The Esthonian version of "Bluebeard" (the Wife-Murderer) is very similar to the usual story. A[Pg 2] 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.
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.
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[Pg 3] 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.
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.[Pg 4]
The Esthonian story of Tuhka-Triinu (Ash-Katie), as given by Kreutzwald, is more on the lines of the German Aschenputtel than on those of the French Cendrillon.
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. 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
She goes to the grave at night, and a voice asks[Pg 5] 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.
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 formed the coachman, and two speckled butterflies the footmen.
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[Pg 6] 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.
find this story in a familiar form in that of "The Lucky Rouble"
(Kreutzwald). The father of three sons, before his death, gives Peter, 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[Pg 7] 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. 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.
THE DWARF'S CHRISTENING.
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.
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[Pg 9] 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.
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 ENVIOUS SISTERS.
The Esthonian version of this story (the last in Galland's original translation of the Thousand[Pg 10] 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[Pg 11] 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[Pg 12] 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.
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.
THE GIFTED BROTHERS.
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, 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[Pg 13] 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.
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
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
The adventures of Sharpeye may be given more in detail.
Sharpeye, the third brother, set out westwards.[Pg 14] 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[Pg 15] 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[Pg 16] 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[Pg 17] 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 power can loosen; and I will come to your aid myself, if needful."
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[Pg 18] 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.[Pg 19] "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.
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. 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, who sent me here to steal." The magician[Pg 20] 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.
was great rejoicing when the three brothers returned home at the end of
the term agreed upon. Shortly afterwards, hearing that the[Pg 21] 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
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.
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.
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.[Pg 22]
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, 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.
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[Pg 23] 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.
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 for the princess. The
lot fell to Sharpeye, who married the princess, while his two brothers
returned home, when they bought large estates and lived like princes.
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[Pg 24] 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.
THE IDIOT'S LUCK.
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 MAGICIAN'S HEIRS.
The story of the traveller who appropriates the magical properties over which the sons of a dead[Pg 25]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 Quarrel," the articles form the leading motif, but mixed up with details curiously resembling some Celtic fairy tales.
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
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[Pg 26] 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 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 stran[Pg 27]ger."
"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.[Pg 28]
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, but they are nothing to this cudgel!"
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[Pg 29] 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.
THE MAN IN THE MOON.
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
We meet with sons and daughters of the Sun and Moon among the Finns and Lapps, as well as among the Esthonians.
VIDEVIK, KOIT, AND ÄMARIK
(Twilight, Dawn, and Evening Twilight).
Creator had three diligent servants—two fair and lovely maidens,
Videvik and Ämarik, 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.[Pg 31]
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.
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. But to Videvik he said, "As the Moon has touched thee with the light of his beauty[Pg 32] 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."
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.
the Creator summoned Koit and Ämarik 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 Ämarik, to your watch and ward I intrust
the light of day beneath the firmament. Fulfil your duty with
diligence. To thy care, my daughter Ämarik, I entrust the sinking
sun. Receive him on the horizon, and care[Pg 33]fully
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 Ämarik when he is ready to begin
his course, and to kindle new light, that there may never be any
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 Ämarik 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
found all his works and affairs in good order, and rejoiced in his
creation, and said to Koit and Ämarik, "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[Pg 34]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.
THE MAIDEN AT THE VASKJALA BRIDGE.
On a beautiful and quiet summer evening many years ago, a pious maiden went to the VaskjalaBridge
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[Pg 35]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.
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[Pg 36] 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.
THE WOMAN IN THE MOON.
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!"
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.
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."
of the most fantastic stories of this series is "The Devil's Visit"
(Jannsen: Veckenstedt), which, notwithstanding its subject, has an
absurd[Pg 39] resemblance in some of its details to "Little Red Riding-Hood."
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.
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, the elder discovered that he had[Pg 40] 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.
SNOWWHITE, THE GLASS MOUNTAIN, AND THE DESPISED YOUNGEST SON.
We have these tales combined in the story of the "Princess who slept for seven years" (Kreutzwald).
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[Pg 41] 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.
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.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, 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[Pg 42]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.
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.
THE THREE SISTERS.
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.
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[Pg 44] 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.
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[Pg 45] seen again. But the descendants of the youngest sister still bear a cat on their escutcheon.
THE THREE WISHES.
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
of this story are common in Finland as well as in Esthonia. One of the
latter is "Rõugutaja's Daughter" (Kreutzwald). Old
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[Pg 46] 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.
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
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[Pg 47] 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.
FAMILIAR STORIES OF NORTHERN EUROPE
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.
THE FISHERMAN AND HIS WIFE.
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.
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.
old days a fair mermaid dwelt on the shores of the province of
Lääne. 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,[Pg 50] when she would vanish as suddenly as if she had sunk into the ground.
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.
old times, long before the invasion of the Swedes, a rich farmer lived
on the coast of Lääne 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.[Pg 51] 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.[Pg 52]
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 Jüri. 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[Pg 53] 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.
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[Pg 54] 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."
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[Pg 55] 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.[Pg 56]
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."
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[Pg 57] 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
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.
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[Pg 58] 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.
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.[Pg 59]
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. Against the wall behind them was a[Pg 60] daïs
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."
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[Pg 61] 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[Pg 62] 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.
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."
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[Pg 63] 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."
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[Pg 64] 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?"[Pg 65]
talked in this sensible way for six days, but when the following
Thursday came, and the mermaid did not show herself, Sleepy Tony lost
his wits, and behaved as if he was half-mad. He knew no peace, and at
last one Thursday he refused to have any one with him. He ordered the
waiting-maids to bring him his food and drink, and then to leave him
directly, so that he remained alone like a spectre.
great alteration in his conduct astonished everybody, and when the
mermaid heard of the matter, she almost wept her eyes out of her head,
though she only gave way to her grief when no one was present. Sleepy
Tony hoped that when he was alone he might have a better opportunity of
inspecting the secret fasting chamber, and perhaps he might find some
crack through which he could spy upon what was going on. The more he
tormented himself, the more depressed became the mermaid, and although
she still maintained a cheerful countenance, her friendliness no longer
came from the heart as before.
weeks passed by, and matters remained at a standstill, neither worse
nor better, when one Thursday Sleepy Tony found a small space near the
window where the curtains had slightly shifted, so[Pg 66]that
he could look into the chamber. The secret chamber had no floor, but
looked like a great square tank, filled with water many feet deep.
Herein swam his much-loved mermaid. From her head to her middle she was
a beautiful woman, but from the navel downwards she was wholly a fish,
covered with scales and provided with fins. Sometimes she threshed the
water with her broad fish's tail and it dashed high up.
spy shrunk back confounded and made his way home very sorrowfully. What
would he not have given to have blotted the sight from his memory! He
thought of one thing and another, but could not decide on what to do.
the evening the cock crowed three times as usual, but the mermaid did
not come back to him. He lay awake all night, but the fair one never
came. She did not return till morning, when she was clad in black
mourning garments and her face was covered with a thin silk
handkerchief. Then she said, weeping, "O thou unhappy one! to have
brought our happy life to an end by thy folly! Thou seest me to-day for
the last time, and must return to thy former condition, and this thou
hast brought upon thyself. Farewell, for the last time."[Pg 67]
was a sudden crash and a tremendous noise, as if the floor was giving
way beneath his feet, and Sleepy Tony was hurled down stunned, and
could not perceive what was happening to himself or about him.
one knows how long afterwards it may have been when he recovered from
his swoon, and found himself on the sea-shore close to the rock on
which the fair mermaid had sat when she entered into the bond of
friendship with him. Instead of the magnificent robes which he had worn
every day in the dwelling of the mermaid, he found himself dressed in
his old clothes, which were now much older and more ragged than he
could possibly have supposed. Our friend's happy days were over, and no
remorse, however bitter, could bring them back.
walked on till he reached the first houses of his village. They were
standing in the same places, but yet looked different. But what
appeared to him much more wonderful when he looked round, was that the
people were all strangers, and he did not meet a single face which he
people all looked strangely at him, too, as though he was a monster.
Sleepy Tony went on to the farm of his parents, but here too he[Pg 68] encountered
only strangers, who knew him not, and whom he did not know. He asked in
amazement for his father and brothers, but no one could tell him
anything about them. At length an infirm old man came up, leaning on a
stick, and said, "Peasant, the farmer whom you ask after has been
sleeping in the ground for more than thirty years, and his sons must be
dead too. How comes it, my good old man, that you ask after people who
have been so long forgotten?" The words "old man" took Sleepy Tony so
much aback that he was unable to ask another question. He felt his
limbs trembling, turned his back on the strange people, and went out at
the gate. The expression "old man" left him no peace; it fell upon him
with a crushing weight, and his feet refused him their office.
hurried to the nearest spring and gazed in the water. The pale sunken
cheeks, the hollow eyes, the long grey beard and grey hair, confirmed
what he had heard. This worn-out, withered form no longer bore the
slightest resemblance to the youth whom the mermaid had chosen as her
consort. Now he fully realised his misery for the first time, and knew
that the few years that[Pg 69] he
appeared to have been absent had comprised the greater part of his
life, for he had entered the mermaid's house as a vigorous youth, and
had returned as a spectre-like old man. There he had felt nothing of
the course of time or of the wasting of his body, and he could not
comprehend how the burden of old age had fallen upon him so suddenly,
like the passing of a bird's wing. What could he do now, when he was a
grey stranger among strangers?
wandered about on the beach for a few days, from one farm to another,
and good people gave him a piece of bread out of charity. He chanced to
meet with a friendly young fellow, to whom he related all the
adventures of his life, but the same night he disappeared. A few days
afterwards the waves cast up his body on the shore. It is not known
whether he threw himself into the sea, or was drowned by accident.
this the behaviour of the mermaid towards mankind entirely changed. She
sometimes appears to children only, most often in another form, but she
does not permit grown-up people to approach her, but shuns them like
Other stories relative to the Water-Mother, mer[Pg 70]maids, and other beings of the water will be found in a later section.
HOW THE SEA BECAME SALT.
This is an interesting variant of a story known from Iceland to Finland.
were two brothers, one rich and one poor. One Christmas the rich
brother gave the other a ham, on condition that he should go to
Põrgu. On his way, he met an old man who told him that ham was a
rarity there, but he must not sell it for money, but only for what was
behind the door, which proved to be a wishing-mill. The rich brother
bought it for a high price, and set it to grind herrings and milk-soup;
but he was soon forced to give his brother another great sum to induce
him to take it back, and to save him and his wife, and indeed the whole
village, from being overwhelmed by the torrents of herrings and soup.
Afterwards it was sold to a sea-captain, who set it to grind salt, and
it ground on till the ship sank, and it now lies at the bottom of the
sea, grinding salt for ever.[Pg 71]
next story, which belongs to the same class as Grimm's "Devil with the
Three Golden Hairs," introduces us to the personified Frost, who is
here a much less malevolent being than in the Kalevala,
Runo xxx. It also combines two familiar classes of tales: those in
which a man receives gifts which are stolen from him, and which he
afterwards recovers by means of another, often a magic cudgel; and
those in which a man visiting the house of a giant or devil in his
absence is concealed by the old mother in order to listen to the
secrets revealed by her son when he comes home.
THE TWO BROTHERS AND THE FROST.
upon a time there were two brothers, one of whom was rich and the other
poor. The rich brother had much cornland and many cattle, but the poor
one had only a little corner of a field, in which[Pg 72] he
sowed rye. Then came the Frost and destroyed even this poor crop.
Nothing was left to the poor brother, so he set out in search of the
Frost. When he had gone some distance, he arrived at a small house and
went in. He found an old woman sitting there, who asked what he wanted.
The man answered, "I had tilled a small field, and the Frost came and
took away even the little that I had. So I set out in search of him, to
ask why he has done me this mischief." The old woman answered, "The
Frosts are my sons, and they destroy everything; but just now they are
not at home. If they came home and found you here, they would destroy
you likewise. Get up on the stove, and wait there." The man crept up,
and just then the Frost came in. "Son," said the old woman, "why did
you spoil the field of a poor man who was sufficiently pinched without
this?" "Oh," said the Frost, "I was only trying whether my cold would
bite." Then said the poor man on the stove, "Only give me so much back
that I can just scrape through, or I must soon die of hunger, for I
have nothing to break and bite." The Frost said, "We will give him
enough to last him all his life." Then he gave him a knapsack, saying,
"When you are hungry, you have only to[Pg 73] say,
'Open, sack,' and you will have food and drink in abundance. But when
you have had enough, say, 'Sack, shut,' and all will immediately return
into the knapsack, and it will shut of itself."
man thanked him heartily for his gift, and went his way. When he had
gone some distance, he said, "Open, sack," and immediately the knapsack
opened of itself, and supplied him with food in plenty. When he had had
enough, he said, "Sack, shut," and the food sprang into the knapsack,
which closed of itself. When he got home, he continued to use it as the
he and his wife had lived comfortably thus for some time, the rich
brother began to covet the knapsack, and wanted to buy it. He gave his
poor brother a hundred oxen and cows, and as many horses and sheep.
Thus the poor brother became rich, but he was not much better off, for
he had to feed the animals. They all gathered round him, and he was now
as poor as before. He did not know what to do, except to go back to the
Frost and ask for a new sack. The Frost said, "Why were you so
thoughtless as to give away such a knapsack? You are now just as poor
as before." But at length he gave him a new knapsack, much handsomer
than[Pg 74] the first. The poor brother thanked him heartily, and went away joyful, for he thought he had got a knapsack like the first.
he felt hungry, he said as before, "Open, sack." Immediately the
knapsack opened, and two fellows sprang out with thick cudgels in their
hands, who beat him as if it was a fine art. The man was so overwhelmed
that he could hardly utter the words, "Sack, shut!" Then the two
retired and the knapsack shut. The man thought to himself, "Have
patience! I'll exchange this with my brother." When he got home, his
brother noticed what a fine knapsack he had, and wanted to exchange.
The other had no objection, and the exchange was soon effected. Then
the rich brother invited all his relatives and the distinguished people
of the neighbourhood, for he thought to use the knapsack first to
provide a grand feast.
soon as all these people were assembled, the host cried out, "Open,
sack!" Then the knapsack indeed opened, but the men with the cudgels
leaped out among the people, and belaboured them so lustily that they
all fled in different directions, and some barely escaped with their
lives. They all caught it hot, both the host and his guests. When[Pg 75] at
length the host cried out in his distress, "Sack, shut!" the men sprang
back, and the sack closed. But now the bolder guests themselves gave
the host a good beating before they left. After this, things went as
badly with the rich brother as with the poor one before. He kept the
handsome knapsack, but the men with the cudgels were in it, and if he
only thought of opening it, they laid them on his back. But the poor
brother had enough for himself and his wife from the first knapsack as
long as he lived.
of this story are current throughout Europe; but in general, the
magical properties (of which there are usually two or three) are stolen
or exchanged by a designing innkeeper, or other person, without the
knowledge of the owner.
The next story, that of the Devil being pounded in a sack, is current in various forms throughout Northern Europe.
THE SOLDIER AND THE DEVIL.
Devil encountered a soldier outside the town, and said to him, "Good
friend, please help me to get through the town. I can't go alone,
though I should be very glad to do so, for the two-eyed dogs would surround me in every street. They attack me as soon as I enter the town."
"I'd be glad to help you," said the soldier, "but one can't do any business without money."
"What do you want then?" said the Devil.[Pg 77]
"Not a great deal," returned the soldier, "for you've plenty of money. If you'll fill my gauntlet, I shall be quite satisfied."
"I've as much as that in my pocket," said the Devil, and filled the glove to the brim.
soldier reflected, and said, "I really don't know where to put you.
Stop! just creep into my knapsack; you'll be safer there than anywhere."
"That'll do! But your knapsack has three straps. Don't buckle the third, or it might be bad for me."
"All right! Squeeze in."
So the Devil crept into the knapsack.
the soldier was one of those people who don't keep their word as they
ought. As soon as the devil was in the knapsack, he buckled all three
straps tight, saying, "A soldier mustn't go through the town with loose
straps. Do you think that the corporal would excuse me on your account
if he saw me so untidy?"
But the soldier had a friend on the other side of the town who was a smith. He marched straight[Pg 78] off
to him with the Devil in his knapsack, and said, "Old friend, please
beat my knapsack soft on your anvil. The corporal always scolds me
because he says that my knapsack is as hard and angular as a dry bast
"Pitch it on the anvil," said the smith.
And he hammered away at the knapsack till the wool flew from the hide.
"Won't that do?" asked he after a while.
"No," said the soldier, "harder still."
And again the blows hailed on the knapsack.
"That's enough," said the soldier at last. "I'll come to you again, if it's necessary."
he took the knapsack on his shoulder, and went back to the town, where
he pitched the Devil out of the knapsack in the middle of the street.
Devil was crushed as flat as a mushroom. He could hardly stand on his
legs. It had never gone so ill with him before; but the soldier had
money enough and to spare, and there was some left over for his heirs.
When he died and arrived in the other world, he went to hell and knocked at the door.
The Devil peeped through the door to see who it was, and yelled out, "No, no, you scamp, you're[Pg 79] not wanted here; you may go wherever you like, but you won't get in here."
the soldier went to the Old God, and told him how it had fared with
him. He replied, "Stay here now; there's plenty of room for soldiers."
Since that time the Devil has admitted no more soldiers into hell.
STORIES OF THE GODS, AND SPIRITS OF THE ELEMENTS
Vanemuine appears in the Kalevala,
under his Finnish name of Väinämöinen, as a
culture-hero, though in the first recension of the poem, as well as in
most of the creation-myths of the Finns, the creation is ascribed to
him, and not to his mother, Ilmatar. He is, however, always a great
musician, and in Esthonian tales usually appears rather in the
character of a god than of a patriarch.
We read much of Väinämöinen's playing and singing in the Kalevala,
especially in Runo 46, where he charms all nature by his playing and
singing, like Orpheus. In Runo 50 he is described as leaving Finland on
account of his authority departing at the coming of Christ; though it
is said by an old writer that the favourite deities[Pg 81] of the Finns in his time were Väinämöinen and the Virgin Mary.
THE SONG-GOD'S DEPARTURE.
living beings gathered round Vanemuine on the Hill of Taara, and each
received his language, according to what he could comprehend and retain
of the song of the god. The sacred stream Ema had chosen for her
language the rustling of his garments, but the trees of the forest
chose the rushing of his robes as he descended to the earth. Therefore
do we feel the presence of Vanemuine most nearly in the woods and on
the banks of the murmuring brooks, and then are we filled with the
spirit of his lays. The loudest tones are heard in the wind. Some
creatures preferred the deep tones of the god's harp, and others the
melody of the strings. The singing birds, especially the nightingale
and the lark, deemed the holy songs and melodies of the god to be the
most beautiful. But it fared very badly with the fishes. They stretched
their heads out of the water to[Pg 82] the
eyes, but kept their ears under. So they saw well how Vanemuine moved
his lips, and they imitated him, but they remained dumb. Only man could
learn all notes and understand everything; therefore his song moves the
soul most deeply, and lifts it towards the throne of God. Vanemuine
sang of the grandeur of heaven and the beauty of earth, of the banks of
the Ema and her beauty, and of the joy and sorrow of the children of
men. And his song was so moving that he himself began to weep bitterly,
and the tears sank through his sixfold robe and his sevenfold vest.
Then he rose again on the wings of the wind, and went to the abode of
God to sing and play.
did his divine song linger in the mouths of the sons and daughters of
Esthonia. When they wandered in the leafy shades of the holy forest,
they comprehended the gentle rustling of the trees, and the rippling of
the brooks filled them with joyous thoughts. The song of the
nightingale melted their hearts, and the whistling of the larks lifted
their minds to the abodes of God. Then it seemed to them as if
Vanemuine himself wandered through the creation with his harp. And thus
he did; and when the bards of the whole country assembled[Pg 83] together
to sing, Vanemuine was always among them, though they did not know him,
and he ever kindled afresh in their bosoms the true fire of song.
came to pass, at one of these festivals, that a strange old maid took
her place among the singers. Her face was full of wrinkles, her chin
trembled, and one foot was supported by crutches. The old woman began
her song in a grating voice. She sang of her beautiful youth, the happy
days in the house of her parents, and the pitiful ways of the present,
when all joy had vanished. Then she sang of her lovers, who came in
hosts to woo her, and how she had repulsed them all. She concluded her
song with the words—
"Sulev's son came here from Southland,Further Kalev's son had wandered;Sulev's son would fain have kissed me,Kalev's son my hand had taken;But I smote the son of Sulev,And in scorn the son of Kalev,I the fairest of the maidens."
had the old woman finished her song, when there arose a loud shout of
laughter among the people, which sounded far over the plain and was
echoed back from the forest. The people sang the[Pg 84]old
woman's last words in derision, and their laughter was unceasing till
the eldest of the company stopped it with stern interference. All was
still around. Then an old man on a decorated seat began a magnificent
song, which filled all around with holy joy. But suddenly they heard a
voice behind him, which took up the witch's song afresh. Laughter again
arose among the ranks of people. Again the elder sternly commanded
silence, and those who were gathered round the old man and had heard
his song likewise commanded silence. Then the people were quiet once
old man on the throne of song now raised his voice, and the people
listened to him with delight. It was a genuine song, for it met with a
response in all hearts, and moved their nobler being to heavenly
thoughts. But again a loud voice rose in the throng, which took up the
ugly chant of the old woman, and again loud laughter echoed through the
assembly. Then the old man on the throne grew angry, gazed wrathfully
down on the foolish throng, and immediately vanished from their eyes.
Only a mighty rushing and clanging was heard, so that all trembled, and
their blood froze in their veins. Who was the hoary singer?[Pg 85] Was
it not Vanemuine himself? Where had he vanished to? They talked and
asked each other. But the singer remained invisible, and no one saw him
was Vanemuine's last farewell to the Esthonian people. Only a few
minstrels now enjoy the happiness of listening to his singing and
playing in the far distance, and such minstrels only are able to move
their brothers with the divine voice of song.
In the Kalevala,
Väinämöinen has neither wife nor child, but the
Esthonians ascribe to him a foster-daughter, of whom the following
story is related.
Once upon a time the God of Song wandered musing by the banks of Lake Endla, and his harp[Pg 86]clanged
in unison with the thoughts which moved his heart. There he saw a
little child lying near him in the grass, which stretched out its hands
to him. He looked round everywhere for the child's mother, but she was
nowhere to be seen. So he lifted up the beautiful little girl, and went
to Taara, and begged him to give him the child as his own. Ukko
consented, and as he gazed graciously at his daughter, her eyes shone
like stars, and her hair glittered like bright gold.
the divine protection the child grew up from the tender infant to the
maiden Jutta. The God of Song taught her the sweet art of speech, and
Ilmarine wrought the girl a veil, wondrously woven of silver threads.
He who gazed through her veil saw everything of which the maiden spoke
as if it were passing before his eyes. She is said to have dwelt by the
Lake of Endla, where she was often seen, planning the flights of the
birds of passage, and showing them the way; and also when she[Pg 87] wandered by the shores of the lake, and wept for the death of Endla, her
beloved. But she took the wonderful veil, and gazed upon the happy
past, and then was she happy, for she thought she possessed what her
eyes saw. She has also lent her veil to mortal men, and then it is that
the songs and legends of the past become living to us.
will now proceed to stories relative to the nature-spirits, commencing
with those of the water, who are both numerous and powerful among the
Finns and Esthonians. Other stories concerning them will be found in
different parts of the book.
THE TWELVE DAUGHTERS.
upon a time there lived a poor labourer who had twelve daughters, among
whom were two pairs of twins. They were all charming girls, healthy,
ruddy, and well made. The parents were very poor, and the neighbours
could not understand how[Pg 88] they
managed to feed and clothe so many children. Every day the children
were washed and their hair combed, and they always wore clean clothes,
like Saxon children. Some thought that the labourer had a
treasure-bringer, who brought him whatever he wanted; others
said that he was a sorcerer, and others thought he was a wizard who
knew how to discover hidden treasures in the whirlwind. But the real
explanation was very different. The labourer's wife had a secret
benefactress who fed and washed and combed the children.
the mother was a girl, she lived in service at a farmhouse, where she
dreamed for three nights running that a noble lady came towards her,
and desired her to go to the village spring on St. John's Eve. Perhaps
she would have forgotten all about the dream; but on St. John's Eve she
heard a small voice like the buzzing of a gnat always singing in her
ear, "Go to the spring, go to the spring, whence trickle the watery
streams of your good fortune!" Although she could not listen to this
secret summons without a shudder, yet she fortified her heart at
length, and leaving the other maidens,[Pg 89] who
were amusing themselves with the swing and round the fire, she went to
the spring. The nearer she came, the more her heart failed her, and she
would have turned back if the gnat-like voice had allowed her any rest;
but it drove her unwillingly onwards. When she reached the spot, she
saw a lady in white robes sitting on a stone by the spring. When the
lady perceived the girl's alarm, she advanced a few steps to meet her,
and offered her her hand, saying, "Fear nothing, dear child; I will do
you no harm. Give good heed to what I tell you, and remember it. In the
autumn you will be sought in marriage. Your bridegroom will be as poor
as yourself; but do not concern yourself about this, and accept his
offered brandy. As
you are both good people, I will bring you happiness, and help you to
get on; but do not neglect thrift and labour, without which no
happiness is lasting. Take this bag, and put it in your pocket; there
is nothing in it but a few milk-can pebbles. When you have given birth to your first child, throw a pebble into the well, and I will come[Pg 90] to
see you. When the child is baptized, I will be the sponsor. Let no one
know of our nocturnal meeting. For the present I say farewell." At
these words the wonderful stranger vanished from the girl's eyes as
suddenly as if she had sunk into the ground. Very likely the girl might
have thought that this adventure was a dream too, if the bag in her
hand had not testified to its reality: it contained twelve stones.
prediction was fulfilled, and the girl was married in the autumn to a
poor labourer. Next year the young wife gave birth to her first child,
and remembering what had happened to her on St. John's Eve, she rose
secretly from her bed, and threw a pebble into the well. It splashed
into the water, and immediately the friendly white-robed lady stood
before her, and said, "I thank you for not forgetting me. Take the
child to be baptized on Sunday fortnight, and I will come to church
too, and stand sponsor."
the child was brought into church on the appointed day, an unknown lady
entered, who took it on her lap and had it baptized. When this was
done, she tied a silver rouble in the child's swaddling clothes, and
gave it back to the mother. The same thing happened at the birth of
each successive child, until there were twelve. On the birth of the last[Pg 91] child,
the lady said to the mother, "Henceforward you will see me no more,
though I shall invisibly watch over you and your children daily. The
water of the well will benefit the children more than the best food.
