The Hero of Esthonia and Other Studies in the Romantic Literature of That Country
by William Forsell Kirby
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Now that the queen-dowager was banished, the young king built two pretty houses near his city, one of which he assigned to the parents of his bride, and the other to his own foster-father, who had so carefully brought up the helpless prince. The prince who had grown up as a herd-boy and his low-born bride lived happily to the end, and ruled their subjects with as much affection as parents their children.

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The story of Tiidu[154] the Flute-player introduces us to a mysterious old man, and is therefore given a place after the narrative of the stolen prince. It contains many points of interest, including the cosmopolitan incident of the Nose-tree (which, however, some critics suggest is probably a recent addition); but it is long and tedious in the original, and therefore only an abstract is given here.

[Footnote 151: Compare pages 246 and 248.]

[Footnote 152: The word translated "lout" means literally "filthy-nose."]

[Footnote 153: In the Kalevala, Runo 33, Kullervo revenges himself in the same manner upon the wife of Ilmarinen, whom he has been serving as herd-boy, and who has treated him with great cruelty and harshness.]

[Footnote 154: Titus.]


A poor man with a large family had among them a lazy useless son who would do nothing but play tunes on a willow-pipe. One day a strange old man passed by, and asked what trade he would prefer. He replied that he would like to be rich and independent. The old man advised him to make use of the gift he had, and to earn money enough by playing on his willow-flute to buy a flute.[155] So Tiidu left his home without telling his parents of his intention, but they were glad enough to be rid of him. He wandered from village to village till he had earned enough money to buy a good flute, and in a few years he became a famous and prosperous flute-player. But his avarice left him no peace, and he heard so much of the wealth of the land of Kungla, that he longed to go there to make his fortune.

One day he arrived at the town of Narva, where he found a ship just sailing for Kungla; but as he could not afford to pay his passage, he contrived to smuggle himself on board with the aid of one of the sailors. On the following night, Tiidu's friend threw him into the sea with a rope round his body, when Tiidu began to cry for help, and his friend roused the other sailors. The captain crossed himself thrice, and on being assured by the sailors that it was not a spirit but a mortal man, ordered a rope to be thrown to the aid of the swimmer. As soon as Tiidu seized the rope, he cut away that which was fastened round him, and on being hauled on board, pretended to have swum from the shore. On this the captain offered him a free passage, and he amused the crew with his flute during the voyage.

When Tiidu reached Kungla, he set out for the capital, which he found to be a city of great wealth and splendour. He was afraid to try his luck with his flute, and after many days he succeeded in obtaining a post as kitchen-boy. All the utensils were of gold and silver, the food was cooked in silver pots, the cakes were baked in silver pans, and dinner was served up in golden cups and dishes, and even the pigs fed from silver pails. Tiidu's month's wages were larger than he would have earned in a year at home, but still he was very discontented.

One day Tiidu's master gave a christening, and distributed fine clothes to his servants; and next Sunday Tiidu put them on and went to a pleasure-garden, where he met his old friend who had advised him to play the flute, and who now reproached him for having neglected to use it in Kungla. He made him fetch it and begin to play, when a crowd gathered round, who made a good collection for Tiidu. The old man gave Tiidu full instructions how to follow the vocation of a flute-player profitably, and Tiidu followed his advice and grew very rich.

At last he decided to return home, and chartered a ship to convey himself and his treasures to his native land; but a great storm arose, the ship was wrecked, and only Tiidu contrived to struggle ashore. He lay dazed for a time, and dreamed that the old man visited him, and gave him a pull from his flask. Next morning, much refreshed, he wandered into the country, which he found to be an uninhabited island. He now repented of his undutiful conduct in leaving his parents, and felt his sad plight to be a fitting punishment for his fault.

All at once he saw a tree with beautiful red apples, feasted on them, lay down to sleep for the night, breakfasted on the apples, and walked on; but on stooping down to drink at a spring, he saw to his horror that his nose hung down to his middle, and looked like the wattles of an enraged turkey-cock; and the more he lamented his misfortune, the bigger and bluer became his nose. At last he discovered a nut-tree, and found that eating a few nuts restored his nose to its natural state. So he laid in a stock of nuts, wove himself a basket, which he filled with apples, and then slept under the tree, when the old man appeared to him in a dream, advised him to return to the shore, and gave him a new flute.

When he reached the shore, he was picked up by a passing vessel, and returned to Kungla, where he disguised himself, sold the apples at the palace, and next day presented himself in another guise as a learned foreign physician to cure the king and the royal family of the turkey-disease. In return, Tiidu asked only as much reward as would enable him to purchase an estate on which he could live comfortably for the rest of his life, but the king cheerfully gave him three times as much as he asked, and Tiidu then went to the harbour and sailed home. First, however, he paid his passage-money to the captain who had rescued him from the desert island.

On reaching home, Tiidu found his father and several brothers and sisters still living, but his mother and some of his brothers were dead. He bought an estate, invited the whole family to a great feast, and revealed himself to them, and he insisted that they should all settle on his estate, and that his father should stay with him in his own house as long as he lived.

A little later he married a good and pretty but dowerless girl, and on entering the bridal chamber they found that it contained all the treasures which Tiidu had lost at sea, with a paper attached: "Even the depths of the sea restore the treasures which they have stolen to a good son who cares for parents and relatives." But Tiidu never discovered anything about the aged enchanter who had been his friend and protector.

[Footnote 155: Here, as well as in the stories relative to the Thunder-God's musical instrument, Loewe calls it a bagpipe; but I do not find this meaning for the word in the dictionaries. Still, in the present story, it appears to have been a rather expensive instrument.]



Once upon a time a poor man lived in a great forest with his wife. God had given them eight children, and the elder ones were already earning their living with strangers. So the parents were not much rejoiced when a ninth little son was born to them in their old age. But as God had given it to them, they were obliged to accept it, and to have it christened according to Christian usage. But they could find no one willing to stand sponsor for the child, for everybody thought that if the parents died, the child would be left a burden on their hands. Then said the father, "I will take the child and carry it to church next Sunday, and say that although I can find no sponsors for the child, the parson may please himself. Then, whether he christens the child or not, no sin can rest on my soul."

When he set out on Sunday, he found a beggar sitting by the wayside near his house, who asked for alms. The father said, "I have nothing to give you, dear brother, for I must pay out the few copecks which I have in my pocket for the christening. But if you will do me a kindness, come and stand godfather to my child, and afterwards go home with me, and share the christening feast which my good wife has prepared." The beggar, who had never before been invited to stand godfather to anybody's child, joyfully accepted the man's proposal, and went with him to the church. Just as they arrived, a magnificent carriage and four drove up, and a young Saxon lady alighted from it. The poor man thought, "Now I'll try my luck for the last time." He bowed respectfully to the unknown lady, and said, "Noble lady, whoever you may be! will you not have the kindness to stand godmother to my child?" The lady consented.

When the child was brought up to be baptized after the sermon, the parson and the congregation were much surprised to see a poor beggar-man and a proud handsome lady standing together as sponsors for the child. The child was baptized by the name of Paertel.[156] The rich lady paid the christening fees, and also made a christening present of three roubles, which much rejoiced the child's father. The beggar went home to the christening feast. Before leaving in the evening, he took from his pocket a small box wrapped in a piece of rag, and gave it to the child's mother, saying, "My christening gift is poor enough, but do not despise it, for it may possibly bring your son good fortune some day. I had a very clever aunt, who understood all sorts of magic arts, and before she died she gave me the bird's egg in this little box, saying, 'When something quite unexpected happens to you, which you could never have imagined, then part with this egg. If it comes into the possession of him for whom it is destined, it may bring him great good fortune. But guard the egg like the apple of your eye, that it does not break, for the shell of fortune is tender.' But although I am nearly sixty years old, nothing unexpected has happened to me till to-day, when I was invited to stand as godfather, and my first thought was, You must give the egg to the child as a christening gift."

The little Paertel grew and prospered, and became the delight of his parents, and at the age of ten he was sent to another village to become herd-boy to a rich farmer. All the people of the household were well satisfied with the herd-boy, as he was a good quiet fellow, who never gave any annoyance to his companions. When he left home, his mother put his christening gift in his pocket, and charged him to keep it as safe as the apple of his eye, and Paertel did so. There was an old lime-tree in the pasturage, and a large granite rock lay under it. The boy was very fond of this place, and every day in summer he used to go and sit on the stone under the lime-tree. Here he used to eat the lunch which was given him every morning, and he quenched his thirst at a little brook hard by. Paertel had no friendship with the other herd-boys, who were up to all sorts of pranks. It was remarkable that there was no such fine grass anywhere as between the stone and the spring, and although the flocks grazed here every day, next morning the grass looked more like that of an enclosed meadow than of a pasturage.

