone to bed a man came and lay down beside her as soon as she had put out the light; and how she never saw him, because he was always up and away before the morning dawned; and how she went about woeful and sorrowing, for she thought she should so like to see him; and how all day long she walked about there alone; and how dull and dreary and lonesome it was.

“My!” said her mother; “it may well be a Troll you slept with! But now I’ll teach you a lesson how to set eyes on him. I’ll give you a bit of candle, which you can carry home in your bosom; just light that while he is asleep, but take care not to drop the tallow on him.”

Yes! she took the candle and hid it in her bosom, and as night drew on, the White Bear came and fetched her away.

But when they had gone a bit of the way, the White Bear asked if all hadn’t happened as he had said.

“Well, she couldn’t say it hadn’t.”

“Now, mind,” said he, “if you have listened to your mother’s advice, you have brought bad luck on us both, and then, all that has passed between us will be as nothing.”

“No,” she said, “she hadn’t listened to her mother’s advice.”

So when she reached home, and had gone to bed, it was the old story over again. There came a man and lay down beside her; but at dead of night, when she heard he slept, she got up and struck a light, lit the candle, and let the light shine on him, and so she saw that he was the loveliest Prince one ever set eyes on, and she fell so deep in love with him on the spot, that she thought she couldn’t live if she didn’t give him a kiss there and then. And so she did; but as she kissed him, she dropped three hot drops of tallow on his shirt, and he woke up.

“What have you done?” he cried; “now you have made us both unlucky, for had you held out only this one year, I had been freed. For I have a step-mother who has bewitched me, so that I am a White Bear by day, and a Man by night. But now all ties are snapt between us; now I must set off from you to her. She lives in a Castle which stands East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and there, too, is a Princess, with a nose three ells long, and she’s the wife I must have now.”

She wept and took it ill, but there was no help for it; go he must.

Then she asked if she mightn’t go with him.

No, she mightn’t.

“Tell me the way, then,” she said, “and I’ll search you out; that surely I may get leave to do.”

“Yes,” she might do that, he said; “but there was no way to that place. It lay East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and thither she’d never find her way.”

So next morning, when she woke up, both Prince and castle were gone, and then she lay on a little green patch, in the midst of the gloomy thick wood, and by her side lay the same bundle of rags she had brought with her from her old home.

So when she had rubbed the sleep out of her eyes, and wept till she was tired, she set out on her way, and walked many, many days, till she came to a lofty crag. Under it sat an old hag, and played with a gold apple which she tossed about. Here the lassie asked if she knew the way to the Prince, who lived with his step-mother in the Castle, that lay East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and who was to marry the Princess with a nose three ells long.

“How did you come to know about him?” asked the old hag; “but maybe you are the lassie who ought to have had him?”

Yes, she was.

“So, so; it’s you, is it?” said the old hag. “Well, all I know about him is, that he lives in the castle that lies East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and thither you’ll come, late or never; but still you may have the loan of my horse, and on him you can ride to my next neighbour. Maybe she’ll be able to tell you; and when you get there, just give the horse a switch under the left ear, and beg him to be off home; and, stay, this gold apple you may take with you.”

So she got upon the horse, and rode a long, long time, till she came to another crag, under which sat another old hag, with a gold carding-comb. Here the lassie asked if she knew the way to the castle that lay East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and she answered, like the first old hag, that she knew nothing about it, except it was east of the sun and west of the moon.

“And thither you’ll come, late or never, but you shall have the loan of my horse to my next neighbour; maybe she’ll tell you all about it; and when you get there, just switch the horse under the left ear, and beg him to be off home.”

And this old hag gave her the golden carding-comb; it might be she’d find some use for it, she said. So the lassie got up on the horse, and rode a far, far way, and a weary time; and so at last she came to another great crag, under which sat another old hag, spinning with a golden spinning-wheel. Her, too, she asked if she knew the way to the Prince, and where the castle was that lay East of the Sun and West of the Moon. So it was the same thing over again.

“Maybe it’s you who ought to have had the Prince?” said the old hag.

Yes, it was.

But she, too, didn’t know the way a bit better than the other two. “East of the sun and west of the moon it was,” she knew—that was all.

“And thither you’ll come, late or never; but I’ll lend you my horse, and then I think you’d best ride to the East Wind and ask him; maybe he knows those parts, and can blow you thither. But when you get to him, you need only give the horse a switch under the left ear, and he’ll trot home of himself.”

And so, too, she gave her the gold spinning-wheel. “Maybe you’ll find a use for it,” said the old hag.

Then on she rode many many days, a weary time, before she got to the East Wind’s house, but at last she did reach it, and then she asked the East Wind if he could tell her the way to the Prince who dwelt east of the sun and west of the moon. Yes, the East Wind had often heard tell of it, the Prince and the castle, but he couldn’t tell the way, for he had never blown so far.

“But, if you will, I’ll go with you to my brother the West Wind, maybe he knows, for he’s much stronger. So, if you will just get on my back, I’ll carry you thither.”

Yes, she got on his back, and I should just think they went briskly along.

So when they got there, they went into the West Wind’s house, and the East Wind said the lassie he had brought was the one who ought to have had the Prince who lived in the castle East of the Sun and West of the Moon; and so she had set out to seek him, and how he had come with her, and would be glad to know if the West Wind knew how to get to the castle.

“Nay,” said the West Wind, “so far I’ve never blown; but if you will, I’ll go with you to our brother the South Wind, for he’s much stronger than either of us, and he has flapped his wings far and wide. Maybe he’ll tell you. You can get on my back, and I’ll carry you to him.”

Yes! she got on his back, and so they travelled to the South Wind, and weren’t so very long on the way, I should think.

When they got there, the West Wind asked him if he could tell her the way to the castle that lay East of the Sun and West of the Moon, for it was she who ought to have had the Prince who lived there.

“You don’t say so! That’s she, is it?” said the South Wind.

“Well, I have blustered about in most places in my time, but so far have I never blown; but if you will, I’ll take you to my brother the North Wind; he is the oldest and strongest of the whole lot of us, and if he don’t know where it is, you’ll never find any one in the world to tell you. You can get on my back, and I’ll carry you thither.”

Yes! she got on his back, and away he went from his house at a fine rate. And this time, too, she wasn’t long on her way.

So when they got to the North Wind’s house, he was so wild and cross, cold puffs came from him a long way off.

“Blast you both, what do you want?” he roared out to them ever so far off, so that it struck them with an icy shiver.

“Well,” said the South Wind, “you needn’t be so foul-mouthed, for here I am, your brother, the South Wind, and here is the lassie who ought to have had the Prince who dwells in the castle that lies East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and now she wants to ask you if you ever were there, and can tell her the way, for she would be so glad to find him again.”

“Yes, I know well enough where it is,” said the North Wind; “once in my life I blew an aspen-leaf thither, but, I was so tired I couldn’t blow a puff for ever so many days, after. But if you really wish to go thither, and aren’t afraid to come along with me, I’ll take you on my back and see if I can blow you thither.”

Yes! with all her heart; she must and would get thither if it were possible in any way; and as for fear, however madly he went, she wouldn’t be at all afraid.

“Very well, then,” said the North Wind, “but you must sleep here to-night, for we must have the whole day before us, if we’re to get thither at all.”

Early next morning the North Wind woke her, and puffed himself up, and blew himself out, and made himself so stout and big, ’twas gruesome to look at him; and so off they went high up through the air, as if they would never stop till they got to the world’s end.

Down here below there was such a storm; it threw down long tracts of wood and many houses, and when it swept over the great sea, ships foundered by hundreds.

So they tore on and on—no one can believe how far they went—and all the while they still went over the sea, and the North Wind got more and more weary, and so out of breath he could scarce bring out a puff, and his wings drooped and drooped, till at last he sunk so low that the crests of the waves dashed over his heels.