When the time comes for your daughters to marry, you must give each the
rouble which I brought as their godmother's gift. Until then, do not
let them dress finely, but let them wear clean dresses and clean linen
both on week-days and Sundays."
children grew and throve so well that it was a delight to see them.
There was plenty of bread in the house, though sometimes little else,
but both parents and children seemed to be chiefly strengthened by the
water of the well. In due time the eldest daughter was married to the
son of a prosperous innkeeper. Although she brought him nothing beyond
her most needful clothing, yet a bridal chest was made, and her clothes
and her godmother's rouble put into it. But when the men lifted the
chest into the cart, they found it so heavy that they thought it must
be full of stones, for the poor labourer could not have given his
daughter anything of value. But great was the young bride's amazement
when she opened the chest in her husband's house and found it filled
with pieces of linen,[Pg 92]and
at the bottom a leathern purse containing a hundred silver roubles. The
same thing happened after every fresh marriage, and the daughters were
soon all betrothed when it became known that each received such a
of the sons-in-law was a very avaricious man, and was not satisfied
with his wife's bridal portion. He thought that the parents themselves
must be possessed of great riches, if they could bestow so much on each
daughter. So he went one day to his father-in-law, and began to pester
him about his supposed treasure. The labourer told him the exact truth.
"I have nothing but my body and soul, and could not give my daughters
anything but the chests. I have nothing to do with what each found in
her chest. It is the gift of the godmother, who gave each of the
children a rouble at her christening, and this has multiplied itself in
the chests." The avaricious son-in-law would not believe him, and
threatened to denounce the old man as a wizard and wind-sorcerer, who
had amassed a large treasure in this manner. But as the labourer had a
clear conscience, he did not fear his son-in-law's threats. The latter,
however, actually made his complaint to the authorities, and the court
sent for the other sons-in-law of[Pg 93] the
labourer, and inquired whether each of their brides had received the
same portion. The men declared that each had received a chest of linen
and a hundred silver roubles. This caused great surprise, for the whole
neighbourhood knew that the labourer was a poor man, and had no other
treasure but his twelve pretty daughters. The people knew that the
daughters had always worn clean white linen from their earliest years,
but nobody had seen them wear any other ornaments, neither brooches nor
coloured neckerchiefs. The judge now determined to investigate this
wonderful affair more closely, and to find out whether the old man was
really a sorcerer.
day the judge left the town, attended by his police. They wished to
surround the labourer's house with guards, so that no one could get out
and carry away the treasure. The avaricious son-in-law accompanied them
as guide. When they reached the wood in which the labourer's house
stood, guards were posted on all sides, with strict orders not to allow
any one to pass till the matter had been fully investigated. The rest
left their horses behind, and followed the footpath to the cottage. The
son-in-law warned them to advance slowly and silently, for fear the
sorcerer might see them coming[Pg 94]and
escape on the wings of the wind. They had already nearly reached the
cottage, when they were suddenly dazzled by the wonderful splendour
which shone through the trees. As they advanced, a large and splendid
palace became visible. It was entirely built of glass, and illuminated
by hundreds of tapers, although the sun shone, and the day was
perfectly light. Two sentries stood at the door, wholly cased in brazen
armour, and holding long drawn swords in their hands. The officials did
not know what to make of it, and everything looked more like a dream
than reality. Then the door opened, and a young man gaily attired in
silken garments, came forth and said, "Our queen has commanded that the
chief-justice shall appear before her." Although the judge felt some
alarm, he decided to follow the young man into the house.
can describe the splendour which he beheld! In a magnificent hall as
large as a church sat a lady enthroned, robed in silk, satin, and gold.
Some feet lower sat twelve beautiful princesses on smaller golden
seats. They were dressed as magnificently as the queen, except that
they wore no golden crowns. On both sides stood numerous attendants,
all in bright silken attire and with golden necklaces. When the chief
judge came forward bowing, the[Pg 95] queen
demanded, "Why have you come out to-day with a host of police, as if
you were about to arrest criminals?" The judge was about to answer, but
terror stopped his utterance and he could not speak a word. "I know the
base lying charges," continued the queen, "for nothing is concealed
from my eyes. Let the false accuser enter, but chain him hand and foot,
and I will pronounce just sentence. Let the other judges and attendants
enter too, that the matter may be done publicly, and that they may bear
witness that no one suffers injustice here." One of the servants
hastened out to fulfil the order, and after some time the accuser was
led in, chained hand and foot, and guarded by six soldiers in armour.
The remaining judges and attendants followed. Then the queen addressed
I pronounce the well-deserved sentence on the offender, I must briefly
explain the real state of the case. I am the most powerful Lady of the
Waters, and all the springs of water which rise from the earth are
subject to my authority. The eldest son of the King of the Winds was my lover, but as[Pg 96] his father would not allow him to take a wife, we were obliged to keep our marriage secret as long as his father lived. As
I could not venture to bring up my children at home, I exchanged them
with the children of the labourer's wife, as often as she was confined.
The labourer's children were reared as foster-children by my aunt, and
whenever one of the labourer's daughters was about to marry, another
change was effected.
time, on the night before the wedding, I had my daughter carried away,
and that of the labourer substituted. The old King of the Winds had
been lying ill for a long time, and knew nothing of our proceedings. On
the christening-day I gave each child a silver rouble to form the
marriage portion in her bridal chest. All the sons-in-law were
satisfied with their young wives and with what they brought them,
except this avaricious scoundrel whom you see before you in chains, who
dared to bring false accusations against his father-in-law, in hopes of
enriching himself thereby. The old King of the[Pg 97] Winds
died a fortnight ago, and my consort succeeded to the throne. It is no
longer necessary for us to conceal our marriage and our children. Here
sit my twelve daughters, and their foster-parents, the labourer and his
wife, shall dwell with me as my pensioners till their death. But you,
worthless scamp, whom I have put in chains, shall also receive your
just reward. You shall sit chained in a mountain of gold, so that your
greedy eyes shall ever behold the gold without your being able to touch
a particle. For seven hundred years you shall endure this torment
before death shall have power to bring you rest. This is my decree."
the queen had finished speaking, a noise was heard like a violent clap
of thunder; the earth quaked, and the magistrates and their servants
fell down stunned. When they recovered their senses, they found
themselves in the wood to which their guide had led them, but on the
spot where the palace of glass had stood in all its splendour, clear
cold water now gushed forth from a small spring. Nothing more was ever
heard of the labourer, his wife, or his avaricious son-in-law. The
widow of the latter married another husband in the autumn, and lived
happily with him for the rest of her life.
THE FOUR GIFTS OF THE WATER-SPRITE.
boys were playing one Sunday on the banks of Lake Peipus, when the
water-spirit appeared to them in the form of an old man with long grey
hair and beard, and gave each of them a present—a boat, a hammer,
a ploughshare, and a little book. As they grew up, one became a smith,
another a fisherman, another a farmer, and the last a great king, who
conquered the Danes and Swedes.
this story, of which we have only given a brief abstract, we place
another, descriptive of the dwellings of the lake-spirits.
Many years ago a man was driving over a lake with his little son before the ice was properly[Pg 99] formed.
It broke, and they all sank in the water, when an old man with
silver-grey hair came up, and upbraided them for breaking through the
winter roof of his palace. He told the man that he must stay with him,
but he would give him a grey horse and a sledge with golden runners,
that he might drive about under the ice in autumn, and make a noise to
warn others that it was unsafe until Father Taara had strengthened it
sufficiently. But he would help the boy and the horse above the ice,
for they were not to blame. When the water-god had brought them from
under the ice, he told the boy to go home, and not to mourn for his
father, who would be very happy under the water, and to be careful not
to drop anything out of the sledge. On reaching home, he found two
lumps of ice in the sledge, and threw them out, but when they struck
against a stone and did not break, he discovered that they were lumps
of pure silver. He had now plenty to live upon comfortably; but every
autumn when the lake was covered with young ice, he went to it, hoping
to see or hear something of his father. The ice often cracked and
heaved just before his footsteps, as if his father was trying to speak
to him, but there was no other sign.[Pg 100]
years passed by, and the son grew old and grey. One day he went to the
lake as usual, and sat down sorrowfully on a stone, just where the
river falls into it, and great tears rolled down his cheeks. Suddenly
he saw, on raising his eyes, a great door of silver with golden
lattice-work close to the mouth of the river. He rose up and went to
it, and he had scarcely touched it when it sprang open. He hesitated a
moment and then entered, and found himself in a gloomy gallery of
bronze. He went some distance, and presently reached a second door like
the former, but much higher. Before it stood a dwarf with a broad stone
hat on his head and bronze armour. He wore a copper girdle round his
waist, and held in his hand a copper halbert about six feet long. "I
suppose you have come to see your father?" he said in a friendly
manner. "Yes, indeed, my good man," answered the other. "Can you not
help me to see him or meet him? I am already an old man myself, and my
life grows ever more lonely." "I must not make any promises," said the
dwarf, "and it is about time for your father to fulfil his office.
Hark, he is just driving off in his golden sledge with the grey horse,
to warn mortals against treading incautiously on our delicate[Pg 101] silver
roof. But as you have once before been our guest, and have ventured to
come again, I will show you the house and grounds of the water-world.
None of our people are at home to-day, neither the gentry nor the
household, so that we can go through the rooms without interference."
As he spoke he touched the door, and the old man and his guide entered
a vast and splendid palace of crystal. There they saw a great crowd of
men, women, and children walking about, or sitting talking, or amusing
themselves; but none of them noticed or addressed the newcomers.
Presently the dwarf led the old man farther into the hall. All the
fittings were of bright gold and silver, and the floor was of copper,
and the farther they advanced the brighter everything shone, without
any apparent end. At last the old man asked to turn back, and the dwarf
said, "It is well that you mentioned it, for a little farther on the
gold shines so brilliantly that the eyes of mortal men cannot endure
it. And there dwells our good and mighty king, with his noble consort,
surrounded by the bold heroes and lovely dames of our realm." "You told
me the gentry and dependants were not at home," said the old man, "but
who were all the people who were talking and laughing[Pg 102] near
the door, and the children who were playing with all manner of costly
toys of gold and silver? Don't they belong to your people?" "Half-way
indeed, but not quite," said the dwarf. "They are, if I may be
permitted to tell you, people from your world, who all sank into our
kingdom, sooner or later. But they live a very pleasant life here, and
have no wish to return to your world, even if they were permitted. For
whoever comes to our kingdom must stay with us." "Must I stay here
too?" asked the old man startled, not knowing what preparations he had
to make for the life below. "Do you find our home so bad?" asked the
dwarf. "But fear nothing, and don't alarm yourself. This day you can go
or stay, as you please. I led you in freely, and will lead you out
freely. But this is the first time that a mortal man has been permitted
to leave our abode." Then the old man asked, "Shall I never see my
father again?" and tears stood in his eyes once more. The dwarf
answered, "You would not see him again till after three weeks, when the
ice has become strong and firm. Your father will then have finished his
work for the year, and can pass his time pleasantly with us till
another year has passed, and he must again perform his[Pg 103] office
for a month." "Must he then do this work for ever, and remember his
misfortune every year?" asked the old man sadly. The dwarf answered,
"He must perform this duty till another mortal accidentally damages our
roof and sinks down himself. Then is the first man released from his
journeying under the young ice, and the other must henceforth take the
work upon himself."
they were thus conversing, the old man and his guide reached the gate.
Then they looked in each other's faces, and the dwarf gave the old man
two rods of copper with a friendly smile, and said, "If you ever come
to this gate, and don't find me on guard, but some one whom you don't
know, strike these rods together, and I will do what you wish, as far
as I can." Then he led his guest through the lofty gate, and
accompanied him through the bronze passage to the outer gate, and
opened it. Then the old man found himself standing again on the banks
of the lake near the mouth of the river, as if he had fallen from the
clouds. The door had vanished, but the rods in his hand showed him that
what he had seen was a reality. He put them in his pocket, and wandered
home sunk in deep thought, and dazed like a drunken man. But here he
found[Pg 104] no
rest or pleasure in anything. He went to the mouth of the river on the
lake daily for three weeks, and sat on the rock as if in a dream; and
at last he disappeared, and never came home again.
relates that every autumn a little grey man, who lives in the
Ülemiste järv, rises from it to see if the new buildings are
sufficiently decorated. When he has finished his inspection, he returns
to the lake; but if he was so dissatisfied as to turn his head in the
opposite direction, evil would come on Tallin (Revel), for the
low-lying country would be inundated, and the town would be destroyed.
The following tales relate to beings inhabiting the sea.
THE FAITHLESS FISHERMAN.
fisherman was sleeping on the sand, by the Baltic, when a stranger
roused him, telling him that the sea was full of fish. They fished
together all day, when the boat was filled, and the stranger sent the
fisherman to sell the fish, insisting that he[Pg 105] should
bring him half the profits, and give the other half to his own wife.
Next day they would go fishing again. This went on day after day, and
the stranger regularly received half the proceeds of the work, giving
back a trifle to the fisherman in return for the use of the boat and
tackle. When everything was arranged, he used to disappear behind a
the fisherman became rich. He built himself a cottage, and bought a new
boat, and sometimes he indulged in a glass to quench his thirst.
day it occurred to him to give his partner less than his due; but next
day the results of their fishing were much smaller, and the stranger
looked at him sorrowfully. In the evening the fisherman went to sell
the fish, but gave his partner still less than the day before. Next
day, when they cast the nets, they did not take a single fish, and the
stranger said, "You have cheated me two days running, and now you must
die." He then threw the fisherman overboard, and two days afterwards
his body was found on the beach and buried. As his wife stood weeping
by his grave, a tall, strong man approached, who told her to dry her
tears; for if he had not drowned her husband, he would have[Pg 106] died
on the gallows. He then gave her a bag of money, telling her that her
husband had gained it honestly, and that he was the water-sprite. Then
he disappeared, leaving the money, and the widow went home and lived
happily with her children.
curious story relative to water-sprites is that of the mermaid and the
lord of Pahlen (Kreutzwald). The latter found the maiden sitting on a
stone by the sea-shore, and lamenting because her father, the king of
the sea, compelled her to raise storms, in which many people perished,
in order to please the Mother of the Winds. The nobleman freed her from
her trouble by breaking the ring with which she raised the storms with
his teeth, and she rewarded him with two large barrels of gold.
The following short stories relate to different classes of spirits of the air.
THE SPIRITS OF THE NORTHERN LIGHTS.
certain nobleman was in the habit of driving away from his mansion
every Thursday during hard winters, and not returning till towards
morning. But he had strictly forbidden all his people to accompany him,
or to receive him on his return. He himself harnessed the horse to the
sledge, and unharnessed him when he returned. But no one was permitted
to see the horse and carriage, and he threatened every one with death
who should venture into his secret stable in the evening. During the
day he carried the stable key in his bosom, and at night he hid it
under his pillow.
the nobleman's coachman heeded not the strict prohibition of his
master, for he was much too anxious to know where his master went every
Thursday, and what the horse and carriage were like. So he contrived
one Thursday to get into the stable, and he hid himself in a dark
corner near the door.[Pg 108]
had not long to wait before his master came and opened the door. All at
once it became as light as if many candles had been kindled in the
great stable. The coachman crouched together in his corner like a
hedgehog, for if his master had seen him, he would certainly have
suffered the threatened punishment.
Then the master pushed the sledge forward, and it shone like a red-hot anvil.
But while the master went to fetch the horse, the coachman crept under the sledge.
nobleman harnessed the horse, and threw cloths over the horse and the
sledge, that the people about the yard should not see the wonderful
the coachman crept quietly from under the sledge, and hid himself
behind on the runners, where by good luck his master did not notice him.
all was ready, the nobleman sprang into the sledge, and they went off
so rapidly that the runners of the sledge resounded, always due north.
After some hours, the coachman saw that the cloths were gone from the
horse and sledge, which shone again like fire.
Now, too, he perceived that ladies and gentlemen[Pg 109] were
driving up from all directions with similar sledges and horses. That
was a rush and rattle! The drivers rushed past each other as though it
was for a very heavy wager, or as if they were on their wedding
journey. At last the coachman perceived that their course lay above the
clouds, which stretched below them like smooth lakes.
a time, the racers fell more and more behind, and the coachman's master
said to his nearest companion, "Brother, the other spirits of the
Northern Lights are departing. Let us go too!"
the master and coachman drove fast home. Next day people said they had
never seen the Northern Lights so bright as the night before.
coachman held his tongue, and trusted no one with the story of his
nocturnal journey. But when he was old and grey he told the story to
his grandson, and so it became known to the people. And it was said
that such spirits still exist, and that when the Northern Lights flame
in the heavens in winter they hold a wedding in the sky.
THE SPIRIT OF THE WHIRLWIND.
men were walking together when they saw a haystack carried away by the
wind. The elder man said it was the Spirit of the Whirlwind; but the
other would not believe him till they saw a cloud of dust, when they
turned their backs to it, and the young man repeated a spell after the
old one. When they turned round, they saw an old grey man with a long
white beard, a broad flapping coat, and streaming hair, devastating the
woods. He took no notice of them, but the elder one cautioned the other
not to forget to repeat the spell whenever he saw him. However, he
forgot it, and the whirlwind in a fury carried him many miles from
home, and ever afterwards persecuted him till he went to his friend and
learned the spell again. Next time he saw the whirlwind he was fishing;
and on his repeating the spell, the spirit passed him angrily, and a
great wave surged up from the river, and wetted the man to the skin.
But after that the spirit never reappeared to him, and left him in
THE WILL O' THE WISPS.
farmer was driving home one winter evening from Fellin across the
Parika heath, when he suddenly saw a little blue flame on one side, and
his horse stopped short and would not move. It was as if he had been
stopped by a ditch. He dismounted, and found not a ditch, but an open
pit; and he could not drive round it, because there was deep water on
all sides. Presently he saw a light flare up like a torch, and then
another, till many of them were flitting about everywhere. In
consternation, the farmer cried out, "Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
what's going on here tonight?" The horse sprang forward, as if somebody
had stuck a pin into him, and the farmer had only just time to tumble
on the sledge, when they went off at full gallop; and the farmer could
say that the name of God had occurred to him just at the right time.
evening a little boy was sleeping restlessly in a village on the island
of Dagö. His father saw a small hole which had been bored in the
wall, and thinking that the draught disturbed the child, he stopped it
up. He then saw a beautiful little girl playing with the boy, and
preventing him from sleeping quietly. As she could not get away again,
she remained in the house; and when the children grew up, they married,
and had two children. One Sunday they went to church, and the wife
laughed; but when her husband asked why, she replied that she would
tell him if he told her how she came into his house. Thinking no harm,
he promised to tell her, as he had heard the story from his father.
Then she told him that she saw a great horse-skin spread on the wall of
the church, on which the devil wrote the names of all the people who
slept or talked in church instead of attending to the word of God. When
it was full, he tried to stretch it with his[Pg 113] teeth,
but in doing so, he knocked his head against the wall and made a wry
face, and she laughed. When they got home, he took the wooden plug from
the hole, and showed it to his wife, but she instantly disappeared
through it and never returned. The man wept himself blind, but the
children grew up and prospered all their lives. People said their
mother visited them secretly and brought treasures to the house.
next story introduces us to the Gnomes, who appear to come more
frequently into contact with human beings than any of the other
nature-spirits, perhaps because their nature may be more akin to that
of man. They are seen with more or less similar characteristics in all
the mining countries of Northern Europe, whether Celtic, as Ireland and
the Isle of Man; Teutonic, as England, Germany, and Scandinavia; or
Finnish-Ugrian. They were well known to the old Norsemen as the Dvergar.
upon a time a man lost his way on a stormy night between Christmas and
New Year. He wore out his strength plunging through the deep
snowdrifts, until, by good luck, he found some protection from the wind
under a thick juniper bush. Here he resolved to pass the night, hoping
to find his way easier by the clear light of the morning. He rolled
himself together like a hedgehog in his warm fur-cloak and fell asleep.
I don't know how long he lay there before he was roused by somebody
shaking him, and a stranger's voice said in his ear, "Get up, farmer,
or the snow will bury you, and you will never get out again." The
sleeper pushed his head out of his fur, and opened his sleepy eyes
wide. He saw a tall thin man before him, who carried a young fir-tree,
twice as high as himself, as his staff.
with me," said the man; "we have made a fire under the trees, where you
can rest better than in this open field." The traveller could not
refuse such a friendly invitation, so he got up[Pg 115] directly,
and walked on quickly with the stranger. The snowstorm raged so
furiously that they could not see a step before them, but when the
stranger lifted his fir staff and cried with a loud voice, "Ho there,
mother of the snowstorm, make way!" a broad pathway appeared before
them, on which no snowflakes fell. A dreadful snowstorm raged on either
side of the wanderers and behind them, but it did not touch them. It
appeared as if an invisible wall held back the storm on either hand.
The men soon reached the wood, and they had already seen the light of
the fire from afar off. "What is your name?" asked the man with the fir
staff, and the peasant answered, "Hans, the son of tall Hans."
men sat at the fire, clothed in white linen garments, as if it had been
midsummer. For thirty paces or more around them, everything looked like
summer; the moss was dry, the herbage was green, and the grass swarmed
with ants and small beetles; but afar off Hans heard the blasts of wind
and the raging of the storm. Still stranger seemed the burning fire,
which spread a bright light around, but threw up no smoke. "What think
you, tall Hans' son? isn't this a better resting-place for the night
than under the juniper bush in the open field?"[Pg 116] Hans
assented, and thanked the stranger for bringing him there. Then he took
off his fur-cloak, rolled it up as a pillow for his head, and lay down
in the glow of the fire. The man with the fir staff took his flask from
under a bush and offered Hans a drink, which tasted most excellent, and
warmed his heart. He then lay down too, and began conversing with his
companions in a foreign language, of which Hans could not understand a
word; and Hans presently fell asleep.
he awoke, he found himself lying in a strange place, where was neither
wood nor fire. He rubbed his eyes, and tried to recollect what had
happened to him the night before, and thought he must have been
dreaming, but he could not understand how he came to be lying in quite
a strange place. A great noise resounded from a distance, and he felt
the ground under his feet tremble. Hans listened for some time to find
out where the noise came from, and then determined to follow it, hoping
to find some people. Presently he reached the entrance to a cavern,
from which the noise proceeded, and where a fire was shining. When he
entered, he found a huge smithy filled with bellows and anvils, and
seven workmen stood round each[Pg 117] anvil.
But stranger smiths were not to be found in the world. They were not
higher than the knee of an ordinary man, and their heads were larger
than their own bodies, and they wielded hammers more than twice as
large as themselves. But they smote on the anvil so lustily with these
huge iron hammers that the strongest man could not have struck harder.
The little smiths were clad in leathern aprons which reached from the
neck to the feet; but at the back their bodies were as naked as God had
made them. In the background a high bench stood against the wall, on
which sat Hans' friend with the fir staff, and looked sharply after the
work of the little journeymen. A large can stood at his feet, from
which the workmen took a drink now and then. The master of the smithy
was no longer dressed in white, as on the previous day, but wore a
black sooty coat, and round his waist a leathern belt with a great
buckle. Now and then he made a sign to the workmen with his fir staff,
for the noise was so great that no human voice could have been heard.
Hans was uncertain whether any one had noticed him, for both master and
men continued their work without paying any attention[Pg 118] to
the stranger. After some hours, the little smiths were allowed to rest;
the bellows were stopped, and the heavy hammers thrown on the ground.
When the workmen had left, the master rose from the bench, and called
to Hans to approach.
what riches and treasure Hans beheld there! All sorts of gold and
silver lay about everywhere, and glittered and gleamed before his eyes.
Hans amused himself by counting the bars of gold in a single heap, and
had just counted up to five hundred and seventy, when the master turned
round and said, smiling, "You'd better leave off, for it will take up
too much time. You would do better to take some bars from the heap, for
I will give you them as a remembrance."
course Hans needed no second invitation. He grasped one of the bars of
gold with both hands, but could not even move it, much less lift it
from its place. The master laughed, and said, "Poor delicate flea! you
cannot carry off even the least of my treasures, so you must feast your
eyes on them instead." He then led Hans into another room, and through
a third, fourth, fifth, and sixth of these treasure-caverns, till they
reached the seventh, which was as big as a large church, and, like the
others,[Pg 119] was
crammed with heaps of gold and silver from floor to ceiling. Hans
marvelled at these immeasurable riches, which could easily have bought
up all the kingdoms in the world, but which were now lying useless
underground. So he asked the master, "Why do you store up these vast
treasures here, where no human being can derive any benefit from the
gold and silver? If these treasures came into the hands of men, they
would all be rich, and nobody would have to work or suffer distress."
is for this very reason," answered the master, "that I cannot hand over
these treasures to mankind. The whole world would perish from sloth, if
no one needed longer to work for his daily bread. Man is created to
sustain himself by toil and thrift."
Hans did not like this view of the matter, and disputed energetically
with the master. At last he asked him to explain how it was that all
this gold and silver was the property of one man and was left to rust,
and why the master of the treasure incessantly laboured to increase it
when he had already such an amazing superfluity of riches. The master
answered, "I am not a man, although I have the form and appearance of
one. I belong to a nobler race, which was formed by the decree of the[Pg 120] Creator to rule the world. By
his decree, I must work constantly with my little companions to prepare
gold and silver under the earth, and every year a small portion is
assigned to the use of men, but not more than just sufficient for their
necessities. No one is allowed to receive the gift without trouble. So
we are obliged to pound up the gold first, and mix the grains with
earth, clay, and sand, and they are afterwards found by chance in this
mass, and must be diligently sought for. But, my friend, we must break
off our conversation, for it is almost noon. If you would like to look
at my treasures longer, stay here, and rejoice your heart with the
glitter of gold till I come to call you to dinner." Thereupon he left
wandered about again from one treasure-chamber to another, and now and
then he attempted to lift one of the smaller pieces of gold, but found
it quite impossible. In former times, he had often heard clever people
say how heavy gold was, but he would never believe it. Now, however, he
learned it from his own experience. After a time the master returned,
but he was so much altered that Hans did not recognise him at first
sight. He wore red flame-[Pg 121]coloured
silken robes, richly decorated with golden lace and golden fringes. He
wore a broad gold belt round his waist, and a gold crown adorned his
head, sparkling with jewels like stars on a clear winter's night.
