Russian Fairy Tales - A Choice Collection of Muscovite Folk-lore
by W. R. S. Ralston
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[315] Afanasief, vii. pp. 97-103.

[316] Muir's "Sanskrit Texts," v. p. 258 and p. 94. See, also Mannhardt's "Germ. Mythen," pp. 96-97.

[317] Being as destructive as the poison which was created during the churning of the Amrita.

[318] Afanasief, v. No. 35.

[319] In the original he is generally designated as Katoma—dyad'ka, dubovaya shapka, "Katoma-governor, oaken-hat." Not being able to preserve the assonance, I have dropped the greater part of his title.

[320] Bogodanny (bog = God; dat', davat' = to give). One of the Russian equivalents for our hideous "father-in-law" is "god-given father" (bogodanny otets), and for "mother-in-law," bogodanny mat' or "God-given mother." (Dahl.)

[321] Four lines are omitted here. See A. de Gubernatis, "Zool. Mythology," i. 181, where a solar explanation of the whole story will be found.

[322] These ejaculations belong to the story-teller.

[323] Literally, "Seemed to her as small as a lamb."

[324] Kolodez, a word connected with koloda a log, trough, &c.

[325] Afanasief, viii. No. 23 a.

[326] To this episode a striking parallel is offered by that of Gunther's wedding night in the "Nibelungenlied," in which Brynhild flings her husband Gunther across the room, kneels on his chest, and finally binds him hand and foot, and suspends him from a nail till daybreak. The next night Siegfried takes his place, and wrestles with the mighty maiden. After a long struggle he flings her on the floor and forces her to submit. Then he leaves the room and Gunther returns. A summary of the story will be found in the "Tales of the Teutonic Lands," by G. W. Cox and E. H. Jones, pp. 94-5.

[327] Khudyakof, i. No. 19. pp. 73-7.

[328] Erlenvein, No. 19, pp. 95-7. For a Little-Russian version see Kulish, ii. pp. 59-82.

[329] Afanasief, vi. No. 26. From the Kursk Government.

[330] Prashchurui.

[331] The sentence in italics is a good specimen of the priskazka, or preface.

[332] Gramota = grammata whence comes gramotey, able to read and write = grammatikos.

[333] Vanya and Vanyusha are diminutives of Ivan (John), answering to our Johnny; Vanka is another, more like our Jack.

[334] Literally "with a Solovei-like whistle." The word solovei generally means a nightingale, but it was also the name of a mythical hero, a robber whose voice or whistle had the power of killing those who heard it.

[335] Chmoknuel, smacked.

[336] See Barsof's rich collection of North-Russian funeral poetry, entitled "Prichitaniya Syevernago Kraya," Moscow, 1872. Also the "Songs of the Russian People," pp. 334-345.

[337] Miss Frere's "Old Deccan Days," pp. 3, 4.

[338] Grimm, KM. No. 21.

[339] Afanasief, vi. No. 54.

[340] Ona krava shto yoy ye bila mati, Vuk Karajich, p. 158. In the German translation (p. 188) Wie dies nun die Kuh sah, die einst seine Mutter gewesen war.

[341] Afanasief, ii. p. 254.

[342] Cherez dvyenadtsat' stekol. Steklo means a glass, or a pane of glass.

[343] Afanasief, ii. p. 269.

[344] Khudyakof, No. 50.

[345] Afanasief, iii. p. 25.

[346] Dasent's "Norse Tales," No. 40. Asbjoernsen and Moe, No. 37. "Grimsborken."

[347] Dasent, No. 13. Asbjoernsen and Moe, No. 51. "Jomfruen paa Glasberget."

[348] Campbell's "West-Highland Tales," iii. pp. 265, 266.

[349] Miss Frere's "Old Deccan Days," pp. 31, 73, 95, 135.

[350] "Voelsunga Saga," translated by E. Magnusson and W. Morris, pp. 95-6.

[351] Afanasief, vi. No. 32. From the Novgorod Government. A "chap-book" version of this story will be found in Dietrich's collection (pp. 152-68 of the English translation); also in Keightley's "Tales and Popular Fictions."

[352] Nijnie, lower. Thus Nijny Novgorod is the lower (down the Volga) Novgorod. (Dahl.)

[353] Kukova, a stick or cudgel, one end of which is bent and rounded like a ball.

[354] Tak de ego ne vzat'.

[355] There are numerous variants of this story among the Skazkas. In one of these (Afanasief, vii. No. 31) the man on whom the pike has bestowed supernatural power uses it to turn a Maiden princess into a mother. This renders the story wholly in accordance with (1) the Modern Greek tale of "The Half Man," (Hahn, No. 8) in which the magic formula runs, "according to the first word of God and the second of the fish shall such and such a thing be done!" (2) The Neapolitan story of "Pervonto" (Basile's "Pentamerone," No. 3) who obtains his magic power from three youths whom he screens from the sun as they lie asleep one hot day, and who turn out to be sons of a fairy. Afanasief compares the story also with the German tale of "The Little Grey Mannikin," in the "Zeitschrift fuer Deutsche Mythologie," &c., i. pp. 38-40. The incident of wishes being fulfilled by a fish occurs in many stories, as in that of "The Fisherman," in the "Arabian Nights," "The Fisherman and his Wife," in Grimm (KM., No. 19). A number of stories about the Pike are referred to by A. de Gubernatis ("Zoolog. Mythology," ii. 337-9).

[356] Quoted by Afanasief from Siemienski's "Podania," Posen, 1845, p. 42.

[357] "Songs of the Russian People," pp. 387-427.

[358] Afanasief, vii. No. 36 a. This story has no special title in the original.

[359] The rural police. Sotnick = centurion, from sto = 100. Desyatnik is a word of the same kind from desyat = 10.

[360] A Ponomar is a kind of sacristan.

[361] "Der Werwolf, Beitrag zur Sagengeschichte," Stuttgart, 1862. For Russian ideas on the subject see "Songs of the Russian people," pp. 403-9.

[362] "Polnische Volkssagen" (translated by Lewestam), p. 61.

[363] Brockhaus's "Maehrchensammlung des Somadeva Bhatta," ii. p. 24.

[364] Afanasief, vii. No. 36 b. This story, also, is without special title.

[365] In Mr. Hain Friswell's collection of "Ghost Stories," 1858.

[366] Afanasief, vii. No. 36 c. Also without special title.

[367] The Russian skovoroda is a sort of stew-pan, of great size, without a handle.

[368] From Professor Brockhaus's summary in the "Berichte der phil. hist. Classe der Koenigl. Saechs. Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften," 1861, pp. 215, 16.

[369] For an account of this mythological bird, see the note on next page. Ornithologically, the Zhar-ptitsa is the Cassowary.

[370] Khudyakof, No. 110. From the Nijegorod Government.

[371] Zhar = glowing heat, as of a furnace; zhar-ptitsa = the glow-bird. Its name among the Czekhs and Slovaks is Ptak Ohnivak. The heathens Slavonians are said to have worshipped Ogon or Agon, Fire, the counterpart of the Vedic Agni. Agon is still the ordinary Russian word for fire, the equivalent of the Latin ignis.

[372] Afanasief, vii. No. 11. See also the notes in viii. p. 620, etc.

[373] Grimm's KM., No. 57. See the notes in Bd. iii. p. 98.

[374] Afanasief, vii. No. 12.

[375] Khudyakof, No. 104. From the Orel Government.

[376] The kholodnaya izba—the "cold izba," as opposed to the "warm izba" or living room.

[377] The etymology of the word koldun is still, I believe, a moot point. The discovery of the money in the warlock's coffin seems an improbable incident. In the original version of the story the wizard may, perhaps, have turned into a heap of gold (see above, p. 231, on "Gold-men").

[378] Campbell, No. 13, vol. i. p. 215.



The Russian peasants have very confused ideas about the local habitation of the disembodied spirit, after its former tenement has been laid in the grave. They seem, from the language of their funeral songs, sometimes to regard the departed spirit as residing in the coffin which holds the body from which it has been severed, sometimes to imagine that it hovers around the building which used to be its home, or flies abroad on the wings of the winds. In the food and money and other necessaries of existence still placed in the coffin with the corpse, may be seen traces of an old belief in a journey which the soul was forced to undertake after the death of the body; in the pomniki or feasts in memory of the dead, celebrated at certain short intervals after a death, and also on its anniversary, may be clearly recognized the remains of a faith in the continued residence of the dead in the spot where they had been buried, and in their subjection to some physical sufferings, their capacity for certain animal enjoyments. The two beliefs run side by side with each other, sometimes clashing and producing strange results—all the more strange when they show signs of an attempt having been made to reconcile them with Christian ideas.[379]

Of a heavenly or upper-world home of departed spirits, neither the songs nor the stories of the people, so far as I am aware, make mention. But that there is a country beyond the sky, inhabited by supernatural beings of magic power and unbounded wealth, is stated in a number of tales of the well-known "Jack and the Beanstalk" type. Of these the following may be taken as a specimen.


