Folk-Tales of the Magyars, The UNDER CONSTRUCTION | Annotated Tale

Prince Csihan

THERE was once--I don't know where, at the other side of seven times seven countries, or even beyond them, on the tumble-down side of a tumble-down stove--a poplar-tree, and this poplar-tree had sixty-five branches, and on every branch sat sixty-six crows; and may those who don't listen to my story have their eyes picked out by those crows!

               There was a miller who was so proud that had he stept on an egg he would not have broken it. There was a time when the mill was in full work, but once as he was tired of his mill-work he said, "May God take me out of this mill!" Now, this miller had an auger, a saw, and an adze, and he set off over seven times seven countries, and never found a mill. So his wish was fulfilled. On he went, roaming about, till at last he found on the bank of the Gagy, below Martonos, a tumble-down mill, which was covered with nettles. Here he began to build, and he worked, and by the time the mill was finished all his stockings were worn into holes and his garments all tattered and torn. He then stood expecting people to come and have their flour ground; but no one ever came.

               One day the twelve huntsmen of the king were chasing a fox; and it came to where the miller was, and said to him: "Hide me, miller, and you shall be rewarded for your kindness." "Where shall I hide you?" said the miller, "seeing that I possess nothing but the clothes I stand in?" "There is an old torn sack lying beside that trough," replied the fox; "throw it over me, and, when the dogs come, drive them away with your broom." When the huntsmen came they asked the miller if he had seen a fox pass that way. "How could I have seen it; for, behold, I have nothing but the clothes I stand in?" With that the huntsmen left, and in a little while the fox came out and said, "Miller, I thank you for your kindness; for you have preserved me, and saved my life. I am anxious to do you a good turn if I can. Tell me, do you want to get married?" "My dear little fox," said the miller, "if I could get a wife, who would come here of her own free will, I don't say that I would not--indeed, there is no other way of my getting one; for I can't go among the spinning-girls in these clothes." The fox took leave of the miller, and, in less than a quarter of an hour, he returned with a piece of copper in his mouth. "Here you are, miller," said he; "put this away, you will want it ere long." The miller put it away, and the fox departed; but, before long, he came back with a lump of gold in his mouth. "Put this away, also," said he to the miller, "as you will need it before long." "And now," said the fox, "wouldn't you like to get married?" "Well, my dear little fox," said the miller, "I am quite willing to do so at any moment, as that is my special desire." The fox vanished again, but soon returned with a lump of diamond in his mouth. "Well, miller," said the fox, "I will not ask you any more to get married; I will get you a wife myself. And now give me that piece of copper I gave you." Then, taking it in his mouth, the fox started off over seven times seven countries, and travelled till he came to King Yellow Hammer's. "Good day, most gracious King Yellow Hammer," said the fox; "my life and death are in your majesty's hands. I have heard that you have an unmarried daughter. I am a messenger from Prince Csihan, who has sent me to ask for your daughter as his wife." "I will give her with pleasure, my dear little fox," replied King Yellow Hammer; "I will not refuse her; on the contrary, I give her with great pleasure; but I would do so more willingly if I saw to whom she is to be married--even as it is, I will not refuse her."

               The fox accepted the king's proposal, and they fixed a day upon which they would fetch the lady. "Very well," said the fox; and, taking leave of the king, set off with the ring to the miller.

               "Now then, miller," said the fox, "you are no longer a miller, but Prince Csihan, and on a certain day and hour you must be ready to start; but, first of all, give me that lump of gold I gave you that I may take it to His Majesty King Yellow Hammer, so that he may not think you are a nobody."

               The fox then started off to the king. "Good day, most gracious king, my father. Prince Csihan has sent this lump of gold to my father the king that he may spend it in preparing for the wedding, and that he might change it, as Prince Csihan has no smaller change, his gold all being in lumps like this."

               "Well," reasoned King Yellow Hammer, "I am not sending my daughter to a bad sort of place, for although I am a king I have no such lumps of gold lying about in my palace."

               The fox then returned home to Prince Csihan. "Now then, Prince Csihan," said he, "I have arrived safely, you see; prepare yourself to start to-morrow."

               Next morning he appeared before Prince Csihan. "Are you ready?" asked he. "Oh! yes, I am ready; I can start at any moment, as I got ready long ago."

