ZHINÜ - Project 2005

织女  牛郞  七夕

Swans and Swan Maidens in Folktales


Swan Maidens

Folktales of Type AT 400*; cf. 401
The Swan MaidensThe Swan MaidenThe Three SwansThe Story of the Swan Maiden and the KingThe Ugly DucklingThe Six SwansQat and the Sky MaidThe Golden Apple Tree and the Nine PeahensThe Feathery RobeThe Peacock MaidenPrince Bairâm and the Fairy Bride


The Tales of the Thousand and One Nights includes the story of Hasan of Basra, who visits the  place  of the bird-maidens.  When they take off their feather garments, they become  beautiful women.  Hassan hides the clothes of one of them in order to keep her as his wife, but she manages to regain her feathers, and flies away.  Hassan sets out on a quest to regain her, and after many adventures finally succeeds.

Sweet Mikhail Ivanovich the Rover is a Slav tale that begins as Mikhail the Rover is about to shoot a swan that warns him "Shoot not, else ill-fortune will doom thee for evermore!"   When the swan lands, she turns into a beautiful maiden, but when Mikhail tries to kiss her she warns him that she is an infidel. However, if he takes her to the holy city of Kiev so that she might be received into the Church, he will then be able to marry her. 

In a similar South German folk tale, a swan again speaks to a forester who is about to kill her.  In this instance, she says that if he can keep the secret of her existence for one whole year, she will be his but of course, he fails.

In the Celtic myth of King Lear (or Lir,) the good king's wife dies, and to provide his children with a mother, he marries Arife.  However, she is a wickedly jealous woman who manages to turns them all into wild swans.

There is also the Hans Andersen tale of The Wild Swans who are the brothers of the accomplished Elise who must make them all shirts out of stinging nettles within one year's time to keep them with her in human form.  She almost accomplishes the task ...


The Swan Maidens

Joseph Jacobs

There was once a hunter who used often to spend the whole night stalking the deer or setting traps for game. Now it happened one night that he was watching in a clump of bushes near the lake for some wild ducks that he wished to trap. Suddenly he heard, high up in the air, a whirring of wings and thought the ducks were coming; and he strung his bow and got ready his arrows.

But instead of ducks there appeared seven maidens all clad in robes made of feathers, and they alighted on the banks of the lake, and taking off their robes plunged into the waters and bathed and sported in the lake. They were all beautiful, but of them all the youngest and smallest pleased most the hunter's eye, and he crept forward from the bushes and seized her dress of plumage and took it back with him into the bushes.

After the swan maidens had bathed and sported to their heart's delight, they came back to the bank wishing to put on their feather robes again; and the six eldest found theirs, but the youngest could not find hers. They searched and they searched until at last the dawn began to appear, and the six sisters called out to her, "We must away; 'tis the dawn; you meet your fate whatever it be." And with that they donned their robes and flew away, and away, and away.

When the hunter saw them fly away he came forward with the feather robe in his hand; and the swan maiden begged and begged that he would give her back her robe. He gave her his cloak but would not give her her robe, feeling that she would fly away. And he made her promise to marry him, and took her home, and hid her feather robe where she could not find it. So they were married and lived happily together and had two fine children, a boy and a girl, who grew up strong and beautiful; and their mother loved them with all her heart.

One day her little daughter was playing at hide-and-seek with her brother, and she went behind the wainscoting to hide herself, and found there a robe all made of feathers, and took it to her mother. As soon as she saw it she put it on and said to her daughter, "Tell father that if he wishes to see me again he must find me in the Land East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon;" and with that she flew away.

When the hunter came home next morning his little daughter told him what had happened and what her mother said. So he set out to find his wife in the Land East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon. And he wandered for many days until he came across an old man who had fallen on the ground, and he lifted him up and helped him to a seat and tended him until he felt better.

Then the old man asked him what he was doing and where he was going. And he told him all about the swan maidens and his wife, and he asked the old man if he had heard of the Land East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon.

And the old man said, "No, but I can ask."

Then he uttered a shrill whistle and soon all the plain in front of them was filled with all of the beasts of the world, for the old man was no less than the King of the Beasts.

And he called out to them, "Who is there here that knows where the Land is East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon?" But none of the beasts knew.

Then the old man said to the hunter, "You must go seek my brother who is the King of the Birds," and told him how to find his brother.

And after a time he found the King of the Birds, and told him what he wanted. So the King of the Birds whistled loud and shrill, and soon the sky was darkened with all the birds of the air, who came around him. Then he asked, "Which of you knows where is the Land East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon?"

And none answered, and the King of the Birds said, "Then you must consult my brother the King of the Fishes," and he told him how to find him.

And the hunter went on, and he went on, and he went on, until he came to the King of the Fishes, and he told him what he wanted. And the King of the Fishes went to the shore of the sea and summoned all the fishes of the sea. And when they came around him he called out, "Which of you knows where is the Land East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon?"

And none of them answered, until at last a dolphin that had come late called out, "I have heard that at the top of the Crystal Mountain lies the Land East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon; but how to get there I know not save that it is near the Wild Forest."

So the hunter thanked the King of the Fishes and went to the Wild Forest. And as he got near there he found two men quarrelling, and as he came near they came towards him and asked him to settle their dispute.

"Now what is it?" said the hunter.

"Our father has just died and he has left but two things, this cap which, whenever you wear it, nobody can see you, and these shoes, which will carry you through the air to whatever place you will. Now I being the elder claim the right of choice, which of these two I shall have; and he declares that, as the younger, he has the right to the shoes. Which do you think is right?"

So the hunter thought and thought, and at last he said, "It is difficult to decide, but the best thing I can think of is for you to race from here to that tree yonder, and whoever gets back to me first I will hand him either the shoes or the cap, whichever he wishes."

So he took the shoes in one hand and the cap in the other, and waited until they had started off running towards the tree. And as soon as they had started running towards the tree he put on the shoes of swiftness and placed the invisible cap on his head and wished himself in the Land East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon. And he flew, and he flew, and he flew, over seven Bends, and seven Glens, and seven Mountain Moors, until at last he came to the Crystal Mountain. And on the top of that, as the dolphin had said, there was the Land East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon.

Now when he got there he took off his invisible cap and shoes of swiftness and asked who ruled over the Land; and he was told that there was a king who had seven daughters who dressed in swans' feathers and flew wherever they wished.

Then the hunter knew that he had come to the Land of his wife. And he went boldly to the king and said, "Hail, oh king, I have come to seek my wife."

And the king said, "Who is she?"

And the hunter said, "Your youngest daughter." Then he told him how he had won her.

Then the king said, "If you can tell her from her sisters then I know that what you say is true." And he summoned his seven daughters to him, and there they all were, dressed in their robes of feathers and looking each like all the rest.

So the hunter said, "If I may take each of them by the hand I will surely know my wife"; for when she had dwelt with him she had sewn the little shifts and dresses of her children, and the forefinger of her right hand had the marks of the needle.

And when he had taken the hand of each of the swan maidens he soon found which was his wife and claimed her for his own. Then the king gave them great gifts and sent them by a sure way down the Crystal Mountain.

And after a while they reached home, and lived happily together ever afterwards.


* Source: Joseph Jacobs, European Folk and Fairy Tales (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1916), no. 12, pp. 98-104.



The Swan Maiden


A young peasant in the parish of Mellby [in Blekinge], who often amused himself with hunting, saw one day three swans flying toward him, which settled down upon the strand of a sound nearby. Approaching the place, he was astonished at seeing the three swans divest themselves of their feathery attire, which they threw into the grass, and three maidens of dazzling beauty step forth and spring into the water. After sporting in the waves awhile they returned to the land, where they resumed their former garb and shape and flew away in the same direction from which they came.

One of them, the youngest and fairest, had, in the meantime, so smitten the young hunter that neither night nor day could he tear his thoughts from the bright image. His mother, noticing that something was wrong with her son, and that the chase, which had formerly been his favorite pleasure, had lost its attractions, asked him finally the cause of his melancholy, whereupon he related to her what he had seen, and declared that there was no longer any happiness in this life for him if he could not possess the fair swan maiden.

"Nothing is easier," said the mother. "Go at sunset next Thursday evening to the place where you last saw her. When the three swans come, give attention to where your chosen one lays her feathery garb, take it, and hasten away."

The young man listened to his mother's instructions, and, betaking himself, the following Thursday evening, to a convenient hiding place near the sound, he waited, with impatience, the coming of the swans. The sun was just sinking behind the trees when the young man's ears were greeted by a whizzing in the air, and the three swans settled down upon the beach, as on their former visit.

As soon as they had laid off their swan attire they were again transformed into the most beautiful maidens, and, springing out upon the white sand, they were soon enjoying themselves in the water. From his hiding place the young hunter had taken careful note of where his enchantress had laid her swan feathers. Stealing softly forth, he took them and returned to his place of concealment in the surrounding foliage.

Soon thereafter two of the swans were heard to fly away, but the third, in search of her clothes, discovered the young man, before whom, believing him responsible for their disappearance, she fell upon her knees and prayed that her swan attire might be returned to her. The hunter was, however, unwilling to yield the beautiful prize, and, casting a cloak around her shoulders, carried her home.

Preparations were soon made for a magnificent wedding, which took place in due form, and the young couple dwelt lovingly and contentedly together.

One Thursday evening, seven years later, the hunter related to her how he had sought and won his wife. He brought forth and showed her, also, the white swan feathers of her former days. No sooner were they placed in her hands than she was transformed once more into a swan, and instantly took flight through the open window. In breathless astonishment, the man stared wildly after his rapidly vanishing wife, and before a year and a day had passed, he was laid, with his longings and sorrows, in his allotted place in the village churchyard.


* Source: Herman Hofberg, Swedish Fairy Tales, translated by W. H. Myers (Chicago, W. B. Conkey Company, 1893), pp. 35-38.



The Three Swans


Once upon a time there was a hunter. He was very despondent because his wife had died. He often wandered about in the forest entirely alone, thinking about whether or not he would ever find a second wife whom he could love as much as he had the first one.

One day he wandered ever deeper into the woods, with his gun at his side and not knowing where he wanted to go. At last he came to a straw hut. Stepping inside, he found there an old man with a crucifix lying before him. He greeted the man, who received him in a friendly manner and asked him what had led him to this forest hut.

The hunter told him of his sorrows: that he had lost his wife, that he now lived by himself, and that he did not know if he would ever be happy again.

The old man said to him, "There is help. Three swans will come here soon. Look at them carefully! After they have flown to the pond, you must secretly go there without letting them see you. Take one of their dresses and immediately return here with it."

As soon as the old man had spoken, three snow-white swans flew toward the hut. After the hunter saw them, they flew further to a nearby pond.

The hunter crept up and secretly took a dress that one of the swans had taken off and laid on the bank. Then he returned with it to the old man's hut.

When the swans wanted to get dressed again, one of them had only a shift. As a beautiful maiden she came to the hunter, who had her dress, and moved into his house, and became his dear wife.

Before the hunter left the old man, the latter said to him, "You must carefully hide the swan-dress from your wife so that she cannot find it again."

The hunter did this, and he lived with his second wife for fifteen years. She bore him several children, and the married couple were very happy together.

Then it happened that one morning the man left, saying to his wife, "I shall be back at noon to eat."

After he had left, the woman watched him until he disappeared into the woods. Then she went to the attic, which the man had not locked this time, opened the chest containing the swan-dress, put it on, and as a swan flew far, far away.

