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

No. 64.--The Ten Rabbits

In a little house on the hill lived an old woman with her three sons, the youngest of them a fool. The eldest goes to seek his fortune, and tells his mother to bake him a cake. 'Which will you have--a big one and a curse with it, or a little one and a blessing in it?' He chooses a big cake. He comes to a stile and a beautiful road leading to a castle; he knocks at the castle door, and asks the old gentleman for work. He is sent into a field with the gentleman's rabbits. He eats his food, and refuses to give any to a little old man who asks for some. The rabbits run here and there. He tries to catch them, but fails to recover half of them. The gentleman counts them, and finds some missing, so cuts the eldest brother's head off, and sticks it on a gatepost. The second brother acts in the same way, and meets the same fate. The fool also will seek his fortune. He chooses a little cake with a blessing. His mother sends him with a sieve to get water for her. A robin bids him stop up the holes with leaves and clay. He does so, and brings water. He gets the cake and goes. He sees his two brothers' heads stuck on the gateposts, and stands laughing at them, saying, 'What are you doing there, you two fools?' and throwing stones at them. He enters, dines, and smiles at the old gentleman's daughter, who falls in love with him. He goes to the field, lets the rabbits go, and falls asleep. The rabbits run about here and there. An old man by the well begs food, and Jack shares his food with him. Jack hunts for hedgehogs. He can't get the rabbits back, but the old man gives him a silver whistle. Jack blows, and the rabbits return. The old gentleman counts them, and finds them correct. The girl brings Jack his dinner daily in the field. The old man tells Jack to marry her. He does so, still living as servant in the stable till the old people's death.

p. 258

[paragraph continues] Then he takes over the castle, and brings his mother to live 1 with him.

A very imperfect story, still plainly identical with Dasent's 'Osborn's Pipe' (Tales from the Fjeld, p. 1), where it is hares that Boots has to tend, and an old wife gives him a magic pipe. According to an article in Temple Bar for May 1876, pp. 105-118, the same story is told of the Brussels 'Manneken,' the well-known bronze figure, not quite a metre high, by Duquesnoy (1619). Here a boy has to feed twelve rabbits in the forest, gets a magic whistle from an old woman, befools a fat nobleman, the princess, and the king, and finally marries the princess. In the heads of the two brothers stuck on the gateposts, Mr. Baring-Gould may find a confirmation of his theory that the stone balls surmounting gateposts are a survival of the practice of impaling the heads of one's enemies. Anyhow, in the Roumanian-Gypsy story of 'The Three Princesses and the Unclean Spirit' (No. 10, p. 39), the old wife threatens the hero, 'I will cut off your head and stick it on yonder stake' (cf. also Campbell's West Highland Tales, i. p. 51, line 20). For the big cake with curse or the little cake with blessing, cf. p. 219. The hunting for hedgehogs is a very Gypsy touch.


258:1 I Shuvali Râni is the Rómani title of this story.

Next: No. 65.--The Three Wishes