As there are many in the world, and as we are many of us, there was a mother who had a son. They were very poor. The son wished to go off somewhere, in order to
better himself, (he said); that it was not living to live like that. The mother was sorry; but what could she do? In order that her son may be better off, she lets him go. He goes then, travelling on, and on, and on. In a forest he meets with a gentleman, who asks him where be is going. He tells him that, wishing to better himself, he had gone away from home to do something. This gentleman asks him if he is willing to be his servant. He replies, "Yes." They go off then together, and come to a beautiful place. After having entered, the gentleman gives him all the keys of the house, saying that he has a journey he must make, and that he must see the whole house--that he will find in it everything he wants to eat, and to take care of the horses in the stable. The gentleman goes away as soon as he had seen all the house and the stable. There were a lot of horses there, and in the midst of them all a white mare, 1 who said to him,
"Ay! ay! Fidel, save me, I pray you, from here, and get me outside. You will not be sorry for it."
Fidel stops at the place whence this voice came. A moment after, the white mare says to him,
"Come near the white mare; it is she who is speaking to you."
Fidel goes up to her, and says to her that he cannot let her go--that the master has not given him any other work to do (than to take care of the horses), and that he certainly will not do any such thing. The mare said to him,
"Go and fetch a saucepan, and when I shall have filled it with water, you will wash your hands and your head."
Fidel does as the mare told him, and is quite astonished at seeing his hands shine, and he says to her that he does not wish to have them like that, but that, as to his head, he
could hide it. 1 The mare told him to wash his hands in the water, and that they would become again as they were before.
The time goes on, and the time returns. A long time had passed, and the master had never returned. And one day the mare said to him,
"Fidel, do you know how long you have been here?"
He says to her, "I don't know at all--six months, perhaps?"
The mare says to him, "Six years have passed, and if the master arrives when seven years shall have passed, you will be enchanted--you, too, as we all are here--and the master is a devil."
After that he heard that, Fidel is frightened, and he says to himself that it would be better to do what the white mare had said--to get on her back, and both to escape from there. They go off then, both of them. When they had gone some little distance, the mare asks him if he sees anything behind him.
He says, "Yes," that he sees something terrible, but in the clouds; but that it is something terrific. 2 The mare gives the earth a kick with her foot, and says to it,
"Earth, with thy power form a dense, terrible fog where he is."
They go on again, and the mare says again--
"Look back again, if you see anything."
Fidel says to her, "Yes, I see again this terrible thing; it is coming after us quickly, and is going to catch us."
The mare at the same time says again to the earth, in striking it with her foot,
"Let it hail stones, and hail there where he is as much as can possibly fall."
They go on. The mare says again,
"Look back, if you see anything."
He says to her again, "He is here, this terrible monster. It is all up with us now--we cannot escape him; he is quite near, and he comes with speed."
The mare strikes the earth with her foot, and says to it--
"Form before him a river, and let him drown himself there for evermore."
He sees him drown himself there. The mare says to him,
"Now you shall go to such a spot. The king lives there. You will ask if they want a gardener, and they will tell you 'Yes.' You will stay there without doing anything, and the work will do itself by itself, without your doing anything. Every day three beautiful flowers will come up in this garden. You will carry them to the three daughters of the king, but you will always give the finest to the youngest." 1
It was the custom to carry the dinner to the gardener, but it was the youngest of the daughters who carried it to him. From the first day the gardener pleased the young lady, and she said to him one day that he must marry her. The lad said to her that that cannot be, that she ought not to think of marrying with a person of low birth and who has nothing, and that she must not dream any such dreams. This young lady falls ill. The father sends for the doctor, who says, after having touched her pulse, that she is ill of love; and the doctor goes to tell it to the king. The father goes to the young lady and tells her what the physician has said to him--that she is not so very ill. The daughter says to him:
"In order to cure me you must send and fetch the gardener. Let him give me some broth and I shall be cured."
The father sends to fetch him directly, has him washed and properly dressed, and makes him carry the broth. There was among the court an old, old nurse; she was a
witch, and as she knew what the physician had said, she goes and hides herself in the young lady's bedroom before the gardener came there, in order to know what the young lady would say to him. The young lady said to him:
"Yes, and you shall marry me; I will not marry anybody else but you, whatever you may say."
The lad said to her. "No, no, I will not hear that mentioned."
