Mar Jiryis (Saint George and the Dragon)
J. E. Hanauer
There was once a great city that depended for its water supply upon a fountain without the walls. A great dragon, possessed and moved by Satan himself, took possession of the fountain and refused to allow water to be taken unless, whenever people came to the spring, a youth or maiden was given to him to devour. The people tried again and again to destroy the monster; but though the flower of the city cheerfully went forth against it, its breath was so pestilential that they used to drop down dead before they came within bow-shot.
The terrorized inhabitants were thus obliged to sacrifice their offspring, or die of thirst; till at last all the youth of the place had perished except the king’s daughter. So great was the distress of their subjects for want of water that her heart-broken parents could no longer withhold her, and amid the tears of the populace she went out towards the spring, where the dragon lay awaiting her. But just as the noisome monster was going to leap on her, Mar Jiryis appeared, in golden panoply, upon a fine white steed, and spear in hand. Riding full tilt at the dragon, he struck it fair between the eyes and laid it dead. The king, out of gratitude for this unlooked-for succor, gave Mar Jiryis his daughter and half of his kingdom.
Why the Moon and the Stars Get their light from the Sun
West African Folk Tales
Once upon a time there was great scarcity of food in the land. Father Anansi and his son, Kweku Tsin, being very hungry, set out one morning to hunt in the forest. In a short time Kweku Tsin was fortunate enough to kill a fine deer—which he carried to his father at their resting-place. Anansi was very glad to see such a supply of food, and requested his son to remain there on guard, while he went for a large basket in which to carry it home. An hour or so passed without his return, and Kweku Tsin became anxious. Fearing lest his father had lost his way, he called out loudly, “Father, father!” to guide him to the spot. To his joy he heard a voice reply, “Yes, my son,” and immediately he shouted again, thinking it was Anansi. Instead of the latter, however, a terrible dragon appeared. This monster breathed fire from his great nostrils, and was altogether a dreadful sight to behold. Kweku Tsin was terrified at his approach and speedily hid himself in a cave near by.
The dragon arrived at the resting-place, and was much annoyed to find only the deer’s body. He vented his anger in blows upon the latter and went away. Soon after, Father Anansi made his appearance. He was greatly interested in his son’s tale, and wished to see the dragon for himself. He soon had his desire, for the monster, smelling human flesh, hastily returned to the spot and seized them both. They were carried off by him to his castle, where they found many other unfortunate creatures also awaiting their fate. All were left in charge of the dragon’s servant—a fine, white cock—which always crowed to summon his master, if anything unusual happened in the latter’s absence. The dragon then went off in search of more prey.
Kweku Tsin now summoned all his fellow-prisoners together, to arrange a way of escape. All feared to run away—because of the wonderful powers of the monster. His eyesight was so keen that he could detect a fly moving miles away. Not only that, but he could move over the ground so swiftly that none could outdistance him. Kweku Tsin, however, being exceedingly clever, soon thought of a plan.
Knowing that the white cock would not crow as long as he has grains of rice to pick up, Kweku scattered on the ground the contents of forty bags of grain which were stored in the great hall. While the cock was thus busily engaged, Kweku Tsin ordered the spinners to spin fine hempen ropes, to make a strong rope ladder. One end of this he intended to throw up to heaven, trusting that the gods would catch it and hold it fast, while he and his fellow-prisoners mounted.
While the ladder was being made, the men killed and ate all the cattle they needed—reserving all the bones for Kweku Tsin at his express desire. When all was ready the young man gathered the bones into a great sack. He also procured the dragon’s fiddle and placed it by his side.
Everything was now ready. Kweku Tsin threw one end of the ladder up to the sky. It was caught and held. The dragon’s victims began to mount, one after the other, Kweku remaining at the bottom.
By this time, however, the monster’s powerful eyesight showed him that something unusual was happening at his abode. He hastened his return. On seeing his approach, Kweku Tsin also mounted the ladder—with the bag of bones on his back, and the fiddle under his arm. The dragon began to climb after him. Each time the monster came too near the young man threw him a bone, with which, being very hungry, he was obliged to descend to the ground to eat.
Kweku Tsin repeated this performance till all the bones were gone, by which time the people were safely up in the heavens. Then he mounted himself, as rapidly as possible, stopping every now and then to play a tune on the wonderful fiddle. Each time he did this, the dragon had to return to earth, to dance—as he could not resist the magic music. When Kweku was quite close to the top, the dragon had very nearly reached him again. The brave youth bent down and cut the ladder away below his own feet. The dragon was dashed to the ground but Kweku was pulled up into safety by the gods.
The latter were so pleased with his wisdom and bravery in giving freedom to his fellowmen, that they made him the sun the source of all light and heat to the world. His father, Anansi, became the moon, and his friends the stars. Thereafter, it was Kweku Tsin’s privilege to supply all these with light, each being dull and powerless without him.
The Twelve Huntsman
Grimm’s Fairy Tales
*Audio file at the end
Once upon a time there was a prince who had a fiancée whom he loved very much. Once when he was sitting beside her very happily, news came that his father was deathly ill, and wanted to see him before he died.
Then he said to his beloved, “I must now go and leave you. I give you a ring to remember me by. As soon as I am king, I will return and take you home with me.”
Then he rode away, and when he reached his father, the latter was mortally ill and near death.
The king said to him, “My dearest son, I wanted to see you one more time before my end. Promise me to marry the woman of my choice,” and he named a certain princess who was to become his wife.
The son was so grieved that without thinking he said, “Yes, dear father, your will shall be done.”
Then the king closed his eyes and died.
After the son had been proclaimed king, and the period of mourning had passed, he had to keep the promise that he had given his father. He proposed marriage to the princess, and she was promised to him.
His first fiancée heard about this, and was so saddened by his faithlessness that she nearly died.
Then her father said to her, “Dearest child, why are you so sad? You shall have whatever you want.”
She thought for a moment and then said, “Dear father, I want eleven girls exactly like myself in appearance, figure, and size.”
The father said, “If it is possible, your wish shall be fulfilled,” and he had his entire kingdom searched until eleven girls were found who were exactly like his daughter in appearance, figure, and size.
When they came to the princess, she had twelve huntsmen’s outfits made, each one like the others. The eleven girls put on the huntsmen’s outfits, and she herself put on the twelfth outfit.
After this she took leave of her father, and rode away with them. They rode to the court of her former fiancé, whom she loved so dearly. There she asked if he needed any huntsmen, and if he would take all of them into his service. The king looked at her without recognizing her. Because they were such good-looking fellows, he said, yes, that he would willingly take them, and then they were the king’s twelve huntsmen.
Now the king had a lion that was a miraculous animal, for he knew all hidden and secret things. It happened that one evening the lion said to the king, “You think that you have twelve huntsmen.”
“Yes,” said the king, “they are twelve huntsmen.”
The lion continued, “You are mistaken. They are twelve girls.”
The king said, “That is absolutely not true. How can you prove that to me?”
“Oh, just have some peas scattered in your antechamber,” answered the lion, “and then you shall soon see. Men have a firm step, and when they walk over the peas, none of them will be moved. On the other hand, girls trip and skip and shuffle their feet, rolling the peas about.”
The king liked this advise and had peas scattered on the floor.
Now one of the king’s servants liked the huntsmen, and when he heard that they were going to be put to this test, he went to them and told them everything, saying, “The lion wants to make the king believe that you are girls.”
The princess thanked him, then said to her girls, “Be strong, and step firmly on the peas.”
