Thursday, July 31, 2014

[German Folktale] Hans in Luck

Hans had served his master seven years, and at last said to him--

"Master, my time is up; I should like to go home and see my mother, so give me my wages."

And the master said--

"You have been a faithful and good servant, so your pay shall be handsome."

Then he gave him a piece of silver that was as big as his head. Hans took out his pocket-handkerchief, put the piece of silver into it, threw it over his shoulder, and jogged off homewards. As he went lazily on, dragging one foot after another, a man came in sight, trotting along gaily on a capital horse.

"Ah!" said Hans aloud, "what a fine thing it is to ride on horseback! There he sits as if he were at home in his chair. He trips against no stones, spares his shoes, and yet gets on he hardly knows how."

The horseman heard this, and said--

"Well, Hans, why do you go on foot, then?"

"Ah!" said he, "I have this load to carry; to be sure, it is silver, but it is so heavy that I can't hold up my head, and it hurts my shoulder sadly."

"What do you say to changing?" said the horseman. "I will give you my horse, and you shall give me the silver."

"With all my heart," said Hans, "but I tell you one thing: you will have a weary task to drag it along."

The horseman got off, took the silver, helped Hans up, gave him the bridle into his hand, and said--

"When you want to go very fast, you must smack your lips loud and cry, 'Jip.'"

Hans was delighted as he sat on the horse, and rode merrily on. After a time he thought he should like to go a little faster, so he smacked his lips and cried "Jip." Away went the horse full gallop, and before Hans knew what he was about, he was thrown off, and lay in a ditch by the wayside, and his horse would have run off if a shepherd, who was coming by driving a cow, had not stopped it. Hans soon came to himself, and got upon his legs again. He was sadly vexed, and said to the shepherd--

"This riding is no joke when a man gets on a beast like this, that stumbles and flings him off as if he would break his neck. However, I'm off now once for all. I like your cow a great deal better; one can walk along at one's leisure behind her, and have milk, butter, and cheese every day into the bargain. What would I give to have such a cow!"

"Well," said the shepherd, "if you are so fond of her I will change my cow for your horse."

"Done!" said Hans merrily.

The shepherd jumped upon the horse and away he rode. Hans drove off his cow quietly, and thought his bargain a very lucky one.

"If I have only a piece of bread (and I certainly shall be able to get that), I can, whenever I like, eat my butter and cheese with it, and when I am thirsty I can milk my cow and drink the milk. What can I wish for more?" said he.

When he came to an inn he halted, ate up all his bread, and gave away his last penny for a glass of beer. Then he drove his cow towards his mother's village. The heat grew greater as noon came on, till at last he found himself on a wide heath that it would take him more than an hour to cross, and he began to be so hot and parched that his tongue cleaved to the roof of his mouth.

"I can find a cure for this," thought he; "now will I milk my cow and quench my thirst." So he tied her to the stump of a tree, and held his leathern cap to milk into, but not a drop was to be had.

While he was trying his luck, and managing the matter very clumsily, the uneasy beast gave him a kick on the head that knocked him down, and there he lay a long while senseless. Luckily a butcher came by driving a pig in a wheelbarrow.

"What is the matter with you?" said the butcher, as he helped him up.

Hans told him what had happened, and the butcher gave him a flask, saying--

"There, drink and refresh yourself. Your cow will give you no milk; she is an old beast, good for nothing but the slaughter-house."

"Alas, alas!" said Hans, "who would have thought it? If I kill her, what will she be good for? I hate cow-beef; it is not tender enough for me. If it were a pig, now, one could do something with it; it would at any rate make some sausages."

"Well," said the butcher, "to please you I'll change and give you the pig for the cow."

"Heaven reward you for your kindness!" said Hans, as he gave the butcher the cow and took the pig off the wheelbarrow and drove it off, holding it by a string tied to its leg.

So on he jogged, and all seemed now to go right with him. He had met with some misfortunes, to be sure, but he was now well repaid for all. The next person he met was a countryman carrying a fine white goose under his arm. The countryman stopped to ask what was the hour, and Hans told him all his luck, and how he had made so many good bargains. The countryman said he was going to take the goose to a christening.

