Sunday, October 6, 2013

[Armenian Folklore] The Sheep Brother

Once there was a widow and she had a daughter. The widow married a
widower who had by his first wife two children, a boy and a girl. The
wife was always coaxing her husband: "Take the children, do, and lead
them up into the mountains." Her husband could not refuse her, and, lo!
one day he put some bread in his basket, took the children, and set off
for the mountain.

They went on and on and came to a strange place. Then the father said to
the children, "Rest here a little while," and the children sat down to
rest. The father turned his face away and wept bitterly, very bitterly.
Then he turned again to the children and said, "Eat something," and they
ate. Then the boy said, "Father, dear, I want a drink." The father took
his staff, stuck it into the ground, threw his coat over it, and said,
"Come here, my son, sit in the shadow of my coat, and I will get you
some water." The brother and sister stayed and the father went away and
forsook his children. Whether they waited a long time or a short time
before they saw that their father was not coming back is not known. They
wandered here and there looking for him, but saw no human being

At last they came back to the same spot, and, beginning to weep, they

"Alas! Alas! See, here is father's staff, and here is his coat, and he
comes not, and he comes not."

Whether the brother and sister sat there a long time or a short time is
not known. They rose after a while, and one took the staff and the other
the coat, and they went away without knowing whither. They went on and
on and on, until they saw tracks of horses' hoofs filled with

"I am going to drink, sister," said the brother.

"Do not drink, little brother, or you will become a colt," said the

They passed on till they saw tracks of oxen's hoofs.

"O sister dear, how thirsty I am!"

"Do not drink, little brother, or you will be a calf," the sister said
to him.

They went on till they saw the tracks of buffalo hoofs.

"O sister dear, how thirsty I am!"

"Drink not, little brother, or you will be a buffalo calf."

They passed on and saw the tracks of bears' paws.

"Oh, I am so thirsty, sister dear."

"Drink not, little brother, or you will become a little bear."

They went on and saw the tracks of swine's trotters.

"O sister dear, I am going to drink."

"Drink not, little brother, or you will become a little pig."

They went on and on till they saw the tracks of the pads of wolves.

"O sister dear, how thirsty I am!"

"Do not drink, little brother, or you will become a little wolf."

They walked on and on till they saw the tracks of sheep's trotters.

"O sister dear, I am almost dying with thirst."

"O little brother, you grieve me so! You will, indeed, be a sheep if you

He could stand it no longer. He drank and turned into a sheep. He began
to bleat and ran after his sister. Long they wandered, and at last came

Then the stepmother began to scheme against them. She edged up to her
husband and said: "Kill your sheep. I want to eat him."

The sister got her sheep-brother away in the nick of time and drove him
back into the mountains. Every day she drove him to the meadows and she
spun linen. Once her distaff fell from her hand and rolled into a
cavern. The sheep-brother stayed behind grazing while she went to get
the distaff.

She stepped into the cavern and saw lying in a corner a Dew, one
thousand years old. She suddenly spied the girl and said: "Neither the
feathered birds nor the crawling serpent can make their way in here; how
then hast thou, maiden, dared to enter?"

The girl spoke up in her fright. "For love of you I came here, dear

The old Dew mother bade the girl come near and asked her this and that.
The maiden pleased her very much. "I will go and bring you a fish," she
said, "you are certainly hungry." But the fishes were snakes and
dragons. The girl was sorely frightened and began to cry with terror.
The old Dew said, "Maiden, why do you weep?" She answered, "I have just
thought of my mother, and for her sake I weep." Then she told the old
mother everything that had happened to her. "If that is so," said the
Dew, "sit down here and I will lay my head on your knee and go to

She made up the fire, stuck the poker into the stove, and said:

"When the devil flies by do not waken me. If the rainbow-colored one
passes near, take the glowing poker from the stove and lay it on my

The maiden's heart crept into her heels from fright. What was she to do?
She sat down, the Dew laid her head on her knees and slept. Soon she saw
a horrible black monster flying by. The maiden was silent. After a while
there came flying by a rainbow-colored creature. She seized the glowing
poker and threw it on the old Dew's foot. The old mother awoke and said,
"Phew, how the fleas bite." She rose and lifted up the maiden. The
girl's hair and clothing were turned to gold from the splendor of the
rainbow colors. She kissed the old Dew's hand and begged that she might
go. She went away, and taking her sheep-brother with her started for
home. The stepmother was not there, and the maiden secretly dug a hole,
buried her golden dress, and sat down and put on an old one.

