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

Children of the Two Rich Men, The

THERE lived, at the two corners of a country, far away from each other, two rich men; one of them had a son, the other a daughter; these two men asked each other to be godfather to their children, and, during the christening they agreed that the babes should wed. The children grew up, but did no work, and so were spoilt. As soon as they were old enough their parents compelled them to marry. Shortly afterwards their parents died and they were left alone; they knew nothing of the world and did not understand farming, so the serfs and farm-labourers had it all their own way. Soon their fields were all overgrown with weeds and their corn-bins empty; in a word they became poor. One day the master bethought himself that he ought to go to market, as he had seen his father do; so he set off, and drove with him a pair of beautiful young oxen that were still left. On his way he met a wedding-party, and greeted them thus, "May the Lord preserve you from such a sorrowful change, and may He give consolation to those who are in trouble," Words he had once heard his father use upon the occasion of a funeral. The wedding-party got very vexed, and, as they were rather flushed with wine, gave him a good drubbing, and told him that the next time he saw such a ceremony he was to put his hat on the end of his stick, lift it high in the air, and shout for joy. He went on further till he came to the outskirts of a forest, where he met some butcher-like looking people who were driving fat pigs, whereupon he seized his hat, put it on the end of his stick, and began to shout: which so frightened the pigs that they rushed off on all sides into the wood; the butchers got hold of him and gave him a sound beating, and told him that the next time he saw such a party he was to say, "May the Lord bless you with two for every one you have." He went on again and saw a man clearing out the weeds from his field, and greeted him, "My brother, may the Lord bless you with two for every one you have." The man, who was very angry about the weeds, caught him and gave him a sound beating, and told him that the next time he saw such things he had better help to pull out one or two. In another place he met two men fighting, so he went up and began to pull first at one and then at the other, whereupon they left off fighting with each other and pitched into him. Somehow or other he at last arrived at the market, and, looking round, he saw an unpainted cart for sale, whereupon he remembered that his father used to go into the wood in a cart, and so he asked the man who had it for sale whether he would change it for his two oxen--not knowing that having once parted with the oxen he would not get them back again. The man was at first angry, because he thought he was making fun of the cart, but he soon saw that the man with the oxen was not quite right in his head, and so he struck the bargain with the young farmer, who, when he got the cart, went dragging it to and fro in the market. He met a blacksmith and changed the cart for a hatchet; soon the hatchet was changed for a whetstone; then he started off home as if he had settled matters in the most satisfactory manner. Near his village he saw a lake, and on it a flock of wild ducks. He immediately threw his whetstone at them, which sank to the bottom, whilst every one of the ducks flew away.

               He undressed and got into the lake, in order to recover his whetstone, but in the meantime his clothes were stolen from the bank, and, having no clothes, he had to walk home as naked as when he was born. His wife was not at home when he arrived. He took a slice of bread from the drawer, and went into the cellar to draw himself some wine; having put the bread on the door-sill of the cellar, he went back to get his wine, as he did so he saw a dog come up and run away with his bread; he at once threw the spigot after the thief, so the spigot was lost, the bread was lost, and every drop of wine was lost, for it all ran out. Now there was a sack of flour in the cellar, and in order that his wife might not notice the wine he spread the flour over it. A goose was sitting on eggs in the cellar, and as he worked she hissed at him. Thinking that the bird was saying, that it was going to betray him to his wife, he asked it two or three times, "Will you split?" Going up to the goose, it hissed still more, so he caught hold of it by the neck, and dashed it upon the ground with such force that it died on the spot. He was now more frightened than ever, and in order to amend his error he plucked off the feathers, rolled himself about in the floury mess, then amongst the feathers, and then sat on the nest as if he were sitting. His wife came home, and, as she found the cellar door wide open, she went down stairs, and found her husband sitting in the nest and hissing like a goose; but his wife soon recognised him, and, picking up a log of wood, she attacked him, saying, "Good Heavens, what an animal, let me kill it at once!" Up he jumped from the nest, and cried out in a horrible fright, "Don't touch me, my dear wife, it's I!" His wife then questioned him about his transactions, and he gave a full account of all that had happened; so his wife drove him away and said, "Don't come before my eyes again till you have made good your faults." She then gave him a slice of bread and a small flask of spirit, which he put in his pocket and went on his way, his wife wishing him "a happy journey, if the road is not muddy." On his way he met Our Lord Christ and said to him, "I'm not going to divide my bread with you, because you have not made a rich man of me." Then he met Death, with him he divided his bread and his spirits, therefore Death did not carry him off, and he asked Death to be his child's godfather.

               Then said Death, "Now you will see a wonder"; with this he slipped into the spirit flask, and was immediately corked up by the young man. Death implored to be set free, but the young farmer said, "Promise me then that you will make me a rich man, and then I will let you out." Death promised him this, and they agreed that the man was to be a doctor, and whenever Death stood at the patient's feet, he or she was not to die, and could be cured by any sort of medicine whatever: but if Death stood at the patient's head he was to die: with this they parted.