When the man came home to eat, his wife had disappeared. Not even the children could say where she was, for they had not seen her.

Then the hunter returned to the old man in the woods and told him of his misfortune: that once again he had lost his wife, and that he did not know where she had gone.

The old man said, "You did not put the dress away carefully. She found it and has flown away with it."

"Oh," said the hunter sadly, "is it not possible for me to find her again?"

"It is possible," said the old man, "but now it is dangerous, and it could cost you your life."

The hunter wanted to do everything for his wife, and so the old man said to him, "First you must attempt to get into the castle where your wife now lives. That will best happen as follows: She has donkeys that carry flour from a miller every day. Go to the miller and ask him to hide you in a flour sack. The rest you will learn from your wife."

With that the hunter found his way to the miller and talked him into hiding him in a sack. A donkey carried him a great distance to a splendid castle.

After arriving there he immediately found his wife, and no one could have been happier than was she, and she thanked her husband from the bottom of her heart for coming to redeem her.

But then she said to him, "Before we can be happy and live together, you must fight with three dragons who are here. They will come to you on three days and in different forms. They will torment and plague you for one hour each day, and if you withstand this without uttering a sound then they cannot further harm you, and I will be free. But if you speak a single word, they will kill you."

Then the hunter promised that he would surely redeem her.

On the first day three great snakes came and wrapped themselves around the hunter's feet until he could not move, and they tormented him for an entire hour. Because he endured this in silence they went away without harming him.

The next day the dragons appeared as turtles and shot balls of fire at the hunter, until he could no longer withstand it, but he withstood it nonetheless, and he uttered not a sound, so after one hour they left him.

On the third day they came again as gigantic snakes and took the hunter whole into their jaws. He was deathly afraid and thought that he would have to cry out, and that he would no longer be able to withstand it, but out of love for his wife, he withstood it nonetheless.

When the three hours had passed, there suddenly stood before him -- instead of the three snakes -- three noblewomen. These were the three enchanted swans, whom he had now redeemed. And they remained with him and with his wife in the castle, and they all lived together in peace and happiness, and if they have not died, then they must be still alive.


* Source: Ernst Meier, Deutsche Volksmärchen aus Schwaben (Stuttgart: C. P. Scheitlin's Verlagshandlung, 1852), no. 7, pp. 39-42. Translated by D. L. Ashliman. Copyright 1998.



The Story of the Swan Maiden and the King


Once upon a time a king went out hunting, and after he had been hunting in the forest for a long time without finding anything, he found himself suddenly in an open plain, in which there was a huge lake, and in the midst of the lake he saw there a bird swimming about, the like of which he had never seen before. It was a swan.

Drawing his bow, he wanted to shoot it. To his surprise it spoke to him in a human voice, and said, "Do not kill me."

So he tried his best to catch it, and succeeded. Pleased with the capture of the bird, he carried it home alive, and gave it to the cook to kill it to make a meal of it for him. The cook was a Gypsy. She whetted her knife and went to the bird to cut its throat, when, to her astonishment, the bird turned three somersaults, and there stood before her a most beautiful maiden, more beautiful than she had ever seen before. So she ran to the king and told him what had happened.

The king, who first thought that the cook was trying to play some trickery with him, did not listen to her, but when she persisted in her tale, the king, driven by curiosity, went into the kitchen, and there he saw a girl more beautiful than any that he had ever yet set his eyes upon.

He asked her who she was, and she said she was the swan who was swimming on the lake, that she had willfully gone away from her mother, who lived in the land of fairies, and that she had left two sisters behind. So the king took her into the palace and married her. The Gypsy, who was a pretty wench, had thought that the king would marry her, and when she saw what had happened, she was very angry. But she managed to conceal her anger, and tried to be kind to the new queen, biding her time all the while.

The king and queen lived on for a while in complete happiness, and after a time a child was born unto her.

It so happened that the king had to go on a long journey, leaving the wife and child in the care of the Gypsy. One day the Gypsy came to the queen, and said to her, "Why do you always sit in the palace? Come, let us walk a little in the garden, to hear the birds singing, and to see the beautiful flowers."

The queen, who had no suspicion, took the advice of the Gypsy, and went with her for a walk into the garden. In the middle of the garden there was a deep well, and the Gypsy said artfully to the young queen, "Just bend over the well, and look into the water below, and see whether your face has remained so beautiful as it was on the first day when you turned into a maiden from being a swan."

The queen bent over the well to look down into the depths, and that was what the Gypsy was waiting for, for no sooner did the queen bend over the well, than, getting hold of her by her legs, she threw her down head foremost into the well and drowned her.

When the king came home and did not find the queen, he asked what had happened, and where she was. The Gypsy, who had meanwhile taken charge of the child, and looked after it very carefully, said to the king that the young queen, pining for her old home, had turned again into a swan and flown away.

The king was deeply grieved when he heard this, but believing what the Gypsy had told him, he thought that nothing could be done, and resigned himself to the loss of his wife.

They Gypsy woman looked after the child with great care, hoping thereby that she might win the king's love, and that he would marry her. A month, a year passed, and nothing was heard of the wife. And the king, seeing the apparent affection of the Gypsy for the child, decided at last to marry her, and fixed the day of the wedding.

Out of the fountain into which the queen had been thrown, there grew a willow tree with three branches, one stem in the middle and two branching out right and left. Not far from the garden there lived a man who had a large flock of sheep. One day he sent his boy to lead the sheep to the field. On his way the boy passed the king's garden with the well in the middle of it.

As the boy had left his flute at home, when he saw the willow he thought he would cut one of the branches and make a flute. Going into the garden, he cut the middle stem, and made a flute of it. When he put it to his lips, the flute by itself began to play as follows, "O boy, do not blow too hard, for my heart is aching for my little babe which I left behind in the cradle, and to suckle at the black breast of a Gypsy."

When the boy heard what the flute was playing, not understanding what it meant, he was greatly astonished, and ran home to tell his father what had happened with the flute. The father, angry that he had left the sheep alone, scolded him, and took away the flute. Then he tried to see whether the boy had told the truth. As soon as he put it to his mouth the flute started playing the same tune as when the boy had tried to play it. The father said nothing, and wondering at the meaning of the words he hid the flute away in a cupboard.

When the king's wedding day drew near, all the musicians of the kingdom were invited to come and play at the banquet. Some of them passed the old man's house, and hearing from them that they were going to play at the king's banquet, he remembered the marvelous flute, and asked whether he could not go also, as he could play the flute so wonderfully well.

His son -- the young boy -- had meanwhile gone into the garden in the hope of getting another flute, as the willow had three branches. So he cut one of the branches and made a flute of it. Now this flute did not play at all.

When the old man came to the palace, there was much rejoicing and singing. At last his turn came to play. As soon as he put the flute to his lips, the flute sang, "O man, do not blow so hard, for my heart aches for my little babe left in the cradle to be suckled by a black Gypsy."

The Gypsy, who was the king's bride and sat at the head of the table, at once understood the saying of the flute, although she did not know what the flute had to do with the queen whom she had killed.

The king, who marveled greatly at the flute and at the tune which it was singing, took a gold piece and gave it to the man for the flute, and when he started blowing it, the flute began to sing, "O my dear husband, do not blow so hard, for my heart aches for our little babe whom I left in the cradle to be sucked by the black Gypsy. Quickly, quickly, do away with this cruel Gypsy, as otherwise you will lose your wife."

The guests who were present marveled at the song, and no one understood its meaning. The Gypsy, however, who understood full well what it meant, turning to the king, said, "Illustrious king, do not blow this flute and make yourself ridiculous before your guests. Throw it into the fire."

But the king, who felt offended by the words of the Gypsy, made her take up the flute and blow. With great difficulty she submitted to the order of the king, and she was quite justified in refusing to play it, for no sooner had she put the flute to her lips when it sang, "You enemy of mine, do not blow hard, for my heart aches for my little babe left in the cradle to be suckled by you, you evil-minded Gypsy. You have thrown me into the well, and there put an end to my life, but God had pity on me, and he has preserved me to be again the true wife of this illustrious king."

Furious at these words, the Gypsy threw the flute away with so much force that she thought it would break into thousands of splinters. But it was not to be as she thought, for by this very throw the flute was changed into a beautiful woman, more beautiful, indeed, than any had ever seen before. She was the very queen whom the Gypsy had thrown into the well.

When the king saw her, he embraced her and kissed her, and asked her where she had been such a long time. She told him that she had slept at the bottom of the well, into which she had been thrown by the Gypsy, who had hoped to become the queen, and this would have come to pass had it not been for the boy cutting a flute out of the stem of the willow tree. "And now, punish the Gypsy as she deserves, otherwise your wife must leave you."

When the king heard these words, he called the boy and asked him whether he had cut himself a flute from the stem of the willow tree which had grown out of the well in the garden.

"It is so, O illustrious king," said the boy, "and may I be forgiven for the audacity of going into the king's garden. I went and cut for myself a flute from the stem of the willow tree, and when I began to blow it, it played, 'Do not blow so hard, O boy, for my heart is aching within me,' etc." Then he told him he had gone back to his father, who instead of praising him for the marvelous flute, gave him a good shaking. He had then gone a second time into the garden, and had cut off one of the branches to make a flute, but this did not play like the first one. The king gave the boy a very rich gift, and he ordered the Gypsy to be killed.

Some time afterwards, the queen came to the king and asked leave to go to her mother to tell her all that had happened to her, and to say good-bye for ever now, as she henceforth would live among human beings. The king reluctantly gave way. She then made three somersaults, and again became a swan, as she had been when the king found her for the first time on the waters of the lake.

Spreading her wings she flew far away until she reached the house of her mother, who was quite alone. Her two sisters were not there. They had left her some time ago and no one knew whither they had gone. The young queen did not go into the house. She was probably afraid lest her mother would not let her go back again, so she settled on the roof, and there shesang, "Remain in health, good mother mine, as the joy is no longer granted you to have me with you in your house, for you will only see me again when I lose my kingdom, dear mother mine, not before, and not till then."

And without waiting for the answer of her mother she returned back again to her husband. Sitting on the window sill, she sang again, "Rise up, O husband, open the doors, wake up the servants and let them be a witness of my faithfulness to you, for since I have married you I have left my mother, and my sisters have gone away from me, and from a swan I have become a true wife to live in happiness with you. Henceforth I shall no longer be a swan, but you must take care of me that I do not go hence from you. I do not know whether my fate will be a better one by being a queen in this world. O sweet water, how I long to bathe in you! And my white feathers, they will belong to my sisters. Since I am to leave them forever, and my mother with them, O Lord, what have I done? Shall I be able to live upon the earth, and shall I keep the kingdom? Thou, O Lord, O merciful, hearken unto me and grant that this kingdom may not be in vain." And turning again head over heals, she became a woman as before, and entering the palace she lived there with her husband -- the king -- and if they have not died since, they are still alive.


* Source: M. Gaster, Rumanian Bird and Beast Stories (London: Folk-Lore Society, 1915), no. 83, pp. 249-254.



The Ugly Duckling


Once upon a time … down on an old farm, lived a duck family, and Mother Duck had been sitting on a clutch of new eggs. One nice morning, the eggs hatched and out popped six chirpy ducklings. But one egg was bigger than the rest, and it didn't hatch. Mother Duck couldn't recall laying that seventh egg. How did it get there? TOCK! TOCK! The little prisoner was pecking inside his shell.