The nurse had heard all that had passed, and she goes and tells it immediately to the king. The young lady was cured, and goes to carry the dinner to Fidel. Fidel had a habit of always giving the first spoonful of the soup to the dog. He gives it him that day too, and as soon as the dog has eaten it he falls stark dead. When the young lady saw that she goes and tells it to her father. The father sends for a big dog, and gives him some of the soup, and as soon as he has eaten it he falls dead. Judge of the anger of that young lady. She goes and takes this old witch and has her burnt. She goes to look for Fidel in a little house which was at the bottom of the garden, and she sees his head bare. 1 It was shining like the sun, and she entirely lost her own head for it, and she said to him, that he must marry her. As she left him no peace, her father said to her:
"If you will marry him, do so; but I will not give you anything. You must go and live in a corner of the mountain with your husband; there is a house there, and there you must stop. You may come only one day a week to see me."
That was all the same to this young lady, (and they are married), and go off there. As the king had given her no money, when Fidel's hair grew she went from time to time to the goldsmiths, who said to her that they had not money enough belonging to them to pay for the gold that she brought them. And they lived there very happily.
One day Fidel heard that the king was engaged in a great war, and he told his wife to go to her father and tell him that he too wished to go to this war. This young lady goes to tell her father her husband's commission. Her father says to her:
"What is the use of a young man like that who has never killed anything but mole-crickets? Let him stop at home."
His daughter says to him: "At least he is your son-in-law!"
The father then says to her: "He may come on such a day."
Fidel goes as they had told him. He asks the king for a horse and a sword. The king gives him a horse blind and lame. Fidel was not pleased with it. He begins his march, wishing to get on as quickly as possible, but when he had gone a little distance, the horse sticks in the mud, and cannot in any way get out of it. While he is there, the white mare comes to him. She gives him a beautiful horse, and a lance and a sword, and tells him that he will see his brothers-in-law encamped round a city, but not to stop there with them, but to ride straight to the city; that the gates will be shut, but as soon as he shall have touched them with his lance they will be broken to pieces, and that they will make peace with him. He does as she told him, and starts off on his horse like the lightning, without paying the slightest attention to his brothers-in-law. He goes up to the city, and as soon as he has touched the gates with his sword they are in pieces. He enters the city, and all the world comes out and makes him a thousand fêtes. They declare that they wish for no more war. They give him the key of the treasury and all the papers, and he retires from there with all the honours, When he returns he tells his brothers-in-law to retire--that the war is finished. They go back again. He stops at the place where he had left his old horse in the mud. He sends away his beautiful horse with all his things, and Fidel stops there, not being able to drag his old horse out of the mud. When his brothers-in-law
pass, they mock at him (and ask him) if it is there that he has passed all his time. He tells them, "Yes." The others go on ahead, and at length he also arrives at the king's house. He leaves his old horse there and goes off home. He does not tell his wife what has happened, and they live in their hole.
The king was getting old, and he had entirely lost his sight. Somebody gave him to understand that there was a water which made people young again, and another which restored sight. He told his sons-in-law that they must go (and look for it)--that he could not live long like that. And both of them start off. Their wives, at starting, had given each a golden apple. 1 They go far away; but they find nothing. Tired at last, they stop in a beautiful city. They take each of them a wife, and they live according to their fancy. When Fidel saw that his brothers-in-law did not arrive, he said to his wife that he must go off; perhaps he might be able better to find the waters, which his father wanted. He goes off without saying anything to the king, and travels on, and on, and on.
He meets an old woman, who says to him, "Where are you going to?" He tells her how he wants a water which gives sight to the blind and makes the old young, 2 and that he would not go back home without finding it. This old woman says to him:
"You will see two animals fighting close to you, and you will gather the herb which makes the dead to live; you will have it boiled, and you will keep this water for yourself."
This lad goes on a little farther, and he sees two lizards fighting so fiercely that one kills the other. The one who was left alive takes a blade of grass and touches the dead and rekindles his life. 3 Fidel gathers this grass, and goes
off to this old woman. The old woman gives him two bottles, telling him that the one is for giving sight to the blind, and the other for making old men young; that he must not sell these waters for money, but must make an exchange of them for two golden apples which his brothers-in-law have in this very city, and that it is to them that he must give this water.
Fidel goes into the city, and as soon as he has entered, he cries:
"Who wishes to buy the water that gives sight to the blind, and the water which makes old men young?"