               Our man reached a town where the king's daughter was very ill. The doctors had tried all they could, but were not able to cure her, so he said that he was going to cure her, if she could be cured, if not, he would tell them; so thereupon he went into the patient and saw Death standing at her feet. He burnt a stack of hay, and made a bath for her of the ashes, and she recovered so soon as she had bathed in it. The king made him so many presents that he became a very rich man: he removed to the town, brought his wife there, and lived in great style as a doctor. Once however he fell sick, and his koma [his child's godfather] came and stood at his head, and the patient begged hard for him to go and stand at his feet, but his koma replied, "Not if I know it," and then the doctor also departed to the other world.


Kriza viii.

                For another variant cf. the Magyar tale "The Poor Man and His Child's Godfather" in Merènyi's Eredeti Népmesék, vol. i. See also the Finnish story, "Lehmää wuohena myöjä," ("The Man who sold his Cow as a Goat") from Tavastland and Karelia, S. ja T. ii. p. 126, which tells of a man being fooled into the belief that his cow was a goat, but in the end he overreaches the sharpers.

               Cf. Dasent's Tales from the Norse: "Gudbrand on the Hill Side," p. 172; "Not a Pin to choose between them," p. 198; and "Big Peter and Little Peter," p. 387.

               Grimm, "Wise Folks," vol. ii. p. 73; "Hans in Luck," vol. i. p. 325.

               Ralston, Russian Folk-Tales, "The Fool and the Birch Tree" (Afanassieff V. No. 52), p. 49. Also the latter part of the "Bad wife," ib. i. No. 9.

               Gubernatis, vol. i. pp. 44, 200, and 388.

               Dublin Magazine 1868, p. 707, "Bardiello."

               Payne's Arabian Nights, vol. iv. p. 223, "The Simpleton and the Sharper."

               Udvalgte Eventyr og Fortœllinger ved C. Molbech. Kjöbenhavn, 1843, p. 317, "Lön som forskyldt, et jydsk eventyr."

               Myllenhoff, Sagen, Märchen und Lieder der Herzogthümer Schleswig Holstein und Lauenburg. (Kiel, 1845.) "Die reichen Bauern."

               J. W. Wolff (Leipzig, 1845), Deutsche Märchen und Sagen, ii. p. 52, "Die betrogenen Schelme."

               Kletke, Märchensaal aller Völker, i. p. 98, "Herr Scarpacifico."

               Il Pentamerone, ii. 10, "Lo compare."

               Grimm, vol. i. "Clever Elsie," p. 138; Stokes, Indian Fairy Tales; "Foolish Sachúli," pp. 27, 257; Folk-Lore Record, 1884, p. 40, Variant of "The Three Noodles." See also Halliwell's Nursery Rhymes, "Mr. Vinegar," p. 149, and the well-known verses about the pedlar called Stout, and "The Wise Men of Gotham," pp. 24, 56.

               Amongst the numerous other simpleton stories we may note those where people harrow up their feelings about that which might happen to as yet unborn children.

               The following are Magyar simpleton tales:--

               The people in one village tried to carry a ladder through a forest across their shoulders and cut all the trees down so as to get through.

               In another: A stork soiled the new gold nob on the spire and they shot it so awkwardly that it hung there and disfigured the place worse than ever.

               In another: Some grass was growing upon an old church: so, instead of cutting it and throwing it down, they erected an elaborate scaffold and pulled a bull up by a rope tied round his neck. The poor brute, half strangled, put out his tongue, whereupon they said, "See, he wants it already."

               In another: When the Turks were coming they put a foal in a little grotto, and when it grew they could not get it out.

               In another: By mistake they made it out that they ate the same lentils twice, which is still a joke against them.

               In Finland there are many such tales current, of which the following are specimens. There is a village called Hölmöla, the inhabitants of which are said to be very cautious, and who always considered well before doing anything, lest they might get into trouble by overmuch haste. For instance, when they are going to cut their rye, they always take seven persons, one bent the rye-stalk down; another held a piece of wood under it; the third cut the straw off; the fourth carried it to the sheaf; the fifth bound the sheaf; the sixth piled the sheaves together; and the seventh ricked them. Matti chanced to see them one day, and was struck with their manner of working. When evening came there was but a quarter of the field cut; so he thought he would do them a good turn, and set to work to cut and bind the rest. When he had finished he laid his sickle on the last shock and went to sleep. Next morning, when the Hölmöla people came, they found all cut, and the sickle lying on the shock. They were all astounded, and came to the conclusion that work done in such hurry must have been done by witchcraft, and that the sickle was the wizard who had transformed himself into that shape, and concluded that he ought to be drowned in order to prevent him interfering with honest folks' work for the future. As it was not deemed wise to touch such a creature, they fished it down by means of a long pole with a loop at the end, and dragged it to the shore, although it was very troublesome, as it would stick into the stubble and ditches, and try to prevent them dragging it along. At last it was got into a boat, and rowed off into the middle of the lake. They then tied a large stone to the handle with a strong rope, so that it might not float, and then with joyous shout threw it into the water. Unfortunately the sickle caught the bulwark of the boat; and, being weighted with a heavy stone, the boat canted over, and the good folks barely escaped with their lives from the wicked wiles of the wizard. [1]

               Once they built a hut, and did it so thoroughly that they forgot the windows. When it was done, it was very dark, and so they sat down to consider how to get the light in. At last they hit upon a plan: the light was to be brought in a sack! So they opened the bag wide in the sunlight, and then, when it was full, tied it carefully up, and brought it in; but alas! the darkness was not enlightened. They were very much cast down at this; and while they pondered over it Matti passed by, and, hearing of their trouble, offered to get them the needed light for one hundred marks; and they were delighted to get it for so little. Matti cut a hole in the wall, and lo! the hut was flooded with light. The people were so delighted that they decided to take the whole wall down. Now they had light enough, but unfortunately, just then the hut fell down.