“Are you afraid?” said the North Wind.

“No!” she wasn’t.

But they weren’t very far from land; and the North Wind had still so much strength left in him that he managed to throw her up on the shore under the windows of the castle which lay East of the Sun and West of the Moon; but then he was so weak and worn out, he had to stay there and rest many days before he could get home again.

Next morning the lassie sat down under the castle window, and began to play with the gold apple; and the first person she saw was the Long-nose who was to have the Prince.

“What do you want for your gold apple, you lassie?” said the Long-nose, and threw up the window.

“It’s not for sale, for gold or money,” said the lassie.

“If it’s not for sale for gold or money, what is it that you will sell it for? You may name your own price,” said the Princess.

“Well! if I may get to the Prince, who lives here, and be with him to-night, you shall have it,” said the lassie whom the North Wind had brought.

Yes! she might; that could be done. So the Princess got the gold apple; but when the lassie came up to the Prince’s bed-room at night he was fast asleep; she called him and shook him, and between whiles she wept sore; but all she could do she couldn’t wake him up. Next morning, as soon as day broke, came the Princess with the long nose, and drove her out again.

So in the daytime she sat down under the castle windows and began to card with her carding-comb, and the same thing happened. The Princess asked what she wanted for it; and she said it wasn’t for sale for gold or money, but if she might get leave to go up to the Prince and be with him that night, the Princess should have it. But when she went up she found him fast asleep again, and all she called, and all she shook, and wept, and prayed, she couldn’t get life into him; and as soon as the first gray peep of day came, then came the Princess with the long nose, and chased her out again.

So, in the daytime, the lassie sat down outside under the castle window, and began to spin with her golden spinning-wheel, and that, too, the Princess with the long nose wanted to have. So she threw up the window and asked what she wanted for it. The lassie said, as she had said twice before, it wasn’t for sale for gold or money; but if she might go up to the Prince who was there, and be with him alone that night, she might have it.

Yes! she might do that and welcome. But now you must know there were some Christian folk who had been carried off thither, and as they sat in their room, which was next the Prince, they had heard how a woman had been in there, and wept and prayed, and called to him two nights running, and they told that to the Prince.

That evening, when the Princess came with her sleepy drink, the Prince made as if he drank, but threw it over his shoulder, for he could guess it was a sleepy drink. So, when the lassie came in, she found the Prince wide awake; and then she told him the whole story how she had come thither.

“Ah,” said the Prince, “you’ve just come in the very nick of time, for to-morrow is to be our wedding-day; but now I won’t have the Long-nose, and you are the only woman in the world who can set me free. I’ll say I want to see what my wife is fit for, and beg her to wash the shirt which has the three spots of tallow on it; she’ll say yes, for she doesn’t know ’tis you who put them there; but that’s a work only for Christian folk, and not for such a pack of Trolls, and so I’ll say that I won’t have any other for my bride than the woman who can wash them out, and ask you to do it.”

So there was great joy and love between them all that night. But next day, when the wedding was to be, the Prince said:

“First of all, I’d like to see what my bride is fit for.”

“Yes!” said the step-mother, with all her heart.

“Well,” said the Prince, “I’ve got a fine shirt which I’d like for my wedding shirt, but somehow or other it has got three spots of tallow on it, which I must have washed out; and I have sworn never to take any other bride than the woman who’s able to do that. If she can’t, she’s not worth having.”

Well, that was no great thing they said, so they agreed, and she with the long-nose began to wash away as hard as she could, but the more she rubbed and scrubbed, the bigger the spots grew.

“Ah!” said the old hag, her mother, “you can’t wash; let me try.”

But she hadn’t long taken the shirt in hand before it got far worse than ever, and with all her rubbing, and wringing, and scrubbing, the spots grew bigger and blacker, and the darker and uglier was the shirt.

Then all the other Trolls began to wash, but the longer it lasted, the blacker and uglier the shirt grew, till at last it was as black all over as if it had been up the chimney.

“Ah!” said the Prince, “you’re none of you worth a straw; you can’t wash. Why there, outside, sits a beggar lassie, I’ll be bound she knows how to wash better than the whole lot of you. Come in, Lassie!” he shouted.

Well, in she came.

“Can you wash this shirt clean, lassie you?” said he.

“I don’t know,” she said, “but I think I can.”

And almost before she had taken it and dipped it in the water, it was as white as driven snow, and whiter still.

“Yes; you are the lassie for me,” said the Prince.

At that the old hag flew into such a rage, she burst on the spot, and the Princess with the long nose after her, and the whole pack of Trolls after her—at least I’ve never heard a word about them since.

As for the Prince and Princess, they set free all the poor Christian folk who had been carried off and shut up there; and they took with them all the silver and gold, and flitted away as far as they could from the Castle that lay East of the Sun and West of the Moon.

Two Brothers (Korean Folktales – 2)


In times gone by there lived two brothtrs whose loving ways were the talk of the valley where they lived. They took care of their widowed mother and upon her death they divided everything evenly.
Together they worked diligently from sunup to sundown to produce the most they could from their fields. It never failed that come autumn they had the largest harvest in the valley.

One late autumn evening, after they had spent the afternoon sacking and dividing the last of the rice harvest, the older brother thought, “Brother has lots of expenses since he just got married a few months ago. I think l wiIl put a sack of rice in his storehouse and not tell him. I’m sure he would never accept it if I offered it to him.” So, late that night, he carried it to his brother’s storeroom.

The next day, while tidying up his own storage, the older brother was surprised to find he still had the same number of sacks of rice as he had before taking one to his brother. “That’s odd,” he said, shaking his head, “I’m sure I took a sack of rice to Brother’s house last night.” He counted his sacks again. “Well,” he said, scratching the back of his head, “I’ll just take him another one tonight.”

So, late that night. he carried a sack of rice to his brother’s house.

The next morning, he was again shocked to find he had the same number of sacks as before. He shook his head over and over and decided he would take his brother another sack that night.

After a late dinner he loaded the rice and set out for his brother’s house. It was a full moon and he could see the path quite clearly. Soon he saw a man carrying something bulky coming down the path.

“Why, Brother!” they both called out at the same time. The two brothers put down their sacks and laughed long and hearty for they both understood the mystery behind their unchanging number of sacks of rice. The younger brother thought his older brother could use the rice because he had a larger family.

Author: Suzanne Crowder Han ( 1991- Korean Folk & Fairy Tales)

The Stone Cutter (Indian Folktales – 6)


There was once a stonecutter who was dissatisfied with himself and with his position in life.

One day, he passed a wealthy merchant’s house and through the open gateway saw many fine possessions and important visitors. “How powerful that merchant must be!” thought the stonecutter. He became very envious, and wished that he could be like the merchant. Then he would no longer have to live the life of a mere stonecutter.

To his great surprise, he suddenly became the merchant, enjoying more luxuries and power than he had ever dreamed of, envied and detested by those less wealthy than himself. But soon a high official passed by, carried in a sedan chair, accompanied by attendants, and escorted by soldiers beating gongs. Everyone, no matter how wealthy, had to bow low before the procession. “How powerful that official is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a high official!”

Then he became the high official, carried everywhere in his embroidered sedan chair, feared and hated by the people all around, who had to bow down before him as he passed. It was a hot summer day, and the official felt very uncomfortable in the sticky sedan chair. He looked up at the sun. It shone proudly in the sky, unaffected by his presence. “How powerful the sun is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be the sun!”

Then he became the sun, shining fiercely down on everyone, scorching the fields, cursed by the farmers and labourers. But a huge black cloud moved between him and the earth, so that his light could no longer shine on everything below. “How powerful that storm cloud is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a cloud!”

Then he became the cloud, flooding the fields and villages, shouted at by everyone. But soon he found that he was being pushed away by some great force, and realized that it was the wind. “How powerful it is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be the wind!”

