A MAGICIAN was once upon a time much put out with a young countryman, and being in a great rage he went to the man’s hut and stuck a new sharp knife under the threshold. While he did so he cursed the man, saying—
“May this fellow ride for seven years on the fleet storm-wind, until he has gone all round the world.”
Now when the peasant went into the meadows in order to carry the hay, there came suddenly a gust of wind. It quickly scattered the hay, and then seized the peasant. He endeavoured in vain to resist; in vain he sought to cling to the hedges and trees with his hands. Do what he would, the invisible power hurried him forwards.
He flew on the wings of the wind like a wild pigeon, and his feet no more touched the ground. At length the sun set, and the poor fellow looked with hungry eyes upon the smoke which curled up from the chimneys in his village. He could almost touch them with his feet, but he called and screamed in vain, and all his wailing and complaints were useless. No one heard his lamentation, no one saw his tears.
So he went on for three months, and what with thirst and hunger he was dried up and almost a skeleton. He had gone over a good deal of ground by that time, but the wind most often carried him over his native village.
He wept when he saw the hut in which dwelt his sweetheart. He could see her busied about the house. Sometimes she would bring out some dinner in a basket. Then he would stretch out his dried-up hands to her, and vainly call her name. His voice would die away, and the girl not hearing him would not look up.
He fled on. The magician came to the door of his hut, and seeing the man, cried to him, mockingly—
“You have to ride for seven years yet, flying over this village. You shall go on suffering, and shall not die.”
“O my father,” said the man, “if I ever offended you, forgive me! Look! my lips are quite hard; my face, my hands, look at them! I am nothing but bone. Have pity upon me.”
The magician muttered a few words, and the man stopped in his course. He stayed in one place, but did not yet stand on the ground.
“Well, you ask me to pity you,” said the magician. “And what do you mean to give me if I put a stop to your torment?”
“All you wish,” said the peasant, and he clasped his hands, and knelt down in the air.
“Will you give me your sweetheart,” asked the magician, “so that I may have her for my wife? If you will give her up, you shall come to earth again.”
The man thought for a moment, and said to himself—
“If I once get on the earth again, I may see if I cannot do something.”
So he said to the magician—
“Indeed, you ask me to make a great sacrifice, but if it must be so it must.”
The magician then blew at him, and the man came to the ground. He was very pleased to find the earth once more under his feet, and to have escaped from the power of the wind. Off he hurried to his hut, and at the threshold he met his sweetheart. She cried aloud with amazement when she saw the long-lost peasant, whom she had so long lamented and wept for. With his skinny hands the man put her gently aside, and went into the house, where he found the farmer who had employed him sitting down, and said to him, as he commenced to weep—
“I can no longer stay in your service, and I cannot marry your daughter. I love her very much, as much as the apple of my eye, but I cannot marry her.”
The old farmer wondered to see him, and when he saw his white pinched face and the traces of his suffering, he asked him why he did not wish for the hand of his daughter.
The man told him all about his ride in the air, and the bargain he had made with the magician. When the farmer had listened to it all, he told the poor fellow to keep a good heart, and putting some money in his pocket, went out to consult a sorceress.
Towards evening he returned very merry, and taking the peasant aside, said to him—
“To-morrow morning, before day, go to the witch, and you will find all will be well.”
The wearied peasant, who had not slept for three months, went to bed, but he woke before it was day, and went off to the witch. He found her sitting beside the hearth boiling herbs over a fire. She told him to stand by her, and, suddenly, although it was a calm day, such a storm of wind arose that the hut shook again.
The sorceress then took the peasant outside into the yard and told him to look up. He lifted up his eyes, and—O wonder!—saw the evil magician whirling round and round in the air.
“There is your enemy,” said the woman, “he will trouble you no more. If you would like to see him at your wedding, I will tell you what to do, but he must suffer the torment that he meant to put you to.”
The peasant was delighted, and ran back to the house, and a month later he was married. While the wedding folk were dancing, the peasant went out into the yard, looked up, and saw right over the hut the magician turning round and round. Then the peasant took a new knife, and throwing it with all his force, stuck it in the magician’s foot.
He fell at once to the ground, and the knife held him to the earth, so that he could only stand at the window and see how merry the peasant and his friends were.
The next day he had disappeared, but he was afterwards seen flying in the air over a lake. Before him and behind him were flocks of ravens and crows, and these, with their hoarse cries, heralded the wicked magician’s endless ride on the wind.