The next morning the king had the twelve huntsmen called before him. When they came into the antechamber where the peas were lying, they stepped so firmly on them, and had such a strong, sure walk, that not one of the peas rolled or moved.
After they had gone, the king said to the lion, “You lied to me. They walk just like men.”
The lion said, “They knew that were going to be put to a test, and acted like they were strong. Just have twelve spinning wheels brought into the antechamber. They will go up to them and admire them. No man would do that.”
The king liked this advice, and he had the spinning wheels set up in the antechamber.
But the servant who was honest with the huntsmen went to them and told them about the proposal.
So when they were alone, the princess said to her eleven girls, “Be strong and do not look around at the spinning wheels.”
The next morning when the king had his twelve huntsmen summoned, they walked through the antechamber without looking at the spinning wheels at all.
Then the king again said to the lion, “You lied to me. They are men, for they did not look at the spinning wheels.”
The lion answered, “They knew that they were going to be put to a test, and acted like they were strong.”
The king, however, refused to believe the lion anymore.
The twelve huntsmen always accompanied the king hunting, and the longer he knew them, the better he liked them. Now it happened that once when they were out hunting, news came that the king’s bride was approaching. When the true bride heard this, it hurt her so much that it almost broke her heart, and she fainted and fell to the ground.
Thinking that something had happened to his dear huntsman, the king ran up to him in order to help him. Pulling the huntsman’s glove off, he saw the ring that he had given to his first fiancée, and when he looked into her face, he recognized her. Then his heart was so touched that he kissed her, and when she opened her eyes he said, “You are mine, and I am yours, and no one in the world can change that.”
He sent a messenger to the other bride, and asked her to return to her own kingdom, for, as he informed her, he already had a wife, and someone who had found an old key did not need a new one.
After this their wedding was celebrated, and the lion was accepted back into favor, because, after all, he had told the truth.
The Water of Life
Grimm’s Fairy Tales
*Audio file at the end
There was once a King who was so ill that it was thought impossible his life could be saved. He had three sons, and they were all in great distress on his account, and they went into the castle gardens and wept at the thought that he must die. An old man came up to them and asked the cause of their grief. They told him that their father was dying, and nothing could save him.
The old man said, “There is only one remedy which I know; it is the Water of Life. If he drinks of it, he will recover, but it is very difficult to find.”
The eldest son said, “I will soon find it”; and he went to the sick man to ask permission to go in search of the Water of Life, as that was the only thing to cure him.
“No,” said the King. “The danger is too great. I would rather die.”
But he persisted so long that at last the King gave his permission.
The Prince thought, “If I bring this water I shall be the favourite,
and I shall inherit the kingdom.”
So he set off, and when he had ridden some distance he came upon a
Dwarf standing in the road, who cried, ‘Whither away so fast?’
“Stupid little fellow,” said the Prince, proudly; “what business is it
of yours?” and rode on.
The little man was very angry, and made an evil vow.
Soon after, the Prince came to a gorge in the mountains, and the further he rode the narrower it became, till he could go no further. His horse could neither go forward nor turn round for him to dismount; so there he sat, jammed in.
The sick King waited a long time for him, but he never came back. Then the second son said, “Father, let me go and find the Water of Life, “thinking, “if my brother is dead I shall have the kingdom.”
The King at first refused to let him go, but at last he gave his consent. So the Prince started on the same road as his brother, and met the same Dwarf, who stopped him and asked where he was going in such a hurry.
“Little Snippet, what does it matter to you?” he said, and rode away without looking back.
But the Dwarf cast a spell over him, and he, too, got into a narrow gorge like his brother, where he could neither go backwards nor forwards.
This is what happens to the haughty.
As the second son also stayed away, the youngest one offered to go and
fetch the Water of Life, and at last the King was obliged to let him go.
When he met the Dwarf, and he asked him where he was hurrying to, he
stopped and said, “I am searching for the Water of Life, because my
father is dying.”
“Do you know where it is to be found?”
“No,” said the Prince.
“As you have spoken pleasantly to me, and not been haughty like your false brothers, I will help you and tell you how to find the Water of Life. It flows from a fountain in the courtyard of an enchanted castle; but you will never get in unless I give you an iron rod and two loaves of bread. With the rod strike three times on the iron gate of the castle, and it will spring open. Inside you will find two Lions with wide-open jaws, but if you throw a loaf to each they will be quiet. Then you must make haste to fetch the Water of Life before it strikes twelve, or the gates of the castle will close and you will be shut in.”
The Prince thanked him, took the rod and the loaves, and set off. When he reached the castle all was just as the Dwarf had said. At the third knock the gate flew open, and when he had pacified the Lions with the loaves, he walked into the castle. In the great hall he found several enchanted Princes, and he took the rings from their fingers. He also took a sword and a loaf, which were lying by them. On passing into the next room he found a beautiful Maiden, who rejoiced at his coming. She embraced him, and said that he had saved her, and should have the whole of her kingdom; and if he would come back in a year she would marry him. She also told him where to find the fountain with the enchanted water; but, she said, he must make haste to get out of the castle before the clock struck twelve.
Then he went on, and came to a room where there was a beautiful bed freshly made, and as he was very tired he thought he would take a little rest; so he lay down and fell asleep. When he woke it was striking a quarter to twelve. He sprang up in a fright, and ran to the fountain, and took some of the water in a cup which was lying near, and then hurried away. The clock struck just as he reached the iron gate, and it banged so quickly that it took off a bit of his heel.
He was rejoiced at having got some of the Water of Life, and hastened on his homeward journey. He again passed the Dwarf, who said, when he saw the sword and the loaf, “Those things will be of much service to you. You will be able to strike down whole armies with the sword, and the loaf will never come to an end.”
The Prince did not want to go home without his brothers, and he said,
“Good Dwarf, can you not tell me where my brothers are? They went in
search of the Water of Life before I did, but they never came back.”
“They are both stuck fast in a narrow mountain gorge. I cast a spell
over them because of their pride.”
Then the Prince begged so hard that they might be released that at last the Dwarf yielded; but he warned him against them, and said, “Beware of them; they have bad hearts.”
He was delighted to see his brothers when they came back, and told them all that had happened to him; how he had found the Water of Life, and brought a goblet full with him. How he had released a beautiful Princess, who would wait a year for him and then marry him, and he would become a great Prince.
Then they rode away together, and came to a land where famine and war
were raging. The King thought he would be utterly ruined, so great was
The Prince went to him and gave him the loaf, and with it he fed and satisfied his whole kingdom. The Prince also gave him his sword, and he smote the whole army of his enemies with it, and then he was able to live in peace and quiet. Then the Prince took back his sword and his loaf, and the three brothers rode on. But they had to pass through two more countries where war and famine were raging, and each time the Prince gave his sword and his loaf to the King, and in this way he saved three kingdoms.
After that they took a ship and crossed the sea. During the passage the two elder brothers said to each other, “Our youngest brother found the Water of Life, and we did not, so our father will give him the kingdom which we ought to have, and he will take away our fortune from us.”
This thought made them very vindictive, and they made up their minds to get rid of him. They waited till he was asleep, and then they emptied the Water of Life from his goblet and took it themselves, and filled up his cup with salt sea water.
As soon as they got home the youngest Prince took his goblet to the King, so that he might drink of the water which was to make him well; but after drinking only a few drops of the sea water he became more ill than ever. As he was bewailing himself, his two elder sons came to him and accused the youngest of trying to poison him, and said that they had the real Water of Life, and gave him some. No sooner had he drunk it than he felt better, and he soon became as strong and well as he had been in his youth.