"Feel," said he, "how heavy it is, and yet it is only eight weeks old. Whoever roasts and eats it may cut plenty of fat off, it has lived so well."

"You're right," said Hans, as he weighed it in his hand; "but my pig is no trifle."

Meantime the countryman began to look grave, and shook his head.

"Hark ye," said he, "my good friend. Your pig may get you into a scrape. In the village I have just come from the squire has had a pig stolen out of his sty. I was dreadfully afraid when I saw you that you had got the squire's pig. It will be a bad job if they catch you, for the least they'll do will be to throw you into the horse-pond."

Poor Hans was sadly frightened.

"Good man," cried he, "pray get me out of this scrape. You know this country better than I; take my pig and give me the goose."

"I ought to have something into the bargain," said the countryman; "however, I'll not bear hard upon you, as you are in trouble."

Then he took the string in his hand and drove off the pig by a side path, while Hans went on his way homeward free from care.

"After all," thought he, "I have the best of the bargain. First there will be a capital roast, then the fat will find me in goose-grease for six months, and then there are all the beautiful white feathers. I will put them into my pillow, and then I am sure I shall sleep soundly without rocking. How happy my mother will be!"

As he came to the last village he saw a scissors-grinder, with his wheel, working away and singing--

    "O'er hill and o'er dale so happy I roam,
    Work light and live well, all the world is my home;
    Who so blythe, so merry as I?"

Hans stood looking for a while, and at last said--

"You must be well off, master grinder, you seem so happy at your work."

"Yes," said the other, "mine is a golden trade. A good grinder never puts his hand in his pocket without finding money in it--but where did you get that beautiful goose?"

"I did not buy it, but changed a pig for it."

"And where did you get the pig?"

"I gave a cow for it."

"And the cow?"

"I gave a horse for it."

"And the horse?"

"I gave a piece of silver as big as my head for that."

"And the silver?"

"Oh! I worked hard for that seven long years."

"You have thriven well in the world hitherto," said the grinder, "now if you could find money in your pocket whenever you put your hand into it your fortune would be made."

"Very true, but how is that to be managed?"

"You must turn grinder like me," said the other. "You only want a grindstone, the rest will come of itself. Here is one that is only a little the worse for wear. I would not ask more than the value of your goose for it. Will you buy it?"

"How can you ask such a question?" said Hans. "I should be the happiest man in the world if I could have money whenever I put my hand in my pocket. What could I want more? There's the goose."

"Now," said the grinder, as he gave him a common rough stone that lay by his side, "this is a most capital stone. Do but manage it cleverly and you can make an old nail cut with it."

Hans took the stone, and went off with a light heart. His eyes sparkled with joy, and he said to himself--

"I must have been born in a lucky hour. Everything I want or wish comes to me of itself."

Meantime he began to be tired, for he had been travelling ever since daybreak. He was hungry too, for he had given away his last penny in his joy at getting the cow. At last he could go no further, and the stone tired him terribly, so he dragged himself to the side of the pond that he might drink some water and rest a while. He laid the stone carefully by his side on the bank, but as he stooped down to drink he forgot it, pushed it a little, and down it went, plump into the pond. For a while he watched it sinking in the deep, clear water, then, sprang up for joy, and again fell upon his knees and thanked Heaven with tears in his eyes for its kindness in taking away his only plague, the ugly, heavy stone.

"How happy am I!" cried he; "no mortal was ever so lucky as I am."

Then he got up with a light and merry heart, and walked on, free from all his troubles, till he reached his mother's house.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

[Spain and Portugal Folktale] THE INGENIOUS STUDENT

There was once a student in Tuy who was so very poor that, if faith in Providence be not reckoned, he possessed no riches.

But Juan Rivas was endowed with a wonderfully fine gift of ingenuity, and although he was somewhat behind in the payment for the Masses on behalf of his predecessors, and even more so with his mundane creditors, still was he a man who meant well and would do the right thing if he only had the opportunity.

