Wednesday, September 25, 2013

[Scandinavian Folklore] The Wonderful Plough

There was once a farmer who was master of one of the little black dwarfs
that are the blacksmiths and armourers, and he got him in a very curious
way. On the road leading to this farmer's ground there stood a stone
cross, and every morning as he went to his work he used to stop and
kneel down before this cross, and pray for some minutes.

On one of these occasions he noticed on the cross a pretty, bright
insect, of such a brilliant hue that he could not recollect having ever
before seen the like in an insect. He wondered greatly at this, but
still he did not disturb it. The insect did not remain long quiet, but
ran without ceasing backwards and forwards upon the cross, as if it was
in pain and wanted to get away.

Next morning the farmer again saw the very same insect, and again it was
running to and fro in the same state of uneasiness. The farmer began now
to have some suspicions about it, and thought to himself--

"Would this now be one of the little black enchanters? It runs about
just like one that has an evil conscience, as one that would, but
cannot, get away."

A variety of thoughts and conjectures passed through his mind, and he
remembered what he had often heard from his father and other old people,
that when any of the underground people chance to touch anything holy
they are held fast and cannot quit the spot, and so they are extremely
careful to avoid all such things.

"But," thought he, "you may even be something else, and I should,
perhaps, be committing a sin in taking the little insect away."

So he let it stay where it was.

When, however, he twice again found it in the same place, and still
running about with the same signs of uneasiness, he said--

"No, it is not all right with it, so now, in the name of God."

He made a grasp at the insect, which resisted and clung fast to the
stone; but he held it tight, and tore it away by main force, and lo!
then he found he had, by the top of the head, a little ugly black chap,
about six inches long, screeching and kicking at a furious rate.

The farmer was greatly astounded at this sudden transformation. Still he
held his prize fast, and kept calling to him, while he administered to
him a few smart slaps--

"Be quiet, be quiet, my little man! If crying was to do the business, we
might look for heroes in swaddling-clothes. We'll just take you with us
a bit, and see what you are good for."

The little fellow trembled and shook in every limb, and then began to
whimper most piteously, and begged of the farmer to let him go.

"No, my lad," replied the farmer, "I will not let you go till you tell
me who you are, and how you came here, and what trade you know that
enables you to earn your bread in the world."

At this the little man grinned and shook his head, but said not a word
in reply, only begging and praying the more to get loose. The farmer
thought he must now entreat him if he would coax any information out of
him. But it was all to no purpose. He then adopted the contrary method,
and whipped and slashed him, but just to as little effect. The little
black thing remained as dumb as the grave, for this species is the most
malicious and obstinate of all the underground folk.

The farmer now got angry, and said--

"Do but be quiet, my child. I should be a fool to put myself into a
passion with such a little brat. Never fear, I shall soon make you tame

So saying, he ran home with him, and clapped him into a black sooty iron
pot, and put the iron lid upon it, and laid on the top of the lid a
great heavy stone. Then he set the pot in a dark, cold room, and as he
was going out, said to him--

"Stay there, now, and freeze till you are black! I'll engage that at
last you will answer me civilly."

Twice a week the farmer went regularly into the room and asked his
little black captive if he would answer him now, but the little one
still obstinately persisted in his silence. The farmer had, without
success, pursued this course for six weeks, at the end of which time his
prisoner at last gave up. One day, as the farmer was opening the room
door, of his own accord he asked him to come and take him out of his
dirty, gloomy dungeon, promising that he would now cheerfully do all
that was wanted of him.

The farmer first ordered him to tell him his history. The black one

"My dear friend, you know it just as well as I do, or else you never
would have had me here. You see I happened by chance to come too near
the cross, a thing we little people may not do, and then I was held
fast, and obliged instantly to let my body become visible. In order that
people might not recognise me, I turned myself into an insect. But you
found me out. When we get fastened to holy or consecrated things we can
never get away from them unless a man takes us off. That, however, does
not happen without plague and annoyance to us; though, indeed, to say
the truth, the staying fastened there is not over pleasant. So I
struggled against you too, for we have a natural aversion to let
ourselves be taken in a man's hand."

"Ho, ho! is that the tune with you?" cried the farmer. "You have a
natural aversion have you? Believe me, my sooty friend, I have just the
same for you, and so you shall be away without a moment's delay, and we
will lose no time in making our bargain with each other. But you must
first make me some present."

"What you will you have only to ask," said the little one, "silver and
gold, and precious stones, and costly furniture--all shall be thine in
less than an instant."

"Silver and gold, and precious stones, and all such glittering fine
things, will I none," said the farmer. "They have turned the heart and
broken the neck of many a one before now, and few are they whose lives
they make happy. I know that you are handy smiths, and have many a
strange thing with you that other smiths know nothing about. So, come
now, swear to me that you will make me an iron plough, such that the
smallest foal may be able to draw it without being tired, and then run
off with you as fast as your legs will carry you." So the black swore,
and then the farmer cried out--

"Now, in the name of God. There you are at liberty," and the little one
vanished like lightning.

Next morning, before the sun was up, there stood in the farmer's yard a
new iron plough, and he yoked his dog, Water, to it; and though it was
of the size of an ordinary plough, Water drew it with ease through the
heaviest clayland, and it tore up prodigious furrows. The farmer used
this plough for many years, and the smallest foal or the leanest little
horse could draw it through the ground, to the amazement of every one
who beheld it, without turning a single hair.

This plough made a rich man of the farmer, for it cost him no
horse-flesh, and he led a cheerful and contented life by means of it.

Hereby we may see that moderation holds out the longest, and that it is
not good to covet too much.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

[Japanese Fairy Tale] My Lord Bag of Rice

Long, long ago there lived, in Japan a brave warrior known to all as
Tawara Toda, or "My Lord Bag of Rice." His true name was Fujiwara
Hidesato, and there is a very interesting story of how he came to
change his name.

One day he sallied forth in search of adventures, for he had the nature
of a warrior and could not bear to be idle. So he buckled on his two
swords, took his huge bow, much taller than himself, in his hand, and
slinging his quiver on his back started out. He had not gone far when
he came to the bridge of Seta-no-Karashi spanning one end of the
beautiful Lake Biwa. No sooner had he set foot on the bridge than he
saw lying right across his path a huge serpent-dragon. Its body was so
big that it looked like the trunk of a large pine tree and it took up
the whole width of the bridge. One of its huge claws rested on the
parapet of one side of the bridge, while its tail lay right against the
other. The monster seemed to be asleep, and as it breathed, fire and
smoke came out of its nostrils.

At first Hidesato could not help feeling alarmed at the sight of this
horrible reptile lying in his path, for he must either turn back or
walk right over its body. He was a brave man, however, and putting
aside all fear went forward dauntlessly. Crunch, crunch! he stepped now
on the dragon's body, now between its coils, and without even one
glance backward he went on his way.

He had only gone a few steps when he heard some one calling him from
behind. On turning back he was much surprised to see that the monster
dragon had entirely disappeared and in its place was a strange-looking
man, who was bowing most ceremoniously to the ground. His red hair
streamed over his shoulders and was surmounted by a crown in the shape
of a dragon's head, and his sea-green dress was patterned with shells.
Hidesato knew at once that this was no ordinary mortal and he wondered
much at the strange occurrence. Where had the dragon gone in such a
short space of time? Or had it transformed itself into this man, and
what did the whole thing mean? While these thoughts passed through his
mind he had come up to the man on the bridge and now addressed him:

"Was it you that called me just now?"

"Yes, it was I," answered the man: "I have an earnest request to make
to you. Do you think you can grant it to me?"

"If it is in my power to do so I will," answered Hidesato, "but first
tell me who you are?"

"I am the Dragon King of the Lake, and my home is in these waters just
under this bridge."

"And what is it you have to ask of me!" said Hidesato.

"I want you to kill my mortal enemy the centipede, who lives on the
mountain beyond," and the Dragon King pointed to a high peak on the
opposite shore of the lake.

"I have lived now for many years in this lake and I have a large family
of children and grand-children. For some time past we have lived in
terror, for a monster centipede has discovered our home, and night
after night it comes and carries off one of my family. I am powerless
to save them. If it goes on much longer like this, not only shall I
lose all my children, but I myself must fall a victim to the monster. I
am, therefore, very unhappy, and in my extremity I determined to ask
the help of a human being. For many days with this intention I have
waited on the bridge in the shape of the horrible serpent-dragon that
you saw, in the hope that some strong brave man would come along. But
all who came this way, as soon as they saw me were terrified and ran
away as fast as they could. You are the first man I have found able to
look at me without fear, so I knew at once that you were a man of great
courage. I beg you to have pity upon me. Will you not help me and kill
my enemy the centipede?"

