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

Fairy Elizabeth

THERE was once somewhere, I don't know where, beyond seven times seven countries, and even beyond them, a poor man who had a wife and three children. They were awfully poor. One day the eldest son said: "Dear mother, bake me some ash-cake and let me go into service." His mother at once baked the cake, and the lad started, and went on and on till he came to a high snow-clad mountain, where he met a grey-haired man and greeted him: "May the Lord bless you, my good old father." "The Lord bless you, my son. What are you after?" asked the old man. "I am going out to service, if the Lord will help me to some place." "Well, then, come to me," said the old man, "I will engage you." So they went to the house of the grey-haired old man, and the very next day they went out ploughing but they only ploughed up some grass-land, and sowed it with seed. Now let me tell you, that the old man promised him a bushel of seed for sowing. Two days passed, and at dawn of the third day the old man said: "Well, my son, to-day you can go out ploughing for yourself; get the plough ready, yoke the oxen in, and in the meantime I will get the bushel of wheat I promised." So the lad put the oxen to the plough and the old man got the bushel of wheat and placed it on the plough. They started, the old man accompanying him. Just at the end of the village he said to the lad: "Well, my son, can you see that place yonder covered with shrubs? Go there, and plough up as much of it for yourself as you think will be enough for the bushel of wheat." The lad went, but was quite alarmed at the sight of the shrubs, and at once lost heart. "How could he plough there? Why, by the time he had grubbed up the shrubs alone it would be night." So he ran off home, and left the plough there, and the oxen then returned of their own accord to the old man's place--if I may interrupt myself, they were the oxen of a fairy. When the lad arrived at his father's house, his other brothers asked him: "What sort of a place have you found?" "What sort of a place!" replied he, "go yourself, and you will soon find out." The middle son set out, and just as he was going over the snow-clad mountain he met the old man, who engaged him on the spot as his servant, and promised him a bushel of wheat, as he had done before. They went to the old man's home, and he fared just as his elder brother had done. At dawn on the third day, when he had to plough for himself, he got frightened at the sight of the vast number of shrubs, which no human being could have ploughed up in the stated time. So he went home too, and on his way he met his younger brother, who asked him: "What sort of a place have you found, my dear elder brother?" "What sort of a place had I? Get up out of the ashes, and go yourself, and you will soon find out." Now let me tell you that this boy was continually sitting among the ashes. He was a lazy, ne'er-do-weel fellow; but now he got up, and shook the ashes from him and said: "Well, my mother, bake me a cake also: as my brothers have tried their fortune let me try mine." But his brothers said: "Oh! you ash-pan! Supposing you were required to do nothing else but eat, you would not be good enough even for that." But still he insisted, that his mother should bake something for him. So his mother set to work and baked him a cake of some inferior bran, and with this he set out. As he went over the boundless snow-clad mountain, in the midst of it he met the old man and greeted him: "The Lord bless you, my old father!" "The Lord bless you, my son! Where are you going?" "I am going out to service, if I can find an employer." "Well, you are the very man I want; I am in search of a servant." And he engaged him on the spot, promising to make him a present of a bushel of wheat for sowing. They went home together, and after they had ploughed together for two days, the lad set out on the third day to plough up the land allotted to him for his own use: while the youngster was putting the oxen to the plough the old man got the wheat and placed it on the plough. On the dyke there was a big dog, who always lay there quietly; but this time he got up, and started off in front of him. The old man also accompanied him as far as the end of the village, from whence he showed him where to go ploughing. The youngster went on with the plough, and soon saw that he was not able to plough a single furrow, on account of the thick bushes. After considering what to do, he bethought himself, and took his sharp hatchet and began to cut down a vast quantity of shrubs and thorns, the dog carrying them all into a heap. Seeing that he had cut enough, he began to plough. The two oxen commenced to drag the plough and cut up the roots in a manner never seen before. After he had turned three times, he looked round and said: "Well, I'm not going to plough any more, but will begin to sow, so that I may see how much seed I've got." He sowed the seed, and noticed that it was just sufficient, and therefore he had to plough no more. In great joy he set the plough straight and went home. The old man met him and said: "Well, my son, thanks to the Lord, you have now finished your year, and in God's name I will let you go. I do not intend to engage any more servants." Before I forget to tell you, I may mention it here, that the year had three days then. So the lad went home, and his brothers asked him: "Well, then, what sort of a place have you found?" "Well, I believe I've served my master as well as you did."

               One day, a year after, he went into the field to look at his wheat crop. There he saw an old woman reaping some young wheat, so he went home and said to his father: "Well, my father, do you know what we have to do? let's go reaping." "Where, my son?" "Well, father, for my last year's service I had a bushel of wheat given to me for sowing, it has got ripe by this time, so let us go and reap it." So all four (his father, his two brothers, and himself) went; when they came to the spot they saw that it was a magnificent crop, a mass of golden ears from root to top, ready and ripe; so they all started to work and cut down every head.