"Did I count the eggs wrongly?" Mother Duck wondered. But before she had time to think about it, the last egg finally hatched. A strange looking duckling with grey feathers that should have been yellow gazed at a worried mother. The ducklings grew quickly, but Mother Duck had a secret worry.

"I can't understand how this ugly duckling can be one of mine!" she said to herself, shaking her head as she looked at her lastborn. Well, the grey duckling certainly wasn't pretty, and since he ate far more than his brothers, he was outgrowing them. As the days went by, the poor ugly duckling became more and more unhappy. His brothers didn't want to play with him, he was so clumsy, and all the farmyard folks simply laughed at him. He felt sad and lonely, while Mother Duck did her best to console him.

"Poor little ugly duckling!" she would say. "Why are you so different from the others?" And the ug}y duckling felt worse than ever. He secretly wept at night. He felt nobody wanted him.

"Nobody loves me, they all tease me! Why am I different from my brothers?"

Then one day, at sunrise, he ran away from the farmyard. He stopped at a pond and began to question all the other birds. "Do you know of any ducklings with grey feathers like mine?" But everyone shook their heads in scorn.

"We don't know anyone as ugly as you." The ugly duckling did not lose heart, however, and kept on making enquiries. He went to another pond, where a palr of large geese gave him the same answer to his question. What's more, they warned him: "Don't stay here! Go away! It's dangerous. There are men with guns around here!" The duckling was sorry he had ever left the farmyard.

Then one day, his travels took him near an old countrywoman's cottage. Thinking he was a stray goose, she caught him.

"I'll put this in a hutch. I hope it's a female and lays plenty of eggs!" said the old woman, whose eyesight was poor. But the ugly duckling laid not a single egg. The hen kept frightening him:

"Just wait! If you don't lay eggs, the old woman will wring your neck and pop you into the pot!" And the cat chipped in: "Hee! Hee! I hope the woman cooks you, then I can gnaw at your bones!" The poor ugly duckling was so scared that he lost his appetite, though the old woman kept stuffing him with food and grumbllng: "If you won't lay eggs, at least hurry up and get plump!"

"Oh, dear me!" moaned the now terrified duckling. "I'll die of fright first! And I did so hope someone would love me!"

Then one night, finding the hutch door ajar, he escaped. Once again he was all alone. He fled as far away as he could, and at dawn, he found himself in a thick bed of reeds. "If nobody wants me, I'll hid here forever." There was plenty a food, and the duckling began to feel a little happier, though he was lonely. One day at sunrise, he saw a flighth of beatiful birds wing overhead. White, with long slender necks, yellow beaks and large wings, they were migrating south.

"If only I could look like them, just for a day!" said the duckling, admiringly. Winter came and the water in the reed bed froze. The poor duckling left home to seek food in the snow. He dropped exhausted to the ground, but a farmer found him and put him in his big jacket pocket.

"I'll take him home to my children. They'll look after him. Poor thing, he's frozen!" The duckling was showered with kindly care at the farmer's house. In this way, the ugly duckling was able to survive the bitterly cold winter.

However, by springtime, he had grown so big that the farmer decided: "I'll set him free by the pond!" That was when the duckling saw himself mirrored in tne water.

"Goodness! How I've changed! I hardly recognize myself!" The flight of swans winged north again and glided on to the pond. When the duckling saw them, he realized he was one of their kind, and soon made friends.

"We're swans like you!" they said, warmly. "Where have you been hiding?"

"It's a long story," replied the young swan, still astounded. Now, he swam majestically with his fellow swans. One day, he heard children on the river bank exclaim: "Look at that young swan! He's the finest of them all!"

And he almost burst with happiness.


* Source: Grimm´s Fairy Tales



The Six Swans


Once upon a time, a certain king was hunting in a great forest, and he chased a wild beast so eagerly that none of his attendants could follow him. When evening drew near he stopped and looked around him, and then he saw that he had lost his way. He sought a way out, but could find none. Then he perceived an aged woman with a head which nodded perpetually, who came towards him, but she was a witch. Good woman, said he to her, can you not show me the way through the forest. Oh, yes, lord king, she answered, that I certainly can, but on one condition, and if you do not fulfil that, you will never get out of the forest, and will die of hunger in it.

What kind of condition is it, asked the king. I have a daughter, said the old woman, who is as beautiful as anyone in the world, and well deserves to be your consort, and if you will make her your queen, I will show you the way out of the forest. In the anguish of his heart the king consented, and the old woman led him to her little hut, where her daughter was sitting by the fire. She received the king as if she had been expecting him, and he saw that she was very beautiful, but still she did not please him, and he could not look at her without secret horror. After he had taken the maiden up on his horse, the old woman showed him the way, and the king reached his royal palace again, where the wedding was celebrated.

The king had already been married once, and had by his first wife, seven children, six boys and a girl, whom he loved better than anything else in the world. As he now feared that the stepmother might not treat them well, and even do them some injury, he took them to a lonely castle which stood in the midst of a forest. It lay so concealed, and the way was so difficult to find that he himself would not have found it, if a wise woman had not given him a ball of yarn with wonderful properties. When he threw it down before him, it unrolled itself and showed him his path.

The king, however, went so frequently away to his dear children that the queen observed his absence, she was curious and wanted to know what he did when he was quite alone in the forest. She gave a great deal of money to his servants, and they betrayed the secret to her, and told her likewise of the ball which alone could point out the way. And now she knew no rest until she had learnt where the king kept the ball of yarn, and then she made little shirts of white silk, and as she had learnt the art of witchcraft from her mother, she sewed a charm inside them. And once when the king had ridden forth to hunt, she took the little shirts and went into the forest, and the ball showed her the way.

The children, who saw from a distance that someone was approaching, thought that their dear father was coming to them, and full of joy, ran to meet him. Then she threw one of the little shirts over each of them, and no sooner had the shirts touched their bodies than they were changed into swans, and flew away over the forest. The queen went home quite delighted, and thought she had got rid of her step-children, but the girl had not run out with her brothers, and the queen knew nothing about her.

Next day the king went to visit his children, but he found no one but the little girl. Where are your brothers, asked the king. Alas, dear father, she answered, they have gone away and left me alone, and she told him that she had seen from her little window how her brothers had flown away over the forest in the shape of swans, and she showed him the feathers, which they had let fall in the courtyard, and which she had picked up.

The king mourned, but he did not think that the queen had done this wicked deed, and as he feared that the girl would also be stolen away from him, he wanted to take her away with him. But she was afraid of her step-mother, and entreated the king to let her stay just this one night more in the forest castle.

The poor girl thought, I can no longer stay here. I will go and seek my brothers. And when night came, she ran away, and went straight into the forest. She walked the whole night long, and next day also without stopping, until she could go no farther for weariness. Then she saw a forest-hut, and went into it, and found a room with six little beds, but she did not venture to get into one of them, but crept under one, and lay down on the hard ground, intending to pass the night there. Just before sunset, however, she heard a rustling, and saw six swans come flying in at the window. They alighted on the ground and blew at each other, and blew all the feathers off, and their swans, skins stripped off like a shirt. Then the maiden looked at them and recognized her brothers, was glad and crept forth from beneath the bed. The brothers were not less delighted to see their little sister, but their joy was of short duration. Here you cannot abide, they said to her. This is a shelter for robbers, if they come home and find you, they will kill you. But can you not protect me, asked the little sister. No, they replied, only for one quarter of an hour each evening can we lay aside our swans, skins and have during that time our human form, after that, we are once more turned into swans.

The little sister wept and said, can you not be set free. Alas, no, they answered, the conditions are too hard. For six years you may neither speak nor laugh, and in that time you must sew together six little shirts of starwort for us. And if one single word falls from your lips, all your work will be lost. And when the brothers had said this, the quarter of an hour was over, and they flew out of the window again as swans.

The maiden, however, firmly resolved to deliver her brothers, even if it should cost her her life. She left the hut, went into the midst of the forest, seated herself on a tree, and there passed the night. Next morning she went out and gathered starwort and began to sew. She could not speak to anyone, and she had no inclination to laugh, she sat there and looked at nothing but her work.

When she had already spent a long time there it came to pass that the king of the country was hunting in the forest, and his huntsmen came to the tree on which the maiden was sitting. They called to her and said, who are you. But she made no answer. Come down to us, said they. We will not do you any harm. She only shook her head. As they pressed her further with questions she threw her golden necklace down to them, and thought to content them thus. They, however, did not cease, and then she threw her girdle down to them, and as this also was to no purpose, her garters, and by degrees everything that she had on that she could do without until she had nothing left but her shift.

The huntsmen, however, did not let themselves be turned aside by that, but climbed the tree and fetched the maiden down and led her before the king. The king asked, who are you. What are you doing on the tree. But she did not answer. He put the question in every language that he knew, but she remained as mute as a fish. As she was so beautiful, the king's heart was touched, and he was smitten with a great love for her. He put his mantle on her, took her before him on his horse, and carried her to his castle. Then he caused her to be dressed in rich garments, and she shone in her beauty like bright daylight, but no word could be drawn from her. He placed her by his side at table, and her modest bearing and courtesy pleased him so much that he said, she is the one whom I wish to marry, and no other woman in the world. And after some days he united himself to her.

The king, however, had a wicked mother who was dissatisfied with this marriage and spoke ill of the young queen. Who knows, said she, from whence the creature who can't speak, comes. She is not worthy of a king. After a year had passed, when the queen brought her first child into the world, the old woman took it away from her, and smeared her mouth with blood as she slept. Then she went to the king and accused the queen of being a man-eater. The king would not believe it, and would not suffer anyone to do her any injury. She, however, sat continually sewing at the shirts, and cared for nothing else.

The next time, when she again bore a beautiful boy, the false mother-in-law used the same treachery, but the king could not bring himself to give credit to her words. He said, she is too pious and good to do anything of that kind, if she were not dumb, and could defend herself, her innocence would come to light.

But when the old woman stole away the newly-born child for the third time, and accused the queen, who did not utter one word of defence, the king could do no otherwise than deliver her over to justice, and she was sentenced to suffer death by fire.

When the day came for the sentence to be carried out, it was the last day of the six years during which she was not to speak or laugh, and she had delivered her dear brothers from the power of the enchantment. The six shirts were ready, only the left sleeve of the sixth was wanting. When, therefore, she was led to the stake, she laid the shirts on her arm, and when she stood on high and the fire was just going to be lighted, she looked around and six swans came flying through the air towards her. Then she saw that her deliverance was near, and her heart leapt with joy. The swans swept towards her and sank down so that they were touched by them, their swans, skins fell off, and her brothers stood in their own bodily form before her, and were vigorous and handsome. The youngest only lacked his left arm, and had in the place of it a swan's wing on his shoulder. They embraced and kissed each other, and the queen went to the king, who was greatly moved, and she began to speak and said, dearest husband, now I may speak and declare to you that I am innocent, and falsely accused. And she told him of the treachery of the old woman who had taken away her three children and hidden them.

Then to the great joy of the king they were brought thither, and as a punishment, the wicked mother-in-law was bound to the stake, and burnt to ashes. But the king and the queen with her six brothers lived many years in happiness and peace.