Hidesato felt very sorry for the Dragon King on hearing his story, and
readily promised to do what he could to help him. The warrior asked
where the centipede lived, so that he might attack the creature at
once. The Dragon King replied that its home was on the mountain Mikami,
but that as it came every night at a certain hour to the palace of the
lake, it would be better to wait till then. So Hidesato was conducted
to the palace of the Dragon King, under the bridge. Strange to say, as
he followed his host downwards the waters parted to let them pass, and
his clothes did not even feel damp as he passed through the flood.
Never had Hidesato seen anything so beautiful as this palace built of
white marble beneath the lake. He had often heard of the Sea King's
palace at the bottom of the sea, where all the servants and retainers
were salt-water fishes, but here was a magnificent building in the
heart of Lake Biwa. The dainty goldfishes, red carp, and silvery trout,
waited upon the Dragon King and his guest.

Hidesato was astonished at the feast that was spread for him. The
dishes were crystallized lotus leaves and flowers, and the chopsticks
were of the rarest ebony. As soon as they sat down, the sliding doors
opened and ten lovely goldfish dancers came out, and behind them
followed ten red-carp musicians with the koto and the samisen. Thus the
hours flew by till midnight, and the beautiful music and dancing had
banished all thoughts of the centipede. The Dragon King was about to
pledge the warrior in a fresh cup of wine when the palace was suddenly
shaken by a tramp, tramp! as if a mighty army had begun to march not
far away.

Hidesato and his host both rose to their feet and rushed to the
balcony, and the warrior saw on the opposite mountain two great balls
of glowing fire coming nearer and nearer. The Dragon King stood by the
warrior's side trembling with fear.

"The centipede! The centipede! Those two balls of fire are its eyes. It
is coming for its prey! Now is the time to kill it."

Hidesato looked where his host pointed, and, in the dim light of the
starlit evening, behind the two balls of fire he saw the long body of
an enormous centipede winding round the mountains, and the light in its
hundred feet glowed like so many distant lanterns moving slowly towards
the shore.

Hidesato showed not the least sign of fear. He tried to calm the Dragon

"Don't be afraid. I shall surely kill the centipede. Just bring me my
bow and arrows."

The Dragon King did as he was bid, and the warrior noticed that he had
only three arrows left in his quiver. He took the bow, and fitting an
arrow to the notch, took careful aim and let fly.

The arrow hit the centipede right in the middle of its head, but
instead of penetrating, it glanced off harmless and fell to the ground.

Nothing daunted, Hidesato took another arrow, fitted it to the notch of
the bow and let fly. Again the arrow hit the mark, it struck the
centipede right in the middle of its head, only to glance off and fall
to the ground. The centipede was invulnerable to weapons! When the
Dragon King saw that even this brave warrior's arrows were powerless to
kill the centipede, he lost heart and began to tremble with fear.

The warrior saw that he had now only one arrow left in his quiver, and
if this one failed he could not kill the centipede. He looked across
the waters. The huge reptile had wound its horrid body seven times
round the mountain and would soon come down to the lake. Nearer and
nearer gleamed fireballs of eyes, and the light of its hundred feet
began to throw reflections in the still waters of the lake.

Then suddenly the warrior remembered that he had heard that human
saliva was deadly to centipedes. But this was no ordinary centipede.
This was so monstrous that even to think of such a creature made one
creep with horror. Hidesato determined to try his last chance. So
taking his last arrow and first putting the end of it in his mouth, he
fitted the notch to his bow, took careful aim once more and let fly.

This time the arrow again hit the centipede right in the middle of its
head, but instead of glancing off harmlessly as before, it struck home
to the creature's brain. Then with a convulsive shudder the serpentine
body stopped moving, and the fiery light of its great eyes and hundred
feet darkened to a dull glare like the sunset of a stormy day, and then
went out in blackness. A great darkness now overspread the heavens, the
thunder rolled and the lightning flashed, and the wind roared in fury,
and it seemed as if the world were coming to an end. The Dragon King
and his children and retainers all crouched in different parts of the
palace, frightened to death, for the building was shaken to its
foundation. At last the dreadful night was over. Day dawned beautiful
and clear. The centipede was gone from the mountain.

Then Hidesato called to the Dragon King to come out with him on the
balcony, for the centipede was dead and he had nothing more to fear.

Then all the inhabitants of the palace came out with joy, and Hidesato
pointed to the lake. There lay the body of the dead centipede floating
on the water, which was dyed red with its blood.

The gratitude of the Dragon King knew no bounds. The whole family came
and bowed down before the warrior, calling him their preserver and the
bravest warrior in all Japan.

Another feast was prepared, more sumptuous than the first. All kinds of
fish, prepared in every imaginable way, raw, stewed, boiled and
roasted, served on coral trays and crystal dishes, were put before him,
and the wine was the best that Hidesato had ever tasted in his life. To
add to the beauty of everything the sun shone brightly, the lake
glittered like a liquid diamond, and the palace was a thousand times
more beautiful by day than by night.

His host tried to persuade the warrior to stay a few days, but Hidesato
insisted on going home, saying that he had now finished what he had
come to do, and must return. The Dragon King and his family were all
very sorry to have him leave so soon, but since he would go they begged
him to accept a few small presents (so they said) in token of their
gratitude to him for delivering them forever from their horrible enemy
the centipede.

As the warrior stood in the porch taking leave, a train of fish was
suddenly transformed into a retinue of men, all wearing ceremonial
robes and dragon's crowns on their heads to show that they were
servants of the great Dragon King. The presents that they carried were
as follows:

   First, a large bronze bell.
   Second, a bag of rice.
   Third, a roll of silk.
   Fourth, a cooking pot.
   Fifth, a bell.

Hidesato did not want to accept all these presents, but as the Dragon
King insisted, he could not well refuse.

The Dragon King himself accompanied the warrior as far as the bridge,
and then took leave of him with many bows and good wishes, leaving the
procession of servants to accompany Hidesato to his house with the

The warrior's household and servants had been very much concerned when
they found that he did not return the night before, but they finally
concluded that he had been kept by the violent storm and had taken
shelter somewhere. When the servants on the watch for his return caught
sight of him they called to every one that he was approaching, and the
whole household turned out to meet him, wondering much what the retinue
of men, bearing presents and banners, that followed him, could mean.

As soon as the Dragon King's retainers had put down the presents they
vanished, and Hidesato told all that had happened to him.

The presents which he had received from the grateful Dragon King were
found to be of magic power. The bell only was ordinary, and as Hidesato
had no use for it he presented it to the temple near by, where it was
hung up, to boom out the hour of day over the surrounding neighborhood.

The single bag of rice, however much was taken from it day after day
for the meals of the knight and his whole family, never grew less--the
supply in the bag was inexhaustible.

The roll of silk, too, never grew shorter, though time after time long
pieces were cut off to make the warrior a new suit of clothes to go to
Court in at the New Year.

The cooking pot was wonderful, too. No matter what was put into it, it
cooked deliciously whatever was wanted without any firing--truly a very
economical saucepan.

The fame of Hidesato's fortune spread far and wide, and as there was no
need for him to spend money on rice or silk or firing, he became very
rich and prosperous, and was henceforth known as My Lord Bag of Rice.

[Aesop's Fables] The Cock and the Pearl

A cock was once strutting up and down the farmyard among the
hens when suddenly he espied something shinning amid the straw.
"Ho! ho!" quoth he, "that's for me," and soon rooted it out from
beneath the straw.  What did it turn out to be but a Pearl that by
some chance had been lost in the yard?  "You may be a treasure,"
quoth Master Cock, "to men that prize you, but for me I would
rather have a single barley-corn than a peck of pearls."

Precious things are for those that can prize them.

Friday, September 20, 2013

[Aesop's Fables] The Stag at the Pool

A stag saw his shadow reflected in the water, and greatly admired the
size of his horns, but felt angry with himself for having such weak
feet. While he was thus contemplating himself, a Lion appeared at the
pool. The Stag betook himself to flight, and kept himself with ease at a
safe distance from the Lion, until he entered a wood and became
entangled with his horns. The Lion quickly came up with him and caught
him. When too late he thus reproached himself: "Woe is me! How have I
deceived myself! These feet which would have saved me I despised, and I
gloried in these antlers which have proved my destruction."

What is most truly valuable is often underrated.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

[Arabian Folktale] The King of Persia and the Princess of the Sea

There once was a king of Persia, who at the beginning of his reign
had distinguished himself by many glorious and successful
conquests, and had afterwards enjoyed such profound peace and
tranquility as rendered him the happiest of monarchs. His only
occasion for regret was that he had no heir to succeed him in the
kingdom after his death. One day, according to the custom of his
royal predecessors during their residence in the capital, he held
an assembly of his courtiers, at which all the ambassadors and
strangers of renown at his court were present. Among these there
appeared a merchant from a far-distant country, who sent a message
to the king craving an audience, as he wished to speak to him about
a very important matter. The king gave orders for the merchant to
be instantly admitted; and when the assembly was over, and all the
rest of the company had retired, the king inquired what was the
business which had brought him to the palace.

'Sire,' replied the merchant, 'I have with me, and beg your majesty
to behold, the most beautiful and charming slave it would be
possible to find if you searched every corner of the earth; if you
will but see her, you will surely wish to make her your wife.'