Instead of the fir staff, he now held a small gold sceptre in his hand,
which branched in such a way that it looked like a shoot of the great
the royal master of the treasure had locked the doors of the
treasure-chambers and put the key in his pocket, he took Hans by the
hand and led him from the smithy to another room where dinner was set
out. The seats and tables were of silver, and in the midst of the room
stood a beautiful dinner-table, with a silver chair on each side. All
the utensils, such as cups, dishes, plates, jugs, and mugs, were of
gold. When the master and his guest had seated themselves at the table,
twelve dishes were presented in succession. The waiters were just like
the little men in the smithy, only that they were not naked, but wore
clean white clothes. Their quickness and dexterity was very remarkable,
for although they did not appear to be provided with wings, they moved
about as lightly as birds. They were not tall enough to reach the
table, and[Pg 122] were
obliged to skip up to it like fleas. Meantime they held the great
dishes and tureens in their hands, and were so skilful that they did
not spill a drop of the contents. During dinner the little waiters
poured mead and delicate wines into the mugs, and handed them to the
company. The master carried on a friendly conversation, and explained
many mysteries to Hans. Thus, when they came to talk over his nocturnal
meeting with Hans, he said, "Between Christmas and New Year I am
accustomed to amuse myself by wandering about the world, to watch the
doings of men, and to make myself acquainted with some of them. I
cannot say anything very remarkable about those whom I have seen and
talked to. Most men live only to injure and plague each other.
Everybody complains more or less of others. Nobody regards his own
faults and failings, but lays the blame on others for what he has done
tried his best to dispute the truth of these words, but his friendly
host made the waiters fill his glass so heedfully that his tongue
became too heavy at last to utter another word, and he was equally
unable to understand what his host said. Presently he fell asleep in
his chair, and knew nothing more of what happened.[Pg 123]
he slept, he had wonderfully vivid dreams, in which the gold bars
constantly floated before him. As he felt much stronger in his dreams,
he took a few gold bars on his back, and easily carried them away. But
at last his strength failed under the heavy burden, and he was obliged
to sit down and take breath. Then he heard loud voices, which he took
to be the singing of the little smiths, and the bright fire from their
forges shone in his eyes. When he looked up, blinking, he saw the green
wood around him. He was lying on the flowery herbage, and it was not
the forge fires, but the sun-rays which shone cheerfully on his face.
He shook off his drowsiness, but it was some time before he could fully
recall what had happened to him.
last, when he had fully recovered his recollection, everything seemed
so strange and wonderful to him that he could not reconcile it with the
ordinary course of events. Hans reflected how he had wandered from the
path during a stormy winter night between Christmas and New Year, and
what had happened to him afterwards came back to his recollection. He
had slept by a fire with a stranger, and next day the stranger, who
carried a fir staff,[Pg 124] had
received him as his guest. He had dined with him and had drunk a good
deal; in short, he had spent a few days in jollity and carousal. But
now it was the height of summer all around him; there must be magic in
it all. When he stood up, he found that he was close by the ashes of an
extinguished fire, which shone wonderfully in the sun. But when he
examined the place more carefully, he saw that the supposed heap of
ashes was fine silver dust, and the remaining sticks were bright gold.
Oh, what luck! where could he find a bag in which to carry the treasure
home? Necessity is the mother of invention. Hans pulled off his winter
fur coat, swept the silver ashes together, so that not a particle was
left, put the gold faggots and silver ashes into the fur, and tied it
together with his belt like a bag, so that nothing could fall out.
Although it was not a large bundle, he found it awfully heavy, so that
he had to drag it manfully before he could find a suitable place to
hide his treasure.
Hans became suddenly enriched by an unexpected stroke of good fortune,
and might have bought himself an estate. But after taking counsel with
himself, he decided that it was better for him[Pg 125] to
leave his old dwelling-place, and to look for a fresh one at some
distance, where the people did not know him. There he bought himself a
nice piece of land, and he had still a good stock of money left over.
Then he took to himself a wife, and lived happily like a rich man to
the end of his days. Before his death he told his children his secret,
and how he had visited the master of the underground treasures, who had
made him rich. The story was spread about by his children and
the gnomes, we will now proceed to the wood-spirits, who may properly
be classed among the nature-spirits, though they are not exactly
spirits of the elements.
THE COMPASSIONATE WOODCUTTER.
is a story of a man who went into the forest to fell wood, but each
tree begged for mercy in a human voice, and he desisted. Afterwards an
old man emerged from the thicket. He had a long grey beard, a shirt of
birch-bark, and a coat of pine-bark, and[Pg 126] he
thanked the woodcutter for sparing his children, and gave him a golden
rod, which would fulfil all wishes that were not so extravagant as to
he wanted a building erected, he was to bend the rod down three times
towards an ant-hill, but not to strike it, for fear of hurting the
ants. If he wanted food, he must ask the kettle to prepare what he
wanted; and if he wanted honey, he must show the rod to the bees, who
would bring him more than he needed, and the trees should yield sap,
milk, and salve. If he needed fabrics, the loom would prepare all he
needed. Then the old man declared himself to be the wood-god and
the man found a quarrelsome wife at home, who abused him for bringing
no wood, and wished that all the birch twigs in the forest would turn
to rods for the lazy hide. "Let it be so," said the man to the rod, and
his wife got a sound birching.
he ordered the ants to build him a new storehouse in the enclosure, and
next morning it was finished. He now lived a happy life, and left the
rod to his children; but in the third generation it fell to a foolish
man, who began to demand all sorts of absurd and impossible things. At
length he[Pg 127] ordered
the rod to fetch the sun and stars from heaven to warm his back. But
although the sun did not move, God sent down such hot rays from it,
that the offender and all his house and goods were burned up, so that
no trace of them was left. What became of the rod is unknown, but it is
thought that the trees in the wood were so terrified by the fire that
they have never spoken a word since.
is a short Christian variant of this story (Jannsen: Veckenstedt), in
which the woodcutter meets not Tapio, but Jesus, who deprives the trees
of speech. But a gentle sighing and rustling of leaves is still to be
heard in the woods when the trees whisper together. When the first
fir-tree was felled, she shed bitter tears, which hardened into resin.
But her children, the fir cones, vowed to avenge her wrongs on men, so
they transformed themselves into bugs, which crept into men's houses,
and still plague and torment them.
Our next story is a very odd one about a hat.
THE GOOD DEED REWARDED.
upon a time a young countryman was busy raking up his hay in the
meadow, when a threatening thundercloud which arose on the horizon
caused him to hasten with his work. He was lucky enough to complete it
before the rain began, and he then turned his steps homewards. On his
way he perceived a stranger asleep under a tree. "He'll get his hide
pretty well soaked if I leave him asleep here," thought the countryman,
so he went to the stranger, and shook him till he roused him from a
sound sleep. The stranger stood up, and turned pale when he saw the
advancing thundercloud. He felt in his pocket, intending to give
something to the man who had roused him, but unfortunately he found it
empty. So he said hurriedly, "For the present I must remain your
debtor, but a day will come when I shall be able to show you my
gratitude for your kindness. Do not forget what I tell you. You will
become a soldier. After you have been parted from your friends for
years, a day will come when you will be seized with home-[Pg 129]sickness
in a foreign country. When you look up, you will see a crooked
birch-tree a few steps before you. Go to this tree, knock on the trunk
three times, and say, 'Is the Humpback at home?' Then the rest will
follow." As soon as he had finished speaking, the stranger hurried away
and disappeared in an instant. The countryman went home too, and soon
forgot his meeting with the sleeper on the road.
time afterwards the first part of the prophecy was fulfilled, for the
countryman became a soldier, without his remembering anything of his
adventure in the wood. He had already worn the uniform of a cavalry
regiment for four years, when he was stationed with his regiment in
North Finland. It fell to the turn of our friend to bring home the
horses on a Whitsunday, while his jolly comrades off duty went singing
to enjoy themselves at the inns. Suddenly the solitary groom was seized
with such a fit of home-sickness as he had never known before. Tears
filled his eyes, and charming pictures of home floated before his
vision. Now, too, he remembered his sleeping friend in the wood, and
his speech. Everything came before him as plainly and distinctly as if
it had happened only yesterday.[Pg 130] He
looked up, and saw before him, oddly enough, an old crooked birch-tree.
More in jest than expecting any result, he went up to the tree, and did
what he had been instructed. But the question, "Is the Humpback at
home?" had scarcely passed his lips, when the stranger stood before
him, and said, "My friend, it is good that you have come, for I was
afraid that you had quite forgotten me. Isn't it true that you would be
glad to be at home?" The cavalry soldier sobbed out, "Yes." Then the
Humpback called into the tree, "Boys, which of you can run fastest?" A
voice answered from the birch, "Father, I can run as fast as a grouse
can fly."—"Very well, I want a quicker messenger to-day." A
second voice answered, "I can run like the wind."—"I want a
quicker messenger still," replied the father. Then a third voice
answered, "I can run as fast as the thoughts of men."—"You are
just to my mind. I want you now. Fill a four-hundredweight sack with
money, and carry it home with my friend and benefactor." Then he seized
hold of the soldier's hat and cried out, "Let the hat become a man, and
let the man and the sack go home!" The soldier felt his hat fly off his
head. He turned round to look for it, and found himself in his own
father's room,[Pg 131] dressed like a countryman as before, and the great sack of money by his side.
first he thought it was a dream, till he found that his good luck was
real. As nobody made any inquiries after the deserter, he began to
think at last that his lost hat had remained behind to do soldier's
service in his stead. He related the wonderful story to his children
before his death, and as the money had brought him happiness and
prosperity, he could not suppose that it had been the gift of an evil
gives the following account of heath-spirits, &c. Abstracts of
stories not included under other headings we have appended to his
former days, when trees and bushes talked, animals and birds understood
a wonderful language, and the Old Boy wandered about openly and
unabashed, and wonderful things often happened on the heaths. He who
wished to cross a heath must keep his eyes open day and night. In the
daytime, indeed, no spectre dared to appear; but it often happened at
night that people were teased and frightened on the heath. If any one
was on the heath on a summer or autumn evening, he often heard a
rustling and tapping in the bushes, and perhaps water suddenly spurted
out under his feet. On winter evenings, or at midnight, he saw[Pg 133] little
flames dancing on the moor, and if he went towards them, they
disappeared suddenly, and danced up again in the distance. But if a man
was on the moor at night-time, he could not escape from it till
cockcrow. If a man had to fetch anything from the heath during
hay-harvest, he heard strange voices, or heard a bird singing with a
human voice; and whoever drove across the moor in winter with a light
sledge must have heard an invisible hand striking against the
tree-trunks or the ice. Then you whip up your horse, and hasten across
the moor, if you can.
also relates a story of a herd-boy who was scolding at some girls who
were gathering berries on the heath, and defying the devil; when he was
suddenly seized by the feet and dragged down into the ground, crying
THE WONDERFUL HAYCOCK.
autumn evening a girl was going home across a frozen heath, but though
she walked fast, she shivered. Presently she was pestered by a moving[Pg 134] haycock
without a band, which pressed upon her so closely that the hay pricked
her face. This continued till midnight; but when a cock crew in the
village, the haycock vanished, and the girl made her way home
exhausted, and died within a week. Since then, the people say that
cries for help have been heard from the heath by night. But they are
very particular that every haycock shall be tied with a band. If thus
secured, no evil spirit can interfere with it.
THE MAGIC EGG.
former days, people used to find bits of leather, and fragments of old
gloves, shoes, and hats on the moor; but if anybody took them home,
some misfortune befell him. One day a man found what he thought was a
duck's egg, and boiled and ate it; but the more he ate, the more there
seemed to be, and he could not finish it. Next morning the portion left
proved to be not an egg, but half his neighbour's cat.
Although Esthonia is not so distinctly a lake-country as Finland, which
is often called "The Land of Ten Thousand Lakes," yet it is a low
swampy country, with many small lakes besides the great Lake Peipus, on
the south-east, and lake stories of various kinds are numerous in
relates that Lake Korküll or Oiso, in the district of Fellin in
Livonia, stands on the site of a castle, the lord of which insisted on
marrying his sister. He bribed a priest to perform the ceremony, but
the castle sank into the ground with all present, and a lake arose in
We add a selection of Esthonian lake-stories.
former ages, a great and famous king named Karkus ruled over Esthonia.
In his days, fierce bears and bison lurked in the thick forests, and
elk and wild horses careered swiftly through the bushes. No merchants
had yet arrived in ships from foreign parts, nor invading hosts with
sharp swords, to set up the cross of the Christian God, and the people
still lived in perfect freedom.
palace of King Karkus was built of costly sparkling stones, and shone
far off in the sun like gold. The palace lay near the holy forest,
where dwelt three good white gods and three black evil ones. There
dwelt the king and his court. His enemies feared him greatly, but his
people loved him as a father.
the king had gold and honour in abundance, yet one thing was wanting to
complete his happiness, for his wife had brought him no child. He
promised immense gifts to the white gods if[Pg 137] they
would only listen to his prayer and grant his wish. And behold, after
seven years his prayer was answered, for the queen gave birth to twins.
One was a boy, as bold and impetuous as his father, and one was a girl,
with golden hair and eyes like blue harebells, which already smiled
from the cradle on her mother. The king was full of joy, and made great
offerings to the white gods, as he had vowed. But the black gods, who
deemed themselves worthy of equal honour, were greatly offended at
being despised by the king. So they went to the God of Death, and urged
him to gaze on the king's son with his evil countenance and to destroy
the boy grew rapidly, and became the delight of his parents. But when
he came to lisp the first word, he was struck by the evil glance of
Death. From this hour he pined away, and at length died. But his
sister, who was named Rannapuura, lived and flourished like a rose, as
the only joy of her parents.
the hatred of the evil powers was not appeased by the partial revenge
which they had taken. So they contrived that when the king's daughter
was seven years old, she fell into the power of the wicked witch Peipa.
The witch carried Rannapuura[Pg 138] away
to her horrible abode, which was in a rock beneath a lofty mountain
ridge in Ingermanland. Here the poor child was compelled to pass ten
years of her life. But notwithstanding her hard servitude to the witch,
she grew up to maidenhood, and no maiden in the whole world was so fair
as she. As the dawn shines ruddy on the borders of the horizon at
daybreak and promises fine weather, so shone her gentle face in quiet
restfulness, and her eyes proclaimed the angel heart in her bosom.
king knew where his daughter was imprisoned, for a good spirit had
informed him, but, mighty as he was, he could accomplish nothing
against the craft and malice of the witch. So he abandoned all hope of
rescuing his daughter from this place of suffering. At length the white
gods took pity on the king's daughter and her parents; for the king
sought their aid continually, and made them rich offerings. But even
the gods did not venture to contend openly with the mighty Peipa; so
they sought to effect their purpose by stratagem. They secretly sent a
dove to Rannapuura with a silver comb, a carder, a golden apple, and a
snow-white linen robe, and sent her this message: "Take the gifts of
the white gods, and flee from your[Pg 139] prison
as soon as you can. If Peipa pursues you, call on the white gods, and
first cast the comb behind you; but if this is of no effect, drop the
carder; but if this does not detain her, and she still follows on your
heels, then throw the apple, and lastly the robe behind you. But be
very careful not to make a mistake, and throw down the gifts in the
Rannapuura promised the dove to obey her instructions exactly, thanked the white gods for their favours, and sent the dove home.
the first Tuesday after the new moon, Peipa jumped upon an old broom at
midnight, as the witches are accustomed to do, both here and in
Ingermanland, every year, on the third, sixth, ninth, and twelfth new
moon, and thus flew away from the house. The maiden stole softly from
her room long before dawn, and took the four gifts of the gods with her
on her way. She ran straight towards her father's castle, as swiftly as
she could. At mid-day, when she had already gone a good part of the
way, she chanced to look round, and saw to her horror that the witch
Peipa was pursuing her. In her right hand she swung a formidable bar of
iron, and she was[Pg 140] mounted
on a huge cock, who was close behind the princess. Then she cried aloud
on the white gods, and cast the silver comb behind her. Instantly the
comb became a rushing river, deep and broad and many miles long. Peipa
gazed furiously after the fugitive, who was running swiftly on the
opposite bank of the stream, and soon left her far behind. But after a
time, the witch found a ford through the water, hurried across, and was
soon close behind the maiden again. Now Rannapuura dropped the carder,
and behold, a forest sprang up from it so thick and lofty that the
witch and her hellish steed could not penetrate it, and she was forced
to ride round it for a whole day.
unfortunate princess had now been wandering for two nights and a day,
without tasting a morsel of bread or daring to sleep an instant. Then
her strength failed her, and on the second day the witch was again
close on her heels, when she threw down the apple in her need; and this
became a lofty mountain of granite. A narrow path, as if traced by a
snake, wound up to the summit, and showed the witch her way. Before she
could overcome this obstacle, another day had passed; but the princess
had only gone a short distance farther, for sleep had[Pg 141] closed
her weary eyes, and when she awoke, and could see her father's castle
in the distance at last, the witch was so close upon her that she never
hoped to escape. In great terror she flung the linen robe on the ground
behind her. It fell broadside, and soon rushed forth into a vast lake,
whose foaming waves raged wildly round the witch. A howling storm flung
water and spray into the witch's face; her wickedness could not save
her, nor could her steed, the hellish cock, escape. He raised his neck
above the water, thrust up his beak, and beat the water with his wings,
but it was all to no purpose, and he was miserably drowned. Peipa
called on all the spirits of hell to aid her, with curses, but none of
them appeared, and she sank into the depths howling. There she lies to
this day in pain and torment. The pikes and other horrible creatures of
the depths gnaw upon her and torture her incessantly. She strikes about
her with her hands and feet, and twists and stretches her limbs in her
great distress. Thence comes it that the lake, which is named Peipus
after her, always rises in billows and stormy waves.
reached her father's castle in safety, and soon became the bride of a
prince. But the king's name is still perpetuated in that of the church[Pg 142] at
Karkus, and the estate of Rannapungern, which lies north of Peipus, on
the boundary between Livonia and Esthonia, is named after Rannapuura.
The river which rose from the silver comb is the river Pliha, with its
shining waters. He who knows it now may understand its origin. It
cannot run straight, but twists right and left like the teeth of a
double comb, unites with the Narova, and falls with that river into the
sea. The forest, too, remained until two hundred years ago, when the
Swedes and Poles brought war into the land. The Poles concealed
themselves in the forest, but the Swedes set fire to it and burned it
down. The mountain formed by the apple of the princess is likewise
standing, but its granite has become changed to sandstone.
THE LAKE AT EUSEKÜLL.
former times there was no lake at Euseküll, for it was carried
there from the district of Oiso in Esthonia. One day a great black cloud[Pg 143] like
a sack rolled up from the north, and drew up all the water from the
lake of Oiso. Before the cloud ran a black bull bellowing angrily, and
above in the cloud flew an old man crying incessantly, "Lake, go to
Euseküll!" When the bull came to Euseküll, where the tavern
now stands, he dug his horns into the ground, and formed two deep
trenches, which any one may still see to the right of the path which
leads to the tavern at Kersel.
the cloud rolled on farther, till it reached the district of
Euseküll. All the people were making hay in the meadow, and when
they saw the black cloud, they hastened with their work, to bring the
hay under cover. Presently the cloud stood above them. First a great
knife with a wooden handle fell down, and next all kinds of fish, and
then it began to rain heavily.
people hurried from the field to take shelter. But one girl who had
left her string of beads on a haycock, and wanted to save it, neglected
to escape. Suddenly the waves of the lake fell from above, and buried
her beneath them. Since that time the lake at Euseküll has been
inhabited by a water-nymph, who requires the offering of a human life
There are several other Esthonian tales of lakes moving from one spot to another.
EMMU LAKE AND VIRTS LAKE.
Soon after the Creation, Vanaisa formed
a beautiful lake, called the Emmu Lake, which was intended to furnish
men with refreshing water at all times, but owing to the wickedness of
men, he caused all the water to be absorbed by a waterspout. Now men
had nothing but rain-water, and although rain-water and melted snow
sometimes filled the old Emmu Lake, it was dirty and unrefreshing, and
people called it the Virts Lake. But at length Vanaisa, took pity on
the people, who had somewhat improved, and formed narrow channels in
the earth, through which the waters of the old Emmu lake flow as
springs. But to prevent their being too warm in summer and too cold in
winter, a cold stone is put into the springs in spring, and replaced by
a warm one in autumn.
THE BLUE SPRING.
At the foot of the Villina hill, near the church of Lais, is
a swamp where rises a spring of water, called from its colour the Blue
Spring. It is said that the spring can produce rain or drought, and
thus cause dearth or plenty. In time of drought three widows of the
same name must go to the spring on a Sunday during service-time, to
clean it out and to enlarge the opening. Each must take a spade, hoe,
rake, a cake of bread, and a hymn-book with her. But if too much rain
falls, the spring must be closed up to a mere crevice, and this is at
day three widows named Anna opened the spring too wide, when a dreadful
rain spread over the country. Sometimes it has happened that women who
were about to clean the spring have failed to finish the work during
church-time, and it has been fruitless. Another time the people wished[Pg 146] to
find out how deep was the spring. They let down a stone with a long
cord, but drew the cord up without the stone. They then let down a
kettle filled with stones, but, to their horror, they drew up a
bleeding human head instead. They were about to make another trial,
when a voice cried from the depths, "If you attempt this again, you
will all sink!" So the depth of the Blue Spring is still unknown.
THE BLACK POOL.
time of war, a rich lord tried to escape from the country with his
family and goods in a coach drawn by six horses. In their haste, the
horses swerved from the path, and all were lost in a deep lake of black
water. Since that time it has been haunted, and sometimes a black dog
tries to entice boys in, or cats and birds are seen about it. One day a
man was walking by the pool when his leg was seized, and he was dragged
down, but he contrived to seize a bush of juniper, and saved him[Pg 147]self. Then
he saw some maidens sporting in the water like white swans; but
presently they vanished. One day a fisherman caught a black tail-less
pike, when the voice of the old nobleman was heard asking, "Are all the
swine safe?" And another voice answered, "The old tail-less boar is
missing." Many people, too, have seen a great hoop from a coach-wheel,
as sharp as the edge of an axe, rise from the water.
STORIES OF THE DEVIL AND OF BLACK MAGIC.
relating to the Devil are very frequent in Esthonian literature, and
notwithstanding the universal notion that you sell yourself to him by
giving him three drops of your blood, or by signing a compact with your
blood, yet many stories of this class are evidently pre-Christian. He
is generally represented as a buffoon, and easily outwitted. Further
particulars respecting him will be found in the Introduction. The
stories incidentally referred to in this section of our work are mostly
related by Jannsen.
regards sorcery, the Esthonians appear to have regarded the Finns, and
the Finns the Lapps, as proficient in magic, each people attributing
most skill to those living north of themselves. However, it should be
mentioned that there is a ballad in the Finnish Kanteletar in which the sun and moon are[Pg 149]represented as stolen by German and Esthonian sorcerers. In the Kalevala they are stolen by Louhi, the witch-queen of Lapland.
first story of this series, "The Son of the Thunder-God," represents
this demigod as actually selling his soul to the Devil, and tricking
the Devil out of it. The Thunder-God is here called Paristaja, and also
Vana Kõu; but in other tales he is usually called Pikne, and is
no doubt identical with the Perkunas of the Lithuanians. In this story
the Devil is called Kurat, the Evil One; and also Vanapois (the Old
Boy), as in other tales.
primitive manner in which the undutiful son tickles the nose of his
august father is amusing. Vana (old) seems to be a term of respect
applied to gods and devils alike.
THE SON OF THE THUNDER-GOD.
Once upon a time the son of the Thunder-God made a compact with the Devil. It was agreed that the[Pg 150]Devil
was to serve him faithfully for seven years, and to do everything which
his master required of him, after which he was to receive his master's
soul as a reward. The Devil fulfilled his part of the bargain
faithfully. He never shirked the hardest labour nor grumbled at poor
living, for he knew the reward he had to expect. Six years had already
passed by, and the seventh had begun; but the Thunderer's son had no
particular inclination to part with his soul so easily, and looked
about for some trick by which he could escape the necessity of
fulfilling his share of the bargain. He had already tricked the Devil
when the compact was signed, for instead of signing it with his own
blood, he had signed it with cock's blood, and his short-sighted
adversary had not noticed the difference. Thus the bond which the Devil
thought perfectly secure was really a very doubtful one. The end of the
time was approaching, and the Thunderer's son had not yet attempted to
regain his freedom, when it happened one day that a black cloud arose
in the sky, which[Pg 151] foreboded
a violent thunderstorm. The Devil immediately crept down underground,
having made himself a hiding-place under a stone for that purpose.
"Come, brother," said he to his master, "and keep me company till the
tempest is over." "What will you promise me if I fulfil your request?"
said the Thunderer's son. The Devil thought they might settle this down
below, for he did not like to talk over matters of business just then,
when the storm was threatening to break over them at any moment. The
Thunderer's son thought, "The Old Boy seems quite dazed with terror
to-day, and who knows whether I may not be able to get rid of him after
all?" So he followed him into the cave. The tempest lasted a long time,
and one crash of thunder followed another, till the earth quaked and
the rocks trembled. At every peal the Old Boy pushed his fists into his
ears and screwed up his eyes tight; a cold sweat covered his shaking
limbs, and he was unable to utter a word. In the evening, when the
storm was over, he said to the Thunderer's son, "If your old dad did
not make such a noise and clatter now and then, I could get along with
him very well, for his arrows could not hurt me underground. But this
horrible clamour upsets me so[Pg 152] much
that I am ready to lose my senses, and hardly know what I am about. I
should be willing to offer a great reward to any one who would release
me from this annoyance." The Thunderer's son answered, "The best plan
would be to steal the thunder-weapon from my old dad." "I'd
do it if it were possible," answered the Devil, "but old Kõu is
always on the alert. He keeps watch on the thunder-weapon day and
night; and how is it possible to steal it?" But the Thunderer's son
still maintained that the feat was possible. "Ay, if you would help
me," cried the Devil, "we might perhaps succeed, but I can't manage it
by myself." The Thunderer's son promised to help him, but demanded no
less a reward than that the Devil should abandon his claim to his soul.