To the man of the world there is no greater pleasure than to pay his debts, for by so doing he increases his credit.

Juan Rivas would willingly have paid every creditor had his pocket been as full of the wherewithal as his heart was of gratitude for small mercies; but there is no difficulty about showing one’s self desirous of satisfying one’s debts—the only difficulty generally rests in being able to do so.

At college he had proved himself a good scholar and a true companion; but as he could no longer contribute toward the support of his college, his college could not be expected to support him.

His long black cap, his flowing robes, his pantaloons, and his shoes were altered in substance, and so was Juan Rivas.

Finally he became reduced to his last maravedi, and as his friends could no longer assist him, he thought it was high time he should assist himself.

“Providence,” said he, “has never intended me for a poor man, but Fate has almost made me one. I will believe in Providence, and become rich from this day.” Saying which, he went to some of his companions, who were almost as poor as he was, and asked them if they desired to be rich.

“Do you ask us if we want to be rich with so serious a face?” answered they. “Really, friend Juan, you are so strange that you do not seem to belong to this city!”

“No man can be rich,” continued Juan, “by staying at home. We are students, and our studies should meet with some recompense. Will you do as I bid you?”

“Yes!” cried all his poor companions; “so long as you lead us not to the gallows, for we like not such playthings.”

“Well, then, follow me,” said Juan; “and when you see me release a prize that belongs to him who shall be bold enough to seize it, off with it to the market, and dispose of it at the best possible price.”

“Done, and agreed to,” shouted all, “if you will but seize the prize!”

“Leave that to me,” said the poor student, “and I will hand you a prize fully worth twenty dollars without his garments.”

“But, surely, you are not going to hand some man or woman over to us?” inquired they.

“Ask me no questions, as the Archbishop of Compostella said to the pretty widow, and I will be honest with you. The prize I shall hand you will fetch money in the market, and we sell not human beings in this country,” urged Juan.

“That is right,” they exclaimed; “and we will follow you.”

The students followed Juan on to the high-road leading from the city to Ourense; and when they had walked for about two hours’ time Juan told his companions to get behind the hedge and await results.

Soon after, the jingling of bells was heard, and a muleteer seated cross-legged on a mule, which preceded five others, was seen approaching.

As the muleteer had sold all his wares he was indulging in a sleep, and had it not been for the dog-flies that teased the mules they would also have slept.

Juan let the muleteer pass; but as the last mule came up he seized it, and, taking off its trappings, and disencumbering it of its ponderous albarda, or saddle, he freed the animal on the roadside, and replaced the trappings and the saddle on himself.

His companions were not slow in seizing the prize and hurrying away with it, while Juan Rivas continued for some distance along the road,
following in the train of mules.

As soon as he considered that his companions would be out of sight, he commenced backing with all his strength, which brought the mules to a sudden halt and caused their bells to tinkle.

The muleteer looked back to see if anything was wrong, but, perceiving nothing, bestowed a hearty blow on his mule, and on he went again.

The student now began to rear and jump about so that the muleteer pulled up, and, having dismounted, proceeded to inquire into the cause of the mule so misbehaving itself; but his astonishment was great when, instead of a mule, he saw a human being bearing the trappings and the saddle.

“What merry freak is this,” demanded the muleteer, addressing the student, “that I see you replacing my mule?”

“It is no merry freak, indeed it is not,” replied Juan Rivas, “but a sad reality. You see before you, good master, a poor, miserable creature, who for his many offences against Mother Church was transformed into a mule, and sentenced to remain so for a number of years. My term of punishment has just expired, and I am restored to my natural form.”

“But where is my mule that cost me one hundred crowns not many years ago?” asked the muleteer.

“You do not understand me, good master,” replied the student. “I was the mule, and the mule was I; now I am I. When you used to kick your mule, you really kicked me; when you fed it, you fed me; and now, when you speak to me, you speak to all that remains of your mule. Now do you understand?”

“I am beginning to perceive,” said the muleteer, scratching his head and looking very sorrowful, “that for your sins you were turned into a mule, and that for mine, I had the misfortune to purchase you. I always thought there was something strange about that mule!”