The fair slave was, by the king's commands, immediately brought in,
and no sooner had the king beheld a lady whose beauty and grace
surpassed anything he had ever imagined, than he fell passionately
in love with her, and determined to marry her at once. This was

So the king caused the fair slave to be lodged in the next finest
apartment to his own, and gave particular orders to the matrons and
the women-slaves appointed to attend her, that they should dress
her in the richest robe they could find, and carry her the finest
pearl necklaces, the brightest diamonds, and other the richest
precious stones, that she might choose those she liked best.

The King of Persia's capital was situated in an island; and his
palace, which was very magnificent, was built upon the sea-shore;
his window looked towards the sea; and the fair slave's, which was
pretty near it, had also the same prospect, and it was the more
pleasant on account of the sea's beating almost against the foot of
the wall.

At the end of three days the fair slave, magnificently dressed, was
alone in her chamber, sitting upon a sofa, and leaning against one
of the windows that faced the sea, when the king, being informed
that he might visit her, came in. The slave hearing somebody walk
in the room, immediately turned her head to see who it was. She
knew him to be the king; but without showing the least surprise, or
so much as rising from her seat to salute or receive him, she
turned back to the window again as if he had been the most
insignificant person in the world.

The King of Persia was extremely surprised to see a slave of so
beauteous a form so very ignorant of the world. He attributed this
to the narrowness of her education, and the little care that had
been taken to instruct her in the first rules of civility. He went
to her at the window, where, notwithstanding the coldness and
indifference with which she had just now received him, she suffered
herself to be admired, kissed and embraced as much as he pleased,
but answered him not a word.

'My dearest life,' said the king, 'you neither answer, nor by any
visible token give me the least reason to believe that you are
listening to me. Why will you still keep to this obstinate silence,
which chills me? Do you mourn for your country, your friends, or
your relations? Alas! is not the King of Persia, who loves and
adores you, capable of comforting, and making you amends for the
loss of everything in the world?'

But the fair slave continued her astonishing reserve; and keeping
her eyes still fixed upon the ground, would neither look at him nor
utter a word; but after they had dined together in absolute
silence, the king went to the women whom he had assigned to the
fair slave as her attendants, and asked them if they had ever heard
her speak.

One of them presently made answer, 'Sire, we have neither seen her
open her lips, nor heard her speak any more than your majesty has
just now; we have rendered her our services; we have combed and
dressed her hair, put on her clothes, and waited upon her in her
chamber; but she has never opened her lips, so much as to say, That
is well, or, I like this. We have often asked, Madam, do you want
anything? Is there anything you wish for? Do but ask and command
us: but we have never been able to draw a word from her. We cannot
tell whether her silence proceeds from pride, sorrow, stupidity, or
dumbness; and this is all we can inform your majesty.'

The King of Persia was more astonished at hearing this than he was
before: however, believing the slave might have some reason for
sorrow, he endeavoured to divert and amuse her, but all in vain.
For a whole year she never afforded him the pleasure of a single

At length, one day there were great rejoicings in the capital,
because to the king and his silent slave-queen there was born a son
and heir to the kingdom. Once more the king endeavoured to get a
word from his wife. 'My queen,' he said, 'I cannot divine what your
thoughts are; but, for my own part, nothing would be wanting to
complete my happiness and crown my joy but that you should speak to
me one single word, for something within me tells me you are not
dumb: and I beseech, I conjure you, to break through this long
silence, and speak but one word to me; and after that I care not
how soon I die.'

At this discourse the fair slave, who, according to her usual
custom, had hearkened to the king with downcast eyes, and had given
him cause to believe not only that she was dumb, but that she had
never laughed in her life, began to smile a little. The King of
Persia perceived it with a surprise that made him break forth into
an exclamation of joy; and no longer doubting but that she was
going to speak, he waited for that happy moment with an eagerness
and attention that cannot easily be expressed.

At last the fair slave, breaking her long-kept silence, thus
addressed herself to the king: 'Sire,' said she, 'I have so many
things to say to your majesty, that, having once broken silence, I
know not where to begin. However, in the first place, I think
myself in duty bound to thank you for all the favours and honours
you have been pleased to confer upon me, and to implore Heaven to
bless and prosper you, to prevent the wicked designs of your
enemies, and not to suffer you to die after hearing me speak, but
to grant you a long life. Had it never been my fortune to have
borne a child, I was resolved (I beg your majesty to pardon the
sincerity of my intention) never to have loved you, as well as to
have kept an eternal silence; but now I love you as I ought to do.'

The King of Persia, ravished to hear the fair slave speak, embraced
her tenderly. 'Shining light of my eyes,' said he, 'it is
impossible for me to receive a greater joy than what you have now
given me.'

The King of Persia, in the transport of his joy, said no more to
the fair slave. He left her, but in such a manner as made her
perceive that his intention was speedily to return: and being
willing that his joy should be made public, he sent in all haste
for the grand vizier. As soon as he came, he ordered him to
distribute a thousand pieces of gold among the holy men of his
religion, who had made vows of poverty; as also among the hospitals
and the poor, by way of returning thanks to Heaven: and his will
was obeyed by the direction of that minister.

After the King of Persia had given this order, he returned to the
fair slave again. 'Madam,' said he, 'pardon me for leaving you so
abruptly, but I hope you will indulge me with some conversation,
since I am desirous to know several things of great consequence.
Tell me, my dearest soul, what were the powerful reasons that
induced you to persist in that obstinate silence for a whole year
together, though you saw me, heard me talk to you, and ate and
drank with me every day.'

To satisfy the King of Persia's curiosity, 'Think,' replied the
queen, 'whether or no to be a slave, far from my own country,
without any hopes of ever seeing it again,--to have a heart torn
with grief at being separated for ever from my mother, my brother,
my friends, and my acquaintance,--are not these sufficient reasons
for my keeping a silence your majesty has thought so strange and
unaccountable? The love of our native country is as natural to us
as that of our parents; and the loss of liberty is insupportable to
every one who is not wholly destitute of common sense, and knows
how to set a value on it.'

'Madam,' replied the king, 'I am convinced of the truth of what you
say; but till this moment I was of opinion that a person beautiful
like yourself, whom her evil destiny had condemned to be a slave,
ought to think herself very happy in meeting with a king for her

'Sire,' replied the fair slave, 'whatever the slave is, there is no
king on earth who can tyranise over her will. But when this very
slave is in nothing inferior to the king that bought her, your
majesty shall then judge yourself of her misery, and her sorrow,
and to what desperate attempts the anguish of despair may drive

The King of Persia, in great astonishment, said 'Madam, can it be
possible that you are of royal blood? Explain the whole secret to
me, I beseech you, and no longer increase my impatience. Let me
instantly know who are your parents, your brothers, your sisters,
and your relations; but, above all, what your name is.'

'Sire,' said the fair slave, 'my name is Gulnare, Rose of the Sea;
and my father, who is now dead, was one of the most potent monarchs
of the ocean. When he died, he left his kingdom to a brother of
mine, named Saleh, and to the queen, my mother, who is also a
princess, the daughter of another powerful monarch of the sea. We
enjoyed a profound peace and tranquility through the whole
kingdom, till a neighbouring prince, envious of our happiness,
invaded our dominions with a mighty army; and penetrating as far as
our capital, made himself master of it; and we had but just time
enough to save ourselves in an impenetrable and inaccessible place,
with a few trusty officers who did not forsake us in our distress.

'In this retreat my brother contrived all manner of ways to drive
the unjust invader from our dominions. One day "Sister," said he,
"I may fail in the attempt I intend to make to recover my kingdom;
and I shall be less concerned for my own disgrace than for what may
possibly happen to you. To prevent it, and to secure you from all
accident, I would fain see you married first: but in the miserable
condition of our affairs at present, I see no probability of
matching you to any of the princes of the sea; and therefore I
should be very glad if you would think of marrying some of the
princes of the earth I am ready to contribute all that lies in my
power towards it; and I am certain there is not one of them,
however powerful, but would be proud of sharing his crown with

'At this discourse of my brother's, I fell into a violent passion.
"Brother," said I, "you know that I am descended, as well as you,
by both father's and mother's side, from the kings and queens of
the sea, without any mixture of alliance with those of the earth;
therefore I do not intend to marry below myself, any more than they
did. The condition to which we are reduced shall never oblige me to
alter my resolution; and if you perish in the execution of your
design, I am prepared to fall with you, rather than to follow the
advice I so little expected from you."

'My brother, who was still earnest for the marriage, however
improper for me, endeavoured to make me believe that there were
kings of the earth who were nowise inferior to those of the sea.
This put me into a more violent passion, which occasioned him to
say several bitter words that stung me to the quick. He left me as
much dissatisfied with myself as he could possibly be with me; and
in this peevish mood I gave a spring from the bottom of the sea up
to the island of the moon.