There once was an old couple. The old man planted a cabbage-head in the cellar under the floor of his cottage; the old woman planted one in the ash-hole. The old woman's cabbage, in the ash-hole, withered away entirely; but the old man's grew and grew, grew up to the floor. The old man took his hatchet and cut a hole in the floor above the cabbage. The cabbage went on growing again; grew, grew right up to the ceiling. Again the old man took his hatchet and cut a hole in the ceiling above the cabbage. The cabbage grew and grew, grew right up to the sky. How was the old man to get a look at the head of the cabbage? He began climbing up the cabbage-stalk, climbed and climbed, climbed and climbed, climbed right up to the sky, cut a hole in the sky, and crept through. There he sees a mill[381] standing. The mill gives a turn—out come a pie and a cake with a pot of stewed grain on top.

The old man ate his fill, drank his fill, and then lay down to sleep. When he had slept enough he slid down to earth again, and cried:

"Old woman! why, old woman! how one does live up in heaven! There's a mill there—every time it turns, out come a pie and a cake, with a pot of kasha on top!"

"How can I get there, old man?"

"Slip into this sack, old woman. I'll carry you up."

The old woman thought a bit, and then got into the sack. The old man took the sack in his teeth, and began climbing up to heaven. He climbed and climbed, long did he climb. The old woman got tired of waiting and asked:

"Is it much farther, old man?"

"We've half the way to go still."

Again he climbed and climbed, climbed and climbed. A second time the old woman asked:

"Is it much farther, old man?"

The old man was just beginning to say: "Not much farther—" when the sack slipped from between his teeth, and the old woman fell to the ground and was smashed all to pieces. The old man slid down the cabbage-stalk and picked up the sack. But it had nothing in it but bones, and those broken very small. The old man went out of his house and wept bitterly.

Presently a fox met him.

"What are you crying about, old man?"

"How can I help crying? My old woman is smashed to pieces."

"Hold your noise! I'll cure her."

The old man fell at the fox's feet.

"Only cure her! I'll pay whatever is wanted."

"Well, then, heat the bath-room, carry the old woman there along with a bag of oatmeal and a pot of butter, and then stand outside the door; but don't look inside."

The old man heated the bath-room, carried in what was wanted, and stood outside at the door. But the fox went into the bath-room, shut the door, and began washing the old woman's remains; washed and washed, and kept looking about her all the time.

"How's my old woman getting on?" asked the old man.

"Beginning to stir!" replied the fox, who then ate up the old woman, collected her bones and piled them up in a corner, and set to work to knead a hasty pudding.

The old man waited and waited. Presently he asked;

"How's my old woman getting on?"

"Resting a bit!" cried the fox, as she gobbled up the hasty pudding.

When she had finished it she cried:

"Old man! open the door wide."

He opened it, and the fox sprang out of the bath-room and ran off home. The old man went into the bath-room and looked about him. Nothing was to be seen but the old woman's bones under the bench—and those picked so clean! As for the oatmeal and the butter, they had all been eaten up. So the old man was left alone and in poverty.

This story is evidently a combination of two widely differing tales. The catastrophe we may for the present pass over, but about the opening some few words may be said. The Beanstalk myth is one which is found among so many peoples in such widely distant regions, and it deals with ideas of such importance, that no contribution to its history can be considered valueless. Most remarkable among its numerous forms are those American and Malayo-Polynesian versions of the "heaven-tree" story which Mr. Tylor has brought together in his "Early History of mankind."[382] In Europe it is usually found in a very crude and fragmentary form, having been preserved, for the most part, as the introduction to some other story which has proved more attractive to the popular fancy. The Russian versions are all, as far as I am aware, of this nature. I have already[383] mentioned one of them, in which, also, the Fox plays a prominent part. Its opening words are, "There once lived an old man and an old woman, and they had a little daughter. One day she was eating beans, and she let one fall on the ground. The bean grew and grew, and grew right up to heaven. The old man climbed up to heaven, slipped in there, walked and walked, admired and admired, and said to himself, 'I'll go and fetch the old woman; won't she just be delighted!'" So he tries to carry his wife up the bean stalk, but grows faint and lets her fall; she is killed, and he calls in the Fox as Wailer.[384]

In a variant of the "Fox Physician" from the Vologda Government, it is a pea which gives birth to the wondrous tree. "There lived an old man and an old woman; the old man was rolling a pea about, and it fell on the ground. They searched and searched a whole week, but they couldn't find it. The week passed by, and the old people saw that the pea had begun to sprout. They watered it regularly, and the pea set to work and grew higher than the izba. When the peas ripened, the old man climbed up to where they were, plucked a great bundle of them, and began sliding down the stalk again. But the bundle fell out of the old man's hands and killed the old woman."[385]

According to another variant, "There once lived a grandfather and a grandmother, and they had a hut. The grandfather sowed a bean under the table, and the grandmother a pea. A hen gobbled up the pea, but the bean grew up as high as the table. They moved the table, and the bean grew still higher. They cut away the ceiling and the roof; it went on growing until it grew right up to the heavens (nebo). The grandfather climbed up to heaven, climbed and climbed—there stood a hut (khatka), its walls of pancakes, its benches of white bread, the stove of buttered curds. He began to eat, ate his fill, and lay down above the stove to sleep. In came twelve sister-goats. The first had one eye, the second two eyes, the third three, and so on with the rest, the last having twelve eyes. They saw that some one had been meddling with their hut, so they put it to rights, and when they went out they left the one-eyed to keep watch. Next day the grandfather again climbed up there, saw One-Eye and began to mutter[386] 'Sleep, eye, sleep!' The goat went to sleep. The man ate his fill and went away. Next day the two-eyed kept watch, and after it the three-eyed and so on. The grandfather always muttered his charm 'Sleep, eye! Sleep, second eye! Sleep, third eye!' and so on. But with the twelfth goat he failed, for he charmed only eleven of her eyes. The goat saw him with the twelfth and caught him,"—and there the story ends.[387]

In another instance the myth has been turned into one of those tales of the Munchausen class, the title of which is the "saw" Ne lyubo, ne slushai, i.e., "If you don't like, don't listen"—the final words being understood; "but let me tell you a story." A cock finds a pea in the part of a cottage under the floor, and begins calling to the hens; the cottager hears the call, drives away the cock, and pours water over the pea. It grows up to the floor, up to the ceiling, up to the roof; each time way is made for it, and finally it grows right up to heaven (do nebushka). Says the moujik to his wife:

"Wife! wife, I say! shall I climb up into heaven and see what's going on there? May be there's sugar there, and mead—lots of everything!"

"Climb away, if you've a mind to," replies his wife.

So he climbs up, and there he finds a large wooden house. He enters in and sees a stove, garnished with sucking pigs and geese and pies "and everything which the soul could desire." But the stove is guarded by a seven-eyed goat; the moujik charms six of the eyes to sleep, but overlooks the seventh. With it the goat sees him eat and drink and then go to sleep. The house-master comes in, is informed by the goat of all that has occurred, flies into a passion, calls his servants, and has the intruder turned out of the house. When the moujik comes to the place where the pea-stalk had been, "he looks around—no pea-stalk is there." He collects the cobwebs "which float on the summer air," and of them he makes a cord; this he fastens "to the edge of heaven" and begins to descend. Long before he reaches the earth he comes to the end of his cord, so he crosses himself, and lets go. Falling into a swamp, he remains there some time. At last a duck builds her nest on his head, and lays an egg in it. He catches hold of the duck's tail, and the bird pulls him out of the swamp; whereupon he goes home rejoicing, taking with him the duck and her egg, and tells his wife all that has happened.[388]

In another variant it is an acorn which is sown under the floor. From it springs an oak which grows to the skies. The old man of the story climbs up it in search of acorns, and reaches heaven. There he finds a hand-mill and a cock with a golden comb, both of which he carries off. The mill grinds pies and pancakes, and the old man and his wife live in plenty. But after a time a Barin or Seigneur steals the mill. The old people are in despair, but the golden-combed cock flies after the mill, perches on the Barin's gates, and cries—

"Kukureku! Boyarin, Boyarin! Give us back our golden, sky-blue mill!"

