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Gypsy Folk Tales, by Francis Hindes Groome, [1899], at

No. 9.--The Mother's Chastisement

There was an emperor's son, and he went to hunt. And he departed from the hunters by himself. And by a certain stack there was a maiden. He passed near the stack, and heard her lamenting. He took that maiden, and brought her home.

'See, mother, what I've found.'

His mother took her to the kitchen to the cook to bring her up. She brought her up twelve years. The empress dressed her nicely, and put her in the palace to lay the table. The prince loved her, for she was so fair that in all the world there was none so fair as she. The prince loved her three years, and the empress knew it not.

Once he said, 'I will take a wife, mother.'

'From what imperial family?'

'I wish to marry her who lays the table.'

'Not her, mother's darling!'

'If I don't take her, I shall die.'

'Take her.'

And he took her; he married her. And an order came for him to go to battle. He left her big with child.

The empress called two servants. 'Take her into the forest and kill her, and bring me her heart and little finger.'

They put her in the carriage, and drove her into the forest; after them ran a whelp. And they brought her into the forest, and were going to kill her, and she said, 'Kill me not, for I have used you well.'

'How are we to take her the heart, then?'

'Kill the whelp, for its heart is just like a human one, and cut off my little finger.'

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They killed the whelp, and cut off her little finger, and took out the whelp's heart.

And she cried, 'Gather wood for me, and make me a fire; and strip off bark for me, and build me a hut.'

They built her a hut, and made her a fire, and went away home, bringing the heart and the little finger.

She brought forth a son. God and St. Peter came and baptized him; 1 and God gave him a gun that he should become a hunter. Whatever he saw he would kill with the gun. And God gave him the name Silvester. And God made a house of the hut, and the fire no longer died. And God gave them a certain loaf; they were always eating, and it was never finished.

The boy grew big, and he took his gun in his hand, and went into the forest. And what he saw he killed, carried to his mother, and they ate. Walking in the forest, he came upon the dragons' palace, and sat before the door. At mid-day the dragons were coming home. He saw them from afar, eleven (sic) in number; and eleven he shot with his gun, and one he merely stunned. And he took them, and carried them into the palace, and shut them up in a room; and he went to his mother, and said, 'Come with me, mother.'

'Where am I to go to, mother's darling?'

'Come with me, where I take you to.'

He went with her to the palace. 'Take to thee, mother, twelve keys. Go into any room you choose, but into this room do not go.'

He went into the forest to hunt.

She said, 'Why did my son tell me not to go in here? But I will go to see what is there.'

She opened the door.

The dragon asked her, 'If thou art a virgin, be my sister; but if thou art a wife, be my wife.'

'I am a wife.'

'Then be my wife.'

'I will; but will you do the right thing by me?'

'I will.'

'Swear, then.'

I swear.'

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The dragon swore. The dragon said to her, 'Swear also thou.'

She also swore. They kissed one another on the mouth. She brought him to her into the house; they drank and ate, and loved one another.

Her son came from the forest. She saw him. She said, 'My son is coming; go back into the room.'

He went back, and she shut him in.

In the morning her son went again into the forest to hunt. She admitted the dragon again to her. They drank and ate. He said to her, 'How shall we kill your son? Then we'll live finely. Make yourself ill, and say that you have seen a dream, that he must bring milk from the she-bear for you to drink. Then you'll have nothing to trouble you, for the she-bear will devour him.'

He came home from the forest. 'What's the matter with you, mother?'

'I shall die, but I saw a dream. Bring me milk from the she-bear.'

'I'll bring it you, mother.'

He went into the forest, and found the she-bear. He was going to shoot her.

She cried, 'Stop, man. What do you want?'

'You to give me milk.'

She said, 'I will give it you. Have you a pail?'

'I have.'

'Come and milk.'

He milked her, and brought it to his mother.

'Here, mother.'

She pretended to drink, but poured it forth.

In the morning he went again into the forest, and met the Moon. 'Who art thou?'

'I am the Moon.'

'Be a sister to me.'

'But who art thou?'

'I am Silvester.'

'Then thou art God's godson, for God takes care of thee. I also am God's.'

'Be a sister to me.'

'I will be a sister to thee.'

He went further; he met Friday. 'Who art thou?'

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'I am Friday, but who art thou?'

'I am Silvester.'

'Thou art God's godson; I also am God's.'

'Be a sister to me.'

He went home. His mother saw him. 'My son is coming.'

'Send him to the wild sow to bring thee milk, for she will devour him.'

'Always sick, mother?'