'Notwithstanding the violent displeasure that made me cast myself
upon that island, I lived content in retirement. But in spite of
all my precautions, a person of distinction, attended by his
servants, surprised me sleeping, and carried me to his own house,
and wished me to marry him. When he saw that fair means would not
prevail upon me, he attempted to make use of force; but I soon made
him repent of his insolence. So at last he resolved to sell me;
which he did to that very merchant who brought me hither and sold
me to your majesty. This man was a very prudent, courteous, humane
person, and during the whole of the long journey, never gave me the
least reason to complain.

'As for your majesty,' continued Queen Gulnare, 'if you had not
shown me all the respect you have hitherto paid, and given me such
undeniable marks of your affection that I could no longer doubt of
it, I hesitate not to tell you plainly that I should not have
remained with you. I would have thrown myself into the sea out of
this very window, and I would have gone in search of my mother, my
brother, and the rest of my relations; and, therefore, I hope you
will no longer look upon me as a slave, but as a princess worthy of
your alliance.'

After this manner Queen Gulnare discovered herself to the King of
Persia, and finished her story. 'My charming, my adorable queen,'
cried he, 'what wonders have I heard! I must ask a thousand
questions concerning those strange and unheard-of things which you
have related to me. I beseech you to tell me more about the kingdom
and people of the sea, who are altogether unknown to me. I have
heard much talk, indeed, of the inhabitants of the sea, but I
always looked upon it as nothing but a tale or fable; but, by what
you have told me, I am convinced there is nothing more true; and I
have a very good proof of it in your own person, who are one of
them, and are pleased to condescend to be my wife; which is an
honour no other inhabitant on the earth can boast of besides
myself. There is one thing yet which puzzles me; therefore I must
beg the favour of you to explain it; that is, I cannot comprehend
how it is possible for you to live or move in the water without
being drowned. There are very few among us who have the art of
staying under water; and they would surely perish, if, after a
certain time, they did not come up again.'

'Sire,' replied Queen Gulnare, 'I shall with pleasure satisfy the
King of Persia. We can walk at the bottom of the sea with as much
ease as you can upon land; and we can breathe in the water as you
do in the air; so that instead of suffocating us, as it does you,
it absolutely contributes to the preservation of our lives. What is
yet more remarkable is, that it never wets our clothes; so that
when we have a mind to visit the earth, we have no occasion to dry
them. Our common language is the same as that of the writing
engraved upon the seal of the great prophet Solomon, the son of

'I must not forget to tell you, further, that the water does not in
the least hinder us from seeing in the sea; for we can open our
eyes without any inconvenience; and as we have quick, piercing
sight, we can discern any object as clearly in the deepest part of
the sea as upon land. We have also there a succession of day and
night; the moon affords us her light, and even the planets and the
stars appear visible to us. I have already spoken of our kingdoms;
but as the sea is much more spacious than the earth, so there are a
greater number of them, and of greater extent. They are divided
into provinces; and in each province there are several great
cities, well peopled. In short, there are an infinite number of
nations, differing in manners and customs, just as upon the earth.

'The palaces of the kings and princes are very sumptuous and
magnificent. Some of them are of marble of various colours; others
of rock-crystal, with which the sea abounds, mother of pearl,
coral, and of other materials more valuable; gold, silver, and all
sorts of precious stones are more plentiful there than on earth. I
say nothing of the pearls, since the largest that ever were seen
upon earth would not be valued among us; and none but the very
lowest rank of citizens would wear them.

'As we can transport ourselves whither we please in the twinkling
of an eye, we have no occasion for any carriages or riding-horses;
not but what the king has his stables, and his stud of sea-horses;
but they are seldom made use of, except upon public feasts or
rejoicing days. Some, after they have trained them, take delight in
riding them, and show their skill and dexterity in races; others
put them to chariots of mother-of-pearl, adorned with an infinite
number of shells of all sorts, of the brightest colours. These
chariots are open; and in the middle there is a throne upon which
the king sits, and shows himself to his subjects. The horses are
trained up to draw by themselves; so that there is no occasion for
a charioteer to guide them. I pass over a thousand other curious
particulars relating to these marine countries, which would be very
entertaining to your majesty; but you must permit me to defer it to
a future leisure, to speak of something of much greater
consequence. I should like to send for my mother and my cousins,
and at the same time to desire the king my brother's company, to
whom I have a great desire to be reconciled. They will be very glad
to see me again, after I have related my story to them, and when
they understand I am wife to the mighty king of Persia. I beseech
your majesty to give me leave to send for them: I am sure they will
be happy to pay their respects to you; and I venture to say you
will be extremely pleased to see them.'

'Madam,' replied the King of Persia, 'you are mistress; do whatever
you please; I will endeavour to receive them with all the honours
they deserve. But I would fain know how you would acquaint them
with what you desire, and when they will arrive, that I may give
orders to make preparation for their reception, and go myself in
person to meet them.'

'Sire,' replied the Queen Gulnare, 'there is no need of these
ceremonies; they will be here in a moment; and if your Majesty will
but look through the lattice, you shall see the manner of their

Queen Gulnare then ordered one of her women to bring her a brazier
with a little fire. After that she bade her retire, and shut the
door. When she was alone, she took a piece of aloes out of a box,
and put it into the brazier. As soon as she saw the smoke rise, she
repeated some words unknown to the King of Persia, who from a
recess observe with great attention all that she did. She had no
sooner ended, than the sea began to be disturbed. At length the sea
opened at some distance; and presently there rose out of it a tall,
handsome young man, with moustaches of a sea-green colour; a little
behind him, a lady, advanced in years, but of a majestic air,
attended by five young ladies, nowise inferior in beauty to the
Queen Gulnare.

Queen Gulnare immediately went to one of the windows, and saw the
king her brother, the queen her mother, and the rest of her
relations, who at the same time perceived her also. The company
came forward, borne, as it were, upon the surface of the waves.
When they came to the edge, they nimbly, one after another, sprang
up to the window, from whence Queen Gulnare had retired to make
room for them. King Saleh, the queen her mother, and the rest of
her relations, embraced her tenderly, with tears in their eyes, on
their first entrance.

After Queen Gulnare had received them with all imaginable honour,
and made them sit down upon a sofa, the queen her mother addressed
herself to her: 'Daughter,' said she, 'I am overjoyed to see you
again after so long an absence; and I am confident that your
brother and your relations are no less so. Your leaving us without
acquainting anybody with it involved us in inexpressible concern;
and it is impossible to tell you how many tears we have shed upon
that account. We know of no other reason that could induce you to
take such a surprising step, but what your brother told us of the
conversation that passed between him and you. The advice he gave
you seemed to him at that time very advantageous for settling you
handsomely in the world, and very suitable to the then posture of
our affairs. If you had not approved of his proposal, you ought not
to have been so much alarmed; and, give me leave to tell you, you
took the thing in a quite different light from what you ought to
have done. But no more of this; we and you ought now to bury it for
ever in oblivion: give us an account of all that has happened to
you since we saw you last, and of your present situation; but
especially let us know if you are satisfied.'

Queen Gulnare immediately threw herself at her mother's feet; and
after rising and kissing her hand, 'I own,' said she, 'I have been
guilty of a very great fault, and I am indebted to your goodness
for the pardon which you are pleased to grant me.' She then related
the whole of what had befallen her since she quitted the sea.

As soon as she had acquainted them with her having been sold to the
King of Persia, in whose palace she was at present; 'Sister,' said
the king her brother, 'you now have it in your power to free
yourself. Rise, and return with us into my kingdom, that I have
reconquered from the proud usurper who had made himself master of

The King of Persia, who heard these words from the recess where he
was concealed, was in the utmost alarm. 'Ah!' said he to himself,
'I am ruined; and if my queen, my Gulnare, hearkens to this advice,
and leaves me, I shall surely die.' But Queen Gulnare soon put him
out of his fears.

'Brother,' said she, smiling, 'I can scarce forbear being angry
with you for advising me to break the engagement I have made with
the most puissant and most renowned monarch in the world. I do not
speak here of an engagement between a slave and her master; it
would be easy to return the ten thousand pieces of gold that I cost
him; but I speak now of a contract between a wife and a husband,
and a wife who has not the least reason to complain. He is a
religious, wise, and temperate king. I am his wife, and he has
declared me Queen of Persia, to share with him in his councils.
Besides, I have a child, the little Prince Beder. I hope then
neither my mother, nor you, nor any of my cousins, will disapprove
of the resolution or the alliance I have made, which will be an
equal honour to the kings of the sea and the earth. Excuse me for
giving you the trouble of coming hither from the bottom of the
deep, to communicate it to you, and for the pleasure of seeing you
after so long a separation.'

'Sister,' replied King Saleh, 'the proposal I made you of going
back with us into my kingdom was only to let you see how much we
all love you, and how much I in particular honour you, and that
nothing in the world is so dear to me as your happiness.'

