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Fairy Elizabeth

Source: The Folk-tales Of The Magyars

There was once somewhere, I don't know where, beyond seven times seven
countries, and even beyond them, a poor man who had a wife and three
children. They were awfully poor. One day the eldest son said: "Dear
mother, bake me some ash-cake and let me go into service." His mother at
once baked the cake, and the lad started, and went on and on till he
came to a high snow-clad mountain, where he met a grey-haired man and
greeted him: "May the Lord bless you, my good old father." "The Lord
bless you, my son. What are you after?" asked the old man. "I am going
out to service, if the Lord will help me to some place." "Well, then,
come to me," said the old man, "I will engage you." So they went to the
house of the grey-haired old man, and the very next day they went out
ploughing but they only ploughed up some grass-land, and sowed it with
seed. Now let me tell you, that the old man promised him a bushel of
seed for sowing. Two days passed, and at dawn of the third day the old
man said: "Well, my son, to-day you can go out ploughing for yourself;
get the plough ready, yoke the oxen in, and in the meantime I will get
the bushel of wheat I promised." So the lad put the oxen to the plough
and the old man got the bushel of wheat and placed it on the plough.
They started, the old man accompanying him. Just at the end of the
village he said to the lad: "Well, my son, can you see that place yonder
covered with shrubs? Go there, and plough up as much of it for yourself
as you think will be enough for the bushel of wheat." The lad went, but
was quite alarmed at the sight of the shrubs, and at once lost heart.
"How could he plough there? Why, by the time he had grubbed up the
shrubs alone it would be night." So he ran off home, and left the plough
there, and the oxen then returned of their own accord to the old man's
place--if I may interrupt myself, they were the oxen of a fairy. When
the lad arrived at his father's house, his other brothers asked him:
"What sort of a place have you found?" "What sort of a place!" replied
he, "go yourself, and you will soon find out." The middle son set out,
and just as he was going over the snow-clad mountain he met the old man,
who engaged him on the spot as his servant, and promised him a bushel of
wheat, as he had done before. They went to the old man's home, and he
fared just as his elder brother had done. At dawn on the third day, when
he had to plough for himself, he got frightened at the sight of the vast
number of shrubs, which no human being could have ploughed up in the
stated time. So he went home too, and on his way he met his younger
brother, who asked him: "What sort of a place have you found, my dear
elder brother?" "What sort of a place had I? Get up out of the ashes,
and go yourself, and you will soon find out." Now let me tell you that
this boy was continually sitting among the ashes. He was a lazy,
ne'er-do-weel fellow; but now he got up, and shook the ashes from him
and said: "Well, my mother, bake me a cake also: as my brothers have
tried their fortune let me try mine." But his brothers said: "Oh! you
ash-pan! Supposing you were required to do nothing else but eat, you
would not be good enough even for that." But still he insisted, that his
mother should bake something for him. So his mother set to work and
baked him a cake of some inferior bran, and with this he set out. As he
went over the boundless snow-clad mountain, in the midst of it he met
the old man and greeted him: "The Lord bless you, my old father!" "The
Lord bless you, my son! Where are you going?" "I am going out to
service, if I can find an employer." "Well, you are the very man I want;
I am in search of a servant." And he engaged him on the spot, promising
to make him a present of a bushel of wheat for sowing. They went home
together, and after they had ploughed together for two days, the lad set
out on the third day to plough up the land allotted to him for his own
use: while the youngster was putting the oxen to the plough the old man
got the wheat and placed it on the plough. On the dyke there was a big
dog, who always lay there quietly; but this time he got up, and started
off in front of him. The old man also accompanied him as far as the end
of the village, from whence he showed him where to go ploughing. The
youngster went on with the plough, and soon saw that he was not able to
plough a single furrow, on account of the thick bushes. After
considering what to do, he bethought himself, and took his sharp hatchet
and began to cut down a vast quantity of shrubs and thorns, the dog
carrying them all into a heap. Seeing that he had cut enough, he began
to plough. The two oxen commenced to drag the plough and cut up the
roots in a manner never seen before. After he had turned three times, he
looked round and said: "Well, I'm not going to plough any more, but will
begin to sow, so that I may see how much seed I've got." He sowed the
seed, and noticed that it was just sufficient, and therefore he had to
plough no more. In great joy he set the plough straight and went home.
The old man met him and said: "Well, my son, thanks to the Lord, you
have now finished your year, and in God's name I will let you go. I do
not intend to engage any more servants." Before I forget to tell you, I
may mention it here, that the year had three days then. So the lad went
home, and his brothers asked him: "Well, then, what sort of a place have
you found?" "Well, I believe I've served my master as well as you did."