Then he became the wind, blowing tiles off the roofs of houses, uprooting trees, hated and feared by all below him. But after a while, he ran up against something that would not move, no matter how forcefully he blew against it — a huge, towering stone. “How powerful that stone is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a stone!”

Then he became the stone, more powerful than anything else on earth. But as he stood there, he heard the sound of a hammer pounding a chisel into the solid rock and felt himself being changed. “What could be more powerful than I, the stone?” he thought. He looked down and saw far below him the figure of a stone-cutter.

We don’t know the extent of our own personal power. And, sometimes, the most insignificant seeming people among us are those most able to effect great change.

Author: Benjamin Hoff (The Tao Of Pooh)

Princess Finola and the Dwarf (Folk Tales from Ireland)


A long, long time ago there lived in a little hut in the midst of a bare, brown, lonely moor an old woman and a young girl. The old woman was withered, sour-tempered, and dumb. The young girl was as sweet and as fresh as an opening rosebud, and her voice was as musical as the whisper of a stream in the woods in the hot days of summer. The little hut, made of branches woven closely together, was shaped like a beehive. In the centre of the hut a fire burned night and day from year’s end to year’s end, though it was never touched or tended by human hand. In the cold days and nights of winter it gave out light and heat that made the hut cosy and warm, but in the summer nights and days it gave out light only. With their heads to the wall of the hut and their feet towards the fire were two sleeping-couches––one of plain woodwork, in which slept the old woman; the other was Finola’s. It was of bog-oak, polished as a looking-glass, and on it were carved flowers and birds of all kinds, that gleamed and shone in the light of the fire. This couch was fit for a princess, and a princess Finola was, though she did not know it herself.

Outside the hut the bare, brown, lonely moor stretched for miles on every side, but towards the east it was bounded by a range of mountains that looked to Finola blue in the daytime, but which put on a hundred changing colours as the sun went down. Nowhere was a house to be seen, nor a tree, nor a flower, nor sign of any living thing. From morning till night, nor hum of bee, nor song of bird, nor voice of man, nor any sound fell on Finola’s ear. When the storm was in the air the great waves thundered on the shore beyond the mountains, and the wind shouted in the glens; but when it sped across the moor it lost its voice, and passed as silently as the dead. At first the silence frightened Finola, but she got used to it after a time, and often broke it by talking to herself and singing.

The only other person beside the old woman Finola ever saw was a dumb dwarf who, mounted on a broken-down horse, came once a month to the hut, bringing with him a sack of corn for the old woman and Finola. Although he couldn’t speak to her, Finola was always glad to see the dwarf and his old horse, and she used to give them cake made with her own white hands. As for the dwarf he would have died for the little princess, he was so much in love with her, and often and often his heart was heavy and sad as he thought of her pining away in the lonely moor.

It chanced that he came one day, and she did not, as usual, come out to greet him. He made signs to the old woman, but she took up a stick and struck him, and beat his horse and drove him away; but as he was leaving he caught a glimpse of Finola at the door of the hut, and saw that she was crying. This sight made him so very miserable that he could think of nothing else but her sad face that he had always seen so bright, and he allowed the old horse to go on without minding where he was going. Suddenly he heard a voice saying: “It is time for you to come.”

The dwarf looked, and right before him, at the foot of a green hill, was a little man not half as big as himself, dressed in a green jacket with brass buttons, and a red cap and tassel.

“It is time for you to come,” he said the second time; “but you are welcome, anyhow. Get off your horse and come in with me, that I may touch your lips with the wand of speech, that we may have a talk together.”

The dwarf got off his horse and followed the little man through a hole in the side of a green hill. The hole was so small that he had to go on his hands and knees to pass through it, and when he was able to stand he was only the same height as the little fairyman. After walking three or four steps they were in a splendid room, as bright as day. Diamonds sparkled in the roof as stars sparkle in the sky when the night is without a cloud. The roof rested on golden pillars, and between the pillars were silver lamps, but their light was dimmed by that of the diamonds. In the middle of the room was a table, on which were two golden plates and two silver knives and forks, and a brass bell as big as a hazelnut, and beside the table were two little chairs covered with blue silk and satin.

“Take a chair,” said the fairy, “and I will ring for the wand of speech.”

The dwarf sat down, and the fairyman rang the little brass bell, and in came a little weeny dwarf no bigger than your hand.

“Bring me the wand of speech,” said the fairy, and the weeny dwarf bowed three times and walked out backwards, and in a minute he returned, carrying a little black wand with a red berry at the top of it, and, giving it to the fairy, he bowed three times and walked out backwards as he had done before.

The little man waved the rod three times over the dwarf, and struck him once on the right shoulder and once on the left shoulder, and then touched his lips with the red berry, and said: “Speak!”

The dwarf spoke, and he was so rejoiced at hearing the sound of his own voice that he danced about the room.

“Who are you at all, at all?” said he to the fairy.

“Who is yourself?” said the fairy. “But come, before we have any talk let us have something to eat, for I am sure you are hungry.”

Then they sat down to table, and the fairy rang the little brass bell twice, and the weeny dwarf brought in two boiled snails in their shells, and when they had eaten the snails he brought in a dormouse, and when they had eaten the dormouse he brought in two wrens, and when they had eaten the wrens he brought in two nuts full of wine, and they became very merry, and the fairyman sang “Cooleen dhas,” and the dwarf sang “The little blackbird of the glen.”

“Did you ever hear the ‘Foggy Dew?’” said the fairy.

“No,” said the dwarf.

“Well, then, I’ll give it to you; but we must have some more wine.”

And the wine was brought, and he sang the “Foggy Dew,” and the dwarf said it was the sweetest song he had ever heard, and that the fairyman’s voice would coax the birds off the bushes.

“You asked me who I am?” said the fairy.

“I did,” said the dwarf.

“And I asked you who is yourself?”

“You did,” said the dwarf.

“And who are you, then?”

“Well, to tell the truth, I don’t know,” said the dwarf, and he blushed like a rose.

“Well, tell me what you know about yourself.”

“I remember nothing at all,” said the dwarf, “before the day I found myself going along with a crowd of all sorts of people to the great fair of the Liffey. We had to pass by the king’s palace on our way, and as we were passing the king sent for a band of jugglers to come and show their tricks before him. I followed the jugglers to look on, and when the play was over the king called me to him, and asked me who I was and where I came from. I was dumb then, and couldn’t answer; but even if I could speak I could not tell him what he wanted to know, for I remember nothing of myself before that day. Then the king asked the jugglers, but they knew nothing about me, and no one knew anything, and then the king said he would take me into his service; and the only work I have to do is to go once a month with a bag of corn to the hut in the lonely moor.”

“And there you fell in love with the little princess,” said the fairy, winking at the dwarf.

The poor dwarf blushed twice as much as he had done before.

“You need not blush,” said the fairy; “it is a good man’s case. And now tell me, truly, do you love the princess, and what would you give to free her from the spell of enchantment that is over her?”

“I would give my life,” said the dwarf.

“Well, then, listen to me,” said the fairy. “The Princess Finola was banished to the lonely moor by the king, your master. He killed her father, who was the rightful king, and would have killed Finola, only he was told by an old sorceress that if he killed her he would die himself on the same day, and she advised him to banish her to the lonely moor, and she said she would fling a spell of enchantment over it, and that until the spell was broken Finola could not leave the moor. And the sorceress also promised that she would send an old woman to watch over the princess by night and by day, so that no harm should come to her; but she told the king that he himself should select a messenger to take food to the hut, and that he should look out for some one who had never seen or heard of the princess, and whom he could trust never to tell anyone anything about her; and that is the reason he selected you.”

“Since you know so much,” said the dwarf, “can you tell me who I am, and where I came from?”