When Paertel slept a little while on the stone on a hot day, he had wonderfully pleasant dreams, and when he awoke, the sounds of music and song were still in his ears, so that he dreamed on after his eyes were open. The stone was like a dear friend to him, and he parted from it every day with a heavy heart, and returned to it next day full of longing. Thus Paertel lived till he was fifteen years old, and was no longer to be herd-boy. His master now employed him as a farm-labourer, but did not give him any heavier work than he was able to accomplish. On Sundays and summer evenings, the other young men used to go to visit their sweethearts, but Paertel did not join their company. He stole away, in deep meditation, to his favourite lime-tree in the pasturage, and often sat under it for half the night. One Sunday evening he was sitting on the stone playing the flute, when a milk-white snake crept out from under the stone. It raised its head as if to listen, and looked at Paertel with its bright eyes, which shone like fire. This happened often, and whenever Paertel had any time to spare, he used to hasten to the stone to see the beautiful white snake, which at last became so familiar with him that it often coiled round his leg.

Paertel was now growing up to be a young man; his father and mother were dead, and his brothers and sisters lived widely scattered, and seldom heard any tidings of each other, and still more rarely met. But the white snake had grown dearer to him than his brothers and sisters, and his thoughts were with her by day, and he dreamed of her almost every night. This made the wintertime seem very long to him, when the earth was frozen and the snow lay deep on the ground. When the sun-rays melted the snow in spring and the ground was thawed, Paertel's first walk was to the stone under the lime-trees, though there was not a leaf to be seen upon the tree as yet. O what joy! As soon as he breathed forth his longing in the notes of the flute, the white snake crept out from under the stone, and played about his feet. But it seemed to Paertel to-day that the snake shed tears, and this made his heart sad. He now let no evening pass without visiting the stone, and the snake grew continually tamer, and she would let him stroke her; but if he tried to hold her fast, she slipped through his fingers, and crept back under the stone.

On Midsummer Eve all the villagers, old and young, went together to St. John's fire. Paertel was not allowed to stay behind, though his heart drew him in another direction. But in the midst of the fun, when all the others were singing, dancing, and amusing themselves, he slipped away to the lime-tree, the only place where his heart was at ease. When he drew near, he saw a clear bright fire shining from the stone, which surprised him very much, for, as far as he knew, nobody but himself ever visited the spot. But when he reached the stone, the fire had disappeared, without leaving either ashes or sparks behind it. He sat down on the stone, and began to play on his flute as usual. All at once the fire blazed up again, and it was nothing else than the sparkling eyes of the white snake. She played about his feet again, allowed him to stroke her, and gazed at him as wistfully as if she was going to speak. It must have been almost midnight when the snake crept back to her nest under the stone, and did not reappear while Paertel was playing. As he took the instrument from his mouth and put it in his pocket and prepared to go home, the leaves of the lime-tree rustled in the breeze so strangely that it sounded like a human voice, and he thought he heard the following words repeated several times:

"Thin-shelled is the egg of Fortune, And the heart is full of sorrow; Venture not to spoil your fortune."

Thereupon he experienced such a painful longing that his heart was like to break, and yet he did not know himself what he pined for. He began to weep bitterly, and lamented, "What does the lucky egg avail me, when no happiness is permitted me in this world? I have felt from childhood that I was unfit to mix with men, for they do not understand me, and I do not understand them. What causes pleasure to them is painful to me, while I myself know not what could make me happy, and how then should others know it? Riches and poverty stood together as my sponsors, and therefore nothing will go right with me."

Suddenly it became as bright around him as if the mid-day sun was shining on the lime-tree and the rock, and he could not open his eyes for a time, until he had got used to the light. Then he beheld a lovely female figure sitting beside him on the stone, clad in snow-white raiment, as if an angel had flown down from heaven. The maiden's voice sounded sweeter to him than the song of the nightingale as she addressed him. "Dear youth, fear nothing, but give heed to the prayer of an unhappy girl. I am imprisoned in a miserable dungeon, and if you do not pity me, I can never hope to escape. O dear youth, take pity on me, and do not cast me off! I am the daughter of a king of the East, possessed of fabulous riches in gold and silver, but all this avails me nothing, for an enchanter has compelled me to live under this stone in the form of a white snake. I have lived thus for many centuries, without ever growing older. Although I never injured any human being, all fled before my shape, as soon as they beheld me. You are the only living being who did not fly at my approach; you have even allowed me to play about your feet, and have often kindly stroked me with your hand. Your kindness has led me to hope that you might be able to effect my deliverance. Your heart is as pure as that of a child, as yet ignorant of falsehood and deception. You have all the signs which point to my rescue; a noble lady and a beggar stood together as your sponsors, and your christening gift was the egg of Good Fortune. I am only permitted to resume my human form once in twenty-five years on Midsummer Eve, and to wander about the earth for an hour, and if I should meet with a youth pure in heart, and with your peculiarities, who would listen to my request, I might be released from my long imprisonment. Save me, O save me from this endless imprisonment! I beseech you in the name of all the angels."

Having thus spoken, she fell at Paertel's feet, embraced his knees, and wept bitterly.

Paertel's heart was melted by her tears and supplications, and he begged the maiden to stand up, and to tell him what he could do to rescue her. "If it was possible for me to save you," said he, "I would go through fire and water. I am filled with an unknown longing which allows me no peace; but what I long for, I cannot tell."

The maiden answered, "Come here again to-morrow evening about sunset, and if I meet you in my snake-form, and wind myself round your body like a girdle, and kiss you three times, do not start or shrink back, or I shall again be overwhelmed by the waters of enchantment, and who knows for how many centuries?"

As she spoke, the maiden vanished from the youth's sight, and he again heard the sighing in the leaves of the lime-tree:

"Thin-shelled is the egg of Fortune, And the heart is full of sorrow; Venture not to spoil your fortune."

Paertel went home and lay down to sleep before dawn, but his rest was disturbed by wonderfully varied dreams, some beautiful, some hideous. He sprang up with a shriek, for a dream showed him the white snake coiling round his breast and suffocating him. But he thought no more of this horrible picture, and firmly resolved to release the princess from the bonds of enchantment, even if he himself should perish. Nevertheless his heart failed him more and more as the sun sank nearer the horizon. At the appointed time he stood by the stone under the lime-tree, and gazed, sighing, towards heaven, praying for strength and courage, that he might not tremble with weakness when the snake should coil round his body and kiss him. Suddenly he remembered the lucky egg: he took the little box from his pocket, opened it, and took the little egg, which was not larger than that of a sparrow, between his fingers.

At this moment the snow-white snake glided from under the stone, wound round his body, and had just raised her head to kiss him, when—he himself knew not how it happened—he pushed the lucky egg into her mouth. His heart froze within him, but he stood firm, without shrinking, till the snake had kissed him three times. A tremendous flash and crash followed, as if the stone had been struck by lightning, and amid the loud pealing of the thunder, Paertel fell on the ground like one dead, and knew nothing more of what happened to him.

But at this terrible moment the bondage of the enchantment was loosened, and the royal maiden was released from her long captivity. When Paertel awakened from his heavy swoon, he found himself lying on cushions of white silk in a magnificent glass room of a sky-blue colour. The fair maiden knelt by his bedside, patted his cheek, and cried out, when he opened his eyes, "Thanks to the Heavenly Father who has heard my prayer, and a thousand thousand thanks to you, dear youth, who released me from my long enchantment! Take my kingdom as your reward, along with this beautiful palace, and all my treasures, and if you will, accept me also as your bride into the bargain! You shall always live here in happiness, as befits the lord of the lucky egg. Hitherto your lot has been as that of your godfather, but now you succeed to a better lot, such as fell to your godmother."

No one could now come between Paertel and his happiness and good fortune, and all the unknown longings of his heart, which constantly drew him back under the lime-tree, were finally laid to rest. He lived apart from the world with his dear bride in the enjoyment of the greatest happiness until his death.

But great sorrow was caused by his disappearance, both in the village, and in the farm-house where he had worked, and where he was much loved for his steady quiet ways. All the people went out to look for him, and their first visit was to the lime-tree which Paertel was accustomed to visit so often, and towards which they had seen him going on the previous evening. Great was the amazement of the people when they found no trace of either Paertel, the lime-tree, or the stone. The little spring near was dried up, and no trace of anything that had thus vanished was ever again beheld by human eyes.

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Kreutzwald relates several other stories of young adventurers who go forth into the world to seek their fortunes with the aid of powerful protectors.

In one of these, "The Magician in the Pocket," a young man releases a magician who had been imprisoned by his enemy under a great stone, after which the magician accompanies him in his wanderings in the form of a flea, and helps him to deliver four princesses from enchantment, one of whom he marries. In another, "The God-Daughter of the Rock-Maidens," a young girl named Maasika (Strawberry) is taken down into an underground region by her godmothers, the rock-spirits, one of whom her mother had once aided when in distress. When she is grown up, she goes out into the world, kills the king of the serpents, and disenchants a king, queen, and prince, who prove to be the parents and brother of her godmothers, and she marries the prince. In a third story, "The Foundling," the hero likewise goes out in a similar manner, and meets with various adventures before marrying a princess.

[Footnote 156: Bartholomew.]

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Under this heading we propose to notice a series of tales which are almost the common property of all nations, and the origin of which is lost in remote antiquity. These we have arranged under their most familiar names in alphabetical order.



The Esthonian version of "Bluebeard" (the Wife-Murderer) is very similar to the usual story. A rich lord, reported to have vast treasure-vaults under his castle, lost his wives very fast, and married, as his twelfth wife, the youngest of the three daughters of a reduced gentleman in the neighbourhood. An orphan boy had been brought up in the household, and had served first as gooseherd, and then as page; but he was always known as "Goose-Tony." He was nearly of the same age as the young lady, who had been his playmate, and he declared that the rich suitor was a murderer; his heart told him so, and his presentiments had never yet deceived him. The boy was scolded and threatened, but his warnings made so much impression that he was allowed to accompany the bride to her new home.

