Gypsy Folk Tales, by Francis Hindes Groome, , at sacred-texts.com
Once upon a time there was a king who had three sons, two wise and one foolish. This king had an apple-tree which bore golden apples; but every night some one robbed him of these apples. The king inflicted severe punishment on his servants.
One time his eldest son said to him, 'Father, I am going to watch the golden apple-tree, and if I do not catch the thief you shall kill me.'
'Very well; go, then.'
He went to stand guard, but in the night-time a golden bird came and stole a golden apple from the tree.
Next day the king arose, and asked of his son, 'Have you caught the thief?' The king counted the apples on the tree: one of them was missing. 'Well,' said he to his son, 'you shall be put to death.'
The notables of the kingdom, and everybody, prayed that he would pardon him. The king pardoned him.
Then the other brother said to the king, 'Father, I also will go and keep watch; it may be that I shall seize the thief.'
'Very well; then go.'
He made his preparations, and went on guard. The golden bird came once more and stole an apple from the tree.
Next day the king arose and asked of his son, 'Have you caught the thief?'
'No, father, I have not caught him, for he has escaped me.'
'Did you see him, then?'
'Yes, I saw him.'
'Well, then, how was he able to escape you? You shall be killed.'
Then the queen and all the nobles entreated him. He pardoned this other son.
The king returned to his house.
Then the third brother, the fool, came to beg him that he would allow him to go and guard the golden apple-tree. 'Father,' said he, 'it must be that I shall catch this thief.'
'Go, then, fool that thou art,' replied the king; 'your wise brothers have kept watch, and could not take him; and you, what will you do, fool?'
'Never mind, father, wise though my brothers may be, they knew not how to secure the thief. I, who am a fool, shall know better than they how to capture him.'
'Very well; then, go. But you shall be put to death if you do not take him.'
'Very well, father, I agree to it that you kill me; but if I do secure the thief, it is I who am to kill you.'
'Very well, I shall not seek to excuse myself.'
He made his preparations. He went to keep watch. He climbed up into the tree to watch there. He stuck a needle into a twig, and leant his chin upon it.
'Whenever I feel sleepy,' said he to himself, 'the needle will prick me, and I shall be aroused.'
Just at daybreak he saw a golden bird come, intending to steal one of the golden apples. He perceived this, and, firing at the bird, knocked out three feathers of gold. These he picked up and kept in his hand.
He got up in the morning and went to his father, who asked him, 'Have you seized the thief? What have you taken from him?'
'I have blown off a piece of his shirt with a musket-shot.'
Then said the king to him, 'Now you may kill me.'
'Father, I grant you your life.'
He showed him the three golden feathers, whereupon his father became blind, so dazzled was he by the terrible gleam.
'What shall we do now, unfortunates that we are?'
The eldest brother said to his father, 'I am going in quest of this bird.'
'Well, go, my son; have a care of me.'
He took plenty of money with him and a beautiful horse. He set out in quest of this bird. He went away far out into the world. Once he saw a fine inn. He went in. He ordered something to eat and drink. He hears, this son of the king, that they are wrangling in the next room. He looks through the keyhole and sees twelve young ladies playing at cards. He gently opens the door a little, and these damsels call to him, 'Come away, sir, and play with us.'
He goes in, and he loses all his money at play. He sells his horse, and loses that money too. He sells his clothes, and still loses. Lastly, he asks these damsels to lend him a hundred florins. They lend them to him, and he loses the hundred florins.
'What shall I do now, pauper that I am?'
These damsels have him arrested and put into prison. For six months he sees no one, this eldest brother.
Then his younger brother made his preparations, and requested his father to let him go in quest of the golden bird.
His father said to him, 'Each of you goes away, and none returns. Very well, go.'
He took even more money than his brother and a finer horse. He set out, and came to the same inn. He makes them serve him with something to eat and drink. He hears people wrangling in the next room. He opens the door a little, and sees twelve damsels playing at cards.
'Come away, sir, and play with us.'
He sits down to play, and loses all his money. He sells his horse for a large sum, which he loses in the same way. He sells his clothes, and loses likewise. Lastly, he borrows a hundred florins from the twelve damsels, and loses them also.
'What shall I do now, pauper that I am?'
These damsels have him arrested and put into prison.
Then the king says, 'See, it is full six months since my two sons set out, and neither of them has returned.'
Then the fool, the youngest brother, wishes to go in quest of this bird. He requests his father to let him go and seek the golden bird.
'Well, go, my boy. Fool though you are, perhaps you
will bring this bird to me sooner than your two wise brothers, who set out and return not.'
So he made his preparations. He set out without money, without anything save two bottles of wine, but he set out with the help of God. After a very long journey he came to a small wood. In this wood he saw a lame hare, which fled away from him. He would have killed this hare, but it besought him, 'Have the fear of God; do not kill me. For I know where you are going, and I will tell it to you.'
'That is well,' replied this foolish prince; and he dismounted from his horse. He drew a fine loaf out of his pocket, and gave it to the hare to eat. For himself, he drank some of his wine, and said to this hare, 'If I gave you wine too, you would certainly not drink any of it?'
'Why should I not drink any of it, my lord?' replied the hare; 'you have only to give me some.'
Well, he gave him some. The hare drank of it, and thanked him courteously. Then the foolish prince asked him, 'What was that you said to me just now?'
'I will tell you that you are going in quest of the golden bird, three of whose feathers you knocked out with a musket-shot. You showed them to your father, who has consequently become blind.'
'Yes, that is so.'
'But listen: there will be various birds; there will be a cage of diamonds, a cage of gold, a cage of silver, and a cage of wood. In the first there will be a diamond bird, in the second a golden bird, in the third a silver bird, and in the fourth a miserable, common bird. Beware of taking one of the birds with a beautiful cage, or it will bring misfortune on you. Now, get on my back, and leave your horse to graze in this forest.'