               They made three stacks of it, each stack having twenty-six sheaves. "Well my son," said the father, "there are three stacks here and there are three of you to guard them, so while I go home to hire a cart, guard them well, so that the birds may not carry away a single stem." The father went home, and the three sat down (one at the foot of each stack) to watch them, but the youngest was the most anxious, as it was his own, and ran to and fro continually to prevent his brothers falling asleep. Just as he had awakened them and was going back to his own stack he saw a woodpecker dragging away, by jerks, a golden ear along the ground, so he ran after it in order to get it back, but just as he was on the point of catching it the woodpecker flew off further and further, and enticed him, until at last it got him into the very midst of the boundless snow-clad mountains. All of a sudden the youngster discovered where he was, and that it was getting dusk. "Where was he to go? and what was he to do?" So he thought he would go back to the stacks, but as he had kept his eye on the woodpecker and the wheat-ear, he had taken no notice of the surroundings, and knew not which way he had come. So he determined to climb the highest tree and look round from there: he looked about and found the highest tree, climbed it, and looked East but saw nought, South and saw nought: North, and far, very far away he saw a light as big as a candle; so he came down, and started off in the direction in which he had seen the light and went straight over ditches, woods, rocks, and fields till at last he came to a large plain, and there he found the fire which he had seen before, and lo! it was such a heap of burning wood that the flames nearly reached heaven: he approached it and when he drew near the burning heap he saw that a man was lying curled round the fire, his head resting on his feet, and that he was covered with a large cloak: then thought the lad, "Shall I lie down inside or outside of the circle formed by the body of the man?" If he lay outside he would catch cold; if he lay inside he would be scorched, he thought; so he crept into the sleeve of the cloak, and there fell asleep. In the morning when the sun arose, the big man awoke, he yawned wide, and got up from the fire; as he rose the youngster dropt out of his sleeve on to the ground: the giant looked at him (because I forgot to tell you it wasn't a man, it was a giant), and was very much pleased at the sight; he quickly picked him up, took him into his arms, and carried him into his palace, (and even there put him into the best room) and put him to bed, covered him up well, and crept out of the room on tiptoe lest he should wake him. When he heard that the youngster was awake, he called to him through the open door, "Don't be afraid, my dear son, I am a big man it is true, but notwithstanding I will be to thee like thy father, in thy father's place; like thy mother, in thy mother's place." With this he entered the room, and the poor lad stared into the giant's eyes, as if he were looking up to the sky. Suddenly the giant asked him how he got there, and the lad told him the whole tale. "Well, my dear little son, I will give you everything that your heart can think of, or your mouth name, I will fulfil your every wish, only don't worry yourself;" and he had all sorts of splendid clothes made for him, and kept him on costly food; and this lasted till the lad became twenty years of age, when one day the lad became very sad, and his giant father asked him, "Well, my dear son, tell me why you are so sad, I will do all your heart can think of, or your mouth name; but do tell me what's the matter with you?" So the lad said, after hesitation, "Well! well! well! my dear father, I am so sad because the time has come when I ought to get married, and there's nobody here to get married to." "Oh! my son, don't worry yourself over that, such a lad as you has but to wish and you will find plenty of womankind, the very prettiest of them, ready to have you; you will but have to choose the one your heart loves best." So saying he called the lad before the gate and said: "Well, my son, you can see that great white lake yonder: go there at noon prompt and hide yourself under a tree, for every noon three lovely fairy girls come there who are as handsome as handsome can be: you can look at the sun, but you can't look at them! They will come disguised as pigeons, and when they arrive on the bank they will turn somersaults, and at once become girls: they will then undress, and lay their dresses on the bank: you must then glide up, and steal the dress of the one your heart loves best, and run away home with it, but be careful not to look back, however they may shout: because if you do, believe me, she will catch you, box your ears, and take her clothes from you."

               So he went to the lake and hid himself under an oak, and all at once three white pigeons came flying, their wings flapping loudly as they came, they settled down on the bank, and went to take a bath. The lad wasn't slow to leave his hiding-place, and pick up the dress of the eldest fairy girl and run away with it; but she noticed it at once, rushed out of the lake, and ran after him, shouting: "Stop! sweet love of my heart. Look at me; see how beautiful my skin is; how pretty my breasts are. I'm yours, and you're mine!" So he looked round, and the fairy snatched her dress away in a moment, slapped his face, and returned to the others in the lake. Poor lad! he was very sad, and went back and told his giant father all that had happened, and his giant father answered, "Well; wasn't I right? Didn't I tell you not to look back? But don't fret; three in number are the divine truths, and three times also will you have to try. There are two yet left, go again to-morrow at noon. Take care you don't look back, or pick up the same dress that you picked up yesterday, because, believe me, if you do, there will be the mischief to pay." So he went early next day (he couldn't wait till noon) and hid himself under a tree, when all of a sudden the pigeons appeared, turned somersaults, and became three beautiful fairy girls. They undressed, laid their dresses on the bank, and went into the lake; in short, the lad fared with the second as with the first--he couldn't resist the temptation of looking back when the beautiful fairy kept imploring him, as the sweet love of her heart, to gaze at her beautiful skin and breasts. He looked back, was slapped in the face as before, and lost the fairy dress. He went home again, very sad, to his giant father, and told him how he had fared; and the giant said in reply: "Never mind, don't bother yourself, my son, three are the divine truths; there is one more left for you; you can try again to-morrow, but only be very careful not to look back this time." Next day he couldn't wait till noon, but went and hid himself under the oak very early, and had to wait a long, long time. At last the white pigeons arrived, turned somersaults as before, and put their dresses on the bank, whilst they themselves went into the lake. Out he rushed from his hiding-place, snatched up the youngest's dress, and ran away with it. But the fairy noticed that her dress was gone, and rushed out of the lake after him like a hurricane, calling out incessantly: "Stop! sweet love of my heart, look how beautifully white my skin is! See how beautifully white are my breasts. I am yours, and you are mine." But the lad only ran faster than ever, and never looked behind once, but ran straight home to his giant father, and told him that he had got the dress this time. "Well, my dear son," said he, "didn't I tell you not to worry yourself in the least, and that I would do all for you that your heart could desire, or your mouth name?" Once after this the lad was very sad again, so his giant father asked him: "Well, my son, what's the matter this time, that you are so sad?" "Well, my dear father, because we have only got a dress, and that is not enough for a wedding. What's the use of it? What can I do with it?" "Never mind, don't worry about that. Go into the inside closet, and on a shelf you will find a walnut, bring it here." So the lad went and fetched the nut, and the giant split it neatly in two, took out the kernel, folded up the dress (and I may mention it here the dress consisted of only one piece), put it inside the nut-shell, fitted the two halves together, and said to the lad: "Well, my son, let me have your waistcoat, so that I may sew this nut into the pocket; and be careful that no one opens it, neither thy father, nor thy mother, nor any one in this world, because should any one open it your life will be made wretched; you will be an outcast."