* Source: Grimm´s Fairy Tales



Qat and the Sky Maid

New Caledonia

In New Caledonia, the classical "swan maiden" story is present in their mythology. This story or theme is found in parts of western and northern New Guinea and Vanuatu as well as New Caledonia. This scattered distribution suggests that it has been absorbed independently in each other place in Melanesia. The "swan maiden" theme concerns how a person sometimes referred to as Qat came upon a group of sky maidens bathing and hid one pair of wings so that one girl had to remain behind. One day, Qat's mother reproached her daughter-in-law and the girl wept, her tears washing away the earth covering her wings. She put on the wings and flew away. Qat shot an arrow into the air wound with a banyan root which he climbed up to follow her into the sky. He met a man hoeing a garden and begged him not to disturb the root until he was safely down again. However, as he descended with his wife, the root snapped and he plunged to his death, while his wife flew safely away.


* Source: www.janeresture.com/melanesia_myths/new_caledonia.htm



The Golden Apple Tree and the Nine Peahens


Once upon a time there lived a king who had three sons. Now, before the king's palace grew a golden apple tree, which in one and the same night blossomed, bore fruit, and lost all its fruit, though no one could tell who took the apples. One day the king, speaking to his eldest son, said, "I should like to know who takes the fruit from our apple tree!"

And the son said, "I will keep guard tonight, and will see who gathers the apples."

So when the evening came he went and laid himself down, under the apple tree, upon the ground to watch. Just, however, as the apples ripened, he fell asleep, and when he awoke in the morning, there was not a single one left on the tree. Whereupon he went and told his father what had happened.

Then the second son offered to keep watch by the tree, but he had no better success than his eldest brother.

So the turn came to the king's youngest son to keep guard. He made his preparations, brought his bed under the tree, and immediately went to sleep. Before midnight he awoke and looked up at the tree, and saw how the apples ripened, and how the whole palace was lit up by their shining.

At that minute nine peahens flew towards the tree, and eight of them settled on its branches, but the ninth alighted near him and turned instantly into a beautiful girl -- so beautiful, indeed, that the whole kingdom could not produce one who could in any way compare with her.

She stayed, conversing kindly with him, till after midnight, then thanking him for the golden apples, she prepared to depart. But, as he begged she would leave him one, she gave him two, one for himself and one for the king his father. Then the girl turned again into a peahen, and flew away with the other eight. Next morning, the king's son took the two apples to his father, and the king was much pleased, and praised his son.

When the evening came, the king's youngest son took his place again under the apple tree to keep guard over it. He again conversed as he had done the night before with the beautiful girl, and brought to his father, the next morning, two apples as before.

But, after he had succeeded so well several nights, his two elder brothers grew envious because he had been able to do what they could not. At length they found an old woman, who promised to discover how the youngest brother had succeeded in saving the two apples. So, as the evening came, the old woman stole softly under the bed which stood under the apple tree, and hid herself. And after a while, came also the king's son, and laid himself down as usual to sleep. When it was near midnight the nine peahens flew up as before, and eight of them settled on the branches, and the ninth stood by his bed, and turned into a most beautiful girl.

Then the old woman slowly took hold of one of the girl's curls, and cut it off, and the girl immediately rose up, changed again into a peahen and flew away, and the other peahens followed her, and so they all disappeared.

Then the king's son jumped up, and cried out, "What is that?" and, looking under the bed, he saw the old woman, and drew her out. Next morning he order her to be tied to a horse's tail, and so torn to pieces. But the peahens never came back, so the king's son was very sad for a long time, and wept at his loss.

At length he resolved to go and look after his peahen; resolving never to come back again unless he should find her. When he told the king his father of his intention, the king begged him not do go away, and told him that he would find him another beautiful girl, and that he might choose out of the whole kingdom.

But all the king's persuasions were useless, so his son went into the world -- taking only one servant to serve him -- to search everywhere for his peahen.

After many travels he came one day to a lake. Now by the lake stood a large and beautiful palace. In the palace lived an old woman as queen, and with the queen lived a girl, her daughter. He said to the old woman, "For heaven's sake, grandmother, do you know anything about nine golden peahens?"

And the old woman answered, "Oh, my son, I know all about them. They come every midday to bathe in the lake. But what do you want with them? Let them be. Think nothing about them. Here is my daughter. Such a beautiful girl! And such an heiress! All my wealth will remain to you if you marry her."

But he, burning with desire to see the peahens, would not listen to what the old woman spoke about her daughter.

Next morning, when day dawned, the prince prepared to go down to the lake to wait for the peahens. Then the old queen bribed the servant and gave him a little pair of bellows, and said, "Do you see these bellows? When you come to the lake you must blow secretly with them behind his neck, and then he will fall asleep, and not be able to speak to the peahens."

The mischievous servant did as the old woman told him. When he went with his master down to the lake, he took occasion to blow with the bellows behind his neck, and the poor prince fell asleep just as though he were dead.

Shortly after, the nine peahens came flying, and eight of them alighted by the lake, but the ninth flew towards him as he sat on horseback, and caressed him, and tried to awaken him. "Awake my darling! Awake, my heart! Awake, my soul!"

But for all that he knew nothing, just as if he were dead.

After they had bathed, all the peahens flew away together, and after they were gone the prince woke up, and said to his servant, "What has happened? Did they not come?"

The servant told him they had been there, and that eight of them had bathed, but the ninth had sat by him on his horse, and caressed and tried to awaken him. Then the king's son was so angry that he almost killed himself in his rage.

Next morning he went down again to the shore to wait for the peahens, and rode about a long time till the servant again found an opportunity of blowing with the bellows behind his neck, so that he again fell asleep as though dead. Hardly had he fallen asleep before the nine peahens came flying, and eight of them alighted by the water, but the ninth settled down by the side of his horse and caressed him, and cried out to awaken him, "Arise, my darling! Arise, my heart! Arise my soul!"

But it was of no use. The prince slept on as if he were dead. Then she said to the servant, "Tell your master, tomorrow he can see us here again, but nevermore."

With these words the peahens flew away. Immediately after, the king's son woke up and asked his servant, "Have they not been here?"

And the man answered, "Yes, they have been, and say that you can see them again tomorrow, at this place, but after that they will not return again."

When the unhappy prince heard that, he knew not what to do with himself, and in his great trouble and misery tore the hair from his head.

The third day he went down again to the shore, but, fearing to fall asleep, instead of riding slowly, galloped along the shore. His servant, however, found an opportunity of blowing with the bellows behind his neck, and again the prince fell asleep.

A moment after came the nine peahens, and the eight alighted on the lake and the ninth by him on his horse, and sought to awaken him, caressing him. "Arise, my darling! Arise, my heart! Arise, my soul!"

But it was of no use. He slept on as if dead. Then the peahen said to the servant, "When your master awakens tell him he ought to strike off the head of the nail from the lower part, and then he will find me."

Thereupon all the peahens fled away. Immediately the king's son awoke and said to his servant, "Have they been here?"

And the servant answered, "They have been, and the one which alighted on your horse, ordered me to tell you to strike off the head of the nail from the lower part, and then you will find her."

When the prince heard that, he drew his sword and cut off his servant's head.

After that he traveled alone about the world, and, after long traveling, came to a mountain and remained all night there with a hermit, whom he asked if he knew anything about nine golden peahens.

The hermit said, "Eh! My son, you are lucky. God has led you in the right path. From this place it is only a half a day's walk. But you must go straight on, then you will come to a large gate, which you must pass through. And, after that, you must keep always to the right hand, and so you will come to the peahens' city, and there find their palace."

So next morning the king's son arose, and prepared to go. He thanked the hermit, and went as he had told him. After a while he came to the great gate, and, having passed it, turned to the right, so that at midday he saw the city, and beholding how white it shone, rejoiced very much.

When he came into the city he found the palace where lived the nine golden peahens. But at the gate he was stopped by the guard, who demanded who he was, and whence he came. After he had answered these questions, the guards went to announce him to the queen.

When the queen heard who he was, she came running out to the gate and took him by the hand to lead him into the palace. She was a young and beautiful maiden, and so there was a great rejoicing when, after a few days, he married her and remained there with her.

One day, some time after their marriage, the queen went out to walk, and the king's son remained in the palace. Before going out, however, the queen gave him the keys of twelve cellars, telling him, "You may go down into all the cellars except the twelfth -- that must on no account open, or it will cost you your head."

She then went away. The king's son whilst remaining in the palace began to wonder what there could be in the twelfth cellar, and soon commenced opening one cellar after the other.

When he came to the twelfth he would not at first open it, but again began to wonder very much why he was forbidden to go into it. "What can be in this cellar?" he exclaimed to himself.

At last he opened it. In the middle of the cellar lay a big barrel with an open bung-hole, but bound fast round with three iron hoops. Out of the barrel came a voice, saying, "For God's sake, my brother, I am dying with thirst. Please give me a cup of water!"

Then the king's son took a cup and filled it with water, and emptied it into the barrel. Immediately he had done so, one of the hoops burst asunder.

Again came the voice from the barrel, "For God's sake, my brother, I am dying of thirst. Please give me a cup of water!"

The king's son again filled the cup, and took it, and emptied it into the barrel, and instantly another hoop burst asunder.

The third time the voice came out of the barrel, "For God's sake, my brother, I am dying of thirst. Please give me a cup of water!"

The king's son again took the cup and filled it, and poured the water into the barrel, and the third hoop burst. Then the barrel fell to pieces, and a dragon flew out of the cellar, and caught the queen on the road and carried her away.

Then the servant, who went out with the queen, came back quickly, and told the king's son what had happened, and the poor prince knew not what to do with himself, so desperate was he, and full of self reproaches. At length, however, he resolved to set out and travel through the world in search of her.

After long journeying, one day he came to a lake, and near it, in a little hole, he saw a little fish jumping about. When the fish saw the king's son, she began to beg pitifully, "For God's sake, be my brother, and throw me into the water. Some day I may be of use to you, so take now a little scale from me, and when you need me, rub it gently."

Then the king's son lifted the little fish from the hole and threw her into the water, after he had taken one small scale, which he wrapped up carefully in a handkerchief.

Some time afterwards, as he traveled about the world, he came upon a fox, caught in an iron trap. When the fox saw the prince, he spoke, "In God's name, be a brother to me, and help me to get out of this trap. One day you will need me, so take just one hair from my tail, and when you want me, rub it gently."

Then the king's son took a hair from the tail of the fox, and let him free.

Again, as he crossed a mountain, he found a wolf fast in a trap; and when the wolf saw him, it spoke, "Be a brother to me. In God's name, set me free, and one day I will help you. Only take a hair from me, and when you need me, rub it gently."

So he took a hair, and let the wolf free.

After that, the king's son traveled about a very long time, till one day he met a man, to whom he said, "For God's sake, brother, have you ever heard anyone say where is the palace of the dragon king?"

The man gave him very particular directions which way to take, and in what length of time he could get there. Then the king's son thanked him and continued his journey until he came to the city where the dragon lived.

When there, he went into the palace and found therein his wife, and both of them were exceedingly pleased to meet each other, and began to take counsel how they could escape. They resolved to run away, and prepared hastily for the journey. When all was ready they mounted on horseback and galloped away.

As soon as they were gone, the dragon came home, also on horseback, and, entering his palace, found that the queen had gone away. Then he said to his horse, "What shall we do now? Shall we eat and drink, or go at once after them?"

The horse answered, "Let us eat and drink first. We shall anyway catch them. Do not be anxious."

After the dragon had dined, he mounted his horse, and in a few moments came up with the runaways. Then he took the queen from the king's son and said to him, "Go now, in God's name! This time I forgive you, because you gave me water in the cellar. But if your life is dear to you, do not come back here any more!"