The cock is flung into the well, but it drinks all the water, flies up to the Barin's house, and there reiterates its demand. Then it is thrown into the fire, but it extinguishes the flames, flies right into the Barin's guest-chamber, and crows as before. The guests disperse, the Barin runs after them, and the golden-combed cock seizes the mill and flies away with it.[389]

In a variant from the Smolensk Government, it is the wife who climbs up the pea-stalk, while the husband remains down below. When she reaches the top, she finds an izbushka or cottage there, its walls made of pies, its tables of cheese, its stove of pancakes, and so forth. After she has feasted and gone to sleep in a corner, in come three goats, of which the first has two eyes and two ears, the second has three of each of these organs, and the third has four. The old woman sends to sleep the ears and the eyes of the first and the second goat; but when the third watches it retains the use of its fourth eye and fourth ear, in spite of the incantations uttered by the intruder, and so finds her out. On being questioned, she explains that she has come "from the earthly realm into the heavenly," and promises not to repeat her visit if she is dismissed in peace. So the goats let her go, and give her a bag of nuts, apples, and other good things to take with her. She slides down the pea-stalk and tells her husband all that has happened. He persuades her to undertake a second ascent together with him, so off they set in company, their young granddaughter climbing after them. Suddenly the pea-stalk breaks, they fall headlong and are never heard of again. "Since that time," says the story, "no one has ever set foot in that heavenly izbushka—so no one knows anything more about it."[390]

Clearer and fuller than these vague and fragmentary sketches of a "heavenly realm," are the pictures contained in the Russian folk-tales of the underground world. But it is very doubtful how far the stories in which they figure represent ancient Slavonic ideas. In the name, if not in the nature, of the Ad, or subterranean abode of evil spirits and sinful souls, we recognize the influence of the Byzantine Hades; but most of the tales in which it occurs are supposed to draw their original inspiration from Indian sources, while they owe to Christian, Brahmanic, Buddhistic, and Mohammedan influences the form in which they now appear. To these "legends," as the folk-tales are styled in which the saints or their ghostly enemies occur, belongs the following narrative of—


There was a certain moujik who had three sons. His life was a prosperous one, and he laid by money enough to fill two pots. The one he buried in his corn-kiln, the other under the gate of his farmyard. Well, the moujik died, and never said a word about the money to any one. One day there was a festival in the village. A fiddler was on his way to the revel when, all of a sudden, he sank into the earth—sank right through and tumbled into hell, lighting exactly there where the rich moujik was being tormented.

"Hail, friend!" says the Fiddler.

"It's an ill wind that's brought you hither!"[392] answers the moujik; "this is hell, and in hell here I sit."

"What was it brought you here, uncle?"

"It was money! I had much money: I gave none to the poor, two pots of it did I bury underground. See now, they are going to torment me, to beat me with sticks, to tear me with nails."

"Whatever shall I do?" cried the Fiddler. "Perhaps they'll take to torturing me too!"

"If you go and sit on the stove behind the chimney-pipe, and don't eat anything for three years—then you will remain safe."

The Fiddler hid behind the stove-pipe. Then came fiends,[393] and they began to beat the rich moujik, reviling him the while, and saying:

"There's for thee, O rich man. Pots of money didst thou bury but thou couldst not hide them. There didst thou bury them that we might not be able to keep watch over them. At the gate people are always riding about, the horses crush our heads with their hoofs, and in the corn-kiln we get beaten with flails."

As soon as the fiends had gone away the moujik said to the Fiddler:

"If you get out of here, tell my children to dig up the money—one pot is buried at the gate, and the other in the corn-kiln—and to distribute it among the poor."

Afterwards there came a whole roomful of evil ones, and they asked the rich moujik:

"What have you got here that smells so Russian?"

"You have been in Russia and brought away a Russian smell with you," replied the moujik.

"How could that be?" they said. Then they began looking, they found the Fiddler, and they shouted:

"Ha, ha, ha! Here's a Fiddler."

They pulled him off the stove, and set him to work fiddling. He played three years, though it seemed to him only three days. Then he got tired and said:

"Here's a wonder! After playing a whole evening I used always to find all my fiddle-strings snapped. But now, though I've been playing for three whole days, they are all sound. May the Lord grant us his blessing!"[394]

No sooner had he uttered these words than every one of the strings snapped.

"There now, brothers!" says the Fiddler, "you can see for yourselves. The strings are snapped; I've nothing to play on!"

"Wait a bit!" said one of the fiends. "I've got two hanks of catgut; I'll fetch them for you."

He ran off and fetched them. The Fiddler took the strings, screwed them up, and again uttered the words:

"May the Lord grant us his blessing!"

In a moment snap went both hanks.

"No, brothers!" said the Fiddler, "your strings don't suit me. I've got some of my own at home; by your leave I'll go for them."

The fiends wouldn't let him go. "You wouldn't come back," they say.

"Well, if you won't trust me, send some one with me as an escort."

The fiends chose one of their number, and sent him with the Fiddler. The Fiddler got back to the village. There he could hear that, in the farthest cottage, a wedding was being celebrated.

"Let's go to the wedding!" he cried.

"Come along!" said the fiend.

They entered the cottage. Everyone there recognized the Fiddler and cried:

"Where have you been hiding these three years?"

"I have been in the other world!" he replied.

They sat there and enjoyed themselves for some time. Then the fiend beckoned to the Fiddler, saying, "It's time to be off!" But the Fiddler replied: "Wait a little longer! Let me fiddle away a bit and cheer up the young people." And so they remained sitting there till the cocks began to crow. Then the fiend disappeared.

After that, the Fiddler began to talk to the sons of the rich moujik, and said:

"Your father bids you dig up the money—one potful is buried at the gate and the other in the corn-kiln—and distribute the whole of it among the poor."

Well, they dug up both the pots, and began to distribute the money among the poor. But the more they gave away the money, the more did it increase. Then they carried out the pots to a crossway. Every one who passed by took out of them as much money as his hand could grasp, and yet the money wouldn't come to an end. Then they presented a petition to the Emperor, and he ordained as follows. There was a certain town, the road to which was a very roundabout one. It was some fifty versts long, whereas if it had been made in a straight line it would not have been more than five. And so the Emperor ordained that a bridge should be made the whole way. Well, they built a bridge five versts long, and this piece of work cleared out both the pots.

About that time a certain maid bore a son and deserted him in his infancy. The child neither ate nor drank for three years and an angel of God always went about with him. Well, this child came to the bridge, and cried:

"Ah! what a glorious bridge! God grant the kingdom of heaven to him at whose cost it was built!"

The Lord heard this prayer, and ordered his angels to release the rich moujik from the depths of hell.[395]

With the bridge-building episode in this "legend" may be compared the opening of another Russian story. In it a merchant is described as having much money but no children. So he and his wife "began to pray to God, entreating him to give them a child—for solace in their youth, for support in their old age, for soul-remembrance[396] after death. And they took to feeding the poor and distributing alms. Besides all this, they resolved to build, for the use of all the faithful, a long bridge across swamps and where no man could find a footing. Much wealth did the merchant expend, but he built the bridge, and when the work was completed he sent his manager Fedor, saying—

"'Go and sit under the bridge, and listen to what folks say about me—whether they bless me or revile me.'

"Fedor set off, sat under the bridge, and listened. Presently three Holy Elders went over the bridge, and said one to another—

"'How ought the man who built this bridge to be rewarded?' 'Let there be born to him a fortunate son. Whatsoever that son says—it shall be done: whatsoever he desires—that will the Lord bestow!'"[397]

The rest of the story closely resembles the German tale of "The Pink."[398] In the corresponding Bohemian story of "The Treacherous Servant,"[399] it may be observed, the bridge-building incident has been preserved.

But I will not dwell any longer on the story of the Fiddler, as I propose to give some account in the next chapter of several other tales of the same class, in most of which such descriptions of evil spirits are introduced as have manifestly been altered into what their narrators considered to be in accordance with Christian teaching. And so I will revert to those ideas about the dead, and about their abiding-place, which the modern Slavonians seem to have inherited from their heathen ancestors, and I will attempt to illustrate them by a few Russian ghost-stories. Those stories are, as a general rule, of a most ghastly nature, but there are a few into the composition of which the savage element does not enter. The "Dead Mother," which has already been quoted,[400] belongs to the latter class; and so does the following tale—which, as it bears no title in the original, we may name,


Late one evening a certain artisan happened to be returning home from a jovial feast in a distant village. There met him on the way an old friend, one who had been dead some ten years.

"Good health to you!" said the dead man.

"I wish you good health!" replied the reveller, and straight way forgot that his acquaintance had ever so long ago bidden the world farewell.

"Let's go to my house. We'll quaff a cup or two once more."

"Come along. On such a happy occasion as this meeting of ours, we may as well have a drink."

They arrived at a dwelling and there they drank and revelled.

"Now then, good-bye! It's time for me to go home," said the artisan.

"Stay a bit. Where do you want to go now? Spend the night here with me."

"No, brother! don't ask me; it cannot be. I've business to do to-morrow, so I must get home as early as possible."

"Well, good-bye! but why should you walk? Better get on my horse; it will carry you home quickly."

"Thanks! let's have it."

He got on its back, and was carried off—just as a whirlwind flies! All of a sudden a cock crew. It was awful! All around were graves, and the rider found he had a gravestone under him!