“You will know that time enough,” said the fairy. “I have given you back your speech. It will depend solely on yourself whether you will get back your memory of who and what you were before the day you entered the king’s service. But are you really willing to try and break the spell of enchantment and free the princess?”

“I am,” said the dwarf.

“Whatever it will cost you?”

“Yes, if it cost me my life,” said the dwarf; “but tell me, how can the spell be broken?”

“Oh, it is easy enough to break the spell if you have the weapons,” said the fairy.

“And what are they, and where are they?” said the dwarf.

“The spear of the shining haft and the dark blue blade and the silver shield,” said the fairy. “They are on the farther bank of the Mystic Lake in the Island of the Western Seas. They are there for the man who is bold enough to seek them. If you are the man who will bring them back to the lonely moor you will only have to strike the shield three times with the haft, and three times with the blade of the spear, and the silence of the moor will be broken for ever, the spell of enchantment will be removed, and the princess will be free.”

“I will set out at once,” said the dwarf, jumping from his chair.

“And whatever it cost you,” said the fairy, “will you pay the price?”

“I will,” said the dwarf.

“Well, then, mount your horse, give him his head, and he will take you to the shore opposite the Island of the Mystic Lake. You must cross to the island on his back, and make your way through the water-steeds that swim around the island night and day to guard it; but woe betide you if you attempt to cross without paying the price, for if you do the angry water-steeds will rend you and your horse to pieces. And when you come to the Mystic Lake you must wait until the waters are as red as wine, and then swim your horse across it, and on the farther side you will find the spear and shield; but woe betide you if you attempt to cross the lake before you pay the price, for if you do, the black Cormorants of the Western Seas will pick the flesh from your bones.”

“What is the price?” said the dwarf.

“You will know that time enough,” said the fairy; “but now go, and good luck go with you.”

The dwarf thanked the fairy, and said good-bye! He then threw the reins on his horse’s neck, and started up the hill, that seemed to grow bigger and bigger as he ascended, and the dwarf soon found that what he took for a hill was a great mountain. After travelling all the day, toiling up by steep crags and heathery passes, he reached the top as the sun was setting in the ocean, and he saw far below him out in the waters the island of the Mystic Lake.

He began his descent to the shore, but long before he reached it the sun had set, and darkness, unpierced by a single star, dropped upon the sea. The old horse, worn out by his long and painful journey, sank beneath him, and the dwarf was so tired that he rolled off his back and fell asleep by his side.

He awoke at the breaking of the morning, and saw that he was almost at the water’s edge. He looked out to sea, and saw the island, but nowhere could he see the water-steeds, and he began to fear he must have taken a wrong course in the night, and that the island before him was not the one he was in search of. But even while he was so thinking he heard fierce and angry snortings, and, coming swiftly from the island to the shore, he saw the swimming and prancing steeds. Sometimes their heads and manes only were visible, and sometimes, rearing, they rose half out of the water, and, striking it with their hoofs, churned it into foam, and tossed the white spray to the skies. As they approached nearer and nearer their snortings became more terrible, and their nostrils shot forth clouds of vapour. The dwarf trembled at the sight and sound, and his old horse, quivering in every limb, moaned piteously, as if in pain. On came the steeds, until they almost touched the shore, then rearing, they seemed about to spring on to it. The frightened dwarf turned his head to fly, and as he did so he heard the twang of a golden harp, and right before him who should he see but the little man of the hills, holding a harp in one hand and striking the strings with the other.

“Are you ready to pay the price?” said he, nodding gaily to the dwarf.

As he asked the question, the listening water-steeds snorted more furiously than ever.

“Are you ready to pay the price?” said the little man a second time.

A shower of spray, tossed on shore by the angry steeds, drenched the dwarf to the skin, and sent a cold shiver to his bones, and he was so terrified that he could not answer.

“For the third and last time, are you ready to pay the price?” asked the fairy, as he flung the harp behind him and turned to depart.

When the dwarf saw him going he thought of the little princess in the lonely moor, and his courage came back, and he answered bravely:

“Yes, I am ready.”

The water-steeds, hearing his answer, and snorting with rage, struck the shore with their pounding hoofs.

“Back to your waves!” cried the little harper; and as he ran his fingers across his lyre, the frightened steeds drew back into the waters.

“What is the price?” asked the dwarf.

“Your right eye,” said the fairy; and before the dwarf could say a word, the fairy scooped out the eye with his finger, and put it into his pocket.

The dwarf suffered most terrible agony; but he resolved to bear it for the sake of the little princess. Then the fairy sat down on a rock at the edge of the sea, and, after striking a few notes, he began to play the “Strains of Slumber.”

The sound crept along the waters, and the steeds, so ferocious a moment before, became perfectly still. They had no longer any motion of their own, and they floated on the top of the tide like foam before a breeze.

“Now,” said the fairy, as he led the dwarf’s horse to the edge of the tide.

The dwarf urged the horse into the water, and once out of his depth, the old horse struck out boldly for the island. The sleeping water-steeds drifted helplessly against him, and in a short time he reached the island safely, and he neighed joyously as his hoofs touched solid ground.

The dwarf rode on and on, until he came to a bridle-path, and following this, it led him up through winding lanes, bordered with golden furze that filled the air with fragrance, and brought him to the summit of the green hills that girdled and looked down on the Mystic Lake. Here the horse stopped of his own accord, and the dwarf’s heart beat quickly as his eye rested on the lake, that, clipped round by the ring of hills, seemed in the breezeless and sunlit air––

“As still as death,
And as bright as life can be.”

After gazing at it for a long time, he dismounted, and lay at his ease in the pleasant grass. Hour after hour passed, but no change came over the face of the waters, and when the night fell sleep closed the eyelids of the dwarf.

The song of the lark awoke him in the early morning, and, starting up, he looked at the lake, but its waters were as bright as they had been the day before.

Towards midday he beheld what he thought was a black cloud sailing across the sky from east to west. It seemed to grow larger as it came nearer and nearer, and when it was high above the lake he saw it was a huge bird, the shadow of whose outstretched wings darkened the waters of the lake; and the dwarf knew it was one of the Cormorants of the Western Seas. As it descended slowly, he saw that it held in one of its claws a branch of a tree larger than a full-grown oak, and laden with clusters of ripe red berries. It alighted at some distance from the dwarf, and, after resting for a time, it began to eat the berries and to throw the stones into the lake, and wherever a stone fell a bright red stain appeared in the water. As he looked more closely at the bird the dwarf saw that it had all the signs of old age, and he could not help wondering how it was able to carry such a heavy tree.

Later in the day, two other birds, as large as the first, but younger, came up from the west and settled down beside him. They also ate the berries, and throwing the stones into the lake it was soon as red as wine.

When they had eaten all the berries, the young birds began to pick the decayed feathers off the old bird and to smooth his plumage. As soon as they had completed their task, he rose slowly from the hill and sailed out over the lake, and dropping down on the waters, dived beneath them. In a moment he came to the surface, and shot up into the air with a joyous cry, and flew off to the west in all the vigour of renewed youth, followed by the other birds.

When they had gone so far that they were like specks in the sky, the dwarf mounted his horse and descended towards the lake.

He was almost at the margin, and in another minute would have plunged in, when he heard a fierce screaming in the air, and before he had time to look up, the three birds were hovering over the lake.

The dwarf drew back frightened.

The birds wheeled over his head, and then, swooping down, they flew close to the water, covering it with their wings, and uttering harsh cries.

Then, rising to a great height, they folded their wings and dropped headlong, like three rocks, on the lake, crashing its surface, and scattering a wine-red shower upon the hills.

Then the dwarf remembered what the fairy told him, that if he attempted to swim the lake, without paying the price, the three Cormorants of the Western Seas would pick the flesh off his bones. He knew not what to do, and was about to turn away, when he heard once more the twang of the golden harp, and the little fairy of the hills stood before him.

