Russian Fairy Tales - A Choice Collection of Muscovite Folk-lore
by W. R. S. Ralston
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"Wherefore did ye tarry so long?"

"We only stayed while we were drinking," replied the Apostles. "We did not spend above three minutes there in all."

"Not three minutes did ye spend there, but three whole years," replied the Lord. "As it was in the first well, so will it be in the other world with the rich moujik! But as it was in the second well, so will it be in that world with the poor widow!"

Sometimes our Lord is supposed to wander by himself, under the guise of a beggar. In the story of "Christ's Brother"[436] a young man—whose father, on his deathbed, had charged him not to forget the poor—goes to church on Easter Day, having provided himself with red eggs to give to the beggars with whom he should exchange the Pascal greeting. After exhausting his stock of presents, he finds that there remains one beggar of miserable appearance to whom he has nothing to offer, so he takes him home to dinner. After the meal the beggar exchanges crosses with his host,[437] giving him "a cross which blazes like fire," and invites him to pay him a visit on the following Tuesday. To an enquiry about the way, he replies, "You have only to go along yonder path and say, 'Grant thy blessing, O Lord!' and you will come to where I am."

The young man does as he is told, and commences his journey on the Tuesday. On his way he hears voices, as though of children, crying, "O Christ's brother, ask Christ for us—have we to suffer long?" A little later he sees a group of girls who are ladling water from one well into another, who make the same request. At last he arrives at the end of his journey, finds the aged mendicant who had adopted him as his brother, and recognizes him as "the Lord Jesus Christ Himself." The youth relates what he has seen, and asks:

"Wherefore, O Lord, are the children suffering?"

"Their mothers cursed them while still unborn," is the reply. "Therefore is it impossible for them to enter into Paradise."

"And the girls?"

"They used to sell milk, and they put water into the milk. Now they are doomed to pour water from well to well eternally."

After this the youth is taken into Paradise, and brought to the place there provided for him.[438]

Sometimes the sacred visitor rewards with temporal goods the kindly host who has hospitably received him. Thus the story of "Beer and Corn"[439] tells how a certain man was so poor that when the rest of the peasants were brewing beer, and making other preparations to celebrate an approaching feast of the Church, he found his cupboard perfectly bare. In vain did he apply to a rich neighbor, who was in the habit of lending goods and money at usurious rates; having no security to offer, he could borrow nothing. But on the eve of the festival, when he was sitting at home in sadness, he suddenly rose and drew near to the sacred painting which hung in the corner, and sighed heavily, and said,

"O Lord! forgive me, sinner that I am! I have not even wherewith to buy oil, so as to light the lamp before the image[440] for the festival!"

Soon afterwards an old man entered the cottage, and obtained leave to spend the night there. After a time the guest enquired why his host was so sad, and on learning the reason, told him to go again to his rich neighbor and borrow a quarter of malt. The moujik obeyed, and soon returned with the malt, which the old man ordered him to throw into his well. When this was done the villager and his guest went to bed.

Next morning the old man told his guest to borrow a number of tubs, and fill them with liquor drawn from the well, and then to make his neighbors assemble and drink it. He did so, and the buckets were filled with "such beer as neither fancy nor imagination can conceive, but only a skazka can describe." The villagers, excited by the news, collected in crowds, and drank the beer and rejoiced. Last of all came the rich neighbor, begging to know how such wonderful beer was brewed. The moujik told him the whole story, whereupon he straightway commanded his servants to pour all his best malt into his well. And next day he hastened to the well to taste the liquor it contained; but he found nothing but malt and water; not a drop of beer was there.

We may take next the legends current among the peasantry about various saints. Of these, the story of "The Prophet Elijah and St. Nicholas," will serve as a good specimen. But, in order to render it intelligible, a few words about "Ilya the Prophet," as Elijah is styled in Russia, may as well be prefixed.

It is well known that in the days of heathenism the Slavonians worshipped a thunder-god, Perun,[441] who occupied in their mythological system the place which in the Teutonic was assigned to a Donar or a Thor. He was believed, if traditions may be relied upon, to sway the elements, often driving across the sky in a flaming car, and launching the shafts of the lightning at his demon foes. His name is still preserved by the western and southern Slavonians in many local phrases, especially in imprecations; but, with the introduction of Christianity into Slavonic lands, all this worship of his divinity came to an end. Then took place, as had occurred before in other countries, the merging of numerous portions of the old faith in the new, the transferring of many of the attributes of the old gods to the sacred personages of the new religion.[442] During this period of transition the ideas which were formerly associated with the person of Perun, the thunder-god, became attached to that of the Prophet Ilya or Elijah.

One of the causes which conduced to this result may have been—if Perun really was considered in old times, as he is said to have been, the Lord of the Harvest—that the day consecrated by the Church to Elijah, July 20, occurs in the beginning of the harvest season, and therefore the peasants naturally connected their new saint with their old deity. But with more certainty may it be accepted that, the leading cause was the similarity which appeared to the recent converts to prevail between their dethroned thunder-god and the prophet who was connected with drought and with rain, whose enemies were consumed by fire from on high, and on whom waited "a chariot of fire and horses of fire," when he was caught up by a whirlwind into heaven. And so at the present day, according to Russian tradition, the Prophet Ilya thunders across the sky in a flaming car, and smites the clouds with the darts of the lightning. In the Vladimir Government he is said "to destroy devils with stone arrows,"—weapons corresponding to the hammer of Thor and the lance of Indra. On his day the peasants everywhere expect thunder and rain, and in some places they set out rye and oats on their gates, and ask their clergy to laud the name of Ilya, that he may bless their cornfields with plenteousness. There are districts, also, in which the people go to church in a body on Ilya's day, and after the service is over they kill and roast a beast which has been purchased at the expense of the community. Its flesh is cut up into small pieces and sold, the money paid for it going to the church. To stay away from this ceremony, or not to purchase a piece of the meat, would be considered a great sin; to mow or make hay on that day would be to incur a terrible risk, for Ilya might smite the field with the thunder, or burn up the crop with the lightning. In the old Novgorod there used to be two churches, the one dedicated to "Ilya the Wet," the other to "Ilya the Dry." To these a cross-bearing procession was made when a change in the weather was desired: to the former in times of drought, to the latter when injury was being done to the crops by rain. Diseases being considered to be evil spirits, invalids used to pray to the thunder-god for relief. And so, at the present day, a zagovor or spell against the Siberian cattle-plague entreats the "Holy Prophet of God Ilya," to send "thirty angels in golden array, with bows and with arrows" to destroy it. The Servians say that at the division of the world Ilya received the thunder and lightning as his share, and that the crash and blaze of the storm are signs of his contest with the devil. Wherefore the faithful ought not to cross themselves when the thunder peals, lest the evil one should take refuge from the heavenly weapons behind the protecting cross. The Bulgarians say that forked lightning is the lance of Ilya who is chasing the Lamia fiend: summer lightning is due to the sheen of that lance, or to the fire issuing from the nostrils of his celestial steeds. The white clouds of summer are named by them his heavenly sheep, and they say that he compels the spirits of dead Gypsies to form pellets of snow—by men styled hail—with which he scourges in summer the fields of sinners.[443]

Such are a few of the ideas connected by Slavonian tradition with the person of the Prophet Elijah or Ilya. To St. Nicholas, who has succeeded to the place occupied by an ancient ruler of the waters, a milder character is attributed than to Ilya, the thunder-god's successor. As Ilya is the counterpart of Thor, so does Nicholas in some respects resemble Odin. The special characteristics of the Saint and the Prophet are fairly contrasted in the following story.


A long while ago there lived a Moujik. Nicholas's day he always kept holy, but Elijah's not a bit; he would even work upon it. In honor of St. Nicholas he would have a taper lighted and a service performed, but about Elijah the Prophet he forgot so much as to think.

Well, it happened one day that Elijah and Nicholas were walking over the land belonging to this Moujik; and as they walked they looked—in the cornfields the green blades were growing up so splendidly that it did one's heart good to look at them.

"Here'll be a good harvest, a right good harvest!" says Nicholas, "and the Moujik, too, is a good fellow sure enough, both honest and pious: one who remembers God and thinks about the Saints! It will fall into good hands—"

"We'll see by-and-by whether much will fall to his share!" answered Elijah; "when I've burnt up all his land with lightning, and beaten it all flat with hail, then this Moujik of yours will know what's right, and will learn to keep Elijah's day holy."

Well, they wrangled and wrangled; then they parted asunder. St. Nicholas went off straight to the Moujik and said:

"Sell all your corn at once, just as it stands, to the Priest of Elijah.[445] If you don't, nothing will be left of it: it will all be beaten flat by hail."

Off rushed the Moujik to the Priest.

"Won't your Reverence buy some standing corn? I'll sell my whole crop. I'm in such pressing need of money just now. It's a case of pay up with me! Buy it, Father! I'll sell it cheap."

They bargained and bargained, and came to an agreement. The Moujik got his money and went home.

Some little time passed by. There gathered together, there came rolling up, a stormcloud; with a terrible raining and hailing did it empty itself over the Moujik's cornfields, cutting down all the crop as if with a knife—not even a single blade did it leave standing.

