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Handsome Paul

Source: The Folk-tales Of The Magyars

There was once, over seven times seven countries, a poor woman who had a
son, and he decided to go into service. So he said to his mother,
"Mother, fill my bag and let me go out to work, for that will do me more
good than staying here and wasting my time." The lad's name was Paul.
His mother filled his bag for him, and he started off. As it became dark
he reached a wood, and in the distance he saw, as it were, a spark
glimmering amongst the trees, so he made his way in that direction
thinking that he might find some one there, and that he would be able to
get a night's lodging. So he walked and walked for a long time, and the
nearer he came the larger the light became. By midnight he reached the
place where the fire was, and lo! there was a great ugly giant sleeping
by the fire. "Good evening, my father," said Paul. "God has brought you,
my son," replied the giant; "you may think yourself lucky that you
called me father, for if you had not done so I would have swallowed you
whole. And now what is your errand?"

"I started from home," said Paul, "to find work, and good fortune
brought me this way. My father, permit me to sleep to-night by your
fire, for I am alone and don't know my way." "With pleasure, my son,"
said the giant. So Paul sat down and had his supper, and then they both
fell asleep. Next morning the giant asked him where he intended to go in
search of work. "If I could," replied Paul, "I should like to enter the
king's service, for I have heard he pays his servants justly." "Alas! my
son," said the giant, "the king lives far away from here. Your
provisions would fail twice before you reached there, but we can manage
the matter if you will sit on my shoulder and catch hold of the hair on
the back of my head." Paul took his seat on the giant's shoulders. "Shut
your eyes," said the giant, "because if you don't you will turn giddy."
Paul shut his eyes, and the giant started off, stepping from mountain to
mountain, till noon, when he stopped and said to Paul, "Open your eyes
now and tell me what you can see."

Paul looked around as far as he could see, and said, "I see at an
infinite distance something white, as big as a star. What is it, my
father?" "That is the king's citadel," said the giant, and then they sat
down and had dinner. The giant's bag was made of nine buffalo's skins,
and in it were ten loaves (each loaf being made of four bushels of
wheat), and ten large bottles full of good Hungarian wine. The giant
consumed two bottles of wine and two loaves for his dinner, and gave
Paul what he needed. After a short nap the giant took Paul upon his
shoulders, bade him shut his eyes, and started off again, stepping from
mountain to mountain. At three o'clock he said to Paul, "Open your eyes,
and tell me what you can see." "I can see the white shining thing
still," said Paul, "but now it looks like a building." "Well, then, shut
your eyes again," said the giant, and he walked for another hour, and
then again asked Paul to look. Paul now saw a splendid glittering
fortress, such a one as he had never seen before, not even in his
dreams. "In another quarter-of-an-hour we shall be there," said the
giant. Paul shut his eyes again, and in fifteen minutes they were there;
and the giant put him down in front of the gate of the king's palace,
saying, "Well, now, I will leave you here, for I have a pressing
engagement, and must get back, but whatsoever service they offer to you,
take it, behave well, and the Lord keep you." Paul thanked him for his
kindness and his good-will, and the giant left. As Paul was a fine
handsome fellow he was engaged at once, for the first three months to
tend the turkeys, as there was no other vacancy, but even during this
time he was employed on other work: and he behaved so well, that at the
end of the time he was promoted to wait at the king's table. When he was
dressed in his new suit he looked like a splendid flower. The king had
three daughters; the youngest was more beautiful than the rose or the
lily, and this young lady fell in love with Paul, which Paul very soon
noticed; and day by day his courage grew, and he approached her more and
more, till they got very fond of each other.

The queen with her serpent's eye soon discovered the state of affairs,
and told the king of it.

"It's all right," said the king, "I'll soon settle the wretched fellow;
only leave it to me, my wife."

Poor Paul, what awaits thee?

The king then sent for Paul and said, "Look here, you good-for-nothing,
I can see you are a smart fellow! Now listen to me: I order you to cut
down during the night the whole wood that is in front of my window, to
cart it home, chop it up, and stack it in proper order in my courtyard;
if you don't I shall have your head chopped off in the morning." Paul
was so frightened when he heard this that he turned white and said, "Oh,
my king! no man could do this." "What!" said the king, "you
good-for-nothing, you dare to contradict me? go to prison at once!" Paul
was at once taken away, and the king repeated his commands, saying that
unless they were obeyed Paul should lose his head. Poor Paul was very
sad, and wept like a baby; but the youngest princess stepped into his
prison through a secret trap-door, and consoled him, giving him a copper
whip, and telling him to go and stand outside the gate on the top of the
hill, and crack it three times, when all the devils would appear. He was
then to give his orders, which the devils would carry out.

