THE BAD WIFE
A Russian Fairy Tale
A bad wife lived on the worst of terms with her husband, and
never paid any attention to what he said. If her husband told
her to get up early, she would lie in bed three days at a stretch;
if he wanted her to go to sleep, she couldn't think of sleeping.
When her husband asked her to make pancakes, she would say:
"You thief, you don't deserve a pancake!"
If he said:
"Don't make any pancakes, wife, if I don't deserve them,"
she would cook a two-gallon pot full, and say,
"Eat away, you thief, till they're all gone!"
"Now then, wife," perhaps he would say, "I feel quite sorry
for you; don't go toiling and moiling, and don't go out to the
"No, no, you thief!" she would reply, "I shall go, and do
you follow after me!"
One day, after having had his trouble and bother with her
he went into the forest to look for berries and distract his grief,
and he came to where there was a currant bush, and in the middle
of that bush he saw a bottomless pit. He looked at it for
some time and considered, "Why should I live in torment with
a bad wife? can't I put her into that pit? can't I teach her a
So when he came home, he said:
"Wife, don't go into the woods for berries."
"Yes, you bugbear, I shall go!"
"I've found a currant bush; don't pick it."
"Yes I will; I shall go and pick it clean; but I won't give
you a single currant!"
The husband went out, his wife with him. He came to the
currant bush, and his wife jumped into it, crying out at the top
"Don't you come into the bush, you thief, or I'll kill you!"
And so she got into the middle of the bush, and went flop
into the bottomless pit.
The husband returned home joyfully, and remained there
three days; on the fourth day he went to see how things were
going on. Taking a long cord, he let it down into the pit, and
out from thence he pulled a little demon. Frightened out of his
wits, he was going to throw the imp back again into the pit,
but it shrieked aloud, and earnestly entreated him, saying:
"Don't send me back again, O peasant! let me go out into
the world! A bad wife has come, and absolutely devoured us
all, pinching us, and biting us--we're utterly worn out with it.
I'll do you a good turn, if you will."
So the peasant let him go free--at large in Holy Russia.
Then the imp said:
"Now then, peasant, come along with me to the town of
Vologda. I'll take to tormenting people, and you shall cure
Well, the imp went to where there were merchant's wives
and merchant's daughters; and when they were possessed by
him, they fell ill and went crazy. Then the peasant would go to
a house where there was illness of this kind, and, as soon as he
entered, out would go the enemy; then there would be blessing
in the house, and everyone would suppose that the peasant was
a doctor indeed, and would give him money, and treat him to
pies. And so the peasant gained an incalculable sum of money.
At last the demon said:
"You've plenty now, peasant; arn't you content? I'm going
now to enter into the Boyar's daughter. Mind you don't go
curing her. If you do, I shall eat you."
The Boyar's daughter fell ill, and went so crazy that she
wanted to eat people. The Boyar ordered his people to find out
the peasant--(that is to say) to look for such and such a physician.
The peasant came, entered the house, and told Boyar to
make all the townspeople, and the carriages with coachmen, stand
in the street outside. Moreover, he gave orders that all the
coachmen should crack their whips and cry at the top of their
voices: "The Bad Wife has come! the Bad Wife has come!"
and then he went into the inner room. As soon as he entered
it, the demon rushed at him crying, "What do you mean, Russian?
what have you come here for? I'll eat you!"
"What do _you_ mean?" said the peasant, "why I didn't
come here to turn you out. I came, out of pity to you, to say
that the Bad Wife has come here."
The Demon rushed to the window, stared with all his eyes,
and heard everyone shouting at the top of his voice the words,
"The Bad Wife!"
"Peasant," cries the Demon, "wherever can I take refuge?"
"Run back into the pit. She won't go there any more."
The Demon went back to the pit--and to the Bad Wife too.
In return for his services, the Boyar conferred a rich guerdon
on the peasant, giving him his daughter to wife, and presenting
him with half his property.
But the Bad Wife sits to this day in the pit--in Tartarus.