One day, a year after, he went into the field to look at his wheat crop.
There he saw an old woman reaping some young wheat, so he went home and
said to his father: "Well, my father, do you know what we have to do?
let's go reaping." "Where, my son?" "Well, father, for my last year's
service I had a bushel of wheat given to me for sowing, it has got ripe
by this time, so let us go and reap it." So all four (his father, his
two brothers, and himself) went; when they came to the spot they saw
that it was a magnificent crop, a mass of golden ears from root to top,
ready and ripe; so they all started to work and cut down every head.

They made three stacks of it, each stack having twenty-six sheaves.
"Well my son," said the father, "there are three stacks here and there
are three of you to guard them, so while I go home to hire a cart, guard
them well, so that the birds may not carry away a single stem." The
father went home, and the three sat down (one at the foot of each stack)
to watch them, but the youngest was the most anxious, as it was his own,
and ran to and fro continually to prevent his brothers falling asleep.
Just as he had awakened them and was going back to his own stack he saw
a woodpecker dragging away, by jerks, a golden ear along the ground, so
he ran after it in order to get it back, but just as he was on the point
of catching it the woodpecker flew off further and further, and enticed
him, until at last it got him into the very midst of the boundless
snow-clad mountains. All of a sudden the youngster discovered where he
was, and that it was getting dusk. "Where was he to go? and what was he
to do?" So he thought he would go back to the stacks, but as he had kept
his eye on the woodpecker and the wheat-ear, he had taken no notice of
the surroundings, and knew not which way he had come. So he determined
to climb the highest tree and look round from there: he looked about and
found the highest tree, climbed it, and looked East but saw nought,
South and saw nought: North, and far, very far away he saw a light as
big as a candle; so he came down, and started off in the direction in
which he had seen the light and went straight over ditches, woods,
rocks, and fields till at last he came to a large plain, and there he
found the fire which he had seen before, and lo! it was such a heap of
burning wood that the flames nearly reached heaven: he approached it and
when he drew near the burning heap he saw that a man was lying curled
round the fire, his head resting on his feet, and that he was covered
with a large cloak: then thought the lad, "Shall I lie down inside or
outside of the circle formed by the body of the man?" If he lay outside
he would catch cold; if he lay inside he would be scorched, he thought;
so he crept into the sleeve of the cloak, and there fell asleep. In the
morning when the sun arose, the big man awoke, he yawned wide, and got
up from the fire; as he rose the youngster dropt out of his sleeve on to
the ground: the giant looked at him (because I forgot to tell you it
wasn't a man, it was a giant), and was very much pleased at the sight;
he quickly picked him up, took him into his arms, and carried him into
his palace, (and even there put him into the best room) and put him to
bed, covered him up well, and crept out of the room on tiptoe lest he
should wake him. When he heard that the youngster was awake, he called
to him through the open door, "Don't be afraid, my dear son, I am a big
man it is true, but notwithstanding I will be to thee like thy father,
in thy father's place; like thy mother, in thy mother's place." With
this he entered the room, and the poor lad stared into the giant's eyes,
as if he were looking up to the sky. Suddenly the giant asked him how he
got there, and the lad told him the whole tale. "Well, my dear little
son, I will give you everything that your heart can think of, or your
mouth name, I will fulfil your every wish, only don't worry yourself;"
and he had all sorts of splendid clothes made for him, and kept him on
costly food; and this lasted till the lad became twenty years of age,
when one day the lad became very sad, and his giant father asked him,
"Well, my dear son, tell me why you are so sad, I will do all your heart
can think of, or your mouth name; but do tell me what's the matter with
you?" So the lad said, after hesitation, "Well! well! well! my dear
father, I am so sad because the time has come when I ought to get
married, and there's nobody here to get married to." "Oh! my son, don't
worry yourself over that, such a lad as you has but to wish and you
will find plenty of womankind, the very prettiest of them, ready to have
you; you will but have to choose the one your heart loves best." So
saying he called the lad before the gate and said: "Well, my son, you
can see that great white lake yonder: go there at noon prompt and hide
yourself under a tree, for every noon three lovely fairy girls come
there who are as handsome as handsome can be: you can look at the sun,
but you can't look at them! They will come disguised as pigeons, and
when they arrive on the bank they will turn somersaults, and at once
become girls: they will then undress, and lay their dresses on the bank:
you must then glide up, and steal the dress of the one your heart loves
best, and run away home with it, but be careful not to look back,
however they may shout: because if you do, believe me, she will catch
you, box your ears, and take her clothes from you."