Of a somewhat similar nature is the story of—


In the days of old there lived in a certain village two young men. They were great friends, went to besyedas[403] together, in fact, regarded each other as brothers. And they made this mutual agreement. Whichever of the two should marry first was to invite his comrade to his wedding. And it was not to make any difference whether he was alive or dead.

About a year after this one of the young men fell ill and died. A few months later his comrade took it into his head to get married. So he collected all his kinsmen, and set off to fetch his bride. Now it happened that they drove past the graveyard, and the bridegroom recalled his friend to mind, and remembered his old agreement. So he had the horses stopped, saying:

"I'm going to my comrade's grave. I shall ask him to come and enjoy himself at my wedding. A right trusty friend was he to me."

So he went to the grave and began to call aloud:

"Comrade dear! I invite thee to my wedding."

Suddenly the grave yawned, the dead man arose, and said:

"Thanks be to thee, brother, that thou hast fulfilled thy promise. And now, that we may profit by this happy chance, enter my abode. Let us quaff a glass apiece of grateful drink."

"I'd have gone, only the marriage procession is stopping outside; all the folks are waiting for me."

"Eh, brother!" replied the dead man, "surely it won't take long to toss off a glass!"

The bridegroom jumped into the grave. The dead man poured him out a cup of liquor. He drank it off—and a hundred years passed away.

"Quaff another cup, dear friend!" said the dead man.

He drank a second cup—two hundred years passed away.

"Now, comrade dear, quaff a third cup!" said the dead man, "and then go, in God's name, and celebrate thy marriage!"

He drank the third cup—three hundred years passed away.

The dead man took leave of his comrade. The coffin lid fell; the grave closed.

The bridegroom looked around. Where the graveyard had been, was now a piece of waste ground. No road was to be seen, no kinsmen, no horses. All around grew nettles and tall grass.

He ran to the village—but the village was not what it used to be. The houses were different; the people were all strangers to him. He went to the priest's—but the priest was not the one who used to be there—and told him about everything that had happened. The priest searched through the church-books, and found that, three hundred years before, this occurrence had taken place: a bridegroom had gone to the graveyard on his wedding-day, and had disappeared. And his bride, after some time had passed by, had married another man.

[The "Rip van Winkle" story is too well known to require more than a passing allusion. It was doubtless founded on one of the numerous folk-tales which correspond to the Christian legend of "The Seven Sleepers of Ephesus"—itself an echo of an older tale (see Baring Gould, "Curious Myths," 1872, pp. 93-112, and Cox, "Mythology of the Aryan Nations," i. 413)—and to that of the monk who listens to a bird singing in the convent garden, and remains entranced for the space of many years: of which latter legend a Russian version occurs in Chudinsky's collection (No. 17, pp. 92-4). Very close indeed is the resemblance between the Russian story of "The Two Friends," and the Norse "Friends in Life and Death" (Asbjoernsen's New Series, No. 62, pp. 5-7). In the latter the bridegroom knocks hard and long on his dead friend's grave. At length its occupant appears, and accounts for his delay by saying he had been far away when the first knocks came, and so had not heard them. Then he follows the bridegroom to church and from church, and afterwards the bridegroom sees him back to his tomb. On the way the living man expresses a desire to see something of the world beyond the grave, and the corpse fulfils his wish, having first placed on his head a sod cut in the graveyard. After witnessing many strange sights, the bridegroom is told to sit down and wait till his guide returns. When he rises to his feet, he is all overgrown with mosses and shrub (var han overvoxen med Mose og Busker), and when he reaches the outer world he finds all things changed.]

But from these dim sketches of a life beyond, or rather within the grave, in which memories of old days and old friendships are preserved by ghosts of an almost genial and entirely harmless disposition, we will now turn to those more elaborate pictures in which the dead are represented under an altogether terrific aspect. It is not as an incorporeal being that the visitor from the other world is represented in the Skazkas. He comes not as a mere phantom, intangible, impalpable, incapable of physical exertion, haunting the dwelling which once was his home, or the spot to which he is drawn by the memory of some unexpiated crime. It is as a vitalized corpse that he comes to trouble mankind, often subject to human appetites, constantly endowed with more than human strength and malignity. His apparel is generally that of the grave, and he cannot endure to part with it, as may be seen from the following story—


In a certain village there was a girl who was lazy and slothful, hated working but would gossip and chatter away like anything. Well, she took it into her head to invite the other girls to a spinning party. For in the villages, as every one knows, it is the lazybones who gives the spinning-feast, and the sweet-toothed are those who go to it.

Well, on the appointed night she got her spinners together. They span for her, and she fed them and feasted them. Among other things they chatted about was this—which of them all was the boldest?

Says the lazybones (lezhaka):

"I'm not afraid of anything!"

"Well then," say the spinners, "if you're not afraid, go past the graveyard to the church, take down the holy picture from the door, and bring it here."

"Good, I'll bring it; only each of you must spin me a distaff-ful."

That was just her sort of notion: to do nothing herself, but to get others to do it for her. Well, she went, took down the picture, and brought it home with her. Her friends all saw that sure enough it was the picture from the church. But the picture had to be taken back again, and it was now the midnight hour. Who was to take it? At length the lazybones said:

"You girls go on spinning. I'll take it back myself. I'm not afraid of anything!"

So she went and put the picture back in its place. As she was passing the graveyard on her return, she saw a corpse in a white shroud, seated on a tomb. It was a moonlight night; everything was visible. She went up to the corpse, and drew away its shroud from it. The corpse held its peace, not uttering a word; no doubt the time for it to speak had not come yet. Well, she took the shroud and went home.

"There!" says she, "I've taken back the picture and put it in its place; and, what's more, here's a shroud I took away from a corpse."

Some of the girls were horrified; others didn't believe what she said, and laughed at her.

But after they had supped and lain down to sleep, all of a sudden the corpse tapped at the window and said:

"Give me my shroud! Give me my shroud!"

The girls were so frightened they didn't know whether they were alive or dead. But the lazybones took the shroud, went to the window, opened it, and said:

"There, take it."

"No," replied the corpse, "restore it to the place you took it from."

Just then the cocks suddenly began to crow. The corpse disappeared.

Next night, when the spinners had all gone home to their own houses, at the very same hour as before, the corpse came, tapped at the window, and cried:

"Give me my shroud!"

Well, the girl's father and mother opened the window and offered him his shroud.

"No," says he, "let her take it back to the place she took it from."

"Really now, how could one go to a graveyard with a corpse? What a horrible idea!" she replied.

Just then the cocks crew. The corpse disappeared.

Next day the girl's father and mother sent for the priest, told him the whole story, and entreated him to help them in their trouble.

"Couldn't a service[405] be performed?" they said.

The priest reflected awhile; then he replied:

"Please to tell her to come to church to-morrow."

Next day the lazybones went to church. The service began, numbers of people came to it. But just as they were going to sing the cherubim song,[406] there suddenly arose, goodness knows whence, so terrible a whirlwind that all the congregation fell flat on their faces. And it caught up that girl, and then flung her down on the ground. The girl disappeared from sight; nothing was left of her but her back hair.[407]

They are generally the corpses of wizards, or of other sinners who have led specially unholy lives, which leave their graves by night and wander abroad. Into such bodies, it is held, demons enter, and the combination of fiend and corpse goes forth as the terrible Vampire thirsting for blood. Of the proceedings of such a being the next story gives a detailed account, from which, among other things, may be learnt the fact that Slavonic corpses attach great importance to their coffin-lids as well as to their shrouds.


A moujik was driving along one night with a load of pots. His horse grew tired, and all of a sudden it came to a standstill alongside of a graveyard. The moujik unharnessed his horse and set it free to graze; meanwhile he laid himself down on one of the graves. But somehow he didn't go to sleep.

He remained lying there some time. Suddenly the grave began to open beneath him: he felt the movement and sprang to his feet. The grave opened, and out of it came a corpse—wrapped in a white shroud, and holding a coffin lid—came out and ran to the church, laid the coffin-lid at the door, and then set off for the village.

The moujik was a daring fellow. He picked up the coffin-lid and remained standing beside his cart, waiting to see what would happen. After a short delay the dead man came back, and was going to snatch up his coffin-lid—but it was not to be seen. Then the corpse began to track it out, traced it up to the moujik, and said:

"Give me my lid: if you don't, I'll tear you to bits!"

"And my hatchet, how about that?" answers the moujik. "Why, it's I who'll be chopping you into small pieces!"

"Do give it back to me, good man!" begs the corpse.

"I'll give it when you tell me where you've been and what you've done."

"Well, I've been in the village, and there I've killed a couple of youngsters."

"Well then, now tell me how they can be brought back to life."

The corpse reluctantly made answer:

"Cut off the left skirt of my shroud, and take it with you. When you come into the house where the youngsters were killed, pour some live coals into a pot and put the piece of the shroud in with them, and then lock the door. The lads will be revived by the smoke immediately."

