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

Prince Mirkó

THERE was once, I don't know where, a king who had three sons. This king had great delight in his three sons, and decided to give them a sound education, and after that to give them a place in the government, so that he might leave them as fit and willing heirs to his throne; so he sent these sons to college to study, and they did well for a while; but all of a sudden they left college, came home, and would not return. The king was very much annoyed at their conduct, and prohibited them from ever entering his presence. He himself retired, and lived in an eastern room of the royal residence, where he spent his time sitting in a window that looked eastward, as if he expected some one to come in that direction. One of his eyes was continually weeping, while the other was continually laughing. One day, when the princes were grown up, they held a consultation, and decided to ascertain from their royal father the reason why he always sat in the east room, and why one eye was continually weeping while the other never ceased laughing. The eldest son tried his fortune first, and thus questioned the king: "Most gracious majesty, my father. I have come to ask you, my royal sire, the reason why one of your eyes is always weeping while the other never ceases laughing, and why you always sit in this east room." The king measured his son from top to toe, and never spoke a word, but seized his long straight sword which leant against the window and threw it at him: it struck the door, and entered into it up to the hilt. The prince jumped through the door and escaped the blow that was meant for him. As he went he met his two brothers, who inquired how he had fared. "You'd better try yourself and you will soon know," replied he. So the second prince tried, but with no better result than his brother. At last the third brother, whose name was Mirkó, went in, and, like his brother, informed the king of the reason of his coming. The king uttered not a word, but seized the sword with even greater fury, and threw it with such vehemence that it entered up to the hilt in the wall of the room: yet Mirkó did not run away, but only dodged the sword, and then pulled it out of the wall and took it back to his royal father, placing it on the table in front of him. Seeing this the king began to speak and said to Prince Mirkó, "My son, I can see that you know more about honour than your two brothers. So I will answer your question. One of my eyes weeps continually because I fret about you that you are such good-for-nothings and not fit to rule; the other laughs continually because in my younger days I had a good comrade, Knight Mezey, with whom I fought in many battles, and he promised me that if he succeeded in vanquishing his enemy he would come and live with me, and we should spend our old age together. I sit at the east window because I expect him to come in that direction; but Knight Mezey, who lives in the Silk Meadow, has so many enemies rising against him every day as there are blades of grass, and he has to cut them down all by himself every day; and until the enemies be extirpated he cannot come and stay with me." With this, Prince Mirkó left his father's room, went back to his brothers, and told them what he had heard from the king. So they held council again, and decided to ask permission from their father to go and try their fortunes. First the eldest prince went and told the king that he was anxious to go and try his fortune, to which the king consented: so the eldest prince went into the royal stables and chose a fine charger, had it saddled, his bag filled, and started on his journey the next morning. He was away for a whole year, and then suddenly turned up one morning, carrying on his shoulder a piece of bridge-flooring made of copper; throwing it down in front of the royal residence, he walked into the king's presence, told him where he had been, and what he had brought back with him. The king listened to the end of his tale and said, "Well, my son, when I was as young as you are I went that way, and it only took me two hours from the place where you brought this copper from. You are a very weak knight: you won't do; you can go." With this the eldest prince left his father's room. The second prince then came in and asked the king to permit him to try his fortune, and the king gave him permission. So he went to the royal stables, had a fine charger saddled, his bag filled, and set off. At the end of a year he returned home, bringing with him a piece of bridge-flooring made of silver; this he threw down in front of the royal residence, and went in unto the king, told him all about his journey and about his spoil. "Alas!" said the king, "when I was as young as you I went that way, and it did not take me more than three hours; you are a very weak knight, my son: you will not do."

               With this he dismissed his second son also. At last Prince Mirkó went in and asked permission to go and try his fortune, and the king granted him permission, so he also went into the royal stables in order to choose a horse for the journey; but he did not find one to suit him, so he went to the royal stud-farm to choose one there. As he was examining the young horses, and could not settle which to have, there suddenly appeared an old witch, who asked him what he wanted. Prince Mirkó told her his intention, and that he wanted a horse to go on the journey. "Alas! my lord," said the old witch, "you can't get a horse here to suit you, but I will tell you how to obtain one: go to your father, and ask him to let you have the horn which in his younger days he used to call together his stud with golden hair, blow into it, and the golden stud will at once appear. But don't choose any of those with the golden hair; but at the very last there will come a mare with crooked legs and shaggy coat; you will know her by the fact that when the stud passes through the gates of the royal fortress the mare will come last, and she will whisk her tail and strike the heel-post of the fortress-gate with such force that the whole fort will quiver with the shock. Choose her, and try your fortune." Prince Mirkó followed the witch's advice most carefully. Going to the king he said, "My royal father, I come to ask you to give me the horn with which in your younger days you used to call together your stud with the golden hair." "Who told you of this?" inquired the king. "Nobody," replied Prince Mirkó. "Well, my dear son, if no one has informed you of this, and if it be your own conception, you are a very clever fellow; but if any one has told you to do this they mean no good to you. I will tell you where the horn is, but by this time, I daresay, it is all rust-eaten. In the seventh cellar there is a recess in the wall; in this recess lies the horn, bricked up; try to find it, take it out, and use it if you think you can." Prince Mirkó sent for the bricklayer on the spot, and went with him to the cellar indicated, found the recess, took the horn, and carried it off with him. He then stood in the hall of the royal residence and blew it, facing east, west, south, and north. In a short time he heard the tingle of golden bells begin to sound, increasing till the whole town rang with the noise; and lo! through the gates of the royal residence beautiful golden-haired horses came trooping in. Then he saw, even at the distance, the mare with the crooked legs and shaggy coat, and as she came, the last, great Heavens! as she came through the gates she whisked the heel-post with her tail with such force that the whole building shook to its very foundation. The moment the stud had got into the royal courtyard he went to the crooked-legged shaggy-coated mare, caught her, had her taken to the royal stables, and made it known that he intended to try his fortune with her. The mare said "Quite right, my prince; but first you will have to give me plenty of oats, because it would be difficult to go a long journey without food." "What sort of food do you wish? Because whatever my father possesses I will willingly give to you," said the prince. "Very well, my prince," said the mare; "but it is not usual to feed a horse just before you start on a journey, but some time beforehand." "Well, I can't do much at present," said the prince; "but whatever I've got you shall have with pleasure." "Well, then, bring me a bushel of barley at once, and have it emptied into my manger." Mirkó did this; and when she had eaten the barley she made him fetch a bushel of millet; and when she had eaten that she said, "And now bring me half a bushel of burning cinders, and empty them into my manger." When she had eaten these she turned to a beautiful golden-haired animal like to the morning-star. "Now, my prince," said she, "go to the king and ask him to give you the saddle he used when he rode me in his younger days." Prince Mirkó went to the old king and asked him for the saddle. "It cannot be used now," said he, "as it has been lying about so long in the coach-house, and it's all torn by this, but if you can find it you can have it." Prince Mirkó went to the coach-house and found the saddle, but it was very dirty, as the fowls and turkeys had for many years roosted on it, and torn it; still he took it to the mare in order to put it on her, but she said that it was not becoming a prince to sit upon such a thing, wherefore he was going to have it altered and repaired; but the mare told him to hold it in front of her, and she breathed on it, and in a moment it was changed into a beautiful gold saddle, such as had not an equal over seven countries; with this he saddled the tátos (mythical horse). "Now, my prince," said she, "you had better go to your father and ask him for the brace of pistols and the sword with which he used to set out when he rode me in former days." So the prince went and asked these from his father, but the old king replied "that they were all rusty by this time, and of no use," but, if he really wanted them, he could have them, and pointed out the rack where they were. Prince Mirkó took them and carried them to the mare, who breathed upon them, and changed them into gold; he then girded on his sword, placed the pistols in the holsters, and got ready for a start. "Well, my dear master," said the mare, "where now is my bridle?" Whereupon, the prince fetched from the coach-house an old bridle, which she blew upon and it changed into gold; this the prince threw over her head, and led her out of the stable, and was about to mount her when the mare said, "Wait a minute, lead me outside the town first, and then mount me;" so he led her outside the town, and then mounted her. At this moment the mare said, "Well, my dear master, how shall I carry you? Shall I carry you with a speed like the quick hurricane, or like a flash of thought?" "I don't mind, my dear mare, how you carry me, only take care that you run so that I can bear it."