The unhappy young prince went on his way a little, but could not long resist, so he came back next day to the dragon's palace, and found the queen sitting alone and weeping.

Then they began again to consult how they could get away. And the prince said, "When the dragon comes, ask him where he got that horse, and then you will tell me so that I can look for such another one; perhaps in this way we can escape."

He then went away, lest the dragon should come and find him with the queen.

By and by the dragon came home, and the queen began to pet him, and speak lovingly to him about many things, till at last she said, "Ah! what a fine horse you have! Where did you get such a splendid horse?"

And he answered, "Eh! Where I got it everyone cannot get one! In such and such a mountain lives an old woman who has twelve horses in her stable, and no one can say which is the finest, they are all so beautiful. But in one corner of the stable stands a horse which looks as if he were leprous, but, in truth, he is the very best horse in the whole world. He is the brother of my horse, and whoever gets him may ride to the sky. But whoever wishes to get a horse from that old woman, must serve her three days and three nights. She has a mare with a foal, and whoever during three nights guards and keeps for her this mare and this foal, has a right to claim the best horse from the old woman's stable. But whoever engages to keep watch over the mare and does not, must lose his head!"

Next day, when the dragon went out, the king's son came, and the queen told him all she had learned from the dragon. Then the king's son went away to the mountain and found the old woman, and entered her house, greeting, "God help you too, my son! What do you wish?"

"I should like to serve you," said the king's son. Then the old woman said, "Well, my son, if you keep my mare safe for three days and three nights, I will give you the best horse, and you can choose him yourself. But if you do not keep the mare safe, you shall lose your head."

Then she led him into the courtyard, where all around stakes were ranged. Each of them had on it a man's head, except one stake, which had no head on it, and shouted incessantly, "Oh, grandmother, give me a head!"

The old woman showed all this to the prince, and said, "Look here! All these were heads of those who tried to keep my mare, and they have lost their heads for their pains!"

But the prince was not a bit afraid, so he stayed to serve the old woman. When the evening came he mounted the mare and rode her into the field, and the foal followed. He sat still on her back, having made up his mind not to dismount, that he might be sure of her. But before midnight he slumbered a little, and when he awoke he found himself sitting on a rail and holding the bridle in his hand.

Then he was greatly alarmed, and went instantly to look about to find the mare, and whilst looking for her, he came to a piece of water. When he saw the water he remembered the little fish, and took the scale from the handkerchief and rubbed it a little. Then immediately the little fish appeared and said, "What is the matter, my half-brother?"

And he replied, "The mare of the old woman ran away whilst under my charge, and now I do not know where she is!"

And the fish answered, "Here she is, turned to a fish, and the foal to a smaller one. But strike once upon the water with the bridle and cry out, 'Hey! mare of the old woman!'"

The prince did as he was told, and immediately the mare came, with the foal, out of the water to the shore. Then he put on her the bridle and mounted and rode away to the old woman's house, and the foal followed. When he got there the old woman gave him his breakfast. She, however, took the mare into the stable and beat her with a poker, saying, "Why did younot go down among the fishes, you cursed mare?"

And the mare answered, "I have been down to the fishes, but the fish are his friends, and they told him about me."

Then the old woman said, "Then go among the foxes!"

When evening came the king's son mounted the mare and rode to the field, and the foal followed the mare. Again he sat on the mare's back until near midnight, when he fell asleep as before. When he awoke, he found himself riding on the rail and holding the bridle in his hand.

So he was much frightened, and went to look after the mare. As he went, he remembered the words the old woman had said to the mare, and he took from the handkerchief the fox's hair and rubbed it a little between his fingers. All at once the fox stood before him, and asked, "What is the matter, half-brother?"

And he said, "The old woman's mare has run away, and I do not know where she can be."

Then the fox answered, "Here she is with us. She has turned into a fox, and the foal into a cub. But strike once with the bridle on the earth and cry out, 'Hey! you old woman's mare!'"

So the king's son struck with the bridle on the earth and cried, "Hey! old woman's mare!" and the mare came and stood, with her foal, near him.

He put on the bridle, and mounted and rode off home, and the foal followed the mare. When he arrived the old woman gave him his breakfast, but took the mare into the stable and beat her with the poker, crying, "To the foxes, cursed one! To the foxes!"

And the mare answered, "I have been with the foxes, but they are his friends, and told him I was there!"

Then the old woman cried, "If that is so, you must go among the wolves!"

When it grew dark again, the king's son mounted the mare and rode out to the field, and the foal galloped by the side of the mare. Again he sat still on the mare's back till about midnight, when he grew very sleepy and fell into a slumber, as on the former evenings, and when he awoke he found himself riding on the rail, holding the bridle in his hand, just as before.

Then, as before, he went in a hurry to look after the mare. As he went, he remembered the words the old woman had said to the mare, and took the wolf's hair from the handkerchief and rubbed it a little. Then the wolf came up to him and asked, "What is the matter, half-brother?"

And he answered, "The old woman's mare has run away, and I cannot tell where she is."

The wolf said, "Here she is with us. She has turned herself into a wolf, and the foal into a wolf's cub. Strike once with the bridle on the earth and cry out, 'Hey! old woman's mare!'"

And the king's son did so, and instantly the mare came again and stood with the foal beside him. So he bridled her, and galloped home, and the foal followed. When he arrived the old woman gave him his breakfast, but she led the mare into the stable and beat her with the poker, crying, "To the wolves, I said, miserable one!"

And the mare answered, "I have been to the wolves, but they are his friends, and told him all about me!"

Then the old woman came out of the stable, and the king's son said to her, "Eh! grandmother, I have served you honestly. Now give me what you promised me."

And the old woman answered, "My son, what is promised must be fulfilled. So look here. Here are the twelve horses. Choose which you like!"

And the prince said, "Why should I be too particular? Give me only that leprous horse in the corner! Fine horses are not fitting for me!"

But the old woman tried to persuade him to choose another horse, saying, "How can you be so foolish as to choose that leprous thing whilst there are such very fine horses here?"

But he remained firm by his first choice, and said to the old woman, "You ought to give me which I choose, for so you promised."

So, when the old woman found she could not make him change his mind, she gave him the scabby horse, and he took leave of her, and went away, leading the horse by the halter.

When he came to a forest he curried and rubbed down the horse, when it shone as bright as gold. He then mounted, and the horse flew as quickly as a bird, and in a few seconds brought him to the dragon's palace.

The king's son went in and said to the queen, "Get ready as soon as possible!" She was soon ready, when they both mounted the horse, and began their journey home. Soon after, the dragon came home, and when he saw the queen had disappeared, said to his horse, "What shall we do? Shall we eat and drink first, or shall we pursue them at once?"

The horse answered, "Whether we eat and drink or not, it is all one. We shall never reach them."

When the dragon heard that, he got quickly on his horse and galloped after them. When they saw the dragon following them, they pushed on quicker, but their horse said, "Do not be afraid! There is no need to run away."

In a very few moments the dragon came very near to them, and his horse said to their horse, "For God's sake, my brother, wait a moment! I shall kill myself running after you!"

Their horse answered, "Why are you so stupid as to carry that monster? Fling your heels up and throw him off, and come along with me!"

When the dragon's horse heard that, he shook his head angrily and flung his feet high in the air, so that the dragon fell off and brake in pieces, and his horse came up to them.

Then the queen mounted him and returned with the king's son happily to her kingdom, where they reigned together in great prosperity until the day of their death.


* Source: Csedomille Mijatovies, Serbian Folk-Lore (London: W. Isbister and Company, 1874), pp. 43-58.



The Feathery Robe


On the coast of Suruga, at Miwo, there once lived a fisherman by the name of Hakurioo. One day when he was resting from his work on the bank in the sunshine he saw a brightly glistening white robe lying before him, delicate and translucent and entirely woven from feathers. At the place where the shoulders would fit on the wonderful robe there hung two wings.

He eagerly picked it up, wanting to take it home and carefully put it away, when a beautiful girl appeared before him. She sobbed aloud and demanded the return of her robe.

Hakurioo was at first not at all willing to give up his find. But then the girl said, amidst endless sobs and tears, that she was a heavenly goddess, and that she would have to remain miserably on earth as long as she did not have her feathery robe, that she had taken off while bathing, and which had thus wrongly come into his hands.

Moved by compassion, the fisherman said, "Very well, I will give your robe back to you, if in return you will dance the heavenly dance for me with which you daughters of heaven soar through the clouds."

The maiden replied, "Yes, give me my robe, and you shall behold the most beautiful dance that I am able to dance."

The fisherman considered for a moment and said, "No, dance first, and then I will give you your robe."

With this the heavenly maiden grew angry and said, "Shame on you, that you doubt the words of a goddess! Quickly, give me my robe, for without it I am not able to dance. You will not regret it. That I promise you!"

Thereupon Hakurioo handed her the feathery robe. She immediately put it on and rose into the air. True to her words, before the fisherman's amazed eyes she performed the most magnificent dance that one can imagine, at the same time singing the most beautiful, sensuous melodies, until Hakurioo did not know what was happening to him. In more and more beautiful loops she rose higher and higher, but it was a long time before she disappeared from the enchanted fisherman's view, soaring into a light cloud that was drifting toward Fujiyama's summit, with the last sounds of her godly song sounding in his ears.


* Source: David Brauns, Japanische Märchen und Sagen (Leipzig: Verlag von Wilhelm Friedrich, 1885), pp. 349-350. Translated from the German by D. L. Ashliman.



The Peacock Maiden

China (A story of the Tai people)

For a thousand miles the Lantsang River flows, rolling to the south, bringing down a hundred thousand grains of glittering gold over the years and leaving a thousand and ten stories along its banks, among which is....


In Monbanja, a land of perennial green, there once lived a king named Bahkeladir. His granaries overflowed with the fruits of good harvests and his palace was beyond compare for splendor and richness, but he had no children. Both he and his queen Machena longed for a son, for an heir to succeed to the throne and complete their happiness.

And then, one morning in early spring, their wish was fulfilled. The people rushed excitedly about, talking of a strange happening. A man-child crawled out from the foot of a huge white elephant and then disappeared without a trace. Right at this moment, the queen gave birth to a healthy son which the king named Chaushutun, after a prince famous for his bravery, hoping that his son, too, would grow into a strong and brave man.

With each passing day Chaushutun grew taller and stronger. He diligently studied the arts of peace and war, becoming well versed in the arts and proficient with all weapons. His intelligence was astonishing, and his strength excelled all other men.

One day he peered into a well and by the dim light beheld a strange object in it. The wise old men said that the great King Bahmo had left a wonderful treasure there, which men for many generations had tried in vain to obtain. Chaushutun ordered the well be drained, and when this was done he descended into the well to examine it more closely. The object was a magic bow. So powerful was it that he who owned it could defeat an entire enemy army. No one but Chaushutun had the strength to bend the huge bow. He could draw it taut till it was as round as the full moon, and every arrow from it hit the target clean and sure.

One day as an evil bird of prodigious size was arrogantly wheeling overhead in the clouds, a black fish clasped in its beak, an arrow from Chaushutun's bow pierced it. The fish fell from its beak into a river, and the bird, mortally wounded, plunged down into the forests below.

Sixteen times the breezes of autumn fanned the paddy fields into a swaying, burning gold. Chaushutun was now a brave, handsome lad, with deep, clear eyes that sparkled with life. His face was more lovely than the legendary Dewawo's, and his voice was like the chiming of bells, soft and musical to the ear.