               The writer of this has often heard in Holderness of a man who could not get into his trousers, and used to get up hours before his comrade, and get into his trousers by setting them up by a chair and jumping into them; till at last he was told to sit down, and put on first one leg and then the other. This was a great revelation to him. Another man took his wheelbarrow to wheel daylight in, and worked away till he was told to open his shutters, and it would come in. One day another brilliant saw some grass in a church steeple, and was just going to hoist his cow up to it, when a friend pointed out to him that it was easier for him to go up and bring it down. When at school at Newcastle-on-Tyne, some twenty years ago, we were very fond of the story of a Dutchman, who, with his comrades, went out walking one night; saw the moon's reflection in the water, and thought it was a Dutch cheese. He determined that the best way to get it was to go on to the bridge, and by taking hold of each other's feet to form a chain, and so reach the cheese. The Dutchman was top man, and held on to the bridge. Just when the bottom man was about to seize the cheese, the Dutchman hollowed out, "Hold on a minute, till I spit on my hands!" and so they all fell into the water, and destroyed the cheese, besides other calamities! [2]

               Amongst the Lapps, it is the Giants, and Stallo who are fooled, e.g.: "Patto-Poadnje hævner sig paa Stallo," "En Askelad narrer Stallo," and an amusing story of how a dressed-up log was palmed off as a Lapp girl ("Stallobruden"). Friis, pp. 78, 90 and 98.

               See also "Den listige Lappen," Hofberg, Svenska Sägner, p. 195; and a Russian variant given in Ralston, p. 53.

               Forgetting to put the spigot into the vessel, and so losing all the wine, occurs in "The Husband who had to mind the House," Dasent, p. 310, and in Grimm, vol. i.; cf. also note to "Frederick and Catherine," p. 238; and "Clever Hans," p. 381.

               Page 82. In S. ja T. ii. pp. 113-126, under head "Kuolema Kummina" ("Death as Godfather"), two stories are given which resemble this part of the Magyar tale. In "Taiwaan wuohen synty" ("Heaven's Goat's Origin") from Karelia, a poor man has a child, and goes to look for a godfather. He meets a stranger, who turns out to be God; but the poor man will not have him, as he makes one poor and another rich. Soon after he meets Death, and him he accepts, for with him there are no favourites. Death gives his godchild three gifts: a chair that whoever sits down on it cannot get up without leave; a bag that is never empty; and the power to know whether a person will recover, by noticing whether Death stands at the head or foot of the bed. The man lived to be over three hundred years old by tricking Death; and when he died he was not admitted into heaven because he called God a deceiver, and so he still goes wailing in mid-air: and this was the origin of the Snipe. In the other story, "Taiwaasen menijä," (Going to Heaven,) from Kivigari in Tavastland, Death gives the man an ointment, as a christening present, to heal all, providing the man sees him standing at the foot of the patient's bed. Death is grossly deceived, and when the man does die, he only gets into heaven by a fluke. A variant of the whole story is "Gambling Hansel," Grimm, No. 81. See also: Grimm, vol. i. "The Godfather," p. 168; "Godfather Death," p. 171, and note, p. 391; and "Brother Lustig," p. 312. Grimm, Deutsche Mythologie, ii. p. 951; Dasent, "The Master Smith," p. 120; C. Molbech, Udvalgte Eventyr, No. 70: "Döden og hans Gudsön," and "Brave Petrus en zign Zak," a Flemish Tale in Volkskunde. Tijdschrift voor Nederlandsche Folklore onder redactie van Prof. A. Gittée 3ᵉ Aflevering 1888, may be quoted as further instances.

               Mistress Death appears in "Starving John, the Doctor," in Patrañas, p. 125; and in Vernaleken, "Hans with the Goitre," p. 238, it is a skeleton.

               In a Wendish Story, St. Hedwige stands as godmother; see Dublin Magazine, 1861, p. 355.

               In the Russian Story, "The Bad Wife," Afanassieff, i. No. 9, quoted in Ralston, p. 39, the devil flies out of Tartarus, to get out of the bad wife's way, and assists her husband to become a great doctor. See also a Lapp variant, from Utsjok, "Kjærringen og Fanden," in Friis, p. 138.


[1] Cf. Grimm, "The Three Sons of Fortune," i. p. 291.

[2] I have heard similar stories amongst the peasants in Flanders.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Children of the Two Rich Men, 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: ATU 1415: Lucky Hans

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