Next day Elijah and Nicholas walked past. Says Elijah:

"Only see how I've devastated the Moujik's cornfield!"

"The Moujik's! No, brother! Devastated it you have splendidly, only that field belongs to the Elijah Priest, not to the Moujik."

"To the Priest! How's that?"

"Why, this way. The Moujik sold it last week to the Elijah Priest, and got all the money for it. And so, methinks, the Priest may whistle for his money!"

"Stop a bit!" said Elijah. "I'll set the field all right again. It shall be twice as good as it was before."

They finished talking, and went each his own way. St. Nicholas returned to the Moujik, and said:

"Go to the Priest and buy back your crop—you won't lose anything by it."

The Moujik went to the Priest, made his bow, and said:

"I see, your Reverence, God has sent you a misfortune—the hail has beaten the whole field so flat you might roll a ball over it. Since things are so, let's go halves in the loss. I'll take my field back, and here's half of your money for you to relieve your distress."

The Priest was rejoiced, and they immediately struck hands on the bargain.

Meanwhile—goodness knows how—the Moujik's ground began to get all right. From the old roots shot forth new tender stems. Rain-clouds came sailing exactly over the cornfield and gave the soil to drink. There sprang up a marvellous crop—tall and thick. As to weeds, there positively was not one to be seen. And the ears grew fuller and fuller, till they were fairly bent right down to the ground.

Then the dear sun glowed, and the rye grew ripe—like so much gold did it stand in the fields. Many a sheaf did the Moujik gather, many a heap of sheaves did he set up; and now he was beginning to carry the crop, and to gather it together into ricks.

At that very time Elijah and Nicholas came walking by again. Joyfully did the Prophet gaze on all the land, and say:

"Only look, Nicholas! what a blessing! Why, I have rewarded the Priest in such wise, that he will never forget it all his life."

"The Priest? No, brother! the blessing indeed is great, but this land, you see, belongs to the Moujik. The Priest hasn't got anything whatsoever to do with it."

"What are you talking about?"

"It's perfectly true. When the hail beat all the cornfield flat, the Moujik went to the Priest and bought it back again at half price."

"Stop a bit!" says Elijah. "I'll take the profit out of the corn. However many sheaves the Moujik may lay on the threshing-floor, he shall never thresh out of them more than a peck[446] at a time."

"A bad piece of work!" thinks St. Nicholas. Off he went at once to the Moujik.

"Mind," says he, "when you begin threshing your corn, never put more than one sheaf at a time on the threshing-floor."

The Moujik began to thresh: from every sheaf he got a peck of grain. All his bins, all his storehouses, he crammed with rye; but still much remained over. So he built himself new barns, and filled them as full as they could hold.

Well, one day Elijah and Nicholas came walking past his homestead, and the Prophet began looking here and there, and said:

"Do you see what barns he's built? has he got anything to put into them?"

"They're quite full already," answers Nicholas.

"Why, wherever did the Moujik get such a lot of grain?"

"Bless me! Why, every one of his sheaves gave him a peck of grain. When he began to thresh he never put more than one sheaf at a time on the threshing-floor."

"Ah, brother Nicholas!" said Elijah, guessing the truth, "it's you who go and tell the Moujik everything!"

"What an idea! that I should go and tell—"

"As you please; that's your doing! But that Moujik sha'n't forget me in a hurry!"

"Why, what are you going to do to him?"

"What I shall do, that I won't tell you," replies Elijah.

"There's a great danger coming," thinks St. Nicholas, and he goes to the Moujik again, and says:

"Buy two tapers, a big one and a little one, and do thus and thus with them."

Well, next day the Prophet Elijah and St. Nicholas were walking along together in the guise of wayfarers, and they met the Moujik, who was carrying two wax tapers—one, a big rouble one, and the other, a tiny copeck one.

"Where are you going, Moujik?" asked St. Nicholas.

"Well, I'm going to offer a rouble taper to Prophet Elijah; he's been ever so good to me! When my crops were ruined by the hail, he bestirred himself like anything, and gave me a plentiful harvest, twice as good as the other would have been."

"And the copeck taper, what's that for?"

"Why, that's for Nicholas!" said the peasant and passed on.

"There now, Elijah!" says Nicholas, "you say I go and tell everything to the Moujik—surely you can see for yourself how much truth there is in that!"

Thereupon the matter ended. Elijah was appeased and didn't threaten to hurt the Moujik any more. And the Moujik led a prosperous life, and from that time forward he held in equal honor Elijah's Day and Nicholas's Day.

It is not always to the Prophet Ilya that the power once attributed to Perun is now ascribed. The pagan wielder of the thunderbolt is represented in modern traditions by more than one Christian saint. Sometimes, as St. George, he transfixes monsters with his lance; sometimes, as St. Andrew, he smites with his mace a spot given over to witchcraft. There was a village (says one of the legends of the Chernigof Government) in which lived more than a thousand witches, and they used to steal the holy stars, until at last "there was not one left to light our sinful world." Then God sent the holy Andrew, who struck with his mace—and all that village was swallowed up by the earth, and the place thereof became a swamp.[447]

About St. George many stories are told, and still more ballads (if we may be allowed to call them so) are sung. Under the names of Georgy, Yury, and Yegory the Brave, he is celebrated as a patron as well of wolves as of flocks and herds, as a Christian Confessor struggling and suffering for the faith amid pagan foes, and as a chivalrous destroyer of snakes and dragons. The discrepancies which exist between the various representations given of his character and his functions are very glaring, but they may be explained by the fact that a number of legendary ideas sprung from separate sources have become associated with his name; so that in one story his actions are in keeping with the character of an old Slavonian deity, in another, with that of a Christian or a Buddhist saint.

In some parts of Russia, when the cattle go out for the first time to the spring pastures, a pie, made in the form of a sheep, is cut up by the chief herdsman, and the fragments are preserved as a remedy against the diseases to which sheep are liable. On St. George's Day in spring, April 23, the fields are sanctified by a church service, at the end of which they are sprinkled with holy water. In the Tula Government a similar service is held over the wells. On the same day, in some parts of Russia, a youth (who is called by the Slovenes the Green Yegory) is dressed like our own "Jack in the Green," with foliage and flowers. Holding a lighted torch in one hand and a pie in the other, he goes out to the cornfields, followed by girls singing appropriate songs. A circle of brushwood is then lighted, in the centre of which is set the pie. All who take part in the ceremony then sit down around the fire, and eventually the pie is divided among them.

Numerous legends speak of the strange connection which exists between St. George and the Wolf. In Little Russia that animal is called "St. George's Dog," and the carcases of sheep which wolves have killed are not used for human food, it being held that they have been assigned by divine command to the beasts of the field. The human victim whom St. George has doomed to be thus destroyed nothing can save. A man, to whom such a fate had been allotted, tried to escape from his assailants by hiding behind a stove; but a wolf transformed itself into a cat, and at midnight, when all was still, it stole into the house and seized the appointed prey. A hunter, who had been similarly doomed, went on killing wolves for some time, and hanging up their skins; but when the fatal hour arrived, one of the skins became a wolf, and slew him by whom it had before been slain. In Little Russia the wolves have their own herdsman[448]—a being like unto a man, who is often seen in company with St. George. There were two brothers (says a popular tale), the one rich, the other poor. The poor brother had climbed up a tree one night, and suddenly he saw beneath him what seemed to be two men—the one driving a pack of wolves, the other attending to the conveyance of a quantity of bread. These two beings were St. George and the Lisun. And St. George distributed the bread among the wolves, and one loaf which remained over he gave to the poor brother; who afterwards found that it was of a miraculous nature, always renewing itself and so supplying its owner with an inexhaustible store of bread. The rich brother, hearing the story, climbed up the tree one night in hopes of obtaining a similar present. But that night St. George found that he had no bread to give to one of his wolves, so he gave it the rich brother instead.[449]

One of the legends attributes strange forgetfulness on one occasion to St. George. A certain Gypsy who had a wife and seven children, and nothing to feed them with, was standing by a roadside lost in reflection, when Yegory the Brave came riding by. Hearing that the saint was on his way to heaven, the Gypsy besought him to ask of God how he was to support his family. St. George promised to do so, but forgot. Again the Gypsy saw him riding past, and again the saint promised and forgot. In a third interview the Gypsy asked him to leave behind his golden stirrup as a pledge.

A third time St. George leaves the presence of the Lord without remembering the commission with which he has been entrusted. But when he is about to mount his charger the sight of the solitary stirrup recalls it to his mind. So he returns and states the Gypsy's request, and obtains the reply that "the Gypsy's business is to cheat and to swear falsely." As soon as the Gypsy is told this, he thanks the Saint and goes off home.

"Where are you going?" cries Yegory. "Give me back my golden stirrup."

"What stirrup?" asks the Gypsy.

"Why, the one you took from me."

"When did I take one from you? I see you now for the first time in my life, and never a stirrup did I ever take, so help me Heaven!"

So Yegory had to go away without getting his stirrup back.[450]

There is an interesting Bulgarian legend in which St. George appears in his Christian capacity of dragon-slayer, but surrounded by personages belonging to heathen mythology. The inhabitants of the pagan city of Troyan, it states, "did not believe in Christ, but in gold and silver." Now there were seventy conduits in that city which supplied it with spring-water; and the Lord made these conduits run with liquid gold and silver instead of water, so that all the people had as much as they pleased of the metals they worshipped, but they had nothing to drink.

