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

Envious Sisters, The

A KING had three daughters whose names were Pride, Gentleness, and Kindness. The king was very fond of them all, but he loved the youngest one, Kindness, the most, as she knew best how to please him. Many clever young gentlemen came to visit Kindness, but no one ever came near the other two, and so they were very envious of her, and decided they would get rid of her somehow or other. One morning they asked their father's permission to go out into the fields, and from thence they went into the forest. Kindness was delighted at having liberty to roam about in such pretty places; the other two were pleased that they had at last got the bird into their hands. As the dew dried up the two eldest sisters strolled about arm in arm, whilst the youngest chased butterflies and plucked the wild strawberries, with the intention of taking some home to her father; she spent her time in great glee, singing and listening to the songs of the birds, when suddenly she discovered that she had strolled into an immense wood. As she was considering what to do, her two sisters appeared by her side, and said spitefully, "Well, you good-for-nothing! you have never done anything but try to make our father love you most and to spoil our chances in every way, prepare yourself for your end, for you have eaten your last piece of bread." Kindness lifted up her hands, and besought them not to harm her, but they cut off her hands, and only spared her life under the condition that she would never go near her home again; they then took her beautiful precious mantle from her, and dressed her in old rags; they then led her to the highest part of the forest, and showed her an unknown land, bidding her go there and earn her living by begging. The blood streamed from Kindness's arms, and her heart ached in an indescribable way, but she never uttered the slightest reproach against her sisters, but started off in the direction pointed out to her. Suddenly she came to a beautiful open plain, where there was a pretty little orchard full of trees, and their fruit was always ripening all the year round. She gave thanks to God that he had guided her there, then, entering the garden, she crouched down in a by-place. As she had no hands to pluck the fruit with she lived upon what grew upon low boughs; thus she spent the whole summer unnoticed by any one.

               But towards autumn, when every other fruit was gone save grapes, she lived on these, and then the gardener soon discovered that the bunches had been tampered with and that there must be some one about: he watched and caught her. Now it so happened that the garden belonged to a prince, who spent a great deal of his time there, as he was very fond of the place. The gardener did not like to tell him of what had happened, as he pitied the poor handless girl and was afraid his master would punish her severely. He decided therefore to let her go. Accidentally, however, the prince came past and asked who she was. "Your highness," replied the gardener, "I know no more of her than you do. I caught her in the garden, and to prevent her doing any more damage I was going to turn her out." "Don't lead her away," said the prince; "and who are you, unfortunate girl?" "You have called me right, my lord," said Kindness, "for I am unfortunate, but I am not bad; I am a beggar, but I am of royal blood. I was taken from my father because he loved me most; crippled because I was a good child. That is my story." To this the prince replied, "However dirtily and ragged you are dressed, still it is clear to me that you are not of low birth: your pretty face and polished speech prove it. Follow me; and whatever you have lost you will find in my house." "Your highness, in this nasty, dirty dress--how can I come into your presence? Send clothes to me which I can put on, and then I will do whatever you order." "Very well," said the prince; "stay here, and I will send to you." He went and sent her a lady-in-waiting with perfumed water to wash with, a gorgeous dress, and a carriage. Kindness washed and dressed herself, got into the carriage, and went to the prince. Quite changed in her appearance, not at all like as she was before, however much she suffered she was as pretty as a Lucretia; and the prince fell so much in love with her that he decided on the spot that he would marry her; and so they got married, with great splendour, and spent their time together in great happiness.

               When the two elder sisters came home from the forest their father inquired where Kindness was. "Has she not come home?" said they; "we thought that she would have been home before us. As she was running after butterflies she got separated from us. We looked for her everywhere and called for her; as we got no answer we set off home before the darkness set in."