"You may keep the soul with all my heart," cried the Devil delighted,
"if you will only release me from this shocking worry and anxiety."
Then the Thunderer's son began to explain how he thought the business
might be managed, if they both worked well together. "But," he added,
"we must wait till my old dad again tires himself out so much as to
fall into a[Pg 153] sound sleep, for he generally sleeps with open eyes, like the hares."
time after this conversation, another violent thunderstorm broke out,
which lasted a great while. The Devil and the Thunderer's son again
retreated to their hiding-place under the stone. Terror had so
stupefied the Old Boy, that he could not hear a word of what his
companion said. In the evening they both climbed a high mountain, when
the Old Boy took the Thunderer's son on his shoulders, and began to
stretch himself out by his magic power higher and higher, singing—
"Higher, brother, higher,To the Cloudland nigher,"
he had grown up to the edge of the clouds. When the Thunderer's son
peeped over the edge of the clouds, he saw his father Kõu
sleeping quietly, with his head resting on a pillow of clouds, but with
his right hand resting across the thunder-instrument. He could not
seize the weapon, for he would have roused the sleeper by touching his
hand. The Thunderer's son now crept from the Devil's shoulder along the
clouds as stealthily as a cat, and taking a louse from behind his own
ear, he set it on his father's nose. The old man raised his hand to[Pg 154] scratch
his nose, when his son grasped the thunder-weapon, and jumped from the
clouds on to the back of the Devil, who ran down the mountain as if
fire was burning behind him, and he did not stop till he reached
Põrgu. Here he hid the stolen property in an iron chamber
secured by seven locks, thanked the Thunderer's son for his friendly aid, and relinquished all claims upon his soul.
now a misfortune fell upon the world and men which the Thunderer's son
had not foreseen, for the clouds no longer shed a drop of moisture, and
everything withered away with drought. "If
I have thoughtlessly brought this unexpected misery on the people,"
thought he, "I must try to repair the mischief as best I can." So he
travelled north to the frontiers of Finland, where a noted sorcerer
lived, and told him the whole story, and where the thunder-weapon was
now hidden. Then said the sorcerer, "First of all, you must tell your
old father Kõu where the thunder-weapon is hidden, and he will
be able to find means for recovering his property himself." And he sent
the Eagle of[Pg 155] the
North to carry the tidings to the old Father of the Clouds. Next
morning Kõu himself called upon the sorcerer to thank him for
having put him on the track of the stolen property. Then the Thunderer
changed himself into a boy, and offered himself to a fisherman as a
summer workman. He knew that the Devil often came to the lake to catch
fish, and he hoped to encounter him there. Although the boy Pikker
watched the net day and night, it was some time before he caught sight
of his enemy. It often happened to the fisherman that when he left his
nets in the lake at night, they had been emptied before the morning,
but he could not discover the cause. The boy knew very well who stole
the fish, but he would not say anything about it till he could show his
master the thief.
moonlight night, when the fisherman and the boy came to the lake to
examine the nets, they found the thief at work. When they looked into
the water over the side of their boat, they saw the Old Boy taking the
fishes from the meshes of the net and putting them into a bag over his
shoulder. Next day the fisherman went to a celebrated sorcerer and
asked him to use his magic to cause the thief to fall into the net, and
to enchant him so that he could[Pg 156] not
escape without the owner's consent. This was arranged just as the
fisherman wished. Next day, when the net was drawn up, they drew up the
Devil to the surface and brought him ashore. And what a drubbing he
received from the fisherman and his boy; for he could not escape from
the net without the consent of the sorcerer. The fisherman gave him a
ton's weight of blows on the body, without caring where they fell. The
Devil soon presented a piteous sight, but the fisherman and his boy
felt no pity for him, but only rested awhile, and then began their work
afresh. Entreaties were useless, and at last the Devil promised the
fisherman the half of all his goods if he would only release him from
the spell. But the enraged fisherman would listen to nothing till his
own strength failed so completely that he could no longer move his
stick. At length, after a long discussion, it was arranged that the Old
Boy should be released from the net with the sorcerer's aid, and that
the fisherman and his boy should accompany the Devil to receive his
ransom. No doubt he hoped to get the better of them by some stratagem.
A grand feast was prepared for the guests in the hall of Põrgu, which lasted for a whole week, and[Pg 157]there
was plenty of everything. The aged host exhibited his treasures and
precious hoards to his visitors, and made his players perform before
the fisherman in their very best style. One morning the boy Pikker said
to the fisherman, "If you are again feasted and fêted to-day, ask
for the instrument which is in the iron chamber behind seven locks."
The fisherman took the hint, and in the middle of the feast, when
everybody was half-seas over, he asked to see the instrument in the
secret chamber. The Devil was quite willing, and he fetched the
instrument, and tried to play upon it himself. But although he blew
into it with all his strength, and shifted his fingers up and down the
pipe, he was not able to bring a better tone from it than the cry of a
cat when she is seized by the tail, or the squeaking of a decoy-pig at
a wolf-hunt. The fisherman laughed, and said, "Don't give yourself so
much trouble for nothing. I see well enough that you'll never make a
piper. My boy can manage it much better." "Oho," said the Devil, "you
seem to think that playing this instrument is like playing the
flageolet, and that it is mere child's play. Come, friend, try it; but
if either you or your boy can bring anything like a tune out of the[Pg 158] instrument,
I won't be prince of hell any longer. Only just try it," said he,
handing the instrument to the boy. The boy Pikker took the instrument,
but when he put it to his mouth and blew into it, the walls of hell
shook, and the Devil and his company fell senseless to the ground and
lay as if dead. In place of the boy the old Thunder-god himself stood
by the fisherman, and thanked him for his aid, saying, "In future,
whenever my instrument is heard in the clouds, your nets will be well
filled with fish." Then he hastened home again.
the way his son met him, and fell on his knees, confessing his fault,
and humbly asking pardon. Then said Father Kõu, "The frivolity
of man often wars against the wisdom of heaven, but you may thank your
stars, my son, that I have recovered the power to annihilate the traces
of the suffering which your folly has brought on the people." As he
spoke, he sat down on a stone, and blew into the thunder-instrument
till the rain-gates were opened, and the thirsty earth could drink her
fill. Old Kõu took his son into his service, and they live
In our next story we shall see the Devil and his[Pg 159] companions overreaching themselves in a manner worthy of the Ingoldsby Legends, while in the Polyphemus story already referred to under Cosmopolitan Tales we find the Devil blinded and perishing miserably.
the Lord God had created the whole world, the work did not turn out so
complete as it ought to have done, for there was an insufficiency of
light. In the daytime the sun pursued his course through the firmament,
but when he sank at evening, when the evening glow faded into twilight,
and all grew dark, thick darkness covered heaven and earth, until the
morning redness took the dawn from the hand of the evening glow and
heralded a new day. There was neither moonlight nor starlight, but
darkness from sunset to sunrise.
The Creator soon perceived the deficiency, and sought to remedy it. So he ordered Ilmarine to[Pg 160]see
that it should be light on earth by night as well as by day. Ilmarine
listened to the command, and went to his forge, where he had already
forged the firmament. He threw in silver, and cast it into a large
round ball. He covered it with thick gold, lighted a bright fire
inside, and ordered it to proceed on its course across the sky. Then he
forged innumerable stars, covered them thinly with gold, and fixed each
in its place in the firmament.
began a new life for the earth. The sun had hardly set, and was borne
away by the evening glow, when the golden moon arose from the borders
of the sky, set out on his blue path, and illuminated the darkness of
night just as the sun illumines the day. Around him twinkled the
innumerable host of stars, and accompanied him like a king, until at
length he reached the other side of the heavens. Then the stars retired
to rest, the moon quitted the firmament, and the sun was conducted by
the[Pg 161] morning redness to his place, in order that he should give light to the world.
this, ample light shone upon the earth from above both by day and by
night; for the face of the moon was just as clear and bright as that of
the sun, and his rays diffused equal warmth. But the sun often shone so
fiercely by day that no one was able to work. Thus they preferred to
work under the light of the nocturnal keeper of the heavens, and all
men rejoiced in the gift of the moon.
the Devil was very much annoyed at the moon, because he could not carry
on his evil practices in his bright light. Whenever he went out in
search of prey, he was recognised a long way off, and was driven back
home in disgrace. Thus it came about that during all this time he only
succeeded in bagging two souls.
he sat still day and night pondering on what he could do to better his
prospects. At last he summoned two of his companions, but they could
not give him any good advice. So the three of them consulted together
in care and trouble, but nothing feasible occurred to them. On the
seventh day they had nothing left to eat, and they sat there[Pg 162] sighing,
rubbing their empty stomachs, and racking their brains with thought. At
last a lucky idea occurred to the Devil himself.
he exclaimed, "I know what we can do. We must get rid of the moon, if
we want to save ourselves. If there's no moon in the sky, we shall be
just as valiant heroes as before. We can carry out our great
undertakings by the dim starlight."
"Shall we pull down the moon from heaven?" asked his servants.
said the Devil, "he is fixed too tight, and we can't get him down. We
must do something more likely to succeed. The best we can do is to take
tar and smear him with it till he's black. He may then run about the
sky as he pleases, but he can't give us any more trouble. The victory
then rests with us, and rich booty awaits us."
fiendish company approved of the plan of their chief, and were all
anxious to get to work. But it was too late at the time, for the moon
was just about to set, and the sun was rising. But they worked
zealously at their preparations all day till late in the evening. The
Devil went out and stole a barrel of tar, which he carried to his
accomplices[Pg 163] in
the wood. Meantime, they had been engaged in making a long ladder in
seven pieces, each piece of which measured seven fathoms. Then they
procured a great bucket, and made a mop of lime-tree bast, which they
fastened to a long handle.
they waited for night, and as soon as the moon rose, the Devil took the
ladder and the barrel on his shoulder and ordered his two servants to
follow him with the bucket and the mop. When they reached a suitable
spot, they filled the bucket with tar, threw a quantity of ashes into
it, and dipped in the mop. Just at this moment the moon rose from
behind the wood. They hastily raised the ladder, and the Devil put the
bucket into the hand of one of his servants, and told him to make haste
and climb up, while he stationed the other under the ladder.
the Devil and his servant were standing under the ladder to hold it,
but the servant could not bear the weight, and it began to shake. The
other servant who had climbed up missed his footing on a rung of the
ladder, and fell with the bucket on the Devil's neck. The Devil began
to pant and shake himself like a bear, and swore frightfully. He paid
no more attention to the ladder, and[Pg 164] let it go, so it fell on the ground with a thundering crash, and broke into a thousand pieces.
the Devil found that his work had prospered so ill, and that he had
tarred himself all over instead of the moon, he grew mad with rage and
fury. He washed and scoured and scraped himself, but the tar and soot
stuck to him so tight that he keeps his black colour to the present day.
although the first experiment had failed, the Devil would not give up
his plan. Next day he stole seven more ladders, bound them firmly
together, and carried them to the edge of the wood where the moon
stands lowest. In the evening, when the moon rose, the Devil planted
the ladder firmly on the ground, steadied it with both hands, and sent
the other servant up to the moon, cautioning him to hold very tight and
beware of slipping. The servant climbed up as quickly as possible with
the bucket, and arrived safely at the last rung of the ladder. Just
then the moon rose from behind the wood in regal splendour. Then the
Devil lifted up the whole ladder, and carried it hastily to the moon.
What a great piece of luck! It was really just so long that its end
reached the moon.
Then the Devil's servant set to work in earnest.[Pg 165] But
it's not an easy task to stand on the top of such a ladder and to tar
the moon's face over with a mop. Besides, the moon didn't stand still
at one place, but went on his appointed course steadily. So the servant
tied himself to the moon with a rope, and being thus secure from
falling, he took the mop from the bucket, and began to blacken the moon
first on the back. But the thick gilding of the pure moon would not
suffer any stain. The servant painted and smeared, till the sweat ran
from his forehead, until he succeeded at last, with much toil, in
covering the back of the moon with tar. The Devil below gazed up at the
work with his mouth open, and when he saw the work half finished he
danced with joy, first on one foot, and then on the other.
the servant had blackened the back of the moon, he worked himself round
to the front with difficulty, so as to destroy the lustre of the
guardian of the heavens on that side also. He stood there at last,
panted a little, and thought, when he began, that he would find the
front easier to manage than the other side. But no better plan occurred
to him, and he had to work in the same way as before.
Just as he was beginning his work again, the[Pg 166] Creator
woke up from a little nap. He was astonished to see that the world had
become half black, though there was not a cloud in the sky. But, when
he looked more sharply into the cause of the darkness, he saw the
Devil's servant perched on the moon, and just dipping his mop into the
bucket in order to make the front of the moon as black as the back.
Meantime the Devil was capering for joy below the ladder, just like a
are the sort of tricks you are up to behind my back!" cried the Creator
angrily. "Let the evil-doers receive the fitting reward of their
offences. You are on the moon, and there you shall stay with your
bucket for ever, as a warning to all who would rob the earth of its
light. My light must prevail over the darkness, and the darkness must
flee before it. And though you should strive against it with all your
strength, you would not be able to conquer the light. This shall be
made manifest to all who gaze on the moon at night, when they see the
black spoiler of the moon with his utensils."
Creator's words were fulfilled. The Devil's servant still stands in the
moon to this day with his bucket of tar, and for this reason the moon[Pg 167] does
not shine so brightly as formerly. He often descends into the sea to
bathe, and would like to cleanse himself from his stains, but they
remain with him eternally. However bright and clear he shines, his
light cannot dispel the shadows which he bears, nor pierce through the
black covering on his back. When he sometimes turns his back to us, we
see him only as a dull opaque creature, devoid of light and lustre. But
he cannot bear to show us his dark side long. He soon turns his shining
face to the earth again, and sheds down his bright silvery light from
above; but the more he waxes, the more distinct becomes the form of his
spoiler, and reminds us that light must always triumph over darkness.
the following narrative we have a horrible story of black magic, which,
however, is extremely interesting as showing the prevalence of
fetishism, which probably preceded the worship of the powers of nature
among the Finns and Esthonians. The Kratt seems originally to have been
nothing worse than Tont, the house-spirit, who robbed the neighbours
for the benefit of his patrons, and it is probably only after the
introduction of Christianity that he assumed the[Pg 168] diabolical character attributed to him in the present story.
upon a time there lived a young farmer whose crops had totally failed.
His harvest had been spoiled, his hay parched up, and all his cattle
died, so that he was unable to perform his lawful obligations to his
feudal superior. One Sunday he was sitting at his door in great
trouble, just as the people were going to church. Presently Michel, an
old fellow who used to wander about the country, came up. He had a bad
reputation; people said that he was a wizard, and that he used to suck
the milk from the cows, to bring storms and hail upon the crops, and
diseases upon the people. So he was never allowed to depart without
alms when he visited a farm.
"Good day, farmer," said Michel, advancing.
"God bless you," answered the other.
"What ails you?" said the old man. "You are looking very miserable."[Pg 169]
everything is going with me badly enough. But it is a good thing that
you have come. People say that you have power to do much evil, but that
you are a clever fellow. Perhaps you can help me."
"People talk evil of others because they themselves are evil," answered the old man. "But what is to be done?"
farmer told him all his misfortunes, and Michel said, "Would you like
to escape from all your troubles, and to become a rich man all at once?"
"With all my heart!" cried the other.
Michel answered, with a smile, "If I were as young and strong as you,
and if I had sufficient courage to face the darkness of night, and knew
how to hold my tongue, I know what I'd do."
"Only tell me what you know. I will do anything if I can only become rich, for I am weary of my life at present."
Then the old man looked cautiously round on all sides, and then said in a whisper, "Do you know what a Kratt is?"
The farmer was startled, and answered, "I don't know exactly, but I have heard dreadful tales about it."[Pg 170]
tell you," said the old man. "Mark you, it is a creature that anybody
can make for himself, but it must be done so secretly that no human eye
sees it. Its body is a broomstick, its head a broken jug, its nose a
piece of glass, and its arms two reels which have been used by an old
crone of a hundred years. All these things are easy to procure. You
must set up this creature on three Thursday evenings at a cross-road,
and animate it with the words which I will teach you. On the third
Thursday the creature will come to life."
"God preserve us from the evil one!" cried the farmer.
"What! you are frightened? Have I told you too much already?"
"No, I'm not frightened at all. Go on."
old man continued, "This creature is then your servant, for you have
brought him to life at a cross-road. Nobody can see him but his master.
He will bring him all kinds of money, corn, and hay, as often as he
likes, but not more at once than a man's burden."
old man, if you knew all this, why haven't you yourself made such a
useful treasure-carrier, instead of which you have remained poor all
your life?"[Pg 171]
have been about to do it a hundred times, and have made a beginning a
hundred times, but my courage always failed me. I had a friend who
possessed such a treasure-carrier, and often told me about it, but I
could not screw up courage to follow his example. My friend died, and
the creature, left without a master, lived in the village for a long
time, and wrought all manner of tricks among the people. He once tore
all a woman's yarn to pieces; but when it was discovered, and they were
going to remove it, they found a heap of money underneath. After this
no more was seen of the creature. At that time I should have been glad
enough to have a treasure-bringer, but I am now old and grey, and think
no more of it."
"I've plenty of courage," said the farmer; "but wouldn't it be better for me to consult the parson about it?"
you mustn't mention it to anybody, but least of all to the parson; for
if you call the creature to life, you sell your soul to the devil."
The farmer started back in horror.
be frightened," said the old man. "You are sure of a long life in
exchange, and of all your heart desires. And if you feel that your last
hour[Pg 172] is approaching, you can always escape from the clutches of the evil one, if you are clever enough to get rid of your familiar."
"But how can this be done?"
you give him a task which he is unable to perform, you are rid of him
for the future. But you must set about it very circumspectly, for he is
not easy to outwit. The peasant of whom I told you wanted to get rid of
his familiar, and ordered him to fill a barrel of water with a sieve.
But the creature fetched and spilled water, and did not rest till the
barrel was filled with the drops which hung on the sieve."
"So he died, without getting rid of the creature?"
why didn't he manage the affair better? But I have something more to
tell you. The creature must be well fed, if he is to be kept in
good-humour. A peasant once put a dish of broth under the roof for his
familiar, as he was in the habit of doing. But a labourer saw it, so he
ate the broth, and filled the dish with sand. The familiar came that
night, and beat the farmer unmercifully, and continued to do so every
night till he discovered the reason, and[Pg 173] put a fresh dish of broth under the roof. After this he let him alone. And now you know all," said the old man.
The farmer sat silent, and at last replied, "There is much about it that is unpleasant, Michel."
asked for my advice," answered the old man, "and I have given it you.
You must make your own choice. Want and misery have come upon you. This
is the only way in which you can save yourself and become a rich man;
and if you are only a little prudent, you will cheat the devil out of
your soul into the bargain."
After some reflection, the farmer answered, "Tell me the words which I am to repeat on the Thursdays."
"What will you give me, then?" said the old man.
"When I have the treasure-bringer, you shall live the life of a gentleman."
"Come, then," said the old man, and they entered the house together.
this Sunday the young farmer was seen no more in the village. He
neglected his work in the fields, and left what little was left there
to waste, and his household management went all astray.[Pg 174] His man loafed about the public-houses, and his maid-servant slept at home, for her master himself never looked after anything.
the meantime the farmer sat in his smoky room. He kept the door locked,
and the windows closely curtained. Here he worked hard day and night at
the creature in a dark corner by the light of a pine-splinter. He had
procured everything necessary, even the reels on which a crone of a
hundred years old had spun. He put all the parts together carefully,
fixed the old pot on the broomstick, made the nose of a bit of glass,
and painted in the eyes and mouth red. He wrapped the body in coloured
rags, according to his instructions, and all the time he thought with a
shudder that it was now in his power to bring this uncanny creature to
life, and that he must remain with him till his end. But when he
thought of the riches and treasures, all his horror vanished. At length
the creature was finished, and on the following Thursday the farmer
carried it after nightfall to the cross-roads in the wood. There he put
down the creature, seated himself on a stone, and waited. But every
time he looked at the creature he nearly fell to the ground with
terror. If only a breeze sprung up,[Pg 175] it
went through the marrow of his bones, and if only the screech-owl cried
afar off, he thought he heard the croaking of the creature, and the
blood froze in his veins. Morning came at last, and he seized the
creature, and slunk away cautiously home.
the second Thursday it was just the same. At length the night of the
third Thursday came, and now he was to complete the charm. There was a
howling wind, and the moon was covered with thick dark clouds, when the
farmer brought the creature to the cross-roads at dead of night. Then
he set it up as before, but he thought, "If I was now to smash it into
a thousand pieces, and then go home and set hard at work, I need not
then do anything wicked."
however, he reflected: "But I am so miserably poor, and this will make
me rich. Let it go as it may, I can't be worse off than I am now."
looked fearfully round him, turned towards the creature trembling, let
three drops of blood fall on it from his finger, and repeated the magic
words which the old man had taught him.
the moon emerged from the clouds and shone upon the place where the
farmer was standing before the figure. But the farmer stood petrified[Pg 176] with
terror when he saw the creature come to life. The spectre rolled his
eyes horribly, turned slowly round, and when he saw his master again,
he asked in a grating voice, "What do you want of me?"
the farmer was almost beside himself with fear, and could not answer.
He rushed away in deadly terror, not caring whither. But the creature
ran after him, clattering and puffing, crying out all the time, "Why
did you bring me to life if you desert me now?"
But the farmer ran on, without daring to look round.
the creature grasped his shoulder from behind with his wooden hand, and
screamed out, "You have broken your compact by running away. You have
sold your soul to the devil without gaining the least advantage for
yourself. You have set me free. I am no longer your servant, but will
be your tormenting demon, and will persecute you to your dying hour."
The farmer rushed madly to his house, but the creature followed him, invisible to every one else.
this hour everything went wrong with the farmer which he undertook. His
land produced nothing but weeds, his cattle all died, his sheds fell[Pg 177] in,
and if he took anything up, it broke in his hand. Neither man nor maid
would work in his house, and at last all the people held aloof from
him, as from an evil spirit who brought misfortune wherever he appeared.
came, and the farmer looked like a shadow, when one day he met old
Michel, who saluted him, and looked scoffingly in his face.
it's you," cried the farmer angrily. "It is good that I have met you,
you hell-hound. Where are all your fine promises of wealth and good
luck? I have sold myself to the devil, and I find a hell on earth
already. But all this is your doing!"
quiet!" said the old man. "Who told you to meddle with evil things if
you had not courage? I gave you fair warning. But you showed yourself a
coward at the last moment, and released the creature from your service.
If you had not done this, you might have become a rich and prosperous
man, as I promised you."
you never saw the horrible face of the creature when he came to life,"
said the farmer in anguish. "Oh, what a fool I was to allow myself to
be tempted by you!"
"I did not tempt you; I only told you what I knew."[Pg 178]
"Help me now."
yourself, for I can't. Haven't I more reason to complain of you than
you of me? I have not deceived you; but where is my reward, and the
fine life you promised me? You are the deceiver."
"All right! all right! Only tell me how I can save myself, and advise me what to do. I will perform everything."
said the old man, "I have no further advice to give you. I am still a
beggar, and it is all your fault;" and he turned round and left him.
"Curse upon you!" cried the farmer, whose last hope had vanished.
can't I save myself in any way?" said he to himself. "This creature who
sits with the Devil on my neck is after all nothing but my own work, a
thing of wood and potsherds. I must needs be able to destroy him, if I
set about it right."
ran to his house, where he now lived quite alone. There stood the
creature in a corner, grinning, and asking, "Where's my dinner?"
"What shall I give you to get rid of you?"
"Where's my dinner? Get my dinner, quick. I'm hungry."[Pg 179]
"Wait a little; you shall have it presently."
the farmer took up a pine-faggot which was burning in the stove, as if
pondering and then ran out, and locked all the doors on the outside.
It was a cold autumn night. The wind whistled through the neighbouring pine forest with a strange sighing sound.
you may burn and roast, you spirit of hell!" cried the farmer, and cast
the fire on the thatch. Presently the whole house was wrapped in bright
Then the farmer laughed madly, and kept on calling out, "Burn and roast!"
light of the fire roused the people of the village, and they crowded
round the ill-starred spot. They wished to put out the fire and save
the house, but the farmer pushed them back, saying, "Let it be. What
does the house matter, if he only perishes? He has tormented me long
enough, and I will plague him now, and all may yet be well with me."
The people stared at him in amazement as he spoke. But now the house fell in crashing, and the farmer shouted, "Now he's burnt!"[Pg 180]
this moment the creature, visible only to the farmer, rose unhurt from
the smoking ruins with a threatening gesture. As soon as the farmer saw
him, he fell on the ground with a loud shriek.
"What do you see?" asked old Michel, who had just arrived on the scene, and stood by smiling.
But the farmer returned no answer. He had died of terror.
THE WOODEN MAN AND THE BIRCH-BARK MAID.
is another story which relates how a stingy farmer starved all his
servants, till no one would live with him. He applied to a sorcerer,
who directed him to take a black hare in a bag to a cross-road for
three Thursdays running, just before midnight, and whistle for the
Devil. The farmer took a black cat instead, and on the third Thursday
agreed with the Devil to receive a man-servant and a maid, who should
work for him for twice seven years, and who would require no food,
nothing but a little water. To ratify the bargain, the farmer gave the
Devil[Pg 181] three
drops of blood from his index-finger. At the end of the time the
servants disappeared, and the farmer could only find a rotten stump and
a heap of birch-bark, as their names signified (Puuläne and
Tohtläne). Then the Devil seized the farmer by the throat and
strangled him, and his wife could find no trace of him but three drops
of blood, while all the corn-bins were empty, and the money-chest
contained only withered birch-leaves.
farmer who had unthinkingly devoted his lazy horse to the Devil, was
much annoyed by three, who appeared successively, and demanded it. At
last he was obliged to invite them to his Christmas-dinner, and to
promise to feed them on blood, flesh, and corn. But a Finnish sorcerer
taught him a charm by which he transformed them respectively into a
bug, a wolf, and a rat.
Another story, in which the Devil gets the worst of it, is
THE COMPASSIONATE SHOEMAKER.