After a time the Lord took pity upon them, and there appeared at a little distance from the city a deep lake. To this they used to go for water. Only the lake was guarded by a terrible monster, which daily devoured a maiden, whom the inhabitants of Troyan were obliged to give to it in return for leave to make use of the lake. This went on for three years, at the end of which time it fell to the lot of the king's daughter to be sacrificed by the monster. But when the Troyan Andromeda was exposed on the shore of the lake, a Perseus arrived to save her in the form of St. George. While waiting for the monster to appear, the saint laid his head on her knees, and she dressed his locks. Then he fell into so deep a slumber that the monster drew nigh without awaking him. But the Princess began to weep bitterly, and her scalding tears fell on the face of St. George and awoke him, and he slew the monster, and afterwards converted all the inhabitants of Troyan to Christianity.[451]

St. Nicholas generally maintains in the legends the kindly character attributed to him in the story in which he and the Prophet Ilya are introduced together. It is to him that at the present day the anxious peasant turns most readily for help, and it is he whom the legends represent as being the most prompt of all the heavenly host to assist the unfortunate among mankind. Thus in one of the stories a peasant is driving along a heavy road one autumn day, when his cart sticks fast in the mire. Just then St. Kasian comes by.

"Help me, brother, to get my cart out of the mud!" says the peasant.

"Get along with you!" replies St. Kasian. "Do you suppose I've got leisure to be dawdling here with you!"

Presently St. Nicholas comes that way. The peasant addresses the same request to him, and he stops and gives the required assistance.

When the two saints arrive in heaven, the Lord asks them where they have been.

"I have been on the earth," replies St. Kasian. "And I happened to pass by a moujik whose cart had stuck in the mud. He cried out to me, saying, 'Help me to get my cart out!' But I was not going to spoil my heavenly apparel."

"I have been on the earth," says St. Nicholas, whose clothes were all covered with mud. "I went along that same road, and I helped the moujik to get his cart free."

Then the Lord says, "Listen, Kasian! Because thou didst not assist the moujik, therefore shall men honor thee by thanksgiving once only every four years. But to thee, Nicholas, because thou didst assist the moujik to set free his cart, shall men twice every year offer up thanksgiving."

"Ever since that time," says the story, "it has been customary to offer prayers and thanksgiving (molebnui) to Nicholas twice a year, but to Kasian only once every leap-year."[452]

In another story St. Nicholas comes to the aid of an adventurer who watches beside the coffin of a bewitched princess. There were two moujiks in a certain village, we are told, one of whom was very rich and the other very poor. One day the poor man, who was in great distress, went to the house of the rich man and begged for a loan.

"I will repay it, on my word. Here is Nicholas as a surety," he cried, pointing to a picture of St. Nicholas.

Thereupon the rich man lent him twenty roubles. The day for repayment came, but the poor man had not a single copeck. Furious at his loss, the rich man rushed to the picture of St. Nicholas, crying—

"Why don't you pay up for that pauper? You stood surety for him, didn't you?"

And as the picture made no reply, he tore it down from the wall, set it on a cart and drove it away, flogging it as he went, and crying—

"Pay me my money! Pay me my money!"

As he drove past the inn a young merchant saw him, and cried—

"What are you doing, you infidel!"

The moujik explained that as he could not get his money back from a man who was in his debt, he was proceeding against a surety; whereupon the merchant paid the debt, and thereby ransomed the picture, which he hung up in a place of honor, and kept a lamp burning before it. Soon afterwards an old man offered his services to the merchant, who appointed him his manager; and from that time all things went well with the merchant.

But after a while a misfortune befell the land in which he lived, for "an evil witch enchanted the king's daughter, who lay dead all day long, but at night got up and ate people." So she was shut up in a coffin and placed in a church, and her hand, with half the kingdom as her dowry, was offered to any one who could disenchant her. The merchant, in accordance with his old manager's instructions, undertook the task, and after a series of adventures succeeded in accomplishing it. The last words of one of the narrators of the story are, "Now this old one was no mere man. He was Nicholas himself, the saint of God."[453]

With one more legend about this favorite saint, I will conclude this section of the present chapter. In some of its incidents it closely resembles the story of "The Smith and the Demon," which was quoted in the first chapter.


In the parish of St. Nicholas there lived a Pope. This Pope's eyes were thoroughly pope-like.[455] He served Nicholas several years, and went on serving until such time as there remained to him nothing either for board or lodging. Then our Pope collected all the church keys, looked at the picture of Nicholas, thumped him, out of spite, over the shoulders with the keys, and went forth from his parish as his eyes led him. And as he walked along the road he suddenly lighted upon an unknown man.

"Hail, good man!" said the stranger to the Pope. "Whence do you come and whither are you going? Take me with you as a companion."

Well, they went on together. They walked and walked for several versts, then they grew tired. It was time to seek repose. Now the Pope had a few biscuits in his cassock, and the companion he had picked up had a couple of small loaves.[456]

"Let's eat your loaves first," says the Pope, "and afterwards we'll take to the biscuits, too."

"Agreed!" replies the stranger. "We'll eat my loaves, and keep your biscuits for afterwards."

Well, they ate away at the loaves; each of them ate his fill, but the loaves got no smaller. The Pope grew envious: "Come," thinks he, "I'll steal them from him!" After the meal the old man lay down to take a nap, but the Pope kept scheming how to steal the loaves from him. The old man went to sleep. The Pope drew the loaves out of his pocket and began quietly nibbling them at his seat. The old man awoke and felt for his loaves; they were gone!

"Where are my loaves?" he exclaimed; "who has eaten them? was it you, Pope?"

"No, not I, on my word!" replied the Pope.

"Well, so be it," said the old man.

They gave themselves a shake, and set out again on their journey. They walked and walked; suddenly the road branched off in two different directions. Well, they both went the same way, and soon reached a certain country. In that country the King's daughter lay at the point of death, and the King had given notice that to him who should cure his daughter he would give half of his kingdom, and half of his goods and possessions; but if any one undertook to cure her and failed, he should have his head chopped off and hung up on a stake. Well, they arrived, elbowed their way among the people in front of the King's palace, and gave out that they were doctors. The servant came out from the King's palace, and began questioning them:

"Who are you? from what cities, of what families? what do you want?"

"We are doctors," they replied; "we can cure the Princess!"

"Oh! if you are doctors, come into the palace."

So they went into the palace, saw the Princess, and asked the King to supply them with a private apartment, a tub of water, a sharp sword, and a big table. The King supplied them with all these things. Then they shut themselves up in the private apartment, laid the Princess on the big table, cut her into small pieces with the sharp sword, flung them into the tub of water, washed them, and rinsed them. Afterwards they began putting the pieces together; when the old man breathed on them the different pieces stuck together. When he had put all the pieces together properly, he gave them a final puff of breath: the Princess began to quiver, and then arose alive and well! The King came in person to the door of their room, and cried:

"In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost!"

"Amen!" they replied.

"Have you cured the Princess?" asked the King.

"We've cured her," say the doctors. "Here she is!"

Out went the Princess to the King, alive and well.

Says the King to the doctors: "What sort of valuables will you have? would you like gold or silver? Take whatever you please."

Well, they began taking gold and silver. The old man used only a thumb and two fingers, but the Pope seized whole handfuls, and kept on stowing them away in his wallet—shovelling them into it, and then lifting it a bit to see if he was strong enough to carry it.

At last they took their leave of the King and went their way. The old man said to the Pope, "We'll bury this money in the ground, and go and make another cure." Well, they walked and walked, and at length they reached another country. In that country, also, the King had a daughter at the point of death, and he had given notice that whoever cured his daughter should have half of his kingdom and of his goods and possessions; but if he failed to cure her he should have his head chopped off and hung up on a stake.[457] Then the Evil One afflicted the envious Pope, suggesting to him "Why shouldn't he go and perform the cure by himself, without saying a word to the old man, and so lay hold of all the gold and silver for himself?" So the Pope walked about in front of the royal gates, forced himself on the notice of the people there, and gave out that he was a doctor. In the same way as before he asked the King for a private room, a tub of water, a large table, and a sharp sword. Shutting himself up in the private room, he laid the Princess on the table, and began chopping her up with the sharp sword; and however much the Princess might scream or squeal, the Pope, without paying any attention to either screaming or squealing, went on chopping and chopping just as if she had been so much beef. And when he had chopped her up into little pieces, he threw them into the tub, washed them, rinsed them, and then put them together bit by bit, exactly as the old man had done, expecting to see all the pieces unite with each other. He breathes on them—but nothing happens! He gives another puff—worse than ever! See, the Pope flings the pieces back again into the water, washes and washes, rinses and rinses, and again puts them together bit by bit. Again he breathes on them—but still nothing comes of it.

"Woe is me," thinks the Pope; "here's a mess!"

Next morning the King arrives and looks—the doctor has had no success at all—he's only messed the dead body all over with muck!

The King ordered the doctor off to the gallows. Then our Pope besought him, crying—

"O King! O free to do thy will! Spare me for a little time! I will run for the old man, he will cure the Princess."