The moujik cut off the left skirt of the shroud, and gave up the coffin-lid. The corpse went to its grave—the grave opened. But just as the dead man was descending into it, all of a sudden the cocks began to crow, and he hadn't time to get properly covered over. One end of the coffin-lid remained sticking out of the ground.

The moujik saw all this and made a note of it. The day began to dawn; he harnessed his horse and drove into the village. In one of the houses he heard cries and wailing. In he went—there lay two dead lads.

"Don't cry," says he, "I can bring them to life!"

"Do bring them to life, kinsman," say their relatives. "We'll give you half of all we possess."

The moujik did everything as the corpse had instructed him, and the lads came back to life. Their relatives were delighted, but they immediately seized the moujik and bound him with cords, saying:

"No, no, trickster! We'll hand you over to the authorities. Since you knew how to bring them back to life, maybe it was you who killed them!"

"What are you thinking about, true believers! Have the fear of God before your eyes!" cried the moujik.

Then he told them everything that had happened to him during the night. Well, they spread the news through the village; the whole population assembled and swarmed into the graveyard. They found out the grave from which the dead man had come out, they tore it open, and they drove an aspen stake right into the heart of the corpse, so that it might no more rise up and slay. But they rewarded the moujik richly, and sent him away home with great honor.

It is not only during sleep that the Vampire is to be dreaded. At cross-roads, or in the neighborhood of cemeteries, an animated corpse of this description often lurks, watching for some unwary wayfarer whom it may be able to slay and eat. Past such dangerous spots as these the belated villager will speed with timorous steps, remembering, perhaps, some such uncanny tale as that which comes next.


A soldier had obtained leave to go home on furlough—to pray to the holy images, and to bow down before his parents. And as he was going his way, at a time when the sun had long set, and all was dark around, it chanced that he had to pass by a graveyard. Just then he heard that some one was running after him, and crying:

"Stop! you can't escape!"

He looked back and there was a corpse running and gnashing its teeth. The Soldier sprang on one side with all his might to get away from it, caught sight of a little chapel,[410] and bolted straight into it.

There wasn't a soul in the chapel, but stretched out on a table there lay another corpse, with tapers burning in front of it. The Soldier hid himself in a corner, and remained there, hardly knowing whether he was alive or dead, but waiting to see what would happen. Presently up ran the first corpse—the one that had chased the Soldier—and dashed into the chapel. Thereupon the one that was lying on the table jumped up, and cried to it:

"What hast thou come here for?"

"I've chased a soldier in here, so I'm going to eat him."

"Come now, brother! he's run into my house. I shall eat him myself."

"No, I shall!"

"No, I shall!"

And they set to work fighting; the dust flew like anything. They'd have gone on fighting ever so much longer, only the cocks began to crow. Then both the corpses fell lifeless to the ground, and the Soldier went on his way homeward in peace, saying:

"Glory be to Thee, O Lord! I am saved from the wizards!"

Even the possession of arms and the presence of a dog will not always, it seems, render a man secure from this terrible species of cut-throat.


A moujik went out in pursuit of game one day, and took a favorite dog with him. He walked and walked through woods and bogs, but got nothing for his pains. At last the darkness of night surprised him. At an uncanny hour he passed by a graveyard, and there, at a place where two roads met, he saw standing a corpse in a white shroud. The moujik was horrified, and knew not which way to go—whether to keep on or to turn back.

"Well, whatever happens, I'll go on," he thought; and on he went, his dog running at his heels. When the corpse perceived him, it came to meet him; not touching the earth with its feet, but keeping about a foot above it—the shroud fluttering after it. When it had come up with the sportsman, it made a rush at him; but the dog seized hold of it by its bare calves, and began a tussle with it. When the moujik saw his dog and the corpse grappling with each other, he was delighted that things had turned out so well for himself, and he set off running home with all his might. The dog kept up the struggle until cock-crow, when the corpse fell motionless to the ground. Then the dog ran off in pursuit of its master, caught him up just as he reached home, and rushed at him, furiously trying to bite and to rend him. So savage was it, and so persistent, that it was as much as the people of the house could do to beat it off.

"Whatever has come over the dog?" asked the moujik's old mother. "Why should it hate its master so?"

The moujik told her all that had happened.

"A bad piece of work, my son!" said the old woman. "The dog was disgusted at your not helping it. There it was fighting with the corpse—and you deserted it, and thought only of saving yourself! Now it will owe you a grudge for ever so long."

Next morning, while the family were going about the farmyard, the dog was perfectly quiet. But the moment its master made his appearance, it began to growl like anything.

They fastened it to a chain; for a whole year they kept it chained up. But in spite of that, it never forgot how its master had offended it. One day it got loose, flew straight at him, and began trying to throttle him.

So they had to kill it.

In the next story a most detailed account is given of the manner in which a Vampire sets to work, and also of the best means of ridding the world of it.


A certain soldier was allowed to go home on furlough. Well, he walked and walked, and after a time he began to draw near to his native village. Not far off from that village lived a miller in his mill. In old times the Soldier had been very intimate with him: why shouldn't he go and see his friend? He went. The Miller received him cordially, and at once brought out liquor; and the two began drinking, and chattering about their ways and doings. All this took place towards nightfall, and the Soldier stopped so long at the Miller's that it grew quite dark.

When he proposed to start for his village, his host exclaimed:

"Spend the night here, trooper! It's very late now, and perhaps you might run into mischief."

"How so?"

"God is punishing us! A terrible warlock has died among us, and by night he rises from his grave, wanders through the village, and does such things as bring fear upon the very boldest! How could even you help being afraid of him?"

"Not a bit of it! A soldier is a man who belongs to the crown, and 'crown property cannot be drowned in water nor burnt in fire.' I'll be off: I'm tremendously anxious to see my people as soon as possible."

Off he set. His road lay in front of a graveyard. On one of the graves he saw a great fire blazing. "What's that?" thinks he. "Let's have a look." When he drew near, he saw that the Warlock was sitting by the fire, sewing boots.

"Hail, brother!" calls out the Soldier.

The Warlock looked up and said:

"What have you come here for?"

"Why, I wanted to see what you're doing."

The Warlock threw his work aside and invited the Soldier to a wedding.

"Come along, brother," says he, "let's enjoy ourselves. There's a wedding going on in the village."

"Come along!" says the Soldier.

They came to where the wedding was; there they were given drink, and treated with the utmost hospitality. The Warlock drank and drank, revelled and revelled, and then grew angry. He chased all the guests and relatives out of the house, threw the wedded pair into a slumber, took out two phials and an awl, pierced the hands of the bride and bridegroom with the awl, and began drawing off their blood. Having done this, he said to the Soldier:

"Now let's be off."

Well, they went off. On the way the Soldier said:

"Tell me; why did you draw off their blood in those phials?"

"Why, in order that the bride and bridegroom might die. To-morrow morning no one will be able to wake them. I alone know how to bring them back to life."

"How's that managed?"

"The bride and bridegroom must have cuts made in their heels, and some of their own blood must then be poured back into those wounds. I've got the bridegroom's blood stowed away in my right-hand pocket, and the bride's in my left."

The Soldier listened to this without letting a single word escape him. Then the Warlock began boasting again.

"Whatever I wish," says he, "that I can do!"

"I suppose it's quite impossible to get the better of you?" says the Soldier.

"Why impossible? If any one were to make a pyre of aspen boughs, a hundred loads of them, and were to burn me on that pyre, then he'd be able to get the better of me. Only he'd have to look out sharp in burning me; for snakes and worms and different kinds of reptiles would creep out of my inside, and crows and magpies and jackdaws would come flying up. All these must be caught and flung on the pyre. If so much as a single maggot were to escape, then there'd be no help for it; in that maggot I should slip away!"

The Soldier listened to all this and did not forget it. He and the Warlock talked and talked, and at last they arrived at the grave.

"Well, brother," said the Warlock, "now I'll tear you to pieces. Otherwise you'd be telling all this."

"What are you talking about? Don't you deceive yourself; I serve God and the Emperor."

The Warlock gnashed his teeth, howled aloud, and sprang at the Soldier—who drew his sword and began laying about him with sweeping blows. They struggled and struggled; the Soldier was all but at the end of his strength. "Ah!" thinks he, "I'm a lost man—and all for nothing!" Suddenly the cocks began to crow. The Warlock fell lifeless to the ground.

The Soldier took the phials of blood out of the Warlock's pockets, and went on to the house of his own people. When he had got there, and had exchanged greetings with his relatives, they said:

"Did you see any disturbance, Soldier?"

"No, I saw none."

"There now! Why we've a terrible piece of work going on in the village. A Warlock has taken to haunting it!"

After talking awhile, they lay down to sleep. Next morning the Soldier awoke, and began asking:

"I'm told you've got a wedding going on somewhere here?"

"There was a wedding in the house of a rich moujik," replied his relatives, "but the bride and bridegroom have died this very night—what from, nobody knows."

