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Russian Fairy Tales - A Choice Collection of Muscovite Folk-lore
by W. R. S. Ralston
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"No matter, come! there will be room even for you."

"Very well, brother! I'll come."

The poor man returned home, gave his wife the loaf, and said:

"Listen, wife! we're invited to a party to-morrow."

"What do you mean by a party? who's invited us?"

"My brother! he keeps his name-day to-morrow."

"Well, well! let's go."

Next day they got up and went to the town, came to the rich man's house, offered him their congratulations, and sat down on a bench. A number of the name-day guests were already seated at table. All of these the host feasted gloriously, but he forgot even so much as to think of his poor brother and his wife; not a thing did he offer them; they had to sit and merely look on at the others eating and drinking.

The dinner came to an end; the guests rose from table, and expressed their thanks to their host and hostess; and the poor man did likewise, got up from his bench, and bowed down to his girdle before his brother. The guests drove off homewards, full of drink and merriment, shouting, singing songs. But the poor man had to walk back empty.

"Suppose we sing a song, too," he says to his wife.

"What a fool you are!" says she, "people sing because they've made a good meal and had lots to drink; but why ever should you dream of singing?"

"Well, at all events, I've been at my brother's name-day party. I'm ashamed of trudging along without singing. If I sing, everybody will think I've been feasted like the rest."

"Sing away, then, if you like; but I won't!"

The peasant began a song. Presently he heard a voice joining in it. So he stopped, and asked his wife:

"Is it you that's helping me to sing with that thin little voice?"

"What are you thinking about! I never even dreamt of such a thing."

"Who is it, then?"

"I don't know," said the woman. "But now, sing away, and I'll listen."

He began his song again. There was only one person singing, yet two voices could be heard. So he stopped, and asked:

"Woe, is that you that's helping me to sing?"

"Yes, master," answered Woe: "it's I that's helping you."

"Well then, Woe! let's all go on together."

"Very good, master! I'll never depart from you now."

When the peasant got home, Woe bid him to the kabak or pot-house.

"I've no money," says the man.

"Out upon you, moujik! What do you want money for? why you've got on a sheep-skin jacket. What's the good of that? It will soon be summer; anyhow you won't be wanting to wear it. Off with the jacket, and to the pot-house we'll go."

So the peasant went with Woe into the pot-house, and they drank the sheep-skin away.

The next day Woe began groaning—its head ached from yesterday's drinking—and again bade the master of the house have a drink.

"I've no money," said the peasant.

"What do we want money for? Take the cart and the sledge; we've plenty without them."

There was nothing to be done; the peasant could not shake himself free from Woe. So he took the cart and the sledge, dragged them to the pot-house, and there he and Woe drank them away. Next morning Woe began groaning more than ever, and invited the master of the house to go and drink off the effects of the debauch. This time the peasant drank away his plough and his harrow.

A month hadn't passed before he had got rid of everything he possessed. Even his very cottage he pledged to a neighbor, and the money he got that way he took to the pot-house.

Yet another time did Woe come close beside him and say:

"Let us go, let us go to the pot-house!"

"No, no, Woe! it's all very well, but there's nothing more to be squeezed out."

"How can you say that? Your wife has got two petticoats: leave her one, but the other we must turn into drink."

The peasant took the petticoat, drank it away, and said to himself:

"We're cleaned out at last, my wife as well as myself. Not a stick nor a stone is left!"

Next morning Woe saw, on waking, that there was nothing more to be got out of the peasant, so it said:

"Master!"

"Well, Woe?"

"Why, look here. Go to your neighbor, and ask him to lend you a cart and a pair of oxen."

The peasant went to the neighbor's.

"Be so good as to lend me a cart and a pair of oxen for a short time," says he. "I'll do a week's work for you in return."

"But what do you want them for?"

"To go to the forest for firewood."

"Well then, take them; only don't overburthen them."

"How could you think of such a thing, kind friend!"

So he brought the pair of oxen, and Woe got into the cart with him, and away he drove into the open plain.

"Master!" asks Woe, "do you know the big stone on this plain?"

"Of course I do."

"Well then if you know it, drive straight up to it."

They came to the place where it was, stopped, and got out of the cart. Woe told the peasant to lift the stone; the peasant lifted it, Woe helping him. Well, when they had lifted it there was a pit underneath chock full of gold.

"Now then, what are you staring at!" said Woe to the peasant, "be quick and pitch it into the cart."

The peasant set to work and filled the cart with gold; cleared the pit to the very last ducat. When he saw there was nothing more left:

"Just give a look, Woe," he said; "isn't there some money left in there?"

"Where?" said Woe, bending down; "I can't see a thing."

"Why there; something is shining in yon corner!"

"No, I can't see anything," said Woe.

"Get into the pit; you'll see it then."

Woe jumped in: no sooner had it got there than the peasant closed the mouth of the pit with the stone.

"Things will be much better like that," said the peasant: "if I were to take you home with me, O Woeful Woe, sooner or later you'd be sure to drink away all this money, too!"

The peasant got home, shovelled the money into his cellar, took the oxen back to his neighbor, and set about considering how he should manage. It ended in his buying a wood, building a large homestead, and becoming twice as rich as his brother.

After a time he went into the town to invite his brother and sister-in-law to spend his name-day with him.

"What an idea!" said his rich brother: "you haven't a thing to eat, and yet you ask people to spend your name-day with you!"

"Well, there was a time when I had nothing to eat, but now, thank God! I've as much as you. If you come, you'll see for yourself."

"So be it! I'll come," said his brother.

Next day the rich brother and his wife got ready, and went to the name-day party. They could see that the former beggar had got a new house, a lofty one, such as few merchants had! And the moujik treated them hospitably, regaled them with all sorts of dishes, gave them all sorts of meads and spirits to drink. At length the rich man asked his brother:

"Do tell me by what good luck have you grown rich?"

The peasant made a clean breast of everything—how Woe the Woeful had attached itself to him, how he and Woe had drunk away all that he had, to the very last thread, so that the only thing that was left him was the soul in his body. How Woe showed him a treasure in the open field, how he took that treasure, and freed himself from Woe into the bargain. The rich man became envious.

"Suppose I go to the open field," thinks he, "and lift up the stone and let Woe out. Of a surety it will utterly destroy my brother, and then he will no longer brag of his riches before me!"

So he sent his wife home, but he himself hastened into the plain. When he came to the big stone, he pushed it aside, and knelt down to see what was under it. Before he had managed to get his head down low enough, Woe had already leapt out and seated itself on his shoulders.

"Ha!" it cried, "you wanted to starve me to death in here! No, no! Now will I never on any account depart from you."

"Only hear me, Woe!" said the merchant: "it wasn't I at all who put you under the stone."

"Who was it then, if it wasn't you?"

"It was my brother put you there, but I came on purpose to let you out."

"No, no! that's a lie. You tricked me once; you shan't trick me a second time!"

Woe gripped the rich merchant tight by the neck; the man had to carry it home, and there everything began to go wrong with him. From the very first day Woe began again to play its usual part, every day it called on the merchant to renew his drinking.[234] Many were the valuables which went in the pot-house.

"Impossible to go on living like this!" says the merchant to himself. "Surely I've made sport enough for Woe! It's time to get rid of it—but how?"

He thought and thought, and hit on an idea. Going into the large yard, he cut two oaken wedges, took a new wheel, and drove a wedge firmly into one end of its axle-box. Then he went to where Woe was:

"Hallo, Woe! why are you always idly sprawling there?"

"Why, what is there left for me to do?"

"What is there to do! let's go into the yard and play at hide-and-seek."

Woe liked the idea. Out they went into the yard. First the merchant hid himself; Woe found him immediately. Then it was Woe's turn to hide.

"Now then," says Woe, "you won't find me in a hurry! There isn't a chink I can't get into!"

"Get along with you!" answered the merchant. "Why you couldn't creep into that wheel there, and yet you talk about chinks!"

"I can't creep into that wheel? See if I don't go clean out of sight in it!"

Woe slipped into the wheel; the merchant caught up the oaken wedge, and drove it into the axle-box from the other side. Then he seized the wheel and flung it, with Woe in it, into the river. Woe was drowned, and the merchant began to live again as he had been wont to do of old.

In a variant of this story found in the Tula Government we have, in the place of woe, Nuzhda, or Need. The poor brother and his wife are returning home disconsolately from a party given by the rich brother in honor of his son's marriage. But a draught of water which they take by the way gets into their heads, and they set up a song.

"There are two of them singing (says the story), but three voices prolong the strain.

"'Whoever is that?' say they.

"'Thy Need,' answers some one or other.

"'What, my good mother Need!'

"So saying the man laid hold of her, and took her down from his shoulders—for she was sitting on them. And he found a horse's head and put her inside it, and flung it into a swamp. And afterwards he began to lead a new life—impossible to live more prosperously."

Of course the rich brother becomes envious and takes Need out of the swamp, whereupon she clings to him so tightly that he cannot get rid of her, and he becomes utterly ruined.[235]

In another story, from the Viatka Government, the poor man is invited to a house-warming at his rich brother's, but he has no present to take with him.

"We might borrow, but who would trust us?" says he.

"Why there's Need!" replies his wife with a bitter laugh. "Perhaps she'll make us a present. Surely we've lived on friendly terms with her for an age!"

"Take the feast-day sarafan,"[236] cries Need from behind the stove; "and with the money you get for it buy a ham and take it to your brother's."

"Have you been living here long, Need?" asks the moujik.

"Yes, ever since you and your brother separated."

"And have you been comfortable here?"

"Thanks be to God, I get on tolerably!"

The moujik follows the advice of Need, but meets with a cold reception at his brother's. On returning sadly home he finds a horse standing by the road side, with a couple of bags slung across its back. He strikes it with his glove, and it disappears, leaving behind it the bags, which turn out to be full of gold. This he gathers up, and then goes indoors. After finding out from his wife where she has taken up her quarters for the night, he says:

"And where are you, Need?"

"In the pitcher which stands on the stove."