Three weeks afterwards, the husband set out on a journey, leaving his keys with his wife, among which was the gold key of the forbidden chamber. He warned her that if she even looked in, he would be forced to behead her with his own hand. She begged him in vain to take charge of it himself; but he refused, and left it with her.

Next morning one of the lady's sisters came to stay with her; but a day or two afterwards the page gave her another warning, after which he suddenly disappeared, and no trace of him could be found. The two sisters looked over the house, and at last encouraged each other to enter the secret chamber. In the middle stood an oaken block with a broad axe upon it, and the floor was splashed with blood. In the background against the wall stood a table, with the bloody heads of the squire's former wives ranged upon it. The lady dropped the key in her horror, and on picking it up found it covered with blood-stains, which nothing could remove, while the door stood a handbreadth open, as if an invisible wedge had fallen between the door and the door-post.

The squire was not expected to return for a week, but he came back next morning, and rushed upstairs in a frenzied rage, dragged his wife to the block by her hair, and was just lifting the axe, when he was struck down by Goose-Tony with a heavy cudgel, and bound. He was brought to justice, and sentenced to death, and his property was adjudged to his widow, who shortly after married the page who had saved her life.



The Esthonian story of Tuhka-Triinu (Ash-Katie[1]), as given by Kreutzwald, is more on the lines of the German Aschenputtel than on those of the French Cendrillon.

Once upon a time there lived a rich man with his wife and an only daughter. When the mother dies, she directs her daughter to plant a tree on her grave, where the birds can find food and shelter.[2] The father marries a widow with two daughters, who ill-treat the motherless girl, declaring that she shall be their slave-girl. A magpie cries from the summit of the tree, "Poor child, poor child! why do you not go and complain to the rowan-tree? Ask for counsel, when your hard life will be lightened."

She goes to the grave at night, and a voice asks her to whom she should appeal, and in whom she should trust, and she answers, "God." Then the voice tells her to call the cock and hen to help her, when she has work to do which she cannot perform by herself.

When the king's ball is announced, Cinderella has to dress her sisters, after which the eldest throws lentils into the ashes, telling her to pick them up; but this is done by the cock and hen. She is left at home weeping, and a voice tells her to go and shake the rowan-tree. When she had done so, a light appeared in the darkness, and she saw a woman sitting on the summit of the tree. She was an ell high, and clothed in golden raiment, and she held a small basket and a gold wand in her hands. She took a hen's egg from her basket, which she turned into a coach; six mice formed the horses, a black beetle[3] formed the coachman, and two speckled butterflies the footmen.

The little witch-maiden then dressed Tuhka Triinu as magnificently as a Saxon lady. She then sent her to the ball, warning her to leave before the cock crows for the third time, as everything will then resume its original shape. On the second night Tuhka Triinu took to flight, and lost one of her little gold shoes, which the prince found next morning. When it came to be tried on, Tuhka Triinu's sisters, who thought they had small feet, tugged and squeezed without success. But the shoe fitted Tuhka Triinu. Her guardian again robed her magnificently, and she married the prince.[4]

[Footnote 1: Here Cinderella's real name is Katrina; in Finnish she is sometimes called Kristina (see Miss Cox, Cinderella, p. 552), while in Slavonic tales she is called Marya, and in some German adaptations Aennchen.]

[Footnote 2: When Vaeinaemoeinen cleared the forest, he left a birch-tree standing for the same purpose (Kalevala, Runo ii.).]

[Footnote 3: A black dung-beetle (Geotrupes) is meant, not a cockroach.]

[Footnote 4: This story is one of those which Loewe has passed over, and it is also omitted by Miss Cox.]


We find this story in a familiar form in that of "The Lucky Rouble" (Kreutzwald). The father of three sons, before his death, gives Peter,[5] the youngest, a magic silver rouble, which always returns to the pocket of its possessor. Peter afterwards meets a one-eyed old man, who sells him three black dogs, named Run-for-Food, Tear-Down, and Break-Iron. Afterwards, when passing through a forest, he meets a grand coach, in which a princess, who has been chosen by lot to be delivered over to a monster, is being conveyed to her doom. Peter abides the issue, and encounters the monster, which is described as like a bear, but much bigger than a horse, covered with scales instead of hair, with two crooked horns on the head, two long wings, long boars' tusks, and long legs and claws.[6] With the assistance of the dog Tear-Down, Peter kills the monster, cuts off his horns and tusks, and leaves the princess with the coachman, promising to return in three years. The coachman compels the princess by threats to say that he killed the dragon; but the princess contrives to delay her marriage with the coachman, and on the wedding-day Peter returns, is imprisoned by order of the king, but released by Break-Iron. Then he sends Run-for-Food to the princess, who recognises him, and reveals the secret to her father. The coachman is condemned to death, and Peter produces the horns and claws of the dragon, and marries the princess, when the dogs, whose mission is accomplished, assume the forms of swans, and fly away.

[Footnote 5: Peeter.]

[Footnote 6: Not a bad description of a conventional dragon. If these stories could be traced back to their original source, we should certainly find them to be founded on traditions of some of the great extinct Saurians. They are too explicit, and too discordant, to be founded only on rumours of the existence of crocodiles.]



This story takes a very similar form in Esthonia to that familiar to us nearer home. A young lady out walking with her maid encounters a snake, which the maid wishes to destroy, but the lady remonstrates. A few days afterwards, a little man enters her room and asks her to become godmother to his child. She at last consents, and he promises to fetch her at the right time, and informs her that he lives under the kitchen steps in the subterranean kingdom.

Next Thursday evening, the dwarf leads her down a long flight of stairs to a great house with many rooms, all lit up with tapers and full of company. She was invited to take her seat at table, but on looking up, she saw a sharp sword suspended over her head. She wanted to flee, but the master ordered the sword to be removed, and the child's mother told her that her own life lately hung on a hair, for she was the snake whose life she had saved. When the young lady left, the master filled her apron with earth, but she shook it out, whereupon he raked it up, and pressed it on her again, saying, "Don't despise the least gift from a grateful heart." In the morning, of course, it had turned to gold and silver.

After this, the dwarf often visited the young lady, and at length asked her to pour a jug of milk under the kitchen-stairs every morning. But one day the wicked maid ordered a dishful of boiling milk to be poured down very early. Presently the dwarf came weeping to the young lady, saying that his child had been scalded to death by the hot milk. But he knew who was to blame; let her put what she most valued together, and leave the house at once. She did so, and on looking back, she saw the whole house in flames, and in a few hours nothing remained of it and its inhabitants but a heap of ashes. But the lady took another house, married happily, and lived to see her children's children.


The Esthonian version of this story (the last in Galland's original translation of the Thousand and One Nights, and also found in Germany and elsewhere), is peculiarly fantastic as "The Prince who rescued his Brothers" (Kreutzwald). A young king was very ill, and the soothsayers and magicians could not cure him. One of the magicians, however, at length finding that the king's hands and arms were gold-coloured to the elbows, his legs silver-coloured to the knees, and his belly of the colour of blue glass, told him that he would only be cured by marrying a young bride similarly coloured. Such a bride was discovered in the daughter of one of the king's generals, and she was made queen. The queen was confined of six boys at once; but her elder sister was jealous of her, and availed herself of the services of an old witch, who carried the children away by night, and handed them over to the Old Boy, replacing them with puppies. The queen was confined a second and a third time, each time of three princes, who suffered the same fate, but the nurse contrived to hide one of the last three princes. Nevertheless, the king was now so enraged that he ordered the mother and child to be thrown into the sea on an iron bed for a boat. But it floated away with them; and when the prince was seven weeks old, he had grown to be a young man, and he began to talk to his mother. Soon afterwards they reached an island, when the prince kicked the bed to pieces, and they went ashore. The prince met an old man, who gave him a hatchet which would build houses, and a wand which would change ants into men; whereupon the prince built and populated a city. The prince then changed himself into a flea, and went to his father's palace. The king had married the wicked sister-in-law, and she was trying to persuade him not to visit the island where the queen and prince had settled, but to visit another country, where he would see more wonderful things. He went; but his son had already removed the wonders to his own island, and he returned disappointed. As the king was still bent on visiting the island, the new queen advised him instead to visit a country where he would see eleven men, coloured like himself. When the prince told his mother what he had heard, she knew that they were her sons. Then the queen prepared three cakes, one poisoned, and the others mixed with milk from her breast. The prince set out, gave the poisoned cake to the old devil who guarded his brothers, and divided the other cakes with them. They then escaped to the prince's island in the form of doves, and presently the king and queen arrived, and the king was informed of the whole plot.

Then the king ordered the wicked queen and the sorceress to be put to death, and settled down in his son's island with his wife and children.