Then the two went to their youngest brother, and mocked him, saying, “It was you who found the Water of Life; you had all the trouble, while we have the reward. You should have been wiser, and kept your eyes open; we stole it from you while you were asleep on the ship. When the end of the year comes, one of us will go and bring away the beautiful Princess. But don’t dare to betray us. Our father will certainly not believe you, and if you say a single word you will lose your life; your only chance is to keep silence.”
The old King was very angry with his youngest son, thinking that he had tried to take his life. So he had the Court assembled to give judgment upon him, and it was decided that he must be secretly got out of the way.
One day when the Prince was going out hunting, thinking no evil, the King’s Huntsman was ordered to go with him. Seeing the Huntsman look sad, the Prince said to him, “My good Huntsman, what is the matter with you?”
The Huntsman answered, “I can’t bear to tell you, and yet I must.”
The Prince said, “Say it out; whatever it is I will forgive you.”
“Alas!” said the Huntsman, “I am to shoot you dead; it is the King’s command.”
The Prince was horror-stricken, and said, “Dear Huntsman, do not kill me, give me my life. Let me have your dress, and you shall have my royal robes.”
The Huntsman said, “I will gladly do so; I could never have shot you.” So they changed clothes, and the Huntsman went home, but the Prince wandered away into the forest.
After a time three wagon loads of gold and precious stones came to the King for his youngest son. They were sent by the Kings who had been saved by the Prince’s sword and his miraculous loaf, and who now wished to show their gratitude.
Then the old King thought, “What if my son really was innocent?” and
said to his people, “If only he were still alive! How sorry I am that I ordered him to be killed.”
“He is still alive,” said the Huntsman. “I could not find it in my heart to carry out your commands,” and he told the King what had taken place.
A load fell from the King’s heart on hearing the good news, and he sent out a proclamation to all parts of his kingdom that his son was to come home, where he would be received with great favour.
In the meantime, the Princess had caused a road to be made of pure shining gold leading to her castle, and told her people that whoever came riding straight along it would be the true bridegroom, and they were to admit him. But any one who came either on one side of the road or the other would not be the right one, and he was not to be let in.
When the year had almost passed, the eldest Prince thought that he would hurry to the Princess, and by giving himself out as her deliverer would gain a wife and a kingdom as well. So he rode away, and when he saw the beautiful golden road he thought it would be a thousand pities to ride upon it; so he turned aside, and rode to the right of it. But when he reached the gate the people told him that he was not the true bridegroom, and he had to go away.
Soon after the second Prince came, and when he saw the golden road he thought it would be a thousand pities for his horse to tread upon it; so he turned aside, and rode up on the left of it. But when he reached the gate he was also told that he was not the true bridegroom, and, like his brother, was turned away.
When the year had quite come to an end, the third Prince came out of the wood to ride to his beloved, and through her to forget all his past sorrows. So on he went, thinking only of her, and wishing to be with her; and he never even saw the golden road. His horse cantered right along the middle of it, and when he reached the gate it was flung open and the Princess received him joyfully, and called him her Deliverer, and the Lord of her Kingdom. Their marriage was celebrated without delay, and with much rejoicing. When it was over, she told him that his father had called him back and forgiven him. So he went to him and told him everything; how his brothers had deceived him, and how they had forced him to keep silence. The old King wanted to punish them, but they had taken a ship and sailed away over the sea, and they never came back as long as they lived.
Grimm’s Fairy Tales
(Ideal for 5-6 Year Olds)
*Audio file at the end
It was the middle of winter, and the snowflakes were falling from the
sky like feathers. Now, a Queen sat sewing at a window framed in black
ebony, and as she sewed she looked out upon the snow. Suddenly she
pricked her finger and three drops of blood fell on to the snow. And
the red looked so lovely on the white that she thought to herself: “If
only I had a child as white as snow and as red as blood, and as black
as the wood of the window frame!”
Soon after, she had a daughter,whose hair was black as ebony, while her cheeks were red as blood, and her skin as white as snow; so she was called Snowdrop. But when the child was born the Queen died. A year after the King took another wife. She was a handsome woman, but proud and overbearing, and could not endure that any one should surpass her in beauty. She had a magic looking-glass, and when she stood before it and looked at herself she used to say, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, Who is fairest of us all?”
Then the Glass answered, “Queen, thou’rt fairest of them all.”
Then she was content, for she knew that the Looking-glass spoke the truth.
But Snowdrop grew up and became more and more beautiful, so that when she was seven years old she was as beautiful as the day, and far surpassed the Queen. Once, when she asked her Glass, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is fairest of us all?”
It answered, “Queen, thou art fairest here, I hold, but Snowdrop is fairer a thousandfold.”
Then the Queen was horror-struck, and turned green and yellow with jealousy. From the hour that she saw Snowdrop her heart sank, and she hated the little girl.
The pride and envy of her heart grew like a weed, so that she had no rest day nor night. At last she called a Huntsman, and said: “Take the child out into the wood; I will not set eyes on her again; you must kill her and bring me her lungs and liver as tokens.”
The Huntsman obeyed, and took Snowdrop out into the forest, but when he drew his hunting-knife and was preparing to plunge it into her innocent heart, she began to cry, “Alas! dear Huntsman, spare my life, and I will run away into the wild forest and never come back again.”
And because of her beauty the Huntsman had pity on her and said, “Well, run away, poor child.” Wild beasts will soon devour you, he thought, but still he felt as though a weight were lifted from his heart because he had not been obliged to kill her. And as just at that moment a young fawn came leaping by, he pierced it and took the lungs and liver as tokens to the Queen. The Cook was ordered to serve them up in pickle, and the wicked Queen ate them thinking that they were Snowdrop’s.
Now the poor child was alone in the great wood, with no living soul near, and she was so frightened that she knew not what to do. Then she began to run, and ran over the sharp stones and through the brambles, while the animals passed her by without harming her. She ran as far as her feet could carry her till it was nearly evening, when she saw a little house and went in to rest. Inside, everything was small, but as neat and clean as could be. A small table covered with a white cloth stood ready with seven small plates, and by every plate was a spoon, knife, fork, and cup. Seven little beds were ranged against the walls, covered with snow-white coverlets. As Snowdrop was very hungry and thirsty she ate a little bread and vegetable from each plate, and drank a little wine from each cup, for she did not want to eat up the whole of one portion. Then, being very tired, she lay down in one of the beds. She tried them all but none suited her; one was too short, another too long, all except the seventh, which was just right. She remained in it, said her prayers, and fell asleep.
When it was quite dark the masters of the house came in. They were seven Dwarfs, who used to dig in the mountains for ore. They kindled their lights, and as soon as they could see they noticed that some one had been there, for everything was not in the order in which they had left it.
The first said, “Who has been sitting in my chair?”
The second said, “Who has been eating off my plate?”
The third said, “Who has been nibbling my bread?”
The fourth said, “Who has been eating my vegetables?”
The fifth said, “Who has been using my fork?”
The sixth said, “Who has been cutting with my knife?”
The seventh said, “Who has been drinking out of my cup?”