After a time the moujik asks his wife if she is asleep. "Not yet," she replies. Then he puts the same question to Need, who gives no answer, having gone to sleep. So he takes his wife's last sarafan, wraps up the pitcher in it, and flings the bundle into an ice-hole.[237]

In one of the "chap-book" stories (a lubochnaya skazka), a poor man "obtained a crust of bread and took it home to provide his wife and boy with a meal, but just as he was beginning to cut it, suddenly out from behind the stove jumped Kruchina,[238] snatched the crust from his hands, and fled back again behind the stove. Then the old man began to bow down before Kruchina and to beseech him[239] to give back the bread, seeing that he and his had nothing to eat. Thereupon Kruchina replied, "I will not give you back your crust, but in return for it I will make you a present of a duck which will lay a golden egg every day," and kept his word.[240]

In Little-Russia the peasantry believe in the existence of small beings, of vaguely defined form, called Zluidni who bring zlo or evil to every habitation in which they take up their quarters. "May the Zluidni strike him!" is a Little-Russian curse, and "The Zluidni have got leave for three days; not in three years will you get rid of them!" is a White-Russian proverb. In a Little-Russian skazka a poor man catches a fish and takes it as a present to his rich brother, who says, "A splendid fish! thank you, brother, thank you!" but evinces no other sign of gratitude. On his way home the poor man meets an old stranger and tells him his story—how he had taken his brother a fish and had got nothing in return but a "thank ye."

"How!" cries the old man. "A spasibo[241] is no small thing. Sell it to me!"

"How can one sell it?" replies the moujik. "Take it pray, as a present!"

"So the spasibo is mine!" says the old man, and disappears, leaving in the peasant's hands a purse full of gold.

The peasant grows rich, and moves into another house. After a time his wife says to him—

"We've been wrong, Ivan, in leaving our mill-stones in the old house. They nourished us, you see, when we were poor; but now, when they're no longer necessary to us, we've quite forgotten them!"

"Right you are," replies Ivan, and sets off to fetch them. When he reaches his old dwelling, he hears a voice saying—

"A bad fellow, that Ivan! now he's rich, he's abandoned us!"

"Who are you?" asks Ivan. "I don't know you a bit."

"Not know us! you've forgotten our faithful service, it seems! Why, we're your Zluidni!"

"God be with you!" says he. "I don't want you!"

"No, no! we will never part from you now!"

"Wait a bit!" thinks Ivan, and then continues aloud, "Very good, I'll take you; but only on condition that you bring home my mill-stones for me."

So he laid the mill-stones on their backs, and made them go on in front of him. They all had to pass along a bridge over a deep river; the moujik managed to give the Zluidni a shove, and over they went, mill-stones and all, and sank straight to the bottom.[242]

There is a very curious Servian story of two brothers, one of whom is industrious and unlucky, and the other idle and prosperous. The poor brother one day sees a flock of sheep, and near them a fair maiden spinning a golden thread.

"Whose sheep are these?" he asks.

"The sheep are his whose I myself am," she replies.

"And whose art thou?" he asks.

"I am thy brother's Luck," she answers.

"But where is my Luck?" he continues

"Far away from thee is thy Luck," she replies.

"But can I find her?" he asks.

"Thou canst; go and seek her," she replies.

So the poor man wanders away in search of her. One day he sees a grey-haired old woman asleep under an oak in a great forest, who proves to be his Luck. He asks who it is that has given him such a poor Luck, and is told that it is Fate. So he goes in search of Fate. When he finds her, she is living at ease in a large house, but day by day her riches wane and her house contracts. She explains to her visitor that her condition at any given hour affects the whole lives of all children born at that time, and that he had come into the world at a most unpropitious moment; and she advises him to take his niece Militsa (who had been born at a lucky time) to live in his house, and to call all he might acquire her property. This advice he follows, and all goes well with him. One day, as he is gazing at a splendid field of corn, a stranger asks him to whom it belongs. In a forgetful moment he replies, "It is mine," and immediately the whole crop begins to burn. He runs after the stranger and cries, "Stop, brother! that field isn't mine, but my niece Militsa's," whereupon the fire goes out and the crop is saved.[243]

On this idea of a personal Fortune is founded the quaint opening of one of the Russian stories. A certain peasant, known as Ivan the Unlucky, in despair at his constant want of success, goes to the king for advice. The king lays the matter before "his nobles and generals," but they can make nothing of it. At last the king's daughter enters the council chamber and says, "This is my opinion, my father. If he were to be married, the Lord might allot him another sort of Fortune." The king flies into a passion and exclaims:

"Since you've settled the question better than all of us, go and marry him yourself!"

The marriage takes place, and brings Ivan good luck along with it.[244]

Similar references to a man's good or bad luck frequently occur in the skazkas. Thus in one of them (from the Grodno Government) a poor man meets "two ladies (pannui), and those ladies are—the one Fortune and the other Misfortune."[245] He tells them how poor he is, and they agree that it will be well to bestow something on him. "Since he is one of yours," says Luck, "do you make him a present." At length they take out ten roubles and give them to him. He hides the money in a pot, and his wife gives it away to a neighbor. Again they assist him, giving him twenty roubles, and again his wife gives them away unwittingly. Then the ladies bestow on him two farthings (groshi), telling him to give them to fishermen, and bid them make a cast "for his luck." He obeys, and the result is the capture of a fish which brings him in wealth.[246]

In another story[247] a young man, the son of a wealthy merchant, is so unlucky that nothing will prosper with him. Having lost all that his father has left him, he hires himself out, first as a laborer, then as a herdsman. But as, in each capacity, he involves his masters in heavy losses, he soon finds himself without employment. Then he tries another country, in which the king gives him a post as a sort of stoker in the royal distillery, which he soon all but burns down. The king is at first bent upon punishing him, but pardons him after hearing his sad tale. "He bestowed on him the name of Luckless,[248] and gave orders that a stamp should be set on his forehead, that no tolls or taxes should be demanded from him, and that wherever he appeared he should be given free board and lodging, but that he should never be allowed to stop more than twenty-four hours in any one place." These orders are obeyed, and wherever Luckless goes, "nobody ever asks him for his billet or his passport, but they give him food to eat, and liquor to drink, and a place to spend the night in; and next morning they take him by the scruff of the neck and turn him out of doors."[249]

We will now turn from the forms under which popular fiction has embodied some of the ideas connected with Fortune and Misfortune, to another strange group of figures—the personifications of certain days of the week. Of these, by far the most important is that of Friday.

The Russian name for that day, Pyatnitsa,[250] has no such mythological significance as have our own Friday and the French Vendredi. But the day was undoubtedly consecrated by the old Slavonians to some goddess akin to Venus or Freyja, and her worship in ancient times accounts for the superstitions now connected with the name of Friday. According to Afanasief,[251] the Carinthian name for the day, Sibne dan, is a clear proof that it was once holy to Siva, the Lithuanian Seewa, the Slavonic goddess answering to Ceres. In Christian times the personality of the goddess (by whatever name she may have been known) to whom Friday was consecrated became merged in that of St. Prascovia, and she is now frequently addressed by the compound name of "Mother Pyatnitsa-Prascovia." As she is supposed to wander about the houses of the peasants on her holy day, and to be offended if she finds certain kinds of work going on, they are (or at least they used to be) frequently suspended on Fridays. It is a sin, says a time-honored tradition, for a woman to sew, or spin, or weave, or buck linen on a Friday, and similarly for a man to plait bast shoes, twine cord, and the like. Spinning and weaving are especially obnoxious to "Mother Friday," for the dust and refuse thus produced injure her eyes. When this takes place, she revenges herself by plagues of sore-eyes, whitlows and agnails. In some places the villagers go to bed early on Friday evening, believing that "St. Pyatinka" will punish all whom she finds awake when she roams through the cottage. In others they sweep their floors every Thursday evening, that she may not be annoyed by dust or the like when she comes next day. Sometimes, however, she has been seen, says the popular voice, "all pricked with the needles and pierced by the spindles" of the careless woman who sewed and spun on the day they ought to have kept holy in her honor. As for any work begun on a Friday, it is sure to go wrong.[252]

These remarks will be sufficient to render intelligible the following story of—

FRIDAY.[253]

There was once a certain woman who did not pay due reverence to Mother Friday, but set to work on a distaff-ful of flax, combing and whirling it. She span away till dinner-time, then suddenly sleep fell upon her—such a deep sleep! And when she had gone to sleep, suddenly the door opened and in came Mother Friday, before the eyes of all who were there, clad in a white dress, and in such a rage! And she went straight up to the woman who had been spinning, scooped up from the floor a handful of the dust that had fallen out of the flax, and began stuffing and stuffing that woman's eyes full of it! And when she had stuffed them full, she went off in a rage—disappeared without saying a word.

When the woman awoke, she began squalling at the top of her voice about her eyes, but couldn't tell what was the matter with them. The other women, who had been terribly frightened, began to cry out:

"Oh, you wretch, you! you've brought a terrible punishment on yourself from Mother Friday."

Then they told her all that had taken place. She listened to it all, and then began imploringly:

"Mother Friday, forgive me! pardon me, the guilty one! I'll offer thee a taper, and I'll never let friend or foe dishonor thee, Mother!"

Well, what do you think? During the night, back came Mother Friday and took the dust out of that woman's eyes, so that she was able to get about again. It's a great sin to dishonor Mother Friday—combing and spinning flax, forsooth!

Very similar to this story is that about Wednesday which follows. Wednesday, the day consecrated to Odin, the eve of the day sacred to the Thundergod,[254] may also have been held holy by the heathen Slavonians, but to some commentators it appears more likely that the traditions now attached to it in Russia became transferred to it from Friday in Christian times—Wednesday and Friday having been associated by the Church as days sacred to the memory of Our Lord's passion and death. The Russian name for the day, Sereda or Sreda, means "the middle," Wednesday being the middle of the working week.

WEDNESDAY.[255]

A young housewife was spinning late one evening. It was during the night between a Tuesday and a Wednesday. She had been left alone for a long time, and after midnight, when the first cock crew, she began to think about going to bed, only she would have liked to finish spinning what she had in hand. "Well," thinks she, "I'll get up a bit earlier in the morning, but just now I want to go to sleep." So she laid down her hatchel—but without crossing herself—and said:

"Now then, Mother Wednesday, lend me thy aid, that I may get up early in the morning and finish my spinning." And then she went to sleep.

Well, very early in the morning, long before it was light, she heard some one moving, bustling about the room. She opened her eyes and looked. The room was lighted up. A splinter of fir was burning in the cresset, and the fire was lighted in the stove. A woman, no longer young, wearing a white towel by way of head-dress, was moving about the cottage, going to and fro, supplying the stove with firewood, getting everything ready. Presently she came up to the young woman, and roused her, saying, "Get up!" The young woman got up, full of wonder, saying:

"But who art thou? What hast thou come here for?"