               The king gave orders that Kindness was to be looked for everywhere; they searched for days but could not find her; then the king got so angry in his sorrow that he drove the two elder girls away because they had not taken proper care of their sister. They set out into the world in quite another direction, but by accident arrived in the country where Kindness was queen; here they lived a retired life in a small town unknown to all. Kindness at this time was enceinte; and as war broke out with a neighbouring nation her royal husband was obliged to go to the field of battle. The war lasted a long time, and in the meantime Kindness gave birth to twins, two handsome sons; on the forehead of one was the sign of the blessed sun, on the other the sign of the blessed moon; in great joy the queen's guardian sent a letter containing the good news to the king by a messenger to the camp. The messenger had to pass through the small town where the envious sisters dwelt; it was quite dark when he arrived, and as he did not see a light anywhere but in their window he went and asked for a night's lodging; while he stayed there he told them all about the object of his journey; you may imagine how well he was received, and with what pleasure they offered him lodging, these envious brutes! When the messenger fell asleep they immediately took possession of the letter, tore it open, read it, and burnt it, and put in its place another to the king, saying that the queen had given birth to two monsters which looked more like puppies than babes; in the morning they gave meat and drink to the messenger, and pressed him to call and see them on his way back, as they would be delighted to see him. He accepted their kind invitation, and promised that he would come to them, and to no one else, on his return. The messenger arrived at the camp and delivered his letter to the king, who was very downcast as he read it; but still he wrote back and said that his wife was not to be blamed; "if it has happened thus how can I help it? don't show her the slightest discourtesy," wrote he. As the messenger went back he slept again in the house of the two old serpent-sisters; they stole the king's letter and wrote in its place: "I want neither children nor mother; see that by the time I come home those monsters be out of my way, so that not even so much as their name remain." When this letter was read every one was very sorry for the poor queen, and couldn't make out why the king was so angry, but there was nothing for it but for the king's orders to be carried out, and so the two pretty babes were put in a sheet and hung round Kindness's neck, and she was sent away. For days and days poor Kindness walked about suffering hunger and thirst, till at last she came to a pretty wood; passing through this she travelled through a valley covered with trees; passing through this at last she saw the great alpine fir-trees at the end of the vale; there she found a clear spring; in her parching thirst she stooped to drink, but in her hurry she lost her balance and fell into the water; as she tried to drag herself out with her two stumps, to her intense astonishment she found that by immersion her two hands had grown again as they were before; she wept for joy. Although she was hiding in an unknown place with no husband, no father, no friend, no help whatever, with two starving children in this great wilderness, still she wasn't sorrowful, because she was so delighted to have her hands again. She stood there, and could not make up her mind in which direction to go; as she stood looking all round she suddenly caught sight of an old man coming towards her. "Who are you?" said the old man. "Who am I?" she replied, sighing deeply; "I'm an unfortunate queen." She then told him all she had suffered, and how she had recovered her hands that very minute by washing in the spring. "My poor good daughter," said the old man, bitterly, "then we are both afflicted ones; it's quite enough that you are alive, and that I have found you. Listen to me: your husband was warring against me, he drove me from my country, and hiding from him I came this way; not very far from here with one of my faithful servants I have built a hut and we will live together there." The old man, in order to prove the miraculous curing power of the spring, dipped his maimed finger into it, which was shot off in the last war; as he took it out, lo! it was all right once more.

               When the war was over, Kindness's husband returned home and inquired after his wife. They told him all that had happened, and he was deeply grieved, and went in search of her with a great number of his people, and they found her at last with her two pretty babes, living with her old father. On inquiry it was also found out where the messenger with the letters had slept and how the letters were changed. Pride and Gentleness were summoned and sentenced to death; but Kindness forgave them all their misdeeds, and was so kind to them that she obtained their pardon, and also persuaded her father to forgive them.

               There is no more of this speech to which you need listen, as I have told it to the very end and I have not missed a word out of it. Those of whom I have spoken may they be your guests, every one of them, to-morrow!


Kriza, v.

                Cf. the beginning of the tale "The Three Princesses," in the present volume, p. 144. The tale is frequently found in Hungary, also amongst the Germans and Servians.