               With this they started over seven times seven lands. As they passed a hedge the fox said, "Prince Csihan, do you see that splendid castle?" "How could I help seeing it, my dear little fox." "Well," replied the fox, "in that castle dwells your wife." On they went, when suddenly the fox said, "Take off the clothes you have on, let us put them into this hollow tree, and then burn them, so that we may get rid of them." "You are right, we won't have them, nor any like them."

               Then said the fox, "Prince Csihan, go into the river and take a bath." Having done so the prince said, "Now I've done." "All right," said the fox; "go and sit in the forest until I go into the king's presence." The fox set off and arrived at King Yellow Hammer's castle. "Alas! my gracious king, my life and my death are in thy hands. I started with Prince Csihan with three loaded wagons and a carriage and six horses, and I've just managed to get the prince naked out of the water." The king raised his hands in despair, exclaiming, "Where hast thou left my dear son-in-law, little fox?" "Most gracious king, I left him in such-and-such a place in the forest." The king at once ordered four horses to be put to a carriage, and then looked up the robes he wore in his younger days and ordered them to be put in the carriage; the coachman and footman to take their places, the fox sitting on the box.

               When they arrived at the forest the fox got down, and the footman, carrying the clothes upon his arm, took them to Prince Csihan. Then said the fox to the servant, "Don't you dress the prince, he will do it more becomingly himself." He then made Prince Csihan arise, and said, "Come here, Prince Csihan, don't stare at yourself too much when you get dressed in these clothes, else the king might think you were not used to such robes." Prince Csihan got dressed, and drove off to the king. When they arrived, King Yellow Hammer took his son-in-law in his arms and said, "Thanks be to God, my dear future son-in-law, for that He has preserved thee from the great waters; and now let us send for the clergyman and let the marriage take place."

               The grand ceremony over, they remained at the court of the king. One day, a month or so after they were married, the princess said to Prince Csihan, "My dear treasure, don't you think it would be as well to go and see your realm?" Prince Csihan left the room in great sorrow, and went towards the stables in great trouble to get ready for the journey he could no longer postpone. Here he met the fox lolling about. As the prince came his tears rolled down upon the straw. "Hollo! Prince Csihan, what's the matter?" cried the fox. "Quite enough," was the reply; "my dear wife insists upon going to see my home." "All right," said the fox; "prepare yourself, Prince Csihan, and we will go."

               The prince went off to his castle and said, "Dear wife, get ready; we will start at once." The king ordered out a carriage and six, and three waggons loaded with treasure and money, so that they might have all they needed. So they started off. Then said the fox, "Now, Prince Csihan, wherever I go you must follow." So they went over seven times seven countries. As they travelled they met a herd of oxen. "Now, herdsmen," said the fox, "if you won't say that this herd belongs to the Vasfogu Bába, but to Prince Csihan, you shall have a handsome present." With this the fox left them, and ran straight to the Vasfogu Bába. "Good day, my mother," said he. "Welcome, my son," replied she; "it's a good thing for you that you called me your mother, else I would have crushed your bones smaller than poppy-seed." "Alas! my mother," said the fox, "don't let us waste our time talking such nonsense, the French are coming!" "Oh! my dear son, hide me away somewhere!" cried the old woman. "I know of a bottomless lake," thought the fox; and he took her and left her on the bank, saying, "Now, my dear old mother, wash your feet here until I return." The fox then left the Vasfogu Bába, and went to Prince Csihan, whom he found standing in the same place where he left him. He began to swear and rave at him fearfully. "Why didn't you drive on after me? come along at once." They arrived at the Vasfogu's great castle, and took possession of a suite of apartments. Here they found everything the heart could wish for, and at night all went to bed in peace.

               Suddenly the fox remembered that the Vasfogu Bába had no proper abode yet, and set off to her. "I hear, my dear son," said she, "that the horses with their bells have arrived; take me away to another place." The fox crept up behind her, gave her a push, and she fell into the bottomless lake, and was drowned, leaving all her vast property to Prince Csihan. "You were born under a lucky star, my prince," said the fox, when he returned; "for see I have placed you in possession of all this great wealth." In his joy the prince gave a great feast to celebrate his coming into his property, so that the people from Bánczida to Zsukhajna were feasted royally, but he gave them no drink. "Now," said the fox to himself, "after all this feasting I will sham illness, and see what treatment I shall receive at his hands in return for all my kindness to him." So Mr. Fox became dreadfully ill, he moaned and groaned so fearfully that the neighbours made complaint to the prince. "Seize him," said the prince, "and pitch him out on the dunghill." So the poor fox was thrown out on the dunghill. One day Prince Csihan was passing that way. "You a prince!" muttered the fox; "you are nothing else but a miller; would you like to be a house-holder such as you were at the nettle-mill?" The prince was terrified by this speech of the fox, so terrified that he nearly fainted. "Oh! dear little fox, do not do that," cried the prince, "and I promise you on my royal word that I will give you the same food as I have, and that so long as I live you shall be my dearest friend and you shall be honoured as my greatest benefactor."