'I am. I have seen a dream. Bring me milk from the wild sow.'

I know not whether or no I shall bring it, but I will try.'

He went; he found the sow; he was going to shoot her with his gun. She cried, 'Don't, don't shoot me. What do you want?'

'Give me milk.'

'Have you a pail? come and milk.'

He brought it to his mother. She pretended to drink, but poured it forth. He went again into the forest.

She admitted the dragon to her. 'In vain, for the sow has not devoured him.'

'Then send him to the Mountains of Blood, that butt at one another like rams, to bring thee water, the water of life and the water of healing. If he does not die there, he never will.'

'I have seen a dream, that you bring me water from the Mountains of Blood, which butt at one another like rams, for then there will be nothing the matter with me.'

He went to the Moon.

'Whither away, brother?'

'I am going to the mountains to fetch water for my mother.'

'Don't go, brother; you will die there.'

'Bah! I will go there.'

'Take thee my horse when thou goest, for my horse will carry thee thither. And take thee a watch, for they butt at one another from morning till noon, and at noon they rest for two hours. So when you come there at the twelfth hour, draw water in two pails from the two wells.'

He came thither at mid-day, and dismounted, and drew water in two pails, the water of life and the water of healing. And he came back to the Moon; and the Moon said, 'Lie down and sleep, and rest, for you are worn out.'

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She hid that water, and poured in other.

He arose. 'Come, sister, I will depart home.'

'Take my horse, and go riding. Take the saddle-bags.'

He went home to his mother. His mother saw him coming on horseback, and said to the dragon, 'My son is coming on horseback.'

Tell him that you have seen a dream, that you bind his fingers behind his back with a silken cord; and that if he can burst it he will become a hero, and you will grow strong.'

'Bind away, mother.'

She made a thick silken cord, and bound his fingers behind his back. He tugged, and grew red in the face; he tugged again, he grew blue; he tugged the third time, he grew black.

And she cried, 'Come, dragon, and cut his throat.'

The dragon came to him. 'Well, what shall I do to you now?'

'Cut me all in bits, and put me in the saddle-bags, and place me on my horse. Thither, whence he carried me living, let him carry me dead.'

He cut him in pieces, put him in the saddle-bags, and placed him on the horse. 'Go, whence thou didst carry him living, carry him dead.'

The horse went straight to the Moon. The Moon came out, and saw him, and took him in, and called Wednesday, and called Friday; and they laid him in a big trough, and washed him bravely, and placed him on a table, and put him all together, bit by bit; and they took the water of healing, and sprinkled him, and he became whole; and they took the water of life, and sprinkled him, and he came to life.

'Ah! I was sleeping soundly.' 1

'You would have slept for ever if I had not come.'

'I will go, sister, to my mother.'

'Go not, brother.'

'Bah! I will.'

'Well, go, and God be with thee. Take thee my sword.'

He went to his mother. His mother was singing and dancing with the dragon. He went in to the dragon. 'Good day to you both.'

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'Come, what shall I do to you, dragon?'

'Cut me in little pieces, and put me in the saddle-bags, and place me on my horse. Whence he carried me living, let him carry me also dead.'

He cut him in little pieces, put him in the saddle-bags, placed him on his horse, and dug out the horse's eyes. 'Go whither thou wilt.'

Away went the horse, and kept knocking his head against the trees; and the pieces of flesh kept falling from the saddle-bags. The crows kept eating the flesh.

Silvester shot a hare, and skinned it, and spitted it, and roasted it at the fire. And he said to his mother, 'Mother, look straight at me.'

His mother looked at him. He struck her in the eyes, and her eyes leapt out of her head. And he took her by the hand, led her to a jar, said to her, 'Mother, when thou hast filled this jar with tears, then God pardon thee; and when thou hast eaten a bundle of hay, and filled the jar with tears, then God pardon thee, and restore thee thine eyes.'

And he bound her there, and departed, and left her three years. In three years she came back to his recollection. 'I will go to my mother, and see what she is doing.'

Now she has filled the jar, and eaten the bundle of hay.

'Now may God pardon thee; now I also pardon thee. Depart, and God be with thee.'

