Georgian Folk Tales, by Marjory Wardrop , at sacred-texts.com
THERE was once a king who had great possessions, but his wife had no children, and he was a prey to grief.
One day when he was very melancholy a courtier came to him and said: 'Most mighty monarch! thou hast no son, and thou givest no gifts; what will thy subjects think of thee? What wilt thou do with this wealth stored up by thee?' The king took these words to heart; the next day he gave a great feast, and scattered alms lavishly.
From no one knows where there appeared at that time an old woman. She came to the king and said: 'What wilt thou give me if I bring thee a son?' The king replied: 'Whatever thou askest of me, that will I give thee.' The old woman drew forth from her pocket an apple, which she cut in three and gave to the king, saying, 'Let thy wife eat this, and she will have three children; but, remember, I shall come back in seven years and thou must
give me thy youngest son.' The king consented, gave his wife the apple, and she ate it.
Some time passed, and the queen bore three sons, and the youngest was the most beautiful of all. The king could not bear to think that he must give him up. He said to himself: 'I shall put him behind nine locks, and when the old woman comes, I shall tell her that my youngest son is dead, but that she can take the two elder if she wishes.'
After seven years the old woman came, and demanded of the king his youngest son. He did just as he had planned. He locked up his youngest son behind nine locks, and said to the old woman: 'My youngest son is dead, but here are the other two, take them.' The old woman would not believe him. She searched every corner of the palace, opened the nine locks, and took away the young prince. She went homeward, and took him with her.
When they had gone a little way, they came to a brook where they found an old woman washing dirty linen. When she saw the beautiful prince she called him back, and said sadly to him: 'Dost thou know thou art being led into misfortune? Why dost thou go with that witch? Thou certainly canst not escape alive from her hands!' When the prince heard this, he went to the witch and said: 'Let me go and have a word with this old woman. I shall overtake thee in a minute.' The witch let him go.
The prince went back to his own home, filled a cup with water, and placed it near the fire. Having done this, he said: 'When that water changes to blood, I shall be dead, but as long as it is pure I shall be alive.' Then he went away, quickly overtook the witch, and they went on together.
At last they arrived in a dark ravine; the home of the
witch was there in a rocky cave. In the house she had three daughters and two horses--one for herself and one for her daughters. The old woman went in, entrusted the prince to her daughters' care, and fell asleep.
Now this old witch had a habit of sleeping for seven days and nights, and it was impossible to rouse her.
When her daughters saw the prince they admired him very much, and said: 'It is a shame that so handsome a boy should be destroyed! Come, our mother shall not have him to eat; we must help him to escape in some way.' 'We will!' cried the sisters; and they thought of a plan of escape.
The eldest sister gave him her comb, and said: 'When my mother overtakes thee, throw this behind thee and hasten on; a thick forest will spring up between thee and my mother, who will have difficulty in passing through it.'
The second sister gave him a pair of scissors, and said: 'When my mother overtakes thee, throw these scissors behind thee--jagged rocks, hard as adamant, will rise between thee and my mother, who will have difficulty in crossing them, but hasten thou on.'
The youngest sister gave him a lump of salt, and said: 'When my mother overtakes thee, throw this behind thee--between you will roll a sea, which my mother will never cross.' Then they carefully saddled their own steed, gave the youth everything he wanted, and sent him away. He thanked them heartily and set out.
Seven days passed. The witch awoke, and looked for her dinner, but it was no longer there. She went to her steed and enquired of it, 'Shall we eat bread or shall we set out at once?' 'Whether we eat bread or not we cannot overtake him,' said the steed to the witch. She did
not abandon her intention, but, having eaten bread, mounted her horse and set off in pursuit of the prince.
After riding some distance she overtook him. The prince looked back, and, seeing the old woman approach, drew the comb from his pocket and threw it down behind him. Between them, there rose a forest so thick that even a fly could not go through it. The old woman was annoyed and hindered, but at last, in some way or other, she passed through it.
When she reached the open country she spurred her horse on with might and main, and again approached the prince, who looked behind and saw the old woman. He took the scissors from his pocket, and threw them down. Between them appeared a jagged rock, hard as steel, so that no iron could cut it; the horse cut its feet, and, not being able to go any further, fell down; yet the old woman would not give in. She jumped from the horse's back and went forward on foot. She passed the rocks, reached the plain again, and hastened on.
She flew over the ground as if she had wings. The prince looked back, and saw how near the old woman was. He took the piece of salt from his pocket, and threw it behind him. There flowed between them a sea so vast that no bird could cross it. The old woman was not daunted, even by this, she waded into the sea, determined to cross it, but she was drowned.
The prince often looked behind, but he could no longer see the old woman. Then his heart was filled with joy, and he went on gaily. He himself knew not whither he went. He grew hungry and more hungry, until he was ravenous.