               He then ordered the fox to be taken to the castle, and to sit at the royal table, nor did he ever forget him again.

               So they lived happily ever after, and do yet, if they are not dead. May they be your guests to-morrow!


Kriza xvii.

               In this tale and some others (e.g. "Fairy Elisabeth") it is said that in order to celebrate a wedding the clergyman and the executioner were sent for. Several of the clergy who live among the Székely people on the very spot have been applied to for an explanation of the perplexing word, but they were unable to furnish any clue. The word is not given in Kriza's Glossary. It appears to be one of those curiosities of popular nomenclature so often found in Hungary, and may be a fanciful name for "sacristan," or sexton. One of the many names of this official is "harangozó," i. e. the bellringer; hence the individual who holds the corresponding office among the Jews is in small villages sometimes called "the Jewish bellringer," a clear case of lucus a non lucendo. A friend of the editors (who is a Székely) says that "hóhér" in his part means any one who torments, maltreats, or brutalises another. It is also made into a verb thus, "hóhérholja a lovat," "he maltreats the horse." He says that the hóhér is nearly always mentioned in fairy tales in connection with the priest, who was generally accompanied by him: but he does not think the word has any special significance in Folk-Lore.

               Page 5. "Vasfogu Bába." Bába, in Magyar, as in Japanese, means a midwife: in Slavonic, an old woman. See Ralston's Russian Folk Tales: note, p. 137. "The French are coming." This must be unique. The usual exclamations are, "The Turks are coming," or "The Tartars are coming." The nurse will frighten a naughty child with Turks or Tartars. For the heroic deeds of a popular hero against the French, cf. "Le Chevalier Jean, Conte Magyar, par Alex. Petoefi ...traduit par A. Dozon." Paris. 18º.

               The present story is one of a host wherein the gratitude of beasts is compared with the ingratitude of man; and is a more perfect version of the well-known Puss in Boots. Cf. Schiefner, Avar Tales. There is a variant, "Madon linna" ("The Snake's Castle"), collected in Russian Karelia, where the hero is the only son of an old couple, the mother when dying tells her son not to be downhearted, as he still has his father to help him; soon after the father fell sick. "What shall I do, dear father, when you die?" asked the lad. "Go to the forest," replied the father, "and there you will find three traps, bring home alive whatever you find." Soon the father died, and the lad was left alone in his sorrow; after many days he suddenly remembered what his father had said, and set off to the forest, where he found the traps. In the first and second there was nothing, but in the third was a brown fox, which he brought home alive, thinking to himself, "There's not much to be got out of this beast; I shall soon die of hunger." When he got home, he put the fox on a bench and sat down, when, lo! the fox said, "Look here, Jussi Juholainen, wouldn't you like to get married?" The lad replied, "Why should I marry, poor fox? I couldn't live with a poor woman, and a rich one wouldn't have me." "Marry one of the royal family, and then you'll be rich." The lad said that it was all nonsense; but the fox declared he could do it, and then the story goes on very much like Prince Csihan, shewing the king how rich the suitor for his daughter's hand was, and frightening the dependents of the snake into declaring that they belonged to Jussi Juholainen. At last they reach the snake's castle, "the like of which is not in the whole country, nay, not in the wide world. An oak was growing by the wayside, and a holly tree in the courtyard, all the leaves were golden coloured, and golden feathered birds sang among the branches; and in the park was a magnificent elk with gold and silver hairs."

               The fox frightens the snake by telling of the coming of a great king, saying, "O poor snake, the king is coming to destroy your house, and kill you." The snake at once hurried off to the store-house [1] where the linen was kept, and hid there, and in due course was burnt up with the stores, by the fox, who set fire to the whole. The king was "giddy" with delight at his son-in-law's wealth, and stayed many days. When he prepared to return home, the fox proposed that Jussi Juholainen and his man should now visit the king, much to the king's chagrin, who tried to make excuses; but as this failed, calves and dog-like creatures, and so forth, were made to jump about the wayside, and in the courtyard, so as to be something like the palace of his son-in-law. But all failed; and the fox, having shown how much greater and wealthier a man Jussi Juholainen was, disappeared. See Suomen Kansan Satuja ja Tarinoita. Part ii. Helsingissä, 1873: [2] where, under head "Kettu kosiomiehenä" (the fox as wooer for some one), page 36, another variant (Kehnon koti), "the Evil One's home," is given.