               With this, the giant sewed the nut into the pocket, and put the waistcoat on him. As they finished this, they heard a great clamping noise, and a chinking (as of coins) outside. So the giant bade him to look out of the window, and what did he see? He saw that in the courtyard there was a lovely girl sitting in a carriage drawn by six horses, and about her beautiful maids and outriders, and the giant said, "You see, it is Fairy Elizabeth, your ladylove." So they went out at once, and helped Fairy Elizabeth out of her carriage, then she ordered the carriage and horses to go back, at once, to where they had come from, and in a moment they disappeared, and there was no trace of them left. They then went into the house, but the giant remained outside, and he drew in the dust figures of a priest, and a cantor, and guests, and they appeared at once. All went into the house, and the young folks got wed, and a great wedding feast was celebrated. There was the bridegroom's best man, and the groom's men, and the bride's duenna, and all her bridesmaids, and the wedding feast lasted three full days. They ate, drank, and enjoyed themselves, and when all was over the young couple lived together in quiet happiness. Once more, however, the lad became very sad, and the giant asked him: "Well, my dear son, why are you sad again? You know that I will do all your heart can desire, or your mouth name." "Well, my dear father," replied he, "how can I help being sad; it is true we live together happily, but who knows how my father and mother and brothers and sisters are at home? I should like to go to see them."

               "Well, my dear son," said the giant, "I will let you go; you two go home, and you will find your relations keeping the third anniversary of your death: they have gathered in all the golden corn, and become so rich that they are now the greatest farmers in the village: each of your brothers have their own home and they have become great men (six-ox farmers) and have a whole flock of sheep." So the giant went outside, and drew in the dust the figures of horses and carriage, coachman, footmen, outriders, and court damsels, and they at once appeared; the young couple sat in the carriage, and the giant told the lad if ought happened to him he had only to think of one of these horses, and it would at once bring him back here. With this they started, and they arrived at home and, saw that the courtyard of his father's house was full of tables, crowded with people sitting round them, but no one spoke a word; they all were speechless so that you could not even hear a whisper. The couple got out of the carriage, in front of the gate, walked into the yard, and met an old man; it happened to be his father. "May the Lord give you a good day, Sir!" said he; and the old man replied, "May the Lord bless you also, my lord!" "Well sir," asked the young man, "what is the meaning of all this feasting that I see, all this eating and drinking, and yet no one speaks a word; is it a marriage or a funeral feast?" "My lord, it is a burial feast," replied the old man; "I had three sons, one was lost, and to-day we celebrate the third anniversary of his death." "Would you recognise your son if he appeared?" Upon hearing this his mother came forward and said, "To be sure, my dearest and sweetest lord, because there is a mark under his left armpit." With this the lad pulled up his sleeve and showed the mark, and they at once recognised him as their lost son; the funeral feast, thereupon, was at once changed into a grand wedding festival. Then the lad called out to the carriage and horses "Go back where you have come from," and in a moment there was not a trace of them left. His father at once sent for the priest and the verger and they went through all the ceremonies again, and whether the giant had celebrated them or not, certainly the father did: the wedding feast was such a one as had never been seen before! When they rose from the table they began the bride's dance: in the first place they handed the bride to the cleverest dancer, and whether he danced or not, most certainly the bride did: as she danced her feet never touched the ground, and everyone who was there looked at the bride only, and all whispered to each other, that no man had ever seen such a sight in all his life. When the bride heard this she said, "Hum, whether I dance now or whether I don't, I could dance much better if anyone would return to me the dress I wore in my maiden days." Whereupon they whispered to each other, "Where can that dress be?" When the bride heard this she said, "Well, my souls, it is in a nut-shell, sewn into my husband's waistcoat pocket, but no one will ever be able to get it." "I can get it for you," said her mother-in-law, "because I will give my son a sleeping-draught in wine and he will go to sleep," and so she did, and the lad fell on the bed fast asleep; his mother then got the nut from his pocket and gave it to her daughter-in-law, who at once opened it, took the dress out, put it on, and danced so beautifully, that, whether she danced the first time or not, she certainly danced this time; you could not imagine anything so graceful. But, as it was so hot in the house, the windows were left open, and Fairy Elizabeth turned a somersault, became a white pigeon, and flew out of the window. Outside there was a pear tree, and she settled upon the top of it, the people looking on in wonder and astonishment; then she called out that she wanted to see her husband as she wished to say a word or two to him, but the sleeping draught had not yet lost its power, and they could not wake him, so they carried him out in a sheet and put him under the tree and the pigeon dropped a tear on his face; in a minute he awoke. "Can you hear me, sweet love of my heart?" asked the pigeon, "if you ever want to meet me seek for me in the town of Johara, in the country of Black Sorrow," with this she spread her wings and flew away. Her husband gazed after her for a while and then became so grieved that his heart nearly broke. What was he to do now? He took leave of all and went and hid himself. When he got outside of the gate he suddenly remembered what the giant had told him about calling to memory one of the horses; he no sooner did so than it appeared all ready saddled; he jumped upon it and thought he would like to be at the giant's gate. In a moment he was there and the giant came out to meet him. "Well, my dear son, didn't I tell you not to give that nut to anyone?" The poor lad replied, in great sorrow, "Well, my dear father, what am I to do now?" "Well, what did Fairy Elizabeth say when she took leave of you?" "She said that if ever I wished to meet her again I was to go to the town of Johara, in the country of Black Sorrow." "Alas, my son!" said the giant, "I have never even heard the name, so how could I direct you there? Be still, and come and live with me, and get on as well as you can." But the poor lad said that he would go, and he must go, in search of his wife as far as his eye could see. "Well, if you wish to go, there are two more children of my parents left, an elder brother and an elder sister. Take this; here's a mace. We three children couldn't divide it amongst us, so it was left with me. They will know by this that I have sent you; go first to my elder brother, he is the king of all creeping things; perhaps he may be able to help you." With this he drew in the dust the figure of a colt three years old, and bade him sit on it, filled his bag with provisions, and recommended him to the Lord. The lad went on and on, over seven times seven countries, and even beyond them; he went on till the colt got so old that it lost all its teeth; at last he arrived at the residence of the king of all creeping things, went in, and greeted him, "May the Lord give you a good day, my dear father!" And the old man replied, "The Lord has brought you, my son. What is your errand?" And he replied, "I want to go to the country of Black Sorrow, into the town of Johara if ever I can find it." "Who are you?" asked the old man. With this he showed him the mace, and the king at once recognised it and said, "Ah, my dear son, I never heard the name of that town. I wish you had come last night, because all my animals were here to greet me. But stay, I will call them together again to-morrow morning, and we shall then see whether they can give us any information." Next morning the old man got up very early, took a whistle and blew it three times, and, in the twinkling of an eye all the creeping things that existed in the world came forward. He asked them, one by one, whether they knew aught of the town of Johara in the country of Black Sorrow. But they all answered that they had never seen it, and never even heard its name. So the poor lad was very sad, and did not know what to do. He went outside to saddle his horse, but the poor brute had died of old age. So the old man at once drew another in the dust, and it was again a colt three years old. He saddled it for him, filled his bag with provisions, and gave him directions where to find his elder sister. With this the lad started off, and went over seven times seven countries, and even beyond them, till at last, very late, he arrived at the elder sister's of the giant and greeted her. She returned it; and asked him, "What is your errand?" he replied that he was going to the town of Johara in the country of Black Sorrow. "Well, my son," said the old woman, "and who has sent you to me?" "Don't you know this mace?" and she recognised it at once, and said, "Alas! my dear son, I am very pleased to see you, but I cannot direct you, because I never even heard of the place. Why did you not come last night, as all the animals were here then. But as my brother has sent you, I will call them all together again to-night, and perhaps they will be able to tell you something." With this, he went out to put his horse in the stable, and found that it had grown so old that it hadn't a single tooth left; he himself, too, was shrivelled up with age, like a piece of bacon rind, and his hair was like snow. At eve the old woman said to him, "Lie down in this bed!" when he lay down she put a heavy millstone upon him; she then took a whip, went outside the door, and cracked it. It boomed like a gun and the poor man inside was so startled that he lifted up the millstone quite a span high. "Don't be afraid, my son," called out the old woman, "I'm only going to crack it twice more," and she cracked it again; whether it sounded the first time or not, it certainly did this time, so that the poor man inside lifted the millstone quite a yard high, and called out to the old woman not to crack that whip again, or he should certainly die on the spot. But she cracked it again, notwithstanding, and it sounded so loud, that whether the first two sounded or not, this time it sounded so loud that the poor man kicked the millstone right up to the ceiling. After that the old woman went in and said to him, "You can get up now, as I am not going to crack my whip any more." So he got up at once, and she went and opened the window, and left the door wide open too. At once it became quite dark, the animals came in such clouds that they quite obscured the sunlight; she let them in one by one through the window, and read out the name of each one of them from a list, and asked them if they knew where the country of Black Sorrow was, but nobody knew it; so she dismissed them and shut the window and door. The poor man was very sad now; he didn't know what to do next or where he was to go. "There is nothing more to be done," said the old woman; "but I will give you a colt, and fill your bag full of provisions, and in heaven's name go back where you have come from." They were still consulting when somebody knocked at the window and the old woman called out, "Who's that?" "It is I, my dear queen," replied a bird; and she began to scold it for being so late; but still she let it in, hoping that it might tell them something. Lo! it was a lame woodpecker. "Why are you so late?" she demanded, and the bird replied that it was because it had such a bad foot. "Where did you get your leg broken?" inquired the old woman. "In Johara, in the country of Black Sorrow." "You are just the one we want," said the old woman; "I command you to take this man on your back without delay and to carry him to the very town where you have come from." The woodpecker began to make excuses and said that it would rather not go there lest they should break the other leg also; but the old woman stamped with her foot, and so it was obliged to obey and at once set off with the man on its back, whose third horse had already died; on they went over seven times seven countries, and even beyond them, till they came to a very high mountain, so high that it reached to heaven.