So he went to the lake and hid himself under an oak, and all at once
three white pigeons came flying, their wings flapping loudly as they
came, they settled down on the bank, and went to take a bath. The lad
wasn't slow to leave his hiding-place, and pick up the dress of the
eldest fairy girl and run away with it; but she noticed it at once,
rushed out of the lake, and ran after him, shouting: "Stop! sweet love
of my heart. Look at me; see how beautiful my skin is; how pretty my
breasts are. I'm yours, and you're mine!" So he looked round, and the
fairy snatched her dress away in a moment, slapped his face, and
returned to the others in the lake. Poor lad! he was very sad, and went
back and told his giant father all that had happened, and his giant
father answered, "Well; wasn't I right? Didn't I tell you not to look
back? But don't fret; three in number are the divine truths, and three
times also will you have to try. There are two yet left, go again
to-morrow at noon. Take care you don't look back, or pick up the same
dress that you picked up yesterday, because, believe me, if you do,
there will be the mischief to pay." So he went early next day (he
couldn't wait till noon) and hid himself under a tree, when all of a
sudden the pigeons appeared, turned somersaults, and became three
beautiful fairy girls. They undressed, laid their dresses on the bank,
and went into the lake; in short, the lad fared with the second as with
the first--he couldn't resist the temptation of looking back when the
beautiful fairy kept imploring him, as the sweet love of her heart, to
gaze at her beautiful skin and breasts. He looked back, was slapped in
the face as before, and lost the fairy dress. He went home again, very
sad, to his giant father, and told him how he had fared; and the giant
said in reply: "Never mind, don't bother yourself, my son, three are the
divine truths; there is one more left for you; you can try again
to-morrow, but only be very careful not to look back this time." Next
day he couldn't wait till noon, but went and hid himself under the oak
very early, and had to wait a long, long time. At last the white pigeons
arrived, turned somersaults as before, and put their dresses on the
bank, whilst they themselves went into the lake. Out he rushed from his
hiding-place, snatched up the youngest's dress, and ran away with it.
But the fairy noticed that her dress was gone, and rushed out of the
lake after him like a hurricane, calling out incessantly: "Stop! sweet
love of my heart, look how beautifully white my skin is! See how
beautifully white are my breasts. I am yours, and you are mine." But the
lad only ran faster than ever, and never looked behind once, but ran
straight home to his giant father, and told him that he had got the
dress this time. "Well, my dear son," said he, "didn't I tell you not to
worry yourself in the least, and that I would do all for you that your
heart could desire, or your mouth name?" Once after this the lad was
very sad again, so his giant father asked him: "Well, my son, what's the
matter this time, that you are so sad?" "Well, my dear father, because
we have only got a dress, and that is not enough for a wedding. What's
the use of it? What can I do with it?" "Never mind, don't worry about
that. Go into the inside closet, and on a shelf you will find a walnut,
bring it here." So the lad went and fetched the nut, and the giant split
it neatly in two, took out the kernel, folded up the dress (and I may
mention it here the dress consisted of only one piece), put it inside
the nut-shell, fitted the two halves together, and said to the lad:
"Well, my son, let me have your waistcoat, so that I may sew this nut
into the pocket; and be careful that no one opens it, neither thy
father, nor thy mother, nor any one in this world, because should any
one open it your life will be made wretched; you will be an outcast."