               To this the mare replied, "Shut your eyes and hold fast." Prince Mirkó shut his eyes, and the mare darted off like a hurricane. After a short time she stamped upon the ground and said to the prince, "Open your eyes! What can you see?" "I can see a great river," said Prince Mirkó, "and over it a copper bridge." "Well, my dear master," said the mare, "that's the bridge from which your eldest brother carried off part of the flooring: can't you see the vacant place?" "Yes, I can see it," said the prince, "and where shall we go now?" "Shut your eyes and I will carry you;" with this, she started off like a flash of lightning, and in a few moments again stamped upon the ground and said, "Open your eyes! Now what do you see?" "I see," said Prince Mirkó, "a great river, and over it a silver bridge." "Well, my dear master, that's the bridge from which your second brother took the silver flooring; can't you see the place?" "Yes," said he, "I can, and now where shall we go?"

               "Shut your eyes and I will carry you," said the mare, and off she darted like lightning, and in a moment she again stamped upon the ground and stopped and said to Prince Mirkó, "Open your eyes! What can you see?" "I see," replied he, "a vast, broad, and deep river, and over it a golden bridge, and at each end, on this side and that, four immense and fierce lions. How are we to get over this?" "Don't take any notice of them," said the mare, "I will settle with them, you shut your eyes." Prince Mirkó shut his eyes, the mare darted off like a swift falcon, and flew over the bridge; in a short time she stopped, stamped, and said, "Open your eyes! Now what do you see?" "I see," said the prince, "an immense, high glass rock, with sides as steep as the side of a house." "Well, my dear master," said the mare, "We have to get over that too."

               "But that is impossible," said the prince; but the mare cheered him, and said, "Don't worry yourself, dear master, as I still have the very shoes on my hoofs which your father put on them with diamond nails six hundred years ago. Shut your eyes and hold fast."

               At this moment the mare darted off, and in a twinkling of the eye she reached the summit of the glass rock, where she stopped, stamped, and said to the prince, "Open your eyes! What can you see?" "I can see, below me," said Prince Mirkó, "on looking back, something black, the size of a fair-sized dish." "Well, my dear master, that is the orb of the earth; but what can you see in front of you?" "I can see," said Prince Mirkó, "a narrow round-backed glass path, and by the side of it, this side as well as on the other side, a deep bottomless abyss." "Well, my dear master," said the mare, "we have to get over that, but the passage is so difficult that if my foot slips the least bit either way we shall perish, but rely on me. Shut your eyes and grasp hold of me, and I will do it." With this the mare started and in another moment she again stamped on the ground and said, "Open your eyes! What can you see?" "I can see," said Prince Mirkó, "behind me, in the distance, some faint light and in front of me such a thick darkness that I cannot even see my finger before me." "Well, my dear master, we have to get through this also. Shut your eyes, and grasp me." Again she started and again she stamped. "Open your eyes! What can you see now?" "I can see," said Prince Mirkó, "a beautiful light, a beautiful snow-clad mountain, in the midst of the mountain a meadow like silk, and in the midst of the meadow something black." "Well, my dear master, that meadow which looks like silk belongs to Knight Mezey, and the black something in the middle of it is his tent, woven of black silk; it does not matter now whether you shut your eyes or not, we will go there." With this Prince Mirkó spurred the mare, and at once reached the tent.

               Prince Mirkó jumped from his mare and tied her to the tent by the side of Knight Mezey's horse, and he himself walked into the tent, and lo! inside, a knight was laid at full length on the silken grass, fast asleep, but a sword over him was slashing in all directions, so that not even a fly could settle on him. "Well," thought Prince Mirkó to himself, "this fellow must be a brave knight, but I could kill him while he sleeps; however, it would not be an honourable act to kill a sleeping knight, and I will wait till he wakes." With this he walked out of the tent, tied his mare faster to the tent-post, and he also lay down full length upon the silken grass, and said to his sword, "Sword, come out of thy scabbard," and his sword began to slash about over him, just like Knight Mezey's, so that not even a fly could settle on him.

