Gypsy Folk Tales, by Francis Hindes Groome, , at sacred-texts.com
A gentleman had three daughters. They went one day to a pond to bathe. There came a dragon, and carried them off. He hurried with them to a rocky cave. There they remained twelve years, without their father seeing them again or knowing where they were. There was a sly-boots called Bruntslikos. He went to the girls' father, and told him he would do his best to find his daughters. The father promised him one of them to wife, if he could find them. He took the road, and stayed seven years away; then he demanded a horse of the girls' father. He mounted it, and rode a whole year through the forest. At last he came to a tavern; two fellows there asked him where he was going to. He told them that he was going in search of three maidens.. They offered to go with him. 'Good,' he thought, 'three will make merrier company.'
As they went through the forest, the horse stamped his foot against the entrance to the dragon's cave, and pawed against it. Then Bruntslikos knew that those he was seeking were there. It was a great cavity in the rock. He left the two comrades on the brink above, and made them lower him by a rope to fetch up one of the maidens. He said he must fetch her at any cost. When he came down, she sat alone in the house; the dragon has gone to hunt hares.
When he came to her, she asked, 'How comest thou here, my beloved? Here must thou lose thy life.'
'I have no fear,' he answered.
'Never a bird comes flying here,' she said, but thou hast come.' 1
'I will see, though,' she thought, 'what sort of a hero he is,' and bade him brandish a sword; but he could not so much as raise it from the ground. But there was wine there. She made him drink thereof; straightway he felt himself stronger. And she bade him now lift the sword; he fell to so cutting and thrusting with it in the air that he now no more dreaded the dragon.
'Now I am strong,' he said, 'I will soon help thee out of here.'
'God grant thou may,' she said, 'then will I be thy bride.'
She gave him a golden ring, which she cut in half; the one half she gave to him, kept the other herself.
Then came the dragon home. When he still was fourteen miles off, he flung a hammer there, weighing nearly fifteen hundredweight. When he came, he said to his wife, 'I smell human flesh.'
She said, 'Dear husband, but how could that be? How could it get here? Hither comes never a bird. How could human flesh get here?'
'But I feel,' he said, 'that a man's here. Don't talk nonsense.' And he came nearer, and called, 'Brother-in-law!'
But Bruntslikos was hidden beneath a trough. After the dragon had called him thrice, he sprang out, faced him, and cried, 'What wilt thou of me? I fear thee not.'
The dragon answered, 'What need to tell me thou fearest me not? I will soon put thy strength to the test.'
Leaden dumplings were served up for the dragon's dinner, and he invited Bruntslikos to partake. 'I don't care for such dumplings,' said Bruntslikos, 'but give me wine to drink, and I'm your man.'
When they had drunk their fill, the dragon challenged Bruntslikos to wrestle with him; straightway he faced the dragon. The dragon drove him into the earth to the waist, then drew him out again. In the second bout Bruntslikos drove the dragon into the earth to the neck, then grasped the sword and began to cut off his heads (he had twelve). Bruntslikos struck them all off; only the middle one he could not sever. Then said the maiden, 'One smashing blow on it, and he will die at once.' So he killed him, and straight-way the dragon was turned to pitch. But he took all the
tongues out of his heads, and put them in his pocket. Then he collected all the money that was there, put his bride in a basket and himself as well. And the two comrades had been waiting for him above, and, when he called, they drew him up with his bride. But when he was up with her, the two fellows began to quarrel over the maiden; she was so fair, they wanted her for wife.
But he said, 'There still remain two more maidens; of them you can take your choice.'
'I,' she said, 'will never desert Bruntslikos; he shall be my husband. We have plighted ourselves to all eternity, for he has saved my life.'
Then they went to seek the other dragon 1 in the cavern. He had fifteen heads, and was three times as strong as the first. The maiden whom this dragon had carried off showed Bruntslikos a sword, twice as heavy as the first. He could just move it, but not lift it clear off the earth. But she gave him wine to drink, and then he was straightway stronger. She too had greeted Bruntslikos, when he came, with the words, 'How comest thou here, my beloved? Here must thou lose thy life, for my husband will kill thee.'
But he said, 'To fetch thee am I come. Thy sister dear have I already fetched, and thee too I must help out of here.'
'God grant thou may,' she said, 'then would I be thy bride.'
'I have one already,' he said, 'thy sister; but all the more readily will I help thee out.'
Then came the dragon. He was still fifty miles away when he flung a hammer there weighing fifty hundred-weight. When he was come, he said, 'I smell human flesh here.'
'But, dear husband, how couldst thou smell human flesh? Never even a bird comes hither, and yet thou wilt be scenting a mortal.'
'Don't talk nonsense,' said he; and cried, 'Brother-in-law! Why comest thou not out? What is it thou wilt of me? I fear thee not.'
Thrice he thus called him, but he would not answer. But at last he said to him, 'I fear thee not. I must slay thee.'
'Come, if thou art so strong that thou wilt kill me,' answered the dragon, ' then let us wrestle.'
They wrestled, and the dragon drove him into the earth to the waist. They settled that the dragon should draw him out again. He seized the dragon, and drove him into the earth to the neck. Then he grasped the sword, and cut off his fifteen heads; only the middle one held so firm that he could not sever it.
But the princess told him, 'Just one blow right on the head, and he will die at once.'
When he had killed him, he plucked out all his tongues, and then had himself drawn up and the maiden. So now there were two sisters up, and now they went for the third. The third dragon had twenty-four heads. When Bruntslikos had served him like the other two, he helped the third maiden also out. But when the three maidens were out, his two comrades threw him into a well, for they wished not to give him the credit of that achievement, but rather themselves to vaunt at home that they had slain the dragons.
But Bruntslikos had covenanted with his bride that if he did not come within eight years, she should take a husband. So the eighth year came: she had chosen another man, and was celebrating the marriage. Then came Bruntslikos dressed like a beggar, so she knew him not, and felt no shame for her conduct. But he asked her for wine. When she gave him such, he threw as he drank that half of the ring into the glass, then offered it her. When she drank, her lips came against it. When she noticed it, she threw her half of the ring into the glass, and it straightway united with the other. Forthwith she fell to kissing him, for she recognised he was her lover. The marriage she straightway broke off, and plighted herself to him. When now he flung the dragons' tongues on the table, the gentlemen cried, 'Hurrah! That's it! that's the real thing!' at the sight of the tongues.
So, if they are not dead, they are living together.
This is a sort of compound of the Roumanian-Gypsy story of The Three Princesses and the Unclean Spirit' (No. 10), and of the Bukowina-Gypsy story, 'Mare's Son' (No. 20). The ring episode occurs in 'Made over to the Devil' (No. 34). For the hiding under the trough and the thrice-repeated challenge, cf. Wratislaw's Croatian story of The Daughter of the King of the Vilas ' (p. 278), and for the leaden dumplings his Hungarian-Slovenish story of The Three Lemons' (p. 65). Cf. also notes to 'An Old King and his Three Sons' (No. 55).
151:1 Cf. Hahn, i. 186 and ii. 52.
153:1 Now first mentioned. The whole story is confused.