“Faint heart never won fair lady,” said the little harper. “Are you ready to pay the price? The spear and shield are on the opposite bank, and the Princess Finola is crying this moment in the lonely moor.”

At the mention of Finola’s name the dwarf’s heart grew strong.

“Yes,” he said; “I am ready––win or die. What is the price?”

“Your left eye,” said the fairy. And as soon as said he scooped out the eye, and put it in his pocket.

The poor blind dwarf almost fainted with pain.

“It’s your last trial,” said the fairy, “and now do what I tell you. Twist your horse’s mane round your right hand, and I will lead him to the water. Plunge in, and fear not. I gave you back your speech. When you reach the opposite bank you will get back your memory, and you will know who and what you are.”

Then the fairy led the horse to the margin of the lake.

“In with you now, and good luck go with you,” said the fairy.

The dwarf urged the horse. He plunged into the lake, and went down and down until his feet struck the bottom. Then he began to ascend, and as he came near the surface of the water the dwarf thought he saw a glimmering light, and when he rose above the water he saw the bright sun shining and the green hills before him, and he shouted with joy at finding his sight restored.

But he saw more. Instead of the old horse he had ridden into the lake he was bestride a noble steed, and as the steed swam to the bank the dwarf felt a change coming over himself, and an unknown vigour in his limbs.

When the steed touched the shore he galloped up the hillside, and on the top of the hill was a silver shield, bright as the sun, resting against a spear standing upright in the ground.

The dwarf jumped off, and, running towards the shield, he saw himself as in a looking-glass.

He was no longer a dwarf, but a gallant knight. At that moment his memory came back to him, and he knew he was Conal, one of the Knights of the Red Branch, and he remembered now that the spell of dumbness and deformity had been cast upon him by the Witch of the Palace of the Quicken Trees.

Slinging his shield upon his left arm, he plucked the spear from the ground and leaped on to his horse. With a light heart he swam back over the lake, and nowhere could he see the black Cormorants of the Western Seas, but three white swans floating abreast followed him to the bank. When he reached the bank he galloped down to the sea, and crossed to the shore.

Then he flung the reins upon his horse’s neck, and swifter than the wind the gallant horse swept on and on, and it was not long until he was bounding over the enchanted moor. Wherever his hoofs struck the ground, grass and flowers sprang up, and great trees with leafy branches rose on every side.

At last the knight reached the little hut. Three times he struck the shield with the haft and three times with the blade of his spear. At the last blow the hut disappeared, and standing before him was the little princess.

The knight took her in his arms and kissed her; then he lifted her on to the horse, and, leaping up before her, he turned towards the north, to the palace of the Red Branch Knights, and as they rode on beneath the leafy trees from every tree the birds sang out, for the spell of silence over the lonely moor was broken for ever.

Author: Edmond Leamy (1906)

The Old Tiger and the Greedy Traveler (Folk Tales from India – 5)


Once upon a time, there lived a Tiger in a forest. With the passing years, he became too old to hunt. One day, the Tiger was walking by the side of a lake and suddenly, a gold bangle came across his sight. Quickly he picked up the bangle and thought that he could use it as an allure to catch someone. As he was under the thought process, a traveler happened to pass through the opposite side of the lake.

The Tiger instantly thought to himself, “What a delicious meal he would make?” He planned a scheme to attract the traveler. He held the bangle in his paw making it visible to the traveler and said, “Would you like to take this gold bangle. I don’t require it”. At once, the traveler wanted to take the bangle, but he hesitated to go near the Tiger. He knew that it was risky, yet he sought the Gold Bangle. He planned to be cautious, so he asked the Tiger, “How can I believe you? I know you are a beast and would kill me”.

The Clever Tiger innocently said, “Listen Traveler, in my youth, I was wicked unquestionably, but now I have changed myself. With the advice of a Sanyasi, I have left all evil. Now I am all alone in this world and have engaged myself in kind deeds. Moreover, I have grown old. I have no teeth and my claws are blunt. So, there is no need to fear from me”. The traveler’s was taken in by this smart talk and his love for gold soon overcame his fear of the Tiger. He jumped into the lake to wade across the Tiger.

But as per the plan of the Tiger, he got trapped in the marsh. On seeing this, the Tiger consoled him and said, “Oh! You need not worry. I’ll help you”. Gradually he came towards the traveler and seized him. As the traveler was being dragged out, onto the bank, he thought to himself, “Oh! This beast’s talk of saintliness took me in totally. A beast is always a beast. If only I had not let my greed overcome my reason, I could be alive”. However, it was too late; the Tiger killed the traveler and ate him up. Like this, the traveler became victim of greed and Tiger was successful in his evil plan.

Moral: Greed never goes unpunished.

Source: Stories from Hitopadesha

The Three Advices (Irish Folktales – 3)


There once came, what of late has happened so often in Ireland, a hard year. When the crops failed, there was beggary and misfortune from one end of the island to the other. At that time many poor people had to quit the country from want of employment, and through the high price of provisions. Among others, John Carson was under the necessity of going over to England, to try if he could get work; and of leaving his wife and family behind him, begging for a bite and a sup up and down, and trusting to the charity of good Christians.

John was a smart young fellow, handy at any work, from the hay field to the stable, and willing to earn the bread he ate; and he was soon engaged by a gentleman. The English are mighty strict upon Irish servants; he was to have twelve guineas a year wages, but the money was not to be paid until the end of the year, and he was to forfeit the entire twelve guineas in the lump, if he misconducted himself in any way within the twelve months. John Carson was to be sure upon his best behavior, and conducted himself in every particular so well for the whole time, there was no faulting him late or early, and the wages were fairly his.

The term of his agreement being expired, he determined on returning home, notwithstanding his master, who had a great regard for him, pressed him to remain, and asked him if he had any reason to be dissatisfied with his treatment.

“No reason in life, sir,” said John; “you’ve been a good master and a kind master to me; the Lord spare you over your family; but I left a wife and two small children of my own at home, after me in Ireland, and your honor would never wish to keep me from them entirely, the wife and the children.”

“Well, John,” said the gentleman, “you have earned your twelve guineas, and you have been, in every respect, so good a servant, that, if you are agreeable, I intend giving you what is worth the twelve guineas ten times over, in place of your wages. But you shall have your choice. Will you take what I offer, on my word”?

John saw no reason to think that his master was jesting with him, or was insincere in making the offer; and, therefore, after a slight consideration, told him that he agreed to take for his wages whatever he would advise, whether it was the twelve guineas or not.

“Then listen attentively to my words,” said the gentleman. “First, I would teach you this: Never to take a by-road when you have the highway. Secondly: Take heed not to lodge in the house where an old man is married to a young woman. And thirdly: Remember that honesty the best policy. These are the three advices I would pay you with; and they are in value far beyond any gold; however, here is a guinea for your traveling charges, and two cakes, one of which you must give to your wife, and the other you must not eat yourself until you have done so, and I charge you to be careful of them.”

It was not without some reluctance on the part of John Carson that he was made to accept mere words for wages, or could be persuaded that they were more precious than golden guineas. His faith in his master was, however, so strong, that he at length became satisfied.

John set out for Ireland the next morning early; but he had not proceeded far, before he overtook two pedlars who were traveling the same way. He entered into conversation with them, and found them a pair of merry fellows, who proved excellent company on the road. Now it happened, towards the end of their day’s journey, when they were all tired with walking, that they came to a wood, through which there was a path that shortened the distance to the town they were going towards, by two miles. The pedlars advised John to go with them through the wood; but he refused to leave the highway, telling them, at the same time, he would meet them again at a certain house in the town where travelers put up.