               All of a sudden Knight Mezey woke, and to his astonishment he saw another horse tied by the side of his, and said, "Great Heavens! what's the meaning of this? It's six hundred years since I saw a strange horse by the side of mine! Whom can it belong to?" He got up, went out of the tent, and saw Prince Mirkó asleep outside, and his sword slashing about over him. "Well," said he, "this must be a brave knight, and as he has not killed me while I was asleep, it would not be honourable to kill him," with this he kicked the sleeping knight's foot and woke him. He jumped up, and Knight Mezey thus questioned him: "Who are you? What is your business?" Prince Mirkó told him whose son he was and why he had come. "Welcome, my dear brother," said Knight Mezey, "your father is a dear friend of mine, and I can see that you are as brave a knight as your father, and I shall want you, because the large silken meadow that you see is covered with enemies every day, and I have to daily cut them down, but now that you are here to help me I shall be in no hurry about them; let's go inside and have something to eat and drink, and let them gather into a crowd, two of us will soon finish them." They went into the tent and had something to eat and drink; but all at once his enemies came up in such numbers that they came almost as far as the tent, when Knight Mezey jumped to his feet and said, "Jump up, comrade, or else we are done for." They sprang to their horses, darted among the enemy, and both called out, "Sword, out of thy scabbard!" and in a moment the two swords began to slash about, and cut off the heads of the enemy, so that they had the greatest difficulty in advancing on account of the piles of dead bodies, till at last, at the rear of the enemy, twelve knights took to flight, and Knight Mezey and Prince Mirkó rode in pursuit of them, till they reached a glass rock, to which they followed the twelve knights, Prince Mirkó being the nearest to them. On the top of the rock there was a beautiful open space, towards which the knights rode and Prince Mirkó after them on his mare, when all at once they all disappeared, as if the earth had swallowed them; seeing this, Prince Mirkó rode to the spot where they disappeared, where he found a trap-door, and under the door a deep hole and a spiral staircase. The mare without hesitation jumped into the hole, which was the entrance to the infernal regions. Prince Mirkó, looking round in Hades, suddenly discerned a glittering diamond castle, which served the lower regions instead of the sun, and saw that the twelve knights were riding towards it; so he darted after them, and, calling out "Sword, come out of thy scabbard," he slashed off the twelve knights' heads in a moment, and, riding to the castle, he heard such a hubbub and clattering that the whole place resounded with it: he jumped off his horse, and walked into the castle, when lo! there was an old diabolical-looking witch, who was weaving and making the clattering noise, and the whole building was now full of soldiers, whom the devilish witch produced by weaving. When she threw the shuttle to the right, each time two hussars on horseback jumped out from the shuttle, and when she threw it to the left, each time two foot soldiers jumped from it fully equipped. When he saw this, he ordered his sword out of its scabbard, and cut down all the soldiers present. But the old witch wove others again, so Prince Mirkó thought to himself, if this goes on, I shall never get out of this place, so he ordered his sword to cut up into little pieces the old witch, and then he carried out the whole bleeding mass into the courtyard, where he found a heap of wood: he placed the mass on it, put a light to it, and burnt it. But when it was fully alight a small piece of a rib of the witch flew out of the fire and began to spin around in the dust, and lo! another witch grew out of it. Prince Mirkó thereupon was about to order his sword to cut her up too, when the old witch addressed him thus: "Spare my life, Mirkó, and I will help you in return for your kindness; if you destroy me you can't get out of this place; here! I will give you four diamond horse-shoe nails, put them away and you will find them useful." Prince Mirkó took the nails and put them away, thinking to himself, "If I spare the old witch she will start weaving again, and Knight Mezey will never get rid of his enemies," so he again ordered his sword to cut up the witch, and threw her into the fire and burnt her to cinders. She never came to life again. He then got on his mare and rode all over the lower regions, but could not find a living soul anywhere, whereupon he spurred his mare, galloped to the foot of the spiral staircase, and in another moment he reached the upper world. When he arrived at the brink of the glass rock he was about to alight from his mare: and stopped her for this purpose, but the mare questioned him thus, "What are you going to do, Prince Mirkó?" "I was going to get down, because the road is very steep and it's impossible to go down on horseback." "Well then, dear master, if you do that you can't get below, because you couldn't walk on the steep road, but if you stop on my back, take hold of my mane, and shut your eyes, I will take you down." Whereupon the mare started down the side of the rock, and, like a good mountaineer, climbed down from the top to the bottom, and having arrived at the foot of the steep rock, spoke to Prince Mirkó thus: "You can open your eyes now." Mirkó having opened his eyes, saw that they had arrived in the silken meadow.

               They started in the direction of Knight Mezey's tent, but Knight Mezey thought that Mirkó had already perished, when suddenly he saw that Mirkó was alive, so he came in great joy to meet him, and leading him into his tent, as he had no heir, he offered him the silk meadow and his whole realm, but Mirkó replied thus: "My dear brother, now that I have destroyed all your enemies, you need not fear that the enemy will occupy your country, therefore I should like you to come with me to my royal father, who has been expecting you for a very long time." With this they got on their horses, and started off in the direction of the old king's realm, and arrived safely at the very spot on the glass rock where Mirkó had jumped down. Knight Mezey stopped here, and said to Prince Mirkó: "My dear brother, I cannot go further than this, because the diamond nails of my horse's shoes have been worn out long ago, and the horse's feet no longer grip the ground." But Mirkó remembered that the old witch had given him some diamond nails, and said: "Don't worry yourself, brother. I have got some nails with me, and I will shoe thy horse." And taking out the diamond nails, he shod Knight Mezey's horse with them. They mounted once more, and like two good mountaineers descended the glass rock, and as swift as thought were on the way home.