               For cruelty towards the best (generally the youngest), cf. pp. 36, 152, 182 in this collection; Chaucer and Boccacio; Grimm, i. "The Girl without Hands," p. 127, and Notes, p. 378. The Finnish variant tells how there was once a brother and sister, and when the father was dying he said to his son, "Treat your sister well." All went on comfortably until the brother married a girl who was "the devil's wife's daughter," and before long, owing to her slanders, the sister was turned out. The girl then went to the king's castle, and lived there as a beggar. In the spring the king's son went to sow his field, and said: "Who first eats of these peas, she shall be my wife." This he said in a joke to the others. But the girl was there, behind the fence, and she heard and remembered it all.

               Summer came--the peas were ripe. Then the girl dug a hole under the fence, and went and ate some peas. Suddenly the king's son remembered his pea-field, and thought, "I will go and see how the peas are getting on." He went and saw some one had been eating them, and so he watched for some time, and lo! a girl came cautiously through a hole and began to eat the peas. The king's son seized her and carried her home in a sheet. Then he dressed her in a royal dress, and made her ready to be his wife, as a king's bride ought to be. They lived together till the king's son made his wife pregnant, then he was obliged to go to the war, and he said to his wife, "If you have a boy send me a letter, and I will come back: if it is a girl, send me a letter, and I will come back when I can." Well! the wife had a son. She sent a letter asking her husband to come home at once, and sent a slave with it. The slave went to spend the night in the girl's home. When he had been there a little time the mistress said, "Would you like to sleep here?" "Yes," answered the messenger, and began to bathe; but the devil's daughter, in the meantime, opened his bag and changed the letter's meaning, and put "a female child is born." The slave knew nothing of it, but set off with the letter to the king's son. When he read it he sent the same slave back with the answer, "I will come when I have time," and the slave returned. On his way he came to the same house, and the mistress in the same way sent him to the bath and opened the bag and changed the letter, "As the child is born, the woman must put off the royal dress and put on her own rags, and she may, with her child, go where she likes." The slave brought the letter to the wife, who did as the letter said, and set off begging and moaning. She began to be thirsty, and sought for water in the wood. In a little time she found a well, where there was wonderfully clear water and a beautiful golden ladle. She put down her child, and went a little way from the well. When the child was alone it stretched out to the ladle and fell head first into the well. The mother rushed to help him and got her child out before he was drowned. Wherever the water touched her she became much more beautiful and white. The child also became like no other in the world. The woman set off with her child, and at last came to her own home, where her brother was still living with his wife. She was not recognised, and asked for a night's lodging. The mistress shouted, "Outside the door is a good place for you." "Very well," said the woman, and stayed there with her child all night.

               She sat there all night, and the king with his soldiers from the war came there. As the king walked in his room, the woman let her child crawl on the floor. It crawled to the king, who took it and said, "Who are you, poor woman, who are so beautiful, and have so handsome a child?" "I have been in this house before, but my sister-in-law hated me." "Hold your noise, you blackguard," shouted the woman, and wished to stop her. But the other went on, "My sister-in-law hated me, and thrashed me, and drove me away almost dead. I then went to the king's castle, and became the king's son's wife. When I was pregnant the king's son went to war, and I sent him a letter that I had got a boy; but he was so angry, that he ordered me and my child out; and so I had to leave a good home." "Hold your noise!" shouted the brother's wife again. But the king said, "I am lord here;" and the woman continued and explained all. The brother's wife again shouted, "Hold your noise, you good-for-nothing!" Then the king seized her by the hair, and hanged her from the gutter, and took his wife and boy home, and they lived happily. If they are yet alive, I don't know. "Neitonen Hernemaassa."--"The maid in the pea-field," S. ja T. 1, p. 116.--Cf. "Neitonen Kuninkaan Sadussa," ("The maid in the king's garden,") id. 108; "Pigen uden Haender," in Udwalgte Eventyr og Fortaellinger, en Laesebog for Folket og for den barnlige Werden, (Copenhagen, 1843). No. 48, p. 258; "The Girl without Hands," p. 182, in this collection; and Steere's Swahili Tales. "Blessing and Property," p. 403.