               In the Karelian story, "Awaimetoin Wakka" (the Keyless Chest), S. ja T. i. p. 151, a lad, when walking in the wood one day, heard his dog barking, and saw that it was a wood-grouse it had found. He drew his bow and was about to shoot when the bird begged him not to do so, and promised to reward him. The lad kept the bird for three years, and at the end of each year a feather fell from the bird's tail, first a copper one, then a silver one, and lastly a gold one; which feathers in the end brought wealth and greatness.

               In the Finnish story of "the Golden Bird," a story very much like "Cinder Jack" (in this collection), p. 149, a wolf brings fortune and power to the hero because he fed her and her young ones.

               In another Finnish story, "Oriiksi muutettu poika" (The Enchanted Steed), in Suomalaisia Kansansatuja, i. (Helsingissä, 1881), a fox assists the fugitives to defeat the devil, who pursues them. This tale is very much like the latter part of "Handsome Paul," p. 33. Compare also a variant from near Wiborg in Tidskriften Suomi, ii. 13, p. 120.

               In a Lapp story a little bird helps. See "Jætten og Veslegutten," from Hammerfest. Lappiske Eventyr og Folkesagn ved. Prof. Friis, Christiania, 1871, [3] p. 52, &c.

               It is a cat in "Jætten, Katten og Gutten," from Alten, Friis, 63; and a fox in "Bondesønnen, Kongesønnen og Solens Søster," from Tanen, Friis, 140.

               Mr. Quigstad reports another variant from Lyngen, in which also a cat helps the hero.

               See also Steere's Swahili Tales: "Sultan Darai"; Dasent's Tales from the Norse: "Lord Peter," and "Well done, and ill-paid."

               Old Deccan Days: "The Brahman." "The Tiger and the Six Judges."

               Mitford's Tales of Old Japan: "The Grateful Foxes." "The Adventures of little Peachling"; and a Bohemian story of the Dog and the Yellow-hammer in Vernaleken's In the Land of Marvels.

               Ralston's Puss in Boots in XIXth Century, January, 1883. A most interesting and exhaustive article.

               Ralston's Russian Folk Tales: "The water King and Vasilissa the Wise." A story which in the beginning is very like "The Keyless Chest."

               Benfey's Pantschatantra, i. 208, and passim.

               Kletke, Märchensaal aller Völker: "Gagliuso."

               Perrault, Contes des Fées: "Le maitre chat."

               Hyltén-Cavallius and Stephens. Svenska Folksagor, i. Stockholm, 1844: "Slottet som stod på Guldstolpar."

               Gubernatis, Zoological Mythology, vol. i. 193; vol. ii. 134, 157.

               Grimm's Household Tales, Bohn's ed. vol. i. "the Golden Bird," p. 227; vol. ii. pp. 46, 154, 323, 427, 527.

               Mentone Stories, in the Folk-Lore Record, vol. iii. part 1, 43.

               Denton's Serbian Folk-Lore, 51, 296.

               Naake's Slavonic Tales: "Golden Hair," p. 133, a Bohemian Tale.

               Stokes's Indian Fairy Tales: "The Demon and the King's Son," 180.

               Payne's The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night, "Abou Mohammed," vol. iv. p. 10. [4]


[1] Cf. Finska Kranier jämte några natur och literatur-studier inom andra områden af Finsk Antropologi Skildrade af Prof. G. Retzius, Stockholm, 1878, p. 121. A most valuable and interesting work which ought to be known to all students of anthropology. See also Du Chaillu's Land of the Midnight Sun, vol. ii. p. 277.

[2] Hereafter quoted as S. ja T.

[3] This valuable collection will hereafter be quoted as Friis.

[4] Villon Society. London, 1884; and hereafter quoted as Payne's Arabian Nights.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Prince Csihan
Tale Author/Editor: Jones, W. Henry & Kropf, Lewis L.
Book Title: Folk-Tales of the Magyars, The UNDER CONSTRUCTION
Book Author/Editor: Jones, W. Henry & Kropf, Lewis L.
Publisher: Elliot Stock
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1889
Country of Origin: Hungary
Classification: ATU 545B: The Cat Castle

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