               The old king was also then sitting in the eastern window, awaiting Knight Mezey, when suddenly he saw two horsemen approaching, and, looking at them with his telescope, recognised them as his dear old comrade Knight Mezey, together with his son, Prince Mirkó, coming towards him; so he ran down at once, and out of the hall. He ordered the bailiff to slaughter twelve heifers, and by the time that Knight Mezey and Mirkó arrived, a grand dinner was ready waiting for them; and on their arrival he received them with great joy, embraced them and kissed them, and laughed with both his eyes. Then they sat down to dinner, and ate and drank in great joy. During dinner Knight Mezey related Mirkó's brave deeds, and, amongst other things, said to the old king: "Well, comrade, your son Mirkó is even a greater hero than we were. He is a brave fellow, and you ought to be well pleased with him." The old king said: "Well, when I come to think of it, I begin to be satisfied with him, especially because he has brought you with him; but still I don't believe that he would have courage to fight Doghead also." Prince Mirkó was listening to their talk but did not speak. After dinner, however, he called Knight Mezey aside, and asked him who Doghead was, and where he lived. Knight Mezey informed him that he lived in the north, and that he was such a hero that there was no other to equal him under the sun. Prince Mirkó at once gave orders for the journey, filled his bag, and next day started on his mare to Doghead's place; according to his custom, he sat upon the mare, grasped her firmly, and shut his eyes. The mare darted off, and flew like a swift cyclone, then suddenly stopped, stamped on the ground, and said, "Prince Mirkó, open your eyes. What do you see?" "I see," said the Prince, "a diamond castle, six stories high, that glitters so that one can't look at it, although one could look at the sun." "Well, Doghead lives there," said the mare, "and that is his royal castle." Prince Mirkó rode close under the window and shouted loudly: "Doghead! are you at home? Come out, because I have to reckon with you." Doghead himself was not at home, but his daughter was there--such a beautiful royal princess, whose like one could not find in the whole world. As she sat in the window doing some needlework, and heard the high shrill voice, she looked through the window in a great rage, and gave him such a look with her beautiful flashing black eyes, that Prince Mirkó and his mare at once turned into a stone statue. However, she began to think that perhaps the young gentleman might be some prince who had come to see her; so she repented that she had transformed him into a stone statue so quickly; and ran down to him, took out a golden rod, and began to walk round the stone statue, and tapped its sides with her gold rod, and lo! the stone crust began to crack, and fell off, and all at once Prince Mirkó and his mare stood alive in front of her. Then the princess asked; "Who are you? and what is your business?" And Mirkó told her that he was a prince, and had come to see the Princess of Doghead. The princess slightly scolded him for shouting for her father so roughly through the window, but at the same time fell in love with Prince Mirkó on the spot, and asked him to come into her diamond castle, which was six stories high, and received him well. However, while feasting, Prince Mirkó during the conversation confessed what his true errand was, viz., to fight Doghead; but the princess advised him to desist from this, because there was no man in the whole world who could match her father. But when she found that Mirkó could not be dissuaded, she took pity on him, and, fearing that lest he should be vanquished, let him into the secret how to conquer her father. "Go down," she said, "into the seventh cellar of the castle; there you will find a cask which is not sealed. In that cask is kept my father's strength. I hand you here a silver bottle, which you have to fill from the cask; but do not cork the bottle, but always take care that it shall hang uncorked from your neck; and when your strength begins to fail, dip your little finger into it, and each time your strength will be increased by that of five thousand men; also drink of it, because each drop of wine will give you the strength of five thousand men." Prince Mirkó listened attentively to her counsel, hung the silver bottle round his neck, and went down into the cellar, where he found the wine in question, and from it he first drank a good deal, and then filled his flask, and, thinking that he had enough in his bottle, he let the rest run out to the last drop, so that Doghead could use it no more. There were in the cellar six bushels of wheat flour, with this he soaked it up, so that no moisture was left, whereupon he went upstairs to the princess, and reported that he was ready and also thanked her for her directions, and promised that for all her kindness he would marry her, and vowed eternal faith to her. The beautiful princess consented to all, and only made one condition, viz., that in case Prince Mirkó conquered her father he would not kill him.

               Prince Mirkó then inquired of the beautiful princess when she expected her father home, and in what direction, to which the princess replied that at present he was away in his western provinces, visiting their capitals, but that he would be home soon, because he was due, and that it was easy to predict his coming, because when he was two hundred miles from home, he would throw home a mace weighing forty hundredweight, thus announcing his arrival, and wherever the mace dropped a spring would suddenly burst from the ground. Prince Mirkó thereupon went with the royal princess into the portico of the royal castle, to await there Doghead's arrival, when suddenly, good Heavens! the air became dark, and a mace, forty hundredweight, came down with a thud into the courtyard of the royal fortress, and, striking the ground, water burst forth immediately in the shape of a rainbow. Prince Mirkó at once ran into the courtyard in order to try how much his strength had increased. He picked up the mace swung it over his head, and threw it back so that it dropped just in front of Doghead. Doghead's horse stumbled over the mace; whereupon Doghead got angry. "Gee up! I wish the wolves and dogs would devour you," shouted Doghead to the horse. "I have ridden you for the last six hundred years, and up to this time you have never stumbled once. What's the reason that you begin to stumble now?" "Alas! my dear master," said his horse, "there must be something serious the matter at home, because some one has thrown back your mace that you threw home, and I stumbled over it." "There's nothing the matter," said Doghead; "I dreamt six hundred years ago that I would have to fight Prince Mirkó, and it is he who is at my castle; but what is he to me? I have more strength in my little finger than he in his whole body." With this he darted off at a great speed and appeared at the castle. Prince Mirkó was awaiting Doghead in the courtyard of the fortress. The latter, seeing Prince Mirkó, galloped straight to him and said, "Well, Mirkó. I know that you are waiting for me. Here I am. How do you wish me to fight you? With swords? or shall we wrestle?" "I don't care how; just as you please," said Mirkó. "Then let us try swords first," said Doghead, and, getting off his horse, they stood up, and both ordered out their swords. "Swords, come out of the scabbards." The two swords flew out of the scabbards and began to fence over the heads of the combatants. The whole place rung with their clashing, and in their vehemence they sent forth sparks in such quantity that the whole ground was covered with fire, so that no one could stand the heat. Whereupon Doghead said to Mirkó, "Don't let us spoil our swords, but let us put them back into their scabbards, and let us wrestle." So they sheathed their swords and began to wrestle. When suddenly Doghead grasped Mirkó round the waist, lifted him up, and dashed him to the ground with such force that Mirkó sank to his belt. Mirkó was frightened, and quickly dipped his little finger into the bottle. Whereupon he regained his strength, and, jumping out of the ground, made a desperate dash at Doghead, and threw him to the ground with such force, that he lay full length on the ground like a green frog; then he seized him by his hair and dragged him behind the royal residence, where a golden bridge stood over a bottomless lake. He dragged him on to the bridge, and, holding his head over the water, ordered his sword out of the scabbard and cut off his head, so that it dropped into the bottomless lake, and then he pushed the headless trunk after it.