               "Now then," said the woodpecker, "you had better get down here, as we cannot get over this." "Well, but," said the poor man, "how did you get over it?" "I? Through a hole." "Well then, take me also through a hole." Then the woodpecker began to make excuses, that it could not take him, first urging this reason and then that; so the poor man got angry with the woodpecker, and began to dig his spurs into the bird's ribs saying, "Go on, you must take me, and don't talk so much; it was you who stole the golden wheat-ear from my stack." So what could the poor woodpecker do but carry him. They arrived in the country of Black Sorrow, and stopped in the very town of Johara. Then he sent the woodpecker away, and went straight into the palace where Fairy Elizabeth lived. As he entered Fairy Elizabeth sat on a golden sofa; he greeted her, and told her he had come to claim her as his wife. "Is that why you have come?" replied she. "Surely you don't expect me to be your wife; an old bent, shrivelled-up man like you. I will give you meat and drink, and then in heaven's name go back to where you have come from." Hearing this the poor man became very sad and didn't know what to do, and began to cry bitterly; but in the meantime (not letting him know) Fairy Elizabeth had ordered her maids to go out at once and gather all sorts of rejuvenating plants, and to bring some youth-giving water, and to prepare a bath for him as quickly as possible. Then she turned to the old man again, and, in order to chaff him, said, "How can you wish a beautiful young girl like me to marry such an ugly old man as you? Be quick, eat, drink, and go back to where you have come from." In his sorrow the poor man's heart was nearly broken, when all at once Fairy Elizabeth said to him, "Well, dearest love of my youth, so that you may not say that I am ungrateful to you for having taken the trouble to come to me, and made all this long journey for me, I will give you a bath." She motioned to the maids, they at once seized him, undressed him, and put him into the tub; in a moment he was a young man again a hundred times handsomer than he was in his youth; and while they were bathing him they brought from a shop numerous costly dresses and clothed him with them and took him to Fairy Elizabeth; man and wife embraced and kissed each other again and again, and once more celebrated a grand marriage festival, going through all the ceremonies again; after all this was over they got into a carriage drawn by six horses, and went to live with the giant, their father, but they never went again, not even once, to the place where he had been betrayed. The giant received them with great joy, and they are still alive to this-day, if they haven't died since. May they be your guests to-morrow!