The queen confirmed what her son had just spoken, and addressing
herself to Queen Gulnare, said, 'I am very glad to hear you are
pleased; and I have nothing else to add to what your brother has
just said to you. I should have been the first to have condemned
you, if you had not expressed all the gratitude you owe to a
monarch that loves you so passionately, and has done such great
things for you.'

When the King of Persia, who was still in the recess, heard this he
began to love her more than ever, and resolved to express his
gratitude in every possible way.

Presently Queen Gulnare clapped her hands, and in came some of her
slaves, whom she had ordered to bring in a meal: as soon as it was
served up, she invited the queen her mother, the king her brother,
and her cousins, to sit down and take part of it. They began to
reflect, that without asking leave, they had got into the palace of
a mighty king, who had never seen nor heard of them, and that it
would be a great piece of rudeness to eat at his table without him.
This reflection raised a blush in their faces; in their emotion
their eyes glowed like fire, and they breathed flames at their
mouths and nostrils.

This unexpected sight put the King of Persia, who was totally
ignorant of the cause of it, into a dreadful consternation. Queen
Gulnare suspecting this, and understanding the intention of her
relations, rose from her seat, and told them she would be back in a
moment. She went directly to the recess, and recovered the King of
Persia from his surprise.

'Sir,' said she, 'give me leave to assure you of the sincere
friendship that the queen my mother and the king my brother are
pleased to honour you with: they earnestly desire to see you, and
tell you so themselves: I intended to have some conversation with
them by ordering a banquet for them, before I introduced them to
your majesty, but they are very impatient to pay their respects to
you: and therefore I desire your majesty would be pleased to walk
in, and honour them with your presence.'

'Madam,' said the King of Persia, 'I should be very glad to salute
persons that have the honour to be so nearly related to you, but I
am afraid of the flames that they breathe at their mouths and

'Sir,' replied the queen, laughing, 'you need not in the least be
afraid of those flames, which are nothing but a sign of their
unwillingness to eat in your palace, without your honouring them
with your presence, and eating with them.'

The King of Persia, encouraged by these words, rose up, and came
out into the room with his Queen Gulnare. She presented him to the
queen her mother, to the king her brother, and to her other
relations, who instantly threw themselves at his feet, with their
faces to the ground. The King of Persia ran to them, and lifting
them up, embraced them one after another. After they were all
seated, King Saleh began: 'Sir,' said he to the King of Persia, 'we
are at a loss for words to express our joy to think that the queen
my sister should have the happiness of falling under the protection
of so powerful a monarch. We can assure you she is not unworthy of
the high rank you have been pleased to raise her to; and we have
always had so much love and tenderness for her, that we could never
think of parting with her to any of the puissant princes of the
sea, who often demanded her in marriage before she came of age.
Heaven has reserved her for you, Sir, and we have no better way of
returning thanks to it for the favour it has done her, than by
beseeching it to grant your majesty a long and happy life with her,
and to crown you with prosperity and satisfaction.'

'Certainly,' replied the King of Persia, 'I cannot sufficiently
thank either the queen her mother, or you, Prince, or your whole
family, for the generosity with which you have consented to receive
me into an alliance so glorious to me as yours.' So saying, he
invited them to take part of the luncheon, and he and his queen sat
down at the table with them. After it was over, the King of Persia
conversed with them till it was very late; and when they thought it
time to retire, he waited upon them himself to the several rooms he
had ordered to be prepared for them.

Next day, as the King of Persia, Queen Gulnare, the queen her
mother, King Saleh her brother, and the princesses their relations,
were discoursing together in her majesty's room, the nurse came in
with the young Prince Beder in her arms. King Saleh no sooner saw
him, than he ran to embrace him; and taking him in his arms, fell
to kissing and caressing him with the greatest demonstration of
tenderness. He took several turns with him about the room, dancing
and tossing him about, when all of a sudden, through a transport of
joy, the window being open, he sprang out, and plunged with him
into the sea.

The King of Persia, who expected no such sight, set up a hideous
cry, verily believing that he should either see the dear prince his
son no more, or else that he should see him drowned; and he nearly
died of grief and affliction. 'Sir,' said Queen Gulnare (with a
quiet and undisturbed countenance, the better to comfort him), 'let
your majesty fear nothing; the young prince is my son as well as
yours, and I do not love him less than you do. You see I am not
alarmed; neither in truth ought I to be so. He runs no risk, and
you will soon see the king his uncle appear with him again, and
bring him back safe and sound. For he will have the same advantage
his uncle and I have, of living equally in the sea and upon the
land.' The queen his mother and the princesses his relations
confirmed the same thing; yet all they said had no effect on the
king's fright, from which he could not recover till he saw Prince
Beder appear again before him.

The sea at length became troubled, when immediately King Saleh
arose with the young prince in his arms, and holding him up in the
air, he re-entered at the same window he went out at. The King of
Persia being overjoyed to see Prince Beder again, and astonished
that he was as calm as before he lost sight of him, King Saleh
said, 'Sir, was not your majesty in a great fright, when you first
saw me plunge into the sea with the prince my nephew?'

'Alas! Prince,' answered the King of Persia, 'I cannot express my
concern. I thought him lost from that very moment, and you now
restore life to me by bringing him again.'

'I thought as much,' replied King Saleh, 'though you had not the
least reason to apprehend any danger; for, before I plunged into
the sea with him I pronounced over him certain mysterious words,
which were engraved on the seal of the great Solomon, the son of
David. We do the same to all those children that are born in the
regions at the bottom of the sea, by virtue of which they receive
the same privileges that we have over those people who inhabit the
earth. From what your majesty has observed, you may easily see what
advantage your son Prince Beder has acquired by his birth, for as
long as he lives, and as often as he pleases, he will be at liberty
to plunge into the sea, and traverse the vast empires it contains
in its bosom.'

Having so spoken, King Saleh, who had restored Prince Beder to his
nurse's arms, opened a box he had fetched from his palace in the
little time he had disappeared. It was filled with three hundred
diamonds, as large as pigeons' eggs, a like number of rubies of
extraordinary size, as many emerald wands, each half a foot long,
and thirty strings or necklaces of pearl, consisting each of ten
feet. 'Sir,' said he to the King of Persia, presenting him with
this box, 'when I was first summoned by the queen my sister, I knew
not what part of the earth she was in, or that she had the honour
to be married to so great a monarch. This made us come empty
handed. As we cannot express how much we have been obliged to your
majesty, I beg you to accept this small token of gratitude, in
acknowledgment of the many particular favours you have been pleased
to show her.'

It is impossible to express how greatly the King of Persia was
surprised at the sight of so much riches, enclosed in so little
compass. 'What! Prince,' cried he, 'do you call so inestimable a
present a small token of your gratitude? I declare once more, you
have never been in the least obliged to me, neither the queen your
mother nor you. Madam,' continued he, turning to Gulnare, 'the king
your brother has put me into the greatest confusion; and I would
beg of him to permit me to refuse his present, were I not afraid of
disobliging him; do you therefore endeavour to obtain his leave
that I may be excused accepting it.'

'Sir,' replied King Saleh, 'I am not at all surprised that your
majesty thinks this present so extraordinary. I know you are not
accustomed upon earth to see precious stones of this quality and
quantity: but if you knew, as I do, the mines whence these jewels
were taken, and that it is in my power to form a treasure greater
than those of all the kings of the earth, you would wonder we
should have the boldness to make you a present of so small a value.
I beseech you, therefore, not to regard it in that light, but on
account of the sincere friendship which obliges us to offer it to
you not to give us the mortification of refusing it.' This obliged
the King of Persia to accept the present, for which he returned
many thanks both to King Saleh and the queen his mother.

A few days after, King Saleh gave the King of Persia to understand
that the queen his mother, the princesses his relations and
himself, could have no greater pleasure than to spend their whole
lives at his court; but that having been so long absent from their
own kingdom, where their presence was absolutely necessary, they
begged of him not to take it ill if they took leave of him and
Queen Gulnare. The King of Persia assured them he was very sorry
that it was not in his power to return their visit in their own
dominions; but he added, 'As I am verily persuaded you will not
forget Queen Gulnare, but come and see her now and then, I hope I
shall have the honour to see you again more than once.'

Many tears were shed on both sides upon their separation. King
Saleh departed first; but the queen his mother, and the princesses
his relations, were fain to force themselves in a manner from the
embraces of Queen Gulnare, who could not prevail upon herself to
let them go. This royal company were no sooner out of sight than
the King of Persia said to Queen Gulnare, 'Madam, I should have
looked with suspicion upon the person that had pretended to pass
those off upon me for true wonders, of which I myself have been an
eye-witness from the time I have been honoured with your
illustrious family at my court. But I cannot refuse to believe my
own eyes; and shall remember it as long as I live, and never cease
to bless Heaven for sending you to me, instead of to any other

Monday, September 16, 2013


Dinewan the emu, being the largest bird, was acknowledged as king by the
other birds. The Goomblegubbons, the bustards, were jealous of the
Dinewans. Particularly was Goomblegubbon, the mother, jealous of the
Diriewan mother. She would watch with envy the high flight of the
Dinewans, and their swift running. And she always fancied that the
Dinewan mother flaunted her superiority in her face, for whenever
Dinewan alighted near Goomblegubbon, after a long, high flight, she
would flap her big wings and begin booing in her pride, not the loud
booing of the male bird, but a little, triumphant, satisfied booing
noise of her own, which never failed to irritate Goomblegubbon when she
heard it.