This familiar story appears in the form of Swiftfoot, Quickhand, and Sharpeye. It begins with the lamentation of a rich but childless wife, who is consoled by a pretty little girl,[7] who suddenly appeared, and directed her to boil three eggs of a black hen for her husband's supper, and then to send him to bed, but to walk in the open air herself before retiring. In due course, three strong boys were born, and the fairy came to see them in their cradles. She took a ball of red thread from her pocket, and tied threads round the ankles of one boy, the wrists of another, and the temples of the third. She directed the mother not to disturb the threads till the children were taken to the christening, and then to burn the threads, collect the ashes in a spoon, and moisten them with milk from her breast; and as soon as the children were brought home from the christening, to give each two drops of the mixture on his tongue. Of course one boy was gifted with great swiftness, and another with great strength and skill in handiwork, and another with great sharpness of sight.

When they grew up, the youths separated to seek their fortunes, agreeing to meet at home in three years' time, and Swiftfoot went eastwards, and entered into the service of a king as groom, and made himself famous in that capacity.

Quickhand, who went southwards, could take up any trade without learning it, and could turn out twenty coats or pairs of shoes in a day, better made than the best tailor or shoemaker. He too made himself famous by supplying a whole army with a full outfit at the shortest notice, when all the workmen in the kingdom were unable to do so by the time required.

The adventures of Sharpeye may be given more in detail.

Sharpeye, the third brother, set out westwards. He wandered about for a long time from one place to another without meeting with any profitable employment. He could easily earn enough anywhere for his daily expenses as a good shot, but what could he make in this way to bring home? At length he reached a large city, where everybody was talking about a misfortune which had befallen the king thrice already, but which no one was able to comprehend or guard against. The king had a valuable tree in his garden, which bore golden apples, many of which were as large as a great ball of thread, and might have been worth many thousand roubles. It may be imagined that such fruit was not left uncounted, and that guards were stationed around night and day to prevent any attempt at robbery. Nevertheless one of the largest apples, valued at six thousand roubles, had been stolen every night for three nights running. The guards had neither seen the thief nor been able to discover any trace of him. It immediately occurred to Sharpeye that there must be some very strange trick in the affair, which his piercing sight might perhaps enable him to discover. He thought that if the thief did not approach the tree incorporeally and invisibly, he would never be able to escape his sharp eyes. He therefore asked the king to allow him to visit the garden to make his observations without the knowledge of the guards. On receiving permission, he prepared himself a place of concealment in the summit of a tree not far from the golden apple-tree, where no one could see him, while his sharp eyes could pierce everywhere, and see everything that happened. He took with him a bag of bread and a bottle of milk, so that there would be no need for him to leave his hiding-place. He now kept close watch on the golden apple-tree, and on everything around it. The guards were posted round the tree in three rows, so close that not a mouse could have crept between them unobserved. The thief must have wings, for he could not reach the tree by the ground. But Sharpeye could detect nothing all day which looked like a thief. Towards sunset a little yellow moth fluttered round the tree, and at last settled on a branch which bore a very fine apple. Everybody could understand just as well as Sharpeye that a little moth could not carry a golden apple away from the tree, but as he could see nothing bigger, he kept his eyes fixed upon it. The sun had set long ago, and the last traces of twilight were fading from the horizon, but the lanterns round the tree gave so much light that he could see everything distinctly. The yellow moth still sat motionless on the branch. It was about midnight when the eyes of the watchman in the tree closed for a moment. How long he dozed, he could not tell, but when his eyes fell next upon the apple-tree, he saw that the yellow moth was no longer sitting on the branch, and was still more startled to discover that the beautiful golden apple on that branch had also disappeared. He could not doubt that a theft had been committed, but if the concealed watchman had related the affair, people would have thought him mad, for even a child might know that a moth could not carry away a golden apple. In the morning there was again a great uproar when it was discovered that another apple was missing without any of the guards having seen a trace of the thief. But Sharpeye went to the king again and said, "It is true that I have seen as little of the thief as your guards; but if there is a skilful magician in or near the town, let me know, and I hope with his aid to catch the thief to-night." As soon as he learned where the magician lived, he went straight to him. The two men consulted what was best to be done, and at length Sharpeye cried out, "I have hit upon a plan. Can you make a woven net so strong by magic that the thread will hold the most powerful creature fast, and then we can chain up the thief so that he cannot escape again?" The magician said it was possible, and took three large spiders, which he made so strong by sorcery that no creature could escape from their meshes, and put them in a little box, which he gave to Sharpeye, saying, "Place these spiders wherever you like, and point with your finger where they shall spin their net, and they will immediately spin a cage round the prisoner, which only Mana's[8] power can loosen; and I will come to your aid myself, if needful."

Sharpeye hid the box in his bosom, and crept back to his tree to wait the upshot of the affair. He saw the yellow moth fluttering round the apple-tree at the same time as the day before; but it waited much longer before settling on a branch which bore a large golden apple. Sharpeye immediately slid down from his tree, went up to the golden apple-tree, set a ladder against it, and climbed up carefully, so as not to scare the moth, and set each of his small weavers on separate branches. One spider was a few spans above the moth, a second to the right, and a third to the left, and then Sharpeye drew lines with his finger backwards and forwards round the moth, which sat motionless with raised wings. At sunset the watcher was back in his hiding-place in the tree, from whence he saw to his joy that his three weavers had woven a net round the moth on all sides, from which it could not hope to escape, if the magician possessed the power which he pretended. The man in the tree did his best to keep awake, but nevertheless his eyes closed all at once. How long he slept he knew not, but he was roused up by a great noise. When he looked round, he saw that the soldiers on guard were running about the apple-tree like ants, and shouting, and in the tree sat an old grey-bearded man with a golden apple in his hand in an iron net. Sharpeye jumped hastily from his tree, but before he reached the apple-tree the king himself arrived. He had sprung from his bed at the shouts of the guards, and hurried to see what unusual event was happening in the garden. There sat the thief in the tree, and could not get away. "Most noble king," said Sharpeye, "you can now go quietly to rest again, and sleep till to-morrow morning, for the thief cannot now escape us. If he was as strong again as he is, he could not break the magic meshes of his cage." The king thanked him, and ordered the greater part of the soldiers to retire to rest also, leaving only a few on guard under the tree. Sharpeye, who had kept watch for two nights and two days, also went away to sleep.

Next morning the magician went to the king's palace. He was glad when he saw the thief in the cage, and would not let him out till the fellow showed himself in his real form. At last he cut off half his beard under his chin, called for a light and began to singe the hairs.[9] Oh, how the bird in the iron cage suffered now! He shrieked pitifully and beat himself with pain, but the magician went on singeing fresh hairs to make the thief manageable. At last he said, "Confess who you are." The fellow answered, "I am the servant of the sorcerer Piirisilla,[10] who sent me here to steal." The magician began again to singe the hairs. "Ow! ow!" shouted the sorcerer; "give me time and I will confess. I am not the servant, but the sorcerer's son." Again they singed his hairs, when the prisoner yelled out, "I'm the sorcerer Piirisilla himself." "Show yourself in your proper form or I'll singe you again," said the mighty magician. Then the little man in the cage began to expand, and grew in a few minutes to the size of an ordinary man, who could have carried off a golden apple easily. He was taken down from the tree in the cage, and asked where the stolen apples were hidden. He offered to show the place himself, but Sharpeye begged the king not to let the thief out of the cage, or he would become a moth again, and escape. They were obliged to singe his hair many times before he would give up all the stolen property; and at last, when all the golden apples had been recovered, the thief was burned in the cage, and his ashes scattered to the winds.

There was great rejoicing when the three brothers returned home at the end of the term agreed upon. Shortly afterwards, hearing that the daughter of a rich king in the North was destined as the bride of any one who could perform three wonderful feats, they set out to the court of her father.

The first feat was to watch a swift reindeer cow for a whole day, and bring her back to the stable at night; the second to bolt the palace door in the evening; and the third was to shoot an arrow straight through the middle of an apple, which a man, standing on the top of a high hill, held in his mouth by the stalk.

The three brothers were so much alike that as each could accomplish one of the feats only, they decided to personate the same man, which was not difficult, when they trimmed their beards to exactly the same pattern.

Swiftfoot went first to the king, and the princess peeped at him through the crack of the door, and fell in love with him, wishing she could hobble the reindeer's feet that the handsome man might win her. However, he found that he was easily a match for the reindeer, though she could have run across the world in a single day. In the evening he brought the cow back to her stable, and after supper returned to his brothers.

Next day, Quickhand dressed himself up like his brother, and went to the court, where every one took him for Swiftfoot. The princess again peeped at him, and wished she could drive away the witch from the palace door. This witch was accustomed to change herself into the iron door bar, and if any one climbed a ladder to close it, she would grasp his hand, and set the folding doors swinging backwards and forwards till morning, while the man swung helpless in her grasp. But Quickhand ordered an iron hand to be made,[11] which he heated red hot, and mounting the ladder, held it out to the witch, and shot the bolt at the moment that she grasped it; and the door remained bolted till the king rose in the morning. Quickhand spent that day with the king, and returned to his brothers in the evening.

Next day, Sharpeye went to the palace, and it was arranged that the shooting feat should come off on the following morning; and the princess declared that she would part with all she possessed to ensure his success. The man who held the apple on the mountain looked no bigger than a crow, and fearing for his own safety, did not hold the apple by the stalk, but in his mouth, thinking that the marksman would be more likely to shoot the arrow at a safe distance from him. But Sharpeye struck the apple precisely in the middle, carrying away a bit of flesh from each cheek of the holder with it.