Then the first looked and saw a slight impression on his bed, and said, “Who has been treading on my bed?” The others came running up and said, “And mine, and mine.” But the seventh, when he looked into his bed, saw Snowdrop, who lay there asleep. He called the others, who came up and cried out with astonishment, as they held their lights and gazed at Snowdrop. “Heavens! what a beautiful child,” they said, and they were so delighted that they did not wake her up but left her asleep in bed. And the seventh Dwarf slept with his comrades, an hour with each all through the night.
When morning came Snowdrop woke up, and when she saw the seven Dwarfs she was frightened. But they were very kind and asked her name.
“I am called Snowdrop,” she answered.
“How did you get into our house?” they asked.
Then she told them how her stepmother had wished to get rid of her, how the Huntsman had spared her life, and how she had run all day till she had found the house.
Then the Dwarfs said, “Will you look after our household, cook, make the beds, wash, sew and knit, and keep everything neat and clean? If so you shall stay with us and want for nothing.”
“Yes,” said Snowdrop, “with all my heart”; and she stayed with them and kept the house in order.
In the morning they went to the mountain and searched for copper and gold, and in the evening they came back and then their meal had to be ready. All day the maiden was alone, and the good Dwarfs warned her and said, “Beware of your stepmother, who will soon learn that you are here. Don’t let any one in.”
But the Queen, having, as she imagined, eaten Snowdrop’s liver and lungs, and feeling certain that she was the fairest of all, stepped in front of her Glass, and asked, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is fairest of us all?”
the Glass answered as usual, “Queen, thou art fairest here, I hold, but Snowdrop over the fells, who with the seven Dwarfs dwells, is fairer still a thousandfold.”
She was dismayed, for she knew that the Glass told no lies, and she saw that the Hunter had deceived her and that Snowdrop still lived. Accordingly she began to wonder afresh how she might compass her death; for as long as she was not the fairest in the land her jealous heart left her no rest. At last she thought of a plan. She dyed her face and dressed up like an old Pedlar, so that she was quite unrecognizable. In this guise she crossed over the seven mountains to the home of the seven Dwarfs and called out, “Wares for sale.”
Snowdrop peeped out of the window and said, “Good-day, mother, what have you got to sell?”
“Good wares, fine wares,” she answered, “laces of every color”; and she held out one which was made of gay plaited silk.
“I may let the honest woman in,” thought Snowdrop, and she unbolted the door and bought the pretty lace.
“Child,” said the Old Woman, “what a sight you are, I will lace you properly for once.”
Snowdrop made no objection, and placed herself before the Old Woman to let her lace her with the new lace. But the Old Woman laced so quickly and tightly that she took away Snowdrop’s breath and she fell down as though dead.
“Now I am the fairest,” she said to herself, and hurried away.
Not long after the seven Dwarfs came home, and were horror-struck when they saw their dear little Snowdrop lying on the floor without stirring, like one dead. When they saw she was laced too tight they cut the lace, whereupon she began to breathe and soon came back to life again. When the Dwarfs heard what had happened, they said that the old Pedlar was no other than the wicked Queen. “Take care not to let any one in when we are not here,” they said.
Now the wicked Queen, as soon as she got home, went to the Glass and asked, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is fairest of us all?”
and it answered as usual, “Queen, thou art fairest here, I hold,
but Snowdrop over the fells, who with the seven Dwarfs dwells, is fairer still a thousandfold.”
When she heard it all her blood flew to her heart, so enraged was she, for she knew that Snowdrop had come back to life again. Then she thought to herself, “I must plan something which will put an end to her.” By means of witchcraft, in which she was skilled, she made a poisoned comb. Next she disguised herself and took the form of a different Old Woman. She crossed the mountains and came to the home of the seven Dwarfs, and knocked at the door calling out, “Good wares to sell.”
Snowdrop looked out of the window and said, “Go away, I must not let any one in.”
“At least you may look,” answered the Old Woman, and she took the poisoned comb and held it up.
The child was so pleased with it that she let herself be beguiled, and opened the door.
When she had made a bargain the Old Woman said, “Now I will comb your hair properly for once.”
Poor Snowdrop, suspecting no evil, let the Old Woman have her way, but scarcely was the poisoned comb fixed in her hair than the poison took effect, and the maiden fell down unconscious.
“You paragon of beauty,” said the wicked woman, “now it is all over with you,” and she went away.
Happily it was near the time when the seven Dwarfs came home. When they saw Snowdrop lying on the ground as though dead, they immediately suspected her stepmother, and searched till they found the poisoned comb. No sooner had they removed it than Snowdrop came to herself again and related what had happened. They warned her again to be on her guard, and to open the door to no one.
When she got home the Queen stood before her Glass and said, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is fairest of us all?”
and it answered as usual, “Queen, thou art fairest here, I hold,
but Snowdrop over the fells, who with the seven Dwarfs dwells, is fairer still a thousandfold.”
When she heard the Glass speak these words she trembled and quivered with rage. “Snowdrop shall die,” she said, “even if it cost me my own life.” Thereupon she went into a secret room, which no one ever entered but herself, and made a poisonous apple. Outwardly it was beautiful to look upon, with rosy cheeks, and every one who saw it longed for it, but whoever ate of it was certain to die. When the apple was ready she dyed her face and dressed herself like an old Peasant Woman and so crossed the seven hills to the Dwarfs’ home. There she knocked.
Snowdrop put her head out of the window and said, “I must not let any one in, the seven Dwarfs have forbidden me.”
“It is all the same to me,” said the Peasant Woman. “I shall soon get rid of my apples. There, I will give you one.”
“No; I must not take anything.”
“Are you afraid of poison?” said the woman. “See, I will cut the apple in half: you eat the red side and I will keep the other.”
Now the apple was so cunningly painted that the red half alone was poisoned. Snowdrop longed for the apple, and when she saw the Peasant Woman eating she could hold out no longer, stretched out her hand and took the poisoned half. Scarcely had she put a bit into her mouth than she fell dead to the ground.
The Queen looked with a fiendish glance, and laughed aloud and said, “White as snow, red as blood, and black as ebony, this time the Dwarfs cannot wake you up again.” And when she got home and asked the Looking-glass, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is fairest of us all?”
it answered at last, “Queen, thou’rt fairest of them all.”
Then her jealous heart was at rest, as much at rest as a jealous heart can be. The Dwarfs, when they came at evening, found Snowdrop lying on the ground and not a breath escaped her lips, and she was quite dead. They lifted her up and looked to see whether any poison was to be found, unlaced her dress, combed her hair, washed her with wine and water, but it was no use; their dear child was dead. They laid her on a bier, and all seven sat down and bewailed her and lamented over her for three whole days. Then they prepared to bury her, but she looked so fresh and living, and still had such beautiful rosy cheeks, that they said, “We cannot bury her in the dark earth.” And so they had a transparent glass coffin made, so that she could be seen from every side, laid her inside and wrote on it in letters of gold her name and how she was a King’s daughter. Then they set the coffin out on the mountain, and one of them always stayed by and watched it. And the birds came too and mourned for Snowdrop, first an owl, then a raven, and lastly a dove.
Now Snowdrop lay a long, long time in her coffin, looking as though she were asleep. It happened that a Prince was wandering in the wood, and came to the home of the seven Dwarfs to pass the night. He saw the coffin on the mountain and lovely Snowdrop inside, and read what was written in golden letters. Then he said to the Dwarfs, “Let me have the coffin; I will give you whatever you like for it.”
But they said, “We will not give it up for all the gold of the world.”
Then he said, “Then give it to me as a gift, for I cannot live without Snowdrop to gaze upon; and I will honor and reverence it as my dearest treasure.”
