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

Knight Rose

A KING had three sons. When the enemy broke into the land and occupied it, the king himself fell in the war. The young princes were good huntsmen and fled from the danger, all three, taking three horses with them. They went on together for a long time, till they did not even know where they were; on they journeyed, till at last they came to the top of the very highest snow-covered mountain, where the road branched off: here they decided to separate and try their luck alone. They agreed that on the summit of the mountain, at the top of a tall tree, they would fix a long pole, and on it a white handkerchief. They were to keep well in sight of this white flag, and whenever the handkerchief was seen full of blood the one who saw it was to start in search of his brothers, as one of them was in danger. The name of the youngest was Rose; he started off to the left, the other two went to the right. When Rose came to the seventh snow-capped mount and had got far into it he saw a beautiful castle and went in. As he was tired with travelling and wanted a night's rest, he settled down. When even came the gates of the castle opened with great noise, and seven immense giants rushed into the courtyard and from thence into the tower. Every one of them was as big as a tall tower. Rose, in his fright, crept under the bed; but the moment the giants entered one of them said, "Phuh! What an Adam-like smell there is here!" Looking about they caught Rose, cut him up into small pieces like the stalk of a cabbage and threw him out of the window.

               In the morning the giants went out again on their business. From a bush there came forth a snake, which had the head of a pretty girl; she gathered up every morsel of Rose's body, arranged them in order, and said, "This belongs here, that belongs there." She then anointed him with grass that had healing power, and brought water of life and death from a spring that was not far off and sprinkled it over him. Rose suddenly jumped up on his feet and was seven times more beautiful and strong than before. At this moment the girl cast off the snake-skin as far as the arm-pits. As Rose was now so strong he became braver, and in the evening did not creep under the bed, but waited for the giants coming home, at the gate. They arrived and sent their servants in advance to cut up that wretched heir of Adam; but they could not manage him, it took the giants themselves to cut him up. Next morning the serpent with the girl's head came again and brought Rose to life as before, and she herself cast off her skin as far as her waist. Rose was now twice as strong as a single giant. The same evening the seven giants killed him again, he himself having killed the servants and wounded several of the giants. Next morning the giants were obliged to go without their servants. Then the serpent came and restored Rose once more, who was now stronger than all the seven giants put together, and was so beautiful that though you could look at the sun you could not look at him. The girl now cast off the serpent's skin altogether and became a most beautiful creature. They told each other the story of their lives. The girl said that she was of royal blood, and that the giants had killed her father and seized his land, that the castle belonged to her father, and that the giants went out every day to plunder the people. She herself had become a snake by the aid of a good old quack nurse, and had made a vow that she would remain a serpent until she had been avenged on the giants, and she knew now that although she had cast off the snake's skin she had nothing to fear because Rose was a match for the seven giants. "Now, Rose," said she, "destroy them every one, and I will not be ungrateful." To which he replied, "Dearest one, you have restored me to life these three times--how could I help being grateful to you? My life and my all are yours!" They took an oath to be true to each other till death, and spent the day merrily till evening set in, when the giants came, and Rose addressed them thus: "Is it not true, you pack of scoundrels, that you have killed me three times? Now, I tell you that not one of you shall put his foot within these gates! Don't you believe me? Let's fight!" They charged upon him with great fury, but victory was, this time, on his side; he killed them one after the other and took the keys of the castle out of their pockets. He then searched over every nook in the building, and came to the conclusion that they were safe, as they had now possession of the castle.

               The night passed quietly; next morning Rose looked from the courtyard to the top of the snow-covered mountain, in the direction of the white flag, and saw that it was quite bloody. He was exceedingly sorry, and said to his love, "I must go in search of my two elder brothers, as some mischief has befallen them; wait till I return, because if I find them I shall certainly be back."