He mounted the hare, and on arriving at the place where these birds were he dismounted. Then said the hare to him again, 'For God's sake, beware of touching a bird with a beautiful cage, but take the one in a common cage.'
Well, then, he goes in to steal, and he sees that there are three miserable cages. 'Why,' said he, 'should I take one of these, when I can take a bird with a beautiful cage?' He then espied a cage of diamonds with a diamond bird in it.
[paragraph continues] He approached it. He would have taken it, when suddenly these wretched birds uttered a terrible scream. The warders came running up, and secured the prince. Next day the king questioned him, 'Why have you come here?'
'I came, sire, to take the bird that robbed me of the golden apples.'
Listen, then. You shall have that bird provided you do this for me. There is a certain king who has a silver horse. Steal that horse from him and bring it to me, and I will give you the bird.'
The fool came to his hare, and began to lament. The hare said to him, 'Didn't I tell you not to touch the bird in the fine cage, but to take the bird in the common cage? Well, be silent; come with me without mounting me. And listen: there will be beautiful horses of gold and silver. Don't touch them, but take that miserable horse beside the door.'
Well, he went. He sees such beautiful horses, one all gold, the other silver. He looks at them, and says to himself, 'Why should I take that wretched horse, when I can take the golden one?' He tries to mount the golden horse, when they all neigh terribly loud, and he was arrested.
On the morrow the king arose and questioned him, 'What do you want here?'
'I came, sire, to steal your silver horse, because that other king said to me that if I bring him your silver steed, he will give me his golden bird.'
'Well, I will give it to you myself if you will accomplish this feat: Our third king has a daughter with locks of gold. If you will carry her off, and bring her to me, then I will give you my silver steed.'
He came back to his hare. Why, then, won't you do what I tell you?' said the hare to him, and would have beaten him. 'Come, then, with me, but do not get on my back. You will go to where this princess dwells; you will eat with her; you will drink with her; finally, you will sleep with her. Then I shall come during the night and carry you both away.'
Well, he came to where the princess lived. He ate, he
drank, and he slept with her. The hare got up during the night, and carried them both away. They set out, and by the time it was day they had gone a great distance.
'Where am I?' asked the princess.
The hare told her, 'You will be the wife of this prince.' She was quite content to have such a young and hand-some husband.
Then said the foolish prince, 'Well, we have already got the princess with the golden locks, but how are we going to manage to steal the silver steed and the golden bird?'
'Oh!' replied the hare, 'that is my affair, and I shall answer for it.'
They remained, then, in that place, and the hare set out alone. He went to where that king lived, and he stole from him that same wretched horse that was beside the door. He mounted it and came back to the fool. The latter sees such a beautiful silver horse. He is enchanted that the hare had succeeded in stealing it. He mounts the princess on this horse, and they continued their journey with the help of God. They reach the home of the third king, who had the golden bird. The hare stole from him the miserable bird in the wretched cage. (Neither the birds nor the horses uttered a single cry.) The hare returned to the fool. He is perfectly delighted on seeing a golden bird in a golden cage. They go on their way. They set out with the help of God, and they come to that forest where they had left their horse. The prince mounted it.
Before his departure the hare said to him, 'I forbid you to ransom your two brothers from death.' The prince swore that he would not. He and the princess returned thanks to the good hare who had brought them away. They set out and arrived at his father's house. He presents the golden bird to his father, who thereupon recovered his sight. His father is charmed at his son bringing him his wife with the golden locks and a silver steed. He marries her, and lives with her five years.
Once it occurred to this fool that he ought to go in search of his two brothers,
'Do not go, my son,' said his father, 'let God punish them.'
'Permit me to do so, father; I will go and seek them.'
His father objected, but he besought him incessantly, till at last he allowed him to go. He came to a very large town. What does he see there? His two brothers. They were just being led to death. He came to the place, this fool, and he would have ransomed them from death, but the nobles would not have it. He offered an enormous sum, but they would not accept it.
'If you will not, I can but go home.'
He came home, and he said to his father, 'Alas! father, my brothers are now dead.'
'Since they did not obey me,' replied his father, 'it is right that God should punish them.'
This youngest prince dwells with his wife, and they live with the help of the good, golden God.
This opens like a Bulgarian story, 'The Golden Apples and the Nine Peahens,' No. 38 of Wratislaw's Sixty Slavonic Folk-tales, p. 186, also somewhat like the Roumanian-Gypsy tale of 'The Red King and the Witch' (No. 14). Laura Gonzenbach's Sicilian story, No. 51, 'Vom singenden Dudelsack,' may also be compared. But it is essentially identical with our Scottish-Tinker story of 'The Fox' (No. 75), and with Wratislaw's Serbian story of 'The Lame Fox,' No. 40, pp. 205-217, with Grimm's No. 57, 'The Golden Bird' (i. 227, 415), and with Campbell of Islay's No. 46, 'Mac Iain Direach,' on which see Reinhold Köhler in Orient and Occident, ii. 1864, pp. 685-6. Kopernicki's Gypsy story is plainly very defective. The lame hare should first meet the two elder brothers, and his stealing the steed and the bird is as lame as himself. The concluding phrase, 'golden God,' occurs often in Hungarian and in Slovak-Gypsy stories; so I am inclined to question Kopernicki's footnote that '"with the help of God" (or "of the good God"), a phrase frequently occurring in the Polish-Gypsy stories is borrowed from the popular speech of Poland.' Dja Devlésa, 'go with God,' is of constant occurrence in Turkish-Rómani (Paspati, p. 205), and in most, if not all, of the other European Gypsy dialects.