His two brothers-in-law appear, and say that they must have some of this water, and ask what it costs. And he tells them that he does not sell it, but only gives it in exchange for golden apples. These gentlemen willingly make the exchange. But they wish to make trial of it directly; they bring an old blind dog, and immediately he grows young again. Judge how pleased they were with their water of power. They set off to the king, and this water makes him become very young and gives him sight. The king wishes to have great rejoicings, and invites all his friends in the neighbourhood. Fidel arrives at home, and says nothing to his wife. When he hears that the king is going to have rejoicings, he sends his wife to ask the king if he would not like them to go there too; that they would help, one in cutting the wood, and the other in serving at table. She did not wish to go there at all. She told her husband that she would a hundred times sooner stop at home; but her husband sends her off by force, (saying) that they ought to be there on that day. She goes, then, the poor woman, against her wish. She asks her father if he does not want some one to help on the feast day. The father says, "No!"--they have servants enough. An old general who was sitting by his side said to him:
"Why do you not let them come?"
Then the king said, "Come then on such a day."
Fidel and his wife go. While they are at breakfast the
old general asks Fidel if he also does not know something to relate? He replies "Yes," that he knows some (stories), but more than one would not be pleased with what he would tell. Then the king says, placing his sword upon the table:
"The point of my sword shall know news of the heart of him who shall speak."
Fidel begins then, how he went to the war with an old horse, blind and lame, but that in spite of that he had carried off the keys of the treasure and the papers. The king says to him that he has not seen them yet--that he is still expecting them. Fidel takes out the papers and gives them to the king. He gives also the keys of the treasury. The king assures himself that they are the real ones. He then narrates how he has sold in exchange for two golden apples that precious water. At this instant his wife rises and says to him:
"Where have you these golden apples--you?"
As it is she who has spoken the first words, Fidel takes up the king's sword and strikes his wife dead. 1 The king was grieved to see that, but Fidel says to him:
"Do not disturb yourself for that; as I have taken away her life I will give it her again."
He takes out his water which rekindles dead men, and rubs some on her temple, and she suddenly returns to life. Everyone is astounded at this great deed, and at all that he has already done. The king tells him that he has already gained the crown, but that he must be cured of this terrible scab 2 first. His wife rises, takes off his kerchief which he had upon his head, and shows the shining head of her husband, saying:
"See, this is the scab of my husband
The king says that the crown will shine much better on his head. He goes to fetch it, and places it upon this precious head. He banishes his sons-in-law with his two daughters to the same desert place where Fidel formerly lived. And Fidel and his wife lived much richer than the king was. His precious head gave him this power; and as they lived well they died well too.
112:1 Cf. the horse in Naaké's "Slavonic Fairy Tales," "Ivan Kruchina" (from the Russian), p. 117, and "the dun shaggy filly," in Campbell's "The Young King of Easaidh Ruadh," Vol. I., p. 5, and elsewhere; also the horse in the "Uso-Andre," and "The Unknown Animal," below. Campbell, Vol. I., p. 63, remarks that the horses in Gaelic stories are always feminine; but they are red as well as grey.
113:1 In this, and the following tale, Ezkabi's golden hair is evidently like "Diarmaid's" beauty spot. "He used to keep his cap always down on the beauty-spot; for any woman that might chance to see it, she would be in love with him."--Campbell's "Diarmaid and Grainne," Vol. III., p. 39, notes and variations.
113:2 Compare the following legend, and "Old Deccan Days" ("Truth's Triumph"), pp. 62, 63.
114:1 Cf. above, "The Grateful Tartaro and the Heren-Suge," .
115:1 Cf. note, supra, p. 113, and Grainne seeing Diarmaid as he lifts his cap or helmet, These beauty-spots seem to be the counterpart of Aphrodite's cestus.
117:1 Cf. the two golden pears in the Spanish "Juanillo el Loco," Patrañas, p. 38, given in exchange for the same water.
117:2 Cf. below, "The Singing Tree," etc., p. 176.
117:3 Cf. "Old Deccan Days," p. 139; and Cox, "Aryan Mythology," Vol. I., p. 160, seq.
119:1 Cf. below, p. 156.
119:2 The word "Ezkabi" is "the scab;" he either really had it, as in the next version, or was supposed to have it from keeping his head covered, as in this. In both cases the hair is most beautiful, precious, golden, and love-compelling.