               Doghead's daughter saw all this, and grew very angry with Prince Mirkó, and as he approached her she turned her face away, and would not even speak to him; but Prince Mirkó explained to her that he could not do otherwise, for if he had spared Doghead's life he would have destroyed his; and that he was willing to redeem his promise, and keep his faith to the princess and take her for his wife. Whereupon the royal princess became reconciled, and they decided to get ready to go to Prince Mirkó's realm. They ordered the horses--Doghead's charger was got ready for the beautiful princess--and, mounting them, were about to start, when all at once deep sorrow seized Prince Mirkó, and the beautiful royal princess thus questioned him: "Why are you so downcast, Mirkó?" "Well, because," said Mirkó, "I'm anxious to go back to my country, but I am also extremely sorry to leave behind this sumptuous diamond castle, six stories high, which belonged to your father, for there is nothing like it in my country." "Well, my love," said the princess, "don't trouble about that. I will transform the castle into a golden apple at once, and sit in the middle of it, and all you will have to do is to put the apple into your pocket, and then you can take me with you and the castle too, and when you arrive at home you can re-transform me wherever you like." Thereupon the pretty princess jumped down from her horse, handed the reins to Mirkó, took out a diamond rod, and commenced to walk round the diamond castle, gently beating the sides of it with the diamond rod, and the castle began to shrink and shrunk as small as a sentry box, and then the princess jumped inside of it, and the whole shrivelled up into a golden apple, the diamond rod lying by the side of it. Prince Mirkó picked up the golden apple and the diamond rod, and put them into his pocket, and then got on horseback, and, taking Doghead's horse by the bridle, he rode quietly home. Having arrived at home, Mirkó had the horses put in the stables, and then walked into the royal palace, where he found the old king and Knight Mezey quite content and enjoying themselves. He reported to them that he had conquered even Doghead, and that he had killed him; but the old king and Knight Mezey doubted his words. Therefore Prince Mirkó took them both by their arms, and said to them, "Come along with me, and you can satisfy yourselves, with your own eyes, that I have conquered Doghead, because I have brought away with me, not only his diamond castle, six stories high, but also his beautiful daughter, inside it, as a trophy of my victory." The old king and Knight Mezey were astonished at his words, and, still doubting, followed Mirkó, who took them into the flower garden of the king, in the middle of which Prince Mirkó selected a nice roomy place for the diamond castle, and placed the golden apple there, and commenced walking round, and, patting its sides with the diamond rod, the golden apple began to swell. It took a quadrangular shape, growing and growing, higher and higher, till it became a magnificent six-storied diamond castle; and then he took the old king and Knight Mezey by their arms, and led them up the diamond staircase into the rooms of the castle, where the princess, who was world-wide known for her beauty, met them, and received them most cordially. She bade them sit down, and sent lackeys to call the other sons of the old king and also the higher dignitaries of the court. In the dining-hall there was a big table, which could be opened out. She gave orders, and the table was laid of itself, and on it appeared all sorts of costly dishes and drinks, and the assembled guests feasted in joy. The old king was highly satisfied with his son's doings, and handed over to Mirkó the royal power and the whole realm: he himself and Knight Mezey retired into quiet secluded life, and lived long in great happiness. The young royal couple who got married had beautiful children, and they are alive still, to this very day, if they have not died since. May they be your guests to-morrow!


Kriza, xiii.

                Page 59. In the Finnish "Leppäpölkky" ("Alder Block"), S. ja T. ii. p. 2, one half of the castle laughs and one half cries. The crying being on account of a great three-headed snake which arose from the sea, and would devour half the castle, half the men, and half the precious stones if the king did not give his eldest daughter in their stead.

               Page 63. The Tátos is a mythic horse possessed of the most marvellous powers. It is generally represented (as in the present tale) as being a most wretched creature to begin with. Cf. "The Little Magic Pony," p. 157; "The Three Princes, &c.," p. 197, where it is hatched from a five-cornered black egg; "the wretched foal which lies seven fathoms deep in the dung-heap," in "The Pelican," p. 256; the ugly creature in "The Girl with the Golden Hair," p. 264; and the piebald in the "Fairies' Well," p. 289. It feeds on burning cinders, and its breath changes the most wretched things into the most glorious. Sometimes, however, the first breath has an extraordinary effect, as e.g. p. 198, where Ambrose becomes like "a diseased sucking pig." The name is still a favourite one among the peasants for their horses. The word Tátos also meant a priest in the old pagan days, but it never has this meaning in the folk-tales.