When he had said these words the good Dwarfs pitied him and gave him the coffin.
The Prince bade his servants carry it on their shoulders. Now it happened that they stumbled over some brushwood, and the shock dislodged the piece of apple from Snowdrop’s throat. In a short time she opened her eyes, lifted the lid of the coffin, sat up and came back to life again completely.
“O Heaven! where am I?” she asked.
The Prince, full of joy, said, “You are with me,” and he related what had happened, and then said, “I love you better than all the world; come with me to my father’s castle and be my wife.”
Snowdrop agreed and went with him, and their wedding was celebrated with great magnificence.
Snowdrop’s wicked stepmother was invited to the feast; and when she had put on her fine clothes she stepped to her Glass and asked, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is fairest of us all?”
The Glass answered, “Queen, thou art fairest here, I hold, the young Queen fairer a thousandfold.”
Then the wicked woman uttered a curse, and was so terribly frightened that she didn’t know what to do. Yet she had no rest: she felt obliged to go and see the young Queen. And when she came in she recognized Snowdrop, and stood stock still with fear and terror. But iron slippers were heated over the fire, and were soon brought in with tongs and put before her. And she had to step into the red-hot shoes and dance till she fell down dead.
Many, many years ago lived an emperor, who thought so much of new clothes that he spent all his money in order to obtain them; his only ambition was to be always well dressed. He did not care for his soldiers, and the theatre did not amuse him; the only thing, in fact, he thought anything of was to drive out and show a new suit of clothes. He had a coat for every hour of the day; and as one would say of a king “He is in his cabinet,” so one could say of him, “The emperor is in his dressing-room.”
The great city where he resided was very gay; every day many strangers from all parts of the globe arrived. One day two swindlers came to this city; they made people believe that they were weavers, and declared they could manufacture the finest cloth to be imagined. Their colours and patterns, they said, were not only exceptionally beautiful, but the clothes made of their material possessed the wonderful quality of being invisible to any man who was unfit for his office or unpardonably stupid.
“That must be wonderful cloth,” thought the emperor. “If I were to be dressed in a suit made of this cloth I should be able to find out which men in my empire were unfit for their places, and I could distinguish the clever from the stupid. I must have this cloth woven for me without delay.” And he gave a large sum of money to the swindlers, in advance, that they should set to work without any loss of time. They set up two looms, and pretended to be very hard at work, but they did nothing whatever on the looms. They asked for the finest silk and the most precious gold-cloth; all they got they did away with, and worked at the empty looms till late at night.
“I should very much like to know how they are getting on with the cloth,” thought the emperor. But he felt rather uneasy when he remembered that he who was not fit for his office could not see it. Personally, he was of opinion that he had nothing to fear, yet he thought it advisable to send somebody else first to see how matters stood. Everybody in the town knew what a remarkable quality the stuff possessed, and all were anxious to see how bad or stupid their neighbours were.
“I shall send my honest old minister to the weavers,” thought the emperor. “He can judge best how the stuff looks, for he is intelligent, and nobody understands his office better than he.”
The good old minister went into the room where the swindlers sat before the empty looms. “Heaven preserve us!” he thought, and opened his eyes wide, “I cannot see anything at all,” but he did not say so. Both swindlers requested him to come near, and asked him if he did not admire the exquisite pattern and the beautiful colours, pointing to the empty looms. The poor old minister tried his very best, but he could see nothing, for there was nothing to be seen. “Oh dear,” he thought, “can I be so stupid? I should never have thought so, and nobody must know it! Is it possible that I am not fit for my office? No, no, I cannot say that I was unable to see the cloth.”
“Now, have you got nothing to say?” said one of the swindlers, while he pretended to be busily weaving.
“Oh, it is very pretty, exceedingly beautiful,” replied the old minister looking through his glasses. “What a beautiful pattern, what brilliant colours! I shall tell the emperor that I like the cloth very much.”
“We are pleased to hear that,” said the two weavers, and described to him the colours and explained the curious pattern. The old minister listened attentively, that he might relate to the emperor what they said; and so he did.
Now the swindlers asked for more money, silk and gold-cloth, which they required for weaving. They kept everything for themselves, and not a thread came near the loom, but they continued, as hitherto, to work at the empty looms.
Soon afterwards the emperor sent another honest courtier to the weavers to see how they were getting on, and if the cloth was nearly finished. Like the old minister, he looked and looked but could see nothing, as there was nothing to be seen.
“Is it not a beautiful piece of cloth?” asked the two swindlers, showing and explaining the magnificent pattern, which, however, did not exist.
“I am not stupid,” said the man. “It is therefore my good appointment for which I am not fit. It is very strange, but I must not let any one know it;” and he praised the cloth, which he did not see, and expressed his joy at the beautiful colours and the fine pattern. “It is very excellent,” he said to the emperor.
Everybody in the whole town talked about the precious cloth. At last the emperor wished to see it himself, while it was still on the loom. With a number of courtiers, including the two who had already been there, he went to the two clever swindlers, who now worked as hard as they could, but without using any thread.
“Is it not magnificent?” said the two old statesmen who had been there before. “Your Majesty must admire the colours and the pattern.” And then they pointed to the empty looms, for they imagined the others could see the cloth.
“What is this?” thought the emperor, “I do not see anything at all. That is terrible! Am I stupid? Am I unfit to be emperor? That would indeed be the most dreadful thing that could happen to me.”
“Really,” he said, turning to the weavers, “your cloth has our most gracious approval;” and nodding contentedly he looked at the empty loom, for he did not like to say that he saw nothing. All his attendants, who were with him, looked and looked, and although they could not see anything more than the others, they said, like the emperor, “It is very beautiful.” And all advised him to wear the new magnificent clothes at a great procession which was soon to take place. “It is magnificent, beautiful, excellent,” one heard them say; everybody seemed to be delighted, and the emperor appointed the two swindlers “Imperial Court weavers.”
The whole night previous to the day on which the procession was to take place, the swindlers pretended to work, and burned more than sixteen candles. People should see that they were busy to finish the emperor’s new suit. They pretended to take the cloth from the loom, and worked about in the air with big scissors, and sewed with needles without thread, and said at last: “The emperor’s new suit is ready now.”
The emperor and all his barons then came to the hall; the swindlers held their arms up as if they held something in their hands and said: “These are the trousers!” “This is the coat!” and “Here is the cloak!” and so on. “They are all as light as a cobweb, and one must feel as if one had nothing at all upon the body; but that is just the beauty of them.”
“Indeed!” said all the courtiers; but they could not see anything, for there was nothing to be seen.
“Does it please your Majesty now to graciously undress,” said the swindlers, “that we may assist your Majesty in putting on the new suit before the large looking-glass?”
The emperor undressed, and the swindlers pretended to put the new suit upon him, one piece after another; and the emperor looked at himself in the glass from every side.
“How well they look! How well they fit!” said all. “What a beautiful pattern! What fine colours! That is a magnificent suit of clothes!”
The master of the ceremonies announced that the bearers of the canopy, which was to be carried in the procession, were ready.
“I am ready,” said the emperor. “Does not my suit fit me marvellously?” Then he turned once more to the looking-glass, that people should think he admired his garments.
The chamberlains, who were to carry the train, stretched their hands to the ground as if they lifted up a train, and pretended to hold something in their hands; they did not like people to know that they could not see anything.