The Pope ran off in search of the old man. He found the old man, and cried:

"Old man! I am guilty, wretch that I am! The Devil got hold of me. I wanted to cure the King's daughter all by myself, but I couldn't. Now they're going to hang me. Do help me!"

The old man returned with the Pope.

The Pope was taken to the gallows. Says the old man to the Pope:

"Pope! who ate my loaves?"

"Not I, on my word! So help me Heaven, not I!"

The Pope was hoisted on to the second step. Says the old man to the Pope:

"Pope! who ate my loaves?"

"Not I, on my word! So help me Heaven, not I!"

He mounted the third step—and again it was "Not I!" And now his head was actually in the noose—but it's "Not I!" all the same. Well, there was nothing to be done! Says the old man to the King:

"O King! O free to do thy will! Permit me to cure the Princess. And if I do not cure her, order another noose to be got ready. A noose for me, and a noose for the Pope!"

Well, the old man put the pieces of the Princess's body together, bit by bit, and breathed on them—and the Princess stood up alive and well. The King recompensed them both with silver and gold.

"Let's go and divide the money, Pope," said the old man.

So they went. They divided the money into three heaps. The Pope looked at them, and said:

"How's this? There's only two of us. For whom is this third share?"

"That," says the old man, "is for him who ate my loaves."

"I ate them, old man," cries the Pope; "I did really, so help me Heaven!"

"Then the money is yours," says the old man. "Take my share too. And now go and serve in your parish faithfully; don't be greedy, and don't go hitting Nicholas over the shoulders with the keys."

Thus spake the old man, and straightway disappeared.

[The principal motive of this story is, of course, the same as that of "The Smith and the Demon," in No. 13 (see above, p. 70). A miraculous cure is effected by a supernatural being. A man attempts to do likewise, but fails. When about to undergo the penalty of his failure, he is saved by that being, who reads him a moral lesson. In the original form of the tale the supernatural agent was probably a demigod, whom a vague Christian influence has in one instance degraded into the Devil, in another, canonized as St. Nicholas.

The Medea's cauldron episode occurs in very many folk-tales, such as the German "Bruder Lustig" (Grimm, No. 81) and "Das junge gegluehte Maennlein" (Grimm, No. 147), in the latter of which our Lord, accompanied by St. Peter, spends a night in a Smith's house, and makes an old beggar-man young by first placing him in the fire, and then plunging him into water. After the departure of his visitors, the Smith tries a similar experiment on his mother-in-law, but quite unsuccessfully. In the corresponding Norse tale of "The Master-Smith," (Asbjoernsen and Moe, No. 21, Dasent, No. 16) an old beggar-woman is the victim of the Smith's unsuccessful experiment. In another Norse tale, that of "Peik" (Asbjoernsen's New Series, No. 101, p. 219) a king is induced to kill his wife and his daughter in the mistaken belief that he will be able to restore them to life. In one of the stories of the "Dasakumaracharita," a king is persuaded to jump into a certain lake in the hope of obtaining a new and improved body. He is then killed by his insidious adviser, who usurps his throne, pretending to be the renovated monarch. In another story in the same collection a king believes that his wife will be able to confer on him by her magic skill "a most celestial figure," and under that impression confides to her all his secrets, after which she brings about his death. See Wilson's "Essays," ii. 217, &c., and 262, &c. Jacob's "Hindoo Tales," pp. 180, 315.]


About Demons.

From the stories which have already been quoted some idea may be gained of the part which evil spirits play in Russian popular fiction. In one of them (No. 1) figures the ghoul which feeds on the dead, in several (Nos. 37, 38, 45-48) we see the fiend-haunted corpse hungering after human flesh and blood; the history of The Bad Wife (No. 7) proves how a demon may suffer at a woman's hands, that of The Dead Witch (No. 3) shows to what indignities the remains of a wicked woman may be subjected by the fiends with whom she has chosen to associate. In the Awful Drunkard (No. 6), and the Fiddler in Hell (No. 41), the abode of evil spirits is portrayed, and some light is thrown on their manners and customs; and in the Smith and the Demon (No. 13), the portrait of one of their number is drawn in no unkindly spirit. The difference which exists between the sketches of fiends contained in these stories is clearly marked, so much so that it would of itself be sufficient to prove that there is no slight confusion of ideas in the minds of the Russian peasants with regard to the demoniacal beings whom they generally call chorti or devils. Still more clearly is the contrast between those ideas brought out by the other stories, many in number, into which those powers of darkness enter. It is evident that the traditions from which the popular conception of the ghostly enemy has been evolved must have been of a complex and even conflicting character.

Of very heterogeneous elements must have been composed the form under which the popular fancy, in Russia as well as in other lands, has embodied the abstract idea of evil. The diabolical characters in the Russian tales and legends are constantly changing the proportions of their figures, the nature of their attributes. In one story they seem to belong to the great and widely subdivided family of Indian demons; in another they appear to be akin to certain fiends of Turanian extraction; in a third they display features which may have been inherited from the forgotten deities of old Slavonic mythology; in all the stories which belong to the "legendary class" they bear manifest signs of having been subjected to Christian influences, the effect of which has been insufficient to do more than slightly to disguise their heathenism.

The old gods of the Slavonians have passed away and left behind but scanty traces of their existence; but still, in the traditions and proverbial expressions of the peasants in various Slavonic lands, there may be recognized some relics of the older faith. Among these are a few referring to a White and to a Black God. Thus, among the peasants of White Russia some vague memory still exists of a white or bright being, now called Byelun,[458] who leads belated travellers out of forests, and bestows gold on men who do him good service. "Dark is it in the forest without Byelun" is one phrase; and another, spoken of a man on whom fortune has smiled, is, "He must have made friends with Byelun." On the other hand the memory of the black or evil god is preserved in such imprecations as the Ukraine "May the black god smite thee!"[459] To ancient pagan traditions, also, into which a Christian element has entered, may be assigned the popular belief that infants which have been cursed by their mothers before their birth, or which are suffocated during their sleep, or which die from any causes unchristened or christened by a drunken priest, become the prey of demons. This idea has given rise in Russia, as well as elsewhere, to a large group of stories. The Russian peasants believe, it is said, that in order to rescue from the fiends the soul of a babe which has been suffocated in its sleep, its mother must spend three nights in a church, standing within a circle traced by the hand of a priest. When the cocks crow on the third morning, the demons will give her back her dead child.[460]

Great stress is laid in the skazkas and legends upon the terrible power of a parent's curse. The "hasty word" of a father or a mother will condemn even an innocent child to slavery among devils, and when it has once been uttered, it is irrevocable. It might have been supposed that the fearful efficacy of such an imprecation would have silenced bad language, as that of the Vril rendered war impossible among the Vril-ya of "The Coming Race;" but that such was not the case is proved by the number of narratives which turn on uncalled-for parental cursing. Here is an abridgment of one of these stories.

There was an old man who lived near Lake Onega, and who supported himself and his wife by hunting. One day when he was engaged in the pursuit of game, a well-dressed man met him and said,

"Sell me that dog of yours, and come for your money to the Mian mountain to-morrow evening."

The old man sold him the dog, and went next day to the top of the mountain, where he found a great city inhabited by devils.[461] There he soon found the house of his debtor, who provided him with a banquet and a bath. And in the bath-room he was served by a young man who, when the bath was over, fell at his feet, saying,

"Don't accept money for your dog, grandfather, but ask for me!"

The old man consented. "Give me that good youth," said he. "He shall serve instead of a son to me."

There was no help for it; they had to give him the youth. And when the old man had returned home, the youth told him to go to Novgorod, there to enquire for a merchant, and ask him whether he had any children.

He did so, and the merchant replied,

"I had an only son, but his mother cursed him in a passion, crying, 'The devil take thee!'[462] And so the devil carried him off."

It turned out that the youth whom the old man had saved from the devils was that merchant's son. Thereupon the merchant rejoiced greatly, and took the old man and his wife to live with him in his house.[463]

And here is another tale of the same kind, from the Vladimir Government.

Once upon a time there was an old couple, and they had an only son. His mother had cursed him before he was born, but he grew up and married. Soon afterwards he suddenly disappeared. His parents did all they could to trace him, but their attempts were in vain.

Now there was a hut in the forest not far off, and thither it chanced that an old beggar came one night, and lay down to rest on the stove. Before he had been there long, some one rode up to the door of the hut, got off his horse, entered the hut, and remained there all night, muttering incessantly:

"May the Lord judge my mother, in that she cursed me while a babe unborn!"

Next morning the beggar went to the house of the old couple, and told them all that had occurred. So towards evening the old man went to the hut in the forest, and hid himself behind the stove. Presently the horseman arrived, entered the hut, and began to repeat the words which the beggar had overheard. The old man recognized his son, and came forth to greet him, crying:

"O my dear son! at last I have found thee! never again will I let thee go!"

"Follow me!" replied his son, who mounted his horse and rode away, his father following him on foot. Presently they came to a river which was frozen over, and in the ice was a hole.[464] And the youth rode straight into that hole, and in it both he and his horse disappeared. The old man lingered long beside the ice-hole, then he returned home and said to his wife:

"I have found our son, but it will be hard to get him back. Why, he lives in the water!"

