Folk-Lore and Legends: Russian and Polish | Annotated Tale

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Prince Peter and Princess Magilene

IN THE kingdom of France there was once a high-born prince named Volchvan who married a noble lady named Petronida. They had one son, who was called Peter. This Prince Peter in his youth was very fond of horsemanship and of war, and when he grew up he thought of nothing but knightly deeds. Now it chanced that just at that time there arrived a knight named Ruiganduis, who had come from Naples, and he, seeing the Prince’s disposition, said to him, “Prince Peter, the King of Naples has a beautiful daughter named Magilene, and he bestows great rewards on the knights who by their deeds do honour to her.”

              Peter, when he heard that, went to his father and mother, and begged them to let him go to Naples to learn knightly arts, and, especially, to see the beautiful Magilene, the daughter of the King.

              They parted with Prince Peter with great sorrow, and bade him only make friends of good folk. Then they gave him three gold rings with precious stones, and also a golden key. So they sent him off.

              When Prince Peter came to Naples he went to a clever workman, and ordered him to make him a coat of mail, and a helmet to match, and told him to fasten to it two golden keys. When he had done this he rode away to the place where the tournaments were held, where he found the King. The folk called Peter, Peter with the Golden Keys, and off he went and placed himself among the knights. First of all there rode out the Knight Andrei Skrintor, and against him appeared the son of the King of England. Andrei dealt Henry such a blow, that he was nearly thrown off his horse. Then Landiot, the King’s son, came forth and threw Andrei off his horse on to the ground.

              When Prince Peter saw that Landiot had thrown Andrei from his saddle, he rode out and cried aloud—

              “Long may their Majesties live in happiness, the King, the Queen, and their beautiful daughter, the Princess Magilene.”

              He rode at Landiot with such force that his horse rolled on the ground and the spear went through his heart. This deed won for him the praise of the King and of all the knights, but especially that of the Princess Magilene, and Prince Peter became the first of all the King’s knights.

              Now when the beautiful Princess saw how brave and handsome Prince Peter was she fell in love with him, and resolved to marry him. She made a confidante of her maid, and from that time Prince Peter used to see the Princess daily. He gave her the three golden rings as a mark of his true love, and one day, taking her with him, rode away from the city.

              They rode off on their good horse, taking much gold and silver with them, and they continued their journey all night. At length they came to a thick forest which stretched far away to the seashore. There they stopped to rest, and the Princess, lying down on the grass, fell fast asleep. Prince Peter sat by her side and watched her, and as he looked at her he saw a locket having a golden fastening. He opened it and out fell the three gold rings he had given to her. The Prince put them on the grass, and, as it chanced, a black raven flew by at the moment, seized the rings, and took them off into a tree. Peter climbed up the tree, hoping to catch the bird; but as he was about to seize it, the raven flew into another tree, and so from tree to tree till at last it went away over the sea to an island, letting the rings fall into the water.

              Prince Peter followed the bird, and, having come to the seashore, he looked about him for a boat in which he could pursue it to the island. At length he set off in a small fishing-boat, but as he had no oars he paddled along with his hands. All of a sudden, as he was on his way, there came on a storm of wind which carried him away to the open sea. When the Prince saw he was far from the shore he thought he was lost, and he prayed with groans and tears.

              “Alas! I am the most miserable and unfortunate of all men,” said he. “Why did I not leave the rings in the locket where they were safe? No one in the world is so unfortunate as I, for I have lost my happiness. I have led the Princess away, and have left her in the thick forest, where wild beasts will tear her in pieces, or she will wander about till she dies of hunger. I am her destroyer, and have spilt innocent blood!” He then began to sink in the sea.

              As it chanced, a vessel came by, bound from Turkey, and when the sailors saw a man floating on the sea, they took him on board, and, carrying him away to Alexandria, they sold him to a Turkish Pasha, who sent him off as a present to the Sultan. When the Sultan saw how good his behaviour was, and how agreeable he was, he made him one of his counsellors, and his honesty and his good nature won him the love of all who came in contact with him.

              When the Princess awoke she found herself in the thick forest. She looked on every side, and when she could not see Prince Peter, she was much distressed, and sank down upon the ground. Then she went into the wood, and called with all her strength—

              “My dear husband, Prince Peter, where are you?”

              She wandered on a long way until she met a nun, with whom she exchanged clothes, putting on the nun’s dark garments and giving her her own light-coloured dress. Then she went on to a port, where she went on board a vessel which was about to sail to the country over which Prince Peter’s father ruled. When she came there she went to live with a noble lady named Susanna, and, finding a place among the mountains, she made a harbour, built a convent there named after the apostles Peter and Paul, and there she also founded a hospital for strangers. So she became famous for her pious works. One day the father and mother of Prince Peter came to her and brought to her three rings. They told her that their cook had purchased a fish in which the rings had been found. These rings they had given to their son Peter, and they therefore concluded that he had been drowned, and they wept bitterly.

              Now when Peter had been with the Sultan a long time, he wished to visit his own land, and the Sultan gave him his leave to go, loading him, at the same time, with presents of gold, silver, and magnificent pearls. Having taken leave of the Sultan, the Prince went and hired a French vessel, bought fourteen casks, put salt at the bottom of them, laid the gold and silver in the casks, scattered more salt on the top of the treasure, and told the sailors that there was nothing but salt in the casks. The wind was favourable, and they set off for the Prince’s land, and, having arrived at an island not far off the coast of France, they weighed anchor, for the Prince was very sea-sick. He went upon shore and wandered about in the island till he lost his way, and being tired he lay down and went to sleep. He slept a long time, and the sailors sought him and called him everywhere, but as they could not find him they set sail. They came to the Princess’s convent, and there they sold the salt. Now one day when salt was wanted Magilene went to the casks and was very much surprised to find in them all the treasure.

              Prince Peter was picked up by another vessel and came likewise to the convent. There he was in Magilene’s hospital for a month, but all that time he did not recognise the Princess, for her black veil hid her features from him. While he was there he wept every day.

              One day as Magilene came into the hospital she saw the Prince weeping, and she asked him why he did so, and he told her all his misfortunes. Magilene then recognised him, and sent off to his father and mother to tell them that their son was come back. When they came to the convent they found the Princess arrayed in her royal garments; and when the Prince saw his parents he fell at their feet, embraced them and wept, while they wept with him. At length he stood up, and, taking them by the hand, kissed them, and said—

              “My father and my mother, this lady is the daughter of the great King of Naples on account of whom I left you.”

              So they were married, and they lived in great happiness.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Prince Peter and Princess Magilene
Tale Author/Editor: Tibbitts, Charles John
Book Title: Folk-Lore and Legends: Russian and Polish
Book Author/Editor: Tibbitts, Charles John
Publisher: W. W. Gibbings
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1890
Country of Origin: Russia
Classification: unclassified

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