When the maidens saw him their mouths and eyes opened wide in admiration and they longed to toss the embroidered pouch of courtship at him, offer him the slit-bamboo stool reserved for their dear ones, and give him love nuts. His parents grew increasingly concerned about his marriage, and time and again urged him to marry a girl of noble birth.

The treacherous minister Mahashena, eager to increase his influence over the throne, offered his daughter. But it was of no use. Of the many beautiful but empty-headed daughters of nobles, not one could win Chaushutun's heart. His one wish was to find himself a girl as capable as she was beautiful, who could be his faithful companion for life.

One day, with his magic bow and sword, and mounted on his wonder horse, Chaushutun rode away, over vast fields, over range after range of mountains and through thick forests, to search for a girl after his heart. On the way he fell in with an old hunter named Gohagen and the two became firm friends. Together they hunted the wild boar and the flame-speckled deer, and shared the same fire. As they ate their fill of savory venison they talked of many interesting things. One of the stories Gohagen told the prince was this:

Not many years ago, Bahna, the God of Waters, with a magic weapon captured the son of Bahun, king of all fish-eating birds. In revenge the bird king caught the God of Waters while he was visiting the ocean's surface in the guise of a black fish. And just as the bird king was exulting high in the skies an arrow suddenly struck him, making him release the black fish, which fell down into a river, right into the net old Gohagen had spread. The black fish pleaded to be set free and promised to come to Gohagen's aid whenever he needed help. The kind-hearted Gohagen set the fish free.

"I admired the bowman whose arrow brought down that fish! I have always hoped that some day I will meet him," concluded Gohagen.

"That unknown bowman probably wants to meet you even more," Chaushutun added with a smile. So they talked through the night, like old, intimate friends.

Chaushutun looked up and sighed. "Ah, bright star!" he said. "Herald of dawn! So high, yet so easily seen. Now why is a beautiful and talented maid born among men so difficult to find?"

"Love never disappoints pure hearts. The steadfast and true will bring the deep-seated spring water to the surface," Gohagen chuckled knowingly.

Chaushutun nodded. He would remember that saying.

"And not far from here," the old hunter went on, "is Lake Langsna with its jade-green waters as clear as a polished mirror. And every seven days, seven peacock maidens extraordinarily fair to see bathe there. They are as fair as resplendent flowers, and the youngest outshines them all. When you see her, you will see the beauty of the legendary Nandiowala and you will know what wisdom and cleverness really mean. Come, let us go and see."

Chaushutun rose eagerly. They mounted their swift horses and soon were at the lake. They hid themselves on the lake's edge and waited.


The weather at noon was warm and mild, and the limpid waters of the lake mirrored the many-colored clouds which sailed gently across the sky, fanned by a soft fragrant breeze.

Suddenly, from out of the skies seven colorful peacocks flew down and alighted on the shore. Quickly the peacock cloaks were shed, and seven graceful maidens appeared, who, laughing merrily, plunged into the lake.

Chaushutun and Gohagen gazed, fascinated. After a while the peacock maidens rose from the water and, donning their peacock cloaks, began to dance. Chaushutun was enchanted by the youngest, the seventh sister, Namarona. Oh, how she danced! But all too soon the dancers turned back into peacocks, rose high into the air and flew away towards the west, and became seven tiny specks on the horizon, with Chaushutun gazing longingly after them.

"Don't be so sad!" said Gohagen. "They'll come back again in another seven days."

"Seven days! And then only a few moments! How can I stop them leaving?"

"Let us go and ask the hermit Palasi. He might know."

They went and found Palasi in his forest home. Smilingly he looked Chaushutun over. He shook his head at first, but finally gave a nod, and summoning an otter, told Chaushutun to follow it. The otter led them to the side of Lake Langsna, where it plunged in.

The waters immediately divided into two, leaving a wide, dry path. Along this came Bahna, the God of Waters himself, who greeted Chaushutun as his savior, and led them into his magnificent palace. Only then did Gohagen realize that the bowman who had shot down the evil bird Bahun was no other than his companion. After revealing all the secrets of a magic hook he had, the God of Waters lent it to Chaushutun and escorted them back to the shore. The two friends resumed their hiding place and waited.

The longed-for day arrived. The sun hung in mid-heaven and Chaushutun and Gohagen saw on the horizon a flash as of seven glittering diamonds, which came straight towards them. As they drew nearer, the dazzling orbs of light became seven peacocks, and after alighting, they again became seven beautiful maidens, who dived into the lake. Chaushutun's eyes carefully sought out and marked the youngest maiden. He had watched where she hung her peacock cloak and then, while the maidens splashed and frolicked in the lake, he quietly took out his magic hook, brought down the maiden's garment and gently drew it to his hiding place.

The maidens finished their bathing. What was their panic when they discovered that seventh sister's garment was not to be found!

Namarona began to cry, and her sisters comforted her, saying, "We will carry you home between us."

Chaushutun was frightened when he heard this, and called out, "No! Don't go!" He was going to say "Here is your garment!" but Gohagen clapped his hand over his mouth.

The peacock maidens were startled when they heard a man's voice, and took to their wings, leaving Namarona behind. She quickly darted into some thick bushes and hid herself.

After a long while when everything remained silent and motionless, she came out cautiously and began to look for her peacock garment.

"Tee-hee-hee! Tee-hee-hee!" something chattered high in the trees. It was only an impertinent squirrel.

"O squirrel, have you seen my garment?"

"Tee-hee-hee! Tee-hee-hee!" The squirrel only laughed.

"Oh, don't laugh! Can't you see I am looking frantically for my peacock cloak? I'm sure you know where it is! Won't you tell me?"

The squirrel, whiskers twitching, waved his bushy tail and pointed to the spot where Chaushutun was hiding, and then vanished into the leafy branches.

"Who could be there?" she asked herself. She looked up. There was a falcon wheeling overhead. "Could it be a bird who took my cloak?"

Swish! Chaushutun let fly an arrow and the falcon hurtled down, with an arrow through its heart. It dropped to the ground beside Namarona. She picked it up and looked about her, astonished. Still she could see no one.

"O maiden," a voice called softly, "did the arrow fly true?"

Namarona turned and saw Chaushutun, but it was too late to run and hide. It seemed a long, long while before she could find her voice. "Yes, right through the heart," she answered, in her soft, musical voice.

The two of them gazed at one another, speechless with enchantment.

Then Namarona spoke again, her face red with a rosy blush, "May I ask if my elder brother has seen my peacock cloak?"

"Oh why, O maiden, are you not at home, but here in this wilderness, looking for a peacock cloak?"

"My six sisters and I came to swim in Lake Langsna. I hung my cloak on yonder flowering bough, but it has vanished."

"I can see no houses near or far. Can you be the fairy Nandiowala from heaven, beautiful maid?"

"King Chaudekasali of Mongwudoongpan is my father. I am Namarona, his seventh daughter. You, elder brother, must surely be the handsome Bahmo or Bahna, the God of Waters. The mortal world cannot breed so handsome a youth."

"No, I am Chaushutun, son of King Bahkeladir of Monbanja. Though a thousand miles away, I sensed the fragrance of the flowers blossoming here, and came. Do not tell me the fresh flower before me belongs to another."

"My elder brother is so eloquent. He is a lovebird reciting his moving lines before me! There is no divine lotus here with a thousand petals, nor a flower so sweet that its perfume can spread even a hundred miles. The flower here showed little promise as a bud, and the poor blossom which resulted can only droop in shame. No one has ever come to water it, or caress it. Why should anyone stoop to pluck it?"

"A precious stone needs the cunning hand of a craftsman. O maiden, why are you not wearing the ring of some loved one?"

"What, I, a mere pebble in the wilderness! Who would deceive himself into thinking it a jewel! Or who would want to cast a precious ring away in the wilderness!"

As they were speaking, Namarona's six sisters appeared, anxiously looking for their little lost sister. They saw her and were about to swoop down and snatch her away when Gohagen shot an arrow into the air and flourished the magic hook at them, at which they took fright and fled.

"Fear not, lovely maid," Chaushutun comforted her, for she too was frightened. "He who protects me is my friend Gohagen, a most kind-hearted man." And then he added, shyly, "My store of food is but half eaten; my bed but half occupied. The fiery comet flies lonely across heaven. Ah, why has it no companion?"

"Alas, the sun only rises when the moon must set. People of different worlds cannot live together. Were it otherwise, my humble, poor self would gladly be a handmaid and wash dishes and feed swine for a lonely man."

"Ah, strong wine needs no fortifying! Wound not my heart further!" Chaushutun thought he could see a gleam of hope and went on more boldly. "I have journeyed a thousand miles across land and water to come here, and waited seven long nights and days to see you. I beg you to accompany me back to my home, to live with me."

"Water flows out from a jar easily but to scoop it back is hard," she answered. In truth, she had already lost her heart to this handsome youth, but she was not to be won too easily. "To go with you to your home would be enchanting, but what of your parents, the king and queen? What of your court and your people? They may not be pleased. And then how will I lift my head to eat my food? My eyes will never be dry."

"It cannot be that they will not be pleased! My parents love me well and will equally love what is mine. Your beauty equals that of Nandiowala and will shine throughout the land. All my people will be proud and happy to see you as the prince's consort."

"But my parents! They will miss me and will be sad."

"My home be yours," said Chaushutun, taking a golden ring off his finger eagerly. "Oh, lovely maid! Accept this and gladden my heart!"

He slipped it on her unresisting finger, and she gave him a jewel from her breast, saying, "In this you can always see your loved one."

No sooner had the two plighted their troth than two lotus blooms flowering on a single stem rose to the surface of the lake. The lovers thanked the hunter Gohagen and left Chaushutun's wonder horse in his care as a parting gift, and asked him to return the magic hook to its owner.

"And is it not time you returned my peacock cloak?" asked Namarona, her eyes full of laughter.

He pulled her cloak out of the bushes and gave it back to her. She put it on and, holding Chaushutun's hand tightly, spread out her dazzling wings. They rose into the air and in a flash went to his home in Monbanja.


The romantic way by which their young prince found his love set everyone buzzing with excitement. All agreed it was enchanting to have such a consort, as lovely as a fairy, for their prince. All. that is, save that treacherous minister Mahashena. He was furious because his daughter was rejected, and was determined to have his revenge. He openly opposed the marriage and tried to convince the king that Namarona was a witch. Meanwhile he secretly sent messengers to the king of the neighboring country of Mongshugang-Nakema, extolling the virtues and beauty of Namarona and exhorting him to send his army to abduct her for himself, promising to do all he could to help such an invading army.

At first the king Bahkeladir was reluctant to accept an unknown maiden as his son's bride, but he finally gave his consent when he saw how greatly his son loved Namarona. The queen and Namarona, however, liked each other from their first meeting and were soon fast friends. So, since nearly every noble approved, an auspicious day was chosen and preparations were started to celebrate the marriage.

Now the king of the neighboring country of Mongshugang-Nakema was a wicked tyrant, and a sensual and greedy bully. When he received the traitor Mahashena's glowing report of Namarona, he immediately assembled his army and invaded Monbanja.

It was on the very night of the wedding that the dispatch from the frontier came, informing the king that the country had been invaded. Everything was thrown into confusion. Chaushutun consulted his wise Namarona and decided that he would beg the king to let him lead the army against the invaders. The king agreed, and Chaushutun and the army departed. Soon after he had gone, the traitor minister brought a false report about the fighting, asserting that the prince's army was being driven back and that defeat seemed certain. King Bahkeladir was numbed with despair. Like a vanquished quail, he was deaf and blind to everything.