Next night the youth's mother went to the hut, but she succeeded no better than her husband had done.

So on the third night his young wife went to the hut and hid behind the stove. And when she heard the horseman enter she sprang forth, exclaiming:

"My darling dear, my life-long spouse! now will I never part from thee!"

"Follow me!" replied her husband.

And when they came to the edge of the ice-hole—

"If thou goest into the water, then will I follow after thee!" cried she.

"If so, take off thy cross," he replied.

She took off her cross, leaped into the ice-hole—and found herself in a vast hall. In it Satan[465] was seated. And when he saw her arrive, he asked her husband whom he had brought with him.

"This is my wife," replied the youth.

"Well then, if she is thy wife, get thee gone hence with her! married folks must not be sundered."[466]

So the wife rescued her husband, and brought him back from the devils into the free light.[467]

Sometimes it is a victim's own imprudence, and not a parent's "hasty word," which has placed him in the power of the Evil One. There is a well-known story, which has spread far and wide over Europe, of a soldier who abstains for a term of years from washing, shaving, and hair-combing, and who serves, or at least obeys, the devil during that time, at the end of which he is rewarded by the fiend with great wealth. His appearance being against him, he has some difficulty in finding a wife, rich as he is. But after the elder sisters of a family have refused him, the youngest accepts him; whereupon he allows himself to be cleansed, combed, and dressed in bright apparel, and leads a cleanly and a happy life ever afterwards.[468]

In one of the German versions of this story, a king's elder daughter, when asked to marry her rich but slovenly suitor, replies, "I would sooner go into the deepest water than do that." In a Russian version,[469] the unwashed soldier lends a large sum of money to an impoverished monarch, who cannot pay his troops, and asks his royal creditor to give him one of his daughters in marriage by way of recompense. The king reflects. He is sorry for his daughters, but at the same time he cannot do without the money. At last, he tells the soldier to get his portrait painted, and promises to show it to the princesses, and see if one of them will accept him. The soldier has his likeness taken, "touch for touch, just exactly as he is," and the king shows it to his daughters. The eldest princess sees that "the picture is that of a monster, with dishevelled hair, and uncut nails, and unwiped nose," and cries:

"I won't have him! I'd sooner have the devil!"

Now the devil "was standing behind her, pen and paper in hand. He heard what she said, and booked her soul."

When the second princess is asked whether she will marry the soldier, she exclaims:

"No indeed! I'd rather die an old maid, I'd sooner be linked with the devil, than marry that man!"

When the devil heard that, "he booked her soul too."

But the youngest princess, the Cordelia of the family, when she is asked whether she will marry the man who has helped her father in his need, replies:

"It's fated I must, it seems! I'll marry him, and then—God's will be done!"

While the preparations are being made for the marriage, the soldier arrives at the end of his term of service to "the little devil" who had hired him, and from whom he had received his wealth in return for his abstinence and cleanliness. So he calls the "little devil," and says, "Now turn me into a nice young man."

Accordingly "the little devil cut him up into small pieces, threw them into a cauldron and set them on to boil. When they were done enough, he took them out and put them together again properly—bone to bone, joint to joint, vein to vein. Then he sprinkled them with the Waters of Life and Death—and up jumped the soldier, a finer lad than stories can describe, or pens portray!"

The story does not end here. When the "little devil" returns to the lake from which he came, "the grandfather" of the demons asks him—

"How about the soldier?"

"He has served his time honestly and honorably," is the reply. "Never once did he shave, have his hair cut, wipe his nose, or change his clothes." The "grandfather" flies into a passion.

"What! in fifteen whole years you couldn't entrap a soldier! What, all that money wasted for nothing! What sort of a devil do you call yourself after that?"—and ordered him to be flung "into boiling pitch."

"Stop, grandfather!" replies his grandchild. "I've booked two souls instead of the soldier's one."

"How's that?"

"Why, this way. The soldier wanted to marry one of three princesses, but the elder one and the second one told their father that they'd sooner marry the devil than the soldier. So you see both of them are ours."

After he had heard this explanation, "the grandfather acknowledged that the little devil was in the right, and ordered him to be set free. The imp, you see, understood his business."

[For two German versions of this story, see the tales of "Des Teufels russiger Bruder," and "Der Baerenhaeuter" (Grimm, Nos. 100, 101, and Bd. iii. pp. 181, 182). More than twelve centuries ago, Hiouen-Thsang transferred the following story from India to China. A certain Rishi passed many times ten thousand years in a religious ecstasy. His body became like a withered tree. At last he emerged from his ecstasy, and felt inclined to marry, so he went to a neighboring palace, and asked the king to bestow upon him one of his daughters. The king, exceedingly embarrassed, called the princesses together, and asked which of them would consent to accept the dreaded suitor (who, of course, had not paid the slightest attention to his toilette for hundreds of centuries). Ninety-nine of those ladies flatly refused to have anything to do with him, but the hundredth, the last and youngest of the party, agreed to sacrifice herself for her father's sake. But when the Rishi saw his bride he was discontented, and when he heard that her elder and fairer sisters had all refused him, he pronounced a curse which made all ninety-nine of them humpbacks, and so destroyed their chance of marrying at all. Stanislas Julien's "Memoires sur les contrees occidentales," 1857, i. pp. 244-7.]

As the idea that "a hasty word" can place its utterer or its victim in the power of the Evil One (not only after death, but also during this life) has given rise to numerous Russian legends, and as it still exists, to some extent, as a living faith in the minds of the Russian peasantry, it may be as well to quote at length one of the stories in which it is embodied. It will be recognized as a variant of the stories about the youth who visits the "Water King" and elopes with one of that monarch's daughters. The main difference between the "legend" we are about to quote, and the skazkas which have already been quoted, is that a devil of the Satanic type is substituted in it for the mythical personage—whether Slavonic Neptune or Indian Rakshasa—who played a similar part in them.


In a certain village there lived an old couple in great poverty, and they had one son. The son grew up,[471] and the old woman began to say to the old man:

"It's time for us to get our son married."

"Well then, go and ask for a wife for him," said he.

So she went to a neighbor to ask for his daughter for her son: the neighbor refused. She went to a second peasant's, but the second refused too—to a third, but he showed her the door. She went round the whole village; not a soul would grant her request. So she returned home and cried—

"Well, old man! our lad's an unlucky fellow!"

"How so?"

"I've trudged round to every house, but no one will give him his daughter."

"That's a bad business!" says the old man; "the summer will soon be coming, but we have no one to work for us here. Go to another village, old woman, perhaps you will get a bride for him there."

The old woman went to another village, visited every house from one end to the other, but there wasn't an atom of good to be got out of it. Wherever she thrusts herself, they always refuse. With what she left home, with that she returned home.

"No," she says, "no one wants to become related to us poor beggars."

"If that's the case," answers the old man, "there's no use in wearing out your legs. Jump up on to the polati."[472]

The son was sorely afflicted, and began to entreat his parents, saying:

"My born father and my born mother! give me your blessing. I will go and seek my fate myself."

"But where will you go?"

"Where my eyes lead me."

So they gave him their blessing, and let him go whithersoever it pleased him.[473]

Well, the youth went out upon the highway, began to weep very bitterly, and said to himself as he walked:

"Was I born into the world worse than all other men, that not a single girl is willing to marry me? Methinks if the devil himself would give me a bride, I'd take even her!"

Suddenly, as if rising from the earth, there appeared before him a very old man.

"Good-day, good youth!"

"Good-day, old man!"

"What was that you were saying just now?"

The youth was frightened and did not know what reply to make.

"Don't be afraid of me! I sha'n't do you any harm, and moreover, perhaps I may get you out of your trouble. Speak boldly!"

The youth told him everything precisely.

"Poor creature that I am! There isn't a single girl who will marry me. Well, as I went along I became exceedingly wretched, and in my misery I said: 'If the devil offered me a bride, I'd take even her!'"

The old man laughed and said:

"Follow me, I'll let you choose a lovely bride for yourself."

By-and-by they reached a lake.

"Turn your back to the lake and walk backwards," said the old man. Scarcely had the youth had time to turn round and take a couple of steps, when he found himself under the water and in a white-stone palace—all its rooms splendidly furnished, cunningly decorated. The old man gave him to eat and to drink. Afterwards he introduced twelve maidens, each one more beautiful than the other.

"Choose whichever you like! whichever you choose, her will I bestow upon you."

"That's a puzzling job!" said the youth; "give me till to-morrow morning to think about it, grandfather!"

"Well, think away!" said the old man, and led his guest to a private chamber. The youth lay down to sleep and thought:

"Which one shall I choose?"

Suddenly the door opened; a beautiful maiden entered.

"Are you asleep, or not, good youth?" says she.

"No, fair maiden! I can't get to sleep, for I'm always thinking which bride to choose."

"That's the very reason I have come to give you counsel. You see, good youth, you've managed to become the devil's guest. Now listen. If you want to go on living in the white world, then do what I tell you. But if you don't follow my instructions, you'll never get out of here alive!"

"Tell me what to do, fair maiden. I won't forget it all my life."