The emperor marched in the procession under the beautiful canopy, and all who saw him in the street and out of the windows exclaimed: “Indeed, the emperor’s new suit is incomparable! What a long train he has! How well it fits him!” Nobody wished to let others know he saw nothing, for then he would have been unfit for his office or too stupid. Never emperor’s clothes were more admired.
“But he has nothing on at all,” said a little child at last. “Good heavens! listen to the voice of an innocent child,” said the father, and one whispered to the other what the child had said. “But he has nothing on at all,” cried at last the whole people. That made a deep impression upon the emperor, for it seemed to him that they were right; but he thought to himself, “Now I must bear up to the end.” And the chamberlains walked with still greater dignity, as if they carried the train which did not exist.
St. George and the Dragon
C. S. B. Adapted from the English legend.
Once upon a time, when it was long, long ago, there was a good king, and he had a little daughter, Sabra, whom he loved better than his fields, or his gold, or anything which he had. For little Sabra was as fair as a lily, as sweet as a rose, and as kind and true as she was sweet.
But one day a terrible thing happened to the king. Down from the mountains, and straight through the gates of the city, came a ravening dragon! It was black and horrible to look at, with eyes like two red coals and a mouth that breathed out fire. Its jaws were wide open, its claws were sharp, and it was as tall and huge as a forest tree.
Through the king’s fields it raged and it tore up, by the roots, the harvest of barley and rye and wheat. It killed the cattle and uprooted the grape vines; nor did it stop with the fields—it lay in wait by the river bank in the tall reeds, and no one in the whole kingdom was brave enough to kill it.
The king sent his nobles to beg the dragon to leave, but, no, it would not; and this is the message the dragon sent to the king: Each morning the king must send one of the fairest little girls in the whole king-  dom and fasten her to an old oak tree by the bank of the river, for the dragon to devour at his pleasure. Unless the king did this, the farmers should not be allowed to go back to the fields, and there would be no food in the land.
There was great grief in the kingdom. Each mother held her little girl more closely, lest she should be the first one to go, and there were great hunger and distress, for no one could plant or harvest the crops. But little Sabra still laughed and sang as joyously as ever.
“Father, dear,” she cried, “let me be the first little girl to go. I know if the dragon has your little princess he will ask for no other child. I will go in their stead, father.”
Then the people came crowding to the palace gates, begging the king not to send Sabra, for they all loved her as well as their own little ones, but still Sabra said: “I will go to the dragon.”
At last, the king’s high priest said: “We will bring a mother pigeon into the palace yard, and set her free. If she flies north, or south, or west, Sabra shall not be given to the dragon. If she flies toward the east and the sunrise Sabra shall go.”
So they took a brooding pigeon from her nest, and set her free in the courtyard. She spread her white wings and circled about in the air, and then flew straight to the east! Poor, sweet little Sabra! They carried her out to the river bank and fastened her to the oak tree where the dragon could find her, that so she might save the other little girls. Then they went sorrowfully back to the city again.
But the pigeon flew on and on, through field and forest, until she came to a brave knight riding through the woods. The knight was tired, and his good horse, also, for they had been in a far country and had fought many brave battles. He had stopped to rest under a tree, that his horse might drink at the spring—but, as he rested, the mother pigeon flew straight to his shoulder and began cooing softly in his ear.
“I wonder what she means,” said the knight to himself, as the pigeon flew off a little way and then returned, cooing. At last he jumped upon his horse and followed the way the pigeon led.
Straight through field and forest the pigeon flew, until she brought the knight to the place where the Princess Sabra was fastened to the oak tree and the dragon close by ready to devour her. The dragon’s breath was so hot that it burned the knight, and the smoke from its nostrils blinded his eyes, but he was brave and strong. He made a huge ball of the sticky pitch of the pine tree; he thrust the end of his spear through it, and he rode straight toward the dragon’s angry jaws.
The dragon reached out its sharp claws for the knight, but he hurled the ball of pitch down its throat and it was not able to open its mouth again or use its poisonous fangs. Then the knight killed the dragon with his spear, and he unfastened the little princess. He lifted her to his saddle and carried her home to her father once more.
Oh, there was great rejoicing in the kingdom! The people crowded the streets and strewed flowers all the way for the knight to ride over. The old king held little Sabra close to his heart, and she put her arms about his neck and kissed him again and again. And the king said the knight should be called St. George, and he gave him a wonderful gold cross to wear upon his breast.
It was so many, many years ago that St. George killed the dragon, but still the people in England remember him, and the English soldier who is the bravest may wear a tiny cross like St. George’s upon his breast.
Well, once upon a time a Coyote and his family lived near the edge of a wood. There was a big hollow tree there, and in it lived an old Woodpecker and his wife and children. One day as the Coyote-father was strolling along the edge of the forest he met the Woodpecker-father.
“Hin-no-kah-kée-ma” (Good evening), said the Coyote; how do you do to-day, friend Hloo-rée-deh?”
“Very well, thank you; and how are you, friend Too-wháy-deh?”
So they stopped and talked together awhile; and when they were about to go apart the Coyote said:
“Friend Woodpecker, why do you not come as friends to see us? Come to our house to supper this evening, and bring your family.”
“Thank you, friend Coyote,” said the Woodpecker; “we will come with joy.”
So that evening, when the Coyote-mother had made supper ready, there came the Woodpecker-father and the Woodpecker-mother with their three children. When they had come in, all five of the Woodpeckers stretched themselves as they do after flying, and by that showed their pretty feathers–for the Hloo-rée-deh has yellow and red marks under its wings. While, they were eating supper, too, they sometimes spread their
wings, and displayed their bright under-side. They praised the supper highly, and said the Coyote-mother was a perfect housekeeper. When it was time to go, they thanked the Coyotes very kindly and invited them to come to supper at their house the following evening. But when they were gone, the Coyote-father could hold himself no longer, and he said:
“Did you see what airs those Woodpeckers put on? Always showing off their bright feathers? But I want them to know that the Coyotes are equal to them. I’ll show them!”
Next day, the Coyote-father had all his family at work bringing wood, and built a great fire in front of his house. When it was time to go to the house of the Woodpeckers he called his wife and children to the fire, and lashed a burning stick under each of their arms, with the burning end pointing forward; and then he fixed himself in the same way.
“Now,” said he, “we will show them! When we get there, you must lift up your arms now and then, to show them that we are as good as the Woodpeckers.”
When they came to the house of the Woodpeckers and went in, all the Coyotes kept lifting their arms often, to show the bright coals underneath. But as they sat down to supper, one Coyote-girl gave a shriek and said:
“Oh, tata! My fire is burning me!”
“Be patient, my daughter,” said the Coyote-father, severely, “and do not cry about little things.”
“Ow!” cried the other Coyote-girl in a moment, “my fire has gone out!”
This was more than the Coyote-father could stand, and he reproved her angrily.
“But how is it, friend Coyote,” said the Wood pecker, politely, “that your colors are so bright at first, but very soon become black?”
“Oh, that is the beauty of our colors,” replied the Coyote, smothering his rage; “that they are not always the same–like other people’s–but turn all shades.”
But the Coyotes were very uncomfortable, and made an excuse to hurry home as soon as they could. When they got there, the Coyote-father whipped them all for exposing him to be laughed at. But the Woodpecker-father gathered his children around him, and said:
“Now, my children, you see what the Coyotes have done. Never in your life try to appear what you are not. Be just what you really are, and put on no false colors.”
retold by Charles Lummis
This is a collection of stories from the Isleta Pueblo people of New Mexico. Charles Lummis [1859-1928] was a pioneering writer, photographer, amateur anthropologist and adventurer
Lummis moved to New Mexico, where he embedded himself in Pueblo culture and collected the stories originally published as The Man Who Married the Moon in 1894
The Story of the Lightning and the Thunder
by Elphinstone Darrell (1910)
IN the olden days the thunder and lightning lived on the earth amongst all the other people, but the king made them live at the far end of the town, as far as possible from other people’s houses.