"Where does this moujik live?"

They showed him the house. Thither he went without speaking a word. When he got there, he found the whole family in tears.

"What are you mourning about?" says he.

"Such and such is the state of things, Soldier," say they.

"I can bring your young people to life again. What will you give me if I do?"

"Take what you like, even were it half of what we've got!"

The Soldier did as the Warlock had instructed him, and brought the young people back to life. Instead of weeping there began to be happiness and rejoicing; the Soldier was hospitably treated and well rewarded. Then—left about, face! off he marched to the Starosta, and told him to call the peasants together and to get ready a hundred loads of aspen wood. Well, they took the wood into the graveyard, dragged the Warlock out of his grave, placed him on the pyre, and set it alight—the people all standing round in a circle with brooms, shovels, and fire-irons. The pyre became wrapped in flames, the Warlock began to burn. His corpse burst, and out of it crept snakes, worms, and all sorts of reptiles, and up came flying crows, magpies, and jackdaws. The peasants knocked them down and flung them into the fire, not allowing so much as a single maggot to creep away! And so the Warlock was thoroughly consumed, and the Soldier collected his ashes and strewed them to the winds. From that time forth there was peace in the village.

The Soldier received the thanks of the whole community. He stayed at home some time, enjoying himself thoroughly. Then he went back to the Tsar's service with money in his pocket. When he had served his time, he retired from the army, and began to live at his ease.

The stories of this class are very numerous, all of them based on the same belief—that in certain cases the dead, in a material shape, leave their graves in order to destroy and prey upon the living. This belief is not peculiar to the Slavonians but it is one of the characteristic features of their spiritual creed. Among races which burn their dead, remarks Hertz in his exhaustive treatise on the Werwolf (p. 126), little is known of regular "corpse-spectres." Only vague apparitions, dream-like phantoms, are supposed, as a general rule, to issue from graves in which nothing more substantial than ashes has been laid.[413] But where it is customary to lay the dead body in the ground, "a peculiar half-life" becomes attributed to it by popular fancy, and by some races it is supposed to be actuated at intervals by murderous impulses. In the East these are generally attributed to the fact of its being possessed by an evil spirit, but in some parts of Europe no such explanation of its conduct is given, though it may often be implied. "The belief in vampires is the specific Slavonian form of the universal belief in spectres (Gespenster)," says Hertz, and certainly vampirism has always made those lands peculiarly its own which are or have been tenanted or greatly influenced by Slavonians.

But animated corpses often play an important part in the traditions of other countries. Among the Scandinavians and especially in Iceland, were they the cause of many fears, though they were not supposed to be impelled by a thirst for blood so much as by other carnal appetites,[414] or by a kind of local malignity.[415] In Germany tales of horror similar to the Icelandic are by no means unknown, but the majority of them are to be found in districts which were once wholly Lettic or Slavonic, though they are now reckoned as Teutonic, such as East Prussia, or Pomerania, or Lusatia. But it is among the races which are Slavonic by tongue as well as by descent, that the genuine vampire tales flourish most luxuriantly: in Russia, in Poland, and in Servia—among the Czekhs of Bohemia, and the Slovaks of Hungary, and the numerous other subdivisions of the Slavonic family which are included within the heterogeneous empire of Austria. Among the Albanians and Modern Greeks they have taken firm root, but on those peoples a strong Slavonic influence has been brought to bear. Even Prof. Bernhard Schmidt, although an uncompromising opponent of Fallmerayer's doctrines with regard to the Slavonic origin of the present inhabitants of Greece, allows that the Greeks, as they borrowed from the Slavonians a name for the Vampire, may have received from them also certain views and customs with respect to it.[416] Beyond this he will not go, and he quotes a number of passages from Hellenic writers to prove that in ancient Greece spectres were frequently represented as delighting in blood, and sometimes as exercising a power to destroy. Nor will he admit that any very great stress ought to be laid upon the fact that the Vampire is generally called in Greece by a name of Slavonic extraction; for in the islands, which were, he says, little if at all affected by Slavonic influences, the Vampire bears a thoroughly Hellenic designation.[417] But the thirst for blood attributed by Homer to his shadowy ghosts seems to have been of a different nature from that evinced by the material Vampire of modern days, nor does that ghastly revenant seem by any means fully to correspond to such ghostly destroyers as the spirit of Gello, or the spectres of Medea's slaughtered children. It is not only in the Vampire, however, that we find a point of close contact between the popular beliefs of the New-Greeks and the Slavonians. Prof. Bernhard Schmidt's excellent work is full of examples which prove how intimately they are connected.

The districts of the Russian Empire in which a belief in vampires mostly prevails are White Russia and the Ukraine. But the ghastly blood-sucker, the Upir,[418] whose name has become naturalized in so many alien lands under forms resembling our "Vampire," disturbs the peasant-mind in many other parts of Russia, though not perhaps with the same intense fear which it spreads among the inhabitants of the above-named districts, or of some other Slavonic lands. The numerous traditions which have gathered around the original idea vary to some extent according to their locality, but they are never radically inconsistent.

Some of the details are curious. The Little-Russians hold that if a vampire's hands have grown numb from remaining long crossed in the grave, he makes use of his teeth, which are like steel. When he has gnawed his way with these through all obstacles, he first destroys the babes he finds in a house, and then the older inmates. If fine salt be scattered on the floor of a room, the vampire's footsteps may be traced to his grave, in which he will be found resting with rosy cheek and gory mouth.

The Kashoubes say that when a Vieszcy, as they call the Vampire, wakes from his sleep within the grave, he begins to gnaw his hands and feet; and as he gnaws, one after another, first his relations, then his other neighbors, sicken and die. When he has finished his own store of flesh, he rises at midnight and destroys cattle, or climbs a belfry and sounds the bell. All who hear the ill-omened tones will soon die. But generally he sucks the blood of sleepers. Those on whom he has operated will be found next morning dead, with a very small wound on the left side of the breast, exactly over the heart. The Lusatian Wends hold that when a corpse chews its shroud or sucks its own breast, all its kin will soon follow it to the grave. The Wallachians say that a murony—a sort of cross between a werwolf and a vampire, connected by name with our nightmare—can take the form of a dog, a cat, or a toad, and also of any blood-sucking insect. When he is exhumed, he is found to have long nails of recent growth on his hands and feet, and blood is streaming from his eyes, ears, nose and mouth.

The Russian stories give a very clear account of the operation performed by the vampire on his victims. Thus, one night, a peasant is conducted by a stranger into a house where lie two sleepers, an old man and a youth. "The stranger takes a pail, places it near the youth, and strikes him on the back; immediately the back opens, and forth flows rosy blood. The stranger fills the pail full, and drinks it dry. Then he fills another pail with blood from the old man, slakes his brutal thirst, and says to the peasant, 'It begins to grow light! let us go back to my dwelling.'"[419]

Many skazkas also contain, as we have already seen, very clear directions how to deprive a vampire of his baleful power. According to them, as well as to their parallels elsewhere, a stake must be driven through the murderous corpse. In Russia an aspen stake is selected for that purpose, but in some places one made of thorn is preferred. But a Bohemian vampire, when staked in this manner in the year 1337, says Mannhardt,[420] merely exclaimed that the stick would be very useful for keeping off dogs; and a strigon (or Istrian vampire) who was transfixed with a sharp thorn cudgel near Laibach, in 1672, pulled it out of his body and flung it back contemptuously. The only certain methods of destroying a vampire appear to be either to consume him by fire, or to chop off his head with a grave-digger's shovel. The Wends say that if a vampire is hit over the back of the head with an implement of that kind, he will squeal like a pig.

The origin of the Vampire is hidden in obscurity. In modern times it has generally been a wizard, or a witch, or a suicide,[421] or a person who has come to a violent end, or who has been cursed by the Church or by his parents, who takes such an unpleasant means of recalling himself to the memory of his surviving relatives and acquaintances. But even the most honorable dead may become vampires by accident. He whom a vampire has slain is supposed, in some countries, himself to become a vampire. The leaping of a cat or some other animal across a corpse, even the flight of a bird above it, may turn the innocent defunct into a ravenous demon.[422] Sometimes, moreover, a man is destined from his birth to be a vampire, being the offspring of some unholy union. In some instances the Evil One himself is the father of such a doomed victim, in others a temporarily animated corpse. But whatever may be the cause of a corpse's "vampirism," it is generally agreed that it will give its neighbors no rest until they have at least transfixed it. What is very remarkable about the operation is, that the stake must be driven through the vampire's body by a single blow. A second would restore it to life. This idea accounts for the otherwise unexplained fact that the heroes of folk-tales are frequently warned that they must on no account be tempted into striking their magic foes more than one stroke. Whatever voices may cry aloud "Strike again!" they must remain contented with a single blow.[423]


[379] Some account of Russian funeral rites and beliefs, and of the dirges which are sung at buryings and memorials of the dead, will be found in the "Songs of the Russian People," pp. 309-344.

