Serbian Folk-Lore (2nd Edition) | Annotated Tale

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Justice or Injustice? Which Is Best

A KING had two sons; of these, one was cunning and unjust, the other, just and gentle. After the death of the father the elder son said to the younger, 'Depart; I will not live with you any longer. Here are three hundred zechins and a horse; this is your portion of our father's property. Take it, for I owe you nothing more than this.' The younger son took the money and the horse which were offered him, and said, 'Thank God! See only how much of the kingdom has fallen to me!'

               Some time afterwards the two brothers, both of whom were riding, met by chance in a road. The younger brother greeted the elder one, saying, 'God help thee, brother!' and the elder answered, 'Why do you speak always about God? Nowadays, injustice is better than justice.' The younger brother, however, said to him, 'I will wager with you that injustice is not, as you say, better than justice.' So they betted one hundred golden zechins, and it was arranged that they should leave the decision to the first man they met in the road. Riding together a little farther they met with Satan, who had disguised himself as a monk, and they asked him to decide which was better, justice or injustice? Satan answered, 'Injustice!' And the good brother paid the bad one the hundred golden zechins which he had wagered.

               Then they betted for another hundred zechins, and again a third time for a third hundred, and each time Satan--who managed to disguise himself in different ways and meet them--decided that injustice was better than justice.

               Thus the younger brother lost all his money, and his horse into the bargain. Then he said, 'Thank God! I have no more money, but I have eyes, and I wager my eyes that justice is better than injustice.'

               Thereupon the unjust brother, without waiting for any one's decision, drew his knife and cut both his brother's eyes out, saying, 'Now you have no eyes, let justice help you.' But the younger brother in his trouble only thanked God and said, 'I have lost my eyes for the sake of God's justice, but I pray you, my brother, give me a little water in some vessel to wash my wounds and wet my mouth, and bring me away from this place to the pine-tree just about the spring, before you leave me.' The unjust brother did so, gave him water, and left him alone under the pine-tree near the spring of water.

               There the unfortunate remained, sitting on the ground. Late, however, in the night, some fairies came to the spring to bathe, and one of them said to the others, 'Do you know, my sisters, that the king's daughter has got the leprosy? The king has summoned all the physicians, but no one can possibly help her. But if the king only knew, he would take a little of this water in which we are bathing, and wash his daughter therewith! and then in a day and a night she would recover completely from her leprosy. Just as any one deaf, or dumb, or blind, could be cured by this same water.'

               Then, as the cocks began to crow, the fairies hurried away. As soon as they were gone, the unfortunate man felt his way slowly with his outstretched hands till he came to the spring of water. There he bathed his eyes, and in an instant recovered his sight. After that he filled the vessel with water, and hurried away to the king, whose daughter was leprous, and said to the servants, 'I am come to cure the king's daughter, if he will only let me try. I guarantee that she will become healthy in a day and night.'

               When the king heard that, he ordered him to be led into the room where the girl was, and made her immediately bathe in the water. After a day and a night the the girl came out pure and healthy.

               Then the king was greatly pleased, and gave the young prince the half of his kingdom, and also his daughter for a wife, so that he became the king's son-in-law, and the first man after him in the kingdom.

               The tidings of this great event spread all over the world, and so came to the ears of the unjust brother. He guessed directly that his blind brother must have met with good fortune under the pine-tree, so he went himself to try to find it also. He carried with him a vessel full of water, and then carved out his own eyes with his knife. When it was dark the fairies came again, and, as they bathed, spoke about the recovery of the king's daughter. 'It cannot be otherwise,' they said, 'someone must have been listening to our last conversation here. Perhaps someone is listening now. Let us see.'

               So they searched all around, and when they came to the pine-tree they found there the unjust brother who had come to seek after good fortune, and who declared always that injustice was better than justice. They immediately caught him, and tore him into four parts.

               And so, at the last, his wickedness did not help him, and he found to his cost that justice is better than injustice.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Justice or Injustice? Which Is Best
Tale Author/Editor: Mijatovich, Elodie L.
Book Title: Serbian Folk-Lore (2nd Edition)
Book Author/Editor: Mijatovich, Elodie L.
Publisher: Columbus Printing, Publishing and Advertising Company
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1899
Country of Origin: Serbia
Classification: unclassified

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