Once upon a time, when God himself was still on earth, it happened that he went to a farm-house disguised as a beggar, while
a christening was going forward, and asked for a lodging. But the
people did not receive him, and declared that he might easily be
trodden under the feet of the guests in the confusion. The poor man
offered to creep under the stove, and lie still there; but they would
not heed his prayer, and showed him the door, telling him he might go
to the mud hovel, or where-ever he liked.
the hovel lived a shoemaker, who was always very compassionate towards
the poor and needy, and would rather suffer hunger himself than allow[Pg 183] a
poor man to leave his threshold unrelieved. God went to him, and begged
for a night's lodging. The shoemaker gave him a friendly reception and
something to eat, and offered him his own bed, while he himself lay on
morning, when God took his departure, he thanked his host, and said, "I
am he who has power to fulfil whatsoever the heart can desire. You have
given me a friendly and most hospitable reception and I am grateful to
you from my heart, and will reward you. Speak a wish, and it shall be
shoemaker answered, "Then I will wish that whenever a poor man comes to
ask my aid, I may be able to give him what he most requires, and that I
myself may never want for daily bread as long as I live."
"Let it be so!" answered God, who took leave of him and departed.
the people in the farmhouse were feasting and drinking, not remembering
the proverbs, "A large piece strains the mouth," and "The mouth is the
measure of the stomach." They set the house on fire by their
recklessness, and only escaped with bare life. All their goods and
chattels were reduced[Pg 184]to
ashes, and they were left without a roof to shelter them. The guests
hastened home, but the farmer and his people were forced to take refuge
in the shoemaker's hut. He received them in the most friendly way, and
gave them clothes and shoes, and food and drink, and saw to it that
they wanted for nothing till they could again provide themselves with
Besides this, needy people came every day to the shoemaker, and each received an abundant allowance.
he thus doled out everything, and refused no one relief, low people
jeered at him, saying, "What is your object in giving everything away?
You cannot make the world warm." He answered, "We should love our
neighbours as ourselves."
length the shoemaker felt that his last hour had come. So he dressed
himself neatly, took with him a staff of juniper, and set off on the
way to hell. The warden trembled when he saw him, and cried out, "Throw
down the staff! No one may bring such a weapon to hell." The shoemaker
took no heed of this speech, but pressed on his way. At length the
Prince of Hell himself met him, and cried out, "Throw down your staff
and let us wrestle. If you overcome me, I will be your[Pg 185] slave; but if I should overcome you, then you must serve me."
did not please the shoemaker, who answered, "I will not wrestle with
you, for you have such very clumsy hands, but come against me with a
the Devil continued talking, and again advised him to throw away the
staff, the shoemaker struck him a heavy blow with it behind the ear.
Upon this, all hell shook, and the Devil and his companions vanished
suddenly, as lead sinks in water.
the shoemaker proceeded farther, and cautiously explored the interior
of the underworld. In one hall lay a great book, in which the souls of
all children who died unbaptized were recorded. Near the book lay many
keys, which opened the rooms in which the children's souls were
imprisoned. So he took the keys, released the innocent captive souls,
and went with them to heaven, where he was received with honour, and a
thanksgiving feast was instituted in remembrance of his good deed.
other stories of devils is one of a forester who gave the Devil three
drops of blood for a magic powder which would heal all wounds. But when[Pg 186] he
died, his corpse rushed out at the door, and was never seen again.
Another time, a dull schoolboy, who was always beaten by his master,
met the Devil, who drew blood from three punctures, and wrote a compact
with it; but the boy was rescued by a clever student, who afterwards
died from the bursting of the "blood-vessel of wisdom," as was
ascertained by autopsy.
The Devil is sometimes represented as driving about in a coach drawn by twelve black stallions, and annoying the neighbourhood.
Another time, a charitable orphan-girl stayed late one Saturday evening in the bath-house, after
washing the poor and helpless, when the Devil and his mother and three
sons drove up in a coach drawn by four black stallions, with harness
adorned with gold and silver, and asked her hand for one of his sons.
But the maiden fled back into the bath-house, after making the sign of
the cross on the threshold, and replied that she was not ready, as she
had no shoes nor dress. The Devil desired her to ask for whatever she
wanted; but a mouse called to her to ask for each article separately.[Pg 187] One
of the sons fetched each article as it was asked for; and the maiden
was at last fully attired, when the cock crew, and everything vanished.
Next day the girl's mistress and her daughter were envious of her fine
clothes and ornaments; and next Saturday evening the daughter went to
the bath-house. But she despised the warning of the mouse, and asked
for everything at once, when she was taken into the coach and carried
of minor dealings with the Devil are common. A farmer taking flax to
market, invoked the Devil to enable him to sell it well. The Devil did
so, and rode home with him from market, made him drunk, and tempted him
to commit a burglary at the house of a rich man in the neighbourhood.
He put his hat on the farmer's head, which made him invisible, and
broke open the iron bars of the door with his teeth. On the way home,
the farmer cried out, while crossing the ford where he had first met
the Devil, "Good God! how much money I've got!" The Devil vanished, and
all the treasure fell into the stream, and was lost. On another
occasion, a labourer devoted his horse to the Devil, at a time when an
old Devil and his son overheard him. The son wanted to lay claim to it,
but his father warned[Pg 188] him
that it was no use, for such people did not mean what they said, and
did not keep their word. Nevertheless, the imp went to unharness it,
and the peasant in terror invoked the Trinity, when the imp ran away,
and his father laughed at him.
stories which follow, like several of the preceding, are mostly told by
Jannsen, and deal with various forms of black magic. The first is an
instance of something very like Vampyrism.
MARTIN AND HIS DEAD MASTER.
was a young fellow who was very fond of amusing himself with the girls,
and often sat up talking and joking with them till very late in the
evening. One Sunday, when he had slept very little the night before, he
went to church, and there he fell asleep and did not awake till dark
night. He rubbed his eyes, and could not imagine where he was, for the
church was full of people, and they were all fine gentlemen. Martin
looked about, and recognised among them his former master, who had been
buried three months before. He also knew[Pg 189] him,
and asked, "Well, Martin, when did you die?" "Three months after you
were buried," answered Martin. "Oh, indeed," said the gentleman; "but
what do you think? Shouldn't we go home now for a short visit? Won't
you accompany me?" "I'm ready," said Martin, and he rose and followed
his master. On the way he found a frozen glove, which he put in his
pocket. They came to the mansion, and the master went first to the
stable, for he intended to torment the horses, and thought Martin would
help him. When the gentleman entered, the horses made no sound, but
when Martin came in, they neighed. The master turned round and said,
"Listen, Martin! you can't be really dead. Give me your hand to feel."
Martin thrust his hand into the frozen glove which he had found on the
road, and extended it to his master, who said, "Yes, you are really
dead; your hand is shockingly cold." Then he tormented the horses till
they were covered with white foam. Martin was sorry, but could do
nothing but stand and look on. At last the master ceased his spiteful
work, and said, "Let us go into the house. Go you into the kitchen and
frighten the maids, and I will torment the lady. When it is time to
depart, I will come for you."[Pg 190] The lady screamed and sobbed with terror as if she was mad, and the maids screamed too, but with fun and frolic.
a long time, the master came to the kitchen, and said, "Come, Martin,
let us make haste, for the cocks will soon crow." He would have liked
to have run away, but he was too much afraid, so he went with his
master. On the way his master talked a great deal to him about how his
wife had searched everywhere for the treasure which he had hidden
before his death, and what she had done to banish the nightly
hauntings, but everything was useless. "Yes," said Martin, "it must be
a great sorcerer who can lay spectres and discover treasures in the
ground. Perhaps she will never meet with one."
ha!" laughed the gentleman, "no great cleverness is needed. If a living
person was to stamp three times on my grave with his left heel, and say
each time, 'Here shall you lie,' I couldn't get out again. But the
money which I hid in my lifetime is under the floor of my bedroom, near
Martin was delighted to hear this, and would have shouted for joy, but he thought it too dangerous.[Pg 191]They
now came to the churchyard, and the gentleman asked Martin to show him
his grave. But Martin said, "We shall have another opportunity, I'm
afraid the cocks are just about to crow." The gentleman slipped quickly
into his grave, when Martin stamped three times with his left heel on
the mound, and said three times, "Here shall you lie."
you liar and scoundrel!" cried the dead man from the grave; "if I had
known that you were still alive, I should have crushed and mangled you.
Now I can do nothing more to you."
Martin returned home full of joy, and told the lady all that he had
seen and heard and done. The lady did not know how to thank him enough.
She took him as her husband, and they lived together happily and
honourably; and if they could have got on as well with Death as with
the nocturnal spectre, they might be living still.
so well known in Germany, are not unknown in Esthonia. In the story of
the "Hunter's Lost Luck" (Kreutzwald), we find a hunter whose usual
skill had deserted him selling himself to the Devil with three drops of
blood for a magic[Pg 192] bullet
which should kill the author of his bad luck. His good luck depended on
his not shooting at the leader of a flock or herd; but one evening,
having drunk too much, he fired at the leader of a troop of foxes, and
fell down dead. The villagers took his body home; but when he was put
into the coffin, a great black cat, which was supposed to be the Old
Boy himself, carried him away.
The story of "The Coiners of Leal" relates to the ruins of an old castle, which was said to be haunted by a hell-hound. One
night a young nobleman set out to explore it, and was warned off by a
tall man in black clothes, but, on advancing, sank into the vaults,
where he found a number of men coining gold and silver. They bound him
by an oath of secrecy as to their proceedings, warning him that if he
broke it, their master, the dog, would fetch him, and make him coin
gold and silver for ever with them; and he received a sackful of
treasure to remind him of his oath. Some years after, he drank too much
at a feast, told his story, and immediately disappeared, and was never
THE BEWITCHED HORSE.
farmer's old horse had died, so he skinned it, and threw it behind the
threshing-floor, intending to bury it next day. He saw a great toad
creep under it as he went away. At night he went into the barn to
sleep, and hearing a noise outside, kept watch for thieves; but, to his
horror, he saw the door slowly open, and his dead horse enter. The
horse came in snuffling and snorting, and broke down several of the
posts that supported the loft where his master had been sleeping; but
the farmer contrived to scramble into the rafters. At last the cock
crew, when the horse fell down like a lump of meat, and the farmer too
lost his hold and fell upon him. Next morning the farmer buried the
horse, and stamped three times with his left heel on the grave; so the
horse remained quiet.
But it was a sorcerer who had a grudge against the farmer who had sent the toad into the carcass of the horse.
Esthonia, as elsewhere, we meet with many stories of hidden treasures,
frequently in connection with devils, and hence we place this section
next to the Devil-stories. The stories of "The Courageous Barn-keeper"
and of the "Gallows Dwarfs" are curious and interesting; those which
follow are given here only in abstract. In all countries which have
been devastated by war, traditions of hidden treasure are common. I
remember once reading a story in a newspaper (but I do not know if the
report was true) of a quantity of coins of Edward the Confessor and
Harold being dug up in a field respecting which there was a tradition
in the neighbourhood that a great treasure was concealed in it. In
Esthonian as well as in Oriental tales, hidden treasures are usually
under the care of non-human guardians, even when it is not said that
they were specially placed under their protection. This notion[Pg 195]probably
persists in many countries to the present day. It is said that when
Kidd, the famous pirate, buried a hoard of treasure, he used to
slaughter a negro at the place, that the ghost might guard it. Stories
of his hidden treasure (more or less probable) are still rife in
THE COURAGEOUS BARN-KEEPER.
upon a time there lived a barn-keeper who had few to equal him in
courage. The Old Boy himself admitted that a bolder man had never yet
appeared on earth. In the evening, when the threshers were no longer at
work in the barn, he often paid a visit to the barn-keeper, and never
tired of talking with him. He was under the impression that the
barn-keeper did not recognise him, and supposed him to be only an
ordinary peasant; but his host knew him well enough, though he
pretended not, and had made up his mind to box Old Hornie's ears if he
could. One evening the Old Boy began to complain of the hard life of a
bachelor, and how he had nobody to knit him a[Pg 196] pair
of stockings or to hem a handkerchief. The barn-keeper answered, "Why
don't you go a-wooing, my brother?" The Old Boy returned, "I've tried
my luck often enough, but the girls won't have me. The younger and
prettier they are, the more they laugh at me."
barn-keeper advised him to court old maids or widows, who would be much
easier to win, and who would not be so likely to despise a suitor. The
Old Boy took his advice, and some weeks afterwards married an old maid;
but it was not long before he came back to the barn-keeper to complain
of his troubles. His newly-married wife was full of tricks; she left
him no rest night or day, and tormented him continually. "What sort of
a man are you," laughed the barn-keeper, "to allow your wife to wear
the trousers? If you marry a wife, you must take care to be master."
The Old Boy answered, "I couldn't manage her. If she chose to bring
anybody else into the house, I couldn't venture to set foot in it." The
barn-keeper sought to comfort him, and advised him to try his luck
elsewhere; but the Old Boy thought that the first trial was enough, and
had no inclination to put his neck under a woman's yoke again.[Pg 197]
the autumn of the following year, when threshing had begun again, the
old acquaintance of the barn-keeper paid him another visit. The latter
saw that the peasant had something on his mind, but he asked no
questions, thinking it best to wait till the other broached the matter
himself. He had not long to wait before he heard all the old fellow's
misfortunes. During the summer he had made the acquaintance of a young
widow who cooed like a dove, so that the little man again thought of
courtship. In short, he married her, but discovered afterwards that she
was a shocking scold at home, who would gladly have scratched his eyes
out of his head, and he had cause to thank his stars that he had
escaped from her hands. The barn-keeper remarked, "I see you're good
for nothing as a husband, for you are chicken-hearted, and don't know
how to manage a wife." The Old Boy was forced to acknowledge that it
was true. After they had talked awhile about women and marriage, the
Old Boy said, "If you are really such a bold man as you pretend, and
could tame the most hellishwoman that exists, I will show you a way by which you can turn your courage to better[Pg 198] account
than by subduing a violent woman. Do you know the ruins of the old
castle on the mountain? A great treasure lies there since ancient
times, which no one has been able to get at, just because nobody has
had enough courage to dig it up." The barn-keeper said, smiling, "If
nothing more is needed than courage, the treasure is already as good as
in my pocket." Then the Old Boy told him that he must go to dig up the
treasure next Thursday night, when the moon would be full; but added,
"Take good care that you are not a bit afraid, for if your heart fails
you, or if only a muscle of your body trembles, you will not only lose
the expected treasure, but may even lose your life, like many others
who have tried their luck before you. If you don't believe me, you may
go into any farmhouse, and the people will tell you what they have
heard about the walls of the old castle. Many people even profess to
have seen something with their own eyes. But once more, if you value
your life, and wish to possess the treasure, beware of all fear."
the morning of the appointed Thursday, the barn-keeper set out, and
although he did not feel the slightest fear, he turned into the village
inn,[Pg 199] hoping
to find somebody there who could give him some kind of information
about the ruins of the old castle. He asked the landlord what the old
ruins on the hill were, and whether people knew anything about who
built them, and who destroyed them. An old farmer, who overheard the
question, gave him the following information: "The report goes that a
very rich squire lived there many centuries ago, who was lord over vast
territories and a great population. This lord ruled with an iron hand,
and treated his subjects with great severity, but he had amassed vast
wealth by their sweat and blood, and gold and silver poured into his
castle on all sides in hogsheads. Here he stored his wealth in deep
cellars, where it was secure from thieves and robbers. No one knows how
the wealthy miscreant came to his end. One morning the attendants found
his bed empty and three drops of blood on the floor. A great black cat,
which was never seen before or afterwards, was sitting on the canopy of
the bed. It is supposed that this cat was the Evil Spirithimself, who had[Pg 200] strangled
the squire in his bed in this form, and had then carried him off to
Põrgu to expiate his crimes. As soon as the relatives of the
squire heard of his death, they wished to secure his treasures, but not
a single copeck was to be found. It was at first thought that the
servants had stolen it, and they were brought to trial; but as they
knew that they were innocent, nothing could be extracted from them,
even under the torture. In the meantime, many people heard a chinking
like money deep under ground at night, and informed the authorities;
and as this was investigated and the report confirmed, the servants
were set at liberty. The strange nocturnal chinking was often heard
afterwards, and many people dug for the treasure, but nothing was
discovered, and no one returned from the caverns under the castle, for
they were doubtless seized upon by the same power which had brought the
owner of the money to such a dreadful end. Every one saw that there was
something uncanny about it, and no one dared to live in the old castle.
At length the roof and walls fell in from long exposure to rain and
wind, and nothing was left[Pg 201] but
an old ruin. No one dares to spend the night near it, and still less
would any one be rash enough to seek for the ancient treasure there."
So said the old farmer.
the barn-keeper had heard the story, he said, half joking, "I should
like to try my luck. Who'll go with me to-morrow night?" The men made
the sign of the cross, and declared that their lives were more to them
than all the treasures in the world, and that no one could reach these
treasures without losing his soul. Then they begged the stranger to
recall his words, and not to pledge himself to the Evil One. But the
bold barn-keeper gave no heed to their entreaties and expostulations,
and resolved to attempt the adventure alone. In the evening he asked
the host for a bundle of pine-splinters, that he might not be in the
dark, and then inquired the nearest way to the ruins.
of the peasants, who seemed to be a little bolder than the others, went
with him for some distance as his guide with a lighted lantern. As the
sky was cloudy, and it was quite dark, the barn-keeper was obliged to
grope his way. The whistling of the wind and the screeching of the owls[Pg 202] were
terrible to hear, but could not frighten his bold heart. As soon as he
was able to strike a light under the shelter of the masonry, he lit a
splinter and looked about for a door or an opening through which he
could get down underground. After looking about fruitlessly for some
time, at last he discovered a hole at the foot of the wall, which
seemed to lead downwards. He put the burning splinter in a crack in the
wall, and cleared out so much earth and rubbish with his hands that he
could creep through. After he had gone some distance, he came to a
flight of stone stairs, and there was now room enough for him to stand
upright. He descended the stairs with his bundle of splinters on his
shoulder and one burning in his hand, and at last reached an iron door,
which was not locked. He pushed the heavy door open, and was about to
enter, when a large black cat with fiery eyes dashed through the door
like the wind and rushed up the stairs. The barn-keeper thought, "That
must be what strangled the lord of the castle;" so he pushed the door
to, threw down the bundle of splinters, and then examined the place
more carefully. It was a great wide hall, with doors everywhere in the
walls; he[Pg 203] counted
twelve, and considered which he should try first. "Seven's a lucky
number," said he, so he counted till he came to the seventh door, but
it was locked, and would not yield. But when he pushed at the door with
all his strength, the rusty lock gave way and the door flew open. When
the barn-keeper entered, he found a room of moderate size; on one side
stood a table and bench, and at the opposite wall was a stove, with a
bundle of faggots lying on the ground near the hearth. The inspector
then lit a fire, and by its light he found a small pot and a cup of
flour standing on the stove, and some salt in a salt-cellar. "Look
here!" cried the barn-keeper. "Here I find something to eat
unexpectedly; I have some water with me in my flask, and can cook some
warm porridge." So he set the pot on the fire, put some flour and water
into it, added some salt, stirred it with a splinter of wood, and
boiled his porridge well, after which he poured it into the cup, and
set it on the table. The bright fire lit up the room, and he did not
need to light a splinter. The bold barn-keeper seated himself at the
table, took the spoon, and began to eat the warm porridge. All at once
he looked up and saw the black[Pg 204] cat
with the fiery eyes sitting on the stove. He could not comprehend how
the beast had come there, as he had seen it running up the stairs with
his own eyes. After this, three loud knocks were struck on the door,
till the walls and floor shook. The barn-keeper did not lose his
presence of mind, but cried out loudly, "Let anybody enter who has a
head on his shoulders!" Immediately the door flew wide open, and the
black cat sprang from the stove and darted through, while sparks of
fire flew from its eyes and mouth. As soon as the cat had disappeared,
four tall men entered, clad in long white coats, and wearing caps of
flame-colour, which shone so brightly that the room became as bright as
day. The men carried a bier on their shoulders, and a coffin stood upon
it, but still the bold barn-keeper did not feel the least bit afraid.
The men set the coffin on the ground without speaking a word, and then
one after another went out at the door, and closed it behind them. The
cat whined and scratched at the door, as if it wanted to get in, but
the barn-keeper did not concern himself, and only ate his warm
porridge. When he had eaten enough, he stood up, and looked at the
coffin. He broke open the lid, and beneath it[Pg 205] he
beheld a little man with a long white beard. The barn-keeper lifted him
out, and carried him to the fire to warm him. It was not long before
the little old man began to revive, and to move his hands and feet. The
bold barn-keeper was not a bit afraid; he took the porridge-pot and the
spoon from the table, and began to feed the old man. The latter said
presently, "Thank you, my son, for taking pity on such a poor creature
as I am, and reviving my body, which was stiff with cold and hunger. I
will give you such a princely reward for your good deed that you shall
not forget me as long as you live. Behind the stove you will find some
pitch-torches, light one and come with me. But first make the door
securely fast, that the furious cat may not get in to break your neck.
We will afterwards make it so tame that it cannot hurt anybody again."
he spoke, the old man raised a square trap-door about three feet broad
from the floor, and it was plain that the stone covered the entrance to
a cellar. The old man went down the steps first, and the barn-keeper
followed him with the torch till they reached a terribly deep cavern.
In this great cellar-like arched cavern lay an[Pg 206] enormous
heap of money, as big as the largest haycock, half silver and half
gold. The little old man took from a cupboard in the wall a handful of
wax-candles, three bottles of wine, a smoked ham, and a loaf of bread.
Then he said to the barn-keeper, "I give you three days' time to count
and sort this heap. You must divide the heap into two equal parts,
exactly alike, and so that nothing remains over. While you are busy
with this, I will lie down by the wall to sleep, but take care not to
make the least mistake or I'll strangle you."
barn-keeper at once set to work, and the old man lay down. In order to
guard against any mistake, the barn-keeper always took two similar
coins to divide, whether thalers or roubles, gold or silver, and he
laid one on his right, and the other on his left, to form two heaps.
When he found his strength failing, he took a pull at one of the
bottles, ate some bread and meat, and then set to work with renewed
strength. As he only allowed himself a short sleep at night, in order
to get on with his work, he had already finished the sorting on the
evening of the second day, but one small piece of silver remained over.
What was to be done? This did not trouble the bold barn-keeper; he drew
from his pocket, laid the blade on the middle of the coin, and struck
the back of the knife so hard with a stone that the coin was split in
two halves. One half he laid to the right heap, and the other to the
left, after which he roused up the old man, and asked him to inspect
the work. When the old man saw the two halves of the last coin lying on
the heap to the right and left, he uttered a cry of joy, and fell on
the neck of the barn-keeper, stroked his cheeks, and at last exclaimed,
"A thousand and again a thousand thanks to you, brave youth, for
releasing me from my long, long captivity. I have been obliged to watch
over my treasure here for many hundred years, because there was no one
who had sufficient courage or sense to divide the money so that nothing
was left over. I was therefore forced by a binding oath to strangle one
after another, and as no one returned, for the last two hundred years
no one has dared to come here, though there was not a night which I
allowed to pass without jingling the money. But it was destined for
you, O child of good luck! to become my deliverer, after I had almost
abandoned all hope, and fancied myself doomed to eternal imprisonment.
Thanks, a thousand thanks, for your good deed![Pg 208] Take
now one of these heaps of money as the reward for your trouble, but the
other you must divide among the poor, as an atonement for my grievous
sins; for when I lived on earth in this castle I was a great libertine
and scoundrel. You have still to accomplish one task for my benefit,
and for your own. When you go upstairs again, and you meet the great
black cat on the stairs, seize it and hang it up. Here is a noose from
which it cannot escape again."
he took from his bosom a chain woven of fine gold thread, as thick as a
shoe-string, which he handed to the barn-keeper, and then vanished, as
if he had sunk into the ground. A tremendous crash followed, as if the
earth had cloven asunder beneath the barn-keeper's feet. The light went
out, and he found himself in thick darkness, but even this unexpected
event did not shake his courage. He contrived to grope his way till he
came to the stairs, which he ascended till he reached the first room,
where he had boiled his porridge. The fire in the hearth had long been
extinguished, but he found some sparks among the ashes, which he
succeeded in blowing into a flame. The coffin was still standing on the
ground, but instead of[Pg 209] the
old man, the great black cat was sleeping in it. The barn-keeper seized
it by the head, slipped the gold chain round its neck, hung it on a
strong iron nail in the wall, and then laid down on the floor to rest.
morning he made his way out of the ruins, and took the nearest path to
the inn from whence he had started. When the host saw that the stranger
had escaped unhurt, his joy and astonishment knew no bounds. But the
barn-keeper said, "Get me a few dozen sacks to hold a ton, for which I
will pay well, and hire horses, so that I can fetch away my treasure."
Then the host perceived that the stranger's expedition had not been
fruitless, and he immediately fulfilled the rich man's orders.
the barn-keeper learned from the people what part of the old man's
domains was formerly under the authority of the lord of the castle, he
assigned one-third of the money destined for the poor to this district,
handed over the remaining two-thirds to the local authorities for
distribution, and settled himself with his own money in a distant
country, where nobody knew him. His descendants live there as rich
people to this day, and[Pg 210] extol the bravery of their ancestor, who carried off the treasure.
upon a time a parson was looking out for a servant who would undertake
to toll the church bell at midnight in addition to his other duties.
Many men had already made the attempt, but whenever they went to toll
the bell at night, they disappeared as suddenly as if they had sunk
into the ground, for the bell was not heard to toll, and the
bell-ringer never came back. The parson kept the matter as quiet as
possible, but the sudden disappearance of so many men could not be
concealed, and he could no longer find anybody willing to enter his
more the matter was talked about, the more seriously it was discussed,
and there were even malicious tongues to whisper that the parson
himself murdered his servants. Every Sunday the parson proclaimed from
the pulpit after the sermon, "I am in want of a good servant, and offer
double[Pg 211] wages, good keep," &c.; but for many months no one applied for the post. However, one day the crafty Hans offered
his services. He had been last in the employment of a stingy master,
and the offer of good keep was therefore very attractive to him, and he
was quite ready to enter on his duties at once. "Very well, my son,"
said the parson, "if you are armed with courage and trust in God, you
may make your first trial to-night, and we will conclude our bargain
was quite content, and went into the servants' room without troubling
his head about his new employment. The parson was a miser, and was
always vexed when his servants ate too much, and generally came into
the room during their meals, hoping that they would eat less in his
presence. He also encouraged them to drink as much as possible,
thinking that the more they drank, the less they would be able to eat.