With this, the giant sewed the nut into the pocket, and put the
waistcoat on him. As they finished this, they heard a great clamping
noise, and a chinking (as of coins) outside. So the giant bade him to
look out of the window, and what did he see? He saw that in the
courtyard there was a lovely girl sitting in a carriage drawn by six
horses, and about her beautiful maids and outriders, and the giant said,
"You see, it is Fairy Elizabeth, your ladylove." So they went out at
once, and helped Fairy Elizabeth out of her carriage, then she ordered
the carriage and horses to go back, at once, to where they had come
from, and in a moment they disappeared, and there was no trace of them
left. They then went into the house, but the giant remained outside, and
he drew in the dust figures of a priest, and a cantor, and guests, and
they appeared at once. All went into the house, and the young folks got
wed, and a great wedding feast was celebrated. There was the
bridegroom's best man, and the groom's men, and the bride's duenna, and
all her bridesmaids, and the wedding feast lasted three full days. They
ate, drank, and enjoyed themselves, and when all was over the young
couple lived together in quiet happiness. Once more, however, the lad
became very sad, and the giant asked him: "Well, my dear son, why are
you sad again? You know that I will do all your heart can desire, or
your mouth name." "Well, my dear father," replied he, "how can I help
being sad; it is true we live together happily, but who knows how my
father and mother and brothers and sisters are at home? I should like
to go to see them."