[380] Afanasief, iv. No. 7. From the Archangel Government.

[381] Zhornovtsui, i.e. mill-stones, or a hand-mill.

[382] Pp. 341-349 of the first edition. See, also, for some other versions of the story, as well as for an attempt to explain it, A. de Gubernatis, "Zoological Mythology," i. 243, 244.

[383] See supra, chap. I. p. 36.

[384] Afanasief, iv. No. 9.

[385] Ibid., iv. No. 7. p. 34.

[386] Prigovarivat' = to say or sing while using certain (usually menacing) gestures.

[387] Afanasief, iv. p. 35.

[388] Afanasief, vi. No. 2.

[389] Afanasief, "Legendui," No. 33.

[390] Chudinsky, No. 9.

[391] Afanasief, v. No. 47. From the Tver Government.

[392] "You have fallen here" neladno. Ladno means "well," "propitiously," &c., also "in tune."

[393] Nenashi = not ours.

[394] Gospodi blagoslovi! exactly our "God bless us;" with us now merely an expression of surprise.

[395] Iz adu kromyeshnago = from the last hell. Kromyeshnaya t'ma = utter darkness. Kromyeshny, or kromyeshnaya, is sometimes used by itself to signify hell.

[396] Ha pomin dushi. Pomin = "remembrance," also "prayers for the dead."

[397] Afanasief, vii. No. 20. In some variants of this story, instead of the three holy elders appear the Saviour, St. Nicholas, and St. Mitrofan.

[398] "Die Nelke," Grimm, KM., No. 76, and vol. iii. pp. 125-6.

[399] Wenzig, No. 17, pp. 82-6.

[400] See Chap. I. p. 32.

[401] Afanasief, v. p. 144.

[402] Afanasief, vi, p. 322, 323.

[403] Evening gatherings of young people.

[404] Afanasief, v. No. 30 a, pp. 140-2. From the Voroneje Government.

[405] Obyednya, the service answering to the Latin mass.

[406] At the end of the obyednya.

[407] The kosa or single braid in which Russian girls wear their hair. See "Songs of the Russian People," pp. 272-5. On a story of this kind Goethe founded his weird ballad of "Der Todtentanz." Cf. Bertram's "Sagen," No. 18.

[408] Afanasief, v. pp. 142-4. From the Tambof Government.

[409] Afanasief, vi. pp. 324, 325.

[410] Chasovenka, a small chapel, shrine, or oratory.

[411] Afanasief, vi. pp 321, 322.

[412] Afanasief, v. pp. 144-7. From the Tambof Government.

[413] On this account Hanush believes that the Old Slavonians, as burners of their dead, must have borrowed the vampire belief from some other race. See the "Zeitschrift fuer deutsche Mythologie," &c., vol. iv. p. 199. But it is not certain that burial by cremation was universally practised by the heathen Slavonians. Kotlyarevsky, in his excellent work on their funeral customs, arrives at the conclusion that there never was any general rule on the subject, but that some Slavonians buried without burning, while others first burned their dead, and then inhumed their ashes. See "Songs of the Russian People," p. 325.

[414] See the strange stories in Maurer's "Islaendische Volkssagen," pp. 112, and 300, 301.

[415] As in the case of Glam, the terrible spectre which Grettir had so much difficulty in overcoming. To all who appreciate a shudder may be recommended chap. xxxv. of "The Story of Grettir the Strong," translated from the Icelandic by E. Magnusson and W. Morris, 1869.

[416] The ordinary Modern-Greek word for a vampire, vourkolakas, he says, "is undoubtedly of Slavonic origin, being identical with the Slavonic name of the werwolf, which is called in Bohemian vlkodlak, in Bulgarian and Slovak, vrkolak, &c.," the vampire and the werwolf having many points in common. Moreover, the Regular name for a vampire in Servian, he remarks, is vukodlak. This proves the Slavonian nature (die Slavicitaet) of the name beyond all doubt.—"Volksleben der Neugriechen," 1871, p. 159.

[417] In Crete and Rhodes, katachanas; in Cyprus, sarkomenos; in Tenos, anaikathoumenos. The Turks, according to Mr. Tozer, give the name of vurkolak, and some of the Albanians, says Hahn, give that of vourvolak-ou to the restless dead. Ibid, p. 160.

[418] Russian vampir, South-Russian upuir, anciently upir; Polish upior, Polish and Bohemian upir. Supposed by some philologists to be from pit' = drink, whence the Croatian name for a vampire pijawica. See "Songs of the Russian People," p. 410.

[419] Afanasief, P.V.S. iii. 558. The story is translated in full in "Songs of the Russian People," pp. 411, 412

[420] In a most valuable article on "Vampirism" in the "Zeitschrift fuer deutsche Mythologie und Sittenkunde," Bd. iv. 1859, pp. 259-82.

[421] How superior our intelligence is to that of Slavonian peasants is proved by the fact that they still drive stakes through supposed vampires, whereas our law no longer demands that a suicide shall have a stake driven through his corpse. That rite was abolished by 4 Geo. iv. c. 52.

[422] Compare with this belief the Scotch superstition mentioned by Pennant, that if a dog or cat pass over a corpse the animal must be killed at once. As illustrative of this idea, Mr. Henderson states, on the authority of "an old Northumbrian hind," that "in one case, just as a funeral was about to leave the house, the cat jumped over the coffin, and no one would move till the cat was destroyed." In another, a colly dog jumped over a coffin which a funeral party had set on the ground while they rested. "It was felt by all that the dog must be killed, without hesitation, before they proceeded farther, and killed it was." With us the custom survives; its explanation has been forgotten. See Henderson's "Notes on the Folk Lore of the Northern Counties of England," 1866, p. 43.

[423] A great deal of information about vampires, and also about turnskins, wizards and witches, will be found in Afanasief, P.V.S. iii. chap. xxvi., on which I have freely drawn. The subject has been treated with his usual judgment and learning by Mr. Tylor in his "Primitive Culture," ii. 175, 176. For several ghastly stories about the longing of Rakshasas and Vetalas for human flesh, some of which bear a strong resemblance to Slavonic vampire tales, see Brockhaus's translation of the first five books of the "Kathasaritsagara," vol. i. p. 94; vol. ii. pp. 13, 142, 147.




About Saints.

As besides the songs or pyesni there are current among the people a number of stikhi or poems on sacred subjects, so together with the skazki there have been retained in the popular memory a multitude of legendui, or legends relating to persons or incidents mentioned in the Bible or in ecclesiastical history. Many of them have been extracted from the various apocryphal books which in olden times had so wide a circulation, and many also from the lives of the Saints; some of them may be traced to such adaptations of Indian legends as the "Varlaam and Josaphat" attributed to St. John of Damascus; and others appear to be ancient heathen traditions, which, with altered names and slightly modified incidents, have been made to do service as Christian narratives. But whatever may be their origin, they all bear witness to the fact of their having been exposed to various influences, and many of them may fairly be considered as relics of hoar antiquity, memorials of that misty period when the pious Slavonian chronicler struck by the confusion of Christian with heathen ideas and ceremonies then prevalent, styled his countrymen a two-faithed people.[424]

On the popular tales of a religious character current among the Russian peasantry, the duality of their creed, or of that of their ancestors, has produced a twofold effect. On the one hand, into narratives drawn from purely Christian sources there has entered a pagan element, most clearly perceptible in stories which deal with demons and departed spirits; on the other hand, an attempt has been made to give a Christian nature to what are manifestly heathen legends, by lending saintly names to their characters and clothing their ideas in an imitation of biblical language. Of such stories as these, it will be as well to give a few specimens.

Among the legends borrowed from the apocryphal books and similar writings, many of which are said to be still carefully preserved among the "Schismatics," concealed in hiding-places of which the secret is handed down from father to son—as was once the case with the Hussite books among the Bohemians—there are many which relate to the creation of the world and the early history of man. One of these states that when the Lord had created Adam and Eve, he stationed at the gates of Paradise the dog, then a clean beast, giving it strict orders not to give admittance to the Evil One. But "the Evil One came to the gates of Paradise, and threw the dog a piece of bread, and the dog went and let the Evil One into Paradise. Then the Evil One set to work and spat over Adam and Eve—covered them all over with spittle, from the head to the little toe of the left foot." Thence is it that spittle is impure (pogana). So Adam and Eve were turned out of Paradise, and the Lord said to the dog:

"Listen, O Dog! thou wert a Dog (Sobaka), a clean beast; through all Paradise the most holy didst thou roam. Henceforward shalt thou be a Hound (Pes, or Pyos), an unclean beast. Into a dwelling it shall be a sin to admit thee; into a church if thou dost run, the church must be consecrated anew."