But Hans was more cunning than his master, for he emptied the jug at
one draught, saying, "That makes twice as much room for the food." The
parson thought this was really the case, and no longer urged his[Pg 212] people to drink, while Hans laughed in his sleeve at the success of his trick.
was about eleven o'clock at night when Hans entered the church. He
found the interior lighted up, and was rather surprised when he saw a
numerous company, who were not assembled for purposes of devotion. The
people were sitting at a long table playing cards. But Hans was not a
bit frightened, or, if he secretly felt a little alarm, he was cunning
enough to show nothing of it. He went straight to the table and sat
down with the players. One of them noticed him, and said, "Friend, what
business have you here?" Hans gave him a good stare, and presently
answered, "It would be better for a meddler like you to hold his
tongue. If anybody here has a right to ask questions, I think I'm the
man. But if I don't care to avail myself of my right, I certainly think
it would be more polite of you to hold your jaw." Hans then took up the
cards, and began to play with the strangers as if they were his best
friends. He had good luck, for he doubled his stakes, and emptied the
pockets of many of the other players. Presently the cock crew. Midnight
must have come; and in a moment the lights were extinguished,[Pg 213] and
the players, with their table and benches, vanished. Hans groped about
in the dark church for some time before he could find the door which
led to the belfry.
Hans had nearly reached the top of the first flight, he saw a little
man without a head sitting on the top step. "Oho, my little fellow!
what do you want here?" cried Hans, and, without waiting for an answer,
he gave him a good kick and sent him rolling down the long flight of
stairs. He found the same kind of little sentinel posted on the top
stair of the second, third, and fourth flights, and pitched them down
one after another, so that all the bones in their bodies rattled.
last Hans reached the bell without further hindrance. When he looked
up, to make sure that all was right, he saw another headless little man
sitting crouched together in the bell. He had loosened the clapper, and
seemed to be waiting for Hans to pull the bell-rope, to drop the heavy
clapper on his head, which would certainly have killed him. "Wait a
while, my little friend," cried Hans; "we haven't bargained for this.
You may have seen how I rolled your little comrades downstairs without
tiring their own legs! You your[Pg 214]self
shall follow them. But because you sit the highest, you shall make the
proudest journey. I'll pitch you out of the loophole, so that you'll
have no wish to come back again."
he spoke, he raised the ladder, intending to drag the little man out of
the bell and fulfil his threat. The dwarf saw his danger, and began to
beg, "Dear brother, spare my wretched life, and I promise that neither
my brothers nor I will again interfere with the bellringer at night. I
may seem small and contemptible, but who knows whether I may not some
day be able to do more for your welfare than offer you a beggar's
little fellow!" laughed Hans. "Your ransom wouldn't be worth a gnat.
But as I'm in a good humour just now, I'm willing to spare your life.
But take care not to come in my way again, for I might not be inclined
to trifle with you another time."
headless dwarf gave him his humble thanks, clambered down the bell-rope
like a squirrel, and bolted down the belfry-stairs as if he was on
fire, while Hans tolled the bell to his heart's content.
the parson heard the bell tolling at midnight he was surprised and
pleased at having at last found a servant who had withstood the ordeal.[Pg 215]
After Hans had finished his work he went into the hayloft, and lay down to sleep.
parson was in the habit of getting up early in the morning, and going
to see whether his people were about their work. All were in their
places except the new servant, and nobody had seen anything of him.
When eleven o'clock came, and Hans still made no appearance, the parson
became anxious, and began to fear that the bell-ringer had met his
death like those before him. But when the rattle was used to call the
workmen to dinner, Hans likewise appeared among them.
"Where have you been all morning?" asked the parson.
"I've been asleep," answered Hans, yawning.
"Asleep?" cried the parson in amazement. "You don't mean that you sleep every day till this hour?"
think," answered Hans, "it's as clear as spring-water. Nobody can serve
two masters. He who works at night must sleep during the day, for night
was meant for labourers to rest. If you relieve me from tolling the
bell at night, I'm quite ready to set to work at daybreak. But if I
have to toll the bell at night, I must sleep in the daytime, at any
rate till mid-day."[Pg 216]
disputing over the matter for some time, they finally agreed on the
following conditions:—Hans was to be relieved of his nocturnal
duties, and was to work from sunrise to sunset. He was to be allowed to
sleep for half-an-hour after nine o'clock in the morning, and for a
whole hour after dinner, and was to have the whole of Sunday free.
"But," said the parson, "you might sometimes help with odd jobs at
other times, especially in winter, when the days are short, and the
work would then last longer."
at all," cried Hans, "for that's why the days are longer in summer. I
won't do any more than work from sunrise to sunset on week-days, as I
time afterwards the parson was asked to attend a grand christening in
town. The town was only a few hours from the parsonage, but Hans took a
bag of provisions with him. "What's that for?" said the parson. "We
shall get to town before evening." But Hans answered, "Who can foresee
everything? Many things may happen on the road to interfere with our
journey, and you know that our bargain was that I am only obliged to
serve you till sunset. If the sun sets before we reach town, you'll
have to finish your journey alone."[Pg 217]
were in the middle of the forest when the sun set. Hans stopped the
horses, took up his provision-bag, and jumped out of the sledge. "What
are you doing, Hans? Are you mad?" asked the pastor of souls. But Hans
answered quietly, "I'm going to sleep here; for the sun has set, and my
time of work is over." His master did his utmost to move him with
alternate threats and entreaties, but it was all of no use, and at last
he promised him a good present and an increase in his wages. "Are you
not ashamed, Mr. Parson?" said Hans. "Would you tempt me to stray from
the right way and break my agreement? All the treasures of the earth
would not induce me, for you hold a man by his word, and an ox by his
horns. If you want to go to town to-night, travel on alone, in God's
name; for I can't go any farther with you, now that my hours of service
my good Hans, my dear fellow," said the parson, "I really can't leave
you here all alone by yourself. Don't you see the gallows close by,
with two evil-doers hanging on it, whose souls are now burning in hell?
Surely you wouldn't venture to pass the night in the neighbourhood of
such company?"[Pg 218]
not?" said Hans. "These gallows-birds are hanging up in the air, and I
shall sleep on the ground below, so we can't interfere with each
other." As he spoke he turned his back to his master and went off with
the parson would not miss the christening, it was necessary for him to
go to town alone. The people were much astonished to see him arrive
without a coachman; but when he had related his astonishing altercation
with Hans, they could not make up their minds whether the master or the
servant was the biggest fool of the two.
cared nothing about what the people thought or said of him. He ate his
supper, lit himself a pipe to warm his nose, made himself a bed under a
great branching pine-tree, wrapped himself in his warm rug, and went to
sleep. He might have slept for some hours when he was roused by a
sudden noise. It was a bright moonlight night, and close by stood two
headless dwarfs under the pine-tree exchanging angry words. Hans raised
himself to look at them better, when they both cried out at once, "It
is he! it is he!" One of them drew nearer to Hans' sleeping place and
said, "Old friend, we have met again by a lucky chance. My bones still[Pg 219] ache
from the steps in the church tower, and I dare say you haven't
forgotten the story. We'll deal with your bones now in such a fashion
that you won't forget our meeting for weeks. Hi! there, comrades; come
on and set to work!"
this a crowd of the headless dwarfs rushed together from all sides like
a swarm of gnats. They were all armed with thick cudgels, bigger than
themselves. The number of these little enemies threatened danger, for
they struck as hard as any strong man could have done. Hans thought his
last hour was come, for he could not make any defence against such a
host of enemies. But by good luck another dwarf made his appearance,
just as the blows were falling fastest. "Stop, stop, comrades!" he
exclaimed. "This man has been my benefactor, and I owe him a debt of
gratitude. He gave me my life when I was in his power. Although he
pitched some of you downstairs, he didn't cripple any of you. The warm
bath cured your broken limbs long ago, and you had better forgive him
and go home."
headless dwarfs were easily persuaded by their comrade, and went
quietly away. Hans now recognised his deliverer as the apparition who
had sat in the church-bell at night. The dwarf sat down[Pg 220]with
Hans under the pine-tree, and said, "You laughed at me once when I said
that a time might come in which I might be useful to you. That time has
now arrived, and let it teach you not to despise even the smallest
creature in the world." "I thank you with all my heart," returned Hans.
"My bones are almost pulverised with their blows, and I should hardly
have escaped with life if you had not arrived in the very nick of time."
headless dwarf continued, "My debt is now paid, but I will do more, and
give you something to indemnify you for your thrashing. You need no
longer toil in the service of a stingy parson. When you reach home
to-morrow go straight to the north corner of the church, where you will
find a great stone fixed in the wall, which is not secured with mortar
like the others. It is full moon on the night of the day after
to-morrow. Go at midnight, and take this stone out of the wall with a
lever. Under the stone you will find an inestimable treasure, which
many generations have heaped together; there are gold and silver church
plate, and a large amount of money, which was once concealed in time of
war. Those who hid the treasure have all died more than a hundred years
ago, and not a living[Pg 221] soul
knows anything about the matter. You must divide one-third of the money
among the poor of the parish, and all the rest is yours, to do what you
like with." At this moment a cock crew in a distant village, and the
headless dwarf vanished as if he had been wiped out.
could not sleep for a long time for the pain in his limbs, and thought
much of the hidden treasure, but he dropped asleep at last towards
sun was high in the heavens when his master returned from town. "Hans,"
said the parson, "you were a great fool not to go with me yesterday.
Look here! I've had plenty to eat and drink, and got money in my pocket
into the bargain." Meantime he jingled the money to vex him more. But
Hans answered quietly, "Worthy Mister Parson, you have had to keep
awake all night for that bit of money, but I've earned a hundred times
as much in my sleep." "Show me what you earned," cried the parson. But
Hans answered, "Fools jingle their copecks, but wise men hide their
they reached home, Hans did his duty zealously, unharnessed and fed the
horses, and then walked round the church till he found the stone in the
wall that was not mortared.[Pg 222]
the first night after the full moon, when everybody else was asleep,
Hans crept quietly out of the house with a pickaxe, wrenched out the
stone with much difficulty, and actually found the hole with the money,
just as the dwarf had described it to him. Next Sunday he divided the
third part among the poor of the parish, and gave notice to the parson
that he was about to quit his service, and as he asked no wages for so
short a time, he got his discharge without any demur. But Hans
travelled a long way off, bought himself a nice farm-house, married a
young wife, and lived quietly and comfortably for many years.
the time when my grandfather was a shepherd-boy, there were many old
people living in our village who had known Hans, and who bore witness
to the truth of this story.
THE TREASURE AT KERTELL.
During a great war, the people of Kertell, in the island of Dagö, caused a great iron chest to be made,[Pg 223]wherein
they stored all their gold and silver, and sunk it in the river near
the old bridge. But they all perished without recovering it. Many years
afterwards, a man who was passing by in the evening saw a small flame
flickering in the air. He laid his pipe on a stone and followed the
flame; but it disappeared, and on going to pick up his pipe, he found
it gone, and money lying on the stone. But afterwards, whenever he
passed the stone, he found money. His companions advised him to consult
a magician with respect to raising the treasure, of which the tradition
had persisted; and the magician directed him to go to the place where
he had seen the flame on three successive Thursdays, and sacrifice a
cock, but not to speak of it to any one. On
the third Thursday, he took some companions with him; and when the cock
was sacrificed, the treasure-chest appeared above water, and they
dragged it to shore with great labour. But one of the party looked
towards the bridge, and saw a little boy mounted on a pig riding over
it. He exclaimed to his companions, when the figures disappeared, the
stakes and ropes gave way, and the treasure fell[Pg 224] back into the river, and was irrecoverably lost to them.
THE GOLDEN SNAKES.
woodcutters found a number of snakes in the wood, and one of the men
killed some, and he and his comrade followed them up till they came to
a vast mass of snakes, among which was one with a golden crown. They
fled, but were pursued by the snake-king, when one of them turned round
and hit him on the head with an axe, when he changed into a heap of
gold. They then returned to the cluster of snakes, but they had all
disappeared, and they found only another heap of gold. They divided the
money, and with half of it they built a church.
previous story is Lithuanian rather than Esthonian in character. The
next has a more diabolical character than any of the preceding.
THE DEVIL'S TREASURE.
travelling Swedish shoemaker saw a fire burning one night on the Sand
Mountain, and on reaching the spot, found an iron chest, which he
opened, and finding it to contain a pot of gold, helped himself to a
good supply. He then left his situation, and wandered about till he
came to Ringen, where he was appointed shoemaker to the castle. One
evening he was alone in his room when he heard a horn blown twice, but
each time he went out and found nothing. He then took his prayerbook in
his hand, ate his supper, and went to bed, but was awakened by a
tremendous noise in the castle. On opening his eyes, he saw that his
room was lit up with tapers, and two women, one in a red and the other
in a green dress, stood by his bed, who invited him to dance. Half
asleep, he cried out, "To hell with you! Is this a time to dance?" They
reminded him of the money which he had taken, left the room, and banged
the door after them,[Pg 226] so
that the whole castle shook. The lights went out, and the shoemaker
turned over and went to sleep again. Next morning he found himself
lying terribly bruised, with his head and body in the hall, and his
legs in the room. On his breast were the impress of two hands, showing
prints of all the fingers. Shortly afterwards he died, having confessed
to the priest, and left all his money for a church-bell. The chest was
found empty, the demons having carried off their treasure again; but
the shoemaker was buried under the pulpit in the church at Ringen.
We may end this section with the story of a man who failed to raise a treasure through fear.
THE NOCTURNAL CHURCH-GOERS.
Christmas Eve the people at a farm-house a couple of versts from a
church went to bed early, intending to go to early morning service by
candle-light. The farmer woke up, and on going out to see[Pg 227]how
the weather was, he saw the church lit up, and thinking he had
overslept himself, called his people and they set out. They found the
church lit up and full of people, but the singing sounded rather
strange. When they reached the open door, the lights and people
disappeared, and a stranger came out, who told them to return, saying,
"This is our service; yours begins to-morrow." But he took one youth of
the party aside, and told him to come again at midnight three days
before St. John's Eve and he would make his fortune, but he warned him
to keep it secret.
the party returned to the farm-house, the sky cleared, and they saw
from the position of the stars that it was midnight. When the matter
came to the pastor's ears, he tried to persuade the people that it was
only a dream; but the matter could not be hushed up.
youth who had received an invitation from the stranger felt very
doubtful about keeping the appointment, especially as he had been
commanded to keep it secret; but a fortnight before the time, he was
going home one evening after sunset, when he saw an old woman sitting
by the roadside, who asked him what he was thinking about so deeply.[Pg 228] He
made no answer, and then she asked to see his hand to tell his fortune,
assuring him that she meant him well. She put on her spectacles, and
after examining his hand for some time, promised him great good
fortune, and told him to go with the stranger without fear. But if he
wished to take a wife, let him not do so without great consideration,
or he might fall into misfortune. She refused any payment, and hurried
away as lightly as a young girl.
days before St. John's Eve, the youth set out a little before midnight.
A voice cried in his ear, "You are not going right!" and he was about
to turn back when he heard voices singing in the air, which urged him
not to throw away his good fortune, and encouraged him to proceed. He
found the church-door closed, but the stranger came from behind the
left side of the church. He told the youth he feared he might not have
come; and that the church service was held at Christmas only once in
seven years, at a time when men are all asleep. The stranger then told
the youth that there was a grave mound in a certain meadow on which
grew three junipers, and under the middle one a great treasure was
buried. In order to propitiate the[Pg 229] guardians
of the treasure, it was needful to slaughter three black animals, one
feathered and two hairy, and to take care that not a drop of the
sacrificial blood was lost, but all offered to the guardians. A bit of
silver was to be scraped from the youth's buckle that the gleam of the
costly silver might lead him to that which was buried. "Then cut a
stick from the juniper three spans long, turn the point three times
toward the grass where you have offered the blood, and walk nine times
round the juniper bush from west to east. But at every round strike the
grass under the bush three times with the stick, and at every blow say
the eighth round you will perceive a subterranean jingling of money,
and after the ninth round you will see the gleam of silver. Then fall
on your knees, bend your face to the ground, and cry out nine times
'Igrek,' when the treasure will rise." The seeker must wait patiently
till the treasure has risen, and not allow himself to be frightened by
the spectres which would appear, for they were only soulless phantoms, to try the seeker's courage. If it failed, he would return home with empty hands.[Pg 230] The
seeker must go to the hill on St. John's Eve, when the bonfires were
burning and the people merrymaking. A third of the treasure was to be
given to the poor; the rest belonged to the finder.
stranger repeated his directions three times word for word that the
youth should not forget them, when the sexton's cock crew and the
stranger vanished suddenly.
day the youth obtained a black cock and a black dog from some
neighbours, and next night he caught a mole. On St. John's Eve he took
the three animals, and carried out his instructions at midnight,
slaughtering first the cock, then the mole, and lastly the dog, taking
care that every drop of blood should fall on the appointed spot. But
when he had called "Igrek!" at the conclusion of the ceremony, a
fiery-red cock rose suddenly under the juniper, flapped his wings,
crowed and flew away. A shovelful of silver was then cast up at the
youth's feet. Next a fiery-red cat with long golden claws rose from
under the juniper, mewed, and darted away, when the earth opened and
threw up another shovelful of silver. Next appeared a great fiery-red
dog, with a golden head and tail, who barked, and ran away, when a
shovelful of roubles was cast[Pg 231] up
at the youth's feet. This was followed by a red fox with a golden tail,
a red wolf with two golden heads, and a red bear with three golden
heads; and behind each animal money was thrown out in the grass, but
behind the bear there came about a ton of silver, and the entire heap
rose to the height of a haycock. When the bear had disappeared, there
was a rushing and roaring under the juniper as if fifty smiths were
blowing the bellows at once. Then appeared from the juniper a huge
head, half man, half beast, with golden horns nine feet long, and with
golden tusks two ells long. Still more dreadful were the flames which
shot from mouth and nostrils, and which caused the rushing and roaring.
The youth was now beside himself with terror, and rushed away, fancying
himself closely pursued by the spectre, and at last he fell down in his
own farmyard and fainted. In the morning the sunbeams roused him; and
when he came to himself, he took six sacks with him from the barn to
carry off the treasure. He found the hill with the three junipers, the
slaughtered animals, and the wand; but the earth showed no signs of
having been disturbed, and the treasure had vanished. Probably it still
rests beneath the hill, waiting for a bolder man to raise it.[Pg 232]
grandson of the unlucky treasure-seeker, who relates this story, could
not say if his grandfather had been equally unfortunate in his
marriage, as he never alluded to the subject.
this heading I propose to notice two stories only. The first of these
is called the "Maidens who Bathed in the Moonlight" (Kreutzwald), and
is peculiarly tame and inconsequential, but yet exhibits one or two
features of special interest which forbid its being passed over
young man who had already learned the language of birds and other
mysteries, and was still desirous to peer into all sorts of secret
knowledge, applied to a famous necromancer to
initiate him into the secrets hidden under the veil of night. The
Finnish sorcerer endeavoured to dissuade him from his purpose; but as
he persisted, he told him that on the evening of St. Mark's Day, which
was not far off, the king of the serpents would hold his[Pg 234] court
at a place which he indicated, as was the custom every seven years.
There would be a dish of heavenly goat's-milk before the king, and if
the young man could dip a bit of bread in it, and put it in his mouth
before taking to flight, he would gain the secret knowledge which he
the appointed time, the young man went at dusk to a wide moor, where he
could see nothing but a number of hillocks. At midnight a bright light
shone from one of the hillocks; it was the king's signal, and all the
other snakes, which had been lying like motionless hillocks, uncoiled
themselves, and began to move in that direction.
At last they gathered themselves into a great heap as large as a
haycock. The youth at first feared to approach, but at last crept up on
tiptoe, when he saw thousands of snakes clustered round a huge serpent
with a gold crown on his head. The youth's blood froze in his veins and
his hair stood on end, but he sprang over the heap of hissing serpents,
who opened their jaws as he passed, but[Pg 235] could
not disengage themselves quickly enough to strike him. He secured his
prize and fled, pursued by the hissing serpents, till he fell
senseless; but at the first rays of the sun he woke up, having left the
moor four or five miles behind him, and all danger was now over. He
slept through the day, to recover himself from the fatigue and fright,
and went into the woods in the following night, where he saw golden
bathing benches arranged, with silver bath whisks and
silver basins. Presently the loveliest naked maidens assembled from all
quarters, and began to wash themselves in the bright moonlight, while
the youth stood behind a bush looking on. They were the wood-nymphs,
and the daughters of the Meadow-Queen. Towards
morning they disappeared suddenly from his sight, and though he visited
the woods again night after night, he never again saw either the
bathing utensils or the maidens, and pined away in hopeless longing.
The next story is extremely interesting, and it contains a more elaborate description of the Seal[Pg 236] of
Solomon (which we should hardly expect to be known in the legends of a
country like Esthonia) than any other which I have seen, except that
given by Weil in his Biblische Legenden der Muselmänner.
Weil, however, represents it as a cluster of stones, possessing
different virtues, and not as a single stone. The symbol called the
Seal of Solomon by the Freemasons, &c., consists of two equilateral
triangles intersecting each other within a circle, and is regarded by
mystics of every class as one of the most sacred of all symbols. In
Eastern legends the mystical name of God is said to have been inscribed
on the Seal. Arabian writers say that the embalmed body of Solomon,
with the ring on his finger, sits enthroned on one of the islands of
the Circumambient Ocean. Cf. the story "Bulookiya" (Thousand and One Nights), and Kirby's poem of Ed-Dimiryaht.
THE NORTHERN FROG.
upon a time, as old people relate, there existed a horrible monster
which came from the north. It exterminated men and animals from large
districts, and if nobody had been able to arrest its progress, it might
gradually have swept all living things from the earth.
had a body like an ox and legs like a frog; that is to say, two short
ones in front, and two long ones behind. Its tail was ten fathoms long.
It moved like a frog, but cleared two miles at every bound. Fortunately
it used to remain on the spot where it had once alighted for several
years, and did not advance farther till it had eaten the whole
neighbourhood bare. Its body was entirely encased in scales harder than
stone or bronze, so that nothing could injure it. Its two large eyes[Pg 238] shone
like the brightest tapers both by day and night, and whoever had the
misfortune to meet their glare became as one bewitched, and was forced
to throw himself into the jaws of the monster. So it happened that men
and animals offered themselves to be devoured, without any necessity
for it to move from its place. The neighbouring kings offered
magnificent rewards to any one who could destroy the monster by magic
or otherwise, and many people had tried their fortune, but their
efforts were all futile. On one occasion, a large wood in which the
monster was skulking was set on fire. The wood was destroyed, but the
noxious animal was not harmed in the slightest degree. However, it was
reported among old people that nobody could overcome the monster except
with the help of King Solomon's Seal, on which a secret inscription was
engraved, from which it could be discovered how the monster might be
destroyed. But nobody could tell where the seal was now concealed, nor
where to find a sorcerer who could read the inscription.
length a young man whose head and heart were in the right place
determined to set out in search of the seal-ring, trusting in his good
fortune.[Pg 239] He
started in the direction of the East, where it is supposed that the
wisdom of the ancients is to be sought for. After some years he met
with a celebrated magician of the East, and asked him for advice. The
sorcerer answered, "Men have but little wisdom, and here it can avail
you nothing, but God's birds will be your best guides under heaven, if
you will learn their language. I can help you with it if you will stay
with me for a few days."
young man thankfully accepted this friendly offer, and replied, "I am
unable at present to make you any return for your kindness, but if I
should succeed in my enterprise, I will richly reward you for your
trouble." Then the sorcerer prepared a powerful charm, by boiling nine
kinds of magic herbs which he had gathered secretly by moonlight. He
made the young man drink a spoonful every day, and it had the effect of
making the language of birds intelligible to him. When he departed, the
sorcerer said, "If you should have the good luck to find and get
possession of Solomon's Seal, come back to me, that I may read you the
inscription on the ring, for there is no one else now living who can do
the very next day the young man found the world quite transformed. He
no longer went anywhere alone, but found company everywhere, for he now
understood the language of birds, and thus many secrets were revealed
to him which human wisdom would have been unable to discover.
Nevertheless, some time passed before he could learn anything about the
ring. At length one evening, when he was exhausted with heat and
fatigue, he lay down under a tree in a wood to eat his supper, when he
heard two strange birds with bright coloured plumage talking about him
in the branches. One of them said, "I know the silly wanderer under the
tree, who has already wandered about so much without finding a trace of
what he wants. He is searching for the lost ring of King Solomon." The
other bird replied, "I think he must seek the help of the Hell-Maiden, who
would certainly be able to help him to find it. Even if she herself
does not possess the ring, she must know well enough who owns it now."
The first bird returned, "It may be as you say, but where can he find
the Hell-Maiden, who has no fixed abode, and is here to-day and there
to-morrow? He might as well try to fetter[Pg 241] the
wind." "I can't say exactly where she is at present," said the other
bird, "but in three days' time she will come to the spring to wash her
face, as is her custom every month on the night of the full moon, so
that the bloom of youth never disappears from her cheeks, and her face
never wrinkles with age." The first bird responded, "Well, the spring
is not far off; shall we amuse ourselves by watching her proceedings?"
"Willingly," said the other.
young man resolved at once to follow the birds and visit the spring;
but two difficulties troubled him. In the first place, he feared he
might be asleep when the birds set out; and secondly, he had no wings,
with which he could follow close behind them. He was too weary to lie
awake all night, for he could not keep his eyes open, but his anxiety
prevented him from sleeping quietly, and he often woke up for fear of
missing the departure of the birds. Consequently he was very glad when
he looked up in the tree at sunrise, and saw the bright-coloured birds
sitting motionless with their heads under their wings. He swallowed his
breakfast, and then waited for the birds to wake up. But they did not
seem disposed to go anywhere[Pg 242] that
morning; but fluttered about as if to amuse themselves, in search of
food, and flew from one tree-top to another till evening, when they
returned to roost at their old quarters. On the second day it was just
the same. However, on the third morning one bird said to the other, "We
must go to the spring to-day, to see the Hell-Maiden washing her face."