The thunder was an old mother sheep, and the lightning was her son, a ram. Whenever the ram got angry he used to go about and burn houses and knock down trees; he even did damage on the farms, and sometimes killed people. Whenever the lightning did these things, his mother used to call out to him in a very loud voice to stop and not to do any more damage; but the lightning did not care in the least for what his mother said, and when he was in a bad temper used to do a very large amount of damage. At last the people could not stand it any longer, and complained to the king.
So the king made a special order that the sheep (Thunder) and her son, the ram (Lightning), should leave the town and live in the far bush. This did not do much good, as when the ram got angry he still burnt the forest, and the flames sometimes spread to the farms and consumed them.
So the people complained again, and the king banished both the lightning and the thunder from the earth and made them live in the sky, where they could not cause so much destruction. Ever since, when the lightning is angry, he commits damage as before, but you can hear his mother, the thunder, rebuking him and telling him to stop. Sometimes, however, when the mother has gone away some distance from her naughty son, you can still see that he is angry and is doing damage, but his mother’s voice cannot be heard.
The Dance for Water (aka Rabbit’s Triumph)
Retold by James A. Honeÿ (1910)
There was a frightful drought. The rivers after a while dried tip and even the springs gave no water.
The animals wandered around seeking drink, but to no avail. Nowhere was water to be found.
A great gathering of animals was held: Lion, Tiger, Wolf, Jackal, Elephant, all of them came together. What was to be done? That was the question. One had this plan, and another had that; but no plan seemed of value.
Finally one of them suggested: “Come, let all of us go to the dry river bed and dance; in that way we can tread out the water.”
Good! Everyone was satisfied and ready to begin instantly, excepting Rabbit, who said, “I will not go and dance. All of you are mad to attempt to get water from the ground by dancing.”
The other animals danced and danced, and ultimately danced the water to the surface. How glad they were. Everyone drank as much as he could, but Rabbit did not dance with them. So it was decided that Rabbit should have no water.
He laughed at them: “I will nevertheless drink some of your water.”
That evening he proceeded leisurely to the river bed where the dance had been, and drank as much as he wanted. The following morning the animals saw the footprints of Rabbit in the ground, and Rabbit shouted to them: “Aha! I did have some of the water, and it was most refreshing and tasted fine.”
Quickly all the animals were called together. What were they to do? How were they to get Rabbit in their hands? All had some means to propose; the one suggested this, and the other that.
Finally old Tortoise moved slowly forward, foot by foot: “I will catch Rabbit.”
“You? How? What do you think of yourself?” shouted the others in unison.
“Rub my shell with pitch, and I will go to the edge of the water and lie down. I will then resemble a stone, so that when Rabbit steps on me his feet will stick fast.”
“Yes! Yes! That’s good.”
And in a one, two, three, Tortoise’s shell was covered with pitch, and foot by foot he moved away to the river. At the edge, close to the water, he lay down and drew his head into his shell.
Rabbit during the evening came to get a drink. “Ha!” he chuckled sarcastically,” they are, after all, quite decent. Here they have placed a stone, so now I need not unnecessarily wet my feet.”
Rabbit trod with his left foot on the stone, and there it stuck. Tortoise then put his head out. “Ha! old Tortoise! And it’s you, is it, that’s holding me. But here I still have another foot. I’ll give you a good clout.” Rabbit gave Tortoise what he said he would with his right fore foot, hard and straight; and there his foot remained.
[1. Black beeswax.]
“I have yet a hind foot, and with it I’ll kick you.” Rabbit drove his bind foot down. This also rested on Tortoise where it struck.
“But still another foot remains, and now I’ll tread you.” He stamped his foot down, but it stuck like the others.
He used his head to hammer Tortoise, and his tail as a whip, but both met the same fate as his feet, so there he was tight and fast down to the pitch.
Tortoise now slowly turned himself round and foot by foot started for the other animals, with Rabbit on his back.
“Ha! ha! ha! Rabbit! How does it look now? Insolence does not pay after all,” shouted the animals.
Now advice was sought. What should they do with Rabbit? He certainly must die. But how? One said, “Behead him”; another, “Some severe penalty.”
“Rabbit, how are we to kill you?”
“It does not affect me,” Rabbit said. “Only a shameful death please do not pronounce.”
“And what is that?” they all shouted.
“To take me by my tail and dash my head against a stone; that I pray and beseech you don’t do.”
“No, but just so you’ll die. That is decided.”
It was decided Rabbit should die by taking him by his tail and dashing his head to pieces against some stone. But who is to do it?
Lion, because he is the most powerful one.
Good! Lion should do it. He stood up, walked to the front, and poor Rabbit was brought to him. Rabbit pleaded and beseeched that he couldn’t die such a miserable death.
Lion took Rabbit firmly by the tail and swung him around. The white skin slipped off from Rabbit, and there Lion stood with the white bit of skin and hair in his paw. Rabbit was free.
THE WHITE MAN AND SNAKE
Retold by James A. Honeÿ, (1910)
A WHITE MAN, it is said, met Snake upon whom a large stone had fallen and covered her so that she could not rise. The White Man lifted the stone off Snake, but when he had done so, she wanted to bite him. The White Man said, ” Stop! let us both go first to some wise people.” They went to Hyena, and the White Man asked him, “Is it right that Snake should want to bite me, when I helped her as she lay under a stone and could not rise?”
Hyena (who thought he would get his share of the White Man’s body) said, “If you were bitten what would it matter?”
Then Snake wanted to bite him, but the White Man said again, “Wait a little, and let us go to other wise people, that I may hear whether this is right.”
They went and met Jackal. The White Man said to Jackal, “Is it right for Snake to want to bite me, when I lifted up the stone which lay upon her?”
Jackal replied, “I do not believe that Snake could be covered by a stone so she could not rise. Unless I saw it with my two eyes, I would not believe it. Therefore, come let us go and see the place where you say it happened whether it can be true.”
They went, and arrived at the place where it had happened. Jackal said, “Snake, lie down, and let thyself be covered.”
Snake did so, and the White Man covered her with the stone; but although she exerted herself very much, she could not rise. Then the White Man wanted again to release Snake, but Jackal interfered, and said, “Do not lift the stone. She wanted to bite you, therefore she may rise by herself.”
Then they both went away and left Snake under the stone.
HUNGER and want forced Monkey one day to forsake his land and to seek elsewhere among strangers for much-needed work. Bulbs, earth beans, scorpions, insects, and such things were completely exhausted in his own land. But fortunately he received, for the time being, shelter with a great uncle of his, Orang Outang, who lived in another part of the country.
When he had worked for quite a while he wanted to return home, and as recompense his great uncle gave him a fiddle and a bow and arrow and told him that with the bow and arrow he could hit and kill anything he desired, and with the fiddle he could force anything to dance.
The first he met upon his return to his own land was Brer Wolf. This old fellow told him all the news and also that he had since early morning been attempting to stalk a deer, but all in vain.