A third Gypsy version, from Hungary, the first half of Friedrich Müller's No. 5, may be summarised thus:--Two children, driven from home by mother, wander thirty-five years, and come to a forest so dense the birds cannot fly through it. They come to a castle so high they cannot see the top of it. Twelve robbers dwell here. Lad kills eleven as they come home, but only wounds the twelfth. He goes forth to hunt, spares lives of twelve wild animals, and brings them home. The sister meanwhile has restored the twelve robbers to life. She suggests that her brother shall have a warm bath (cf. De Gubernatis' Zool. Myth. i. 213), saying that thereby their father had been so healthy. In the bath she binds his hands and feet. She summons twelve robbers. They permit him to play his father's air on his pipe; it calls up the twelve animals. They rend the robbers, and loose the lad, who packs his sister into the great empty jar (here first mentioned), and leaves her to die of hunger.

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This last is a poorly-told story; still, not without its features of interest. It will be noticed that in it, as in many non-Gypsy variants, the dragons are rationalised into robbers (sometimes blackamoors). Of the Roumanian and the Bukowina Gypsy versions the former seems to me the better on the whole. The opening of the Bukowina version cannot properly belong to the story, for it arouses an interest in the mother, who yet turns out a bad lot. 1 Its close, however, is decidedly superior. What a picture is that of the mother and the dragon singing and dancing, and what a one that of the blinded horse and the crows! In both versions there is the same omission--the inquiry into the seat of the hero's strength; and in the Bukowina one no use is made of the milk from the she-bear and the wild sow, nor are we told of the hero's first meeting with Wednesday. Plainly the Roumanian version is not derived from the Bukowina one, nor the Bukowina one from the Roumanian; but they point to an unknown, more perfect original. Even as they stand, however, both are better than any of the non-Gypsy variants known to me. These include five from Hahn's Greek collection (i. 176, 215; ii. 234, 279, 283); one in Roumanian Fairy Tales, by E. B. M. (Loud. 1884, pp. 81-89), resembling the Hungarian-Gypsy version; three German and one Lithuanian, cited by Hahn (ii. 236); one Russian, summarised by Ralston (p. 235); the well-known 'Blue Belt' in Dasent's Tales from the Norse (p. 178); and Laura Gonzenbach's No. 26, 'Vom tapfern Königssohn' (Sicil. Mär. i. 158-167), where the hero is cut in pieces by his supposed stepfather, the robber-chieftain, packed into a saddle-bag, and carried by his ass to a hermit, who revives him, after which the story drifts off into our No. 45.

I have annotated the Gypsy stories very fully; my notes cover several pages. Here, however, it must suffice to indicate some of the more striking parallels from non-Gypsy sources. In Hahn, i. 267, God gives a house to a woman abandoned in a forest (cf. also i. 73; ii. 26). For the heart and little finger, a very common incident, compare the English-Gypsy story of 'Bobby Rag' (No. 51), and Hahn, i. 258 and ii. 231. In Grimm, No. 111, a hunter gives the hero a gun which never misses. For the formula, 'If thou art a virgin,' etc., cf. Ralston, pp. 75-76. For the mountains that butt together, cf. Ralston, p. 236; Tylor's Primitive Culture, pp. 313-316; Hahn, ii. 46-47; and Grimm, No. 97. For the water of healing and the water of life, cf. Ralston, pp. 17, 91, 230, 255. For 'Ah! I was sleeping soundly,' cf. Ralston, pp. 91-92; Hahn, ii. 274; and our No. 29. In Campbell's Santal Folk-tales, p. 92, a father, restored to life, says, 'O my son, what a lengthened sleep

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[paragraph continues] I have had!' For the sow biting off half of the horse's tail, cf. Hahn, i. 312; Krauss, ii. 94; Ralston, p. 235; and Burns's 'Tam o’ Shanter.' For the leaves beginning to scream, cf. Hahn, i. 270 and ii. 171. In a variant from Afanasief, vi. 52, cited by De Gubernatis (Z.M., i. 215), the sister for punishment is placed near some hay and some water, and a vessel which she is to fill with her tears. It is just worth noting that Silvester is a common English-Gypsy name.


30:1 See note on No. 6, 'God's Godson.'

33:1 Baldpate makes the same remark in No. 2, p. 8, but the conventional answer is wanting there.

35:1 So I had written; but I have since read Maive Stokes' story of 'The Demon conquered by the King's Son' (Indian Fairy Tales, No. 24, pp. 173 and 288). Here it is the demon step-mother, who, pretending her eyes are bad, sends the hero to fetch tigress's milk, an eagle's feather, night-growing rice and water from the Glittering Well. He speaks, however, of her as his 'mother.' e.g. on p. 180. Compare 'The Son of Seven Mothers' in F. A. Steel's Indian Wide-awake Stories, pp. 98-110, and Knowles' Folk-tales of Kashmir, pp. 1 and 42.

Next: No. 10.--The Three Princesses and the Unclean Spirit