At last he saw a fire: he went up, and there was burning
a huge fire, over which hung a kettle of arrack, and food cooking; around it lay nine devis, who were brothers. They were fast asleep, but there was a lame one watching as sentinel. The prince did not wait to ask leave of the devis; he came up, lifted the pot off the fire, took some food, and when he had eaten, put the pot back. He then lay down and began to snore loudly. The lame devi looked on with amazement from a distance.
A short time afterwards a devi awoke. He looked round and saw a human being sleeping there. He said joyfully: 'This will be a dainty morsel for us,' and went towards the boy. But the lame devi followed him and said: 'Leave him alone, lay not a hand upon him; he is to be feared--just now he took our pot from the fire, ate some food, and placed it on the fire again; he has done alone what is difficult for us ten.' The devi thought better of it, and turned away.
A second devi then rose and did the same, but the lame devi prevented him. As each devi awoke he went to the boy, but the lame devi took care of them.
When all the devis were roused and had begun to eat, the prince woke up too. He came to the devis and asked them to swear brotherhood. The devis said: 'Who art thou, who art so courageous? What brought thee here?' The prince answered: 'I was hungry, I saw the fire and I came to the fire.' Then the devis said: 'Very well, if thou wishest us to swear brotherhood with thee, first go till thou findest cross roads, there a maiden spreads out a handkerchief; if thou seizest this handkerchief and bringest it here, we shall swear brotherhood with thee; if thou failest, thou art none of us. Many have tried to take this handkerchief, but the maiden always kills them.' The devis
thought that the prince would be killed too, and that they would thus get rid of him.
The prince set out and came to the cross roads, and, behold, a beautiful maiden flew down; a handkerchief was spread out in front of her, and hid her from his eyes. The prince came up and seized the handkerchief, but just as he was going away, the maiden attacked him. The prince was victorious in the fight. After the combat a golden slipper was left in the prince's hand.
He came to the devis with the handkerchief, and gave them the golden slipper, saying: 'Go to the town, change this for money, and bring it home.'
The devis sent the lame devi with the golden slipper. When he reached the town he met a merchant, to whom he showed the slipper. The merchant complained and said: 'My wife had golden slippers, thou must have stolen this one.' The devi said that they had found the slipper--he swore, but the merchant would not believe him. He took the slipper, and locked up the lame devi.
For a long time the other devis waited for their lame brother; they watched, but no lame devi was to be seen. Then they sent the ninth brother to seek him. When he arrived in the town where the devi had gone to exchange the golden slipper, he enquired after his lame brother. Hearing him ask for a lame devi, they said: 'This must be an accomplice of the thief,' and they locked him up too.
The remaining devis waited for their ninth brother, and when they saw that he did not come, the eighth was sent, but he also was taken; then the seventh, sixth, fifth, fourth, third, second, and at last the first devi went, but none of them returned.
The prince said to himself: 'What can have happened
to these devis? I will go and seek them, and perchance find out what misfortune has overtaken them.' So he arose and went forth.
The merchant heard some one was again asking for the lame devi, and wished to entrap him, but the prince said: 'If I do not find the neighbour to the golden slipper, thou mayst call us liars, and do what thou wilt to the devis and me; but if I find it thou hast lied, and we shall do what we wish to thee.' 'Agreed!' said the merchant, and the prince went forth to seek the other golden slipper.
He travelled far, and came at last to a kingdom by the seashore. This kingdom was ruled by a maiden, fair as the sun. Whoever came to that kingdom to sell wheat was met by the maiden, who cast the wheat and its owner into the sea, and there was no escape.
When the prince heard of this, he said to himself: 'I shall bring wheat to this country, and see what the fair one can do.' He went for the wheat, and filled a boat with grain, seated himself in another boat, and set out for the kingdom. On nearing the shore there appeared, from no one knows where, a beautiful damsel. She stretched out her hand, and was about to sink the grain, when the prince struck the boat with his foot and upset it. Then he seized the maiden's hand and drew her towards him. She, seeing that she was outwitted, pulled with all her might, and escaped from his hands, but left her rings behind her.
Thus was the maiden defeated. After this, whoever wished to bring wheat brought it, and there was plenty in that kingdom.
The people of the country fell down and kissed the knees of the prince, saying: 'We beseech thee, be our king.' But he would not, and replied: 'I am come on
other business, I wish for nothing but to find a certain slipper,' and he told his tale. The slipper could not be found, so he arose and left that land.
He went on again and came into another country. Here he learnt that a beautiful maiden had killed the king's son, who was buried in a vault. Every night the maiden came there and beat him with twigs. When she did this he came back to life, they supped together, and passed the time merrily until morning, when she again beat him with twigs. Then he became a corpse, and she flew away.