Then Monkey laid before him all the wonders of the bow and arrow that he carried on his back and assured him if he could but see the deer he would bring it down for him. When Wolf showed him the deer, Monkey was ready and down fell the deer.
They made a good meal together, but instead of Wolf being thankful, jealousy overmastered him and he begged for the bow and arrow. When Monkey refused to give it to him, he thereupon began to threaten him with his greater strength, and so when Jackal passed by, Wolf told him that Monkey had stolen his bow and arrow. After Jackal had heard both of them, he declared himself unqualified to settle the case alone, and he proposed that they bring the matter to the court of Lion, Tiger, and the other animals. In the meantime he declared he would take possession of what had been the cause of their quarrel, so that it would be safe, as he said. But he immediately brought to earth all that was eatable, so there was a long time of slaughter before Monkey and Wolf agreed to have the affair in court.
Monkey’s evidence was weak, and to make it worse, Jackal’s testimony was against him. Jackal thought that in this way it would be easier to obtain the bow and arrow from Wolf for himself.
And so fell the sentence against Monkey. Theft was looked upon as a great wrong; he must hang.
The fiddle was still at his side, and he received as a last favor from the court the right to play a tune on it.
He was a master player of his time, and in addition to this came the wonderful power of his charmed fiddle. Thus, when he struck the first note of “Cockcrow” upon it, the court began at once to show an unusual and spontaneous liveliness, and before he came to the first waltzing turn of the old tune the whole court was dancing like a whirlwind.
Over and over, quicker and quicker, sounded the tune of “Cockcrow” on the charmed fiddle, until some of the dancers, exhausted, fell down, although still keeping their feet in motion. But Monkey, musician as he was, heard and saw nothing of what had happened around him. With his head placed lovingly against the instrument, and his eyes half closed, he played on, keeping time ever with his foot.
Wolf was the first to cry out in pleading tones breathlessly, “Please stop, Cousin Monkey! For love’s sake, please stop!”
But Monkey did not even hear him. Over and over sounded the resistless waltz of “Cockcrow.”
After a while Lion showed signs of fatigue, and when he had gone the round once more with his young lion wife, he growled as he passed Monkey, “My whole kingdom is yours, ape, if you just stop playing.”
“I do not want it,” answered Monkey, “but withdraw the sentence and give me my bow and arrow, and you, Wolf, acknowledge that you stole it from me.”
“I acknowledge, I acknowledge!” cried Wolf, while Lion cried, at the same instant, that he withdrew the sentence.
Monkey gave them just a few more turns of the “Cockcrow,” gathered up his bow and arrow, and seated himself high up in the nearest camel thorn tree.
The court and other animals were so afraid that he might begin again that they hastily disbanded to new parts of the world.
The Wise Woman
Tibetan Folk Tale
Retold by A.L. Shelton (1925)
Either going up or down a ladder it is an evil thing if you are pushed.
A LONG, long time ago there were two countries adjoining each other and one was a little smaller than the other. The king of the farther and bigger country was named Gezongongdu, and the king of the smaller country was named Drashi. The king of the larger country thought he would like to make the smaller country subject to himself. “But first,” he said, “I want to see if their king is very wily and wise. If he isn’t I can conquer him; but if he is, I shall not attempt it.”
He took a mare and a colt that were exactly alike in color and size and asked the king to decide which was mare and which was colt. The head-men came first and looked and looked and couldn’t tell at all. One of them went home and told his wife and she said, “That’s easy, I’ll tell you how to do it. You make a manger and put some grass in it for them. The mother will keep pushing the food over toward the colt.” Sure enough it happened as she said it would, so they were able to answer the king’s first riddle.
The next day the king sent a stick shaped the same at both ends and asked them to tell which was the top and which the root. The men all came and looked and looked again, but couldn’t tell. The same head-man told his wife and she said, “That’s easy, throw it into the water and the head will go down stream first and the root will come last.” They did so and the problem was solved for the king that day.
Then the king of the larger country sent over two snakes, male and female, and none of the wise men could tell them apart. The head-man again went to his wife and she said, “That’s easy, take a piece of silk and place it near them, the female will think it is nice and soft and she will lie down on it, curl up and go to sleep; but the male will run away and refuse to sleep.” They did that and it all came true just as she said.
So the king of the big country decided he didn’t want to fight the king of the small country, for he was too smart. But the little king knew he had been saved from war and called up his head-man and asked him how he had got all these things right when everybody else had failed. He answered that he didn’t know anything about these things, it was his wife. So the king called the head-man’s wife and gave her many gifts and made her husband chief head-man of his kingdom.
THE LIGHT OF THE FLY
Retold by John Maurice Miller (1904)
The King of the Air was in terrible rage,
For some one had stolen his ring;
And every one wondered whoever could dare
To do such a terrible thing.
He called all his subjects together and said,
“To him that shall find it I’ll give
Whatever he asks, and this bounty of mine
Shall last while his family live.”
Away went his good loyal subjects to search,
And no one remained but a fly.
“Be off!” said the King, “go and join in the search;
Would you slight such a ruler as I?”
Then up spoke the fly with his little wee voice:
“The ring is not stolen,” he said.
“It stuck to your crown when you put it away,
And now it’s on top of your head.”
The King in surprise took the crown from his head,
And there, sure enough, was the ring.
“No wonder you saw it, with so many eyes;
But what is your wish?” said the King.
“O King,” said the fly, “I work hard all the day,
And I never can go out at night.
I should like to go then and be gay with my friends,
So all that I wish is a light.”
“You shall have it at once,” said the gratified King,
And he fastened a light to the fly,
Who straightway returned to his home with the prize
That was worth more than money could buy.
So now you can see him at night with his light
And from him this lesson may learn:
To keep your eyes open and see the least thing,
And Fortune will come in its turn.
The Passing of Loku
Retold by John Maurice Miller (1904)
The tale of Loku is applied to a large, ugly lizard which climbs to the rafters of houses and gives the peculiar cry that suggests its name. This lizard, although hideous, is harmless; it lives on centipedes. Its strange cry may be heard everywhere in the Philippine Islands.
Hundreds of years ago a very wicked king named Loku ruled the Philippines. He was cruel and unjust, and condemned to death all who refused to do his bidding. He had vast armies and made war on all until his name was feared everywhere.
His power was very great. He conquered every nation that opposed him and killed so many people that the god, viewing the slaughter from his throne above, sent an angel to order him to cease from warfare and to rule the land in peace.
Loku was in his palace, planning an assault on his neighbors, when a soft light filled the chamber, and a beautiful angel appeared and delivered the mandate of the master.
The cruel king paid no heed, but dismissed the holy messenger in scorn. “Tell your master,” said he, “to deliver his message in person. I do not deal with messengers. I am Loku. All fear my name. I am the great Loku.”
Hardly had he spoken when the palace shook to its foundations and a mighty voice thundered, “Is it thus thou Slightest my word? Thou art Loku. All shall indeed know thy name. From every crevice thou shalt forever cry it in a form that suits thy ill nature.”
The courtiers, alarmed by the shock, rushed to the king’s chamber, but Loku was nowhere to be found. The royal robes lay scattered on the floor and the only living thing to be seen was an ugly lizard that blinked at them from among the plans on the table.
They searched far and wide, and when no trace of the king could be found the courtiers divided the kingdom and ruled so wisely and well that there was peace for many years.
As for Loku, you may still hear him fulfilling his punishment. From crack and crevice, tree and shrub, he calls his name from dark till dawn: “Lok-u! Lok-u! Lok-u!”