               He then got ready, took his sword, bow and arrow, some healing-grass, and water of life and death with him, and went to the very place where they had separated. On the way he shot a hare, and when he came to the place of separation he went on the same road by which his elder brothers had gone; he found there a small hut and a tree beside it; he stopped in front of the tree, and saw that his brothers' two dogs were chained to it; he loosed them, lighted a fire, and began to roast the hare. As he roasted it he heard a voice as if some one were shouting from the tree in a shivering voice; "Oh, how cold I am!" it said. "If you're cold," replied Rose, "get down and warm yourself." "Yes," said the voice, "but I'm afraid of the dogs." "Don't be afraid as they won't hurt an honest person." "I believe you," said the voice in the tree, "but still I want you to throw this hair between them; let them smell it first, then they will know me by it." Rose took the hair and threw it into the fire. Down came an old witch from the tree and warmed herself. Then she spitted a toad and began to roast it. As she did so she said to Rose, "This is mine, that is yours," and threw it at him. As Rose couldn't stand this he jumped up, drew his sword, and smote the witch; but lo! the sword turned into a log of wood, and the witch flew at him to kill him, crying, "It's all up with you also. I've killed your brothers in revenge because you killed my seven giant sons." [1] But Rose set the dogs at her, and they dragged her about till they drew blood. The blood was spilt on the log of wood and it became a sword again. Rose caught hold of it and chopped the old witch's left arm off. Now the witch showed him the place where she had buried his brothers. Rose smote her once more with his sword and the old witch went to Pluto's. Rose dug out the bodies, put the bits together, anointed them with the healing-grass, and sprinkled them with the water of life and death, and they came to life again.

               When they opened their eyes and saw Rose, they both exclaimed, "Oh! how long I have been asleep." "Very long indeed," said Rose, "and if I hadn't come you'd have been asleep still." They told him that soon after they had separated they received the news that the enemy had withdrawn from their country, and they decided to return, and that the elder should undertake the government of the land, and the other go in search of Rose. On their way they happened to go into the hut, and the old witch treated them as she was going to treat Rose.

               Rose also told them his tale, and spoke to them thus: "You, my eldest brother, go home, and sit on our father's throne. You my other brother come with me, and let us two govern the vast country over which the giants had tyrannised until now:" and thus they separated and each went on his own business.

               Rose found his pretty love again, who was nearly dead with fretting for him, but who quite recovered on his happy return. They took into their hands the government of the vast country which they had delivered from the sway of the giants. Rose and his love got married with the most splendid wedding-feast, and the bride had to dance a great deal; and if they've not died since they're alive still to this very day.

               May they curl themselves into an eggshell and be your guests to-morrow.


Kriza vi.

                In folk-stories we often find the heroes erecting some post or pole, or leaving some article behind them, which will tell of their danger. Cf. "The Three Princes," p. 111 of this volume. In "The Two Brothers," (Grimm, vol. i. p. 244,) the foster-father gave to each of the boys a bright knife, and said, "If ever you separate, stick this knife into a tree at the place where you part, and then when one of you goes back, he will be able to see how his absent brother is faring, for the side of the knife which is turned in the direction by which he went will rust if he dies, but will remain bright as long as he lives." Cf. "The Gold Children," where death is shown by the drooping of the brother's gold lily: and notes, ib. p. 453.

               In the Russian story "Ivan Popyalof" (Afanassieff, ii. 30), Ivan hung up his gloves, and said to his brothers, "Should blood drop from my gloves, make haste to help me."

               In "Marya-Morevna" (Afanassieff viii. No. 8), the silver left by Prince Ivan turned black when evil befell him.

               In "Koschei, the Deathless" (Afanassieff, ii. 24), Prince Ivan let some drops of blood run from his little finger into a glass, gave it to his brothers, and said "If the blood in this glass turns black, tarry here no longer; that will mean I am about to die."

               See Ralston's Russian Folk-Tales, pp. 67, 88, 102.--The Serbian story of "The Three Brothers" tells how the brothers stuck their knives into an oak tree, and when a knife fell out it was a sign that the owner was dead. Vide Denton, p. 273.

               In "Five to One," Sagas from the Far East, p. 107, six youths set out and travelled till they came to where six streams met, and each planted a tree at the head of the stream he chose, and if any tree withered away it was a sign evil had befallen its planter.

               In the Greek story, "Sun, Moon, and Morning Star," (Hahn, Griechische Märchen,) the brothers give their sisters two shirts, and if they become black it means misfortune.--Cf. also Folk-Lore Record, vol. i. p. 207.

               In the curious Egyptian story of the "Two Brothers," the younger brother says to the elder one, "When thou shalt take a jug of beer into thy hand and it turns into froth, then delay not; for to thee of a certainty is the issue coming to pass." Records of the Past, vol. ii. p. 144.

               See also Isìlakòlona in "Malagasy Folk-Tales," Folk-Lore Journal, 1884, p. 130.