Sharpeye declined the king's proposal to betroth him to his daughter immediately, and he returned to his brothers, when they rejoiced in their success like children, and then cast lots[12] for the princess.[13] The lot fell to Sharpeye, who married the princess, while his two brothers returned home, when they bought large estates and lived like princes.

The brothers are once spoken of as "Swedes," for what reason does not appear. Another story on similar lines is that of the Swift-footed Princess (Kreutzwald); but here the various feats, including the race against the princess, who will not marry unless she is worsted in a foot-race, are performed by the gifted servants in the train of the prince who seeks her in marriage.

[Footnote 7: The word used means a little girl or a doll; Loewe translates it "doll," which seems to be incorrect in this place.]

[Footnote 8: The God of Death.]

[Footnote 9: Combings or cuttings of hair are never burned or allowed to be blown about in the air in Esthonia, but carefully buried; otherwise the owner would suffer from violent headache.]

[Footnote 10: This word would have no apparent meaning as a proper name; but Loewe suggests that it might be a corruption of Virgilius, which, though not impossible, seems rather far fetched.]

[Footnote 11: Compare vol. i. p. 176.]

[Footnote 12: Their good faith and absence of envy is as conspicuous as in the case of the sons of Kalev (vol. i. p. 58).]

[Footnote 13: When the five Pandavas, the heroes of the Maha-Bharata, were returning victorious from an expedition during which Arjuna had won the princess Draupadi in a contest with the bow, their mother, hearing them coming, but not knowing what had happened, cried out, "Share equally what you have brought." Upon which it was arranged that she should become the joint wife of the five brother princes.]


We find this form of the story of the despised younger son in the "Strange Tale of an Ox" (Kreutzwald). A dying father leaves an ox to his third son, a simpleton, who goes to sell it, and when passing through a wood he hears a noise in a tree, and thinks it is an offer to buy the ox; so he ties it to the tree, and takes a log home with him as security for the money. Not receiving it when he expected, he breaks open the log, and finds a jar of money inside. He afterwards kills a shepherd who tries to cheat him out of it; and it is given out that the shepherd has been carried away by the devil.



The story of the traveller who appropriates the magical properties over which the sons of a dead magician are quarrelling is widely distributed, and frequently occurs as a mere incident in a story; as, for example, in that of Hasan of El Basrah in the Thousand and One Nights. In the Esthonian story of the "Dwarf's[14] Quarrel," the articles form the leading motif, but mixed up with details curiously resembling some Celtic fairy tales.

A man passing through a wood came upon a small clearing, where he found three dwarfs beating, pushing, kicking, and biting each other, and tearing each other's hair so that it was shocking to see them. They proved to be fighting over an old hat, composed of the parings of finger-nails[15], the wearer of which could see everything taking place in the world, whether near or far; a pair of bast shoes, which would carry the wearer anywhere at a step; and a stick which would demolish everything before it. Each of the dwarfs wanted to take all these articles, to go to a great wedding which was just taking place in Courland. The referee put on the hat, saw the wedding, and told the dwarfs to stand with their backs to him, when he demolished them with the stick, only three drops of water being left where they had been standing. Then he went to the wedding in Courland, where he found a great number of people assembled, both high and low, for the entertainer was a very rich householder.

As the wearer of the magic hat could see everything hidden as well as obvious, he saw when he lifted his eyes to the crossbeams[16] that there were a vast crowd of little guests both there and on the door-posts, who seemed to be far more numerous than the invited guests. But no one else could see the little people. Presently some of them began to whisper, "Look there; our old uncle's come to the feast too." "No," answered others, "it seems that this stranger has our uncle's hat, shoes, and stick, but uncle himself isn't here." Meantime, covered dishes were brought in for the feast. Then the stranger saw what nobody else could perceive, that the good food was abstracted from the dishes with wonderful quickness, and worse put in its place. It went just the same with the jugs and bottles. Then the stranger asked for the master of the house, greeted him politely, and said, "Don't be offended that I have come to the feast as an uninvited stranger." "You are welcome," returned the host. "We have plenty to eat and drink, so that we are not inconvenienced by a few uninvited guests." The stranger rejoined, "I can well believe that one or two uninvited guests would make no difference, but if the uninvited guests are far more numerous than those who are invited, the richest host may run short." "I don't understand you," said the host. The stranger gave him the hat, saying, "Put my hat on, and raise your eyes to the crossbeams, and then you'll see them." The host did so, and when he saw the tricks that the little guests were playing with the feast, he turned as pale as death, and cried out with a trembling voice, "Ah! my friend, my heart never dreamed of such guests; and now I've taken off your hat, they've all vanished. How can I ever get rid of them?" The owner of the hat returned, "I will soon rid you of these little guests, if you will ask the invited guests to step out for a short time, closing the doors and windows carefully, and taking care that no chink or crack in the wall remains unstopped." Although the founder of the feast did not quite understand what he meant, he consented to the stranger's offer, and asked him to get rid of the little nuisances.

In a short time the room was cleared of all the invited guests, the doors, windows, and other openings were carefully closed, and the stranger was left alone with the little guests. Then he began to swing his cudgel towards the crossbeams and corners of the room so vigorously that it was a pleasure to behold. In a few moments the whole mob of little guests was annihilated, and as many drops of water were left on the floor as if it had been raining heavily. Only one auger-hole had been accidentally left unstopped, through which one of the dwarfs slipped out, although the cudgel might still have reached the fugitive. He fled across the enclosure, bellowing, "Oh, oh, what a calamity! Many a time have I been terrified at the arrows of old father Pikne,[17] but they are nothing to this cudgel!"

When the host had convinced himself, by the aid of the magic hat, that the room was cleared of the dwarfs, he invited the guests to re-enter. During the feast the omniscient man read the secret thoughts of the wedding-guests, and learned much which the others did not suspect. The bridegroom thought more of the wealth of his father-in-law than of his young wife; and she, who was not altogether faultless, hoped that her husband and her matron's cap would protect her from scandal. It's a great pity that such a hat is no longer to be met with in our times.

[Footnote 14: The Esthonian term is peculiar. "Ox-knee people"—i.e., people as tall as an ox's knee.]

[Footnote 15: Compare the Kalevipoeg, Cantos 13 and 14.]

[Footnote 16: Compare Croker's Irish story of "Master and Man."]

[Footnote 17: The Thunder-God.]


Stories of the Man in the Moon are generally common. In Esthonia it is generally the Woman in the Moon, as may be seen in the two beautiful legends of Videvik, and of the Maiden at the Vaskjalla Bridge. The short legend which follows these resembles that in the Prose Edda relative to two children carrying a bucket (Jack and Jill?) who were taken to himself by the Moon. The story of the Moon-Painter might have been inserted here; but it seemed to come in more appropriately in another place.

We meet with sons and daughters of the Sun and Moon among the Finns and Lapps, as well as among the Esthonians.


(Twilight, Dawn, and Evening Twilight).

The Creator had three diligent servants—two fair and lovely maidens, Videvik and Aemarik, and the slender youth Koit. They fulfilled his orders and looked after his affairs. One evening at sunset, Videvik, the eldest, came back from ploughing with her oxen, and led them to the river to drink. But maidens are always accustomed to think first of their own bright faces, and so was it with the charming Videvik. She thought no more of the oxen, but stepped to the water's edge and looked down. And behold, her brown eyes and red cheeks looked back upon her from the surface of the stream, and her heart beat with pleasure. But the Moon, whom the Creator had ordered to take the place of the setting sun to enlighten the world, forgot his duty, and hurried down to the earth to the bed of the stream. Here he stayed with Videvik, mouth to mouth and lip to lip.

But while the Moon thus forgot his duty, his light became extinguished, and thick darkness covered the land as he lay on Videvik's heart. And now a great misfortune happened. The wolf, the wild beast of the forest, who could work mischief when no eye could see him, attacked one of Videvik's oxen and tore him to pieces. The nightingale sang loudly through the dark thicket, "Idle maid, idle maid, long is the night. Black stripes to the yoke, to the yoke! Bring the whip, bring the whip, whip, whip, whip." But Videvik heard nothing. She had forgotten everything but her love.

Early in the morning, when Koit rose from his couch, Videvik awakened at last from her dream of love. When she saw the evil deed that the wolf had wrought, she began to weep bitterly. But the tears of her innocent affliction were not hidden from the Creator. He descended from his heaven to punish the evil-doer and to bring the criminal to justice. He dealt out severe punishment to the wolf, and yoked him high in heaven with the ox, to draw water for ever, driven by the iron rod of the pole-star.[19] But to Videvik he said, "As the Moon has touched thee with the light of his beauty and has wooed thee, I will forgive thee, and if thou lovest him from thy heart, I will not hinder you, and you shall be wedded. But from thee, Videvik, I look for faithful watch and vigilance that the Moon begins his course at the right time, and that deep darkness falls no more on earth at night, when the evil powers can work mischief at their pleasure. Rule over the night, and take care that a happy peace prevails in its course."

Thus the moon received Videvik as his wife. Her friendly countenance still smiles down upon us, and is reflected in the mirror of the brook, where she first enjoyed the love of her consort.