John was willing to try the worth of the advice which his master had given him, and he arrived in safety, and took up his quarters at the appointed place. While he was eating his supper, an old man came hobbling into the kitchen, and gave orders about different matters there, and then went out again. John would have taken no particular notice of this, but immediately after, a young woman, young enough to be the old man’s daughter, came in, and gave orders exactly the contrary of what the old man had given, calling him, at the same time, such as old fool, and old dotard, and so on.

When she was gone, John inquired who the old man was.

“He is the landlord,” said the servant; “and, heaven help him! A dog’s life has he led since he married his last wife.”

“What,” said John, with surprise, “is that young woman the landlord’s wife? I see I must not remain in this house tonight;” and, tired as he was, he got up to leave it, but went no further than the door before he met the two pedlars, all cut and bleeding, coming in, for they had been robbed and almost murdered in the wood. John was very sorry to see them in that condition, and advised them not to lodge in the house, telling them, with a significant nod that all was not right there; but the poor pedlars were so weary and so bruised, that they would stop where they were, and disregarded the advice.

Rather than remain in the house, John retired to the stable, and laid himself down upon a bundle of straw, where he slept soundly for some time. About the middle of the night, he heard two persons come into the stable, and on listening to their conversation, discovered that it was the landlady and a man, laying a plan how to murder her husband. In the morning John renewed his journey; but at the next town he came to, he was told that the landlord in the town he had left had been murdered and that two pedlars, whose clothes were found all covered with blood, had been taken up for the crime, and were going to be hanged. John, without mentioning what he had overheard to any person, determined to save the pedlars if possible, and so returned, in order to intend their trial.

On going into the court, he saw the two men at bar, and the young woman and the man whose voice he had heard in the stable, swearing their innocent lives away. But the judge allowed him to give his evidence, and he told every particular of what had occurred. The man and the young woman instantly confessed their guilt; the poor pedlars were at once acquitted; and the judge ordered a large reward to be paid to John Carson, as through his means the real murderers were brought to justice.

John proceeded towards home, fully convinced of the value of two of the advices which his master had given him. On arriving at his cabin he found his wife and children rejoicing over a purse full of gold, which the eldest boy had picked up on the road that morning. Whilst he was away they had endured all the miseries which the wretched families of those who go over to seek work in England are exposed to. With precarious food, without a bed to lie down on, or a roof to shelter them, they had wandered through the country, seeking food from door to door of a starving population; and when a single potato was bestowed, showering down blessings and thanks on the giver, not in the set phrases of the mendicant, but in the burst of eloquence too fervid not to gush direct from the heart. Those only who have seen a family of such beggars as I describe, can fancy the joy with which the poor woman welcomed her husband back, and informed him of the purse full of gold.

“And where did Mick my boy, find it,” inquired John Carson.

“It was the young squire, for certain, who dropped it,” said his wife, “for he rode down the road this morning, and was leaping his horse in the very gap where Micky picked it up; but sure, John, he has money enough, besides, and never the halfpenny have I to buy my poor childer a bit to eat this blessed night.”

“Never mind that,” said John. “Do as I bid you, and take up the purse at once to the big house, and ask for the young squire. I have two cakes which I brought every step of the way with me from England, and they will do for the children’s supper. I ought surely to remember, as good right I have, what my master told me for my twelvemonths’ wages, seeing I never, as yet, found what he said to be wrong!”

“And what did he say,” inquired the wife.

“That honesty is the best policy,” answered John.

“‘Tis very well; and ’tis mighty easy for them to say so that have never been sore tempted by distress and famine to say otherwise, but your bidding is enough for me, John.”

Straightways she went to the big house, and inquired for the young squire; but she was denied the liberty to speak to him.

“You must tell me your business, honest woman,” said the servant, with a head all powdered and frizzled like a cauliflower, and who had on a coat covered with gold and silver lace and buttons, and everything in the world.

“If you knew but all,” said she, “I am an honest woman, for I’ve brought a purse full of gold to the young master; for surely it is his; as nobody else could have so much money.”

“Let me see it,” said the servant. “Ay, it’s all right. I’ll take care of it. You need not trouble yourself any more about the matter;” and so saying, he slapped the door in her face.

When she returned, her husband produced the two cakes which his master gave him on parting; and breaking one to divide between his children, how was he astonished to find six guineas, in it; and when he took the other and broke it, he found as many more. He then remembered the words of his generous master, who desired him to give one of the cakes to his wife, and not to eat the other himself until that time; and this was the way his master took to conceal his wages, lest he should have been robbed, or have lost the money on the road.

The following day, as John was standing near his cabin door and turning over in his own mind what he should do with his money, the young squire came riding down the road. John pulled off his hat, for he had not forgotten his manners through the means of traveling to foreign parts, and then made so bold as to inquire if his honor had got the purse he lost.

“Why, it is true enough, my good fellow,” said the squire, “I did lose my purse yesterday, and I hope you were lucky enough to find it; for if that is your cabin, you seem to be very poor, and shall keep it as a reward for your honesty.”

“Then the servant at the big house never gave it to you last night, after taking it from Nance — she’s my wife, your honor — and telling her it was all right?”

“Oh, I must look into this business,” said the squire.

“Did you say your wife, my poor man, gave my purse to a servant — to what servant?”

“I can’t tell his name rightly,” said John, “because I don’t know it; but never trust Nance’s eye again if she can’t point him out to your honor, if so your honor is desirous of knowing.”

“Then do you and Nance, as you call her, come up to the hall this evening, and I’ll inquire into the matter, I promise you.” So saying, the squire rode off.

John and his wife went up accordingly in the evening, and he gave a small rap with the big knocker at the great door. The door was opened by a grand servant, who, without hearing what the poor people had to say, exclaimed, “Oh, go! — go! what business can you have here?” and shut the door.

John’s wife burst out a crying. “There,” said she, so sobbing as if her heart would break. “I knew that would be the end of it.”

But John had not been in old England merely to get his twelve guineas packed in two cakes. “No,” said he, firmly; “right is right, and I’ll see the end of it.”

So he sat himself down on the steps of the door, determined not to go until he had seen the young squire, and as it happened, it was not long before he came out.

“I have been expecting you for some time, John,” said he; “come in and bring your wife in;” and he made them go before him into the house. Immediately he directed all the servants to come up stairs; and such an army of them as there was! It was a real sight to see them.

“Which of you,” said the young squire, without making further words, “which of you all did this honest woman give my purse to?” but there was no answer. “Well I suppose she must be mistaken, unless she can tell herself.”

John’s wife at once pointed her finger towards the head footman; “there he is,” said she, “if all the world were in the fore — clergyman, magistrate, judge, jury and all. There he is, and I am ready to take my bible-oath to him. There he is who told me it was all right when he took the purse, and slammed the door in my face, without as much as thank ye for it.”

The conscious footman turned pale.

“What is this I hear?” said his master. “If this woman gave you my purse, William, why did you not give it to me?”

The servant stammered out a denial; but his master insisted on his being searched, and the purse was found in his pocket.

“John,” said the gentleman, turning round, “you shall be no loser by this affair. Here are ten guineas for you; go home now, but I will not forget your wife’s honesty.”

Within a month John Carson was settled in a nice new-slated house, which the squire had furnished and made ready for him. What with his wages, and the reward he got from the judge, and the ten guineas for returning the purse, he was well to do in the world, and was soon able to stock a little farm, where he lived respected all his days. On his deathbed, he gave his children the very three advices which his master had given him on parting:

Never to take a by-road when they could follow the highway.

Never to lodge in a house where an old man was married to a young woman.

And, above all, to remember that honesty is the best policy.

Compiled by D.L.Ashliman

The Recovered Bride (Irish Folk Tales – 2)


There was a marriage in the townland of Curragraigue. After the usual festivities, and when the guests were left to themselves, and were drinking to the prosperity of the bride and bridegroom, they were startled by the appearance of the man himself rushing into the room with anguish in his looks.