At night he had a terrible dream, so terrible that he could not forget it. He woke up shuddering and summoned all his lords and asked them to interpret this hideous nightmare. When he described it, the head priest, who was in league with the faithless minister, immediately interpreted it as the work of a witch who would betray the city.

"A witch! Where?" asked the king helplessly.

"Within the palace walls. But your humble servant dare not say more."

"In a time like this you must speak out and fear nothing," the king ordered.

Three times the head priest begged the king's pardon, as if he were reluctant to speak for fear of offending the king. Finally he spoke. "It is no other than Namarona," he said. "It is the prince's consort who has brought disaster upon us. If we do not rid ourselves of her, I fear for the consequences."

The king was greatly alarmed and did not know what to do.

Mahashena was pleased to see the king's consternation and seized the opportunity to pour more poison in his ears about Namarona. "Within seven days is the Day of Sacrifice. Let Namarona be seized and stripped of all her possessions and be executed on that day!" he proclaimed on behalf of the witless king.

The queen broke the dreadful news to Namarona and hid the peacock cloak, hoping to find some way for her to escape. Poor Namarona pleaded with the king, but he was adamant.

"Die bravely for our country and my son's sake!" was his reply.

Namarona was heart-broken. She wept and wept, longing for Chaushutun to come back and save her from this awful fate.

Chaushutun had driven the enemy back, and was even now leading his army triumphantly home, but he was still far away when the Day of Sacrifice came.

Namarona was taken to the execution ground, her rich robes in tatters. She had already a plan for escape, but, at the thought of having to leave Chaushutun, she wept profusely.

As she was led past the king and queen, she turned and begged them to listen to her last plea. "Hear me, O king and queen," she cried. Let me once more put on my peacock cloak and dance for you before we part forever!"

King Bahkeladir's heart softened and he granted her this last wish. The queen brought her the peacock cloak, the guards loosened her bonds, and Namarona put it on.

Slowly she began to dance. She was lovely to watch, the colors on the cloak flashing as she swayed. Even the stony-hearted executioner stood entranced as though his souls was cleansed and purified by the young maid's dance, and the crowds forgot they were there to watch an execution and only knew they were watching a lovely dancer. Slowly Namarona transformed herself into a peacock and rose into the air. The faithless minister shouted to the king to order the executioner to seize her, but it was already too late. She was out of reach, and soon out of sight.

"See, my lords," he shouted again in a fury. "See! She was a witch. She flew away!"

He had barely finished speaking when a warrior galloped up and ran to the king. He had brought the news of the victory. The king was still in a daze and asked again and again what news he brought.

"The prince, your son, leading your majesty's army, has routed the enemy. Our banners fly victorious!" the soldier repeated.

The king looked at the treacherous minister, who bowed his head. Everything was now clear to him. The next minute the whole populace rose and with joyous shouts welcomed their victorious army returning, with Chaushutun at their head. The court musician sang a song of welcome:

Sweet is the juice of the coconut!

Strong the shell that guards it!

We people of Monbanja live happily,

With Chaushutun the hero as our protector.

"The honor belongs to the beautiful Namarona," said Chaushutun smilingly. "It was her strategy that defeated the enemy. Come, let us ask her to accept the honor."

The king turned pale. How could he have been so foolish and done such wrong to an innocent person! How more than foolish to mistake the bad for the good!

The head priest and minister, fearful of Chaushutun's vengeance, hunched their shoulders and stole away as best they could, while the people and the soldiers bowed their heads and wept as they thought of Namarona, their princess who was as lovely as the fairy Nandiowala.

Prince Chaushutun was startled at the hush which fell after he had spoken.

"What is this?" he cried, alarmed. "What is this?" What has happened?"

The king and queen, their hearts heavy with grief, forced themselves to tell the truth. The blow fell like a thunderbolt from a clear sky, or the hiss of water on red embers. Chaushutun staggered and dropped to the ground.

Only half conscious, he murmured her name repeatedly. He took out the jewel she had given him at their betrothal, and looked into it. Yes, as she said, he could see her in it, with the hermit Palasi, her cheeks wet with tears. It was like a physical pain in his heart and he fell back again in a swoon.

When he came to he was in a cold anger. First, though, he was determined to find her again. Heedless of all pleas, he mounted his fiery steed and galloped to Lake Langsna, stopping neither day nor night. On and on, he spurred his horse, searching for his beloved Namarona.


Namarona, so cruelly wronged, had left her bridal home with a heavy heart. As she winged her way home to Mongwudoongpan she thought of her loving parents and her sisters, whom she had not seen for some time. Her faith in Chaushutun's love for her was unshaken, and she knew he would not rest till he found her again. But this made her heart more heavy, for the way to her was fraught with danger. She flew over Lake Langsna and, meeting the hermit Palasi, she took off her armlet and spoke to him.

"Please give this to Chaushutun," she said, for she was sure he would seek for her there. "Tell him that if he wears it, his days will pass as though I were still by his side. But he must not try to follow me! It is too dangerous. Tell him he must not look for me!" And she turned and flew off, weeping as if her heart would break.

Chaushutun pressed on over fertile fields, through thick forests and over many tall ranges. His faithful mount was exhausted, and died. But Chaushutun hurried on by foot, gulping a hasty drink when he passed a stream and getting what game he could. It was only when he was dropping with fatigue that he paused briefly. Day after weary day he labored till he came to Lake Langsna. Thinking back to the happy meeting with Namarona, he wept bitterly. So bitterly did he cry that the hermit Palasi took compassion on him and, going up to Chaushutun, gave him Namarona's armlet. At the sight of the armlet he wept all the more grievously and became all the more determined to find her.

"From here to Namarona's home is a long and difficult road, over impassable rivers and vast stretches of shifting sands. There are unpredictable perils, man-crushing mountains and giant man-eating birds awaiting you. And should you by chance reach Mongwudoongpan, her father, the king, would still doubt your worth as your father doubted hers."

"I must go on!" Chaushutun vowed. "If I do not find her again I do not want to return. Without her I cannot live!"

Palasi was deeply moved to see such love, and such determination. He decided he would help, and called up a monkey to guide Chaushutun to Namarona's home.

The monkey led the way, on their trying and seemingly endless journey, till one day they reached the Namienkalikagan, the river which ran white-hot, enough to melt metal. Chaushutun tested the seething waters with his sword. No sooner did the blade touch the water than the tip dissolved.

Upriver and down he searched, but no ford or bridge could he find. There was no way over unless he could fly. He stood on the bank, gazing across the river with impatient eyes. Suddenly a huge black python rose out of the water, its head on one bank and its tail on the other, like a long, narrow bridge. The nimble-witted monkey quickly ran over the snake to the other side, closely followed by Chaushutun. When they were across, the snake disappeared again.

On and on Chaushutun and the monkey pushed westwards till they reached the cloud-piercing peaks, the Three Fighting Sentinels. These were three mountains which crashed against one another continuously. Chaushutun fitted an arrow to his magic bow and aimed at a crack. Swish flew the arrow, breaking a temporary passage through the shifting mountains. Monkey and man sped through this opening. Even as they reached the other side, the mountains crashed together again.

And after a long, long way they reached a vast open space swept by sandstorms and flying stones. All day they had to battle with the whirling stones till at last they reached a huge tree which blotted out the sun. Tired and exhausted, they climbed up into its branches and rested, unaware that this was the home of the giant man-eating birds. A sudden blast of wind woke Chaushutun out of his exhausted stupor. It was the bird and his mate returning to their nest. The male bird could forecast events to come in the east and the female in the west.

"Your prediction was not very accurate, was it?" the female said derisively to her mate. "I thought you said that Chaushutun would be here today! There's no sign of him that I can see."

"But according to my knowledge, he has crossed the Namienkalikagan and passed through the Three Fighting Sentinels safely. He should be here today. I am still hopeful of having my dainty morsel," the male said petulantly. Then he strained his great head. "Gawk," he croaked, "I can smell a living human!"

"Gawk! I too," cried the female. "Come! Let us go down and see."

The two giant birds flopped to the ground, sniffing now east, now west, craning their ugly necks in every direction. Chaushutun, alarmed, clutched his sword, prepared to do battle with them. The birds discovered the monkey and devoured him. They found nothing else and flapped back to their aerie.

"Oho! A monkey! That's your man from the east, is it?" said the female. "Anyway, I'm going to sleep now. Tomorrow the King of Mongwudoongpan is going to hold a ceremony to welcome and bless his seventh princess who has just returned from Monbanja. Seven huge elephants, a hundred head of buffaloes, and a hundred fat pigs are going to be butchered. Let us go there, and have our fill of bone and blood."

Soon the great birds were asleep and Chaushutun relaxed with a sigh of relief. "Tomorrow they're going to fly to my dear one's home, are they!" he thought. "If only I could steal a ride on one of them! What care I for danger if I can see her again." The thought of her made him brave. He gripped his good sword firmly and quietly climbed into the nest. He hacked off a huge feather, as big and round as a man, and stealthily crept into its hollow stump. "Now the bird will take me to Mongwudoongpan!" he thought triumphantly.


Next morning the huge birds took wing, soaring swiftly through the skies, with Chaushutun safely hidden, and soon reaching the kingdom of Mongwudoongpan. The bird landed, and preened its feathers, shaking Chaushutun out. He quickly made his way towards the palace. As he drew near he saw an elderly woman resting in the shade of a pavilion.

He was about to ask for news of Namarona when he saw a troop of beautiful maidens dressed in bright robes on their way to fetch water. So he said, "May I ask you, honored matron, why so many maids fetch water together?"

"Young man," replied the old lady, "don't you know that the seventh princess has come back from Monbanja and the king has ordered a great feast to pray for a blessing on her? These girls are now fetching water for the princess."

"Oh," said Chaushutun. He asked nothing more, but watched the maids fill their pails and depart one after the other till only one was left beside the well.

It was Namarona's personal maid, a clever young girl. She had filled her pails when she saw the handsome stranger staring intently at her. She thought him handsome and, pretending she was unable to lift the pails, called to him for help, hoping thus to enter into conversation with him. Chaushutun gladly helped her, and as he bent over the pails he quickly slipped the armlet Namarona had give him into one of them.

"Just as the flower which stands by the clear waters is always beautiful," he said, "so I dare presume the mistress whom you serve is most lovely. Will you present my blessings to her? May her tears be washed away and may her smile appear again!"

The maid blushed. It seemed an unusual compliment to send. She looked more closely at this strange youth and replied, "From where does my elder brother come? He speaks so eloquently, it could be the speech of a golden cockatoo from some foreign skies!"

"Yes," Chaushutun answered, "it is from foreign skies that I have come. But eloquence I have none. The only fluency which comes to my tongue is to echo your mistress's name. Take her my message, I beg you, take it swiftly."

The girl still wanted to know what lay behind his mysterious word, but she knew her princess was waiting, and had to go.

Never for one moment did Namarona forget Chaushutun. In front of her was clean green grass and fresh bright flowers, but she only wanted to see her loved one. She saw the bees busily visiting the flowers, and she felt all the more lonely and sad. When the morning mists lifted and the dew dried, her sorrow still lay heavy on her heart. She only longed to be with him again, to live together happily. On this day when her father was holding the great ceremony to bless her, she fervently hoped that the clear water showered on her would wash away all her misfortunes and bring the day of her happy reunion with Chaushutun nearer.