Then the Creator summoned Koit and Aemarik to his presence, and said, "I will guard against any further negligence respecting the light of the world, lest darkness should again get the upper hand, and I will appoint two watchers under whose care all shall run its course. The Moon and Videvik shall illumine the night with their radiance at the appointed time. Koit and Aemarik, to your watch and ward I intrust the light of day beneath the firmament. Fulfil your duty with diligence. To thy care, my daughter Aemarik, I entrust the sinking sun. Receive him on the horizon, and carefully extinguish all the sparks every evening, lest any harm should ensue, and lead him to his setting. Koit, my active son, let it be thy care to receive the sun from the hands of Aemarik when he is ready to begin his course, and to kindle new light, that there may never be any deficiency."

The two servants of the sun did their duty with diligence, so that the sun was never absent from the sky for a day. Then began the long summer nights when Koit and Aemarik join their hands, when their hearts beat and their lips meet in a kiss, while the birds in the woods sing sweet songs each according to his note, when flowers blossom, the trees flourish, and all the world rejoices. At this time the Creator descended from his golden throne to earth to celebrate the festival of Lijon.[20] He found all his works and affairs in good order, and rejoiced in his creation, and said to Koit and Aemarik, "I am well pleased with your management, and desire your lasting happiness. From henceforth be husband and wife."

But the two exclaimed with one voice, "Father, let us enjoy our happiness undisturbed. We are content with our lot, and will remain lover and beloved, for thus we enjoy a happiness which is ever young and new."

Then the Creator granted them their desire, and returned to his golden heaven.

* * * * *

The versions given by Boecler and Jannsen differ slightly.

[Footnote 18: This story has been already printed in English, (Jones and Kropf, Folk-Tales of the Magyars, pp. 326-328), but I was unwilling to omit it.]

[Footnote 19: The constellation of the Great Bear is of course intended.]

[Footnote 20: The dictionary gives no further explanation than "Name of a mythical personage."]



On a beautiful and quiet summer evening many years ago, a pious maiden went to the Vaskjala[21] Bridge to bathe and refresh herself after the heat of the day. The sky was clear, and the song of the nightingale re-echoed from the neighbouring alder thicket. The Moon ascended to his heavenly pavilion, and gazed down with friendly eyes on the wreath of the maiden with the golden hair and rosy cheeks. The maiden's heart was pure and innocent, and modest and clear as the waters of the spring to its very depths. Suddenly she felt her heart beat faster, and a strange longing seized her, and she could no longer turn her eyes away from the face of the Moon. For because she was so good and pure and innocent, she had won the love of the Moon, who desired to fulfil her secret longings and the wish of her heart. But the pious maiden cherished but one wish in her heart, which she could not venture to express or to ask the Moon to fulfil, for she longed to depart from this world and to dwell for ever beneath the sky with the Moon, but the Moon knew the unexpressed thoughts of her heart.

It was again a lovely evening. The air was calm and peaceful, and again the song of the nightingale resounded through the night. The Moon gazed down once more into the depths at the bottom of the river near the Vaskjala Bridge, but no longer alone as before. The fair face of the maiden gazed down with him into the depths, and has ever since been visible in the Moon. Above in the far sky she lives in joy and contentment, and only desires that other maidens might share her happiness. So on moonlight nights her friendly eyes gaze down on her mortal sisters, and she seeks to invite them as her guests. But none among them is so pure and modest and innocent as herself, and therefore none is worthy to ascend to her in the Moon. Sometimes this troubles the maiden in the Moon, and she hides her face sorrowfully in a black veil. Yet she does not abandon all hope, but trusts that on some future day one of her earthly sisters may be found sufficiently pious and pure and innocent for the Moon to call her to share this blessed life. So from time to time the Moon-maiden gazes down on the earth with increasing hope and laughing eyes, with her face unveiled, as on the happy evening when she first looked down from heaven on the Vaskjala Bridge. But the best and most intelligent of the daughters of earth fall into error and wander into by-paths, and none among them is pious and innocent enough to become the Moon's companion. This makes the heart of the pious Moon-maiden sorrowful again, and she turns her face from us once more, and hides it under her black veil.

[Footnote 21: According to Jannsen, the forest which once surrounded the river Vaskia, which flows through a village of the same name near Revel, was formerly sacred to a goddess named Vaskia.]



One Saturday evening a woman went very late to the river to fetch water. The Moon shone brightly in the heavens, and she said to him, "Why do you stand gaping up there? You'd better come and help me carry water. I must work here, and you dawdle about above!"

Suddenly the Moon came down from above, but he seized the woman and took her with him into the sky. There she still stands with her two pails as a warning to everybody not to work too late in the evening on holidays. But the Moon knows no rest, and can never dawdle about, for he must wander from land to land, and everywhere illumine the darkness of night with his light.[22]

[Footnote 22: Compare the Kalevipoeg, Canto 1.]



In the Esthonian version the Devil visits a locksmith, who promises to cast him new eyes. When the Devil calls for them, he binds him to a bench on his back, telling him that his name is Myself. He then pours molten tin into his eyes, and the Devil jumps up with the pain, and rushes out with the bench on his back, telling his companions that "Myself" has done it. He dies miserably, and the dog, fox, rat, and wolf bury him under the dung of a white mare. "Since this," adds the narrator, "there has been no devil more." There is a very similar story from Swedish Lappmark, in which the man who outwits and blinds a giant tells him that his own name is "Nobody."[23]

[Footnote 23: Poestion, Lapplaendische Maerchen, p. 122. Another Lapp version, almost identical with Homer's, is given by Latham, Nationalities of Europe, i. p. 237.]


One of the most fantastic stories of this series is "The Devil's Visit" (Jannsen: Veckenstedt), which, notwithstanding its subject, has an absurd resemblance in some of its details to "Little Red Riding-Hood."

Two men and their wives lived together in a cottage; one couple had three children, the others were childless. One day, both husbands were absent, and the Devil and his son knocked at the door in their semblance, and sat down to supper. But the eldest child said secretly, "Mother, mother, father's got long claws!" The second said, "Mother, mother, he's got a tail too!" And the youngest added, "Mother, mother, he's got iron teeth in his mouth." The woman comforted the children, and while the childless woman went with one of the devils, the mother put the children to bed on the stove, laid juniper twigs in front, and made the sign of the cross over them.

She then gave the Devil the end of her girdle to hold, by which to draw her to him, but she fastened the other end to a log of wood, and climbed on the roof for safety, taking with her a three-pronged fork. As soon as the devils began to devour the supposed women,[24] the elder discovered that he had been deceived; and his son advised him to devour the children; but he could not get at them. Then his son advised him to look for the mother; and he tried to climb on the roof, but the woman struck him back with the fork, and he called to his son for help. The son immediately rushed out of the cottage to get his share of the prey, when a red cock crew, and the Devil cried out, "He's my half-brother," and tried again to get on the roof. Then crowed a white cock, and the Devil cried out, "He's my godfather," and scrambled on the corner of the gable. Then crowed a black cock, when the Devil cried out, "He's my murderer!" and both devils vanished, as if they had sunk into the ground.

[Footnote 24: It must be said, to the credit of the Esthonian devils, that they only appear occasionally in the light of ogres. In many tales they are harmless, and sometimes amiable.]


We have these tales combined in the story of the "Princess who slept for seven years" (Kreutzwald).

A princess falls into a deep sleep, and is placed by a magician in a glass coffin. A glass mountain is prepared, on which the coffin is fixed. Up the glass mountain the successful suitor must ride when seven years and seven days have expired, when the princess will awake and give him a ring.

Meanwhile an old peasant dies, leaving his house and property to his two elder sons, and charging them to take care of the third, who is considered rather lazy and stupid, but who has a good heart.[25] He charges his three sons to watch, one each night, by his grave; but the elder ones excuse themselves, leaving the duty to the youngest son. The eldest brother proposes to turn the youngest out of the house, but is dissuaded by the other, who thinks it would look too bad.

When the king promises his daughter to whoever can climb the glass mountain,[26] the two elder brothers dress themselves in fine clothes, and set off, leaving the youngest at home, lest he should disgrace them by his shabby appearance. But he receives from his father a bronze horse and bronze armour, and rides a third of the way up the mountain. On the second day he receives a silver steed and silver armour, and rides more than half-way up; and on the third day he receives a golden steed and golden armour, and rides to the summit. Then the lid of the glass case flies open, the maiden raises herself and gives the knight a ring, and he rides down with her to her father.

Next day it is proclaimed that whoever can produce the ring shall marry the princess; and, to the astonishment of the two elder brothers, the youngest claims the prize. The magician explains to the king that the young man is in reality the son of a powerful monarch, but was stolen away in infancy and brought up as a peasant, and the king accepts him as his son-in-law. His indolence was not an inherent defect, but had been imposed upon him by the witch who had stolen him. On Sunday he appeared before the people in his golden armour and mounted on his golden horse, but his reputed brothers died of rage and envy.

[Footnote 25: There are several very similar stories in Finnish.]

[Footnote 26: Compare the story of "Princess Helena the Fair" (Ralston's Russian Folk-Tales, p. 256).]