“Oh!” cried he, “Margaret is carried away by the fairies, I’m sure. The girls were not left the room for half a minute when I went in, and there is no more sign of her there than if she never was born.”

Great consternation prevailed, great search was made, but no Margaret was to be found. After a night and day spent in misery, the poor bridegroom laid down to take some rest. In a while he seemed to himself to awake from a troubled dream, and look out into the room. The moon was shining in through the window, and in the middle of the slanting rays stood Margaret in her white bridal clothes. He thought to speak and leap out of the bed, but his tongue was without utterance, and his limbs unable to move.

“Do not be disturbed, dear husband,” said the appearance; “I am now in the power of the fairies, but if you only have courage and prudence we may be soon happy with each other again. Next Friday will be May-eve, and the whole court will ride out of the old fort after midnight. I must be there along with the rest. Sprinkle a circle with holy water, and have a black-hafted knife with you. If you have courage to pull me off the horse, and draw me into the ring, all they can do will be useless. You must have some food for me every night on the dresser, for if I taste one mouthful with them, I will be lost to you forever. The fairies got power over me because I was only thinking of you, and did not prepare myself as I ought for the sacrament. I made a bad confession, and now I am suffering for it. Don’t forget what I have said.”

“Oh, no, my darling,” cried he, recovering his speech, but by the time he had slipped out of bed, there was no living soul in the room but himself.

Till Friday night the poor young husband spent a desolate time. The food was left on the dresser over night, and it rejoiced all hearts to find it vanished by morning. A little before midnight he was at the entrance of the old rath. He formed the circle, took his station within it, and kept the black-hafted knife ready for service. At times he was nervously afraid of losing his dear wife, and at others burning with impatience for the struggle.

At last the old fort with its dark high bushy fences cutting against the sky, was in a moment replaced by a palace and its court. A thousand lights flashed from the windows and lofty hall entrance; numerous torches were brandished by attendants stationed round the courtyard; and a numerous cavalcade of richly attired ladies and gentlemen was moving in the direction of the gate where he found himself standing.

As they rode by him laughing and jesting, he could not tell whether they were aware of his presence or not. He looked intent at each countenance as it approached, but it was some time before he caught sight of the dear face and figure borne along on a milk-white steed. She recognized him well enough, and her features now broke into a smile — now expressed deep anxiety.

She was unable for the throng to guide the animal close to the ring of power; so he suddenly rushed out of his bounds, seized her in his arms, and lifted her off. Cries of rage and fury arose on every side; they were hemmed in, and weapons were directed at his head and breast to terrify him. He seemed to be inspired with superhuman courage and force, and wielding the powerful knife he soon cleared a space round him, all seeming dismayed by the sight of the weapon. He lost no time, but drew his wife within the ring, within which none of the myriads round dared to enter. Shouts of derision and defiance continued to fill the air for some time, but the expedition could not be delayed.

As the end of the procession filed past the gate and the circle within which the mortal pair held each other determinedly clasped, darkness and silence fell on the old rath and the fields round it, and the rescued bride and her lover breathed freely. We will not detain the sensitive reader on the happy walk home, on the joy that hailed their arrival, and on all the eager gossip that occupied the townland and the five that surround it for a month after the happy rescue.

Source: Legendary Fictions of the Irish Celts (1866)

The Little Black-bird (Folk tales from India – 4)


There was once a little blackbird (the litia) who was the proud owner of three kauries, or shells. This bird used to come to a king and say, “O king, I have three kauries, O king.”

The king was so much annoyed by the continual chirping of the little bird that he ordered his servants to take the three kauries from the bird and to drive it away.

But the bird would not leave the king, and so it began to say, “My wealth has made you rich, O king. My wealth has made you rich, O king.”

The king then ordered that the three kauries should be returned to the little blackbird. The bird then took the three kauries, and went to the seller of parched gram (a coarse pea), and with the three kauries she bought three grains of parched gram. Taking these the bird flew off and sat on a new cart which a carpenter was making, and there she started eating the gram. Having eaten two grains, she was about to eat the third, when it dropped from her beak and fell into a joint of the new cart, where she could not reach it.

In great distress she appealed to the carpenter to take to pieces his cart that she might get at the grain she had lost.

“You silly little thing,” said the carpenter. “Do you suppose I am going to take to pieces my new cart to get at a single grain which you have dropped into the joint of the woodwork?”

The little blackbird then went to the king, and said to him that she had lost her grain, and asked him to order the carpenter to open his cart that she might get at her grain.

“You silly little thing,” said the king. “Do you suppose I am going to order the carpenter to open his cart that you may get one small grain?”

The little blackbird then went to the queen, and begged of her to persuade the king to order the carpenter to open the cart to let her get at the grain. But the queen also said, “Get away, you silly thing.”

Then the little blackbird went to a deer and said, “Come, O deer, graze in the queen’s garden, for she will not persuade the king, and the king will not order the carpenter, and the carpenter will not open the cart, and I cannot get at my grain.”

But the deer would give to heed to the bird, and called her “You silly little thing.”

Then said the bird, “I will go to the lathi (the strong, stout stick).”

To the lathi she went and said, “Come, stout stick, strike the deer, for the deer will not graze in the queen’s garden, and the queen will not persuade the king, and the king will not command the carpenter, and the carpenter will not open his cart, and I cannot get at my grain.”

But the stick also would give no ear to the cry of the little blackbird, so she went at once to the fire; and she begged the fire to burn the stick, for the deer would not eat the queen’s garden, and the queen would not persuade the king, the king would not command the carpenter, the carpenter would not break up his cart, and she could not get at her grain.

But the fire also made light of the little bird’s prayer. So she went next to the lake, and implored the lake to quench the fire, for the fire would not burn the stick, and the stick would not strike the deer, and the deer would not destroy the garden, and the queen would not persuade the king, and the king refused to command the carpenter, who also refused to open his cart, so that the bird could not get at her grain.

But the lake refused to help the bird.

She then went to a place where there were thousands of rats, and to the rats she presented her prayer that they should come and fill the lake with their diggings, for the lake would not quench the fire, etc., etc.

But the rats also gave no attention to the wishes of the small blackbird.

Then the bird went to a cat, and of the cat she implored that she should attack the rats, for the rats would not fill in the lake, and the lake would not quench the fire, etc., and she could not get at her grain.

But the cat also was deaf to the prayers of the small blackbird.

Then she went to the elephant, and of the elephant she implored that he would crush the cat, for the cat would not kill the rats, etc., etc., and she could not get at her grain.

But the elephant treated her as did all the others.

Then she went to an ant, and begged the wee ant to crawl into the elephant’s ear, for the elephant would not crush the cat, etc., etc. and she could not get at her grain.

But the ant also gave no heed to her prayer.

Then at last she came to the crow, the most greedy of all creatures, and of the crow she begged that he should eat the ant.

From sheer greed the crow consented to eat the ant; but the ant, seeing the crow about to eat it, went to crawl into the ear of the elephant, and the elephant, fearing the harm which the ant could do him, went to crush the cat; but the cat slipped away, and was about the destroy the rats, and they at once began to fill in the lake; and the lake, becoming alarmed, was about to quench the fire, when the fire began to burn the stick, and the stick began to beat the deer, so that the deer was about to destroy the queen’s garden, when the queen began to persuade the king, and the king commanded the carpenter, and the carpenter opened his new cart; and the little blackbird found her grain, and happily taking it up she flew away, and quietly enjoyed her repast, and lived very happily ever after.

Sangkuriang (Indonesian Folk Tales – 10)


This is the story of Princess Dayang Sumbi, of West Java. She had a son named Sangkuriang. The child was very fond of hunting and often went to the woods nearby his palace to hunt. He was accompanied by his pet dog – Tumang, on his hunts.