Paul went off through the trap, and the princess remained in prison till
Paul returned; he went out, stood on the hill, and cracked his whip well
thrice, and lo! the devils came running to him from all sides, crying,
"What are your commands handsome Paul?" "I order you," replied Paul, "by
to-morrow morning to have all that large forest cut down, chopped, and
stacked in the king's courtyard;" with this he went back to prison and
spent a little time with the princess before she went away. The devils
entered the wood, and began to hew the trees down; there was a roaring,
clattering, and cracking noise as the big trees were dragged by root and
crown into the king's yard; they were chopped up and stacked; and the
devils, having finished the task, ran back to hell. By one o'clock all
was done.

In the morning the first thing the king did was to look through the
window in the direction of the wood; he could not see anything but bare
land, and when he looked into the courtyard he saw there all the wood
chopped and stacked.

He then called Paul from prison and said, "Well, I can see that you know
something, my lad, and I now order you to plough up to-night the place
where the wood used to be, and sow it with millet. The millet must grow,
ripen, be reaped, threshed, and ground into flour by the morning, and of
it you must make me a large millet-cake, else you lose your head." Paul
was then sent back to prison, more miserable than ever, for how could he
do such an unheard-of thing as that? His sweetheart came in again
through the trap-door and found him weeping bitterly. When she heard the
cause of his grief she said, "Oh, don't worry yourself, dear; here is a
golden whip, go and crack it three times on the hill-top, and all the
devils will come that came last night; crack it again three times and
all the female devils will arrive; crack it another three times and even
the lame ones will appear, and those enceinte come creeping forth. Tell
them what you want and they will do it."

Paul went out and stood on the hill-top, and cracked his whip three good
cracks, and then three more, and three more, such loud cracks that his
ears rung, and again the devils came swarming in all directions like
ants, old ones and young ones, males and females, lame and enceinte,
such a crowd that he could not see them all without turning his head all
round. They pressed him hard, saying, "What are your commands, handsome
Paul? What are your commands, handsome Paul? If you order us to pluck
all the stars from heaven and to place them in your hands it shall be

Paul gave his orders and went back to prison, and stayed with the
princess till daybreak.

There was a sight on the hill-side, the devils were shouting and making
such a din that you could not tell one word from another. "Now then!
Come here! This way, Michael! That way, Jack! Pull it this way! Turn it
that way! Go at it! See, the work is done!"

The whole place was soon ploughed up, the millet sown, and it began to
sprout, it grew, ripened, was cut, carted in wagons, in barrows, on
their backs, or as best they could. It was thrashed with iron flails,
carried to the mill, crushed and bolted, a light was put to the timber
in the yard, it took fire, and the wood crackled everywhere, and there
was such a light that the king in the seventh country off could see to
count his money by it. Then they brought from hell the biggest cauldron
they could find, put it on the fire, put flour into it and boiling
water; as the millet-cake was bubbling and boiling they took it out of
the pot and put it into Mrs. Pluto's lap, placed a huge spoon into her
hands, and she began to stir away, mix it up, and cut it up with her
quick hands till it began to curl up at the side of the cauldron after
the spoon. As it was quite done she mixed it well once more, and being
out of breath handed the spoon to Pluto himself--who was superintending
the whole work,--who took out his pocket-knife--which was red-hot--and
began to scrape the cake off the spoon and to eat it with great gusto.

Mrs. Pluto then took the cake out with a huge wooden spoon, heaped it up
nicely, patted it all round, and put it on the fire once more; when it
was quite baked she turned it out a large millet-cake in the midst of
the yard, and then they all rushed back, as fast as they could run, to