                The Tátos also appears in "Die Königstöchter," in Mailáth's Magyarische Sagen, vol. i. p. 61. See also "Zauberhelene," vol. ii. of the same collection, where we are told "Taigarot war ein wunderbares Pferd; es verstand die Reden der Menschen, antwortete auch und hatte neun Füsze." The whole story tells how Argilus carries off his wife, Helen, from the power of Holofernes, the fire-king, who has got her in his underground home. Taigarot belongs to Holofernes, and tells him where Helen is carried off, and so he recovers her. Argilus hears that the magic horse has a younger brother still more powerful although possessing but four legs. This horse belongs to one Iron nose, a witch, and so Argilus enters her service in order to obtain it. His duties are, first to control the witch's stud of brazen horses; next to look after her twelve black mares, who are her daughters, and then to milk them, and make a bath of their milk. He manages to do all by means of a magic staff, and so obtains the horse; whilst the witch is burnt to death in the bath which she thinks will make her young. The horse tells Argilus to wash it in the bath, and it at once becomes the colour of gold, and from every hair hangs a golden bell. With this horse Argilus carries off his wife. Holofernes follows on Taigarot, and not being able to overtake them, digs his spurs into Taigarot, who in his indignation at such treatment kicks Holofernes off, and so breaks his neck.

               For magic horses in other lands cf. the following tales:--the Finnish "Oriiksi Muntettu Poika;" "The Little White Horse" in "Ferdinand the Faithful," Grimm, ii. p. 156; Katar, in "The Bay with a Moon and Star," Stokes, p. 131, which becomes changed by twisting his right ear; "Weisnittle," in Stier's Ungarische Volksmärchen, p. 61; Sleipnir, Odin's eight-legged horse that used to carry the father of the gods as swift as the wind over land and sea, in Wagner's Asgard and the Gods; and "Bayard, Faithful Bayard!" the good steed in the Carolingian Legends in Wagner's Epics and Romances of the Middle Ages, pp. 367-396; "the shaggy dun filly" in "The Young King of Easaidh Ruadh," in Campbell's Tales of the Western Highlands, vol. i. p. 4; and the "steed," in "The Rider of Grianaig," vol iii. p. 14 of the same book.

               A magic horse appears in the Lapp story "Jætten og Veslegutten," (The Giant and the Vesle Boy), from Hammerfest; Friis, p. 48. In this case it assists the boy to escape from the giant, and to marry a king's daughter; and finally becomes a prince when its head is cut off. "A winged horse" appears in "Ivan, Kupiskas Søn," a story from Akkala, in Russian Finland; Friis, p. 170. In "Jætten Katten og Gutten" (the Giant, the Cat, and the Boy), from Alten, Friis, p. 63, the boy saves the giant's son from a troll cat, and is told by the lad he saves, that his father will offer him a gold horse and "a miserable one," and he is to be sure and choose the miserable one; and in like manner he was to choose a miserable box, and a miserable flute, in preference to golden ones, which would be offered to him. There is a somewhat similar Finnish story, "Paholaisen antamat Soittoneuwot" (Musical Instruments Given by the Devil), S. ja T., vol. i. p. 181, where the hero, when in the woods, sees the devil [1] running for his life, with a pack of wolves at his heels. The lad shoots into the pack, killing one wolf, and thus terrifying the rest. The grateful devil promises the lad whatever he wishes. Acting on the advice of a maid in the devil's house, he asks "for the mare which is in the third stall, on the right-hand side of the stable." The devil is very loath to give this, but is obliged to do so, and gives the boy a kantele, a fiddle, and a flute besides. The mare acts the part of a Tátos for part of the tale, and then changes into a woman, being the wife of the king, who appears at the latter part of the story, and who orders the hero to perform difficult tasks. The kantele is like the fiddle in the "Jew in a thicket" (Musical Myths, vol. ii. p. 122; Grimm, vol. ii. p. 97), it makes every one dance that hears it. The woman drops out of the story, and the persecuting king is kicked up into the clouds by the irate devil who comes to help the hero, and is never heard of again.

               A horse that can talk plays a prominent part in another Finnish tale, "The Golden Bird."--"Dapplegrim" is the magic foal in the Norse; see Dasent, pp. 313 and 367. See also the "brown foal" in Grimm, "Two Brothers," No. 107, and the "white horse," in "Ferdinand the Faithful," No. 126, and note.

               Note also horses in "Der goldne Vogel," "Das Zauberross," and "Der Knabe und der Schlange," in Haltrich's, Siebenbuergische Märchen; "La Belle aux cheveux d'or," in Contes des Fées, par Mme. D'Aulnoy; "Schönchen Goldhaar," Märchensaal aller Völker für Jung und Alt, Dr. Kletke, i. p. 344; "Der goldne Apfelbaum," in Kaiadschitsch, Volksmärchen der Serben, p. 33; and Denton, p. 43. Enchanted horses play a prominent part in "Simple Johnny," p. 36, and "The Black Charger of Hernando," p. 292, in Patranas or Spanish Stories.--Cf. "The little Mare" from Mentone, F. L. Record, vol. iii. p. 44. The Russians tell of "a sorry colt rolling in the muck," which possesses marvellous powers in "Marya Morevna," Ralston, p. 94; and in "Koshchei, the Deathless," there is an heroic steed, ibidem, p. 101. See also "Ivan Kruchina," Naake, p. 124. "The marvellous white horse" appears also in Austria; see Land of Marvels, pp. 48, 256, 260, 272, 342.

               In the story of the third royal mendicant, in the Arabian Nights, Agib mounts a black horse and flies through the air. Similar incidents will be found in Nos. 1, 2, 4, 10, 17 of Dietrich's Runische Volksmärchen. Several variants, together with the author's view of their significance, are to be found in Gubernatis, vol. i., chap. ii.