One day, try as he might, Sangkuriang could not get Tumang to follow his orders to chase a boar he was hunting. Angered, sangkuriang beat the dog till it died. He left the dead dog in the woods and returned home alone. When he returned to the palace, Sangkuriang narrated the day’s events to his mother. Dayang Sumbi was horrified that her son had killed his good friend. She hit her son with a rice spoon hard on his head. Sangkuriang was injured. But he was more upset and ashamed than he was injured. He left the palace and went wandering.

Dayang Sumbi was very sorry now. She sent her men far and wide in search of Sangkuriang, but to no avail.

Dayang Sumbi was a very pious woman. The gods became pleased with her devotion and granted her the gift of eternal youth and timeless beauty.

Years passed. Sangkuriang had seen enough of the world to satisfy his wanderlust. He eventually decided to return to his homeland. On arrival, he found that his kingdom had changed so much since he left. He walked around the markets and streets, enjoying each sight. His eyes fell upon a beautiful girl standing at a stall. Sangkuriang was so fascinated by her beauty, he decided to woo her. Sangkuriang asked the girl to marry him, not knowing that she was none other than Dayang Sumbi. Dayang too was taken by this very handsome young man and agreed to marry him.

A few days later, Sangkuriang decided to go hunting. He asked Dayang to help him fasten his headband. She was about to tie it on his head while she noticed scars on Sangkuriang’s forehead. The scar reminded her of her son.

Dayang quizzed Sangkuriang about the scar and he narrated how he got the scar. Dayang was elated and frightened at the same time. She stared at Sangkuriang – he was indeed her son!

She had to call off the marriage somehow. She thought for a long time and finally came up with a plan. She summoned Sangkuriang and placed two conditions before him, fulfilling which she would marry him. First, he was to build a dam across the Citarum river. The second condition was that he build a canoe, which was as long as the width of the Citarum river. He was to complete both tasks before the next dawn.

Sangkuriang was perplexed. Nevertheless, he agreed. He prayed to the gods and did penance that night. He was able to get supernatural beings to help him with his work. The work progressed at a very fast pace.

Dayang Sumbi was watching this from her window. She knew that if work progressed at this pace, Sangkuriang would fulfill both conditions before dawn. She summoned her servants immediately and ordered them to hold up sheets of red silk to the east of the city.

Sangkuriang mistook the red colour for the rays of the rising sun. He stopped working and returned to the palace, only to realize that he has been tricked. Still, he had failed to fulfill both conditions. He broke the dam he built and Citarum flooded the city. He kicked the canoe he had made. The boat turned upside down and fell, and transformed into the “Tangkuban Perahu” mountain.

Sangkuriang refused to give up Dayang Sumbi. In his despair, he tried to force himself on Dayang Sumbi. She managed to break free and ran away from him. Sangkuriang gave chase and when he almost caught up with her at Gunung Putri, Dayang Sumbi begged to the Gods to help her one last time.

She was transformed into a Jaksi flower by the Gods. Sangkuriang searched and searched in the forests, but failed to find her. He kept calling out her name and died a mad man.

Indonesian Folktale – retold by Elan (2014). Not to be copied / duplicated or republished without permission

The Speech of Parrots (Folk Tales from Thailand – 2)


Once upon a time, the chattering barbet, a colorful bird, lived in people’s homes. Barbets were so intelligent that they easily learned how to speak like the people they lived with. They were thoughtful, too, and so humans and birds often spoke to one another.

Alas, one day a hungry young farmer named Sunan spied a buffalo that was wandering in the fields near his home. He was so hungry that he killed it, cut it up and carried it back to his home, where he cooked some of the meat and hid the rest in his rice house.

You see, Sunan knew this buffalo belonged to his neighbor.

“Wife, children,” Sunan called to his family, “we will no longer be hungry,” and then he told them the story of the neighbor’s buffalo.

The next day Sunan’s neighbor, Klahan, knocked on the door and said, “I am looking for my buffalo, Sunan. I wonder if you have seen him.”

Sunan looked down. “No,” he said coolly, “I haven’t seen your buffalo.”

But just then the barbet piped up. “Sunan ate buffalo last night and hid the rest in the rice house.”

Both men looked in alarm at the bird, but before Sunan could speak, Klahan ran to the rice house. Sunan was close behind, and the barbet flew after them.

When Klahan saw the meat, he was incredulous. “What’s this?” he asked Sunan.

“Oh,” Sunan said casually, “I keep my buffalo meat here, but this is not your animal. This is the meat of a creature I killed long ago.”

Now the barbet was amazed. “No,” he said, “this is the buffalo you killed yesterday. That’s what you told your wife last night.”

Once again both men stared at the bird. Sunan was furious, and Klahan did not know whom to believe.

“Let’s take this to the judge,” Sunan said. “Surely no intelligent judge will take the word of a foolish bird over that of a man.”

“Tomorrow, then,” said Klahan. “I shall meet you and your bird in court.”

Sunan walked toward the house, worried and angry, when suddenly he had an idea. He grabbed the barbet and placed him in a pot, and over this pot he tied a black cloth.

That night the sky was bright with stars and the light from a full moon, but inside that pot there was only darkness. And then Sunan began to beat upon the pot, first softly, then louder and louder.

Inside the pot the barbet shivered. “Oh, the thunder is loud,” he whispered, and cowered, for he did not like storms.

Then Sunan began to drip water on the cloth so that droplets of what felt like rain fell upon the poor barbet’s colorful back. “Oh, what a dark and stormy night,” the barbet quavered, and he hoped morning would come soon.

So it did, and at dawn Sunan lifted the barbet out of the pot and put him in his cage. “We’re off to court,” he told the bird.

In court the judge listened thoughtfully as Klahan told his story, and then he called upon the barbet to speak.

The bird stood tall. “My master killed the neighbor’s buffalo and hid the part he did not eat in the rice house. He told his wife just that.”

Sunan began to laugh softly.

“What are you laughing at?” the judge demanded.

“Sorry,” Sunan said, “it’s just I cannot imagine why you would listen to the word of a foolish bird.”

The judge glared. “Everyone knows the barbet is a highly intelligent creature.”

Sunan snickered. “Well, this barbet so often speaks nonsense, I sometimes forget. Go ahead, ask him anything. Ask him what last night was like.”

So the judge did. The barbet again stood tall. “Last night was dark and stormy. The thunder never stopped all night long.”

Everyone in the courtroom stared in disbelief, for they remembered the night had been beautiful and clear.

“Judge,” said Sunan, “surely you would not condemn me for a crime based on such a creature’s word.”

The judge shook his head. “No. I see you’re innocent. And because this creature’s word caused you danger, I order this: No longer will any people keep these birds in our homes and care for them. We will send all the barbets away to live in the forest.”

And so this happened.

A few months later, Sunan’s barbet was sitting in the forest when he spotted a bird much larger and brighter than he. “Who are you?” the barbet asked.

“I’m a parrot,” said the stranger, “I came here from the south with my flock. We speak the language of human beings.”

“Welcome,” said the barbet, “but let me warn you. When the human beings find out that you speak their language, they will capture you and bring you into their homes.”

“That would be fine,” the parrot said.

“But be careful,” said the barbet. “You must take care of what you say. Human beings are not always truthful and want to hear only their own thoughts. They are not interested in our wisdom. If you offer it, you may be punished.”

The parrot thanked the barbet, and not much later his predictions came true. Human beings learned of the talking parrots, and they captured them and brought them into their homes. There they cared for them and fed them, just as they once had cared for the barbets, and they taught their parrots words they hoped the parrots would say.

But the parrot had passed along the barbet’s wisdom to his companions, and so it is that parrots never speak their minds; they only echo the words humans say.

Source