"To-morrow the fiend will bring you twelve maidens, each one exactly like the others. But you take a good look and choose me. A fly will be sitting above my right eye—that will be a certain guide for you." And then the fair maiden proceeded to tell him about herself, who she was.

"Do you know the priest of such and such a village?" she says. "I'm his daughter, the one who disappeared from home when nine years old. One day my father was angry with me, and in his wrath he said, 'May devils fly away with you!' I went out on the steps and began to cry. All of a sudden the fiends seized me and brought me here; and here I am living with them!"

Next morning the old man brought in the twelve fair maidens—one just like another—and ordered the youth to choose his bride. He looked at them and took her above whose right eye sat a fly. The old man was loth to give her up, so he shifted the maidens about, and told him to make a fresh choice. The youth pointed out the same one as before. The fiend obliged him to choose yet a third time. He again guessed his bride aright.

"Well, you're in luck! take her home with you," said the fiend.

Immediately the youth and the fair maiden found themselves on the shore of the lake, and until they reached the high road they kept on walking backwards. Presently the devils came rushing after them in hot pursuit:

"Let us recover our maiden!" they cry.

They look: there are no footsteps going away from the lake; all the footsteps lead into the water! They ran to and fro, they searched everywhere, but they had to go back empty handed.

Well, the good youth brought his bride to her village, and stopped opposite the priest's house. The priest saw him and sent out his laborer, saying:

"Go and ask who those people are."

"We? we're travellers; please let us spend the night in your house," they replied.

"I have merchants paying me a visit," says the priest, "and even without them there's but little room in the house."

"What are you thinking of, father?" says one of the merchants. "It's always one's duty to accommodate a traveller, they won't interfere with us."

"Very well, let them come in."

So they came in, exchanged greetings, and sat down on a bench in the back corner.

"Don't you know me, father?" presently asks the fair maiden. "Of a surety I am your own daughter."

Then she told him everything that had happened. They began to kiss and embrace each other, to pour forth tears of joy.

"And who is this man?" says the priest.

"That is my betrothed. He brought me back into the white world; if it hadn't been for him I should have remained down there for ever!"

After this the fair maiden untied her bundle, and in it were gold and silver dishes: she had carried them off from the devils. The merchant looked at them and said:

"Ah! those are my dishes. One day I was feasting with my guests, and when I got drunk I became angry with my wife. 'To the devil with you!' I exclaimed, and began flinging from the table, and beyond the threshold, whatever I could lay my hands upon. At that moment my dishes disappeared!"

And in reality so had it happened. When the merchant mentioned the devil's name, the fiend immediately appeared at the threshold, began seizing the gold and silver wares, and flinging in their place bits of pottery.

Well, by this accident the youth got himself a capital bride. And after he had married her he went back to his parents. They had long ago counted him as lost to them for ever. And indeed it was no subject for jesting; he had been away from home three whole years, and yet it seemed to him that he had not in all spent more than twenty-four hours with the devils.

[A quaint version of the legend on which this story is founded is given by Gervase of Tilbury in his "Otia Imperialia," whence the story passed into the "Gesta Romanorum" (cap. clxii.) and spread widely over mediaeval Europe. A certain Catalonian was so much annoyed one day "by the continued and inappeasable crying of his little daughter, that he commended her to the demons." Whereupon she was immediately carried off. Seven years after this, he learnt (from a man placed by a similar imprecation in the power of the demons, who used him as a vehicle) that his daughter was in the interior of a neighboring mountain, and might be recovered if he would demand her. So he ascended to the summit of the mountain, and there claimed his child. She straightway appeared in miserable plight, "arida, tetra, oculis vagis, ossibus et nervis et pellibus vix haerentibus," etc. By the judicious care, however, of her now cautious parent she was restored to physical and moral respectability. For some valuable observations on this story see Liebrecht's edition of the "Otia Imperialia," pp. 137-9. In the German story of "Die sieben Raben" (Grimm, No. 25) a father's "hasty word" turns his six sons into ravens.]

When devils are introduced into a story of this class, it always assumes a grotesque, if not an absolutely comic air. The evil spirits are almost always duped and defeated, and that result is generally due to their remarkable want of intelligence. For they display in their dealings with their human antagonists a deficiency of intellectual power which almost amounts to imbecility. The explanation of this appears to be that the devils of European folk-lore have nothing in common with the rebellious angels of Miltonic theology beyond their vague denomination; nor can any but a nominal resemblance be traced between their chiefs or "grandfathers" and the thunder-smitten but still majestic "Lucifer, Son of the Morning." The demon rabble of "Popular Tales" are merely the lubber fiends of heathen mythology, beings endowed with supernatural might, but scantily provided with mental power; all of terrific manual clutch, but of weak intellectual grasp. And so the hardy mortal who measures his powers against theirs, even in those cases in which his strength has not been intensified by miraculous agencies, easily overcomes or deludes the slow-witted monsters with whom he strives—whether his antagonist be a Celtic or Teutonic Giant, or a French Ogre, or a Norse Troll, or a Greek Drakos or Lamia, or a Lithuanian Laume, or a Russian Snake or Koshchei or Baba Yaga, or an Indian Rakshasa or Pisacha, or any other member of the many species of fiends for which, in Christian parlance, the generic name is that of "devils."

There is no great richness of invention manifested in the stories which deal with the outwitting of evil spirits. The same devices are in almost all cases resorted to, and their effect is invariable. The leading characters undergo certain transmutations as the scene of the story is shifted, but their mutual relations remain constant. Thus, in a German story[474] we find a schoolmaster deceiving the devil; in one of its Slavonic counterparts[475] a gypsy deludes a snake; in another, current among the Baltic Kashoubes, in place of the snake figures a giant so huge that the thumb of his glove serves as a shelter for the hero of the tale—one which is closely connected with that which tells of Thor and the giant Skrymir.

The Russian stories in which devils are tricked by mortals closely resemble, for the most part, those which are current in so many parts of Europe. The hero of the tale squeezes whey out of a piece of cheese or curd which he passes off as a stone; he induces the fleet demon to compete with his "Hop o' my Thumb" the hare; he sets the strong demon to wrestle with his "greybeard" the bear; he frightens the "grandfather" of the fiends by proposing to fling that potentate's magic staff so high in the air that it will never come down; and he persuades his diabolical opponents to keep pouring gold into a perforated hat or sack. Sometimes, however, a less familiar incident occurs. Thus in a story from the Tambof Government, Zachary the Unlucky is sent by the tailor, his master, to fetch a fiddle from a wolf-fiend. The demon agrees to let him have it on condition that he spends three years in continually weaving nets without ever going to sleep. Zachary sets to work, but at the end of a month he grows drowsy. The wolf asks if he is asleep. "No, I'm not asleep," he replies; "but I'm thinking which fish there are most of in the river—big ones or little ones." The wolf offers to go and enquire, and spends three or four months in solving the problem. Meanwhile Zachary sleeps, taking care, however, to be up and at work when the wolf returns to say that the big fishes are in the majority.

Time passes, and again Zachary begins to nod. The wolf enquires if he has gone to sleep, but is told that he is awake, but engrossed by the question as to "which folks are there most of in the world—the living or the dead." The wolf goes out to count them, and Zachary sleeps in comfort, till just before it comes back to say that the living are more numerous than the dead. By the time the wolf-fiend has made a third journey in order to settle a doubt which Zachary describes as weighing on his mind—as to the numerical relation of the large beasts to the small—the three years have passed away. So the wolf-fiend is obliged to part with his fiddle, and Zachary carries it back to the tailor in triumph.[476]

The demons not unfrequently show themselves capable of being actuated by gratitude. Thus, as we have already seen, the story of the Awful Drunkard[477] represents the devil himself as being grateful to a man who has rebuked an irascible old woman for unjustly blaming the Prince of Darkness. In a skazka from the Orenburg Government, a lad named Vanka [Jack] is set to watch his father's turnip-field by night. Presently comes a boy who fills two huge sacks with turnips, and vainly tries to carry them off. While he is tugging away at them he catches sight of Vanka, and immediately asks him to help him home with his load. Vanka consents, and carries the turnips to a cottage, wherein is seated "an old greybeard with horns on his head," who receives him kindly and offers him a quantity of gold as a recompense for his trouble. But, acting on the instructions he has received from the boy, Vanka will take nothing but the greybeard's lute, the sounds of which exercise a magic power over all living creatures.[478]

One of the most interesting of the stories of this class is that of the man who unwittingly blesses the devil. As a specimen of its numerous variants we may take the opening of a skazka respecting the origin of brandy.

"There was a moujik who had a wife and seven children, and one day he got ready to go afield, to plough. When his horse was harnessed, and everything ready, he ran indoors to get some bread; but when he got there, and looked in the cupboard, there was nothing there but a single crust. This he carried off bodily and drove away.

"He reached his field and began ploughing. When he had ploughed up half of it, he unharnessed his horse and turned it out to graze. After that he was just going to eat the bread, when he said to himself,

"'Why didn't I leave this crust for my children?'

"So after thinking about it for awhile, he set it aside.

"Presently a little demon came sidling up and carried off the bread. The moujik returned and looked about everywhere, but no bread was to be seen. However, all he said was, 'God be with him who took it!'