And so—the story concludes—"ever since that time it has been called not a dog but a hound—skin-deep it is unclean (pogana), but clean within."

According to another story, when men first inhabited the earth, they did not know how to build houses, so as to keep themselves warm in winter. But instead of asking aid from the Lord, they applied to the Devil, who taught them how to make an izba or ordinary Russian cottage. Following his instructions, they made wooden houses, each of which had a door but no window. Inside these huts it was warm; but there was no living in them, on account of the darkness. "So the people went back to the Evil One. The Evil one strove and strove, but nothing came of it, the izba still remained pitch dark. Then the people prayed unto the Lord. And the Lord said: 'Hew out a window!' So they hewed out windows, and it became light."[425]

Some of the Russian traditions about the creation of man are closely connected with Teutonic myths. The Schismatics called Dukhobortsui, or Spirit-Wrestlers, for instance, hold that man was composed of earthly materials, but that God breathed into his body the breath of life. "His flesh was made of earth, his bones of stone, his veins of roots, his blood of water, his hair of grass, his thought of the wind, his spirit of the cloud."[426] Many of the Russian stories about the early ages of the world, also, are current in Western Europe, such as that about the rye—which in olden days was a mass of ears from top to bottom. But some lazy harvest-women having cursed "God's corn," the Lord waxed wroth and began to strip the ears from the stem. But when the last ear was about to fall, the Lord had pity upon the penitent culprits, and allowed the single ear to remain as we now see it.[427]

A Little-Russian variant of this story says that Ilya (Elijah), was so angry at seeing the base uses to which a woman turned "God's corn," that he began to destroy all the corn in the world. But a dog begged for, and received a few ears. From these, after Ilya's wrath was spent, mankind obtained seed, and corn began to grow again on the face of the earth, but not in its pristine bulk and beauty. It is on account of the good service thus rendered to our race that we ought to cherish and feed the dog.[428]

Another story, from the Archangel Government, tells how a certain King, as he roamed afield with his princes and boyars, found a grain of corn as large as a sparrow's egg. Marvelling greatly at its size, he tried in vain to obtain from his followers some explanation thereof. Then they bethought them of "a certain man from among the old people, who might be able to tell them something about it." But when the old man came, "scarcely able to crawl along on a pair of crutches," he said he knew nothing about it, but perhaps his father might remember something. So they sent for his father, who came limping along with the help of one crutch, and who said:

"I have a father living, in whose granary I have seen just such a seed."

So they sent for his father, a man a hundred and seventy years old. And the patriarch came, walking nimbly needing neither guide nor crutch. Then the King began to question him, saying:

"Who sowed this sort of corn?"

"I sowed it, and reaped it," answered the old man, "and now I have some of it in my granary. I keep it as a memorial. When I was young, the grain was large and plentiful, but after a time it began to grow smaller and smaller."

"Now tell me," asked the King, "how comes it, old man, that thou goest more nimbly than thy son and thy grandson?"

"Because I lived according to the law of the Lord," answered the old man. "I held mine own, I grasped not at what was another's."[429]

The existence of hills is accounted for by legendary lore in this wise. When the Lord was about to fashion the face of the earth, he ordered the Devil to dive into the watery depths and bring thence a handful of the soil he found at the bottom. The Devil obeyed, but when he filled his hand, he filled his mouth also. The Lord took the soil, sprinkled it around, and the Earth appeared, all perfectly flat. The Devil, whose mouth was quite full, looked on for some time in silence. At last he tried to speak, but choked, and fled in terror. After him followed the thunder and the lightning, and so he rushed over the whole face of the earth, hills springing up where he coughed, and sky-cleaving mountains where he leaped.[430]

As in other countries, a number of legends are current respecting various animals. Thus the Old Ritualists will not eat the crayfish (rak), holding that it was created by the Devil. On the other hand the snake (uzh, the harmless or common snake) is highly esteemed, for tradition says that when the Devil, in the form of a mouse, had gnawed a hole in the Ark, and thereby endangered the safety of Noah and his family, the snake stopped up the leak with its head.[431] The flesh of the horse is considered unclean, because when the infant Saviour was hidden in the manger the horse kept eating the hay under which the babe was concealed, whereas the ox not only would not touch it, but brought back hay on its horns to replace what the horse had eaten. According to an old Lithuanian tradition, the shape of the sole is due to the fact that the Queen of the Baltic Sea once ate one half of it and threw the other half into the sea again. A legend from the Kherson Government accounts for it as follows. At the time of the Angelical Salutation, the Blessed Virgin told the Archangel Gabriel that she would give credit to his words "if a fish, one side of which had already been eaten, were to come to life again. That very moment the fish came to life, and was put back in the water."

With the birds many graceful legends are connected. There is a bird, probably the peewit, which during dry weather may be seen always on the wing, and piteously crying Peet, Peet,[432] as if begging for water. Of it the following tale is told. When God created the earth, and determined to supply it with seas, lakes and rivers, he ordered the birds to convey the waters to their appointed places. They all obeyed except this bird, which refused to fulfil its duty, saying that it had no need of seas, lakes or rivers, to slake its thirst. Then the Lord waxed wroth and forbade it and its posterity ever to approach a sea or stream, allowing it to quench its thirst with that water only which remains in hollows and among stones after rain. From that time it has never ceased its wailing cry of "Drink, Drink," Peet, Peet.[433]

When the Jews were seeking for Christ in the garden, says a Kharkof legend, all the birds, except the sparrow, tried to draw them away from his hiding-place. Only the sparrow attracted them thither by its shrill chirruping. Then the Lord cursed the sparrow, and forbade that men should eat of its flesh. In other parts of Russia, tradition tells that before the crucifixion the swallows carried off the nails provided for the use of the executioners, but the sparrows brought them back. And while our Lord was hanging on the cross the sparrows were maliciously exclaiming Jif! Jif! or "He is living! He is living!" in order to urge on the tormentors to fresh cruelties. But the swallows cried, with opposite intent, Umer! Umer! "He is dead! He is dead." Therefore it is that to kill a swallow is a sin, and that its nest brings good luck to a house. But the sparrow is an unwelcome guest, whose entry into a cottage is a presage of woe. As a punishment for its sins, its legs have been fastened together by invisible bonds, and therefore it always hops, not being able to run.[434]

A great number of the Russian legends refer to the visits which Christ and his Apostles are supposed to pay to men's houses at various times, but especially during the period between Easter Sunday and Ascension Day. In the guise of indigent wayfarers, the sacred visitors enter into farm-houses and cottages and ask for food and lodging; therefore to this day the Russian peasant is ever unwilling to refuse hospitality to any man, fearing lest he might repulse angels unawares. Tales of this kind are common in all Christian lands, especially in those in which their folk-lore has preserved some traces of the old faith in the heathen gods who once walked the earth, and in patriarchal fashion dispensed justice among men. Many of the Russian stories closely resemble those of a similar nature which occur in German and Scandinavian collections; all of them, for instance, agreeing in the unfavorable light in which they place St. Peter. The following abridgment of the legend of "The Poor Widow,"[435] may be taken as a specimen of the Russian tales of this class.

Long, long ago, Christ and his twelve Apostles were wandering about the world, and they entered into a village one evening, and asked a rich moujik to allow them to spend the night in his house. But he would not admit them, crying:

"Yonder lives a widow who takes in beggars; go to her."

So they went to the widow, and asked her. Now she was so poor that she had nothing in the house but a crust of bread and a handful of flour. She had a cow, but it had not calved yet, and gave no milk. But she did all she could for the wayfarers, setting before them all the food she had, and letting them sleep beneath her roof. And her store of bread and flour was wonderfully increased, so that her guests fed and were satisfied. And the next morning they set out anew on their journey.

As they went along the road there met them a wolf. And it fell down before the Lord, and begged for food. Then said the Lord, "Go to the poor widow's; slay her cow, and eat."

The Apostles remonstrated in vain. The wolf set off, entered the widow's cow-house, and killed her cow. And when she heard what had taken place, she only said:

"The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away. Holy is His will!"

As the sacred wayfarers pursued their journey, there came rolling towards them a barrel full of money. Then the Lord addressed it, saying:

"Roll, O barrel, into the farmyard of the rich moujik!"

Again the Apostles vainly remonstrated. The barrel went its way, and the rich moujik found it, and stowed it away, grumbling the while:

"The Lord might as well have sent twice as much!"

The sun rose higher, and the Apostles began to thirst. Then said the Lord:

"Follow that road, and ye will find a well; there drink your fill."

They went along that road and found the well. But they could not drink thereat, for its water was foul and impure, and swarming with snakes and frogs and toads. So they returned to where the Lord awaited them, described what they had seen, and resumed their journey. After a time they were sent in search of another well. And this time they found a place wherein was water pure and cool, and around grew wondrous trees, whereon heavenly birds sat singing. And when they had slaked their thirst, they returned unto the Lord, who said:

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