“There is no doubt that we all must put up with the consequences of our evil ways, and, as you very properly say, you have been punished by the loss of your mule; but, then, you can rejoice with me, seeing that the son of the first Grandee in Spain served you in the humble capacity of a beast of burden, and now is restored to rank and wealth.”

“And are you a Grandee of Spain?” anxiously inquired the poor man, “Why, then, your excellency will never forgive me for the many kicks I have bestowed on your excellency’s sides; and I am a ruined man, for you will have me punished.”

“Not so, kind friend; not so,” replied the student, in an assuring tone; “for how could you tell that your mule was not a mule?”

“Then your excellency will not be revenged on me?” continued the muleteer. “And if it will be of any consolation to your excellency, I promise never to divulge this mystery!”

“It will, indeed, be a great comfort to me to think that no one will know what became of me for so many years,” replied the student. “And now I must bid you good-bye, for I am in a hurry to again embrace my dear parents if they be still living.”

“Good-bye,” said the muleteer, with emotion; “and may your excellency never again incur the displeasure of Mother Church.”

Thus they parted good friends; the muleteer pondering over what he termed the mysteries of life, and Juan Rivas full of delight at the thought of rejoining his companions, and having a good supper with the proceeds of the mule, which pleasure was not denied him and his friends.

In a fortnight’s time there was a cattle fair in the neighbourhood of Tuy, and as the muleteer required to replace the mule he had so mysteriously lost, he attended the fair, and was looking about him for a serviceable mule, when an acquaintance called out to him to know why he had parted with the other one.

“I have my private reasons,” answered the muleteer, “and I am not here to let you know them.”

“Very true,” continued his inquisitive friend; “but the proverb says that ‘the mule you know is better than the mule you don’t know,’ and if you will take my advice, you will buy your old mule back again, for there it is”—pointing to it.

The muleteer looked in the direction mentioned, and was horrified at seeing his late mule again; but, trying to conceal his emotion, he approached the animal and whispered in its ear, “Those who don’t know what sort of a mule your excellency is may buy you, but I know the mule you are;” and, turning away, he sorrowfully exclaimed, “He has again offended. Terrible are the judgments of Providence!”

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

[Philippine Folktales] The Monkey and the Turtle

One day a Monkey met a Turtle on the road, and asked, "Where are you going?"

"I am going to find something to eat, for I have had no food for three whole days," said the Turtle.

"I too am hungry," said the Monkey; "and since we are both hungry, let us go together and hunt food for our stomachs' sake."

They soon became good friends and chatted along the way, so that the time passed quickly. Before they had gone far, the Monkey saw a large bunch of yellow bananas on a tree at a distance.

"Oh, what a good sight that is!" cried he. "Don't you see the bananas hanging on that banana-tree? [pointing with his first finger toward the tree]. They are fine! I can taste them already."

But the Turtle was short-sighted and could not see them. By and by they came near the tree, and then he saw them. The two friends were very glad. The mere sight of the ripe, yellow fruit seemed to assuage their hunger.

But the Turtle could not climb the tree, so he agreed that the Monkey should go up alone and should throw some of the fruit down to him. The Monkey was up in a flash; and, seating himself comfortably, he began to eat the finest of the fruit, and forgot to drop any down to the Turtle waiting below. The Turtle called for some, but the Monkey pretended not to hear. He ate even the peelings, and refused to drop a bit to his friend, who was patiently begging under the tree.

At last the Turtle became angry, very angry indeed: "so he thought he would revenge" (as my informant puts it). While the Monkey was having a good time, and filling his stomach, the Turtle gathered sharp, broken pieces of glass, and stuck them, one by one, all around the banana-tree. Then he hid himself under a coconut-shell not far away. This shell had a hole in the top to allow the air to enter. That was why the Turtle chose it for his hiding-place.

The Monkey could not eat all the bananas, for there were enough to last a good-sized family several days; "but he ate all what he can," and by and by came down the tree with great difficulty, for the glass was so sharp that it cut even the tough hand of the Monkey. He had a hard time, and his hands were cut in many places. The Turtle thought he had his revenge, and was not so angry as before.