               The following, quoted from Stokes's Fairy Tales, p. 278, is worthy of notice:--

               "On the morning of the day which was to see his last fight, Cúchulainn ordered his charioteer, Loeg, to harness the Gray to his chariot. 'I swear to God what my people swears' said Loeg, 'though the men of Conchobar's fifth (Ulster) were around the Gray of Macha, they could not bring him to the chariot.... If thou wilt, come thou, and speak with the Gray himself.' Cúchulainn went to him. And thrice did the horse turn his left side to his master.... Then Cúchulainn reproached his horse, saying that he was not wont to deal thus with his master. Thereat the Gray of Macha came and let his big round tears of blood fall on Cúchulainn's feet. The hero then leaps into his chariot and goes to battle. At last the Gray is sore wounded, and he and Cúchulainn bid each other farewell. The Gray leaves his master; but when Cúchulainn, wounded to death, has tied himself to a stone pillar to die standing, then came the Gray of Macha to Cúchulainn to protect him so long as his soul abode in him, and the 'hero's light' out of his forehead remained. Then the Gray of Macha wrought the three red routs all around him. And fifty fell by his teeth and thirty by each of his hooves. This is what he slew of the host. And hence is (the saying) 'Not keener were the victorious courses of the Gray of Macha after Cúchulainn's slaughter.' Then Lugaid and his men cut off the hero's head and right hand and set off, driving the Gray before them. They met Conall the Victorious, who knew what had happened when he saw his friend's horse. And he and the Gray of Macha sought Cúchulainn at the pillar-stone. Then went the Gray of Macha and laid his head on Cúchulainn's breast. And Conall said, 'A heavy care to the Gray of Macha is that corpse.' Conall himself, in the fight he has with Lugaid, to avenge his friend's slaughter, is helped by his own horse, the Dewy-Red. When Conall found that he prevailed not, he saw his steed, the Dewy-Red, by Lugaid. And the steed came to Lugaid and tore a piece out of his side."

               ("Cúchulainn's Death," abridged from the "Book of Leinster," in Revue Celtique, Juin, 1877, pp. 175, 176, 180, 182, 183, 185).

               See also, Grimm's Teutonic Mythology, Stallybrass, vol. i. pp. 328, 392; McGregor's Folk-Lore of the North-East of Scotland, p. 131; and Belludo, the goblin horse of Alhambra. Nor must we forget "Phooka," the wild horse of Erin's isle.

               Note also the "Iliad"; cf. book ii. 760, book viii. 157, book x. 338, 473; specially Xanthus and Balius who talk, book xix. 440; and, Martial's splendid epigram, beginning "Phosphore redde diem, cur gaudia nostra moraris?"

               Thus on every side we find this noble creature entwined in the lore of the people, from the peasants' dull superstition to great Milton's song,--

"Of the wondrous horse of brass,     
On which the Tartar king did ride."

                The horse still plays an important part in the folk-lore. Thus e.g. Yorkshire people say, that if you see a piebald horse, and do not look at his tail, or think of a fox, whatever you wish for will be granted; also, that you must spit over your finger for luck when you see a white horse. The four black horses and chariot still rush through Penzance streets in the night, according to some, and the white horse is carried by the Christmas mummers in various parts of England and Germany. In the Midlands a horse's head and skin is dragged about on Christmas eve; a simulacrum, as some think, of Odin's heroic steed. Cf. Henderson, p. 70, also F. Finn and Magyar Songs on St. Stephen's Day. Academy 1884. pp. 150, 315.

               Page 63. For breathing on old things and causing them to change, see p. 92, where the baa-lambs restore the lad's body by blowing; and a Finnish tale tells how a snake commands the hero to create with his clean breath a copper battlefield that they may fight, and is told by the man to create an iron one with his heathen breath, which he does; and other snakes come in the story who in turn create copper and silver battlefields, see Leppäpölkky, S. ja T. 2.

               Sometimes the change is effected by a bath, as in "Fairy Elizabeth," p. 110, supra.

               Cf. Grimm, "Iron John," vol. ii. p. 195.

               Page 65. A glass mountain appears in the "Iron Stove," Grimm, vol. ii. p. 161; "the princess on the glass mountain" in Thorpe's Yule-Tide Stories, p.86; and "The crystal mountain" in Vernaleken p. 276. It occurs also in a Lincolnshire story, where the forsaken wife sits at her husband's door and sings:

"Bare bull of orange return to me,     
For three fine babes I bore to thee,     
And climbed a glass hill for thee,     
Bare bull of orange return to me."                       
           Folk-Lore Journal, 1885, p. 188. [2]

                See also notes to "The Little Magic Pony," infra.

               The giant in "Handsome Paul," p. 26, like the Tátos in the present tale, tells his friend to shut his eyes and open them at intervals on account of the great speed they are going at; just as in the Finnish "Golden Bird," the young man on the wolf's back is obliged to rub his eyes with his handkerchief because the pace they are going at makes them water. In the hurry he drops it and asks the wolf to stop a minute to pick it up and is told it is already 1,000 miles behind them.

               Page 66. Knight Mezey's wonderful sword is one of a numberless group of incidents wherein the sword plays an important part; in this story Mirkó ordered out his magic sword to protect him while he slept, and then to join with Knight Mezey's in mowing down the enemies. When he met Doghead (p. 73), their swords in like manner flew out of the scabbards and fought their masters' battles; and in the "Secret-keeping little Boy," p. 233, in this collection, the hero is born with a scabbard at his side, whilst a sword point appeared in the garden and grew as the scabbard grew; this sword cut up into pulp any one who came near its master on mischief bent. Alderblock's sword in the Finnish story in like manner flew out and cut Syöjätär into mincemeat. The Greeks told of "Harpé," the sword Hermes lent to Perseus, and of the honoured swords of Ulysses and Achilles.

               Norse legends tell of wondrous swords, such as Odin's "Gram" that he drove into an ash tree there to remain till the man should be found strong enough to draw it out. [3] Cheru's sword, forged by the dwarfs, "shone every morning on the high place of the sanctuary, sending forth its light afar when dawn arose like a flame of fire;" then there is Heimdal, born of nine mothers, the sword "Ase" of the Edda, who with his mighty sword made even cunning Loki cry for mercy.

               In the Niebelungen there is "Balmung," craftily made by the dwarfs and tempered in dragons' blood, wherewith Siegfried smote the giants, and did mighty wonders, yea, even after its master's death slaying his enemies, till at last it rested on his grave by Brunhild's side. Roland wielded his good sword "Durindart," the gift of an angel, against the Paynim foe and did great wonders.

               Dietrich in terrible conflict won "Eche-sax": Flammberg and the good horse Bayard wrought wonders in the days of Haymon and his children: Hunford's token of reconciliation to Beowulf, was the gift of "Hrunting" hardened in dragon's blood: Nägling, Nagelring, and Rosen, too, smote their worms, whilst "Mimung," good trusty Mimung, in the hands of heroes, did mighty wonders, even splitting asunder a floating pack of wool; and was so keen that Amilias did not know that Mimung had cut him in two till he shook himself; and lo! he fell into two pieces. Wayland Smith laboured in our own land, and brought forth a wondrous sword.