Goomblegubbon used to wonder how she could put an end to Dinewan's
supremacy. She decided that she would only be able to do so by injuring
her wings and checking her power of flight. But the question that
troubled her was how to effect this end. She knew she would gain
nothing by having a quarrel with Dinewan and fighting her, for no
Goomblegubbon would stand any chance against a Dinewan, There was
evidently nothing to be gained by an open fight. She would have to
effect her end by cunning.

One day, when Goomblegubbon saw in the distance Dinewan coming towards
her, she squatted down and doubled in her wings in such a way as to
look as if she had none. After Dinewan had been talking to her for some
time, Goomblegubbon said: "Why do you not imitate me and do without
wings? Every bird flies. The Dinewans, to be the king of birds, should
do without wings. When all the birds see that I can do without wings,
they will think I am the cleverest bird and they will make a
Goomblegubbon king."

"But you have wings," said Dinewan.

"No, I have no wings." And indeed she looked as if her words were true,
so well were her wings hidden, as she squatted in the grass. Dinewan
went away after awhile, and thought much of what she had heard. She
talked it all over with her mate, who was as disturbed as she was. They
made up their minds that it would never do to let the Goomblegubbons
reign in their stead, even if they had to lose their wings to save
their kingship.

At length they decided on the sacrifice of their wings. The Dinewan
mother showed the example by persuading her mate to cut off hers with a
combo or stone tomahawk, and then she did the same to his. As soon as
the operations were over, the Dinewan mother lost no time in letting
Goomblegubbon know what they had done. She ran swiftly down to the
plain on which she had left Goomblegubbon, and, finding her still
squatting there, she said: "See, I have followed your example. I have
now no wings. They are cut off."

"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed Goomblegubbon, jumping up and dancing round with
joy at the success of her plot. As she danced round, she spread out her
wings, flapped them, and said: "I have taken you in, old stumpy wings.
I have my wings yet. You are fine birds, you Dinewans, to be chosen
kings, when you are so easily taken in. Ha! ha! ha!" And, laughing
derisively, Goomblegubbon flapped her wings right in front of Dinewan,
who rushed towards her to chastise her treachery. But Goomblegubbon
flew away, and, alas! the now wingless Dinewan could not follow her.

Brooding over her wrongs, Dinewan walked away, vowing she would be
revenged. But how? That was the question which she and her mate failed
to answer for some time. At length the Dinewan mother thought of a plan
and prepared at once to execute it. She hid all her young Dinewans but
two, under a big salt bush. Then she walked off to Goomblegubbons'
plain with the two young ones following her. As she walked off the
morilla ridge, where her home was, on to the plain, she saw
Goomblegubbon out feeding with her twelve young ones.

After exchanging a few remarks in a friendly manner with Goomblegubbon,
she said to her, "Why do you not imitate me and only have two children?
Twelve are too many to feed. If you keep so many they will never grow
big birds like the Dinewans. The food that would make big birds of two
would only starve twelve." Goomblegubbon said nothing, but she thought
it might be so. It was impossible to deny that the young Dinewans were
much bigger than the young Goomblegubbons, and, discontentedly,
Goomblegubbon walked away, wondering whether the smallness of her young
ones was owing to the number of them being so much greater than that of
the Dinewans. It would be grand, she thought, to grow as big as the
Dinewans. But she remembered the trick she had played on Dinewan, and
she thought that perhaps she was being fooled in her turn. She looked
back to where the Dinewans fed, and as she saw how much bigger the two
young ones were than any of hers, once more mad envy of Dinewan
possessed her. She determined she would not be outdone. Rather would
she kill all her young ones but two. She said, "The Dinewans shall not
be the king birds of the plains. The Goomblegubbons shall replace them.
They shall grow as big as the Dinewans, and shall keep their wings and
fly, which now the Dinewans cannot do." And straightway Goomblegubbon
killed all her young ones but two. Then back she came to where the
Dinewans were still feeding. When Dinewan saw her coming and noticed
she had only two young ones with her, she called out: "Where are all
your young ones?"

Goomblegubbon answered, "I have killed them, and have only two left.
Those will have plenty to eat now, and will soon grow as big as your
young ones."

"You cruel mother to kill your children. You greedy mother. Why, I have
twelve children and I find food for them all. I would not kill one for
anything, not even if by so doing I could get back my wings. There is
plenty for all. Look at the emu bush how it covers itself with berries
to feed my big family. See how the grasshoppers come hopping round, so
that we can catch them and fatten on them."

"But you have only two children."

"I have twelve. I will go and bring them to show you." Dinewan ran off
to her salt bush where she had hidden her ten young ones. Soon she was
to be seen coming back. Running with her neck stretched forward, her
head thrown back with pride, and the feathers of her boobootella
swinging as she ran, booming out the while her queer throat noise, the
Dinewan song of joy, the pretty, soft-looking little ones with their
zebra-striped skins, running beside her whistling their baby Dinewan
note. When Dinewan reached the place where Goomblegubbon was, she
stopped her booing and said in a solemn tone, "Now you see my words are
true, I have twelve young ones, as I said. You can gaze at my loved
ones and think of your poor murdered children. And while you do so I
will tell you the fate of your descendants for ever. By trickery and
deceit you lost the Dinewans their wings, and now for evermore, as long
as a Dinewan has no wings, so long shall a Goomblegubbon lay only two
eggs and have only two young ones. We are quits now. You have your
wings and I my children."

And ever since that time a Dinewan, or emu, has had no wings, and a
Goomblegubbon, or bustard of the plains, has laid only two eggs in a

Monday, September 9, 2013

[Brazilian Folktale] How Night Came

Years and years ago at the very beginning of time, when the world had
just been made, there was no night. It was day all the time. No one
had ever heard of sunrise or sunset, starlight or moonbeams. There
were no night birds, nor night beasts, nor night flowers. There were
no lengthening shadows, nor soft night air, heavy with perfume.

In those days the daughter of the GREAT SEA SERPENT, who dwelt in the
depths of the seas, married one of the sons of the great earth race
known as MAN. She left her home among the shades of the deep seas and
came to dwell with her husband in the land of daylight. Her eyes grew
weary of the bright sunlight and her beauty faded. Her husband watched
her with sad eyes, but he did not know what to do to help her.

"O, if night would only come," she moaned as she tossed about wearily
on her couch. "Here it is always day, but in my father's kingdom there
are many shadows. O, for a little of the darkness of night!"

Her husband listened to her moanings. "What is night?" he asked her.
"Tell me about it and perhaps I can get a little of it for you."

"Night," said the daughter of the GREAT SEA SERPENT, "is the name we
give to the heavy shadows which darken my father's kingdom in the
depths of the seas. I love the sunlight of your earth land, but I grow
very weary of it. If we could have only a little of the darkness of my
father's kingdom to rest our eyes part of the time."

Her husband at once called his three most faithful slaves. "I am about
to send you on a journey," he told them. "You are to go to the kingdom
of the GREAT SEA SERPENT who dwells in the depths of the seas and ask
him to give you some of the darkness of night that his daughter may
not die here amid the sunlight of our earth land."

The three slaves set forth for the kingdom of the GREAT SEA SERPENT.
After a long dangerous journey they arrived at his home in the depths
of the seas and asked him to give them some of the shadows of night
to carry back to the earth land. The GREAT SEA SERPENT gave them a big
bag full at once. It was securely fastened and the GREAT SEA SERPENT
warned them not to open it until they were once more in the presence
of his daughter, their mistress.

The three slaves started out, bearing the big bag full of night upon
their heads. Soon they heard strange sounds within the bag. It was the
sound of the voices of all the night beasts, all the night birds, and
all the night insects. If you have ever heard the night chorus from
the jungles on the banks of the rivers you will know how it sounded.
The three slaves had never heard sounds like those in all their lives.
They were terribly frightened.

"Let us drop the bag full of night right here where we are and run
away as fast as we can," said the first slave.

"We shall perish. We shall perish, anyway, whatever we do," cried the
second slave.

"Whether we perish or not I am going to open the bag and see what
makes all those terrible sounds," said the third slave.

Accordingly they laid the bag on the ground and opened it. Out rushed
all the night beasts and all the night birds and all the night insects
and out rushed the great black cloud of night. The slaves were more
frightened than ever at the darkness and escaped to the jungle.