"I am she on whom thou didst call. I have come to thy aid."

"But who art thou? On whom did I call?"

"I am Wednesday. On Wednesday surely thou didst call. See, I have spun thy linen and woven thy web: now let us bleach it and set it in the oven. The oven is heated and the irons are ready; do thou go down to the brook and draw water."

The woman was frightened, and thought: "What manner of thing is this?" (or, "How can that be?") but Wednesday glared at her angrily; her eyes just did sparkle!

So the woman took a couple of pails and went for water. As soon as she was outside the door she thought: "Mayn't something terrible happen to me? I'd better go to my neighbor's instead of fetching the water." So she set off. The night was dark. In the village all were still asleep. She reached a neighbor's house, and rapped away at the window until at last she made herself heard. An aged woman let her in.

"Why, child!" says the old crone; "whatever hast thou got up so early for? What's the matter?"

"Oh, granny, this is how it was. Wednesday has come to me, and has sent me for water to buck my linen with."

"That doesn't look well," says the old crone. "On that linen she will either strangle thee or scald[256] thee."

The old woman was evidently well acquainted with Wednesday's ways.

"What am I to do?" says the young woman. "How can I escape from this danger?"

"Well, this is what thou must do. Go and beat thy pails together in front of the house, and cry, 'Wednesday's children have been burnt at sea!'[257] She will run out of the house, and do thou be sure to seize the opportunity to get into it before she comes back, and immediately slam the door to, and make the sign of the cross over it. Then don't let her in, however much she may threaten you or implore you, but sign a cross with your hands, and draw one with a piece of chalk, and utter a prayer. The Unclean Spirit will have to disappear."

Well, the young woman ran home, beat the pails together, and cried out beneath the window:

"Wednesday's children have been burnt at sea!"

Wednesday rushed out of the house and ran to look, and the woman sprang inside, shut the door, and set a cross upon it. Wednesday came running back, and began crying: "Let me in, my dear! I have spun thy linen; now will I bleach it." But the woman would not listen to her, so Wednesday went on knocking at the door until cock-crow. As soon as the cocks crew, she uttered a shrill cry and disappeared. But the linen remained where it was.[258]

In one of the numerous legends which the Russian peasants hold in reverence, St. Petka or Friday appears among the other saints, and together with her is mentioned another canonized day, St. Nedelya or Sunday,[259] answering to the Greek St. Anastasia, to Der heilige Sonntag of German peasant-hagiology. In some respects she resembles both Friday and Wednesday, sharing their views about spinning and weaving at unfitting seasons. Thus in Little-Russia she assures untimely spinners that it is not flax they are spinning, but her hair, and in proof of this she shows them her dishevelled kosa, or long back plait.

In one of the Wallachian tales[260] the hero is assisted in his search after the dragon-stolen heroine by three supernatural females—the holy Mothers Friday, Wednesday, and Sunday. They replace the three benignant Baba Yagas of Russian stories. In another,[261] the same three beings assist the Wallachian Psyche when she is wandering in quest of her lost husband. Mother Sunday rules the animal world, and can collect her subjects by playing on a magic flute. She is represented as exercising authority over both birds and beasts, and in a Slovak story she bestows on the hero a magic horse. He has been sent by an unnatural mother in search of various things hard to be obtained, but he is assisted in the quest by St. Nedĕlka, who provides him with various magical implements, and lends him her own steed Tatoschik, and so enables him four times to escape from the perils to which he has been exposed by his mother, whose mind has been entirely corrupted by an insidious dragon. But after he has returned home in safety, his mother binds him as if in sport, and the dragon chops off his head and cuts his body to pieces. His mother retains his heart, but ties up the rest of him in a bundle, and sets it on Tatoschik's back. The steed carries its ghastly burden to St. Nedĕlka, who soon reanimates it, and the youth becomes as sound and vigorous as a young man without a heart can be. Then the saint sends him, under the disguise of a begging piper, to the castle in which his mother dwells, and instructs him how to get his heart back again. He succeeds, and carries it in his hand to St. Nedĕlka. She gives it to "the bird Pelekan (no mere Pelican, but a magic fowl with a very long and slim neck), which puts its head down the youth's throat, and restores his heart to its right place."[262]

St. Friday and St. Wednesday appear to belong to that class of spiritual beings, sometimes of a demoniacal disposition, with which the imagination of the old Slavonians peopled the elements. Of several of these—such as the Domovoy or House-Spirit, the Rusalka or Naiad, and the Vodyany or Water-Sprite—I have written at some length elsewhere,[263] and therefore I will not at present quote any of the stories in which they figure. But, as a specimen of the class to which such tales as these belong, here is a skazka about one of the wood-sprites or Slavonic Satyrs, who are still believed by the peasants to haunt the forests of Russia. In it we see reduced to a vulgar form, and brought into accordance with everyday peasant-life, the myth which appears to have given rise to the endless stories about the theft and recovery of queens and princesses. The leading idea of the story is the same, but the Snake or Koshchei has become a paltry wood-demon, the hero is a mere hunter, and the princely heroine has sunk to the low estate of a priest's daughter.

THE LESHY.[264]

A certain priest's daughter went strolling in the forest one day, without having obtained leave from her father or her mother—and she disappeared utterly. Three years went by. Now in the village in which her parents dwelt there lived a bold hunter, who went daily roaming through the thick woods with his dog and his gun. One day he was going through the forest; all of a sudden his dog began to bark, and the hair of its back bristled up. The sportsman looked, and saw lying in the woodland path before him a log, and on the log there sat a moujik plaiting a bast shoe. And as he plaited the shoe, he kept looking up at the moon, and saying with a menacing gesture:—

"Shine, shine, O bright moon!"

The sportsman was astounded. "How comes it," thinks he, "that the moujik looks like that?—he is still young; but his hair is grey as a badger's."[265]

He only thought these words, but the other replied, as if guessing what he meant:—

"Grey am I, being the devil's grandfather!"[266]

Then the sportsman guessed that he had before him no mere moujik, but a Leshy. He levelled his gun and—bang! he let him have it right in the paunch. The Leshy groaned, and seemed to be going to fall across the log; but directly afterwards he got up and dragged himself into the thickets. After him ran the dog in pursuit, and after the dog followed the sportsman. He walked and walked, and came to a hill: in that hill was a fissure, and in the fissure stood a hut. He entered the hut—there on a bench lay the Leshy stone dead, and by his side a damsel, exclaiming, amid bitter tears:—

"Who now will give me to eat and to drink?"

"Hail, fair maiden!" says the hunter. "Tell me whence thou comest, and whose daughter thou art?"

"Ah, good youth! I know not that myself, any more than if I had never seen the free light—never known a father and mother."

"Well, get ready as soon as you can. I will take you back to Holy Russia."

So he took her away with him, and brought her out of the forest. And all the way he went along, he cut marks on the trees. Now this damsel had been carried off by the Leshy, and had lived in his hut for three years—her clothes were all worn out, or had got torn off her back, so that she was stark naked but she wasn't a bit ashamed of that. When they reached the village, the sportsman began asking whether there was any one there who had lost a girl. Up came the priest, and cried, "Why, that's my daughter." Up came running the priest's wife, and cried:—

"O thou dear child! where hast thou been so long? I had no hope of ever seeing thee again."

But the girl gazed and just blinked with her eyes, understanding nothing. After a time, however, she began slowly to come back to her senses. Then the priest and his wife gave her in marriage to the hunter, and rewarded him with all sorts of good things. And they went in search of the hut in which she had lived while she was with the Leshy. Long did they wander about the forest; but that hut they never found.

To another group of personifications belong those of the Rivers. About them many stories are current, generally having reference to their alleged jealousies and disputes. Thus it is said that when God was allotting their shares to the rivers, the Desna did not come in time, and so failed to obtain precedence over the Dnieper.

"Try and get before him yourself," said the Lord.

The Desna set off at full speed, but in spite of all her attempts, the Dnieper always kept ahead of her until he fell into the sea, where the Desna was obliged to join him.[267]

About the Volga and its affluent, the Vazuza, the following story is told:—

VAZUZA AND VOLGA.[268]

Volga and Vazuza had a long dispute as to which was the wiser, the stronger, and the more worthy of high respect. They wrangled and wrangled, but neither could gain the mastery in the dispute, so they decided upon the following course:—

"Let us lie down together to sleep," they said, "and whichever of us is the first to rise, and the quickest to reach the Caspian Sea, she shall be held to be the wiser of us two, and the stronger and the worthier of respect."

So Volga lay down to sleep; down lay Vazuza also. But during the night Vazuza rose silently, fled away from Volga, chose the nearest and the straightest line, and flowed away. When Volga awoke, she set off neither slowly nor hurriedly, but with just befitting speed. At Zubtsof she came up with Vazuza. So threatening was her mien, that Vazuza was frightened, declared herself to be Volga's younger sister, and besought Volga to take her in her arms and bear her to the Caspian Sea. And so to this day Vazuza is the first to awake in the Spring, and then she arouses Volga from her wintry sleep.

In the Government of Tula a similar tradition is current about the Don and the Shat, both of which flow out of Lake Ivan.

Lake Ivan had two sons, Shat and Don. Shat, contrary to his father's wishes, wanted to roam abroad, so he set out on his travels, but go whither he would, he could get received nowhere. So, after fruitless wanderings, he returned home.

But Don, in return for his constant quietness (the river is known as "the quiet Don"), obtained his father's blessing, and he boldly set out on a long journey. On the way, he met a raven, and asked it where it was flying.

"To the blue sea," answered the raven.

"Let's go together!"

Well, they reached the sea. Don thought to himself, "If I dive right through the sea, I shall carry it away with me."

"Raven!" he said, "do me a service. I am going to plunge into the sea, but do you fly over to the other side and as soon as you reach the opposite shore, give a croak."

Don plunged into the sea. The raven flew and croaked—but too soon. Don remained just as he appears at the present day.[269]

In White-Russia there is a legend about two rivers, the beginning of which has evidently been taken from the story of Jacob and Esau:—

SOZH AND DNIEPER.

There was once a blind old man called Dvina. He had two sons—the elder called Sozh, and the younger Dnieper. Sozh was of a boisterous turn, and went roving about the forests, the hills, and the plains; but Dnieper was remarkably sweet-tempered, and he spent all his time at home, and was his mother's favorite. Once, when Sozh was away from home, the old father was deceived by his wife into giving the elder son's blessing to the younger son. Thus spake Dvina while blessing him:—

"Dissolve, my son, into a wide and deep river. Flow past towns, and bathe villages without number as far as the blue sea. Thy brother shall be thy servant. Be rich and prosperous to the end of time!"

