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

No. 13.--The Watchmaker

There was once a poor lad. He took the road, went to find himself a master. He met a priest on the road. Where are you going, my lad?'

'I am going to find myself a master.'

'Mine's the very place for you, my lad, for I've another lad like you, and I have six oxen and a plough. Do you enter my service and plough all this field.'

The lad arose, and took the plough and the oxen, and went into the fields and ploughed two days. Luck 1 and the Ogre came to him. And the Ogre said to Luck, 'Go for him.' Luck didn't want to go for him; only the Ogre went. When the Ogre went for him, he laid himself down on his back, and unlaced his boots, and took to flight across the plain.

The other lad shouted after him, 'Don't go, brother; don't go, brother.'

'Bah! God blast your plough and you as well.'

Then he came to a city of the size of Bucharest. Presently he arrived at a watchmaker's shop. And he leaned his elbows on the shop-board and watched the prentices at their work. Then one of them asked him, 'Why do you sit there hungry?'

'He said, 'Because I like to watch you working.'

p. 54

Then the master came out and said, 'Here, my lad, I will hire you for three years, and will show you all that I am master of. For a year and a day,' he continued, 'you will have nothing to do but chop wood, and feed the oven fire, and sit with your elbows on the table, and watch the prentices at their work.'

Now the watchmaker had had a clock of the emperor's fifteen years, and no one could be found to repair it; he had fetched watchmakers from Paris and Vienna, and not one of them had managed it. The time came when the emperor offered the half of his kingdom to whoso should repair it; one and all they failed. The clock had twenty-four tunes in it. And as it played, the emperor grew young again. Easter Sunday came; and the watchmaker went to church with his prentices. Only the old wife and the lad stayed behind. The lad chopped the wood up quickly, and went back to the table that they did their work at. He never touched one of the little watches, but he took the big clock, and set it on the table. He took out two of its pipes, and cleaned them, and put them back in their place; then the four-and-twenty tunes began to play, and the clock to go. Then the lad hid himself for fear; and all the people came out of the church when they heard the tunes playing.

The watchmaker, too, came home, and said, 'Mother, who did me this kindness, and repaired the clock?'

His mother said, 'Only the lad, dear, went near the table.'

And he sought him and found him sitting in the stable. He took him in his arms: 'My lad, you were my master, and I never knew it, but set you to chop wood on Easter Day.' Then he sent for three tailors, and they made him three fine suits of clothes. Next day he ordered a carriage with four fine horses; and he took the clock in his arms, and went off to the emperor. The emperor, when he heard it, came down from his throne, and took his clock in his arms and grew young. Then he said to the watchmaker, 'Bring me him who mended the clock.'

He said, 'I mended it.'

'Don't tell me it was you. Go and bring me him who mended it.'

He went then and brought the lad.

The emperor said, 'Go, give the watchmaker three purses

p. 55

of ducats; but the lad you shall have no more, for I mean to give him ten thousand ducats a year, just to stay here and mind the clock and repair it when it goes wrong.'

So the lad dwelt there thirteen years.

The emperor had a grown-up daughter, and he proposed to find a husband for her. She wrote a letter, and gave it to her father. And what did she put in the letter? She put this: 'Father, I am minded to feign to be dumb; and whoso is able to make me speak, I will be his.'

Then the emperor made a proclamation throughout the world: 'He who is able to make my daughter speak shall get her to wife; and whoso fails him will I kill.'

Then many suitors came, but not one of them made her speak. And the emperor killed them all, and by and by no one more came.

Now the lad, the watchmaker, went to the emperor, and said, 'Emperor, let me also go to the maiden, to see if I cannot make her speak.'

'Well, this is how it stands, my lad. Haven't you seen the proclamation on the table, how I have sworn to kill whoever fails to make her speak?'

'Well, kill me also, Emperor, if I too fail.'

'In that case, go to her.'

The lad dressed himself bravely, and went into her chamber. She was sewing at her frame. When the lad entered, he said, 'Good-day, you rogue.'

Thank you, watchmaker. Well, sit you down since you have come, and take a bite.'

'Well, all right, you rogue.'

He only was speaking. 1 Then he tarried no longer, but came out and said, 'Good-night, rogue.'

'Farewell, watchmaker.'

Next evening the emperor summoned him, to kill him. But the lad said, 'Let me go one more night.' Then the lad went again, and said, 'Good-evening, rogue.'

'Welcome, watchmaker. And since you have come, brother, pray sit down to table.'

Only he spoke, so at last he said, 'Good-night, rogue.'

p. 56

'Farewell, watchmaker.'

Next night the emperor summoned him. 'I must kill you now, for you have reached your allotted term.'

Then said the lad, 'Do you know, emperor, that there is thrice forgiveness for a man?'

'Then go to-night, too.'

Then the lad went that night, and said, 'How do you do, rogue?'

'Thank you, watchmaker. Since you have come, sit at table.'

'So I will, rogue. And see you this knife in my hand? I mean to cut you in pieces if you will not answer my question.' And why should I not answer it, watchmaker?'

'Well, rogue, know you the princess?'