When the prince heard this tale, he went to aid the unfortunate youth. He entered the tomb and waited. Behold, a lovely damsel flew down, took twigs from her pocket, and beat the king's son until he came back to life; they supped and made merry until morning. As she was about to beat the youth and kill him again, the prince snatched the twigs from her hand; so the king's son lived. Then the prince took him away, and led him to his father.
Here, too, the prince was offered the throne, but he did not wish to be king. 'If I could find a certain golden slipper, I should be happy,' said he; 'I must go forth and seek it.' And he set forth on his quest again.
When he had gone some way, he came to a wide plain. He presently saw a beautiful house, and said to himself: 'I wonder who lives there,' and he went on towards the house. On the way he saw an Arab feeding some mules, and said: 'Canst thou tell me whose house that is, brother?' The Arab looked round about and replied: 'Shall I swallow thee head first or feet first?' 'I asked thee about the house, why wilt thou not answer?' said the prince. Again the Arab stared round and said: Shall I swallow thee by the head or by the feet?' 'As to the
matter of swallowing, I shall soon show thee what I shall do,' said the prince, giving the Arab such a blow that it sent him over nine mountains. Then he struck the mules, and went to the house.
He wandered all round it, and was much delighted with its appearance. Then he went inside through a window, and visited every room. In one of these he saw a golden throne, and on it were golden slippers like the one he sought. He said to himself: 'Perhaps this is the house of the fair damsel who gave me the slipper. I shall wait and see what happens.' He sat under the throne and waited.
Soon after, there flew in a beautiful maiden, then another, yet a third, and at last the Arab. They sat down to eat. In the twinkling of an eye the Arab laid the cloth for the sisters, and whatever heart or soul could wish was spread upon it.
After a short time the eldest sister took wine and said: 'May God grant long life to the youth who took from me the handkerchief and the golden slipper.' She drank, and put the bowl down.
Then the second sister took it and said: 'Long life to the youth who snatched the rings from my hand, and gave wheat to a kingdom.' She drank, and put the bowl down.
Then the youngest sister took it and said: 'Long life to the youth who took the twigs from my hand, and restored life to a prince.' She drank, and put the bowl down.
At last the Arab took the wine and said: 'Long life to the youth who gave me a blow, and sent me over nine mountains.' He drank, and put the bowl down.
Then the prince appeared from under the throne, took the wine and said: 'I have also toasts to propose. May God grant long life to the maiden from whom I took the
handkerchief.' He took from his pocket the handkerchief and gave it to the eldest sister. 'May God grant long life to the maiden from whom I took the rings,' and he gave the rings to the second sister. May God grant long life to the maiden from whom I took the twigs.' He returned the twigs to the youngest sister, and turning to the Arab, he said: 'May God grant long life to the Arab whom I struck and sent over nine mountains.' He drank, and put down the bowl.
Then the three sisters jumped up and said: 'He will marry me.' 'No! me.' And they began to quarrel. The prince said: 'Wherefore quarrel one with another? I shall wed the youngest sister, since I am the youngest of three brothers, and you elder shall wed my elder brothers.' The maidens asked him: 'What is the object of thy journey hither?' 'To seek for the other golden slipper, and lo! I have found it here,' answered the prince. 'Because of this slipper, nine brothers, devis, are imprisoned in a certain town, and if I return without it, I, too, shall be imprisoned to-day with them.' 'This slipper is thine, and as many more as thou wishest, take them with thee, seat thyself on the Arab's back, and in three hours thou wilt be in the town,' said the sisters.
The prince did as they told him. He filled a bag with golden slippers, sat on the Arab's back, and in three hours he was in the town.
The devis rejoiced greatly. They called the merchant, and he brought slippers. He took one by one his own slippers, but, behold, not one of them would fit the golden slipper. Then, when the prince produced his bagful of golden slippers, the merchant was proved a liar.
The prince gave the merchant into the hands of the devis,
and said: 'Do to him what ye please, sell all his possessions, but I must go at once on my way.' When the devis heard this, they begged him to stay with them. But he would not consent.
The prince came to the three beautiful sisters, and married the youngest. The sisters gave the Arab a saddle bag in which was everything for the journey, placed in his hand a tree, and said: 'Go to the kingdom of the prince's father, and when thou art near the palace, in such and such a place, plant this tree. It will turn into a great plane tree, and underneath, a beautiful stream will flow; there, on the banks of the stream, lay the cloth, and prepare everything for our coming.'
The Arab did everything as he was commanded. Then the maidens came. Every man and woman in the kingdom heard of this, and went out to look at them. The parents were mourning for their long-lost son.
The cup of water had not changed to blood, but they had given up all hope of finding him. At last they could stand it no longer, and they too went to see the maidens.
When the prince saw his mother and father approach, he feigned surprise, and asked why they mourned. They answered that they had lost a son, and therefore they mourned. The prince said: 'I am your long-lost son.' The king and queen rejoiced, and took him home. They prepared such a wedding that the roof of the palace resounded with merriment.