               In folk-stories the giants were gifted with a keen sense of smell; and no sooner did they enter the room where a man was than they knew of his being there. The Norwegians and Swedes have stories of beings, which are called "Trynetyrk," or "Hundetyrk," and so have the Lapps and Finns. The Lapps call them "Bædnag-njudne," i.e., dog's nose; and the Finns, "Koiran-Kuonalanien," which means the same. These monsters were men who had noses like dogs, and so could track men by their scent. They were said to be enormously large, and to have had one eye in the middle of their forehead; and were much dreaded on account of their being cannibals. A Lapp story tells how once a Lapp girl got lost, and came to a Bædnag-njudne's house. He was not at home, but his wife was. The girl was little, poor, and quite benumbed by the cold, and looked so terrified that the wife thought it would be a sin for Bædnag-njudne to eat her when he came home. So she took her and hid her under her gown. When Bædnag-njudne came home, he at once began to sniff about, and said, "I smell some one." His wife said all sorts of things to make him believe it was not so; and, when she did not dare to conceal the girl any longer, she let her out of the house secretly, and told her to fly for her life. Meanwhile, Bædnag-njudne was long sniffing about the house; and when he could not find anyone inside he went outside, and soon found the footprints. So soon as the girl saw the monster was after her, in her terror she sprang from a bridge and hid herself under it. So the monster lost the track, and the girl was saved. Friis, p. 43.--Cf. "Jack the Giant Killer," where the giant says,

"Fa, fe, fi, fo, fum,     
I smell the blood of an Englishman;     
Be he alive, or be he dead,     
I'll grind his bones to make my bread."                               
          Grimm, vol. ii. p. 504.

                In the northern ballad we are told how a girl is carried off by the fairies. Two of her brothers set off to rescue her, but fail, because they do not carry out Merlin's instructions. The third one succeeds; and, while he sits talking to his sister, the hall doors fly open and the elf king comes in shouting:

"With fi, fe, fa, and fum,     
I smell the blood of a Christian man,     
Be he dead, be he living, with my brand,     
I'll clash his harns frae his harn pan."

                See Dr. Jamieson's Illustrations of Northern Antiquities.

               In the Eskimo story of "The Girl who fled to the Inlanders," (Rink, p. 218,) the inlanders know a coast woman has come, by the smell: In "Inuarutligak," we are told of singular people, whose upper parts are human, and lower little dogs: and are endowed with a keen sense of smell.--Cf. p. 199, in this collection.

               The cutting up of the hero's body reminds us of the Egyptian story of Typhon cutting up Osiris, who is restored to life by Horus; see Uarda, note to cap. viii. Cf. also Sagas from the Far East, tale v. p. 75, and Vernaleken, "The Three White Doves," p. 269.

               In the Eskimo stories the heroes are restored to life by the singing of certain mystic songs.

               In the legend of Gurû Guggâ, the bullocks are restored to life by the singing of charms; Temple's Legends of the Punjâb, p. 124. Cf. Grimm, vol. ii. "Water of Life," and note, p. 399; Ralston's Russian Tales, p. 236.

               The "wound-healing grass" [2] is in all probability flixweed (Sisymbrium Sophia), the Magyar name for which signifies "wound-healing leaf;" see article on Székely Folk-Medicine in Folk-Lore Record, April, 1884, p. 98, and the Finnish story of "Golden Bird."

               With regard to the passage "Rose ... was so beautiful that though you could look at the sun you could not look at him," cf. the reply of Curidach to Attila, as related by Priscus. "He, (Attila,) then invited Curidach, chieftain of the Akatziri, to come and celebrate their joint triumph at his court, but that chieftain, suspecting that his benefactor's kindness was of the same nature as the promised boon of Polyphemus to Ulysses, courteously declined, saying, 'It is hard for a man to come into the presence of a god, and if it be not possible to look fixedly even at the orb of the sun, how shall Curidach gaze undistressed upon the greatest of God's' (i.e. Attila)." Italy and her Invaders, by T. Hodgkin, London, 1880, vol. ii. p. 84.

               The story of a girl assuming a snake's skin reminds us of the daughter of Ypocras, who dwelt at Lango, in the form of a great dragon; see The Voyages and Travels of Sir John Maundeville, cap. iv. See also, "Snake-skin," in this collection, p. 283.--A Snake Friend occurs in the Swahili "Blessing or Property," (Steere, p. 405); in the Finnish "Haastelewat Kuuset," ("The Talking Pines,"); in "Melusina," B. Gould's Curious Myths, p. 471, and in Keightley's Fairy Mythology, p. 480.--In the Norse story of the "Three Princesses of Whiteland," (Dasent, p. 210,) the princesses gradually rise out of the earth as the lad destroys the trolls. See also Vernaleken, "The Fisher's Son," p. 250.