Dnieper turned into a river, and flowed through fertile meadows and dreamy woods. But after three days, Sozh returned home and began to complain.

"If thou dost desire to become superior to thy brother," said his father, "speed swiftly by hidden ways, through dark untrodden forests, and if thou canst outstrip thy brother, he will have to be thy servant!"

Away sped Sozh on the chase, through untrodden places, washing away swamps, cutting out gullies, tearing up oaks by the roots. The Vulture[270] told Dnieper of this, and he put on extra speed, tearing his way through high hills rather than turn on one side. Meanwhile Sozh persuaded the Raven to fly straight to Dnieper, and, as soon as it had come up with him to croak three times; he himself was to burrow under the earth, intending to leap to the surface at the cry of the Raven, and by that means to get before his brother. But the Vulture fell on the Raven; the Raven began to croak before it had caught up the river Dnieper. Up burst Sozh from underground, and fell straight into the waves of the Dnieper.[271]

Here is an account of—

THE METAMORPHOSIS OF THE DNIEPER, THE VOLGA, AND THE DVINA.[272]

The Dnieper, Volga, and Dvina used once to be living people. The Dnieper was a boy, and the Volga and Dvina his sisters. While they were still in childhood they were left complete orphans, and, as they hadn't a crust to eat, they were obliged to get their living by daily labor beyond their strength. "When was that?" Very long ago, say the old folks; beyond the memory even of our great-grandfathers.

Well, the children grew up, but they never had even the slightest bit of good luck. Every day, from morn till eve, it was always toil and toil, and all merely for the day's subsistence. As for their clothing, it was just what God sent them! They sometimes found rags on the dust-heaps, and with these they managed to cover their bodies. The poor things had to endure cold and hunger. Life became a burden to them.[273]

One day, after toiling hard afield, they sat down under a bush to eat their last morsel of bread. And when they had eaten it, they cried and sorrowed for a while, and considered and held counsel together as to how they might manage to live, and to have food and clothing, and, without toiling, to supply others with meat and drink. Well, this is what they resolved: to set out wandering about the wide world in search of good luck and a kindly welcome, and to look for and find out the best places in which they could turn into great rivers—for that was a possible thing then.

Well, they walked and walked; not one year only, nor two years, but all but three; and they chose the places they wanted, and came to an agreement as to where the flowing of each one should begin. And all three of them stopped to spend the night in a swamp. But the sisters were more cunning than their brother. No sooner was Dnieper asleep than they rose up quietly, chose the best and most sloping places, and began to flow away.

When the brother awoke in the morning, not a trace of his sisters was to be seen. Then he became wroth, and made haste to pursue them. But on the way he bethought himself, and decided that no man can run faster than a river. So he smote the ground, and flowed in pursuit as a stream. Through gullies and ravines he rushed, and the further he went the fiercer did he become. But when he came within a few versts of the sea-shore, his anger calmed down and he disappeared in the sea. And his two sisters, who had continued running from him during his pursuit, separated in different directions and fled to the bottom of the sea. But while the Dnieper was rushing along in anger, he drove his way between steep banks. Therefore is it that his flow is swifter than that of the Volga and the Dvina; therefore also is it that he has many rapids and many mouths.

There is a small stream which falls into Lake Ilmen on its western side, and which is called Chorny Ruchei, the Black Brook. On the banks of this brook, a long time ago, a certain man set up a mill, and the fish came and implored the stream to grant them its aid, saying, "We used to have room enough and be at our ease, but now an evil man is taking away the water from us." And the result was this. One of the inhabitants of Novgorod was angling in the brook Chorny. Up came a stranger to him, dressed all in black, who greeted him, and said:—

"Do me a service, and I will show thee a place where the fish swarm."

"What is the service?"

"When thou art in Novgorod, thou wilt meet a tall, big moujik in a plaited blue caftan, wide blue trowsers, and a high blue hat. Say to him, 'Uncle Ilmen! the Chorny has sent thee a petition, and has told me to say that a mill has been set in his way. As thou may'st think fit to order, so shall it be!'"

The Novgorod man promised to fulfil this request, and the black stranger showed him a place where the fish swarmed by thousands. With rich booty did the fisherman return to Novgorod, where he met the moujik with the blue caftan, and gave him the petition. The Ilmen answered:—

"Give my compliments to the brook Chorny, and say to him about the mill: there used not to be one, and so there shall not be one!"

This commission also the Novgorod man fulfilled, and behold! during the night the brook Chorny ran riotous, Lake Ilmen waxed boisterous, a tempest arose, and the raging waters swept away the mill.[274]

In old times sacrifices were regularly paid to lakes and streams in Russia, just as they were in Germany[275] and in other lands. And even at the present day the common people are in the habit of expressing, by some kind of offering, their thanks to a river on which they have made a prosperous voyage. It is said that Stenka Razin, the insurgent chief of the Don Cossacks in the seventeenth century, once offered a human sacrifice to the Volga. Among his captives was a Persian princess, to whom he was warmly attached. But one day "when he was fevered with wine, as he sat at the ship's side and musingly regarded the waves, he said: 'Oh, Mother Volga, thou great river! much hast thou given me of gold and of silver, and of all good things; thou hast nursed me, and nourished me, and covered me with glory and honor. But I have in no way shown thee my gratitude. Here is somewhat for thee; take it!' And with these words he caught up the princess and flung her into the water."[276]

Just as rivers might be conciliated by honor and sacrifice, so they could be irritated by disrespect. One of the old songs tells how a youth comes riding to the Smorodina, and beseeches that stream to show him a ford. His prayer is granted, and he crosses to the other side. Then he takes to boasting, and says, "People talk about the Smorodina, saying that no one can cross it whether on foot or on horseback—but it is no better than a pool of rain-water!" But when the time comes for him to cross back again, the river takes its revenge, and drowns him in its depths, saying the while: "It is not I, but thy own boasting that drowns thee."

From these vocal rivers we will now turn to that elementary force by which in winter they are often rendered mute. In the story which is now about to be quoted will be found a striking personification of Frost. As a general rule, Winter plays by no means so important a part as might have been expected in Northern tales. As in other European countries, so in Russia, the romantic stories of the people are full of pictures bathed in warm sunlight, but they do not often represent the aspect of the land when the sky is grey, and the earth is a sheet of white, and outdoor life is sombre and still. Here and there, it is true, glimpses of snowy landscapes are offered by the skazkas. But it is seldom that a wintry effect is so deliberately produced in them as is the case in the following remarkable version of a well-known tale.

FROST.[277]

There was once an old man who had a wife and three daughters. The wife had no love for the eldest of the three, who was her stepdaughter, but was always scolding her. Moreover, she used to make her get up ever so early in the morning, and gave her all the work of the house to do. Before daybreak the girl would feed the cattle and give them to drink, fetch wood and water indoors, light the fire in the stove, give the room a wash, mend the dresses, and set everything in order. Even then her stepmother was never satisfied, but would grumble away at Marfa, exclaiming:—

"What a lazybones! what a slut! Why here's a brush not in its place, and there's something put wrong, and she's left the muck inside the house!"

The girl held her peace, and wept; she tried in every way to accommodate herself to her stepmother, and to be of service to her stepsisters. But they, taking pattern by their mother, were always insulting Marfa, quarrelling with her, and making her cry: that was even a pleasure to them! As for them, they lay in bed late, washed themselves in water got ready for them, dried themselves with a clean towel, and didn't sit down to work till after dinner.

Well, our girls grew and grew, until they grew up and were old enough to be married. The old man felt sorry for his eldest daughter, whom he loved because she was industrious and obedient, never was obstinate, always did as she was bid, and never uttered a word of contradiction. But he didn't know how he was to help her in her trouble. He was feeble, his wife was a scold, and her daughters were as obstinate as they were indolent.

Well, the old folks set to work to consider—the husband how he could get his daughters settled, the wife how she could get rid of the eldest one. One day she says to him:—

"I say, old man! let's get Marfa married."

"Gladly," says he, slinking off (to the sleeping-place) above the stove. But his wife called after him:—

"Get up early to-morrow, old man, harness the mare to the sledge, and drive away with Marfa. And, Marfa, get your things together in a basket, and put on a clean shift; you're going away to-morrow on a visit."

Poor Marfa was delighted to hear of such a piece of good luck as being invited on a visit, and she slept comfortably all night. Early next morning she got up, washed herself, prayed to God, got all her things together, packed them away in proper order, dressed herself (in her best things), and looked something like a lass!—a bride fit for any place whatsoever!

Now it was winter time, and out of doors was a rattling frost. Early in the morning, between daybreak and sunrise, the old man harnessed the mare to the sledge, and led it up to the steps. Then he went indoors, sat down on the window-sill, and said:—

"Now then! I've got everything ready."

"Sit down to table and swallow your victuals!" replied the old woman.

The old man sat down to table, and made his daughter sit by his side. On the table stood a pannier; he took out a loaf,[278] and cut bread for himself and his daughter. Meantime his wife served up a dish of old cabbage soup, and said:—

"There, my pigeon, eat and be off; I've looked at you quite enough! Drive Marfa to her bridegroom, old man. And look here, old greybeard! drive straight along the road at first, and then turn off from the road to the right, you know, into the forest—right up to the big pine that stands on the hill, and there hand Marfa over to Morozko (Frost)."

The old man opened his eyes wide, also his mouth, and stopped eating, and the girl began lamenting.

"Now then, what are you hanging your chaps and squealing about?" said her stepmother. "Surely your bridegroom is a beauty, and he's that rich! Why, just see what a lot of things belong to him, the firs, the pine-tops, and the birches, all in their robes of down—ways and means that any one might envy; and he himself a bogatir!"[279]

The old man silently placed the things on the sledge, made his daughter put on a warm pelisse, and set off on the journey. After a time, he reached the forest, turned off from the road; and drove across the frozen snow.[280] When he got into the depths of the forest, he stopped, made his daughter get out, laid her basket under the tall pine, and said:—

"Sit here, and await the bridegroom. And mind you receive him as pleasantly as you can."

Then he turned his horse round and drove off homewards.

The girl sat and shivered. The cold had pierced her through. She would fain have cried aloud, but she had not strength enough; only her teeth chattered. Suddenly she heard a sound. Not far off, Frost was cracking away on a fir. From fir to fir was he leaping, and snapping his fingers. Presently he appeared on that very pine under which the maiden was sitting and from above her head he cried:—

"Art thou warm, maiden?"