"The little demon[479] ran off to the devil,[480] and cried:

"'Grandfather! I've stolen Uncle Sidor's[481] bread!'

"'Well, what did he say?'

"'He said, "God be with him!"'

"'Be off with you!' says the devil. 'Hire yourself to him for three years.'

"So the little demon ran back to the moujik."

The rest of the story tells how the imp taught Isidore to make corn-brandy, and worked for him a long time faithfully. But at last one day Isidore drank so much brandy that he fell into a drunken sleep. From this he was roused by the imp, whereupon he exclaimed in a rage, "Go to the Devil!" and straightway the "little demon" disappeared.[482]

In another version of the story,[483] when the peasant finds that his crust has disappeared, he exclaims—

"Here's a wonder! I've seen nobody, and yet somebody has carried off my crust! Well, here's good luck to him![484] I daresay I shall starve to death."

When Satan heard what had taken place, he ordered that the peasant's crust should be restored. So the demon who had stolen it "turned himself into a good youth," and became the peasant's hireling. When a drought was impending, he scattered the peasant's seed-corn over a swamp; when a wet season was at hand, he sowed the slopes of the hills. In each instance his forethought enabled his master to fill his barns while the other peasants lost their crops.

[A Moravian version of this tale will be found in "Der schwarze Knirps" (Wenzig, No. 15, p. 67). In another Moravian story in the same collection (No. 8) entitled "Der boese Geist im Dienste," an evil spirit steals the food which a man had left outside his house for poor passers by. When the demon returns to hell he finds its gates closed, and he is informed by "the oldest of the devils," that he must expiate his crime by a three years' service on earth.

A striking parallel to the Russian and the former of the Moravian stories is offered by "a legend of serpent worship," from Bhaunagar in Kathiawad. A certain king had seven wives, one of whom was badly treated. Feeling hungry one day, she scraped out of the pots which had been given her to wash some remains of rice boiled in milk, set the food on one side, and then went to bathe. During her absence a female Naga (or supernatural snake-being) ate up the rice, and then "entering her hole, sat there, resolved to bite the woman if she should curse her, but not otherwise." When the woman returned, and found her meal had been stolen, she did not lose her temper, but only said, "May the stomach of the eater be cooled!" When the Naga heard this, she emerged from her hole and said, "Well done! I now regard you as my daughter," etc. (From the "Indian Antiquary," Bombay, No. 1, 1872, pp. 6, 7.)]

Sometimes the demon of the legenda bears a close resemblance to the snake of the skazka. Thus, an evil spirit is described as coming every night at twelve o'clock to the chamber of a certain princess, and giving her no rest till the dawn of day. A soldier—the fairy prince in a lower form—comes to her rescue, and awaits the arrival of the fiend in her room, which he has had brilliantly lighted. Exactly at midnight up flies the evil spirit, assumes the form of a man, and tries to enter the room. But he is stopped by the soldier, who persuades him to play cards with him for fillips, tricks him in various ways, and fillips him to such effect with a species of "three-man beetle," that the demon beats a hasty retreat.

The next night Satan sends another devil to the palace. The result is the same as before, and the process is repeated every night for a whole month. At the end of that time "Grandfather Satan" himself confronts the soldier, but he receives so tremendous a beating that he flies back howling "to his swamp." After a time, the soldier induces the whole of the fiendish party to enter his knapsack, prevents them from getting out again by signing it with a cross, and then has it thumped on an anvil to his heart's content. Afterwards he carries it about on his back, the fiends remaining under it all the while. But at last some women open it, during his absence from a cottage in which he has left it, and out rush the fiends with a crash and a roar. Meeting the soldier on his way back to the cottage, they are so frightened that they fling themselves into the pool below a mill-wheel; and there, the story declares, they still remain.[485]

This "legend" is evidently nothing more than an adaptation of one of the tales about the dull demons of olden times, whom the Christian story-teller has transformed into Satan and his subject fiends.

By way of a conclusion to this chapter—which might be expanded indefinitely, so numerous are the stories of the class of which it treats—we will take the moral tale of "The Gossip's Bedstead."[486] A certain peasant, it relates, was so poor that, in order to save himself from starvation, he took to sorcery. After a time he became an adept in the black art, and contracted an intimate acquaintance with the fiendish races. When his son had reached man's estate, the peasant saw it was necessary to find him a bride, so he set out to seek one among "his friends the devils." On arriving in their realm he soon found what he wanted, in the person of a girl who had drunk herself to death, and who, in common with other women who had died of drink, was employed by the devils as a water carrier. Her employers at once agreed to give her in marriage to the son of their friend, and a wedding feast was instantly prepared. While the consequent revelry was in progress, Satan offered to present to the bridegroom a receipt which a father had given to the devils when he sold them his son. But when the receipt was sought for—the production of which would have enabled the bridegroom to claim the youth in question as his slave—it could not be found; a certain devil had carried it off, and refused to say where he had hidden it. In vain did his master cause him to be beaten with iron clubs, he remained obstinately mute. At length Satan exclaimed—

"Stretch him on the Gossip's Bedstead!"

As soon as the refractory devil heard these words, he was so frightened that he surrendered the receipt, which was handed over to the visitor. Astonished at the result, the peasant enquired what sort of bedstead that was which had been mentioned with so much effect.

"Well, I'll tell you, but don't you tell anyone else," replied Satan, after hesitating for a time. "That bedstead is made for us devils, and for our relations, connexions, and gossips. It is all on fire, and it runs on wheels, and turns round and round."

When the peasant heard this, fear came upon him, and he jumped up from his seat and fled away as fast as he could.

* * * * *

At this point, though much still remains to be said, I will for the present bring my remarks to a close. Incomplete as is the account I have given of the Skazkas, it may yet, I trust, be of use to students who wish to compare as many types as possible of the Popular Tale. I shall be glad if it proves of service to them. I shall be still more glad if I succeed in interesting the general reader in the tales of the Russian People, and through them, in the lives of those Russian men and women of low degree who are wont to tell them, those Russian children who love to hear them.


[424] Afanasief, Legendui, p. 6.

[425] These two stories are quoted by Buslaef, in a valuable essay on "The Russian Popular Epos." "Ist. Och." i. 438. Another tradition states that the dog was originally "naked," i.e., without hair; but the devil, in order to seduce it from its loyalty, gave it a shuba, or pelisse, i.e., a coat of hair.

[426] Buslaef, "Ist. Och," i. 147, where the Teutonic equivalents are given.

[427] Tereshchenko, v. 48. For a German version of the story, see the KM., No. 124, "Die Kornaehre."

[428] Afanasief, P.V.S. i. 482.

[429] Afanasief, Legendui, p. 19.

[430] Tereshchenko, v. p. 45. Some of these legends have been translated by O. von. Reinsberg-Dueringsfeld in the "Ausland," Dec. 9, 1872.

[431] According to a Bohemian legend the Devil created the mouse, that it might destroy "God's corn," whereupon the Lord created the cat.

[432] Pit', = to drink.

[433] Tereshchenko, v. 47.

[434] Afanasief, Legendui, p. 13.

[435] Afanasief, Legendui, No. 3. From the Voroneje Government.

[436] Afanasief, Legendui, No. 8.

[437] Who thus becomes his "brother of the cross." This cross-brothership is considered a close spiritual affinity.

[438] Afanasief, in his notes to this story, gives several of its variants. The rewards and punishments awarded in a future life form the theme of a great number of moral parables, apparently of Oriental extraction. For an interesting parallel from the Neilgherry Hills, see Gover's "Folk-Songs of Southern India," pp. 81-7.

[439] Afanasief, Legendui, No. 7.

[440] The icona, eikon or holy picture.

[441] For some account of Perun—the Lithuanian Perkunas—whose name and attributes appear to be closely connected with those of the Indian Parjanya, see the "Songs of the Russian Nation," pp. 86-102.

[442] A Servian song, for instance, quoted by Buslaef ("Ist. Och." i. 361) states that "The Thunder" (i.e., the Thunder-God or Perun) "began to divide gifts. To God (Bogu) it gave the heavenly heights; to St. Peter the summer" (Petrovskie so called after the Saint) "heats; to St. John, the ice and snow; to Nicholas, power over the waters, and to Ilya the lightning and the thunderbolt."

[443] Afanasief, Legendui, pp. 137-40, P.V.S., i. 469-83. Cf. Grimm's "Deutsche Mythologie," pp. 157-59.

[444] Afanasief, Legendui, No. 10. From the Yaroslaf Government.

[445] Il'inskomu bat'kye—to the Elijah father.

[446] Strictly speaking, a chetverik = 5.775 gallons.

[447] Afanasief, P.V.S., iii. 455.

[448] Called Lisun, Lisovik, Polisun, &c. He answers to the Lyeshy or wood-demon (lyes = a forest) mentioned above, p. 212.

[449] Afanasief, P.V.S. i. 711.

[450] Afanasief, Legendui, No. 12.

[451] Quoted by Buslaef, "Ist. Och." i. 389. Troyan is also the name of a mythical king who often figures in Slavonic legends.

[452] Afanasief, Legendui, No. 11. From the Orel district.

[453] Afanasief, Legendui, pp. 141-5. With this story may be compared that of "The Cross-Surety." See above, p. 40.