This is the familiar story of an ill-used younger sister. A countryman was taking game to market, and his two elder daughters asked him to bring them fine clothes, but the youngest asked him to bring her anything he got gratis. A shopkeeper offered him a kitten, which he brought to the youngest girl, who treated it kindly. On the two following Sundays, the elder sisters went to church to show off their fine clothes, leaving the younger one at home. She went into the garden, and a pied magpie settled on the fence, which the cat pursued, and on the first Sunday it dropped a gold brooch, and on the second two gold rings.

As the third Sunday was wet, the two elder sisters stayed at home, but sent the youngest to church; so she adorned herself with her finery and set out, and at church she attracted general attention. When her sisters heard of it, they insisted on knowing her secret; and they carried the kitten into the garden several times, to no purpose, for as they had always ill-treated it before, it only bit and scratched them. At last they killed it, and threw it among the rushes by the side of the lake.

When the youngest sister missed the kitten, she went out weeping into the wood. Her sisters followed her, murdered her, and buried her under a heap of sand, covering the grave with reeds, and when they went home they told their father that she had been carried away by gipsies. A shepherd, passing that way made himself a flute, and it sang the maiden's sorrowful end. When this reached the ears of the prince, he ordered the body to be exhumed and carried to his castle, and by direction of the flute, it was reanimated with water from the healing well in the prince's courtyard. The maiden immediately begged the life of her sisters, who were released. Her hand was then sought for in marriage by a young nobleman, whom she accepted. After this, she begged the prince to restore her kitten to life too with the healing water, and the two sisters were sent to fetch it; but the reed-bed by the lake gave way under their feet, and they both perished miserably; for neither they nor the kitten were ever seen again. But the descendants of the youngest sister still bear a cat on their escutcheon.

[Footnote 27: The commencement of this story reminds us of "Beauty and the Beast;" the second part is that of the "Magic Flute."]


This well-known story appears in one of its commonest forms in the tale of "Loppi and Lappi" (Kreutzwald), a quarrelsome couple who are granted three wishes by a fairy. At supper-time the wife wishes for a sausage, which is wished on and off her nose, and the couple remain as poor as before.


Versions of this story are common in Finland as well as in Esthonia. One of the latter is "Rougutaja's Daughter" (Kreutzwald). Old Rougutaja[28] lived with his wife and daughter in a wood. The daughter had a beautiful face, but it was reported that her skin was of bark, and she could find no suitors. At last the mother contrived to inveigle a youth into marrying her daughter by means of a love-philtre, but on the first night he ran away, and shortly afterwards married another bride. On the birth of a child, the witch-mother transforms the young mother into a wolf, and substitutes her own daughter. The nurse is ordered to take the crying child for a walk; she meets the wolf; the deceit is discovered, and the husband inveigles the witch-mother and daughter into the bathhouse, and burns it down.

There is little in this story except the bark-skin of the witch-bride to distinguish it from the numerous variants among other peoples.

* * * * *

Another story belonging to the class of the witch-bride is

[Footnote 28: See vol. i. p. 22.]



Here the two girls are half-sisters, not step-sisters; and the younger one is dressed up, and married, veiled, to the suitor of the other. When the husband discovers the deception, he throws the false bride under the ice of a river on the way, and takes his own bride instead. Next year, the mother, on her way to visit her supposed daughter and her child, gathers a water-lily, which tells her that it is her own daughter. Then the mother and daughter are transformed into a black dog and a black cat, with the aid of a magician; but their attempts at revenge are frustrated by a sorceress, who had previously befriended the young mother.



Under this heading we include variants of well-known but not cosmopolitan tales, some of which are of considerable interest. Among them is a variant of "Melusina," close in some points, but presenting many features of difference.


Kreutzwald's story of "The Powerful Crayfish and the Insatiable Wife" is almost identical with that of Grimm. At last the woman wishes to be God, and the crayfish sends the foolish couple back to their poverty.



In the happy days of old, better men lived on earth than now, and the Heavenly Father revealed many wonders to them which are now quite concealed, or but rarely manifested to a child of fortune. It is true that the birds sing and the beasts converse as of old, but unhappily we no longer comprehend their speech, and what they say brings us neither profit nor wisdom.

In old days a fair mermaid dwelt on the shores of the province of Laeaene. She often appeared to the people, and my grandfather's father, who was reared in the neighbourhood, sometimes saw her sitting on a rock, but the little fellow did not venture to approach her. The maiden appeared in various forms, sometimes as a foal or a calf, and sometimes under the form of some other animal. In the evening she often came among the children, and let them play with her, until some little boy mounted her back, when she would vanish as suddenly as if she had sunk into the ground.

At that time old people said that in former days the maiden was to be seen on the borders of the sea almost every fine evening in the summer, sitting on a rock, and combing her long fair hair with a golden comb, and she sang such beautiful songs that it melted the hearts of her listeners. But she could not endure the gaze of men, and vanished from their sight or fled into the sea, where she rocked on the waves like a swan. We will now relate the cause of her flying from men, and no longer meeting them with her former confidence.

In old times, long before the invasion of the Swedes, a rich farmer lived on the coast of Laeaene with his wife and four sons. They obtained their food more from the sea than from the land, for fishing was a very productive industry in their days. The youngest son was very different from his brothers, even from a child. He avoided the companionship of men, and wandered about on the sea-shore and in the forest. He talked much to himself and to the birds, or to the winds and waves, but when he was in the company of others he hardly opened his mouth, but stood like one dreaming. When the storms raged over the sea in autumn, and the waves swelled up as high as a house and broke foaming on the beach, the boy could not contain himself in the house, but ran like one possessed, and often half-naked, to the shore. Neither wind nor weather harmed his robust body. He sprang into his boat, seized the oars, and drove like a wild goose over the crest of the raging billows far out to sea, without incurring any harm by his rashness. In the morning, when the storm had spent its fury, he was found sound asleep on the beach. If he was sent anywhere on an errand, to herd cattle in summer, or to do any other easy employment, he gave his parents only trouble. He lay down under the shadow of a bush without minding the animals, and they strayed away or trampled down the meadows and cornfields, and his brothers had often to work for hours before they could find the lost animals. The father often let the boy feel the rod severely enough, but it had no more effect than water poured on the back of a goose. When the boy grew up into a youth, he did not mend his ways. No work prospered in his negligent hands; he hacked and broke the tools, wearied out the draught cattle, and yet never did anything right.

His father sent him to neighbouring farmers to work, hoping that a stranger's whip might improve the sloven, but whoever had the fellow for one week on trial sent him back again on the next. His parents rated him for a sluggard, and his brothers dubbed him "Sleepy Tony." This soon became his nickname with everybody, though he had been christened Jueri.[30] Sleepy Tony brought no one any good, but was only a nuisance to his parents and relatives, so that they would gladly have given a sum of money if anybody would have rid them of the lazy fellow. As nobody would put up with him any longer, his father engaged him as servant to a foreign captain, because he could not run away at sea, and because he had always been so fond of the water from a child. However, after a few weeks, nobody knows how, he escaped from the ship, and again set his lazy feet on his native soil. But he was ashamed to enter his father's house, where he could not expect to meet with a friendly reception, so he wandered about from one place to another, and sought to get his living as he could, without working. He was a strong handsome fellow, and could talk very agreeably if he liked, although he had never been accustomed to talk much in his father's house. He was now obliged to use his handsome appearance and fine tongue to ingratiate himself with the women and girls.

One fine summer evening after sunset it happened that he was wandering alone on the beach when the clear song of the mermaid reached his ears. Sleepy Tony thought to himself, "She is a woman, at any rate, and won't do me any harm." He did not hesitate to approach nearer, to take a view of the beautiful bird. He climbed the highest hill, and saw the mermaid some distance off, sitting on a rock, combing her hair with a golden comb, and singing a ravishing song. The youth would have wished for more ears to listen to her song, which pierced his heart like a flame, but when he drew nearer he saw that he would have needed just as many eyes to take in the beauty of the maiden. The mermaid must have seen him coming, but she did not fly from him, as she was always wont to do when men approached. Sleepy Tony advanced to within ten paces of her, and then stopped, undecided whether to go nearer. And oh, wonderful! the mermaid rose from the stone and came to meet him with a friendly air. She gave him her hand in greeting, and said, "I have expected you for many days, for a fateful dream warned me of your arrival. You have neither house nor home among those of your own race. Why should you be dependent upon strangers when your parents refuse to receive you into their house? I have known you from a child, and better than men have known you, for I have often watched over and protected you when your rashness would otherwise have destroyed you. I have often guarded the rocking boat with my hands, when it would otherwise have sunk in the depths. Come with me, and you shall enjoy every happiness which your heart can desire, and you shall want for nothing. I will watch over and protect you as the apple of my eye, so that neither wind nor rain nor frost shall touch you."