The stepmother came home and saw that the maiden had golden hair.

"What have you done to your hair to make it like gold?" she asked. The
maiden told her all, how and when. The next day the stepmother sent her
own daughter to the same mountain. The stepmother's daughter purposely
let her distaff fall and it rolled into the hole. She went in to get it,
but the old Dew mother turned her into a scarecrow and sent her home.

About that time there was a wedding in the royal castle; the King was
giving one of his sons in marriage, and the people came from all
directions to look on and enjoy themselves.

The stepmother threw on a kerchief and smartened up the head of her
daughter and took her to see the wedding. The girl with the golden hair
did not stay at home, but, putting on her golden dress so that she
became from head to foot a gleaming houri, she went after them.

But on the way home, she ran so fast to get there before her stepmother,
that she dropped one of her golden shoes in the fountain. When they led
the horses of the King's second son to drink, the horses caught sight of
the golden shoe in the water and drew back and would not drink. The King
caused the wise men to be called, and asked them to make known the
reason why the horses would not drink, and they found only the golden
shoe. The King sent out his herald to tell the people that he would
marry his son to whomsoever this shoe fitted.

He sent people throughout the whole city to try on the shoe, and they
came to the house where the sheep-brother was. The stepmother pushed the
maiden with the golden locks into the stove, and hid her, and showed
only her own daughter.

A cock came up to the threshold and crowed three times, "Cock-a-doodle
doo! The fairest of the fair is in the stove." The King's people brushed
the stepmother aside and led the maiden with golden hair from the stove,
tried on the shoe, which fitted as though moulded to the foot.

"Now stand up," said they, "and you shall be a royal bride."

The maiden put on her golden dress, drove her sheep-brother before her,
and went to the castle. She was married to the King's son, and seven
days and seven nights they feasted.

Again the stepmother took her daughter and went to the castle to visit
her stepdaughter, who in spite of all treated her as her mother and
invited her into the castle garden. From the garden they went to the
seashore and sat down to rest. The stepmother said, "Let us bathe in the
sea." While they were bathing she pushed the wife of the King's son far
out into the water, and a great fish came swimming by and swallowed her.

Meanwhile the stepmother put the golden dress on her own daughter and
led her to the royal castle and placed her in the seat where the young
wife always sat, covering her face and her head so that no one would
know her.

The young wife sat in the fish and heard the voice of the bell-ringer.
She called to him and pleaded: "Bell-ringer, O bell-ringer, thou hast
called the people to church; cross thyself seven times, and I entreat
thee, in the name of heaven, go to the prince and say that they must not
slaughter my sheep-brother."

Once, twice the bell-ringer heard this voice and told the King's son
about it.

The King's son took the bell-ringer with him and went at night to the
seashore. The same voice spoke the same words. He knew that it was his
dear wife that spoke, and drew his sword and ripped open the fish and
helped his loved one out.

They went home, and the prince had the stepmother brought to him, and
said to her: "Mother-in-law, tell me what kind of a present you would
like: a horse fed with barley or a knife with a black handle?"

The stepmother answered: "Let the knife with a black handle pierce the
breast of thine enemy; but give me the horse fed with barley."

The King's son commanded them to tie the stepmother and her daughter to
the tail of a horse, and to hunt them over mountain and rock till
nothing was left of them but their ears and a tuft of hair.

After that the King's son lived happily with his wife and her
sheep-brother. The others were punished and she rejoiced.

And three apples fell down from heaven.

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