"Well, my dear son," said the giant, "I will let you go; you two go
home, and you will find your relations keeping the third anniversary of
your death: they have gathered in all the golden corn, and become so
rich that they are now the greatest farmers in the village: each of your
brothers have their own home and they have become great men (six-ox
farmers) and have a whole flock of sheep." So the giant went outside,
and drew in the dust the figures of horses and carriage, coachman,
footmen, outriders, and court damsels, and they at once appeared; the
young couple sat in the carriage, and the giant told the lad if ought
happened to him he had only to think of one of these horses, and it
would at once bring him back here. With this they started, and they
arrived at home and, saw that the courtyard of his father's house was
full of tables, crowded with people sitting round them, but no one spoke
a word; they all were speechless so that you could not even hear a
whisper. The couple got out of the carriage, in front of the gate,
walked into the yard, and met an old man; it happened to be his father.
"May the Lord give you a good day, Sir!" said he; and the old man
replied, "May the Lord bless you also, my lord!" "Well sir," asked the
young man, "what is the meaning of all this feasting that I see, all
this eating and drinking, and yet no one speaks a word; is it a marriage
or a funeral feast?" "My lord, it is a burial feast," replied the old
man; "I had three sons, one was lost, and to-day we celebrate the third
anniversary of his death." "Would you recognise your son if he
appeared?" Upon hearing this his mother came forward and said, "To be
sure, my dearest and sweetest lord, because there is a mark under his
left armpit." With this the lad pulled up his sleeve and showed the
mark, and they at once recognised him as their lost son; the funeral
feast, thereupon, was at once changed into a grand wedding festival.
Then the lad called out to the carriage and horses "Go back where you
have come from," and in a moment there was not a trace of them left. His
father at once sent for the priest and the verger and they went through
all the ceremonies again, and whether the giant had celebrated them or
not, certainly the father did: the wedding feast was such a one as had
never been seen before! When they rose from the table they began the
bride's dance: in the first place they handed the bride to the cleverest
dancer, and whether he danced or not, most certainly the bride did: as
she danced her feet never touched the ground, and everyone who was there
looked at the bride only, and all whispered to each other, that no man
had ever seen such a sight in all his life. When the bride heard this
she said, "Hum, whether I dance now or whether I don't, I could dance
much better if anyone would return to me the dress I wore in my maiden
days." Whereupon they whispered to each other, "Where can that dress
be?" When the bride heard this she said, "Well, my souls, it is in a
nut-shell, sewn into my husband's waistcoat pocket, but no one will ever
be able to get it." "I can get it for you," said her mother-in-law,
"because I will give my son a sleeping-draught in wine and he will go to
sleep," and so she did, and the lad fell on the bed fast asleep; his
mother then got the nut from his pocket and gave it to her
daughter-in-law, who at once opened it, took the dress out, put it on,
and danced so beautifully, that, whether she danced the first time or
not, she certainly danced this time; you could not imagine anything so
graceful. But, as it was so hot in the house, the windows were left
open, and Fairy Elizabeth turned a somersault, became a white pigeon,
and flew out of the window. Outside there was a pear tree, and she
settled upon the top of it, the people looking on in wonder and
astonishment; then she called out that she wanted to see her husband as
she wished to say a word or two to him, but the sleeping draught had not
yet lost its power, and they could not wake him, so they carried him out
in a sheet and put him under the tree and the pigeon dropped a tear on
his face; in a minute he awoke. "Can you hear me, sweet love of my
heart?" asked the pigeon, "if you ever want to meet me seek for me in
the town of Johara, in the country of Black Sorrow," with this she
spread her wings and flew away. Her husband gazed after her for a while
and then became so grieved that his heart nearly broke. What was he to
do now? He took leave of all and went and hid himself. When he got
outside of the gate he suddenly remembered what the giant had told him
about calling to memory one of the horses; he no sooner did so than it
appeared all ready saddled; he jumped upon it and thought he would like
to be at the giant's gate. In a moment he was there and the giant came
out to meet him. "Well, my dear son, didn't I tell you not to give that
nut to anyone?" The poor lad replied, in great sorrow, "Well, my dear
father, what am I to do now?" "Well, what did Fairy Elizabeth say when
she took leave of you?" "She said that if ever I wished to meet her
again I was to go to the town of Johara, in the country of Black
Sorrow." "Alas, my son!" said the giant, "I have never even heard the
name, so how could I direct you there? Be still, and come and live with
me, and get on as well as you can." But the poor lad said that he would
go, and he must go, in search of his wife as far as his eye could see.
"Well, if you wish to go, there are two more children of my parents
left, an elder brother and an elder sister. Take this; here's a mace. We
three children couldn't divide it amongst us, so it was left with me.
They will know by this that I have sent you; go first to my elder
brother, he is the king of all creeping things; perhaps he may be able
to help you." With this he drew in the dust the figure of a colt three
years old, and bade him sit on it, filled his bag with provisions, and
recommended him to the Lord. The lad went on and on, over seven times
seven countries, and even beyond them; he went on till the colt got so
old that it lost all its teeth; at last he arrived at the residence of
the king of all creeping things, went in, and greeted him, "May the Lord
give you a good day, my dear father!" And the old man replied, "The Lord
has brought you, my son. What is your errand?" And he replied, "I want
to go to the country of Black Sorrow, into the town of Johara if ever I
can find it." "Who are you?" asked the old man. With this he showed him
the mace, and the king at once recognised it and said, "Ah, my dear son,
I never heard the name of that town. I wish you had come last night,
because all my animals were here to greet me. But stay, I will call them
together again to-morrow morning, and we shall then see whether they can
give us any information." Next morning the old man got up very early,
took a whistle and blew it three times, and, in the twinkling of an eye
all the creeping things that existed in the world came forward. He asked
them, one by one, whether they knew aught of the town of Johara in the
country of Black Sorrow. But they all answered that they had never seen
it, and never even heard its name. So the poor lad was very sad, and did
not know what to do. He went outside to saddle his horse, but the poor
brute had died of old age. So the old man at once drew another in the
dust, and it was again a colt three years old. He saddled it for him,
filled his bag with provisions, and gave him directions where to find
his elder sister. With this the lad started off, and went over seven
times seven countries, and even beyond them, till at last, very late, he
arrived at the elder sister's of the giant and greeted her. She returned
it; and asked him, "What is your errand?" he replied that he was going
to the town of Johara in the country of Black Sorrow. "Well, my son,"
said the old woman, "and who has sent you to me?" "Don't you know this
mace?" and she recognised it at once, and said, "Alas! my dear son, I am
very pleased to see you, but I cannot direct you, because I never even
heard of the place. Why did you not come last night, as all the animals
were here then. But as my brother has sent you, I will call them all
together again to-night, and perhaps they will be able to tell you
something." With this, he went out to put his horse in the stable, and
found that it had grown so old that it hadn't a single tooth left; he
himself, too, was shrivelled up with age, like a piece of bacon rind,
and his hair was like snow. At eve the old woman said to him, "Lie down
in this bed!" when he lay down she put a heavy millstone upon him; she
then took a whip, went outside the door, and cracked it. It boomed like
a gun and the poor man inside was so startled that he lifted up the
millstone quite a span high. "Don't be afraid, my son," called out the
old woman, "I'm only going to crack it twice more," and she cracked it
again; whether it sounded the first time or not, it certainly did this
time, so that the poor man inside lifted the millstone quite a yard
high, and called out to the old woman not to crack that whip again, or
he should certainly die on the spot. But she cracked it again,
notwithstanding, and it sounded so loud, that whether the first two
sounded or not, this time it sounded so loud that the poor man kicked
the millstone right up to the ceiling. After that the old woman went in
and said to him, "You can get up now, as I am not going to crack my whip
any more." So he got up at once, and she went and opened the window, and
left the door wide open too. At once it became quite dark, the animals
came in such clouds that they quite obscured the sunlight; she let them
in one by one through the window, and read out the name of each one of
them from a list, and asked them if they knew where the country of Black
Sorrow was, but nobody knew it; so she dismissed them and shut the
window and door. The poor man was very sad now; he didn't know what to
do next or where he was to go. "There is nothing more to be done," said
the old woman; "but I will give you a colt, and fill your bag full of
provisions, and in heaven's name go back where you have come from." They
were still consulting when somebody knocked at the window and the old
woman called out, "Who's that?" "It is I, my dear queen," replied a
bird; and she began to scold it for being so late; but still she let it
in, hoping that it might tell them something. Lo! it was a lame
woodpecker. "Why are you so late?" she demanded, and the bird replied
that it was because it had such a bad foot. "Where did you get your leg
broken?" inquired the old woman. "In Johara, in the country of Black
Sorrow." "You are just the one we want," said the old woman; "I command
you to take this man on your back without delay and to carry him to the
very town where you have come from." The woodpecker began to make
excuses and said that it would rather not go there lest they should
break the other leg also; but the old woman stamped with her foot, and
so it was obliged to obey and at once set off with the man on its back,
whose third horse had already died; on they went over seven times seven
countries, and even beyond them, till they came to a very high mountain,
so high that it reached to heaven.