'And how should I not know her?'

'And the three princes, know you them?'

'I know them, watchmaker.'

'Well and good, if you know them. The three brothers had an intrigue with the princess. They knew not that the three had to do with her. But what did the maiden? She knew they were brothers. The eldest came at nightfall, and she set him down to table and he ate. Then she lay with him and shut him up in a chamber. The middle one came at midnight, and she lay with him also and shut him up in another chamber. And that same night came the youngest, and she lay with him too. Then at daybreak she let them all out, and they sprang to slay one another, the three brothers. The maiden said, "Hold, brothers, do not slay one another, but go home and take each of you to himself ten thousand ducats, and go into three cities; and his I will become who brings me the finest piece of workmanship." So the eldest journeyed to Bucharest, and there found a beautiful mirror. Now look you what kind of mirror it was. "Here, merchant, 1 what is the price of your mirror?" "Ten thousand ducats, my lad." "Indeed, is that not very dear, brother?" "But mark you what kind of mirror it is. You look in it and you can see both the dead and the living therein." Now let's have a look at the middle brother. He went to another city and found a robe. "You, merchant, what is the price of this robe?" "Ten thousand ducats, my son."'

p. 57

'What are you talking about, watchmaker? A robe cost ten thousand ducats!' 1

'But look you, you rogue, what sort of robe it is. For when you step on it, it will carry you whither you will. So you may fancy he cries "Done!" Meanwhile the youngest also arrived in a city and found a Jew, and bought an apple from him. And the apple was such that when a dead man ate it he revived. He took it and came to his brothers. And when they were all come home they saw their sweet-heart dead. And they gave her the apple to eat and she arose. And whom then did she choose? She chose the youngest. What do you say?'

And the emperor's daughter spoke. And the watchmaker took her to wife. And they made a marriage.

This story, though well enough told, is very defective. Of course, by rights the eldest brother looks in his mirror, and sees the princess dead or about to die; then the middle brother transports the three of them on his travelling robe; and only then can the youngest brother make use of his apple of life. 'The Watchmaker' is a corrupt version of The Golden Casket' in Geldart's Folk-lore of Modern Greece, pp. 106-125, which should be carefully compared with it, to render it intelligible. Compare also Clouston's chapter on The Four Clever Brothers' (i. 277-288), where he cites with others a Sanskrit version, and Grimm's No. 129 (ii. 165, 428). Apropos of the magic mirror here, and of the telescope in European folk-tales, Burton has this note on the ivory tube bought by Prince Ali in the Arabian tale of 'Prince Ahmad and the Peri Bánú':--'The origin of the lens and its applied use to the telescope and the microscope "are lost" (as the Castle guides of Edinburgh say) "in the gloom of antiquity." Well-ground glasses have been discovered amongst the finds in Egypt and Assyria; indeed, much of the finer work of the primeval artist could not have been done without such aid. In Europe the "spy-glass" appears first in the Opus Majus of the learned Roger Bacon (circa A.D. 1270); and his "optic tube" (whence his saying, "All things are known by perspective") chiefly contributed to make his widespread fame as a wizard. The telescope was popularised by Galileo, who, as mostly happens, carried off and still keeps amongst the vulgar all the honours of the invention.' With the travelling robe compare the saddle in the Polish-Gypsy 'Tale of a Girl who was sold to the Devil' (No. 46) and the wings in the Bukowina-Gypsy 'Winged Hero' (No. 26); and with the apple of life, which occurs also in the Icelandic version of this story, the other-world apple in the Roumanian-Gypsy 'Bad Mother' (No. 8). See also Clouston on 'Prince Ahmad' in his Variants of Sir R. F. Burton's Supplemental Arabian Nights, pp. 600-616.


53:1 The Roumanian-Gypsy word is Baht, which in one form or another (bakht, bahi, bok, bachí, etc.) occurs in every Gypsy dialect--Turkish, Russian, Scandinavian, German, English, Spanish, etc., and which Pott derives from the Sanskrit (ii. 398-9). But the curious point is that in Dozon's Contes Albanais (1881), p. 60, we get 'Va trouver ma Fortune,' and a footnote explains, 'Fortune, en turc bakht, espèce de génie protecteur.' Paspati, again, in his Turkish-Gypsy vocabulary (1870), p. 155, gives--'Bakht, n. f. fortune, sort, hasard. . . . Les Grecs et les Turcs se servent très souvent du même mot'; and Miklosich, too, cites the Modern Greek μπάκτι (Ueber die Mundarten, vii. 14). The occurrence of this Gypsy word as a loan-word in Modern Greek and Turkish is suggestive of a profound influence of the Gypsies on the folklore of the Balkan Peninsula. Bakht, fortune, is also good Persian.

55:1 This is a little puzzling, but it must mean that all the speeches seemingly by the princess were really made by the watchmaker--that he maintained the dialogue.

56:1 Lit. Greek.

57:1 This is the first real remark on the part of the princess, who, woman-like, cannot stand a stupid male remark about the price of a dress.

Next: No. 14.--The Red King and the Witch