"Warm, warm am I, dear Father Frost," she replied.

Frost began to descend lower, all the more cracking and snapping his fingers. To the maiden said Frost:—

"Art thou warm, maiden? Art thou warm, fair one?"

The girl could scarcely draw her breath, but still she replied:

"Warm am I, Frost dear: warm am I, father dear!"

Frost began cracking more than ever, and more loudly did he snap his fingers, and to the maiden he said:—

"Art thou warm, maiden? Art thou warm, pretty one? Art thou warm, my darling?"

The girl was by this time numb with cold, and she could scarcely make herself heard as she replied:—

"Oh! quite warm, Frost dearest!"

Then Frost took pity on the girl, wrapped her up in furs, and warmed her with blankets.

Next morning the old woman said to her husband:—

"Drive out, old greybeard, and wake the young couple!"

The old man harnessed his horse and drove off. When he came to where his daughter was, he found she was alive and had got a good pelisse, a costly bridal veil, and a pannier with rich gifts. He stowed everything away on the sledge without saying a word, took his seat on it with his daughter, and drove back. They reached home, and the daughter fell at her stepmother's feet. The old woman was thunderstruck when she saw the girl alive, and the new pelisse and the basket of linen.

"Ah, you wretch!" she cries. "But you shan't trick me!"

Well, a little later the old woman says to her husband:—

"Take my daughters, too, to their bridegroom. The presents he's made are nothing to what he'll give them."

Well, early next morning the old woman gave her girls their breakfast, dressed them as befitted brides, and sent them off on their journey. In the same way as before the old man left the girls under the pine.

There the girls sat, and kept laughing and saying:

"Whatever is mother thinking of! All of a sudden to marry both of us off! As if there were no lads in our village, forsooth! Some rubbishy fellow may come, and goodness knows who he may be!"

The girls were wrapped up in pelisses, but for all that they felt the cold.

"I say, Prascovia! the frost's skinning me alive. Well, if our bridegroom[281] doesn't come quick, we shall be frozen to death here!"

"Don't go talking nonsense, Mashka; as if suitors[282] generally turned up in the forenoon. Why it's hardly dinner-time yet!"

"But I say, Prascovia! if only one comes, which of us will he take?"

"Not you, you stupid goose!"

"Then it will be you, I suppose!"

"Of course it will be me!"

"You, indeed! there now, have done talking stuff and treating people like fools!"

Meanwhile, Frost had numbed the girl's hands, so our damsels folded them under their dress, and then went on quarrelling as before.

"What, you fright! you sleepy-face! you abominable shrew! why, you don't know so much as how to begin weaving: and as to going on with it, you haven't an idea!"

"Aha, boaster! and what is it you know? Why, nothing at all except to go out to merry-makings and lick your lips there. We'll soon see which he'll take first!"

While the girls went on scolding like that, they began to freeze in downright earnest. Suddenly they both cried out at once:

"Whyever is he so long coming. Do you know, you've turned quite blue!"

Now, a good way off, Frost had begun cracking, snapping his fingers, and leaping from fir to fir. To the girls it sounded as if some one was coming.

"Listen, Prascovia! He's coming at last, and with bells, too!"

"Get along with you! I won't listen; my skin is peeling with cold."

"And yet you're still expecting to get married!"

Then they began blowing on their fingers.

Nearer and nearer came Frost. At length he appeared on the pine, above the heads of the girls, and said to them:

"Are ye warm, maidens? Are ye warm, pretty ones? Are ye warm, my darlings?"

"Oh, Frost, it's awfully cold! we're utterly perished! We're expecting a bridegroom, but the confounded fellow has disappeared."

Frost slid lower down the tree, cracked away more, snapped his fingers oftener than before.

"Are ye warm, maidens? Are ye warm, pretty ones?"

"Get along with you! Are you blind that you can't see our hands and feet are quite dead?"

Still lower descended Frost, still more put forth his might,[283] and said:

"Are ye warm, maidens?"

"Into the bottomless pit with you! Out of sight, accursed one!" cried the girls—and became lifeless forms.[284]

Next morning the old woman said to her husband:

"Old man, go and get the sledge harnessed; put an armful of hay in it, and take some sheep-skin wraps. I daresay the girls are half-dead with cold. There's a terrible frost outside! And, mind you, old greybeard, do it quickly!"

Before the old man could manage to get a bite he was out of doors and on his way. When he came to where his daughters were, he found them dead. So he lifted the girls on to the sledge, wrapped a blanket round them, and covered them up with a bark mat. The old woman saw him from afar, ran out to meet him, and called out ever so loud:

"Where are the girls?"

"In the sledge."

The old woman lifted the mat, undid the blanket, and found the girls both dead.

Then, like a thunderstorm, she broke out against her husband, abusing him saying:

"What have you done, you old wretch? You have destroyed my daughters, the children of my own flesh and blood, my never-enough-to-be-gazed-on seedlings, my beautiful berries! I will thrash you with the tongs; I will give it you with the stove-rake."

"That's enough, you old goose! You flattered yourself you were going to get riches, but your daughters were too stiff-necked. How was I to blame? it was you yourself would have it."

The old woman was in a rage at first, and used bad language; but afterwards she made it up with her stepdaughter, and they all lived together peaceably, and thrived, and bore no malice. A neighbor made an offer of marriage, the wedding was celebrated, and Marfa is now living happily. The old man frightens his grandchildren with (stories about) Frost, and doesn't let them have their own way.

In a variant from the Kursk Government (Afanasief IV. No. 42. b), the stepdaughter is left by her father "in the open plain." There she sits, "trembling and silently offering up a prayer." Frost draws near, intending "to smite her and to freeze her to death." But when he says to her, "Maiden, maiden, I am Frost the Red-Nosed," she replies "Welcome, Frost; doubtless God has sent you for my sinful soul." Pleased by her "wise words," Frost throws a warm cloak over her, and afterwards presents her with "robes embroidered with silver and gold, and a chest containing rich dowry." The girl puts on the robes, and appears "such a beauty!" Then she sits on the chest and sings songs. Meantime her stepmother is baking cakes and preparing for her funeral. After a time her father sets out in search of her dead body. But the dog beneath the table barks—"Taff! Taff! The master's daughter in silver and gold by the wedding party is borne along, but the mistress's daughter is wooed by none!" In vain does its mistress throw it a cake, and order it to modify its remarks. It eats the cake, but it repeats its offensive observations, until the stepdaughter appears in all her glory. Then the old woman's own daughter is sent afield. Frost comes to have a look at his new guest, expecting "wise words" from her too. But as none are forthcoming, he waxes wroth, and kills her. When the old man goes to fetch her, the dog barks—"Taff! Taff! The master's daughter will be borne along by the bridal train, but the bones of the mistress's daughter are being carried in a bag," and continues to bark in the same strain until the yard-gates open. The old woman runs out to greet her daughter, and "instead of her embraces a cold corpse."

To the Russian peasants, it should be observed, Moroz, our own Jack Frost, is a living personage. On Christmas Eve it is customary for the oldest man in each family to take a spoonful of kissel, a sort of pudding, and then, having put his head through the window, to cry:

"Frost, Frost, come and eat kissel! Frost, Frost, do not kill our oats! drive our flax and hemp deep into the ground."

The Tcheremisses have similar ideas, and are afraid of knocking the icicles off their houses, thinking that, if they do so, Frost will wax wroth and freeze them to death. In one of the Skazkas, a peasant goes out one day to a field of buckwheat, and finds it all broken down. He goes home, and tells the bad news to his wife, who says, "It is Frost who has done this. Go and find him, and make him pay for the damage!" So the peasant goes into the forest and, after wandering about for some time, lights upon a path which leads him to a cottage made of ice, covered with snow, and hung with icicles. He knocks at the door, and out comes an old man—"all white." This is Frost, who presents him with the magic cudgel and table-cloth which work wonders in so many of the tales.[285] In another story, a peasant meets the Sun, the Wind, and the Frost. He bows to all three, but adds an extra salutation to the Wind. This enrages the two others, and the Sun cries out that he will burn up the peasant. But the Wind says, "I will blow cold, and temper the heat." Then the Frost threatens to freeze the peasant to death, but the Wind comforts him, saying, "I will blow warm, and will not let you be hurt."[286]

Sometimes the Frost is described by the people as a mighty smith who forges strong chains with which to bind the earth and the waters—as in the saying "The Old One has built a bridge without axe and without knife," i.e., the river is frozen over. Sometimes Moroz-Treskun, the Crackling Frost, is spoken of without disguise as the preserver of the hero who is ordered to enter a bath which has been heated red-hot. Frost goes into the bath, and breathes with so icy a breath that the heat of the building turns at once to cold.[287]

The story in which Frost so singularly figures is one which is known in many lands, and of which many variants are current in Russia. The jealous hatred of a stepmother, who exposes her stepdaughter to some great peril, has been made the theme of countless tales. What gives its special importance, as well as its poetical charm, to the skazka which has been quoted, is the introduction of Frost as the power to which the stepmother has recourse for the furtherance of her murderous plans, and by which she, in the persons of her own daughters, is ultimately punished. We have already dealt with one specimen of the skazkas of this class, the story of Vasilissa, who is sent to the Baba Yaga's for a light. Another, still more closely connected with that of "Frost," occurs in Khudyakof's collection.[288]

A certain woman ordered her husband (says the story) to make away with his daughter by a previous marriage. So he took the girl into the forest, and left her in a kind of hut, telling her to prepare some soup while he was cutting wood. "At that time there was a gale blowing. The old man tied a log to a tree; when the wind blew, the log rattled. She thought the old man was going on cutting wood, but in reality he had gone away home."

When the soup was ready, she called out to her father to come to dinner. No reply came from him, "but there was a human head in the forest, and it replied, 'I'm coming immediately!' And when the Head arrived, it cried, 'Maiden, open the door!' She opened it. 'Maiden, Maiden! lift me over the threshold!' She lifted it over. 'Maiden, Maiden! put the dinner on the table!' She did so, and she and the Head sat down to dinner. When they had dined, 'Maiden, Maiden!' said the Head, 'take me off the bench!' She took it off the bench, and cleared the table. It lay down to sleep on the bare floor; she lay on the bench. She fell asleep, but it went into the forest after its servants. The house became bigger; servants, horses, everything one could think of suddenly appeared. The servants came to the maiden, and said, 'Get up! it's time to go for a drive!' So she got into a carriage with the Head, but she took a cock along with her. She told the cock to crow; it crowed. Again she told it to crow; it crowed again. And a third time she told it to crow. When it had crowed for the third time, the Head fell to pieces, and became a heap of golden coins."[289]

Then the stepmother sent her own daughter into the forest. Everything occurred as before, until the Head arrived. Then she was so frightened that she tried to hide herself, and she would do nothing for the Head, which had to dish up its own dinner, and eat it by itself. And so "when she lay down to sleep, it ate her up."