The daughter of the GREAT SEA SERPENT was waiting anxiously for the
return of the slaves with the bag full of night. Ever since they had
started out on their journey she had looked for their return, shading
her eyes with her hand and gazing away off at the horizon, hoping with
all her heart that they would hasten to bring the night. In that
position she was standing under a royal palm tree, when the three
slaves opened the bag and let night escape. "Night comes. Night comes
at last," she cried, as she saw the clouds of night upon the horizon.
Then she closed her eyes and went to sleep there under the royal palm

When she awoke she felt greatly refreshed. She was once more the happy
princess who had left her father's kingdom in the depths of the great
seas to come to the earth land. She was now ready to see the day
again. She looked up at the bright star shining above the royal palm
tree and said, "O, bright beautiful star, henceforth you shall be
called the morning star and you shall herald the approach of day. You
shall reign queen of the sky at this hour."

Then she called all the birds about her and said to them, "O,
wonderful, sweet singing birds, henceforth I command you to sing your
sweetest songs at this hour to herald the approach of day." The cock
was standing by her side. "You," she said to him, "shall be appointed
the watchman of the night. Your voice shall mark the watches of the
night and shall warn the others that the _madrugada_ comes." To this
very day in Brazil we call the early morning the _madrugada_. The cock
announces its approach to the waiting birds. The birds sing their
sweetest songs at that hour and the morning star reigns in the sky as
queen of the _madrugada_.

When it was daylight again the three slaves crept home through the
forests and jungles with their empty bag.

"O, faithless slaves," said their master, "why did you not obey the
voice of the GREAT SEA SERPENT and open the bag only in the presence
of his daughter, your mistress? Because of your disobedience I shall
change you into monkeys. Henceforth you shall live in the trees. Your
lips shall always bear the mark of the sealing wax which sealed the
bag full of night."

To this very day one sees the mark upon the monkeys' lips, where they
bit off the wax which sealed the bag; and in Brazil night leaps out
quickly upon the earth just as it leapt quickly out of the bag in
those days at the beginning of time. And all the night beasts and
night birds and night insects give a sunset chorus in the jungles at


Barzil, folk tale, lore, fables, Brazilian

Thursday, September 5, 2013

[Chinese Folktale] THE WIDOW HO

One day in the early dawn, a distinguished mandarin was leaving the
temple of the City God.  It was his duty to visit this temple on the
first and fifteenth of the moon, whilst the city was still asleep, to
offer incense and adoration to the stern-looking figure enshrined

This mandarin was Shih-Kung, and a juster or more upright official did
not exist in all the fair provinces of the Empire.  Wherever his name
was mentioned it was received with the profoundest reverence and
respect; for the Chinese people have never lost their ideal of Tien-Li,
or Divine Righteousness.  This ideal is still deeply embedded in the
hearts of high and low, rich and poor; and the homage of all classes,
even of the most depraved is gladly offered to any man who
conspicuously displays this heavenly virtue.

As Shih-Kung was being carried along in his sedan chair, with his
numerous retinue following closely behind him, he happened to notice a
young woman walking in the road in front of him, and began to wonder
what it was that had brought her out at such an unusually early hour.
She was dressed in the very deepest mourning, and so after a little
more thought he concluded that she was a widow who was on her way to
the grave of her late husband to make the usual offerings to his spirit.

All at once a sudden, furious whirlwind screamed about the woman and
seemed determined to spend its force upon her; but beyond her nothing
was touched by it.  Not a leaf on the trees near by was moved, and not
a particle of dust on the road, except just where she stood, was in the
least agitated by the fierce tempest that for the moment raged around

As Shih-Kung gazed at this strange occurrence, the woman's outer skirt
was blown up in the air, and he saw that underneath was another garment
of a rich crimson hue.  He then knew at once that there was something
radically wrong, for no woman of ordinary virtuous character would ever
dare to wear such a glaring colour, while she pretended to be in deep
mourning.  There was something suspicious, too, in the sudden tornado
that blew with such terrific violence round the woman only.  It was not
an accident that brought it there.  It was clearly the angry protest of
some spirit who had been foully misused, and who was determined that
the wrong-doer should not escape the penalty for the evil she had

Calling two of his runners to him, Shih-Kung ordered them to follow the
woman and to see where she was going and what she did there, and then
to report to him immediately.

[Transcriber's note: pages 3 and 4 missing from source book]

the coffin of the dead, and was to be solved there and there only.  His
course now seemed easy, and it was with a mind full of relief that he
entered his home.

He at once issued a warrant for the arrest of the widow, and at the
same time sent officers to bring the coffin that contained the body of
her husband from its burying-place.

When the widow appeared before the mandarin, she denied that she knew
anything of the cause of her husband's death.  He had come home drunk
one night, she declared, and had fallen senseless on the ground.  After
a great deal of difficulty, she had managed to lift him up on to the
bed, where he lay in a drunken slumber, just as men under the influence
of liquor often do, so that she was not in the least anxious or
disturbed about him.  During the night she fell asleep as she watched
by his side, and when she woke up she found to her horror that he was

"That is all that can be said about the case," she concluded, "and if
you now order an examination of the body, it simply means that you have
suspicions about me, for no other person was with him but myself when
he died.  I protest therefore against the body being examined.  If,
however, you are determined to do so, I warn you that if you find no
signs of violence on it, you expose yourself according to the laws of
China to the punishment of death."

"I am quite prepared to take the responsibility," replied the mandarin,
"and I have already ordered the Coroner to open the coffin and to make
a careful examination of the body."

This was accordingly done, but no trace of injury, not even the
slightest bruise, could be discovered on any part of the dead man's

The county magistrate was greatly distressed at this result of the
enquiry, and hastened to Shih-Kung in order to obtain his advice as to
what steps he should now take to escape the punishment of death which
he had incurred by his action.  The Viceroy agreed that the matter had
indeed assumed a most serious aspect.  "But you need not be anxious,"
he added, "about what you have done.  You have only acted by my orders,
and therefore I assume all responsibility for the proceedings which you
have adopted to discover the murderer."

Late in the afternoon, as the sun began to disappear behind the
mountains of the west, Shih-Kung slipped out by a side door of his
yamen, dressed as a peddler of cloth, and with pieces of various kinds
of material resting on his shoulders.  His disguise was so perfect that
no one, as he passed down the street, dreamed of suspecting that
instead of being a wandering draper, he was in reality the
Governor-General of the Province, who was trying to obtain evidence of
a murder that had recently been committed in his own capital.

Travelling on down one street after another, Shih-Kung came at last to
the outskirts of the town, where the dwellings were more scattered and
the population was less dense.  By this time it was growing dark, so
when he came to a house that stood quite apart by itself, he knocked at
the door.  An elderly woman with a pleasant face and a motherly look
about her asked him in a kind and gentle voice what he wanted.

"I have taken the liberty," he replied, "of coming to your house to see
whether you would not kindly allow me to lodge with you for the night.
I am a stranger in this region," he continued, "and have travelled far
from my home to sell my cloth.  The night is fast falling, and I know
not where to spend it, and so I beg of you to take me in.  I do not
want charity, for I am quite able to pay you liberally for any trouble
I may cause you; and to-morrow morning, as early as you may desire, I
shall proceed on my wanderings, and you will be relieved of me."

"My good man," she replied, "I am perfectly willing that you should
lodge here for the night, only I am afraid you may have to endure some
annoyance from the conduct of my son when he returns home later in the

"My business leads me into all kinds of company," he assured her, "and
I meet people with a great variety of dispositions, but I generally
manage to get on with them all.  It may be so with your son."

With a good-natured smile, the old lady then showed him into a little
room just off the one which was used as a sitting room.  Shih-Kung was
very tired, so he threw himself down, just as he was, on a trestle bed
that stood in the corner, and began to think over his plans for solving
the mystery of the murder.  By-and-by he fell fast asleep.

About midnight he woke up at the sound of voices in the next room, and
heard the mother saying:--"I want you to be very careful how you treat
the peddler, and not to use any of your coarse language to him.
Although he looks only a common man, I am sure he is a gentleman, for
he has a refined way with him that shows he must have come from no mean
family.  I did not really want to take him in, as I knew you might
object; but the poor man was very tired, and it was getting dark, and
he declared he had no place to go to, so that at last I consented to
let him stay.  It is only for the night, and to-morrow at break of day
he says he must be on his travels again."

"I do most strongly dislike having a strange man in the house," replied
a voice which Shih-Kung concluded was the son's; "and I shall go and
have a look at him in order to satisfy myself about him."

Taking a lantern in his hand, he came close up to where Shih-Kung was
lying, and flashing the light upon his face, looked down anxiously at
him for a few moments.  Apparently he was satisfied, for he cried out
in a voice that could easily be heard in the other room: "All right,
mother, I am content.  The man has a good face, and I do not think I
have anything to fear from him.  Let him remain."

Shih-Kung now considered that it was time for him to act.  He stretched
himself and yawned as though he were just waking out of sleep, and
then, sitting up on the edge of the bed, he looked into the young man's
face and asked him who he was.