They waited till noon, and then flew away direct towards the south. The
young man's heart beat with fear lest he should lose sight of his
guides. But the birds did not fly farther than he could see, and
perched on the summit of a tree. The young man ran after them till he
was all in a sweat and quite out of breath. After resting three times,
the birds reached a small open glade, and perched on a high tree at its
edge. When the young man arrived, he perceived a spring in the midst of
the opening, and sat down under the tree on which the birds were
perched. Then he pricked up his ears, and listened to the talk of the
sun has not set," said one bird, "and we must wait till the moon rises
and the maiden comes to the well. We will see whether she notices the
young man under the tree." The other bird replied, "Nothing escapes her
eyes which concerns a[Pg 243] young
man. Will this one be clever enough to escape falling into her net?"
"We will see what passes between them," returned the first bird.
came, and the full moon had already risen high above the wood, when the
young man heard a slight rustling, and in a few moments a maiden
emerged from the trees, and sped across the grass to the spring so
lightly that her feet hardly seemed to touch the ground. The young man
perceived in an instant that she was the most beautiful woman he had
ever seen in his life, and he could not take his eyes from her.
went straight to the well, without taking any heed of him, raised her
eyes to the moon, and then fell on her knees and washed her face nine
times in the spring. Every time she looked up at the moon, and cried
out, "Fair and round-cheeked, as now thou art, may my beauty likewise
endure imperishably." Then she walked nine times round the spring, and
each time she sang—
"Let the maiden's face not wrinkle,Nor her red cheeks lose their beauty;Though the moon should wane and dwindle,May my beauty grow for ever,And my joy bloom on for ever!"
she dried her face with her long hair, and was about to depart, when
her eyes suddenly fell upon the young man who was sitting under the
tree, and she turned towards him immediately. The young man rose up to
await her approach. The fair maiden drew nearer, and said to him, "You
have exposed yourself to severe punishment for spying on the private
affairs of a maiden in the moonlight, but as you are a stranger, and
came here by accident, I will forgive you. But you must inform me truly
who you are, and how you came here, where no mortal has ever before set
youth answered with much politeness, "Forgive me, fair lady, for having
offended you without my knowledge or intention. When I arrived here,
after long wanderings, I found this nice place under the tree, and
prepared to camp here for the night. Your arrival interrupted me, and I
remained sitting here, thinking that I should not disturb you if I
looked on quietly."
maiden answered in the most friendly manner, "Come to our house
to-night. It is better to rest on cushions than on the cold moss."
The young man hesitated for a moment, uncertain whether he ought to accept her friendly invitation or[Pg 245]to
decline it. One of the birds in the tree remarked to the other, "He
would be a fool if he did not accept her offer." Perhaps the maiden did
not know the language of birds, for she added, "Fear nothing, my
friend. I have not invited you with any ill intention, but wish you
well with all my heart." The birds responded, "Go where you are asked,
but beware of giving any blood, lest you should sell your soul."
the youth went with her. Not far from the spring they arrived at a
beautiful garden, in which stood a magnificent mansion, which shone in
the moonlight as if the roof and walls were made of gold and silver.
When the youth entered, he passed through very splendid apartments,
each grander than the last; hundreds of tapers were burning in gold
chandeliers, and everywhere diffused a light like that of day. At
length they reached a room where an elegant supper was laid out, and
two chairs stood at the table, one of silver and the other of gold. The
maiden sat down on the golden chair, and invited the youth to take the
other. White-robed damsels served up and removed the dishes, but they
spoke no word, and trod as softly as if on cats' feet. After supper the
youth remained[Pg 246] alone
with the royal maiden, and they kept up a lively conversation, till a
woman in red garments appeared to remind them that it was bedtime.
the maiden showed the young man to another room, where stood a silken
bed with cushions of down, after which she retired. He thought he must
have gone to heaven with his living body, for he never expected to find
such luxuries on earth. But he could never afterwards tell whether it
was the delusion of dreams or whether he actually heard voices round
his bed crying out words which chilled his heart—"Give no blood!"
morning the maiden asked him whether he would not like to stay here,
where the whole week was one long holiday. And as the youth did not
answer immediately, she added, "I am young and fair, as you see
yourself, and I am under no one's authority, and can do what I like.
Until now, it never entered my head to marry, but from the moment when
I saw you, other thoughts came suddenly into my mind, for you please
me. If we should both be of one mind, let us wed without delay. I
possess endless wealth and goods, as you may easily convince yourself
at every step, and thus I can live in royal state day by day. What[Pg 247]ever your heart desires, that can I provide for you."
cajoleries of the fair maid might well have turned the youth's head,
but by good fortune he remembered that the birds had called her the
Hell-Maiden, and had warned him to give her no blood, and that he had
received the same warning at night, though whether sleeping or waking
he knew not. He therefore replied, "Dear lady, do not be angry with me
if I tell you candidly that marriage should not be rushed upon at
racehorse speed, but requires longer consideration. Pray therefore
allow me a few days for reflection, until we are better acquainted."
"Why not?" answered the fair maid. "I am quite content that you should
think on the matter for a few weeks, and set your mind at rest."
the youth might feel dull, the maiden led him from one part of the
magnificent house to another, and showed him all the rich storehouses
and treasure-chambers, thinking that it might soften his heart. All
these treasures were the result of magic, for the maiden could have
built such a palace with all its contents on any day and at any place
with the aid of Solomon's Seal. But everything was unsubstantial, for
it was woven of wind,[Pg 248] and
dissolved again into the wind, without leaving a trace behind. But the
youth was not aware of this, and looked upon all the glamour as reality.
day the maiden led him into a secret chamber, where a gold casket stood
on a silver table. This she showed him, and then said, "Here is the
most precious of all my possessions, the like of which is not to be
found in the whole world. It is a costly golden ring. If you will marry
me, I will give it you for a keepsake, and it will make you the
happiest of all mankind. But in order that the bond of our love should
last for ever, you must give me three drops of blood from the little
finger of your left hand in exchange for the ring."
youth turned cold when he heard her ask for blood, for he remembered
that his soul was at stake. But he was crafty enough not to let her
notice his emotion, and not to refuse her, but asked carelessly what
were the properties of the ring.
maiden answered, "No one living has been able to fathom the whole power
of this ring, and no one can completely explain the secret signs
engraved upon it. But, even with the imperfect knowledge of its
properties which I possess, I can perform many wonders which no other
creature can accom[Pg 249]plish.
If I put the ring on the little finger of my left hand, I can rise in
the air like a bird and fly whithersoever I will. If I place the ring
on the ring-finger of my left hand, I become invisible to all eyes,
while I myself can see everything that passes around me. If I put the
ring on the middle finger of my left hand, I become invulnerable to all
weapons, and neither water nor fire can hurt me. If I place it on the
index finger of my left hand, I can create all things which I desire
with its aid; I can build houses in a moment, or produce other objects.
As long as I wear it on the thumb of my left hand, my hand remains
strong enough to break down rocks and walls. Moreover, the ring bears
other secret inscriptions which, as I said before, no one has yet been
able to explain; but it may readily be supposed that they contain many
important secrets. In ancient times, the ring belonged to King Solomon,
the wisest of kings, and in whose reign lived the wisest of men. At the
present day it is unknown whether the ring was formed by divine power
or by human hands; but it is supposed that an angel presented the ring
to the wise king."
When the youth heard the fair one speak in this way, he determined immediately to endeavour to[Pg 250]possess
himself of the ring by craft, and therefore pretended that he could not
believe what he had heard. He hoped by this means to induce the maiden
to take the ring out of the casket to show him, when he might have an
opportunity of possessing himself of the talisman. But he did not
venture to ask her plainly to show him the ring. He flattered and
cajoled her, but the only thought in his mind was to get possession of
the ring. Presently the maiden took the key of the casket from her
bosom as if to unlock it; but she changed her mind, and replaced it,
saying, "There's plenty of time for that afterwards."
few days later, their conversation reverted to the magic ring, and the
youth said, "In my opinion, the things which you tell me of the power
of your ring are quite incredible."
the maiden opened the casket and took out the ring, which shone through
her fingers like the brightest sun-ray. Then she placed it in jest on
the middle finger of her left hand, and told the youth to take a knife
and stab her with it wherever he liked, for it would not hurt her. The
youth protested against the proposed experiment; but, as she insisted,
he was obliged to humour her. At first he[Pg 251] began
in play, and then in earnest to try to strike the maiden with the
knife; but it seemed as if there was an invisible wall of iron between
them. The blade would not pierce it, and the maiden stood before him
unhurt and smiling. Then she moved the ring to her ring-finger, and in
an instant she vanished from the eyes of the youth, and he could not
imagine what had become of her. Presently she stood before him smiling,
in the same place as before, holding the ring between her fingers.
"Let me try," said he, "whether I can also do these strange things with the ring."
The maiden suspected no deceit, and gave it to him.
youth pretended he did not quite know what to do with it and asked, "On
which finger must I place the ring to become invulnerable to sharp
weapons?" "On the ring-finger of the left hand," said the maiden,
smiling. She then took the knife herself and tried to strike him, but
could not do him any harm. Then the youth took the knife from her and
tried to wound himself, but he found that this too was impossible. Then
he asked the maiden how he could cleave stones and rocks with the ring.
She took him to the enclosure where stood a block of granite a fathom
high. "Now[Pg 252] place
the ring," said the maiden, "on the thumb of your left hand, and then
strike the stone with your fist, and you will see the strength of your
hand." The youth did so, and to his amazement he saw the stone shiver
into a thousand pieces under the blow. Then he thought, "He who does
not seize good fortune by the horns is a fool, for when it has once
flown, it never returns." While he was still jesting about the
destruction of the stone, he played with the ring, and slipped it
suddenly on the ring-finger of his left hand. Then cried the maiden,
"You will remain invisible to me until you take off the ring again."
But this was far from the young man's thoughts. He hurried forwards a
few paces, and then moved the ring to the little finger of his left
hand, and soared into the air like a bird. When the maiden saw him
flying away, she thought at first that this experiment too was only in
jest, and cried out, "Come back, my friend. You see now that I have
told you the truth." But he who did not return was the youth, and when
the maiden realised his treachery, she broke out into bitter
lamentations over her misfortune.
The youth did not cease his flight till he arrived, some days later, at the house of the famous sorcerer[Pg 253]who
had taught him the language of birds. The sorcerer was greatly
delighted to find that his pupil's journey had turned out so
successfully. He set to work at once to read the secret inscriptions on
the ring, but he spent seven weeks before he could accomplish it. He
then gave the young man the following instructions how to destroy the
Northern Frog:—"You must have a great iron horse cast, with small
wheels under each foot, so that it can be moved backwards and forwards.
You must mount this, and arm yourself with an iron spear two fathoms
long, which you will only be able to wield when you wear the magic ring
on the thumb of your left hand. The spear must be as thick as a great
birch-tree in the middle, and both ends must be sharpened to a point.
You must fasten two strong chains, ten fathoms long, to the middle of
the spear, strong enough to hold the frog. As soon as the frog has
bitten hard on the spear, and it has pierced his jaws, you must spring
like the wind from the iron horse to avoid falling into the monster's
throat, and must fix the ends of the chains into the ground with iron
posts so firmly that no force can drag them out again. In three or four
days' time the strength of the frog will be so far exhausted that[Pg 254] you
can venture to approach it. Then place Solomon's ring on the thumb of
your left hand, and beat the frog to death. But till you reach it, you
must keep the ring constantly on the ring-finger of your left hand,
that the monster cannot see you, or it would strike you dead with its
long tail. But when you have accomplished all this, take great care not
to lose the ring, nor to allow anybody to deprive you of it by a trick."
friend thanked the sorcerer for his advice, and promised to reward him
for his trouble afterwards. But the sorcerer answered, "I have learned
so much magic wisdom by deciphering the secret inscriptions on the
ring, that I need no other profit for myself." Then they parted, and
the young man hastened home, which was no longer difficult to him, as
he could fly like a bird wherever he wished.
reached home in a few weeks, and heard from the people that the
horrible Northern Frog was already in the neighbourhood, and might be
expected to cross the frontier any day. The king caused it to be
proclaimed everywhere that if any one could destroy the frog, he would
not only give him part of his kingdom, but his daughter in marriage
likewise. A few days later, the young man came before the[Pg 255] king,
and declared that he hoped to destroy the monster, if the king would
provide him with what was necessary; and the king joyfully consented.
All the most skilful craftsmen of the neighbourhood were called
together to construct first the iron horse, next the great spear, and
lastly the iron chains, the links of which were two inches thick. But
when all was ready, it was found that the iron horse was so heavy that
a hundred men could not move it from its place. The youth was therefore
obliged to move the horse away alone, with the help of his ring.
frog was now hardly four miles away, so that a couple of bounds might
carry it across the frontier. The young man now reflected how he could
best deal with the monster alone, for, as he was obliged to push the
heavy iron horse from below, he could not mount it, as the sorcerer had
directed him. But he unexpectedly received advice from the beak of a
raven, "Mount upon the iron horse, and set the spear against the
ground, and you can then push yourself along as you would push a boat
from the shore." The young man did so, and found that he was able to
proceed in this way. The monster at once opened its jaws afar off,
ready to receive the[Pg 256] expected
prey. A few fathoms more, and the man and the iron horse were in the
monster's jaws. The young man shook with horror, and his heart froze to
ice, but he kept his wits about him, and thrust with all his might, so
that the iron spear which he held upright in his hand, pierced the jaws
of the monster. Then he leaped from the iron horse, and sprang away
like lightning as the monster clashed his jaws together. A hideous
roar, which was heard for many miles, announced that the Northern Frog
had bitten the spear fast. When the youth turned round, he saw one
point of the spear projecting a foot above the upper jaw, and concluded
that the other was firmly fixed in the lower one; but the frog had
crushed the iron horse between his teeth. The young man now hastened to
fasten the chains in the ground, for which strong iron posts several
fathoms long had been prepared.
death-struggles of the monster lasted for three days and three nights,
and when it reared itself, it struck the ground so violently with its
tail, that the earth was shaken for fifty miles round. At length, when
it was too weak to move its tail any longer, the young man lifted a
stone with the help of his ring, which twenty men could not have[Pg 257] moved, and beat the monster about the head with it until no further sign of life was visible.
was the rejoicing when the news arrived that the terrible monster was
actually dead. The victor was brought to the capital with all possible
respect, as if he had been a powerful king. The old king did not need
to force his daughter to the marriage, for she herself desired to marry
the strong man who had alone successfully accomplished what others had
not been able to effect with the aid of a whole army. After some days,
a magnificent wedding was prepared. The festivities lasted a whole
month, and all the kings of the neighbouring countries assembled to
thank the man who had rid the world of its worst enemy. But amid the
marriage festival and the general rejoicings it was forgotten that the
monster's carcass had been left unburied, and as it was now decaying,
it occasioned such a stench that no one could approach it. This gave
rise to diseases of which many people died. Then the king's son-in-law
determined to seek help from the sorcerer of the East. This did not
seem difficult to him with the aid of his ring, with which he could fly
in the air like a bird.[Pg 258]
the proverb says that injustice never prospers, and that as we sow we
reap. The king's son-in-law was doomed to realise the truth of this
adage with his stolen ring. The Hell-Maiden left no stone unturned,
night or day, to discover the whereabouts of her lost ring. When she
learned through her magic arts that the king's son-in-law had set out
in the form of a bird to visit the sorcerer, she changed herself into
an eagle, and circled about in the air till the bird for which she was
waiting came in sight. She recognised him at once by the ring, which he
carried on a riband round his neck. Then the eagle swooped upon the
bird, and at the moment that she seized him in her claws she tore the
ring from his neck with her beak, before he could do anything to
prevent her. Then the eagle descended to the earth with her prey, and
they both stood together in their former human shapes. "Now you have
fallen into my hands, you rascal," cried the Hell-Maiden. "I accepted
you as my lover, and you practised deceit and theft against me: is that
my reward? You robbed me of my most precious jewel by fraud, and you
hoped to pass a happy life as the king's son-in-law; but now we have
turned over a new[Pg 259] leaf.
You are in my power, and you shall atone to me for all your villainy."
"Forgive me, forgive me," said the king's son-in-law. "I know well that
I have treated you very badly, but I heartily repent of my fault." But
the maiden answered, "Your pleadings and your repentance come too late,
and nothing can help you more. I dare not overlook your offence, for
that would bring me disgrace, and make me a byword among the people.
Twice have you sinned against me: for, firstly, you have despised my
love; and, secondly, you have stolen my ring; and now you must suffer
your punishment." As she spoke, she placed the ring on the thumb of her
left hand, took the man on her arm like a doll, and carried him away.
This time she did not take him to a magnificent palace, but to a cavern
in the rocks where chains were hanging on the walls. The maiden grasped
the ends of the chains and fettered the man hand and foot, so that it
was impossible for him to escape, and she said in anger, "Here shall
you remain a prisoner till your end. I will send you so much food every
day, that you shall not die of hunger, but you need never expect to
escape." Then she left him.
The king and his daughter endured a time of[Pg 260] terrible
anxiety as weeks and weeks passed by, and the traveller neither
returned nor sent any tidings. The king's daughter often dreamed that
her consort was in great distress, and therefore she begged her father
to assemble the sorcerers from all parts, in hopes that they might
perhaps be able to give some information respecting what had happened
to him, and how he could be rescued. All the sorcerers could say was
that he was still alive, but in great distress, and they could neither
discover where he was, nor how he could be found. At length a famous
sorcerer from Finland was brought to the king, who was able to inform
him that his son-in-law was kept in captivity in the East, not by a
human being, but by a more powerful creature. Then the king sent
messengers to the East to seek for his lost son-in-law. Fortunately
they met with the old sorcerer who had read the inscriptions on
Solomon's Seal, and had thus learned wisdom which was hidden from all
others. The sorcerer soon discovered what he wished to know, and said,
"The man is kept prisoner by magic art in such and such a place, but
you cannot release him without my help, so I must go with you myself."
They set out accordingly, and in a few days, led[Pg 261] by
the birds, they reached the cavern in the rock where the king's
son-in-law had already languished for seven years in captivity. He
recognised the sorcerer immediately, but the latter did not know him,
he was so much worn and wasted. The sorcerer loosed his chains by his
magic art, took him home, and nursed and tended him till he had
recovered sufficient strength to set out on his journey. He reached his
destination on the very day that the old king died, and was chosen
king. Then came days of joy after long days of suffering; and he lived
happily till his end, but he never recovered the magic ring, nor has it
ever since been seen by human eyes.
succeeding prose sections are short, and chiefly contain stories from
Jannsen's collections, of many of which I have given only a brief
Several of these, given by Jannsen, may be briefly narrated.
THE CHURCH AT REVEL.
was formerly an unimportant place, and the inhabitants wished to make
it famous by building a church. They contracted with the great
architect Olaf to
erect it; and when it was completed, and he was about to fix the cross
on the summit, his wife cried out joyfully, "Olaf will come home to-day
with a thousand barrels of gold." But scarcely had[Pg 263] Olaf
fixed the cross in its place, when he slipped and fell to the ground,
and a toad and a snake sprang out of his mouth. The Devil wished to
destroy the church, but could not get near it; so he made a sling at
Pernau, and hurled a great rock at it. But the sling broke, and the
rock fell half-way between Pernau and Revel, where it now remains.
(Similar tales are related of the Devil in many countries, but are
perhaps commonest in Scandinavia.)
THE CHURCH AT PÜHALEPP.
Christian times there was a great alder forest in the island of
Dagö, where the people used to make sacrifices and hold festivals.
Afterwards the forest was hewn down, all but one tree, under which the
people wished to build a church. But the missionaries would not
consent, till a man advised them to yoke two oxen to the cart in which
the building materials should be loaded, and then let them wander at
will. Where they halted, the church should be built.
So the oxen were driven to the alder forest, where there was plenty of grass, and after being[Pg 264] allowed
to graze awhile they were brought back and yoked to the cart. They
returned to the heath and began to feed, and the church was erected on
that spot and named the Church of Pühalepp.
Devil thought to destroy it by hurling two great rocks at it at night
from a hill, after having carefully noted its position in the daytime.
He missed his aim in the darkness, but mounted his mare and rode to see
what damage was done. Just as he reached the church the cock crew, and
he was forced to turn round and ride back to hell. But the marks of the
mare's hoofs are still to be seen where he heard the cock crow.
story relates how the Devil pulled down a church which was in course of
erection, and tore up the very foundations. But a wise man told the
people to take two white calves, dropped on that night, harness them to
a cart, and build the church where they stopped, which was accordingly
THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY CROSS.
blind nobleman of Vastemois, near Fellin, was driving out one day, when
his coachman saw a splendid golden cross. His master ordered him to
drive up to it; and on touching it, he recovered his sight. In
gratitude, he built a church on the spot, which was afterwards
destroyed in war-time, and only the walls left standing. The people
were too poor to rebuild it, but from the ruins grew a tree which all
regarded as holy. The then over-lord commanded them to fell it, and as
they refused, he did so himself, but was immediately struck blind.
THE CHURCH AT FELLIN.
former days, the church of Fellin did not stand where it stands at
present, but close to the lake. It was prophesied that it should stand
till seven brothers should be present in it together. When this
happened by chance, the church began to sink. The congregation escaped,
except the seven brothers,[Pg 266]who
remained in it, but it sunk till even the summit of the spire had
disappeared. The site is now a marshy meadow, but if any one is there
near midnight on New Year's Eve, he hears entrancing voices, and cannot
move from the spot till the church clock beneath the ground has struck
the last stroke of twelve.
story of the wicked rich brother who oppresses the poor one is not
unknown in Esthonia. There is a hideous story of such a pair, relating
how when the poor brother died his widow begged grave-clothing from the
wife of the rich one. When the rich brother returned, he scolded his
wife, and rushed off, cursing and swearing, to strip the body of his
dead brother, even in his coffin, crying, "That's mine! that's mine!"
But when he would have laid the naked corpse back in the coffin, it
clung round his neck, and he was compelled to carry it about with him
for the rest of his life.
THE RICH BROTHER AND THE POOR ONE.
Once upon a time there were two brothers, one of whom had abundance, but the other was very poor.[Pg 268] As
is the way of the world, riches do not heed poverty, and thus it was
with the two brothers. The rich one would not give the poor one even a
spoonful of soup.
One day the rich brother gave a great feast. The poor brother expected to have been invited, but his hopes were vain.
at once a bright idea struck him, and he went to the river and caught
three large pike. "I'll carry these to my brother," said he, "and
perhaps they will bring me a blessing."
took the fish to his brother, and addressed him humbly, like a rich
lord. But it made no difference. His brother only said, "Many thanks,"
turned his back, and went off.
could the poor brother do? He also turned round, and went his way,
sorrowfully reflecting, "He is my brother in name indeed, but he's
worse than an entire stranger!"
at once he saw an old man sitting by the road, who rose up quickly and
went towards him, saying, "Friend, why do you look so sorrowfully on
"Sorrowful or not," said the poor brother, "it goes well enough with me! I brought my rich[Pg 269] brother three fish for a present, and he didn't even give me a drink in return!"
"But you perhaps got something else?" asked the old man.
"Oh, yes, 'many thanks,'" said he; "that's your something else!"
The old man answered, "Give me your 'many thanks,' and you shall become a rich man."
"Take it, and welcome," said the poor brother.
the old man instructed him as follows:—"Go home, look for Poverty
under the stove, and throw it into the river, and you shall see how it
will fare with you."
he went his way, and the poor brother returned home. He found Poverty
under the stove, seized it, and flung it into the river.
this, everything which he undertook succeeded with the poor brother,
and it was a real marvel to see how he got on. His fields grew fine
harvests, and his barns and stables were soon more imposing than his
the rich brother saw it, he grew envious, and wanted to know how the
other had got wealthy. He was always teasing him to know how it was,
and at last the other got tired of it, and said,[Pg 270] "How did I get rich? I dragged Poverty out from under the stove, and threw it in the water. That's how it was!"
"That's how it was," cried the rich brother. "Wait a bit! your sort shan't outdo me!"
he went to the river and fished for Poverty, from whom he supposed that
his poor brother had received everything. He fished and fished, and
would do nothing else, till at length he held Poverty fast.
he inspected and examined it at home, it slipped through his fingers
and hid under his stove, and nobody could get it out again.
After this everything went worse and worse with the rich brother, till he became at last quite poor, and remained so.
story, which I have not abridged, is a well-known Sclavonic legend. It
is probably connected with the story of the three apes which forms the
introduction to that of "Khaleefeh the Fisherman," in the Thousand and One Nights.
plague continued to rage in Eastern Europe long after it had
disappeared from the West, and down to a very recent period.
Consequently we find plague-legends, which have almost died out in the
British Islands, except in Scotland, rife among all the Eastern
nations. The Plague-demon is usually represented as female, but in the
Esthonian legends it is masculine.
The Plague once seated himself in a boat which was returning to the Island of Rogö, which
had hitherto escaped his ravages, in the shape of a tall black man with
a great scythe in his hand. He arrived among the dead crew, and at once
sprang on shore and began to destroy the inhabitants. Some saw the
Plague himself, and others not. If any one saw him, his heart froze
with terror[Pg 272] before he could speak a word. One
night during a violent storm, an old woman saw him enter her cottage as
she was sitting alone spinning; but she gathered courage to cry out,
"Welcome, in God's name." He stopped short, muttering, "That's enough,"
returned to the boat in which he had come, and went out to sea. The
storm ceased as he departed, and since then he has never reappeared.
the Island of Nuckö he appeared as an old grey man, with a taper
in one hand and a staff in the other, a book under his arm, and a
three-cornered hat on his head. As he went from house to house, he
looked up the names of his victims in his book, let his taper shine on
their faces to make sure that he had made no mistake, and touched the
doomed with his staff. A peasant once saw him enter his cottage, and
touch all with his staff, except himself and the infant in the cradle.