But the Monkey was now very angry at the trick that had been played upon him, and began looking for the Turtle, intending to kill him. For some time he could not find his foe, and, being very tired, he sat down on the cocoanut-shell near by. His weariness increased his anger at the Turtle very much.

He sat on the shell for a long time, suffering from his wounds, and wondering where to find the Turtle,--his former friend, but now his enemy. Because of the disturbance of the shell, the Turtle inside could not help making a noise. This the Monkey heard; and he was surprised, for he could not determine whence the sound came. At last he lifted his stool, and there found his foe the Turtle.

"Ha! Here you are!" he cried. "Pray now, for it is the end of your life."

He picked up the Turtle by the neck and carried him near the riverbank, where he meant to kill him. He took a mortar and pestle, and built a big fire, intending to pound him to powder or burn him to death. When everything was ready, he told the Turtle to choose whether he should die in the fire or be "grounded" in the mortar. The Turtle begged for his life; but when he found it was in vain, he prayed to be thrown into the fire or ground in the mortar,--anything except be thrown into the water. On hearing this, the Monkey picked the Turtle up in his bleeding fingers, and with all his might threw him into the middle of the stream.

Then the Turtle was very glad. He chuckled at his own wit, and laughed at the foolishness of the Monkey. He came up to the surface of the water and mocked at the Monkey, saying, "This is my home. The water is my home."

This made the Monkey so angry that he lost his self-possession entirely. He jumped into the middle of the river after the Turtle, and was drowned.

Since that day monkeys and turtles have been bitter enemies.

Sunday, July 27, 2014


It once happened that Paracelsus was walking through a forest, when he heard a voice calling to him by name. He looked around, and at length discovered that it proceeded from a fir-tree, in the trunk of which there was a spirit enclosed by a small stopper, sealed with three crosses.

The spirit begged of Paracelsus to set him free. This he readily promised, on condition that the spirit should bestow upon him a medicine capable of healing all diseases, and a tincture which would turn everything it touched to gold. The spirit acceded to his request, whereupon Paracelsus took his penknife, and succeeded, after some trouble, in getting out the stopper. A loathsome black spider crept forth, which ran down the trunk of the tree. Scarcely had it reached the ground before it was changed, and became, as if rising from the earth, a tall haggard man, with squinting red eyes, wrapped in a scarlet mantle.

He led Paracelsus to a high, overhanging, craggy mount, and with a hazel twig, which he had broken off by the way, he smote the rock, which, splitting with a crash at the blow, divided itself in twain, and the spirit disappeared within it. He, however, soon returned with two small phials, which he handed to Paracelsus--a yellow one, containing the tincture which turned all it touched to gold, and a white one, holding the medicine which healed all diseases. He then smote the rock a second time, and thereupon it instantly closed again.

Both now set forth on their return, the spirit directing his course towards Innsprück, to seize upon the magician who had banished him from that city. Now Paracelsus trembled for the consequences which his releasing the Evil One would entail upon him who had conjured him into the tree, and bethought how he might rescue him. When they arrived once more at the fir-tree, he asked the spirit if he could possibly transform himself again into a spider, and let him see him creep into the hole. The spirit said that it was not only possible, but that he would be most happy to make such a display of his art for the gratification of his deliverer.

Accordingly he once more assumed the form of a spider, and crept again into the well-known crevice. When he had done so, Paracelsus, who had kept the stopper all ready in his hand for the purpose, clapped it as quick as lightning into the hole, hammered it in firmly with a stone, and with his knife made three fresh crosses upon it. The spirit, mad with rage, shook the fir-tree as though with a whirlwind, that he might drive out the stopper which Paracelsus had thrust in, but his fury was of no avail. It held fast, and left him there with little hope of escape, for, on account of the great drifts of snow from the mountains, the forest will never be cut down, and, although he should call night and day, nobody in that neighbourhood ever ventures near the spot.

Paracelsus, however, found that the phials were such as he had demanded, and it was by their means that he afterwards became such a celebrated and distinguished man.