Sleepy Tony stood for a time uncertain what to answer, though every word of the maiden was like a flaming arrow in his heart. At last he stammered out an inquiry as to whether her home was very far away. "We can reach it with the speed of the wind, if you have confidence in me," answered the mermaid. Then Sleepy Tony remembered many sayings which he had heard about the mermaid, and his heart failed him, and he asked for three days to make up his mind. "I will agree to your wish," said the mermaid, "but lest you should again be doubtful, I will put my gold ring on your finger before we part, that you may not forget to return. When we are better acquainted, this pledge may serve as an engagement ring." She then drew off the ring, placed it on the youth's little finger, and vanished as if she had melted into air. Sleepy Tony stood staring with wide-open eyes, and would have supposed it was all a dream, if the sparkling ring on his finger had not been proof to the contrary. But the ring seemed like a strange spirit, which left him no peace or rest anywhere. He wandered aimlessly about the shore all night, and always returned to the rock on which the maiden had been sitting; but the stone was cold and vacant. In the morning he lay down for a short time, but uneasy dreams disturbed his sleep. When he awoke, he felt neither hunger nor thirst, and all his thoughts were directed towards the evening, when he hoped to see the mermaid again. The day waned at last, and evening approached, the wind sank, the birds in the alder-bushes left off singing and tucked their tired heads under their wings, but that evening he saw the mermaid nowhere.

He wept bitter tears of sorrow and trouble, and reflected bitterly on his folly in having hesitated to seize the good fortune offered to him the evening before, when a cleverer fellow would have grasped at it with both hands. But regret and complaint were useless now. The night and the day which followed were equally painful to him, and his trouble weighed upon him so much that he never felt hunger. Towards sunset he sat down with an aching heart on the rock where the mermaid had sat two evenings ago. He began to weep bitterly, and exclaimed, sobbing, "If she does not come back to me, I will live no longer, but either die of hunger on this rock, or cast myself headlong into the waves, and end my miserable life in the depths of the sea."

I know not how long he sat thus on the rock in his distress, but at last he felt a soft warm hand laid upon his forehead. When he looked up, he saw the maiden before him, and she said tenderly, "I have seen your bitter suffering and heard your longing sighs, and could not withdraw myself longer, though the time does not expire till to-morrow night."

"Forgive me, forgive me, dear maiden," stammered Sleepy Tony. "Forgive me; I was a mad fool not to accept the proffered happiness. The devil only knows what folly came into my head two nights ago. Carry me whither you please. I will oppose you no longer, and would joyfully give up my very life for your sake."

The mermaid answered smiling, "I do not desire your death, but I will take you living as my dear companion." She took the youth by the hand, led him a few paces nearer to the sea, and bound a silk handkerchief over his eyes. Immediately Sleepy Tony felt himself embraced by two strong arms, which raised him up as if in flight, and then plunged headlong into the sea. The moment the cold water touched his body, he lost all consciousness, and knew nothing more of what was happening around him; nor was he afterwards able to tell how long this insensibility lasted.

When he awoke, he was to experience something stranger still.

He found himself lying on soft cushions in a silken bed, which stood in a beautiful chamber, with walls of glass covered on the inside with curtains of red satin, lest the glaring light should wake the sleeper. Some time passed before he could make out whether he was still alive, or whether he was in some unknown region of the dead. He rocked his limbs to and fro, took the end of his nose between his fingers, and behold, he was quite unchanged. He was dressed in a white shirt, and handsome clothes lay in a chair in front of his bed. After lying in bed for some time, and feeling himself all over to make sure that he was really alive, he got up and dressed himself.

Presently he coughed, when two maids entered, who greeted him as "his lordship," and wished to know what he would like for breakfast. One laid the table, and the other went to prepare the food. In a short time the table was loaded with dishes of pork, sausage, black puddings, and honey, with jugs of beer and mead, just the same as at a grand wedding-feast. Sleepy Tony, who had eaten nothing for several days before, now set to work in earnest, and ate his fill, after which he laid down on the bed to digest it. When he got up again, the waiting-maids came back, and invited his lordship to take a walk in the garden while her ladyship was dressing. He heard himself called "your lordship" so often, that he already began to feel himself such in reality, and forgot his former station.

In the garden he met with beauty and elegance at every step; gold and silver apples glittered among the green leaves, and even the fir and pine cones were of gold, while birds of golden plumage hopped among the twigs and branches. Two maids came from behind a bush, who were commissioned to show his lordship round the garden, and to point out all its beauties. They went farther, and reached the edge of a pond where silver-feathered geese and swans were swimming. A rosy flush as of dawn filled all the sky, but the sun was not visible. The bushes were covered with flowers which exhaled a delicious odour, and bees as large as hornets flew among the flowers. All the flowers and shrubs which our friend beheld here were far more beautiful than he had ever seen before. Presently two elegantly dressed girls appeared, who invited his lordship to meet her ladyship, who was expecting him. But first they threw a blue silken shawl over his shoulders. Who would have recognised the former Sleepy Tony in such a guise?

In a beautiful hall, as large as a church, and built of glass like the bedroom, sat twelve fair maidens on silver chairs.[31] Against the wall behind them was a dais on which two golden thrones were placed. On one throne sat the august queen, and the other was unoccupied. When Sleepy Tony crossed the threshold, all the maidens rose from their seats and saluted him respectfully, and did not sit down again until desired to do so. The lady herself remained seated, bent her head to the youth in salutation, and signed with her finger, upon which Sleepy Tony's attendants took him between them, and conducted him to their mistress. The youth advanced with faltering steps, and did not venture to lift his eyes, for he was dazzled with all the unaccustomed splendour and magnificence. He was shown to his place on the golden throne next to the lady, and she said, "This young man is my beloved bridegroom, to whom I have plighted myself, and whom I have accepted as my consort. You must show him every respect, and obey him as you obey me. Whenever I leave the house, you must amuse him and look after him and guard him as the apple of my eye. You will be severely punished if you neglect to carry out my orders exactly."

Sleepy Tony looked round him like one dazed, for he did not know what to make of the adventures of the night, which were more wonderful than wonder itself. He continually turned the question over in his mind as to whether he was awake or dreaming. The lady noticed his confusion, and rose from her throne, took him by the hand, and led him from one room to another, all of which were untenanted. At last they arrived at the twelfth chamber, which was rather smaller, but handsomer than the others. Here the lady took her crown from her head, cast aside the gold-embroidered mantle, and when Sleepy Tony ventured to raise his eyes, he recognised that it was the mermaid at his side, and no strange lady. Oh, how quickly his courage rose and his hopes revived! He cried out joyfully, "O dear mermaid!"—but the maiden laid her hand on his mouth, and spoke very earnestly, "If you have any regard for your own happiness or for mine, never call me by that name, which has only been given to me in mockery. I am one of the daughters of the Water-Mother. There are many sisters of us, but we all live apart, each in her own place, in the sea, or in lakes and rivers, and we only see each other occasionally by some fortunate chance." She then explained to him that she had hitherto remained unmarried, but now that she was an established ruler, she must assume the dignity of a royal matron. Sleepy Tony was so bewildered with this unimagined good fortune that he did not know how to express his happiness. His tongue seemed paralysed, and he could not manage to say more than Yes or No. But while he was enjoying a capital dinner and delicious beverages, his tongue was loosened, and he was not only able to talk as well as before, but to indulge in many pleasant jests.

This agreeable life was continued on the next and on the third day, and Sleepy Tony thought he had been exalted to heaven in his living body. But before retiring to rest the mermaid said to him, "To-morrow will be Thursday, and every week I am bound by a vow to fast, and to remain apart from every one. You cannot see me at all on Thursdays until the cock has crowed thrice in the evening. My attendants will sing to you to pass the time away, and will see that you want for nothing."

Next morning Sleepy Tony could not find his consort anywhere. He remembered what she had told him the evening before, that he must pass this and all future Thursdays without her. The waiting-maids exerted themselves to amuse him in every possible manner; they sang, played, and performed elegant dances, and then set before him such food and drink that no prince by birthright could have enjoyed better, and the day passed quicker than he had expected. After supper he laid himself to rest, and when the cock had crowed three times, the fair one returned to him. The same thing happened on every following Thursday. He often implored his beloved to allow him to fast with her on Thursdays, but all to no purpose. He troubled his consort again on a Wednesday with this request, and allowed her no rest; but the mermaid said, with tears in her eyes, "Take my life, if you please; I would lay it down cheerfully; but I cannot and dare not yield to your wish to take you with me on my fast-days."

A year or more might have passed in this manner, when doubts arose in the mind of Sleepy Tony, which became always more tormenting, and allowed him no peace. His food became distasteful to him and his sleep refreshed him not. He feared lest the mermaid might have some other lover in secret besides himself, in whose arms she passed every Thursday, while he was obliged to pass his time with the waiting-maids. He had long ago discovered the room in which the mermaid hid herself on Thursdays, but how did that help him? The door was always locked, and the windows were so closely hung with double curtains on the inside that there was not an opening left as large as a needle's eye through which a sunbeam, much less a human eye, could penetrate. But the more impossible it seemed to penetrate this secret, the more eager grew his longing to get to the very bottom of it. Although he never breathed a word of the weight upon his mind to the mermaid, she could see from his altered manner that all was not as it should be. Again and again she implored him with tears in her eyes not to torment both himself and her with evil thoughts. "I am free from every fault against you," she declared, "and I have no secret love nor any other sin against you on my conscience. But your false suspicion makes us both miserable, and will destroy the peace of our hearts. I would gladly give up every moment of my life to you if you wished it, but I cannot allow you to come near me on my fast-days. It cannot be, for it would put an end to our love and happiness for ever. We are able to live quietly and happily together for six days in the week, and how should the separation of one day be so heavy that you cannot bear it?"

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