In a story in Chudinsky's collection, the stepdaughter is sent by night to watch the rye in an ovin,[290] or corn-kiln. Presently a stranger appears and asks her to marry him. She replies that she has no wedding-clothes, upon which he brings her everything she asks for. But she is very careful not to ask for more than one thing at a time, and so the cock crows before her list of indispensable necessaries is exhausted. The stranger immediately disappears, and she carries off her presents in triumph.

The next night her stepsister is sent to the ovin, and the stranger appears as before, and asks her to marry him. She, also, replies that she has no wedding-clothes, and he offers to supply her with what she wants. Whereupon, instead of asking for a number of things one after the other, she demands them all at once—"Stockings, garters, a petticoat, a dress, a comb, earrings, a mirror, soap, white paint and rouge, and everything which her stepsister had got." Then follows the catastrophe.

The stranger brought her everything, all at once.

"Now then," says he, "will you marry me now?"

"Wait a bit," said the stepmother's daughter, "I'll wash and dress, and whiten myself and rouge myself, and then I'll marry you." And straightway she set to work washing and dressing—and she hastened and hurried to get all that done—she wanted so awfully to see herself decked out as a bride. By-and-by she was quite dressed—but the cock had not yet crowed.

"Well, maiden!" says he, "will you marry me now?"

"I'm quite ready," says she.

Thereupon he tore her to pieces.[291]

There is one other of those personifications of natural forces which play an active part in the Russian tales, about which a few words may be said. It often happens that the heroine-stealer whom the hero of the story has to overcome is called, not Koshchei nor the Snake, but Vikhor,[292] the whirlwind. Here is a brief analysis of part of one of the tales in which this elementary abducer figures. There was a certain king, whose wife went out one day to walk in the garden. "Suddenly a gale (vyeter) sprang up. In the gale was the Vikhor-bird. Vikhor seized the Queen, and carried her off." She left three sons, and they, when they came to man's estate, said to their father—"Where is our mother? If she be dead, show us her grave; if she be living, tell us where to find her."

"I myself know not where your mother is," replied the King. "Vikhor carried her off."

"Well then," they said, "since Vikhor carried her off, and she is alive, give us your blessing. We will go in search of our mother."

All three set out, but only the youngest, Prince Vasily, succeeded in climbing the steep hill, whereon stood the palace in which his mother and Vikhor lived. Entering it during Vikhor's absence, the Prince made himself known to his mother, "who straightway gave him to eat, and concealed him in a distant apartment, hiding him behind a number of cushions, so that Vikhor might not easily discover him." And she gave him these instructions. "If Vikhor comes, and begins quarrelling, don't come forth, but if he takes to chatting, come forth and say, 'Hail father!' and seize hold of the little finger of his right hand, and wherever he flies do you go with him."

Presently Vikhor came flying in, and addressed the Queen angrily. Prince Vasily remained concealed until his mother gave him a hint to come forth. This he did, and then greeted Vikhor, and caught hold of his right little finger. Vikhor tried to shake him off, flying first about the house and then out of it, but all in vain. At last Vikhor, after soaring on high, struck the ground, and fell to pieces, becoming a fine yellow sand. "But the little finger remained in the possession of Prince Vasily, who scraped together the sand and burnt it in the stove."[293]

* * * * *

With a mention of two other singular beings who occur in the Skazkas, the present chapter may be brought to a close. The first is a certain Morfei (Morpheus?) who figures in the following variant of a well-known tale.

There was a king, and he had a daughter with whom a general who lived over the way fell in love. But the king would not let him marry her unless he went where none had been, and brought back thence what none had seen. After much consideration the general set out and travelled "over swamps, hill, and rivers." At last he reached a wood in which was a hut, and inside the hut was an old crone. To her he told his story, after hearing which, she cried out, "Ho, there! Morfei, dish up the meal!" and immediately a dinner appeared of which the old crone made the general partake. And next day "she presented that cook to the general, ordering him to serve the general honorably, as he had served her. The general took the cook and departed." By-and-by he came to a river and was appealed to for food by a shipwrecked crew. "Morfei, give them to eat!" he cried, and immediately excellent viands appeared, with which the mariners were so pleased that they gave the general a magic volume in exchange for his cook—who, however, did not stay with them but secretly followed his master. A little later the general found another shipwrecked crew, who gave him, in exchange for his cook, a sabre and a towel, each of magic power. Then the general returned to his own city, and his magic properties enabled him to convince the king that he was an eligible suitor for the hand of the Princess.[294]

The other is a mysterious personage whose name is "Oh!" The story in which he appears is one with which many countries are familiar, and of which numerous versions are to be found in Russia. A father sets out with his boy for "the bazaar," hoping to find a teacher there who will instruct the child in such science as enables people "to work little, and feed delicately, and dress well." After walking a long way the man becomes weary and exclaims, "Oh! I'm so tired!" Immediately there appears "an old magician," who says—

"Why do you call me?"

"I didn't call you," replies the old man. "I don't even know who you are."

"My name is Oh," says the magician, "and you cried 'Oh!' Where are you taking that boy?"

The father explains what it is he wants, and the magician undertakes to give the boy the requisite education, charging "one assignat rouble" for a year's tuition.[295]

The teacher, in this story, is merely called a magician; but as in other Russian versions of it his counterpart is always described as being demoniacal, and is often openly styled a devil, it may be assumed that Oh belongs to the supernatural order of beings. It is often very difficult, however, to distinguish magicians from fiends in storyland, the same powers being generally wielded, and that for the same purposes, by the one set of beings as by the other. Of those powers, and of the end to which the stories represent them as being turned, some mention will be made in the next chapter.

FOOTNOTES:

[224] The adjective likhoi has two opposite meanings, sometimes signifying what is evil, hurtful, malicious, &c., sometimes what is bold, vigorous, and therefore to be admired. As a substantive, likho conveys the idea of something malevolent or unfortunate. The Polish licho properly signifies uneven. But odd numbers are sometimes considered unlucky. Polish housewives, for instance, think it imprudent to allow their hens to sit on an uneven number of eggs. But the peasantry also describe by Licho an evil spirit, a sort of devil. (Wojcicki in the "Encyklopedyja Powszechna," xvii. p. 17.) "When Likho sleeps, awake it not," says a proverb common to Poland and South Russia.

[225] Afanasief, iii. No. 14. From the Voroneje Government.

[226] From an article by Borovikovsky in the "Otech. Zap." 1840, No. 2.

[227] "Les Avadanas," vol. i. No. 9, p. 51.

[228] In the "Philogische und historische Abhandlungen," of the Berlin Academy of Sciences for 1857, pp. 1-30. See also Buslaef, "Ist. Och.," i. 327-331.; Campbell's "West Highland Tales," i. p. 132, &c.

[229] Ednookie (edno or odno = one; oko = eye). A Slavonic equivalent of the name "Arimaspians," from the Scythic arima = one and spu = eye. Mr. Rawlinson associates arima, through farima, with Goth. fruma, Lat. primus, &c., and spu with Lat. root spic or spec—in specio, specto, &c., and with our "spy," &c.

[230] Grimm, No. 130, &c.

[231] Afanasief, vi. No. 55.

[232] See the "Songs of the Russian People," p. 30.

[233] Afanasief, v. No. 34. From the Novgorod Government.

[234] Opokhmyelit'sya: "to drink off the effects of his debauch."

[235] Erlenvein, No. 21.

[236] Our "Sunday gown."

[237] Afanasief, viii. p. 408.

[238] Properly speaking "grief," that which morally krushit or crushes a man.

[239] Kruchina, as an abstract idea, is of the feminine gender. But it is here personified as a male being.

[240] Afanasief, v. p. 237.

[241] Spasibo is the word in popular use as an expression of thanks, and it now means nothing more than "thank you!" But it is really a contraction of spasi Bog! "God save (you)!" as our "Good-bye!" is of "God be with you!"

[242] Maksimovich, "Tri Skazki" (quoted by Afanasief, viii. p. 406).

[243] Vuk Karajich, No. 13.

[244] Afanasief, viii. No. 21.

[245] Schastie and Neschastie—Luck and Bad-luck—the exact counterparts of the Indian Lakshmi and Alakshmi.

[246] Afanasief, iii. No. 9.

[247] Afanasief viii. pp. 32-4.

[248] Bezdolny (bez = without; dolya = lot, share, etc.).

[249] Everyone knows how frequent are the allusions to good and bad fortune in Oriental fiction, so that there is no occasion to do more than allude to the stories in which they occur—one of the most interesting of which is that of Vira-vara in the "Hitopadesa" (chap. iii. Fable 9), who finds one night a young and beautiful woman, richly decked with jewels, weeping outside the city in which dwells his royal master Sudraka, and asks her who she is, and why she weeps. To which (in Mr. Johnson's translation) she replies "I am the Fortune of this King Sudraka, beneath the shadow of whose arm I have long reposed very happily. Through the fault of the queen the king will die on the third day. I shall be without a protector, and shall stay no longer; therefore do I weep." On the variants of this story, see Benfey's "Panchatantra," i. pp. 415-16.

[250] From pyat = five, Friday being the fifth working day. Similarly Tuesday is called Vtornik, from vtoroi = second; Wednesday is Sereda, "the middle;" Thursday Chetverg, from chetverty = fourth. But Saturday is Subbota.

[251] P.V.S., i. 230. See also Buslaef, "Ist. Och." pp. 323, 503-4.

[252] A tradition of our own relates that the Lords of the Admiralty, wishing to prove the absurdity of the English sailor's horror of Friday, commenced a ship on a Friday, launched her on a Friday, named her "The Friday," procured a Captain Friday to command her, and sent her to sea on a Friday, and—she was never heard of again.

[253] Afanasief, "Legendui," No. 13. From the Tambof Government.

[254] For an account of various similar superstitions connected with Wednesday and Thursday, see Mannhardt's "Germanische Mythen," p. 15, 16, and W. Schmidt's "Das Jahr und seine Tage," p. 19.