Next morning, when the king looked through the window, an immense
millet-cake was to be seen there, so large that it nearly filled the
whole yard; and he, however vexed he was, could not help bursting out
into a loud laugh. He gave instant orders for the whole town to come and
clear away the millet-cake, and not to leave so much as a mouthful.
Never was such a feast seen before, and I don't think ever will be
again: some carried it away in their hands, some in bags, some in large
table-cloths, sacks, and even in wagons; everybody took some, and it
went in all directions in every possible manner, so that in three hours
the huge cake was all gone; even the part that had stuck to the ground
was scraped up and carried away. Some made tarts of it at home, pounded
poppy-seed, and spread it over them; others wanted pork to eat with it,
others ate it with fresh milk, with dried prunes, with perry, with
craps, with cream-milk, sour-milk, cow's-milk, goat's-milk; some with
curds; others covered it over with cream-cheese, rolled it up and ate it
thus; better houses mixed it with good buffalo-milk, and ate it with
butter, lard, and cream-cheese, so that it was no longer millet-cake
with cream-cheese, but cream-cheese with millet-cake! There were many
who had never eaten anything like it before, and they got so full of it
they could just breathe; even the king had a large piece served up for
his breakfast on a porcelain plate; he then went to the larder for a
large tub, which was full of the best cream-cheese of Csik like unto the
finest butter; he took a large piece of this, spread it on his cake, set
to and ate it to the very last. He then drank three tumblerfuls of the
best old claret, and said, "Well, that really was a breakfast fit for
the gods!" And thus it happened that all the millet-cake was used up,
and then the king sent for Paul and said to him, "Well, you brat of a
devil, did you do all this, or who did it?" "I don't know." "Well, there
are in my stables a bay stallion, a bay mare, two grey fillies and a bay
filly, you must walk them about, in turn, to-morrow morning, till they
are tired out; if you don't I'll have your head impaled." Paul wasn't a
bit frightened this time, but began to whistle, and hum tunes to himself
in the prison, being in capital spirits. "It will be very easy to walk
these horses out," said he; "it's not the first time I've done that."
The matter looked different however in the evening when his sweetheart
came and he told her all about it. "My love," said she, "this is even
worse than all the rest, because the devils did all your former tasks
for you, but this you must do yourself. Moreover, you must know that the
bay stallion will be my father, the bay mare my mother, the two grey
foals my elder sisters, and the bay foal myself. However, we shall find
some way of doing even this. When you enter the stable we all will begin
to kick so terribly that you won't be able to get near us; but you must
try to get hold of the iron pole that stands inside the door, and with
it thrash them all till they are tame; then you must lead them out as
well as you can; but don't beat me, for I shall not desert you." His
love then gave him a copper bridle, which he hid in his bosom, and
buttoned his coat over it. And his lady-love went back to her bedroom;
for she knew there was plenty of hard work in store for her on the
morrow; for the same reason she ordered Paul to try to sleep well.

In the morning the jailer came, and brought two warders with him, and
led Paul to the stable to take the horses out for a walk. Even in the
distance he could hear the snorting, kicking, pawing, and neighing in
the stable, so that it filled the air. He tried in vain to get inside
the stable-door, he had not courage enough to take even one step inside.
Somehow or other, however, he got hold of the iron pole, and with it he
beat, pounded, and whacked the bay stallion till it lay down in agony.
He then took out his bridle, threw it over its head, led it out, jumped
upon its back, and rode it about till the foam streamed from it, and
then led it in and tied it up. He did the same with the bay mare, only
she was worse; and the grey foals were worse still, till by the end he
was nearly worn out with beating them. At last he came to the bay foal,
but he would not have touched her for all the treasure of the world;
yet, in order to deceive the others, he banged the crib, box, manger,
and posts right lustily, till at last the bay foal lay down. With this
the mare, who was the queen, said to the bay stallion, "You see it was
that bay foal who was the cause of all this. But wait a bit, confound
her!" she cried after them as he led her out of the stable; "I also have
as many wits as you, and I will teach you both a lesson. Never mind, my
sweet daughter, you have treated us all most cruelly with that iron
pole, but you shall pay for it shortly." When Paul heard this he was so
frightened he could hardly lead the foal. "Don't be afraid," said the
foal, "let's get away from here, and the sooner the better, never to
return, or woe betide us!" They cantered up to the house, where she sent
him in to get money, and jewellery, and the various things they would
need, and then galloped off as fast as she could with Paul on her back,
over seven times seven countries, till noon; and just as the sun was at
noon the foal said to Paul, "Look back; what can you see?" Paul looked
back and saw in the distance an eagle flying towards them, from whose
mouth shot forth a flame seven fathoms long. Then said the foal, "I will
turn a somersault, and become a sprouting millet-field; you do the same,
you will become the garde champetre, and when the eagle, which is my
father, comes, if he ask you if you have seen such and such travellers,
tell him, yes, you saw them pass when this millet was sown." So the foal
turned over and became a sprouting millet-field, and Paul became the
garde champetre. The eagle arrived, and said, "My lad, have you not seen
a young fellow on a bay foal pass this way in a great hurry?" "Well,
yes," replied Paul, "I saw them at the time this millet was sown, but I
can't tell you where they may be now." "I don't think they can have come
this way," said the eagle, and flew back home and told his wife all
about it. "Oh! you baulked fool!" cried she, "the millet-field was your
daughter, and the lad Paul. So back you go at once, and bring them