Kriza xv.

                Cf. Vernaleken, In the Land of Marvels, "The Outcast Son," p. 151.

               Page 98. The Judas she-devil's service lasted for three days in "The Three White Doves," Vernaleken, p. 269.

               Amongst the many stories in which time passes rapidly, see Gilmour, Among the Mongols, "The Wizard," p. 344; Ralston, Russian Folk-Tales, p. 304; Baring-Gould, Curious Myths, "The Seven Sleepers," p. 93; and Friis, "Troldkjaerringen og Jes," from Swedish Lapmark, p. 38.

               In the Lapp tale, Friis, No. 45, swan-maids come and steal the corn, and the two elder sons fail to catch the thieves, Gudnavirus (Ashiepattle) the youngest, succeeding in doing so.

               Page 99. Concerning the bird enticing the boy, cf. the bird that steals the jewel in "Kemerezzam and Budour," in Payne's Arabian Nights, vol. iii. p. 157.

               Cf. also Rink, Tales of the Eskimo, "The Sun and the Moon," p. 236; S. ja T., i., "Lippo ja Tapio," from Ilomantsi, p. 6; and Friis, Nos. 44 and 45.

               In some other Magyar tales a lame wolf or a lame eagle takes the woodpecker's place. Cf. Gaal, "Többsinsckirályfi" ("Prince Non-such"). In a Bohemian story it is a limping cock-pigeon, see Vernaleken, p. 359.

               Page 101. Numerous incidents in folk-tales bear on the widespread superstition against looking (or going) back after setting out on a journey.

               Cf. Friis, "Ulta-Pigen," where a lad is returning home with his bride; the girl warns him not to look back but he does, and lo! there is a great herd of beasts his wife's parents have given him. The moment he turned all those outside of the gate vanished; in "Jætten og Veslegutten," the lad fools the giant, because he dare not look back; and in "Bondesønnen og Solens Søster," the hero stumbles and falls and so sees behind him and in a moment the king's town and palaces disappear.

               See also Rink, Tales of the Eskimo, "The Revived who came to the underground people," p. 300; Hofberg, Svenska Sägner, "Soåsafrun"; Stokes, Indian Fairy Tales, "The Bél Princess," pp. 140, 283; and Gregor, Folk-Lore of North-East Scotland, Folk-Lore Society, 1881, p. 91.

               A Lincolnshire labouring man, when I lived in the north of the county, told me he knew a wizard who wished to mend the road that led to his house across a field. He ordered one of his men to take a cartful of stones and a rake and to set off to mend the road, which was to be done as follows. The cart was to be taken to the far side of the field, and driven slowly along the road that needed mending, but the man was under no circumstances to look back. He did as he was ordered, but there was such a noise behind him that when he had got nearly over the field he looked round, and lo! there were thousands of devils at work, who disappeared the moment he looked round, and the road is not done yet.

               In the same part of Lincolnshire, one day when a lady had gone out with a child to be baptized she turned back as she had forgotten something; when she entered the house one of the servants begged her to sit down before she went out again or something terrible would happen. The same superstition exists in Holderness, Finland, Hungary, Algeria, and Sweden.

               Page 101. Amongst the numberless examples of swan-maidens, cf. the following:

               Friis, "Pigen fra Havet," p. 27; "Bæivekongens eller Solkongens Datter," p. 152; and "Goveiter-Pige," p. 39, where the girls appear in gorgeous dresses.

               S. ja T. i. p. 35, "Tuhkamo"; and ii. p. 53, "Ei-niin-mitä."

               Hofberg, Svenska Sägner: "Jungfrun i Svanhamn," p. 27.

               A story is current in Småland of a clergyman's son who assisted his father as curate. One morning when the young man awoke he saw the sun-beams coming in through a knot-hole in the floor, and suddenly a woman of marvellous beauty came floating in on the light and stood before him. He sprang up and threw his cloak over her and took her to his parents. She became his wife and lived happily with him for many years. One day he chanced to say how strange her coming was, and in order to emphasize his words he took the knot out of the hole in the floor, and in a moment she was gone!

               In a Lapp story, Friis, No. 7, the girl tells her husband to drive a nail into the threshold to prevent her going away. See also "Lappen i Skathamn." Hofberg, p. 174. [1]]

               Other examples of the swan-maiden kind are to be found in:--

               Rink, Tales of the Eskimo, "The Man who mated himself with a Sea-fowl," p. 146.

               Keightley's Fairy Mythology, "The Peri Wife," p. 20; also p. 163, where seals are said to put off their skins; and "The Mermaid Wife," p. 169.

               Legends of the Wigwam, "Son of the Evening Star," p. 81.

               Stokes, Indian Fairy Tales, "Phúlmati Ráni," p. 6.

               Steere, Swahili Tales, "Hasseebu Kareem Ed Deed," p. 355.

               Household Stories from the Land of Hofer, "The Dove Maiden," p. 368.

               Vernaleken, In the Land of Marvels, "The Three White Doves," p. 263; "The Maiden on the Crystal Mountain," p. 274; "How Hans finds his Wife," p. 281; and "The Drummer," p. 288.

               Grimm, vol. ii. "The Drummer," p. 333.

               Ralston, Russian Folk-Tales, p. 120.

               Croker, Fairy Legends of the South of Ireland, "The Lady of Gollerus," p. 177.

               Sagas from the Far East, pp. 29, 91.

               Payne's Arabian Nights, "The Story of Janshah," vol. v. p. 98;

               "Hassan of Bassora," and the "King's Daughter of the Jinn," vol. vii. p. 145.

               Portuguese Folk-Tales, Folk-Lore Society 1882, "The Spell-bound Giant," p. 35.