Her maid returned and poured the water over her. Something struck her arm. She stifled a cry as she saw what lay on the ground.

"What startles the princess?" asked her maid.

"Is it a dream? What do I see! There on the ground lies my armlet. How did it get there?"

"Your eyes do not deceive you. Indeed, it is the princess's armlet that lies there."

"I can see a fire balloon floating, but I cannot see the person who lit the fire! I can see an embroidered love pouch in front of me, but, alas, where is he who dropped it!"

"Princess, why do you talk of fire balloons and love pouches while I bathe you?"

"Girl, you must tell me where this armlet came from."

"Is it not possible I scooped it up with the water?"

"No! No! I beg you, tell me, who gave it to you?"

The serving maid was puzzled. What strange business was this? She told Namarona everything: how she went to fetch water and met a young man, and how he spoke strangely to her.

Namarona sprang to her feet and ran, barefooted, to the king and queen, her eyes bright and shining. "My husband is here!" she cried breathlessly.

Chaushutun had wandered on after the maid servant left, and then he was apprehended and brought before the king. The king looked doubtfully at Chaushutun. Was this youth worthy of his daughter's love? He could not believe that Chaushutun had reached his kingdom merely by courage and love and without a magic peacock cloak. And so quickly too!

Chaushutun begged the king to pardon him for the wrongs that his daughter had suffered, and swore that he loved her with all his heart. The king could almost believe him, but he was determined to test him. He proposed two conditions which Chaushutun must fulfil. If he failed, he was to leave without seeing the princess.

As the first test, Chaushutun had to destroy, with his bow, a gigantic boulder hindering the smooth flow of the river and causing frequent floods which destroyed many thousands of farms. No one had ever been able to do anything to alleviate this curse.

Chaushutun, before ten thousand pairs of watchful eyes, fitted an arrow to his magic bow and drew it taut with all his might. Swish flew the arrow and immediately there was a tremendous rumble like thunder. The huge boulder crumbled and was swept swiftly away by the current, amidst a roar of cheers from the crowd. The king was satisfied with the first test.

The second condition was this: The seven princesses had to enter a darkened room and each show a finger through a hole in the wall. If Chaushutun could identify Namarona's finger, then the king would be satisfied that he loved her.

The night was black as pitch, and Chaushutun outside the darkened room had great difficulty in finding any fingers at all. Unexpectedly, however, a firefly hovered in the air and then gently alighted on one particular finger. Without a moment's hesitation Chaushutun seized the finger, feeling it could be no other than Namarona's.

"He has succeeded! That is her finger!" the king exclaimed, all doubts gone. "Come, and we will celebrate their reunion!"

A few days later, Chaushutun and Namarona prepared to go. They bade everyone of Mongwudoongpan farewell and left for Monbanja on a flying horse and a flying elephant, given to them by the king.

King Bahkeladir and Queen Machena were still mourning their sorrows when their tears turned to joy. Elaborate ceremonies and feasts were held to celebrate the young couple's return. The traitor minister, fearing to meet his just reward, had left with his rejected daughter for the neighboring country of Mongshugang-Nakema.

Chaushutun and Namarona lived long and happily together. Namarona's peacock dance, now a symbol of peace and happiness, became famous throughout the land of the Tais and is danced to this very day.


* Source: Folk Tales from China, third series (Peking: Foreign Language Press, 1958). pp. 16-46. No copyright notice.



Prince Bairâm and the Fairy Bride


Once upon a time the king of the giants from the mountains of Kôh Kâf came to visit the kingdoms of men. His name was Safeyd. As he was wandering over the earth he entered a forest, and there he saw a merry company of huntsmen chasing the deer. Their leader was a young prince named Bairâm, and the beauty of this youth was so striking and so unusual that the giant Safeyd felt that he loved him, and that he would never again know happiness or contentment unless he became possessed of him. So he turned himself into a fine horse, with a skin like snow and a neigh like thunder, and in that form repeatedly crossed the path of the prince to attract his attention.

The prince was enchanted when he saw so noble a steed, and gave orders that he should be caught. Safeyd was only too glad to permit himself to be saddled and bridled, and to suffer the prince of whom he was enamoured to vault onto his back. No sooner did he feel him safely seated, however, than he galloped away, and never stopped until he had arrived at his own palace in the mountains which girdle the earth. There he heaped on him every favor, loaded him with gold and precious stones, gave him splendid steeds and hundreds of attendants, clothed him in the richest apparel, and lodged him in a magnificent palace.

After eight days the giant Safeyd came to Bairâm and said, "I shall now leave you for eight days. I must go to my brother's wedding. You, however, will remain here. But take this key, which will admit you into an inner garden, which hitherto no one has entered but myself. When you go, go alone, and remember to lock the door again when you return."

So the giant gave the prince the key, and at once set off for the kingdom of his brother.

That very evening Bairâm went to the garden, which surpassed all he had ever imagined. There stood within it a wonderful pavilion of jasper, set with precious stones. Fountains played on all sides, and the trees, instead of fruit, were laden with rubies, emeralds, and sapphires. Sitting down, he watched the fountains throwing up golden spray and the reflections mirrored in the beautiful pools.

Just then four milk-white doves flew onto a tree, and then settled in the shape of four fairies by the edge of a tank of clear crystal water. Their beauty seemed to dazzle his eyes.

Having unrobed, they entered the water and began to bathe. And as they were bathing, one of the said to the others, "I have had a dream, and by my dream I can tell that one of us shall be parted from the rest."

They then stepped one by one out of the water and began to dress. But the most beautiful fairy of all could not find her clothes. Meanwhile, the others, having finished dressing, turned once more into milk-white doves and flew away, the fourth fairy, whose name was Ghulâb Bâno, exclaiming as she bade them farewell, "It is my kismet. Some different destiny awaits me here, and we shall never meet again."

She then looked towards the steps and saw the prince. At once her heart escaped from her body, and she fell in love with him.

Now, it was the prince himself who had stolen the fairy's clothes and hidden them, and, as he knew that if she recovered them she would change into a milk-white dove again, he now brought out another suit, and she clothed herself, and the two lovers remained in the garden.

When eight days had passed, the giant Safeyd returned once more to his house. And when Bairâm saw the huge chains which encircled his waist he began to tremble with fear, but the giant reassured him saying, "Fear not. Are you not master of all I possess?" And he ordered music to play and dancing girls to assemble in numbers to beguile and cheer his spirits, but they were all invisible.

"To you see them?" asked the giant.

"No," answered the prince. "I see nothing, but I hear the music and the tinkling of anklets."

"I will give you some of King Solomon's antimony," said the giant. "Touch your eyes with it."

And when Prince Bairâm had touch his eyes with King Solomon's antimony he saw the whole place filled with troops of exquisite damsels, dancing to the music of viol and drum.

Now, the beautiful fairy whom the prince had captured in the garden was one of the wives of the giant, and the giant knew all that had passed. But his love for Bairâm was so great that he said to him, "Take not only Ghulâb Bâno, but all I possess you can take as well."

One day the fairy grew sad and said, "Give me leave to visit my father and mother and to return."

So the prince brought out her fairy clothes, and she changed into a milk-white dove, and away she flew. But her parents, when they heard the news, were angry that she had married a mortal, and they imprisoned her in a gloomy subterranean city. Therefore she did not return. And as time went on, and still she came not, Prince Bairâm began to pine and droop from sorrow, and for his sake, too, the giant grew sad and melancholy.

At last the prince cried, "I must follow her, and never come back till I find her."

"Are you quite resolved to go?" asked the giant.

"I can no longer live," said he, "without her."

Then the giant gave him three things: his invisible cap, some of King Solomon's antimony, and one of his own hairs. So the prince set out, and after many days he came to the subterranean city. But because it was all in darkness, and he could not see his way, he rubbed his eyes with the antimony, which made everything plain and clear before him.

Then he inquired, and found that the fairy Ghulâb Bâno was imprisoned in a lofty tower of one hundred iron doors. And when he found himself before the tower he put on his magic cap, which rendered him invisible, and which also compelled all the doors to fly wide open. He then entered, and when he saw the fairy princess he took off his cap and rushed into her arms, and with her he remained for many days.

A woman can never keep a secret. It was not long before Ghulâb Bâno began to whisper to some of her favorite maids, and to tell her intimate friends the good fortune which had smiled on her in the midst of her banishment. Then the news spread until it reached the ears of her father. He collected his giants together, and, going to the tower, they found the prince with the princess.

They were horrified, and cried, "Come, let us kill him!"

Immediately the prince awoke, and, seeing his peril, he put on his magic cap, which made him invisible. Then he took the giant Safeyd's hair, and held it in the flame of the lamp. And as the smoke rose a thousand squadrons of giants at once assembled. There was a great battle. The enemy were routed, and the enraged father compelled to surrender his daughter toPrince Bairâm. After this Safeyd and the prince and the fairy returned in triumph to their beautiful home.

By and by, when some years had now elapsed, the prince began to long for his own kingdom; and his longing grew so great that at last he determined to go. The giant became very sad, but on account of his love for him he allowed him leave.

Then Ghulâb Bâno changed herself into an enormous bird, and the prince mounted between her wings, and in a moment they alighted close to the capital. There the prince disguised himself as a poor fakir, while his wife became a milk-white dove. Then he entered the city and called on his old nurse, who at once recognized him, and told him that his vizier had seized the kingdom and was reigning in his stead.

"And where are my wives?" asked Bairâm.

"Three of your wives," answered she, "he took to be his wives; but the fourth defied him, and because of her fidelity he imprisoned her in a pit. There a son was born, and there the mother and the babe still remain, and he feeds them with the leavings of his hounds."

For a time the prince lodged with his nurse, the fairy having resumed her own shape, but one day when he was out, news was taken to the false king that a woman surpassing in beauty all the women of the earth had been seen at the house of the old woman.

So the false king rushed to the spot, seized Ghulâb Bâno by the arm, and cried, "Come along with me!"

"O king," answered she, "let me first go in and change my clothes."

So she left him waiting at the door, but having entered her chamber, she put on her fairy suit, and, at once changing into a milk-white dove, flew out of the window, and sped far away, but the false king went back to the palace vexed and defeated.

When Bairâm returned, the first thing he said was, "Where is my wife?"

"She has gone to the vizier's," said the old woman. "He came and carried her off."

So the prince took out the giant's hair and held it again in the flame, when instantly there rushed to his help thousands of giants with clubs and swords, and the city was taken, the vizier and the three false wives were slaughtered, while the faithful wife was delivered from the pit and restored to the palace as queen once more.

With her Prince Bairâm lived for some time, being always kind and good to her; but he sighed for the fairy princess, who had flown back to her father's house and had never returned. By degrees his melancholy increased more and more, until, becoming mad he wandered about the city and the palace and the forest, seeking in vain for his lost love.

Meanwhile the giant Safeyd grew melancholy also, and at last he could bear his grief no longer. So he set out for the kingdom of his friend Bairâm, and, having found him, he carried him away and restored him again to his fairy queen.

With her he recovered his health, and his whole after-life was spent in happiness and delight, sometimes with Ghulâb Bâno among the mountains of Kôh Kâf, and sometimes with his faithful wife in the capital of his own kingdom. But at last he left his wife for good and never returned again.


* Source: Charles Swynnerton, Indian Nights' Entertainment; or, Folk-Tales from the Upper Indus (London: Elliot Stock, 1892), no. 82, pp. 342-347.




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