"Now then," said the woodpecker, "you had better get down here, as we
cannot get over this." "Well, but," said the poor man, "how did you
get over it?" "I? Through a hole." "Well then, take me also through a
hole." Then the woodpecker began to make excuses, that it could not take
him, first urging this reason and then that; so the poor man got angry
with the woodpecker, and began to dig his spurs into the bird's ribs
saying, "Go on, you must take me, and don't talk so much; it was you who
stole the golden wheat-ear from my stack." So what could the poor
woodpecker do but carry him. They arrived in the country of Black
Sorrow, and stopped in the very town of Johara. Then he sent the
woodpecker away, and went straight into the palace where Fairy Elizabeth
lived. As he entered Fairy Elizabeth sat on a golden sofa; he greeted
her, and told her he had come to claim her as his wife. "Is that why you
have come?" replied she. "Surely you don't expect me to be your wife;
an old bent, shrivelled-up man like you. I will give you meat and drink,
and then in heaven's name go back to where you have come from." Hearing
this the poor man became very sad and didn't know what to do, and began
to cry bitterly; but in the meantime (not letting him know) Fairy
Elizabeth had ordered her maids to go out at once and gather all sorts
of rejuvenating plants, and to bring some youth-giving water, and to
prepare a bath for him as quickly as possible. Then she turned to the
old man again, and, in order to chaff him, said, "How can you wish a
beautiful young girl like me to marry such an ugly old man as you? Be
quick, eat, drink, and go back to where you have come from." In his
sorrow the poor man's heart was nearly broken, when all at once Fairy
Elizabeth said to him, "Well, dearest love of my youth, so that you may
not say that I am ungrateful to you for having taken the trouble to come
to me, and made all this long journey for me, I will give you a bath."
She motioned to the maids, they at once seized him, undressed him, and
put him into the tub; in a moment he was a young man again a hundred
times handsomer than he was in his youth; and while they were bathing
him they brought from a shop numerous costly dresses and clothed him
with them and took him to Fairy Elizabeth; man and wife embraced and
kissed each other again and again, and once more celebrated a grand
marriage festival, going through all the ceremonies again; after all
this was over they got into a carriage drawn by six horses, and went to
live with the giant, their father, but they never went again, not even
once, to the place where he had been betrayed. The giant received them
with great joy, and they are still alive to this-day, if they haven't
died since. May they be your guests to-morrow!

Next: The Three Princes

Previous: The Baa-lambs

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