               Folk-Lore Record, 1879, p. 12; 1883, pp. 203, 250, 284, 320; and 1884, p. 11.

               Wägner's Epics and Romances, p. 280, see "Valkyrs"; Asgard and the Gods, sub voce "Walkyries."

               Baring Gould, Curious Myths, sub "Swan-maidens."

               Page 103. Anent the wedding here mentioned, it may be interesting to note some ceremonies connected with Magyar weddings in olden times. Love-making was very simple: there was no long courtship before the betrothal, and one meeting of the couple was often deemed quite sufficient. [2] The young folks did not choose their future companions, that being the parents' prerogative; and very often the match was arranged when they were in their cradles. It was not considered desirable to make connections with foreign families, and in case a girl was given away to a foreigner, one of the conditions insisted upon was that the husband should learn the language of the country. Francis Csáky was thrown into prison by his father because he would not marry Miss Homonmay, who had been selected as his wife. Occasionally, however, some choice was allowed; thus, for instance, Nicholas Bethlen was allowed to choose his wife from among the daughters of Paul Béldy and Stephen Kun. It was considered an offence if a young man, not being a relative, paid a visit to a house where marriageable girls [3] were, as he was suspected of courting the young ladies on the sly; if the young man was one whom the parents approved, a day was fixed for him to come and "see" the girls. On the appointed day the young man started on his journey with great pomp, and generally arranged to arrive about supper time (7 to 8 p.m.); if the sight was satisfactory, the girl's hand was at once asked for. [4] During supper the young couple sat opposite to each other, and after supper there was a dance. Some parents left it to their daughters to decide, while others endeavoured "to enlighten them." If the father was dead the widow sought the advice of her eldest son, or of the children's guardian. If the young man was refused [5] he left the place, sometimes carrying the young lady off by force, as John Mikes did Sarah Tarnóczy. The asking for the young lady's hand was performed by that member of the family who had the greatest authority; if the offer was accepted the bridegroom fixed a day for the betrothal. Then came the interchange of rings. The betrothal ring was not a plain hoop, but one enamelled and set with diamonds or rubies. From the day of the betrothal they were considered engaged, and henceforth called each other "my younger sister" (hugom), and "my elder brother" (bátyám), [6] and the young man was allowed to make his offerings of gold and silver. The betrothal--called in Magyar "the clasping of hands"--and interchange of rings was considered binding on both parties, and a breach of promise was considered the greatest insult. Sometimes a sort of preliminary wedding was celebrated, thus Nicholas Bethlen went through the marriage ceremony soon after the interchange of rings, but a whole year elapsed before, he took his bride to his house. [7]

               Sometimes an agreement was drawn up; and the wedding-day having been fixed by the bridegroom, it was communicated to the bride's father, so as to allow him to make his preparations. The number of the wedding guests often amounted to several hundreds. At the wedding of Barbara Thurzó, in 1612, seventy Magyar nobles of the highest rank appeared personally, besides several from the Austrian dominions. The king of Poland sent his sons and several ambassadors, the number of the guests' horses being 4324. [8] The wedding-feast was sometimes utilized for the discussion of politics. All the inhabitants of the village were invited, bullocks with gilt horns were roasted, and a goodly number of knives stuck into them for the use of the people. The bread was exposed in troughs, and the wine in vats. Amongst people of modest means the forms were the same, the supplies being smaller. The expenses of the wedding were borne by the serfs.

               The bridegroom chose his best man from among his near relations, the groomsmen were young friends. A widower had neither best man nor groom's men. The bride had a matron [9] who gave her away, and who, together with the bridesmaids were chosen from near relatives. There was generally also "a host" chosen from the higher nobility, and he carried a gold stick in his hand; the deputy host carried a stick painted green; these two walked about and looked after the guests. A few days before the wedding the guests met at the bridegroom's house, and on the night previous to starting a weeping soirée was held, when the bridegroom took leave of his bachelorship. [10] On the night previous to the wedding the bridegroom and his guests journeyed to a village near the bride's residence, and slept there. So far the bridegroom had come on horseback; but now he took his seat in a carriage, and in front of him rode two young nobles clad in wild animals' skins, [11] who were called "fore-greeters" (elölköszöntök). These were followed by pipers, drummers, and buglers. In the bridegroom's carriage the best man sat by his side, his groomsmen in the opposite seat. The "matron of the bedchamber" (nyoszolyó asszony) followed in another carriage preceded by two young nobles dressed in skins and on horseback. The procession was closed by the servants, leading gaily caparisoned horses. The two "fore-greeters" saluted the chief host of the bride, who returned the greeting, and sent a message saying that the master would be heartily welcome: this was conveyed to the assembled guests, who thereupon proceeded to the bride's residence. When they arrived at the outskirts of the village, the bride's chief host sent a gold ring and some saddled horses, and a horse-race was at once got up, [12] the prize being the gold ring. Then the bridegroom sent his presents to the bride; the guests, too, sent their presents; as did also the representatives of the united towns and counties.

               If the wedding was kept in a fortified town the guests were saluted by the firing of guns. The best man greeted the family of the bride, to which the chief host replied: thereupon the best man asked for the bride [13] and the chief host replied, endeavouring to pass a joke on the bridegroom and his best man, to which the latter replied as best he could. Then the chief host delivered up the bride, and, with a long speech, invited the guests to the midday meal. [14] The meal was a sumptuous feast; musicians discoursing sweet music as it proceeded. The chief host assigned the proper places to the guests. The bride was not expected to eat, but to weep. The banquet over, dancing began. The first dance was danced by the best man and matron, who were followed by the bride and bridegroom; the former simply walking through her dances: several other dances followed. The bride appeared in three different dresses on the wedding-day; [15] the bridegroom in three different dresses on the three days of the wedding. When the bride appeared they played the "bride's dance." During the parting ceremony the bride went down upon her knees before her parents, and was handed over to the bridegroom, who unsheathed his sword and cut off the wedding wreath. [16] This ceremony was called "taking possession of the girl." The fortress guns thundered out to let the world know when it took place. The young couple remained with the bride's parents till the third day, when she distributed her presents, and then set off to her new home. [17]

               See also an account of the Palócz wedding customs in the Notes to the "Girl with the Golden Hair," infra.