[255] Khudyakof, No. 166. From the Orel Government.

[256] Doubtful. The Russian word is "Svarit," properly "to cook."

[257] Compare the English nursery rhyme addressed to the lady-bird:

"Lady-bird, lady-bird, fly away home, Your house is a-fire, your children at home."

[258] Wednesday in this, and Friday in the preceding story, are the exact counterparts of Lithuanian Laumes. According to Schleicher ("Lituanica," p. 109), Thursday evening is called in Lithuania Laumiu vakars, the Laume's Eve. No work ought to be done on a Thursday evening, and it is especially imprudent to spin then. For at night, when the Laumes come, as they are accustomed to do between Thursday evening and Friday morning, they seize any spinning which has been begun, work away at it till cock-crow, and then carry it off. In modern Greece the women attribute all nightly meddling with their spinning to the Neraides (the representatives of the Hellenic Nereids. See Bernhard Schmidt's "Volksleben der Neugriechen," p. 111). In some respects the Neraida closely resemble the Lamia, and both of them have many features in common with the Laume. The latter name (which in Lettish is written Lauma) has never been satisfactorily explained. Can it be connected with the Greek Lamia which is now written also as Lamnia, Lamna and Lamnissa?

[259] The word Nedyelya now means "a week." But it originally meant Sunday, the non-working day (ne = not, dyelat' = to do or work.) After a time, the name for the first day of the week became transferred to the week itself.

[260] That of "Wilisch Witiasu," Schott, No. 11.

[261] That of "Trandafiru," Schott, No. 23.

[262] J. Wenzig's "Westslawischer Maerchenschatz," pp. 144-155. According to Wenzig Nedĕlka is "the personified first Sunday after the new moon." The part here attributed to St. Nedĕlka is played by a Vila in one of the Songs of Montenegro. According to an ancient Indian tradition, the Aswattha-tree "is to be touched only on a Sunday, for on every other day Poverty or Misfortune abides in it: on Sunday it is the residence of Lakshmi" (Good Fortune). H. H. Wilson "Works," iii. 70.

[263] "Songs of the Russian People," pp. 120-153.

[264] Afanasief, vii. No. 33. The name Leshy or Lyeshy is derived from lyes, a forest.

[265] Literally "as a lun," a kind of hawk (falco rusticolus). Lun also means a greyish light.

[266] Ottogo ya i cyed chto chortof dyed.

[267] Afanasief, P.V.S., ii. 226.

[268] Afanasief, iv. No. 40. From the Tver Government.

[269] Translated literally from Afanasief, P.V.S. ii. 227.

[270] Yastreb = vulture or goshawk

[271] Quoted from Borichefsky (pp. 183-5) by Afanasief.

[272] Tereshchenko, v. 43, 44.

[273] Literally "Life disgusted them worse than a bitter radish."

[274] Translated literally from Afanasief, P.V.S. ii. 230.

[275] "Deutsche Mythologie," 462.

[276] Afanasief, loc. cit. p. 231.

[277] Afanasief, iv. No. 42. From the Vologda Government.

[278] Chelpan, a sort of dough cake, or pie without stuffing.

[279] Bogatir is the regular term for a Russian "hero of romance." Its origin is disputed, but it appears to be of Tartar extraction.

[280] Nast, snow that has thawed and frozen again.

[281] Suzhenoi-ryazhenoi.

[282] Zhenikhi.

[283] Sil'no priudaril, mightily smote harder.

[284] Okostenyeli, were petrified.

[285] Afanasief, P.V.S. i. 318-19.

[286] Ibid. i. 312.

[287] As with Der Frostige in the German story of "Die sechs Diener," KM., No. 134, p. 519, and "The Man with the White Hat," in that of "Sechse kommen durch die ganze Welt," No. 71, p. 295, and their variants in different lands. See Grimm, iii. p. 122.

[288] No. 13, "The Stepmother's Daughter and the Stepdaughter," written down in Kazan.

[289] This is a thoroughly Buddhistic idea. According to Buddhist belief, the treasure which has belonged to anyone in a former existence may come to him in the shape of a man who, when killed, turns to gold. The first story of the fifth book of the "Panchatantra," is based upon an idea of this kind. A man is told in a vision to kill a monk. He does so, and the monk becomes a heap of gold. A barber, seeing this, kills several monks, but to no purpose. See Benfey's Introduction, pp. 477-8.

[290] For an account of the ovin, and the respect paid to it or to the demons supposed to haunt it see "The Songs of the Russian People," p. 257.

[291] Chudinsky, No. 13. "The Daughter and the Stepdaughter." From the Nijegorod Government.

[292] Vikhr' or Vikhor' from vit', to whirl or twist.

[293] Khudyakof, No. 82. The story ends in the same way as that of Norka. See supra, p. 73.

[294] Khudyakof, No. 86. Morfei the Cook is merely a development of the magic cudgel which in so many stories (e.g. the sixth of the Calmuck tales) is often exchanged for other treasures by its master, to whom it soon returns—it being itself a degraded form of the hammer of Thor, the lance of Indra, which always came back to the divine hand that had hurled it.

[295] Khudyakof, No. 19. The rest of the story is that of "Der Gaudief un sin Meester," Grimm's KM. No. 68. (See also vol. iii. p. 118 of that work, where a long list is given of similar stories in various languages.)



CHAPTER IV.

MAGIC AND WITCHCRAFT.

Most of the magical "properties" of the "skazka-drama," closely resemble those which have already been rendered familiar to us by well-known folk-tales. Of such as these—of "caps of darkness," of "seven-leagued boots," of "magic cudgels," of "Fortunatus's purses," and the like[296]—it is unnecessary, for the present, to say more than that they are of as common occurrence in Slavonic as in other stories. But there are some among them which materially differ from their counterparts in more western lands, and are therefore worthy of special notice. To the latter class belong the Dolls of which mention has already been made, and the Waters of Life and Death of which I am now about to speak.

A Water of Life plays an important part in the folk-tales of every land.[297] When the hero of a "fairy story" has been done to death by evil hands, his resuscitation by means of a healing and vivifying lotion or ointment[298] follows almost as a matter of course. And by common consent the Raven (or some sort of crow) is supposed to know where this invaluable specific is to be found,[299] a knowledge which it shares with various supernatural beings as well as with some human adepts in magic, and sometimes with the Snake. In all these matters the Russian and the Western tales agree, but the Skazka differs from most stories of its kind in this respect, that it almost invariably speaks of two kinds of magic waters as being employed for the restoration of life. We have already seen in the story of "Marya Morevna," that one of these, sometimes called the mertvaya voda—the "dead water," or "Water of Death"—when sprinkled over a mutilated corpse, heals all its wounds; while the other, which bears the name of the zhivaya voda,—the "living water," or "Water of Life"—endows it once more with vitality.

[In a Norse tale in Asbjoernsen's new series, No. 72, mention is made of a Water of Death, as opposed to a Water of Life. The Death Water (Doasens Vana) throws all whom it touches into a magic sleep, from which only Life Water (Livsens Vand) can rouse them (p. 57). In the Ramayana, Hanuman fetches four different kinds of herbs in order to resuscitate his dead monkeys: "the first restore the dead to life, the second drive away all pain, the third join broken parts, the fourth cure all wounds, &c." Talboys Wheeler, "History of India," ii. 368. In the Egyptian story already mentioned (at p. 113), Satou's corpse quivers and opens its eyes when his heart has become saturated with a healing liquid. But he does not actually come to life till the remainder of the liquid has been poured down his throat.

In a Kirghiz story, quoted by Bronevsky,[300] a golden-haired hero finds, after long search, the maiden to whom he had in very early life been betrothed. Her father has him murdered. She persuades the murderer to show her the body of her dead love, and weeps over it bitterly. A spirit appears and tells her to sprinkle it with water from a neighboring well. The well is very deep, but she induces the murderer to allow her to lower him into it by means of her remarkably long hair. He descends and hands up to her a cup of water. Having received it, she cuts off her hair, and lets the murderer drop and be drowned. Then she sprinkles her lover's corpse with the water, and he revives. But he lives only three days. She refuses to survive him, and is buried by his side. From the graves of the lovers spring two willows, which mingle their boughs as if in an embrace. And the neighbors set up near the spot three statues, his and hers and her nurse's.

Such is the story, says Bronevsky, which the Kirghiz tell with respect to some statues of unknown origin which stand (or used to stand) near the Ayaguza, a river falling into Lake Balkhash. A somewhat similar Armenian story is quoted by Haxthausen in his Transcaucasia (p. 350 of the English translation).

In the Kalevala, when Lemmenkaeinen has been torn to pieces, his mother collects his scattered remains, and by a dexterous synthetical operation restores him to physical unity. But the silence of death still possesses him. Then she entreats the Bee to bring vivifying honey. After two fruitless journeys, the Bee succeeds in bringing back honey "from the cellar of the Creator." When this has been applied, the dead man returns to life, sits up, and says in the words of the Russian heroes—"How long I have slept!"[301]

Here is another instance of a life-giving operation of a double nature. There is a well-known Indian story about four suitors for the hand of one girl. She dies, but is restored to life by one of her lovers, who happens one day to see a dead child resuscitated, and learns how to perform similar miracles. In two Sanskrit versions of the "Vetalapanchavinsati,"[302] as well as in the Hindi version,[303] the life-giving charm consists in a spell taken from a book of magic. But in the Tamil version, the process is described as being of a different and double nature. According to it, the mother of the murdered child "by the charm called sisupabam re-created the body, and, by the incantation called sanjivi, restored it to life." The suitor, having learnt the charm and the incantation, "took the bones and the ashes (of the dead girl), and having created out of them the body, by virtue of the charm sisupabam gave life to that body by the sanjivi incantation." According to Mr. Babington, "Sanjivi is defined by the Tamuls to be a medicine which restores to life by dissipating a mortal swoon.... In the text the word is used for the art of using this medicine."[304]]