               The Finnish tale, "Tynnyrissä kaswanut Poika," ("The boy who grew in a barrel,") S. ja T. 1, 105, tells how a king's son heard the three daughters of a peasant woman talking. The eldest said, "I would like to make all sorts of foods and drinks out of one corn;" the middle one, "I would like to make all sorts of clothes out of one flax thread;" the youngest said, "I don't like work, but will bear children three times, and have three sons each time, who shall have:

"Kun kupeesta kuumottawi,     
Päiwyt ompi pääla' ella,     
Käet on kultaa kalwoisesta,     
Jal'at hopeiset polwista."

"The moon shining in the temples,     
The sun on the top of the head,     
Hands of gold to the wrist,     
Feet of silver from the knees."

                The king's son marries the youngest girl and, when she is pregnant, goes to war. She bears three sons, which the midwife exchanges for three whelps; the same thing happens a second time; and also a third time, when the wife manages to save one son. The people insist upon her being sent away; and so she and her child (which she takes secretly in her bosom) are put in a barrel and thrown into the sea. The barrel grows too small, so the lad kicks the bottom out, and they land, and live in a hut, where the woman makes nine cakes of her milk, and finds her other eight boys. The king's son soon discovers them, and all goes well. The changed letter also occurs in Antti Puuhaara.

               Cf. Hahn, Griechische Märchen; "Sun, Moon, and Morning Star;" in which the king's son marries all the three girls.

               Deccan Days, "Truth's Triumph," p. 54, where Guzra Bai had one hundred and one children, which the nurse threw out of the palace on the dust-heap, and substituted stones for them.

               In the Land of Marvels, "The Blackbird," p. 34.

               Stokes' Indian Tales. "The boy who had a moon on his forehead, and a star on his chin:" also Phúlmati Ráni who had on her head the sun; on her hands, moons; and her face was covered with stars.

               Gonzenbach, Sicilianische Märchen, vol. i. p. 19.

               Stier, Ungarische Volksmärchen: "Die verwandelten Kinder."

               Stier, Ungarische Sagen: "Die beiden jüngsten Königskinder."

               Schott, Wallachische Märchen: "Die goldenen Kinder."

               Gubernatis, vol. i p. 412, says, "In the European story, when the beautiful princess, in the absence of the prince, her husband, gives birth to two beautiful sons, the witch induces the absent prince to believe that, instead of real sons, his young wife has given birth to pups. In the seventh story of the third book of Afanassieff, the young queen gives birth, during the king's absence, to two sons, of whom one has the moon on his forehead, and the other a star on the nape of his neck (the Açvinâu). The wicked sister of the young queen buries the children. Where they were buried a golden sprout and a silver one sprung up. A sheep feeds upon these plants, and gives birth to two lambs, having, the one the sun on its head, the other a star on its neck. The wicked sister, who has meanwhile been married to the king, orders them to be torn in pieces, and their intestines to be thrown out into the road. The good lawful queen has them cooked, eats them, and again gives birth to her two sons, who grow up hardy and strong, and who, when interrogated by the king, narrate to him the story of their origin: their mother is recognised, and becomes once more the king's wife. The wicked sister is put to death." In vol. ii. p. 30, another story of Afanassieff, bk. iii. 13, is quoted, which resembles the "Envious Sisters"; also a Servian story, p. 31, where the cut-off hands are replaced by golden ones, by means of the ashes of three burned hairs from the tails of a black stallion and a white mare. Reference is also made to Pentamerone, bk. iii. No. 2; Afanassieff, bk. iii. No. 6; the Mediæval Legends of St. Uliva, by Prof. A. d'Ancona, Pisa, Nistri, 1863; and, Figlia del Re di Dacia, by Prof. A. Wesselofski, Pisa, Nistri, 1866.

               Cf. Notes in Stokes, pp. 242, 250; Grimm, vol. i.: "The Gold Children," p. 333.

               Portuguese Tales, by Pedroso: "The Maiden with the Rose on her Forehead," F.L.S. p. 65.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Envious Sisters, The
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: unclassified

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