               There is a host of wedding and love songs, especially in cases where the ardent lover had to go far to meet his beloved, as for instance, the Lapps had to do. Two are given in Nos. 366 and 406 of the Spectator. The following [18] I do not think has ever been translated before:

No, not under the wide spreading heaven     
Is there so sweet and rich a flower     
As my own, dear, sweet, beloved one, she has all my poor heart.

When I travel over the windy Alps     
I remember my own belov'd one,     
And in a moment it's calm and warm, as after Midsummer.

                The tune is very sweet and plaintiff, like so many of the folk-songs, the translation conveys no idea of the sweet and liquid music that even the words of the original are brimful of. [19]

               "Six-ox farmers."--To say that a farmer ploughs his land with six oxen yoked to his plough means that he is very wealthy.

               Page 104. The giant in an Austrian story (Vernaleken, p. 95) draws circles in the sand and a fowl appears; and in the Lapp story ("Ulta-Pigen." Friis, No. 7) the lad marks out on the ground the plan of a house, &c., at night, and in the morning all is found complete.

               "My lad, it is a burial feast." Halotti tors or burial-feasts are still very common among the Magyar rural population.

               Page 105. The trouble that comes from those at home [20] occurs over and over in all manner of folk-tales, e.g., in the Lapp story  ["Fattiggutten, Fanden og Guldbyen"] the lad, after meeting a beautiful girl who becomes his bride, insists upon going home to tell of his good luck, and when there wishes for his bride and her attendants to appear, to prove that his story is true. They come, but vanish almost at once, and then comes the numerous troubles before the lost bride can be found. Friis, p. 161. In another, the son of the swan-maiden shows his mother her dress, which she at once puts on and vanishes, "Pigen fra Havet," id. p. 27, with which Cf. Dasent. "Soria Moria Castle," p. 466.

               Vernaleken. "The Drummer," p. 289.

               Payne, Arabian Nights, "The Story of Janshah," vol. v. p. 109, and "Hassan of Bassoria," vol. vii. p. 175.

               Page 105, "Johara." There is no town of Johara in Hungary, but there is in Russia a province of the name of Jugaria or Juharia--according to Lehrberg the Югра or Угра, of old Russian records--whence "the Hungarians (sic!) proceeded when they took possession of Pannonia  [their modern home] and subdued many provinces of Europe under their leader Attila." [21] According to Lehrberg, [22] it comprised the greater parts of the governments of Perm and Tobolsk of our days. It was said in Herberstein's time--his journeys were made in 1517 and 1526--that "the Juhari ... use the same dialect as the Hungarians, but whether this be true, I cannot say from my own knowledge; for though I have made diligent search I have been unable to find any man of that country with whom my servant, who is skilled in the Hungarian language, might have an opportunity of conversing." [23] Since Ivan the Terrible, the province gives a title to the Emperors of Russia. [24]

               Cf. Payne, Arabian Nights, vol. v. p. 121, wherein the maid flies to "the Castle of Jewels." The man only gets there by the aid of birds and beasts, and it is the third and most skilful magician alone who summons a bird, which is the only one who knows the far-off place. In another story, vol. vii., p. 176, the maiden flies to the "islands of Wac."

               Dasent, p. 212, it is "Whiteland," and an old pike knows where it is.

               Vernaleken, p. 251, Moon and Sun do not know where the mysterious place is, but the wind does. See also "the Drummer," p. 289, where the bride flies to the "Crystal Mountain."

               In the Lapp stories we find "Banka Castle" and "Bæive-kingdom," and in an Irish tale, "Grey Horn's Kingdom," as the mysterious land.

               The three men (or women) to whom the forsaken husband goes occurs in the Lapp stories, "Bondesønnen," "Bæive Kongens Datter," and "Fattiggutten," Nos. 44, 45, and 46, Friis.

               Finnish, S. ja T. "Tuhkamo," i. p. 35, and "Ei-niin-mitä," ii. p. 53.

               Vernaleken, "The Judas She-Devil," p. 255. "The Three White Doves," p. 264. "The Maiden of the Crystal Mountain," p. 275.

               Folk-Lore Record, 1883, p. 319.

               Portuguese Stories, F. L. Soc., 1882, p. 108, "The Prince who had the head of a Horse."

               Grimm, vol. ii. pp. 381, 399.

               The Whistle and Whip as a mode of summoning in common, see "Fisher Joe," p. 16, ante.

               Page 108. "The Lame Woodpecker" reminds us of the lame devil in "Stephen the Murderer," p. 10; in Vernaleken, there is "a limper," p. 265, and a "lame hare," p. 275, the reluctance of the birds to take the man to Johara, &c., occurs in the Finnish and Lapp stories referred to.

               Page 109. "Youth-giving water." Cf. "The Fairies Well," in present collection, p. 295. In Hungary snow-water collected in March is said to possess the same virtue.

               Cf. also Finnish, "Tuhkamo." S. ja T. i. p. 43, where Ashiepattle washes in a well and becomes marvellously beautiful.

               Lapp, "Bæivekongen.". Friis, p. 152. Where the lad dips his sore head into a kettle and becomes beautiful and golden haired. See also Folk-Lore Record, 1879. "Old Ballad Folk-Lore," p. 100. In "The Jewel in the Cock's Head," an Italian story, quoted in the Dublin Magazine, 1868, p. 706, the hero at once becomes young and handsome by the virtues of the jewel, and in a Finnish story, "The Enchanted Ship," the same end is attained by eating some berries. Cf. the effect of the Tàtos and baa-lambs breathing on anything, pp. 63 and 92 ante; also Dasent, p. 362; and such stories as "The Old Man made Young," Grimm, vol. ii., p. 215, and note, p. 444.

