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Cinder Jack

Source: The Folk-tales Of The Magyars

A peasant had three sons. One morning he sent out the eldest to guard
the vineyard. The lad went, and was cheerfully eating a cake he had
taken with him, when a frog crept up to him, and asked him to let it
have some of his cake. "Anything else?" asked the lad angrily, and
picked up a stone to drive the frog away. The frog left without a word,
and the lad soon fell asleep, and, on awaking, found the whole vineyard
laid waste. The next day the father sent his second son into the
vineyard, but he fared like the first.

The father was very angry about it, and did not know what to do;
whereupon his youngest son spoke up, who was always sitting in a corner
amongst the ashes, and was not thought fit for anything, and whom for
this reason they nicknamed Cinder Jack. "My father, send me out, and I
will take care of the vineyard." His father and his brothers laughed at
him, but they allowed him to have a trial; so Cinder Jack went to the
vineyard, and, taking out his cake, began to eat it. The frog again
appeared, and asked for a piece of cake, which was given to him at once.
Having finished their breakfast, the frog gave the lad a copper, a
silver, and a gold rod; and told him, that three horses would appear
shortly, of copper, silver, and gold, and they would try to trample down
the vineyard; but, if he beat them with the rods he had given him they
would at once become tame, and be his servants, and could at any time be
summoned to carry out his orders. It happened as the frog foretold; and
the vineyard produced a rich vintage. But Cinder Jack never told his
master or his brothers how he had been able to preserve the vineyard; in
fact, he concealed all, and again spent his time as usual, lying about
in his favourite corner.

One Sunday the king had a high fir pole erected in front of the church,
and a golden rosemary tied to the top, and promised his daughter to him
who should be able to take it down in one jump on horseback. All the
knights of the realm tried their fortune, but not one of them was able
to jump high enough. But all of a sudden a knight clad in copper mail,
on a copper horse, appeared with his visor down, and snatched the
rosemary with an easy jump, and quickly disappeared. When his two
brothers got home they told Cinder Jack what had happened, and he
remarked, that he saw the whole proceeding much better, and on being
asked "Where from?" his answer was, "From the top of the hoarding." His
brothers had the hoarding pulled down at once, so that their younger
brother might not look on any more. Next Sunday a still higher pole,
with a golden apple at the top, was set up; and whosoever wished to
marry the king's daughter had to take the apple down. Again, hundreds
upon hundreds tried, but all in vain; till, at last, a knight in silver
mail, on a silver horse, took it, and disappeared. Cinder Jack again
told his brothers that he saw the festivities much better than they did;
he saw them, he said, from the pig-stye; so this was pulled down also.
The third Sunday a silk kerchief interwoven with gold was displayed at
the top of a still higher fir pole, and, as nobody succeeded in getting
it, a knight in gold mail, on a gold horse, appeared; snatched it down,
and galloped off. Cinder Jack again told his brothers that he saw all
from the top of the house; and his envious brothers had the roof of the
house taken off, so that the youngest brother might not look on again.

The king now had it announced that the knight who had shown himself
worthy of his daughter should report himself, and should bring with him
the gold rosemary, the apple, and the silk kerchief; but no one came. So
the king ordered every man in the realm to appear before him, and still
the knight in question could not be found; till, at last, he arrived
clad in gold mail on a gold charger; whereupon the bells were at once
rung, and hundreds and hundreds of cannons fired. The knight, having
handed to the princess the golden rosemary, the apple, and the kerchief,
respectfully demanded her hand, and, having obtained it, lifted his
visor, and the populace, to their great astonishment, recognised Cinder
Jack, whom they had even forgotten to ask to the king's presence. The
good-hearted lad had his brothers' house rebuilt, and gave them presents
as well. He took his father to his house, as the old king died soon
after. Cinder Jack is reigning still, and is respected and honoured by
all his subjects!

Next: The Three Brothers

Previous: The Three Princesses

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