[454] Afanasief, Legendui, No. 5. From the Archangel Government.

[455] Popovskie, from pop, the vulgar name for a priest, the Greek pappas.

[456] The prosvirka, or prosfora, is a small loaf, made of fine wheat flour. It is used for the communion service, but before consecration it is freely sold and purchased.

[457] A few lines are here omitted as being superfluous. In the original the second princess is cured exactly as the first had been. The doctors then proceed to a third country, where they find precisely the same position of affairs.

[458] Byely = white. See the "Songs of the Russian People," p. 103, the "Deutsche Mythologie," p. 203.

[459] Shchob tebe chorny bog ubif! Afanasief, P.V.S., i. 93, 94.

[460] Afanasief, P.V.S. iii. 314, 315.

[461] Lemboi, perhaps a Samoyed word.

[462] Lemboi te (tebya) voz'mi!

[463] Afanasief, P.V.S. iii. pp. 314, 315.

[464] Prolub' (for prorub'), a hole cut in the ice, and kept open, for the purpose of getting at the water.

[465] Satana.

[466] The word by which the husband here designates his wife is zakon, which properly signifies (1) law, (2) marriage. Here it stands for "spouse." Satan replies, "If this be thy zakon, go hence therewith! to sever a zakon is impossible."

[467] Abridged from Afanasief, P.V.S. iii. 315, 316.

[468] See the notes in Grimm's KM. Bd. iii. to stories 100 and 101.

[469] Afanasief, v. No. 26.

[470] Afanasief, v. No. 48.

[471] "Entered upon his matured years," from 17 to 21.

[472] The sleeping-place.

[473] Literally, "to all the four sides."

[474] Haltrich, No. 27.

[475] Afanasief, v. No. 25.

[476] Khudyakof, No. 114.

[477] Chap. i. p. 46.

[478] Afanasief, vii., No. 14.

[479] Byesenok, diminutive of Byes.

[480] Chort.

[481] Isidore.

[482] Erlenvein, No. 33. From the Tula Government.

[483] Quoted from Borichefsky, by Afanasief, Legendui, p. 182.

[484] Emy na zdorovie! "Good health to him!"

[485] Afanasief, v. No. 43.

[486] Afanasief, Legendui, No. 27. From the Saratof Government. This story is merely one of the numerous Slavonic variants of a tale familiar to many lands.


Ad, or Hades, 303

Anepou and Satou, story of, 122

Andrew, St., legend about, 348

Arimaspians, 190

Awful Drunkard, story of the, 46

Baba Yaga, her name and nature, 146; stories about, 103-107, 148-166, 254-256

Back, cutting strips from, 155

Bad Wife, story of the, 52

Beanstalk stories, 35, 296

Beer and Corn, legend of, 339

Birds, legends about, 335

Blind Man and Cripple, story of the, 246

Bluebeard's Chamber, 109

Brandy, legend about origin of, 378

Bridge-building incident, 306

Brothers, enmity between, 93

Brushes, magic, 151

Cat, Whittington's, 56

Chort, or devil, 35

Christ's Brother, legend of, 338

Chudo Morskoe, or water monster, 143

Chudo Yudo, a many-headed monster, 83

Clergy: their bad reputation in folk-tales, 40

Coffin Lid, story of the, 314

Combs, magic, 151

Creation of Man, legends about, 330

Cross Surety, story of the, 40

Curses, legends about, 363

Days of the Week, legends about, 206-212

Dead Mother, story of the, 32

Demons: part played in the Skazkas by, 361; souls of babes stolen by, 363; legends about children devoted to, 364; about persons who give themselves to, 367; dulness of, 375; tricks played upon, 375; gratitude of, 377; resemblance of to snakes, 380

Devil, legends about, 330, 331, 333

Dnieper, Volga, and Dvina, story of the, 217

Dog, legends about, 330-332

Dog and Corpse, story of the, 317

Dolls, or puppets, magic, 167-169

Don and Shat, story of the rivers, 215

Drink, Russian peasant's love of, 42; stories about, 48

Durak, or Ninny, stories about, 23, 62

Eggs, lives of mythical beings connected with, 119-124

Elijah, traditions about, 341-343

Elijah and Nicholas, legend of, 344

Emilian the Fool, story of, 269

Evil, personified, 186

Fiddler in Hell, story of the, 303

Fiend, story of the, 24

Fool and Birch-tree, story of the, 62

Fools, stories about, 62

Fortune, stories about, 203

Fox-Physician, story of the, 296

Fox-Wailer, story of the, 35

Friday, legend of, 207

Frost, story of, 221

George, St., legends about, 348; the Wolves and, 349; the Gypsy and, 350; the people of Troyan and, 351

Ghost stories, 295-328

Gold-Men, 231

Golden Bird, the Zhar-Ptitsa or, 291

Golovikha, or Mayoress, story of the, 55

Gore, or Woe, story of, 192

Gossip's Bedstead, story of the, 381

Gravestone, story of the Ride on the, 308

Greece, Vampires in, 323

Gypsy, story of St. George and the, 350

Hades, 303

Hasty Word, story of the, 370

Head, story of the trunkless, 230

Headless Princess, story of the, 276

Heaven-tree Myth, 298

Helena the Fair, story of, 262

Hell, story of the Fiddler in, 303

Hills, legend of creation of, 333

Ivan Popyalof, story of, 79

Katoma, story of, 246

Koshchei the Deathless, stories of, 96-115

Kruchina, or Grief, 201

Kuzma and Demian, the holy Smiths, 82

Lame and Blind Heroes, story of the, 246

Laments for the dead, 36

Leap, bride won by a, 266-269

Legends, 329-382

Leshy, or Wood-demon, story of the, 213

Life, Water of, 237

Likho the One-Eyed, story of, 186

Luck, stories about, 203-206

Marya Morevna, story of, 97

Medea's Cauldron incident, 359, 368

Miser, story of the, 60

Mizgir, or Spider, story of the, 68

Morfei the Cook, story of, 234

Mouse, legends about the, 334

Mythology, &c. Personifications of Good and Evil, 77; the Snake, 78; Daylight eclipsed by a Snake, 81; the Chudo-Yudo, 83; the Norka-Beast, 86; the Usuinya-Bird, 95; Koshchei the Deathless, 96-116; the Bluebeard's Chamber myth, 109; stories about external hearts and fatal eggs, &c., 119-124; the Water Snake, 129; the Tsar Morskoi or Water King, 130-141; the King Bear, 142; the Water-Chudo, 143; the Idol, 144; Female embodiments of Evil, 146; the Baba Yaga, 146-166; magic dolls or puppets, 167; the story of Verlioka, 170; the Supernatural Witch, 170-183; The Sun's Sister and the Dawn, 178-185; Likho or Evil, 186-187; Polyphemus and the Arimaspians, 190; Gore or Woe, 192; Nuzhda or Need, 199; Kruchina or Grief, 201; Zluidni, 201; stories about Luck, 203-206; Friday, 206; Wednesday, 208; Sunday, 211; the Leshy or Woodsprite, 213; stories about Rivers, 215-221; about Frost, 221; about the Whirlwind, 232; Morfei, 234; Oh! the, 235; Waters of Life and Death, 237-242; Symplegades, 242; Waters of Strength and Weakness, 243-245; Magic Horses, 249, 264; a Magic Pike, 269-273; Witchcraft stories, 273-295; the Zhar-Ptitsa or Glow-Bird, 289-292; upper-world ideas, 296; the heaven-tree myth, 296-302; lower-world ideas, 303; Ghost-stories, 308; stories about Vampires, 313-322; home and origin of Vampirism, 323-328; legends about Saints, the Devil, &c., 329; Perun, the thunder-god, 341; superstitions about lightning, 343; legends about St. George and the Wolves, 349; old Slavonian gods changed into demons, 362; power attributed to curses, 364; dulness of demons, 375; their resemblance to snakes, 380

National character, how far illustrated by popular tales, 18

Need, story of Nuzhda or, 199

Nicholas, St., legends about, 343; his kindness, 352-354; story of the Priest of, 355

Nicholas, St., and Elijah, story of, 343

Norka, story of the, 86

Oh! demon named, 235

One-Eyed Likho, story of, 186

One-Eyes, Ukraine legend of, 190

Peewit, legend about the 335

Perun, the thunder-god, 341

Pike, story of a magic, 269

Polyphemus, 190

Poor Widow, story of the, 336

Popes, Russian Priests called, 36

Popular Tales, their meaning &c., 16-18; human and supernatural agents in, 75-78

Popyalof, story of Ivan, 79

Priest with the Greedy Eyes, story of the, 355

Princess Helena the Fair, story of the, 262

Purchased Wife, story of the, 44

Ride on the Gravestone, story of the, 308

Rip van Winkle story, 310

Rivers, legends about, 215-221

Russian children, appearance of, 157

Russian Peasants; their dramatic talent, 19; pictures of their life contained in folk-tales, 21; a village soiree, 24; a courtship, 31; a death, 32; preparations for a funeral, 33; wailing over the dead, 35; a burial, 36; religious feeling of, 40; passion for drink, 42; humor, 48; their jokes against women, 49; their dislike of avarice, 59; their jokes about simpletons, 62

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