               There are numerous springs and wells whose waters are said to possess marvellous powers, such as St. Winifred's in Flintshire, St. Keyne's in Cornwall, St. Bede's at Jarrow, &c. See Chambers' Book of Days, sub voce "Wells"; Henderson's "Wells"; Hardwick, Traditions, Superstitions, and Folk-Lore, p. 267; and Aubrey, Remains of Gentilisme, F.L.S., 1880, pp. 121.


[1]] The magpie is an important bird in folk-belief, and Swedish peasants say you must not kill it lest it be a troll in disguise as in this story. If they build in a house it is a sign of luck; if in the fields and come to the house and laugh, woe be to the house.

[2] Cf. Amelia Ferrier, A Winter in Morocco, p. 172, et seq.

[3] It is curious that the Magyar word for a marriageable girl, "eladó leány," also means "a girl for sale."

[4] In old times in Finland, a "spokesman" used to go beforehand to the girl, in order to find out whether the young man was likely to be acceptable. Cf. Scheffer, The History of Lapland. London, 1751, p. 71; and Boner, Transylvania, p. 488.

[5] "Given the basket:" in Finland the same phrase is used. Cf. the English phrase, "to give the sack."

[6] Cf. Note to "Handsome Paul," p. 317, ante.

[7] In the Russian Church there are two distinct services, which are performed at the same time, the "betrothal" when rings are given and exchanged, and the "coronation." Lansdell, Through Siberia, vol. i. p. 168.

[8] Cf. Denton, Serbian Folk-Lore, p. 205.

[9] Cf. this with the Finnish "bride-dresser," who looked after the bride's toilette, even providing the necessary dresses if the girl did not possess them.

[10] See Scotch "feetwashing," Folk-Lore of North-East Scotland; Folk-Lore Society, p. 89. In Finland, before a wedding, the friends of the bridegroom-elect invite to a party, which is called the "bachelor's funeral," at which he is oftentimes carried on a sofa shoulder-high as a mock funeral.

[11] The royal Hungarian bodyguard wear leopard-skins clasped with silver buckles.

[12] I have heard of racing for ribbons, &c., at weddings in Yorkshire; and of young men racing home from the church to tell the good folk at home that the marriage was un fait accompli. Cf. Napier, Folk-Lore, p. 49, and Henderson, p. 37.

[13] A remain of the marriage by force. Vámbéry notes the existence of this amongst the Turkomans. The bride's door in Transylvania is often locked, and the bridegroom has to climb over; or sometimes he has to chase her, and catch her: Boner, p. 491. Cf. also Tissot, vol. i. p. 94; Scheffer, p. 75; Gilmour, Among the Mongols, p. 259; Napier, p. 50.

[14] For accounts of English wedding-feasts in the north, see Sykes' Local Records, Newcastle-on-Tyne, 1833, vol. i. pp. 194, 205, 209.

[15] The vizier's daughter is displayed in seven dresses in the story of "Noureddin Ali of Cairo, and his son Bedreddin Hassan": Payne's Arabian Nights, vol. i. pp. 192-194. And in old times the brides in Japan changed their dress three to five times during the ceremony: Mitford, Tales of Old Japan, p. 370.

[16] Cf. Lappbönder, Skildringar Sägner och sagor från Södra Lappland. af. P. A. Lindholm, p. 89.

               Fra Finmarken. Friis, ("Laila" in S.P.C.K. translation), cap. xi.

               Dancing the crown off the bride in Finland. See "A Finnish wedding in the olden times." Notes and Queries, 6th s. x. p. 489.

               They cut the long hair off the Saxon brides in Transylvania; and in Spain, when the bride goes to her bedroom, the young unmarried men unloose her garter.

               Just as in our land old shoes are thrown after the bride when she leaves home, and never matter how they fall, or how young relatives batter the backs of bride and bridegroom with aged slippers, you must not look back: so they say in Holderness, at least. The sumptuary laws of Hamburg of 1291, enacted that the bridegroom should present his bride with a pair of shoes. According to Grimm, when the bride put the shoe on her foot it was a sign of her subjection. (Boner, Transylvania, p. 491). See old Jewish custom, Rath. iv. 7.

               See also Napier, p. 53, where he refers to the Grecian custom of removing the bride's coronet and putting her to bed.

               Henderson, Folk-Lore of Northern Counties, pp. 36, 37, 42.

               Aubrey, Remains of Gentilisme, Folk-Lore Society, p. 173.

               Gregor, Folk-Lore of North-East of Scotland, pp. 96, 100.

[17] From a paper read before the Hungarian Historical Society, by Baron Béla Radvánszky, on Feb. 1st, 1883; Cf. A magyar csalàdi èlet a xv. es xvi. szàzadban, by the same author.

               Cf. Tissot, Unknown Hungary, vol. i. p. 227.

               Boner, Transylvania, pp. 488-495.

               Fagerlund, Anteckningar om Korpo och Houtskärs Socknar, Helsingfors, 1878, p. 42.

               Lindholm, "Ett bondbröllop," p. 86; and "Ett lappbröllop," p. 91.

[18] Laulu Lapista.

[19] See also Swedish Songs in Du Chaillu, Land of the Midnight Sun, vol. ii. p. 424.

[20] Cf. another group of stories, where trouble comes from the advice of those at home, such as Dasent, "East o' the Sun, and West o' the Moon," p. 29; Afanassieff, vol. vii. No. 15, and "Cupid and Psyche," see also notes to "The Speaking Grapes, &c." in this collection.

[21] Cf. Rerum Moscoviticarum Commentarii by the Baron Sigismund von Herberstein. London, 1852. (Hakluyt Soc.) vol. ii. pp. 46 et seq.

[22] Untersuchungen zur Erläuterung der ältesten Geschichte Russlands. St. Petersburg. 1806.

[23] Loc. cit.

[24] Cf. Hunfalvy Pál, Magyarország Ethnographiája. Budapest. 1876. chap. 41.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Fairy Elizabeth
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

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