"Bitterfer, the sword hight,     
Better swerde bar never knight.       
     Horn, to thee ich it thought,
Is nought a knight in Inglond     
Schal sitten a dint of thine hand;     
Forsake thou it nought."

                Charlemagne had his "Joyeuse"; Roland his "Durendal"; Arthur his "Excalibur"--

"All the haft twinkled with diamond sparks,     
Myriads of topaz-lights, and jacinth work     
Of subtlest jewellery."

                A wondrous thing that "rose up out of the bosom of the lake," held by an arm "clothed in white samite, mystic and wonderful;" and when the sword was thrown back to the lake (its master's life being well nigh run) by the bold Sir Bedivere--

                                                        "behold an arm     
Clothed in white samite, mystic and wonderful,     
That caught him by the hilt, and brandish'd him     
Three times, and drew him under in the mere."

                Cf. Wagner's Epics and Romance; Asgard and the Gods; Morte d'Arthur, book 1, cap. xxiii. and book 21, cap. v.; Mythical and Mediæval Swords, by Lady Verney, in Contemporary Review, October, 1880; The Seven Champions of Christendom; and Payne's Arabian Nights, vol. xi. pp. 129, 164.

               In the Finnish "Oriiksi muutettu poika," the devil has a wonderful sword, which the hero obtains by the help of the horse: see also "The Water Smith," Keightley's Fairy Mythology, p. 260.--"Shortshanks," in Dasent, p. 153, gets possession of the only eye an old hag had, and so obtained "a sword, such a sword! It would put a whole army to flight, be it ever so great;" and certainly it chopped up sundry ogres later on in the tale; cf. p. 188 in the same collection.

               The trap-door by which Mirkó entered the nether world appears in many stories, such as "St. Patrick's Purgatory"; see Baring Gould's Curious Myths, p. 230, and note to "Shepherd Paul" in this collection, infra.

               Page 68. In the Lapp stories it is said that if Stallo's [4] dog is not killed as well as the monster himself, that it will lick its master's blood and then Stallo will come to life again, just as the witch in this story is evolved out of the morsels of unburnt ribs. See "Stallo" and "Fogden i Vadsø, som gjorde sig til en Stallo," in Friis, pp. 74, 97.

               Page 71. The flashing eyes of the princess remind us of the Gorgons. Her repentance is like that of the queen in the Russian story, who slays and restores the hero; Ralston, p. 235.

               The "strength-giving fluid" occurs in numerous stories, e.g., in the Finnish stories, "Alder Block," S. ja T., ii., p. 2, and the "Enchanted Horse," where the hero cannot move an immense sword until he wets his head with the blood that is in a tub in the middle of the forbidden room in the devil's house. Cf. also Ralston, p. 237; Dasent, "The big bird Dan," pp. 445, 459; Folk-Lore Record, 1879, p. 99; and, "Irish Folk-Tales," ibidem, 1883, p. 55.

               Sometimes it is a belt or ointment that gives strength, as in "The Blue Belt" and "The Three Princesses of Whiteland," in Dasent, pp. 178, 209. Cf. ante, p. 248.

               A daughter explains to the hero how to conquer her father, in Brockhaus, Märchensammlung des Somadeva Bhatta, vol. i., p. 110.

               Page 72. In the Karelian story "Awaimetoin Wakka," S. ja T. i., p. 151, the lad threw a great iron pole against Vääräpyärä's castle, in order to let the inmates know he was coming. In the Finnish "Alder Block," S. ja T. ii. p. 2, the hero throws or kicks off one of his shoes, and it flies to his comrades, and they come and help him.

               In "The History of Gherib and his brother Agib," Terkenan threw an iron mace at his son with such power that it smote three stones out of a buttress of the palace; Payne's Arabian Nights, vol. vi., p. 152. See also "Story of Vasilisa" in Naake's Slavonic Tales, p. 57; and "Sir Peppercorn," in Denton's Serbian Folk-Lore, p. 128: where Peppercorn hurls the giant's mace back to him just as Mirkó did; and Roumanian Fairy Tales, p. 64.

               As to the name "Doghead," see Notes to "The Three Dreams," infra, p. 377.

               Page 74. The castle that collapses into an apple also appears in "The Three Princes," p. 206, in this collection.

               For a variant of Knight Mezey cf. "Zöldike," a Magyar tale, in Gaal, vol. iii., in which the beautiful meadow, the tent, the sleeping knight, and the witch weaving soldiers, all occur.


[1] Of the word "devil" one cannot do better than quote Mr. Ralston's words: "The demon rabble of 'popular tales' are merely the lubber fiends of heathen mythology, being endowed with supernatural might, but scantily provided with mental power; all of terrific manual clutch, but of weak intellectual grasp." Cf. Castrén, Finsk Mytologi, p. 163.

[2] A similar tale still exists in Holderness under the name of "The Glass Stairs."

[3] Morte d'Arthur, book I, cap. iii. tells how "in the greatest church in London, there was seen in the churchyard a great stone foursquare, and in the midst thereof was like an anvil of steel a foot on high, and therein stuck a fair sword naked by the point, and letters there were written in gold about the sword that said thus: whoso pulleth out this sword of this stone and anvil is rightwise king born of all England." Which sword was drawn out by Sir Arthur. Cf. book 2, cap. i. where a maiden comes girt with a sword, that no one could pull out but the poor knight Balin.

[4] This man-eating being was said to be something like a very big and mighty man, and was to be found in waste places. He was generally dressed in a white coat, with a silver belt round his waist, from which hung a silver-hafted knife, and a great many silver ornaments. He was exceedingly stupid, and the butt of Gudnavirucak. (Ashiepattle) They were probably nothing more than the old Vikings, and Stallo is thought to be derived from "Staalmanden," or men dressed in steel (Lapp, staale = steel).

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Prince Mirkó
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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