               In the Serbian tale of "The Three Brothers," Denton, p. 275, the witch destroys two of the brothers, having first persuaded them to throw one of her hairs on their animals. The third brother resuscitates them, and all goes well. Cf. "The Enchanted Doe," in Pentamerone. [3]

               Cf. "To Lappepiger gifte sig med Stall," Friis, 106, and "Ivan, Kupiskas Son," Friis, p. 170. Cf. exhaustive note in Stokes's Indian Tales, pp. 163, 268; and the Portuguese tale, "Slices of Fish," in Pedroso: Folk-Lore Society, p. 102. For animals that help, cf. "The Three Princes," p. 113 of this volume.

               To defeat a witch by drawing her blood is well known in the lore of the people.

               Cf. Lapp stories, "Ulta Pigen," where the lad catches an Ulta girl by pricking her in the hand with a pin, so as to draw blood. A similar incident occurs in "Goveiter Pige," from Næsseby. In "Bondesønnen, Kongesønnen og Solens Søster," from Tanen, the herd is told to prick his bride (who has gone from him on account of his looking behind) in her hand till blood comes, and then suck the drop off. He did so and secured his bride. Friis, pp. 23, 39, 140.

               The same superstition is well known in the North of England. In Lincolnshire there is a tale still told (1888) of a farmer who could not get his horses to go past a certain cottage until he got down and thrashed the old woman, who lived there, till the blood came. Whereupon the horses went past without further ado. In Sykes's Local Records of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, under March 26th, 1649, we are told how it was decided that certain women were witches, because blood did not come when they were pricked with pins by the "witch-finder." See also Witch Stories by L. Linton, p. 260, &c.

               We must not feel surprised when we learn that it is still customary among the Servians and other half-civilised nations to subject women who are suspected as witches to the trial by water, since there are still many persons living who can remember the same thing having been done in the Netherlands and Germany. Thus, in 1823, it went through all the papers that a middle-aged woman at Delten, in Guelderland, being suspected of being a witch, volunteered herself to prove her innocence by the trial of water, that the trial actually took place in broad daylight before a crowd of people in a neighbouring canal, and that the result of the trial turned out in her favour. The following case is more horrible. It happened about thirteen years after the above date on the Peninsula Hela, near Dantzic. A man living in the Cassubian village Ceynowa was taken ill with dropsy, and a quack pointed out a poor widow fifty-one years old, and mother of five young children, as the witch who had caused the man's illness. In order to force her to undo the charm, the quack beat her and jumped on her in a most brutal manner, and she was led to the bed of the patient, who beat her with a stick until she was covered with blood. Not content with this, the quack and some fishermen took her into a boat and rowed out to sea twice; they tied her hands and threw her into the water. On the second occasion they towed her after the boat so long that the poor creature was drowned. The further particulars are so revolting that one is apt to think that one reads a description of a punishment among the cannibals. And this happened in the Prussian State in the month of August of the year 1836!--From Die Gartenlaube, December 1884.

               See also Folk-Lore Record, vol. v. p. 156, and Feb. 1883, p. 58; and Henderson's Folk-Lore of Northern Counties, p. 181, and notes, which says, "In Brittany, if the lycanthropist be scratched above the nose, so that three drops of blood are extracted, the charm is broken. In Germany, the werewolf has to be stabbed with knife or pitchfork thrice on the brows before it can be disenchanted."


               Restoration to Life. Cf. "Marya Morevna," Ralston, p. 91; Panch-Phul Ranee, Frere, p. 140; "Loving Lailí," Stokes, p. 83, where Majnún is restored to life by Lailí cutting her little finger inside her hand straight down from the top of her nail to her palm, out of which the blood gushed like healing medicine; and the Bél-Princess, where the blood of the little finger again comes in. Also "Golden Hair," Nauké, p. 108, and the Lapp story "Ivan," Friis, p. 176. Mr. Quigstad, of Tromsø, to whose courtesy and learning I am deeply indebted, says he has heard a similar incident in a Lapp story from Lyngen.


[1] According to Kozma this is the only instance in the Székely folk-lore which accounts for the origin of giants.

[2] A similar plant occurs in "The Merchant," in the Pentamerone.

[3] Taylor's Edition. London. 1848.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Knight Rose
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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