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

No. 27.--Tropsyn

There was a poor man, and he had four sons. And they went out to service, and went to a gentleman to thrash wheat. And they received so much wheat for a wage, and brought it to their father. 'Here, father, eat; we will go out to service again.' And they went again to a gentleman, who was to. give them each a horse at the year's end. And the youngest was called Tropsyn; and the gentleman made him his groom. And a mare brought forth a colt; and that colt said, 'Tropsyn, take me. The year is up now.'

The gentleman said, 'Choose your horses.'

So the three elder brothers chose good horses; but Tropsyn said, 'Give me this horse, master.'

'What will you do with it? it's so little.'

'So it may be.'

Tropsyn took it and departed; and the colt said, 'Let me go, Tropsyn, to my dam to suck.'

And he let it go, and it went to its dam, and came back a horse to terrify the world.

'Now mount me.'

He mounted, and the horse flew. He caught up his brothers, and his brothers asked him, 'Where did you get that horse from?'

'I killed a gentleman, and took his horse.'

'Let's push on, and escape.'

Night fell upon them as they were passing a meadow, and in that meadow they saw the light of a fire. They made for the light. It was an old woman's, and she was a witch, and had four daughters. And they went there, and went into the house; and Tropsyn said, 'Good-night.'

'Thank you.'

'Can you give us a night's lodging?'

'I'm not sure; my mother is not at home. When she comes you had better ask her.'

The mother came home. 'What are you wanting, young fellows?'

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'We've come to demand your daughters in marriage.'


She made them a bed on the ground with its head to the threshold, and her daughters' with its head to the wall. And the old woman sharpened her sword to cut off their heads. And Tropsyn took his brothers' caps, and put them on the girls' heads. And the old woman arose, and kept feeling the caps, and keeps cutting off the heads, and killed her daughters.

Tropsyn arose, and led his brothers outside. 'Come, be off.' And he arose, Tropsyn; and the old woman had a golden bird in a cage; and Tropsyn said to the horse, 'I will take a feather of the bird.'

And the horse said, 'Don't.'

'Bah! I will.' And he took a feather, and put it in his pocket.

And they mounted their horses and rode away, and went to a city. There was a great lord, a count; and he asked them, 'Where are you going?'

'We are going to service.'

'Take service with me, then.'

And that lord was still unmarried. And they went to him, and he gave them each a place. One he set over the horses, and one he set over the oxen, and one he set over the swine; and Tropsyn he made coachman. Of a night Tropsyn stuck the feather in the wall, and it shone like a candle. And his brothers were angry, and went to their master. 'Master, Tropsyn has a feather, such that one needs no candle--of gold.'

The master called: 'Tropsyn, come here, bring me the feather.'

Tropsyn brought it, and gave it to his master. The master liked him better than ever, and the brothers went to the master, and said to him, 'Master, Tropsyn has said that he'll bring the bird alive.'

The master called Tropsyn. 'Tropsyn, bring me the bird. If you don't, I shall cut off your head.'

He went to his horse. 'What am I to do, horse, for the master has told me to bring the bird?'

'Fear not, Tropsyn; jump on my back.'

So he mounted the horse, and rode to the old woman's.

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[paragraph continues] And the horse said to him, 'Turn a somersault, 1 and you'll become a flea, and creep into her breast and bite her. And she'll fling off her smock, and do you go and take the bird.'

And he took the bird, and departed to his master; the master made him a lackey.

And there was in the Danube a lady, a virgin; and of a Sunday she would go out on the water in a boat. And his brothers came to their master and said, 'Master, Tropsyn boasts that he'll bring the lady from the bottom of the Danube.'

'Tropsyn, come here. What is this you've been boasting, that you'll bring me the lady?'

'I didn't.'

'You've got to, else I shall cut off your head.'

He went to his horse. 'What am I to do, horse, for how shall I bring her?'

And the horse said, 'Fear not, let him give you twelve hides and a jar of pitch, 2 and put them on me, and let him make you a small ship, not big, and let him put various drinks in the ship. And do you hide yourself behind the door. And she will come, and drink brandy, and get drunk, and sleep. And do you seize her, and jump on my back with her, and I will run off home.'

The horse ran home to the master, and Tropsyn gave her to his master in the castle. The count shut the doors, and set a watch at the window to prevent her escape, for she was wild. The count wanted to marry her; she will not.

Let them bring my herd of horses, then I will marry you. He who brought me, let him bring also my horses.'

The count said, 'Tropsyn, bring the horses.'

Tropsyn went to his horse. 'What am I to do, horse? How shall I bring the horses from the Danube?'

'Come with me, fear not.'

When he came to the Danube, the horse leapt into the Danube, and caught the mother of the horses by the mane, and led her out. And Tropsyn caught her, and mounted her, and galloped off. And the whole herd came forth, and ran after their dam home to the count's palace. The lady cried ' Halt!' to the horses.

The count wants to marry her. She says, 'Let him milk

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my mares, and when you have bathed in their milk, then I will marry you.'

The count cried, 'Tropsyn, milk the mares.'

And Tropsyn went to his horse. 'What shall I do, horse? How shall I milk the mares?'

'Fear not, for I will catch her by the mane, and do you milk, and fear not.'

And he milked a whole caldron full.

And the lady said, 'Make a fire, and boil the milk.'

And they made a fire, and the milk boils.

'Now,' said the lady, 'let him who milked the mares bathe in the milk.'

And the count said, 'Tropsyn, go and bathe in the milk.'

He went to the horse. 'What shall I do, horse? for if I bathe, then I shall die.'

The horse said, 'Fear not, lead me to the caldron; I will snort through my nostrils, and breathe out frost.'

He led the horse; the horse snorted through his nostrils; then the milk became lukewarm. Then he leapt into the caldron, and fair as he was before, he came out fairer still. When he came out, the horse snorted through his nostrils, and breathed fire into the caldron, and the milk boiled again.

And the lady said to the count, 'Go thou too and bathe in the milk, then will I live with thee.'

The count went to the caldron and said, 'Tropsyn, bring me my horse.'

Tropsyn brought him his horse; the horse trembled from afar. The count leapt into the caldron; only bones were to be seen at the bottom of the caldron.

Then cried the lady, 'Come hither, Tropsyn; thou art my lord, and I am thy lady.'

Of this Bukowina-Gypsy story we have a very interesting Welsh-Gypsy version, taken down in Rómani from Matthew Wood's recitation by Mr. Sampson, and thus epitomised by him in English:--


106:1 See footnotes (1, 2) on p. 16.

106:2 No use is made of these. Was the ship to be made of them?

Next: No. 28.--The Beautiful Mountain