Paul and his foal rode on half the afternoon, and then the foal said,
"Look back, what can you see?" "I see the eagle again," said Paul, "but
now the flame is twice seven fathoms long; he flies very quickly."
"Let's turn over again," said the foal, "and I will become a lamb and
you will be the shepherd, and if my father ask you if you have seen the
travellers say yes, you saw them when the lamb was born." So they turned
over, and one became a lamb and the other a shepherd; the eagle arrived
and asked the shepherd if he had seen the travellers pass by, and was
told that they were seen when the lamb was born. The king returned and
told his wife all, who drove him back, crying, "The lamb was your
daughter and the shepherd, Paul, you empty-headed fool." Paul and the
foal went on a long way, when the foal said, "What can you see?" He saw
the eagle again, but now it was enveloped in flames; they turned over
and the foal became a chapel, and Paul a hermit inside; the eagle
arrived and inquired after the travellers, and was told by the hermit
that they had passed by when the chapel was building. The eagle went
back a third time, and his wife was in an awful rage and told him to
stay where he was, telling him that the chapel was his daughter and the
hermit Paul. "But you are so dense," said she, "they can make you
believe anything; I will go myself and see whether they will fool me."

The queen started off as a falcon. Paul and the foal went still
travelling on, when the foal said, "Look back, what can you see?" "I see
a falcon," said Paul, "With a flame seventy-seven yards long coming out
of its mouth." "That's my mother," said the foal, "We must be careful
this time, Paul, for we shall not be able to hoodwink her with lies; let
us turn over quickly, she will be here in a second. I will be a lake of
milk and you a golden duck on it; take care she doesn't catch you, or we
are done for." They turned over and changed; the falcon arrived and
swooped down upon the duck like lightning, who had just time to dive and
escape. The falcon tried again and again till it got quite tired; for
each time the duck dived and so she missed him. In a great rage the
falcon turned over and became the queen. She picked up stones and tried
to strike the duck dead, but he was clever enough to dodge her, so she
soon got tired of that and said, "I can see, you beast, that I cannot do
anything with you; my other two daughters died before my eyes to-day
from the beating you gave them with the iron pole, you murderer. Now I
curse you with this curse, that you will forget each other, and never
remember that you have ever known each other."

With this she turned over, became a falcon, and flew away home very sad,
and the other two changed also, this time into Paul and the princess.
"Nobody will persecute us now," said she, "let us travel on quietly. The
death of my two sisters is no sad or bad news to me, for now when my
father and mother are dead the land will be ours, my dear Paul;" so they
wandered on, and talked over their affairs, till they came to a house;
and as the day was closing they felt very tired and sat down to rest and
fell asleep. After sunset they awoke and stared at each other, but
couldn't make out who the other was, for they had forgotten all the
past, and inquired in astonishment "Who are you?" and "Well, who are
you?" But neither could tell who the other was; so they walked into the
town as strangers and separated. Paul got a situation as valet to a
nobleman, and the princess became a lady's maid in another part of the
city. They lived there for twelve months, and never once remembered
anything that had happened in the past. One night Paul dreamt that the
bay stallion was in its last agony, and soon afterwards died; the lady's
maid, at the same time, dreamt that the bay mare was dying, and died; by
this dream they both remembered all that had happened to each other; but
even then they did not know that they were in the same town. On the day
following this dream Paul was sent by the nobleman's son secretly with a
love-letter to the nobleman's youngest daughter where the lady's maid
lived. Paul took the letter, and handed it to the lady's maid so that
she might place it in her mistress's hands; then he saw who the lady's
maid was, that it was his old sweetheart, the beloved of his soul; now
he remembered how often before he had given her letters from his young
master for the young lady of the house, and how he had done a little
love-making on his own account, but never till now had he recognised
her. The princess recognised Paul at a glance and rushed into his arms
and wept for joy. They told each other their dreams, and knew that her
father and mother--the bay mare and bay stallion of yore--died last
night. "Let us be off," said the princess, "or else the kingdom will be
snatched from us." So they agreed, and fixed the day after the morrow
for the start. Next morning the official crier proclaimed that the king
and queen had died suddenly about midnight; it happened at the very
moment they had had their dreams.

They started secretly by the same road, and arrived at home in a day.

The king and queen were still laid in state, and the princess, who was
thought to be lost, shed tears over them.

She was soon afterwards crowned queen of the realm, and chose Paul for
her consort, and got married; if they have not died since they are still
alive, and in great happiness to this day.

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