All the others died before cockcrow.[Pg 273]
time the Plague was driving down a steep path which led to a village,
when he upset his vehicle and broke the axle. A passing peasant helped
him to bind it up, and directed him to the smithy; but he declared that
he was the Plague, and for the good deed that had been done him all the
village should be spared. So he turned his horse, drove back up the
hill, and vanished like a cloud. When the news was brought to the
village, bonfires of rejoicing were lighted, and kept up for many days.
commence with wolf-stories, which are rather numerous in Esthonia. One
of them relates the creation of the wolf. When God had created the
world, he asked the Devil what he thought of his work; and the Devil
objected that there was no animal to scare away mischievous boys from
the woods when the bear and the snake were sunk in their winter sleep.
Thereupon God gave leave to the Devil to make such an animal as he
wished, and to give it life by the formula, "Stand up and devour the
Devil." Then the Devil made the wolf's back of a strong hedge-pole, the
head of a tree-stump, the breast of twigs and leather, and the loins of
made the tail of a fern-frond, and the feet of alder-stumps, but he put
a stone into its breast for the heart. He clothed the body with[Pg 275]moss,
burning coals formed the eyes, and iron nails were used for the teeth
and claws. He then named the creature Wolf, and pronounced the spell as
far as "devour," when the creature raised his head and snorted. The
Devil was too much frightened to finish, but afterwards plucked up
courage, and repeated the spell, substituting God's name for his own.
But the wolf took no notice, and when the Devil appealed to God, he was
only told to use the same spell; so he stood a long way off and
pronounced it. Then the wolf rushed at the Devil, who was forced to
hide under a stone to save himself. Since then the wolf has been the
Devil's worst enemy, and pursues him everywhere.
story relates how God forbade the wolf to eat the flocks and the dogs,
but to receive his share when the farmers baked. But one day a farmer's
wife threw the wolf a red-hot stone instead of bread, and he burnt his
muzzle, which has been black ever since. Since then he devours whatever
falls in his way.
farmer, hemmed in by a herd of wolves, succeeded in driving them away,
but was followed home by one of them. When he took his provisions out
of the sledge, he laid his hand on a square object like a[Pg 276] whetstone.
He then remembered hearing that the wolves sometimes receive food from
heaven, and thought this might be their portion. So he flung it to the
wolf, saying, "Take it if it's yours;" and the wolf seized it and
is an odd story of a young woman who was carrying an apron full of eggs
to her mother. She was overtaken by a violent thunderstorm, and
sheltered under a fir-tree. She felt something moving among the eggs,
and was frightened; but presently she was still more terrified when she
found a great wolf tugging at her apron. She dropped it in her fright,
and a black cat jumped out and darted away, pursued by the wolf. When
she reached the village, her mother told her that the black cat was the
Devil, who had taken that form in order to play her a trick or do her
some injury, but had been scared away by the wolf.
Have we here an inverted and distorted echo of "Little Red Riding Hood?"
peasant who was broiling fish in the forest at nightfall met with a
still more alarming adventure. A black man appeared to him, and
commanded him to fetch him a spit, for he wanted to broil fish too. But
the spit which he wanted was a long sharp[Pg 277] stake,
and the peasant himself was to be the fish. In his terror the peasant
called "St. George's Dogs" to his aid, and a pack of wolves rushed out,
and chased the Devil away, while the peasant drew out the axle from his
cart-wheel, and supplied its place with a pole of rowan-wood.
story relates how an unfortunate wolf missed getting his usual rations
from God, and set out to forage for himself. After sparing some whom he
met, and allowing others to escape, he fell into the hands of a young
peasant, who gave him a sound beating and then took refuge in a tree.
The wolf's relatives, seeking revenge, climbed on each other's back
till they nearly reached the peasant, who upset them by a stratagem,
and they fell, many breaking their limbs. Since then a wolf always runs
away when he sees a man.
Were-wolves are sometimes alluded to in Esthonian tales.
following stories are of a more miscellaneous character, and some of
them are sufficiently interesting to be given with little or no
THE MAN WITH THE BAST SHOES.
upon a time a traveller came to a village and asked for a night's
lodging. He was handsomely dressed, but he had coarse bast shoes on his
feet. A friendly farmer received the stranger hospitably, and offered
him accommodation. At night the man asked his host, "Farmer, where
shall I put my bast shoes?" The farmer showed him the place, but he
added, "No, my shoes must spend the night among the feathered people,
for that is what they are used to. So I would rather hang them on the
perch in the hen-house." The farmer laughed at the joke, and permitted
him to do so.
soon as all were in their first sleep, the owner of the bast shoes rose
from his bed, slipped into the hen-house, tore the shoes to pieces, and
scattered the coarse plaits among the fowls. Next morning he went to
the master of the house and complained, "Farmer, my property was badly
damaged last night." Said the farmer, "Well, let whoever has done the
mischief make it good." This was just[Pg 279] what
the stranger wanted, and he immediately caught the dappled cock, and
put him into his knapsack, "for," said he, "he's the culprit; last
night he pecked at my shoes till he spoiled them." Then he proceeded on
his journey with the cock.
the evening of the same day he arrived at a neighbouring village, and
asked again for accommodation. At night he put the cock in the farmer's
sheep-pen, and excused himself by saying, "My cock has not been used to
anything else since he was a chicken." But at night he strangled the
bird, and then complained, "The sheep have killed my cock." He
indemnified himself by taking a fat ram from the flock, for he held by
the farmer's adage, "He who has done the mischief must pay for it."
a similar stratagem he exchanged the ram at the third village for an
ox, and at last the ox for a horse. He soon contrived to get a sledge
too, and drove merrily over hill and dale, till the stones flew behind
him, while he contrived new schemes and stratagems. On the way, he
encountered Master Reynard, who persuaded him by entreaties and
cajoleries to take him into his sledge. After a while, the wolf and
bear joined them, and likewise found a place in the sledge; but this
made the load[Pg 280] too
heavy, and when they came to a curve in the road, the side-poles of the
sledge gave way. Then the man sent his companions to fetch wood to make
a new pole. But none of the three brought a proper one back. The fox
and wolf brought thin sticks in their mouths, and the bear brought a
whole pine-tree, roots and all. Then the man went himself, and soon
found the wood which he wanted. Meantime, the wild beasts availed
themselves of the opportunity, and sprang upon the horse and devoured
it. But they stuffed the skin nicely with straw, and set it carefully
up, so that it stood again on its four legs as if it was alive.
the man came back with the pole, he mended the sledge and harnessed the
horse again. "Oho! now we'll drive on." But alas! the horse would not
move. Then the man looked at the red scamp, the grey rascal, and the
brown villain, and said angrily, "Give me my horse back." But the wild
beasts answered, "You killed it yourself, while we were running about
looking for wood by your orders."
they stood quarrelling and disputing, till Reynard considered how he
could best put an end to the dispute and save his own skin. He knew[Pg 281] of
a pit in the neighbourhood which the hunter had dug for a wolf-trap,
and covered loosely with thin twigs. "The matter won't be settled by
quarrelsome and angry words," cried he; "but come, let the four of us
go to the wolf-pit; we will all tread on it at once, and whoever falls
in shall be adjudged guilty." The rest agreed, and when they stood on
the twigs, they broke under their weight, and precipitated them into
the pit, and even Reynard was unable to escape. He had trusted too much
to the lightness of his tread, and had trodden on the twigs without
consideration. Now they were all in the trap together, and none of them
could hope to escape. The time seemed long to them, and their hunger
soon became too great to bear.
of all, the wild beasts attacked the man of the bast shoes and devoured
him, and then Reynard had to resign his life. Last of all the bear
throttled the wolf. Then came the hunter and gave the bear his quietus.
Thus all the four rascals experienced the truth of the proverb, "As the
deed, so the reward."
WHY THE DOG AND CAT AND THE CAT AND MOUSE ARE ENEMIES.
former days all animals dwelt together in peace; but then it befell
that the dogs killed and devoured hares and other game in the open
fields. The other animals complained, and when God called the dogs to
account, they objected that they had nothing to eat. Their plea was
admitted, and leave was granted them to eat fallen animals. The dogs
requested and received a written license to that effect, which was
intrusted to the sheep-dog, as the largest and most reliable among
them. But in autumn the sheep-dog was very busy, and could neither
carry it about with him nor find a dry place for it, so he intrusted it
to the care of his friend the tom-cat, who had always a safe room, or
sat on the stove. The cat arched his back, and rubbed it against his
friend's foot, as a promise of fidelity, and the document was laid on
the stove, where it was supposed to be safe.
day the dogs found a pony in the wood which had fallen, so they fell
upon it, and killed and devoured it. The animals complained again,[Pg 283] and
the dogs were pronounced guilty; but they appealed to the license, in
which it was not stated whether the fallen animals should be dead or
alive. When the sheep-dog and the cat sought for the document, they
could not find it, for the mice had nibbled it away.
cats were so angry with the mice that they began to kill and eat them,
and have done so ever since; but the dogs likewise became enemies of
the cats, as they are at present.
sheep-dog did not venture to return to his fellows without the license.
They waited for him in vain, and at last followed him, and sought for
him everywhere, but could not find him. So whenever a dog sees another
he runs to ask him whether he has not got the missing document with him.
THE ORIGIN OF THE SWALLOW.
wife of a drunkard was sitting weaving with her child on her lap. She
wore a black cloth on her head, a red neckerchief, a white shift, and a
coal-black petticoat. When her husband came home, he pushed his wife
away, and destroyed the loom[Pg 284] with
an axe. Then he killed the child with a blow of his fist, and beat his
wife till she fell senseless. But Ukko took pity on her, and changed
her into a swallow. As she was trying to escape, the man struck at her
with a knife, but only cleft her tail. Since that time she flies about
twittering her misfortunes, and does not shun men like other birds, but
builds her nest against their houses.
THE SPIDER AND THE HORNET.
upon a time some boys burned a hornet's nest because the hornet stung
them so badly. Then the hornet went to God to complain that the boys
despised His gifts, and scattered broken victuals about in the fields.
But God objected that she had no witnesses. So she went to the king of
the spiders, and made him return with her to God, who asked if he had
seen the boys scatter food about the fields. But the spider said that
it was not their fault, for they had no table to put their bread on.
Then God praised the spider for speaking the truth, and condemned the
hornet for telling lies and hating her neighbours without a[Pg 285] cause.
He then struck her on the back with his staff, and cast her down from
heaven to earth, so that she broke in two with the fall. But he let the
spider down with a cord, because he had spoken the truth. Since then
the spider has had a net and a web, by which he can climb up and down
as he likes, as on a cord; but the hornet still retains the pinched-in
body which she got when falling from heaven, but is fat enough at both
THE OFFICIOUS FLIES.
few dozen flies once attacked a cart-horse who was feeding quietly in a
thicket, and lamented that they were not more numerous, that they might
make him lie down. Presently his skin began to itch, when he lay down,
rolled first on once side and then on the other, and crushed them all.
Esthonian Ballads, &c.
For reasons stated in the Preface, only a few specimens are here given.
THE HERALD OF WAR
To the Finnish Bridge when drivingOn the west wind's path of copper,On the pathway of the rainbow,With the king's note in my wallet,And his mandate in my bosom,And upon my tongue defiance,What was that which came to meet me,And what horror to confound me?Nothing but an ancient corbie,Aged crow, a wretched creature;[Pg 288]With his beak he sniffed around him,And his nostrils snuffed the vapour;He had smelt the war already,When his nostrils snuffed the vapour,That he might discern the messageWhich I carried in my pocket;He had smelt the war already,And the scent of blood allured him.To the Finnish Bridge when drivingOn the west wind's path of copper,On the pathway of the rainbow,Swift I hastened as an envoy,With the king's note in my wallet,And his mandate in my bosom,In my charge the leader's orders,And upon my tongue the secretThat the flags in breeze should flutter,And the lance-points smite in battle,And the swords should do their duty.What was that which came to meet me,And what horror to confound me?'Twas an eagle came to meet me,Eagle fierce with beak hooked sharply;With his beak he sniffed around him,Through the mist he pushed his nostrils,By the scent he sought to fathomWhat was in the envoy's message.He had smelt the war already,And the scent of blood had reached him,And he went to call his comrades.To the Finnish Bridge when driving[Pg 289]On the west wind's path of copper,On the pathway of the rainbow,Swift I hastened on as envoy,With the king's note in my wallet,And his mandate in my bosom,And upon my tongue the secretAnd the leader's secret ordersThat the flags should now be waving,And the spear-points should be sharpened,What was it I there encountered,And what met me there to vex me?'Twas the raven's son that met me,'Twas a carrion-bird that met me;With his beak he sniffed around him,And his nostrils snuffed the vapour,That the meaning of my messageWith his nose he thus might fathom.He had smelt the war already,And the scent of blood had reached him,And he went to call his comrades.To the Finnish Bridge when drivingOn the west wind's path of copper,On the pathway of the rainbow,While I hastened as an envoy,With the king's note in my wallet,And his mandate in my bosom,And upon my tongue the secret,And the leader's secret orders,What was that which came to meet me,And what horror to confound me?'Twas a little wolf that met me,[Pg 290]And a bear that followed closely;With their snouts they sniffed around them,Through the mist they pushed their nostrils,Seeking thus to probe the secret,And the letter to discover;They had smelt the war already,And the scent of blood had reached them,And they ran to spread the tidings.To the Finnish Bridge when drivingOn the west wind's path of copper,On the pathway of the rainbow,While I hastened as an envoy,With the king's note in my wallet,And his mandate in my bosom,And upon my tongue defiance,With the leader's secret ordersThat the flags unfurled should flutter,And the spear-points do their duty,And the axes should be lifted,And the swords should flash in sunlight,What was that which came to meet me,And what horror to confound me?It was Famine met me tottering,Tottering Famine, chewing garbage;With her nose she sniffed around her,That the meaning of my messageWith her nose she thus might fathom;For she smelt the war already,And the scent of blood had reached her,And she went to call her comrades.To the Finnish Bridge while driving[Pg 291]On the west wind's path of copper,On the pathway of the rainbow,While I hastened as an envoy,With the king's note in my wallet,And his mandate in my bosom,On my tongue the secret ordersThat the flags unfurled should flutter,And the spear-points do their duty,And the axes and the fish-spearsAll should do the work before them,What was that which came to meet me,What unlooked-for horror met me?'Twas the Plague I there encountered,Crafty Plague, the people's murderer,Of the sevenfold war-plagues direst;With his nose he sniffed around him,And his nostrils snuffed the vapour,Seeking thus to probe the matter,And the letter to discover;He had smelt the war already,And the scent of blood had lured himAnd he went to call his comrades.After this my horse I halted,Yoked him with a yoke of iron,Fettered him with Kalev's fetters,That he stood as rooted firmly,From the spot to move unable,While I pondered and considered,Deeply in my heart reflectingIf the profit of my journeyWere not lost in greater evil[Pg 292]For the war brings wounds and bloodshed,And the war has throat of serpent.Wherefore then should I the battle,Whence springs only pain and murder,Forth to peaceful homesteads carry?Let a message so accursedIn the ocean-depths be sunken,There to sleep in endless slumber,Lost among the spawn of fishes,There to rest in deepest caverns,Rather than that I should take it,Till it spreads among the hamlets.Thereupon I took the mandateWhich I carried in my wallet,And amid the depths I sunk it,Underneath the waves of ocean,Till the waves to foam had torn it,And to mud had quite reduced it,While the fishes fled before it.Thus was hushed the sound of warfare,Thus was lost the news of battle.
THE BLUE BIRD (I.).
Siuru, bird and Taara's daughter,Siuru, bird of azure plumage,With the shining silken feathers,[Pg 293]Was not reared by care of father,Nor the nursing of her mother,Nor affection of her sisters,Nor protection of her brothers;For the bird was wholly nestless,Like a swallow needing shelter,Where her down could grow to feathersAnd her wing-plumes could develop;Yet did Ukko wisely order,And the aged Father's wisdomGave his daughter wind-like pinions,Wings of wind and cloudy pinions,That his child might float upon them,Far into the distance soaring.Siuru, bird and Taara's daughter,Siuru, bird of azure plumage,Sailed afar into the distance,And she winged her way to southward,Then she turned again to northward,And above three worlds went sailing.One of these the world of maidens,One where dwell the curly-headed,One the home of prattling children,Where the little ones are tended.Siuru bird outspread her pinions,Wide her silken plumes expanding,Soaring far aloft to heaven.To the fortress of the sunlight,To the lighter halls of moonlight,To the little gate of copper.Siuru bird outspread her pinions,[Pg 294]Wide her silken plumes expanding,Soaring far into the distance,Till she reached her home at evening;And her father asked his daughter,"Whither have thy pinions borne thee?Whither didst thou take thy journey?Tell me what thine eyes have witnessed."Siuru heard and comprehended,And without alarm she answered,"Where my pinions have conveyed me,There I scattered feathers from me;Where I sailed above the country,There I scattered silken feathers;Where I shook and flapped my pinions,From my tail I dropped the feathers:What I saw with marten keenness,Might be told in seven narrations,Or in eight tales be recounted.Long I flew on path of thunder,On the roadway of the rainbow,And the hailstone's toilsome pathway;Onwards thus I sailed light-hearted,Heedless, far into the distance,And at length three worlds discovered,One the country of the maidens,One where dwell the curly-headed,One the world of prattling children,Where the little ones are tended;There it is they rear the fair ones,Slender-grown and silky-headed.""What thou heardest? speak and tell me;[Pg 295]What thou sawest, let us hear it.""What then heard I, sire beloved,What beheld, O dearest father?There I heard the sport of maidens,There I heard their mirth and sadness,Jesting from the curly-headed,From the little infants wailing.Wherefore, said the maidens, jesting,Do the curly-headed childrenDwell in solitude and lonely,Living thus apart from nurses?And they asked in every quarter,Are no youths in starry regions,Youths of starry birth or other,Who might dwell among the maidens,And amuse the curly-headed?"Ukko heard her words, and answered,"Soar away, my dearest daughter,Steer thy flight again to southward,Sailing far away till evening,Turning then unto the northward,Come before the doors of Ukko,To the western mother's threshold,To the northern mother's region;Seek thou there the youths to woo them,Youths that may release the maidens."
THE BLUE BIRD (II.).
This totally different ballad is from Neus, Ehstnische Volkslieder,
p. 42. Neus quotes Ganander as saying that one of the names of the
Finnish Wood-goddess (the spouse of Tapio) is Blue Bird. The present
poem is possibly a fragment of a creation-myth.
Lo, the bird with azure plumage,Feathers blue and eyes all lustrous,Took her flight, and hovered, soaring,Over forests four in number,Over four woods in succession;One a wood of golden pine-trees,One a wood of beauteous apples,One a wood of silver birch-trees,One a swampy wood of lime-trees.
Lo, the bird with azure plumage,Feathers blue and eyes all lustrous,Took her flight, and hovered, soaring,Over lakelets three in number;Three the lakes all close together,And the first with wine was brimming,And with ale the second foaming,And the third with mead was frothing.
[Pg 297]Lo, the bird with azure plumage,Feathers blue and eyes all lustrous,Took her flight, and hovered, soaring,Over three fields in succession,Over three fields close together;In the first the oats were growing,In the second rye was waving,In the third the wheat was springing.
And the wood of golden pine-treesWas a wood of youthful striplings,And the wood of beauteous applesWas a wood of youthful maidens,And the wood of silver birch-treesWas a wood of youthful matrons,And the swampy wood of lime-treesWas a wood of men all aged.
And the lake with wine o'erbrimmingWas the lake of youthful striplings,And the lake with ale up-foamingWas the lake of youthful matrons,And the lake where mead was frothingWas the lake of youthful maidens.
And the field where oats were growingWas the field of youthful striplings,And the field where rye was wavingWas the field of youthful matrons,And the field where wheat was springingWas the share of youthful maidens.
CHARM AGAINST SNAKE-BITE.
Thou beneath the bridge, the smooth woodUnder juniper the rough wood,Thou the arrow in the willows,O thou challenged gold-adorned one,Earthy-coloured, liver-coloured,Rainy-hued and hazel-coloured,Firebrand hued and cherry-coloured,Do not thou in secret bite me,Nor attack me unsuspecting,Do not bite me when I heed not.
present list contains only books and papers which have been used or
specially consulted in the preparation of this work, or which have been
published in England on Esthonian tales and poems. Other books quoted
are referred to in the Index and Glossary.
Blumberg, G. Quellen und Realien des Kalewipoeg, nebst Varianten und Ergänzungen. Dorpat, 1869. An important work, including a map, from which we have borrowed some particulars.
Boecler, J.M. Der
Ehsten abergläubische Gebräuche, Weisen, und Gewohnheiten,
von Johann Wolfgang Boecler, weiland Pastor zu Kusal in Ehstland und
des Consistorii in Reval Assessor. Mit auf die Gegenwart
bezüglichen Anmerkungen beleuchtet von Dr. F. R. Kreutzwald. St. Petersburg, 1854.
Bouquet from the Baltic. All the Year Round, IV. pp. 80-83 (Nov. 3, 1860). Relates to some of the legends of Vanemuine, the Kalevipoeg, and Koit and Aemmerik.
Dido, A. Littérature orale des Estoniens. Bibliographie
des principale Publications de l'Estonie, et en particulier celle du
Dr. Frédéric Reinhold Kreutzwald, 1804-1882. Revue des Traditions Populaires, VIII. pp. 353-365, 424-428, 485-495 (1893). Contains an ac[Pg 300]count, more or less detailed, of the longer tales in Kreutzwald's collection, a few being fully translated.
Dido, A. Kalewipoeg, Épopée nationale Estonienne. Op. cit. IX. pp. 137-155 (1894). Contains an analysis of the poem.
Donner, A. Kalevipoeg jumalaistarulliselta ja historialliselta kannalta katsottuna. Suomi, ser. 2, vol. 5 (1866). Discusses the mythological and historical character of the Kalevipoeg, and its relations to the Kalevala, especially as regards the episode of Kullervo.
Esthonia. Encyclopædia Britannica (ed. IX.), vol. viii. pp. 561-563 (1878).
Gould, S.B. The Kalevipoeg. Fraser's Magazine,
vol. 78, pp. 534-544 (Oct. 1868). A fragmentary account of the poem,
containing some curious errors, such as "Sarwik" being translated
"Hell;" but with useful comments, especially on the Kalevide's voyage
to the North Pole. We cannot see, however, that the Esthonian writings
exhibit the melancholy character of a depressed nation, as Mr.
Grosse, Julius. Die Abenteuer des Kalewiden: Esthnisches Volksmärchen. Leipzig, 1875. An abstract of the story in hexameters.
Israel, C. Chr. Kalewipoeg, oder die Abenteuer des Kalewiden, Eine estnische Sage frei nach dem Estnischen bearbeitet. Frankfort-on-Main, 1873. A good prose abstract of the poem, somewhat rearranged.
Jannsen, Harry. Märchen und Sagen des estnischen Volkes.
Two Parts. Dorpat, 1881, and Riga, 1888. A selection of tales from
various sources, some few being from Kreutzwald's collection. Valuable
notes are appended to Part ii.
----. Esthnische Märchen. Veckenstedt's Zeitschrift für Volkskunde, i. pp. 314-317 (1889). Contains three[Pg 301] stories:
"The Devil's Visit," "The Talking Trees" (Christian variant), and "The
Officious Flies." Jannsen states that the first has already been
printed in the original, and that the other two are from his own
Kalewipoeg, Üks ennemuistene Eesti jut.
Kuopio, 1862. An earlier edition was published at Dorpat with the
German translation; but this is the one which I have consulted in the
preparation of this work.
Kalewipoeg, eine estnische Sage, zusammengestellt von F.R. Kreutzwald, verdeutscht von C. Reinthal und Dr. Bertram. Dorpat, 1857-61.
Kirby, W.F. On the Progress of Folk-lore Collections in Esthonia, with special reference to the work of Pastor Jacob Hurt. Papers and Transactions of International Folk-lore Congress, 1892, pp. 427-429. Based on information published by, or received from, Prof. Kaarle Krohn of Helsingfors.
Kreutzwald, F.R. Eestirahwa ennemuisted jutud. Rahwa suust korjanud ja üleskirjutanud.
Helsingfors, 1866. One of the first and best collections of Esthonian
tales, but without notes. I believe that several later editions have
been published at Dorpat.
---- Ehstnische Märchen, aufgezeichnet von Friedrich Kreutzwald. Aus dem Ehstnischen übersetzt von F. Löwe, ehem. Bibliothekar a. d. Petersb. Akad. d. Wissenschaften. Nebst einem Vorwort von Anton Schiefner, und Anmerkungen von Reinhold Köhler und Anton Schiefner.
Halle, 1869. Includes a very close translation of most of the longer
tales in Kreutzwald's collection. The notes, too, are valuable.
Kreutzwald, Fr., und Neus, H. Mythische und Magische Lieder der Ehsten. St. Petersburg, 1854. In Esthonian and German.[Pg 302]
Krohn, Kaarle. Die geographische Verbreitung Estnischer Lieder. Kuopio, 1892. This paper is noted in "Folk-Lore," IV. p. 19 (March, 1893).
Latham, R. Nationalities of Europe. 2 vols. London, 1863. Vol. i. includes translations of fourteen of the principal poems from Neus' Ehstnische Volkslieder.
Löwe, F. See Kreutzwald.
Neus, H. Ehstnische Volkslieder. Urschrift und Uebersetzung. Reval, 1850-52. A collection of 119 poems in Esthonian and German, with notes.
Oxenford, John. The Esthonian Hercules. Macmillan's Magazine, vol. 30, pp. 263-272 (July 1874). An outline of the story of the Kalevipoeg, based on Israel's little book.
Popular Poetry of the Esthonians.
Varieties of Literature from Foreign Literary Journals and Original
MSS., now first published. London, 1795, pp. 22-44 (reprinted in
"Folk-Lore Journal," iii. pp. 156-169, 1885). Contains twelve specimens
of lyric poetry, undoubtedly based on some German publication. The
anonymous compiler makes the strange mistake of regarding the
Esthonians as "Sclavonians."
Schiefner, A. Ueber die ehstnische Sage vom Kalewipoeg. Bulletin de l'Académie Imperiale des Sciences de St. Petersburg, ii. pp. 273-297 (1860). Contains an analysis of the first thirteen cantos of the Kalevipoeg, with reference to Finnish, Scandinavian, and Classical parallels.
Schott. Ueber finnische und estnische Heldensagen, Monatsbericht d. k.k. Akademie der Wissenschaft zu Berlin, 1866, pp. 249-260.