"Oh!" he replied in a friendly way, "I am the son of the old lady who
gave you permission to stay here for the night.  For certain reasons, I
am not at all anxious to have strangers about the house, and at first I
very much objected to have you here.  But now that I have had a good
look at you, my objections have all vanished.  I pride myself upon
being a good judge of character, and I may tell you that I have taken a
fancy to you.  But come away with me into the next room, for I am going
to have a little supper, and as my mother tells me that you fell asleep
without having had anything to eat, I have no doubt you will be glad to
join me."

As they sat talking over the meal, they became very friendly and
confidential with each other, and the sam-shu that the son kept
drinking from a tiny cup, into which it was poured from a steaming
kettle, had the effect of loosening his tongue and causing him to speak
more freely than he would otherwise have done.

From his long experience of the shady classes of society, Shih-Kung
very soon discovered what kind of a man his companion was, and felt
that here was a mine from which he might draw valuable information to
help him in reaching the facts he wished to discover.

Looking across the table at the son, whose face was by this time
flushed with the spirit he had been drinking, and with a hasty glance
around the room, as though he were afraid that some one might overhear
him, he said in a low voice, "I want to tell you a great secret.  You
have opened your heart a good deal to me, and now I am going to do the
same with you.  I am not really a peddler of cloth, as I have pretended
to be.  I have been simply using that business to disguise my real
occupation, which I do not want anyone to know."

"And what, may I ask, may be the trade in which you are engaged, and of
which you seem to be so ashamed that you dare not openly confess it?"
asked the son.

"Well, I am what I call a benevolent thief," replied Shih-Kung.

"A benevolent thief!" exclaimed the other in astonishment.  "I have
never heard of such a thing before, and I should very much like to know
what is meant by it."

"I must tell you," explained the guest, "that I am not a common thief
who takes the property of others for his own benefit.  I never steal
for myself.  My practice is to find out where men have made money
unjustly, and then by certain means at my command I deprive them of
some of their unlawful gains and distribute them amongst the people
they have wronged.  In this way I have been the means of bringing
suitable punishment on the heads of the guilty, and at the same time of
relieving the necessities of those who have suffered at their hands."

"I am astonished at what you tell me," replied the son, "though I do
not believe all you say about not taking a share in the plunder you
get.  But now that you have opened your heart to me, I shall repay your
confidence by telling you what I am.  I am a real thief, and I support
my mother, who does not suspect the truth, and keep the home together,
simply by what I steal from others."

He then proceeded to give an account of some of the adventures he had
met with in the course of his expeditions by night to rooms and houses
which, as he always found out beforehand by careful spying, contained
valuables that could be easily carried away.

While he was relating these stories, Shih-Kung's eyes gleamed with
delight, for he saw that the man had fallen into the trap which had
been laid for him, and felt confident that before the night was over he
would be in possession of some clue to the mystery he was endeavouring
to solve.  He was disgusted with the sordid details of the criminal
life of which the man before him seemed to be proud; yet with wonderful
patience this mandarin, with his large powers of mind, and with a
genius for statesmanship which had made him famous throughout the
Empire, sat for hours enduring the wretched talk of this common thief.
But his reward came in due time.

"By the way," exclaimed this man whose business it was to break into
homes when the small hours of the morning found their inmates wrapped
in slumber, "some time ago I had a most remarkable experience, and as
you have shown yourself such a good fellow, I will tell you about it,
if you do not think it too late to do so."

"I shall be most delighted to hear you relate it," said his guest.  "I
have been greatly entertained by your vivid way of describing the
adventures through which you have passed.  You deserve to be classed
amongst the great heroes of old, who have made their names famous by
their deeds of daring.  Go on, I pray you, and tell me the particulars
of this unusual experience."

"Well," proceeded the man, "I had very carefully planned to pay a visit
to a certain house just outside the walls of the city.  It was an easy
one to get in to without any danger of being observed, for it was in a
quiet street, where passers-by are very few after dark.  It was a
gloomy place after sunset, for the high walls that looked down upon it
threw deep and heavy shadows, which faint-hearted people declare are
really unhappy and restless ghosts prowling about to harass and
distress the unwary.

"It was a little after midnight, when with stealthy footsteps I crept
along the narrow streets, keeping as much as I could under cover of the
houses, where the darkness lay deepest.  Every home was hushed in
slumber.  The only things that really troubled me were the dogs, which,
with an intelligence far greater than that of their masters, suspected
me of some evil purpose, and barked at me and made wild snaps at my
legs.  I managed, however, to evade them and finally to arrive at the
house I intended to rob.

"When I got close up to it, I was surprised to find a light burning
inside.  There was another thing, too, that I could not understand, and
this was that a little side door by which I had planned to enter had
not been bolted, but had been left ajar so that any prowling robber
could easily gain admittance through it.  Taking off my shoes, I walked
on tiptoe along the stone-paved courtyard in the direction of the room
where the light was burning, and

[Transcriber's note: pages 13 and 14 missing from source book]

have had his heart lightened of the load that was weighing it down if I
could only have had the opportunity of whispering a single sentence
into his ear."

"It is your duty," interposed his guest, "to proceed to-morrow morning
to the mandarin's yamen, and tell your story to the county magistrate,
so that a great wrong may not go unpunished."

"That I can never do," promptly replied the man.  "What do you think
would happen were I to do what you suggest?  I am a thief.  I get my
living by thieving.  I was in the house on the night of the murder for
the purpose of robbery.  That would all come out when I give my
evidence.  After I had proved the murder, what would become of me?  I
should be cast into prison, and I might have to lie there for years,
for who would ever bail out a thief?  And then my poor mother would
starve, for she has to depend on me entirely for her living, and she
would be compelled to go on the streets and beg for charity from door
to door.  No, it is impossible for me ever to interfere in this case."

Shih-Kung recognized the difficulty in which the man was placed, and
yet without his evidence it would be impossible to convict the woman of
the crime she had committed.  He accordingly thought out a plan which
he felt would remove the obstacles that stood in the way of securing
him as a witness.

Turning to the man, he said, "I have had a very pleasant evening with
you, and I thank you for your courtesy and hospitality.  I feel my
heart moved with a desire for a deeper friendship than mere words can
ever express, and so I propose that you and I become sworn brothers, so
that whatever may befall us in the future we shall stand by each other
to the very death."

The young man looked up with astonishment at this unexpected proposal,
but the sudden flash in his eyes and the smile that overspread his
countenance showed that it was very pleasing to him.

"I shall be delighted to agree," he quickly replied, "but when shall we
have an opportunity of appearing in the temple, and of registering our
vow in the presence of the god?"

"There is no need to go to any temple," Shih-Kung replied.  "Your
family idol, which sits over there enshrined before us, will be quite
sufficient for our purpose.  Give me a pen and paper, and I will write
out the articles of our brotherhood and present them to the god."

In a few minutes the document was written out according to the minute
rules laid down by the law which binds two men in a sworn brotherhood.
By the most solemn oaths Shih-Kung and this thief agreed to assist each
other in any extremity in which either might be placed in the future.
Any call from one to the other must be instantly responded to.  No
danger and no peril to life or limb must be allowed to deter either of
them when the cry for help or deliverance was heard.  Each was to
regard the interests of the other as identical with his own, and as
long as life lasted, the obligation to succour in every time of need
could never be relaxed or annulled.

To prove that this solemn engagement was no mere passing whim of the
moment, it had to be read in the hearing of the household god, who
happened to be the Goddess of Mercy.  She would then be an everlasting
witness of the transaction, and with the invisible forces at her
command would visit pains and penalties on the one who broke his oath.
Standing in front of her shrine, Shih-Kung read out the articles of
agreement, word by word, in a slow and measured tone suited to the
solemnity of the occasion.  He then lighted the paper at the lamp, and
both men gazed at it until nothing was left but ashes, when each of
them knew that the Goddess had received the document and had placed it
in her archives in the far-off Western Heaven as a record of the vows
made in her presence in those early hours of the morning.

When they sat down again, Shih-Kung looked with a strong and masterful
gaze at his newly-created brother and said to him:--"You and I are now
sworn brothers, and of course we must be frank with each other.  I do
not wish to deceive you any longer, so I must tell you that I am
neither a peddler of cloth, nor a benevolent thief in the sense in
which you understood the term.  I am in fact Shih-Kung, the Viceroy of
this Province."

No sooner did the man hear the name of this great mandarin, who was a
profound source of terror to the criminals and evil-doers within his
jurisdiction, than he fell on his knees before him in the most abject
fright, and repeatedly knocking his head on the ground, besought him to
have mercy on him.

Raising him up gently with his hand, Shih-Kung told him to lay aside
all his fears.  "You are my brother now," he said, "and we have just
sworn in the presence of the Goddess to defend each other with our
lives.  I shall certainly perform my part of the oath.  From this
moment your fortune is made; and as for your mother, who received me
with such gracious courtesy, it shall be my privilege to provide for
her as long as she lives."

Emboldened by these words of the great statesman, the young man
appeared at the second inquest, which Shih-Kung ordered to be held, and
gave such testimony that the guilt of the wretched wife was clearly
established, and due punishment meted out to her.

folktales, tales, lores, Chinese