As a general rule, the two waters of which mention is made in the Skazkas possess the virtues, and are employed in the manner, mentioned above; but there are cases in which their powers are of a different nature. Sometimes we meet with two magic fluids, one of which heals all wounds, and restores sight to the blind and vigor to the cripple, while the other destroys all that it touches. Sometimes, also, recourse is had to magic draughts of two kinds, the one of which strengthens him who quaffs it, while the other produces the opposite effect. Such liquors as these are known as the "Waters of Strength and Weakness," and are usually described as being stowed away in the cellar of some many-headed Snake. For the Snake is often mentioned as the possessor, or at least the guardian, of magic fluids. Thus one of the Skazkas[305] speaks of a wondrous garden, in which are two springs of healing and vivifying water, and around that garden is coiled like a ring a mighty serpent. Another tells how a flying Snake brought two heroes to a lake, into which they flung a green bough, and immediately the bough broke into flame and was consumed. Then it took them to another lake, into which they cast a mouldy log. And the log straightway began to put forth buds and blossoms.[306]

In some cases the magic waters are the property, not of a Snake, but of one of the mighty heroines who so often occur in these stories, and who bear so great a resemblance to Brynhild, as well in other respects as in that of her enchanted sleep. Thus in one of the Skazkas[307] an aged king dreams that "beyond thrice nine lands, in the thirtieth country, there is a fair maiden from whose hands and feet water is flowing, of which water he who drinks will become thirty years younger." His sons go forth in search of this youth-giving liquid, and, after many adventures, the youngest is directed to the golden castle in which lives the "fair maiden," whom his father has seen in his vision. He has been told that when she is awake her custom is to divert herself in the green fields with her Amazon host—"for nine days she rambles about, and then for nine days she sleeps a heroic slumber." The Prince hides himself among the bushes near the castle, and sees a fair maiden come out of it surrounded by an armed band, "and all the band consists of maidens, each one more beautiful than the other. And the most beautiful, the most never-enough-to-be-gazed-upon, is the Queen herself." For nine days he watches the fair band of Amazons as they ramble about. On the tenth day all is still, and he enters the castle. In the midst of her slumbering guards sleeps the Queen on a couch of down, the healing water flowing from her hands and feet. With it he fills two flasks, and then he retires. When the Queen awakes, she becomes conscious of the theft and pursues the Prince. Coming up with him, she slays him with a single blow, but then takes compassion on him, and restores him to life.

In another version of the story, the precious fluid is contained in a flask which is hidden under the pillow of the slumbering "Tsar Maiden." The Prince steals it and flees, but he bears on him the weight of sin, and so, when he tries to clear the fence which girds the enchanted castle, his horse strikes one of the cords attached to it, and the spell is broken which maintains the magic sleep in which the realm is locked. The Tsar Maiden pursues the thief, but does not succeed in catching him. He is killed, however, by his elder brothers, who "cut him into small pieces," and then take the flask of magic water to their father. The murdered prince is resuscitated by the mythical bird known by the name of the Zhar-Ptitsa, which collects his scattered fragments, puts them together, and sprinkles them first with "dead water" and then with "live-water,"—conveyed for that purpose in its beak—after which the prince gets up, thanks his reviver, and goes his way.[308]

In one of the numerous variants of the story in which a prince is exposed to various dangers by his sister—who is induced to plot against his life by her demon lover, the Snake—the hero is sent in search of "a healing and a vivifying water," preserved between two lofty mountains which cleave closely together, except during "two or three minutes" of each day. He follows his instructions, rides to a certain spot, and there awaits the hour at which the mountains fly apart. "Suddenly a terrible hurricane arose, a mighty thunder smote, and the two mountains were torn asunder. Prince Ivan spurred his heroic steed, flew like a dart between the mountains, dipped two flasks in the waters, and instantly turned back." He himself escapes safe and sound, but the hind legs of his horse are caught between the closing cliffs, and smashed to pieces. The magic waters, of course, soon remedy this temporary inconvenience.[309]

In a Slovak version of this story, a murderous mother sends her son to two mountains, each of which is cleft open once in every twenty-four hours—the one opening at midday and the other at midnight; the former disclosing the Water of Life, the latter the Water of Death.[310] In a similar story from the Ukraine, mention is made of two springs of healing and life-giving water, which are guarded by iron-beaked ravens, and the way to which lies between grinding hills. The Fox and the Hare are sent in quest of the magic fluid. The Fox goes and returns in safety, but the Hare, on her way back, is not in time quite to clear the meeting cliffs, and her tail is jammed in between them. Since that time, hares have had no tails.[311]

On the Waters of Strength and Weakness much stress is laid in many of the tales about the many-headed Snakes which carry off men's wives and daughters to their metallic castles. In one of these, for instance, the golden-haired Queen Anastasia has been torn away by a whirlwind from her husband "Tsar Byel Byelyanin" [the White King]. As in the variant of the story already quoted,[312] her sons go in search of her, and the youngest of them, after finding three palaces—the first of copper, the second of silver, the third of gold, each containing a princess held captive by Vikhor, the whirlwind—comes to a fourth palace gleaming with diamonds and other precious stones. In it he discovers his long-lost mother, who gladly greets him, and at once takes him into Vikhor's cellar. Here is the account of what ensued.

Well, they entered the cellar; there stood two tubs of water, the one on the right hand, the other on the left. Says the Queen—

"Take a draught of the water that stands on the right hand." Prince Ivan drank of it.

"Now then, how strong do you feel?" said she.

"So strong that I could upset the whole palace with one hand," he replied.

"Come now, drink again."

The Prince drank once more.

"How strong do you feel now?" she asked.

"Why now, if I wanted, I could give the whole world a jolt."

"Oh that's plenty then! Now make these tubs change places—that which stands on the right, set on the left: and that which is on the left, change to the right."

Prince Ivan took the tubs and made them change places. Says the Queen—

"See now, my dear son; in one of these tubs is the 'Water of Strength,' in the other is the 'Water of Weakness.'[313] He who drinks of the former becomes a mighty hero, but he who drinks of the second loses all his vigor. Vikhor always quaffs the Strong Water, and places it on the right-hand side; therefore you must deceive him, or you will never be able to hold out against him."

The Queen proceeds to tell her son that, when Vikhor comes home, he must hide beneath her purple cloak, and watch for an opportunity of seizing her gaoler's magic mace.[314] Vikhor will fly about till he is tired, and will then have recourse to what he supposes is the "Strong Water;" this will render him so feeble that the Prince will be able to kill him. Having received these instructions, and having been warned not to strike Vikhor after he is dead, the Prince conceals himself. Suddenly the day becomes darkened, the palace quivers, and Vikhor arrives; stamping on the ground, he becomes a noble gallant, who enters the palace, "holding in his hands a battle mace." This Prince Ivan seizes, and a long struggle takes place between him and Vikhor, who flies away with him over seas and into the clouds. At last, Vikhor becomes exhausted and seeks the place where he expects to find the invigorating draught on which he is accustomed to rely. The result is as follows:

Dropping right into his cellar, Vikhor ran to the tub which stood on the right, and began drinking the Water of Weakness. But Prince Ivan rushed to the left, quaffed a deep draught of the Water of Strength, and became the mightiest hero in the whole world. Then seeing that Vikhor was perfectly enfeebled, he snatched from him his keen faulchion, and with a single blow struck off his head. Behind him voices began to cry:

"Strike again! strike again! or he will come to life!"

"No," replied the Prince, "a hero's hand does not strike twice, but finishes its work with a single blow." And straightway he lighted a fire, burnt the head and the trunk, and scattered the ashes to the winds.[315]

The part played by the Water of Strength in this story may be compared with "the important share which the exhilarating juice of the Soma-plant assumes in bracing Indra for his conflict with the hostile powers in the atmosphere," and Vikhor's sudden debility with that of Indra when the Asura Namuchi "drank up Indra's strength along with a draught of wine and soma."[316]

Sometimes, as has already been remarked, one of the two magic waters is even more injurious than the Water of Weakness.[317] The following may be taken as a specimen of the stories in which there is introduced a true Water of Death—one of those deadly springs which bear the same relation to the healing and vivifying founts that the enfeebling bears to the strengthening water. The Baba Yaga who figures in it is, as is so often the case, replaced by a Snake in the variant to which allusion has already been made.

THE BLIND MAN AND THE CRIPPLE.[318]

In a certain kingdom there lived a king and queen; they had a son, Prince Ivan, and to look after that son was appointed a tutor named Katoma.[319] The king and queen lived to a great age, but then they fell ill, and despaired of ever recovering. So they sent for Prince Ivan and strictly enjoined him:

"When we are dead, do you in everything respect and obey Katoma. If you obey him, you will prosper; but if you choose to be disobedient, you will perish like a fly."

The next day the king and queen died. Prince Ivan buried his parents, and took to living according to their instructions. Whatever he had to do, he always consulted his tutor about it.

Some time passed by. The Prince attained to man's estate, and began to think about getting married. So one day he went to his tutor and said:

"Katoma, I'm tired of living alone, I want to marry."

"Well, Prince! what's to prevent you? you're of an age at which it's time to think about a bride. Go into the great hall. There's a collection there of the portraits of all the princesses in the world; look at them and choose for yourself; whichever pleases you, to her send a proposal of marriage."

Prince Ivan went into the great hall, and began examining the portraits. And the one that pleased him best was that of the Princess Anna the Fair—such a beauty! the like of her wasn't to be found in the whole world! Underneath her portrait were written these words:

"If any one asks her a riddle, and she does not guess it, him shall she marry; but he whose riddle she guesses shall have his head chopped off."

Prince Ivan read this inscription, became greatly afflicted, and went off to his tutor.

"I've been in the great hall," says he, "and I picked out for my bride Anna the Fair; only I don't know whether it's possible to win her."

"Yes, Prince; she's hard to get. If you go alone, you won't win her anyhow. But if you will take me with you, and if you will do what I tell you, perhaps the affair can be managed."

Prince Ivan begged Katoma to go with him, and gave his word of honor to obey him whether in joy or grief.

Well, they got ready for the journey and set off to sue for the hand of the Princess Anna the Fair. They travelled for one year, two years, three years, and traversed many countries. Says Prince Ivan—

"We've been travelling all this time, uncle, and now we're approaching the country of Princess Anna the Fair; and yet we don't know what riddle to propound."

"We shall manage to think of one in good time," replied Katoma. They went a little farther. Katoma was looking down on the road, and on it lay a purse full of money. He lifted it up directly, poured all the money out of it into his own purse, and said—

"Here's a riddle for you, Prince Ivan! When you come into the presence of the Princess, propound a riddle to her in these words: 'As we were coming along, we saw Good lying on the road, and we took up the Good with Good, and placed it in our own Good!' That riddle she won't guess in a lifetime; but any other one she would find out directly. She would only have to look into her magic-book, and as soon as she had guessed it, she'd order your head to be cut off."

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