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Knight Rose

Source: The Folk-tales Of The Magyars

A king had three sons. When the enemy broke into the land and occupied
it, the king himself fell in the war. The young princes were good
huntsmen and fled from the danger, all three, taking three horses with
them. They went on together for a long time, till they did not even know
where they were; on they journeyed, till at last they came to the top of
the very highest snow-covered mountain, where the road branched off:
here they decided to separate and try their luck alone. They agreed that
on the summit of the mountain, at the top of a tall tree, they would fix
a long pole, and on it a white handkerchief. They were to keep well in
sight of this white flag, and whenever the handkerchief was seen full of
blood the one who saw it was to start in search of his brothers, as one
of them was in danger. The name of the youngest was Rose; he started off
to the left, the other two went to the right. When Rose came to the
seventh snow-capped mount and had got far into it he saw a beautiful
castle and went in. As he was tired with travelling and wanted a night's
rest, he settled down. When even came the gates of the castle opened
with great noise, and seven immense giants rushed into the courtyard and
from thence into the tower. Every one of them was as big as a tall
tower. Rose, in his fright, crept under the bed; but the moment the
giants entered one of them said, "Phuh! What an Adam-like smell there is
here!" Looking about they caught Rose, cut him up into small pieces like
the stalk of a cabbage and threw him out of the window.

In the morning the giants went out again on their business. From a bush
there came forth a snake, which had the head of a pretty girl; she
gathered up every morsel of Rose's body, arranged them in order, and
said, "This belongs here, that belongs there." She then anointed him
with grass that had healing power, and brought water of life and death
from a spring that was not far off and sprinkled it over him. Rose
suddenly jumped up on his feet and was seven times more beautiful and
strong than before. At this moment the girl cast off the snake-skin as
far as the arm-pits. As Rose was now so strong he became braver, and in
the evening did not creep under the bed, but waited for the giants
coming home, at the gate. They arrived and sent their servants in
advance to cut up that wretched heir of Adam; but they could not manage
him, it took the giants themselves to cut him up. Next morning the
serpent with the girl's head came again and brought Rose to life as
before, and she herself cast off her skin as far as her waist. Rose was
now twice as strong as a single giant. The same evening the seven giants
killed him again, he himself having killed the servants and wounded
several of the giants. Next morning the giants were obliged to go
without their servants. Then the serpent came and restored Rose once
more, who was now stronger than all the seven giants put together, and
was so beautiful that though you could look at the sun you could not
look at him. The girl now cast off the serpent's skin altogether and
became a most beautiful creature. They told each other the story of
their lives. The girl said that she was of royal blood, and that the
giants had killed her father and seized his land, that the castle
belonged to her father, and that the giants went out every day to
plunder the people. She herself had become a snake by the aid of a good
old quack nurse, and had made a vow that she would remain a serpent
until she had been avenged on the giants, and she knew now that although
she had cast off the snake's skin she had nothing to fear because Rose
was a match for the seven giants. "Now, Rose," said she, "destroy them
every one, and I will not be ungrateful." To which he replied, "Dearest
one, you have restored me to life these three times--how could I help
being grateful to you? My life and my all are yours!" They took an oath
to be true to each other till death, and spent the day merrily till
evening set in, when the giants came, and Rose addressed them thus: "Is
it not true, you pack of scoundrels, that you have killed me three
times? Now, I tell you that not one of you shall put his foot within
these gates! Don't you believe me? Let's fight!" They charged upon him
with great fury, but victory was, this time, on his side; he killed
them one after the other and took the keys of the castle out of their
pockets. He then searched over every nook in the building, and came to
the conclusion that they were safe, as they had now possession of the

The night passed quietly; next morning Rose looked from the courtyard to
the top of the snow-covered mountain, in the direction of the white
flag, and saw that it was quite bloody. He was exceedingly sorry, and
said to his love, "I must go in search of my two elder brothers, as some
mischief has befallen them; wait till I return, because if I find them I
shall certainly be back."

He then got ready, took his sword, bow and arrow, some healing-grass,
and water of life and death with him, and went to the very place where
they had separated. On the way he shot a hare, and when he came to the
place of separation he went on the same road by which his elder brothers
had gone; he found there a small hut and a tree beside it; he stopped in
front of the tree, and saw that his brothers' two dogs were chained to
it; he loosed them, lighted a fire, and began to roast the hare. As he
roasted it he heard a voice as if some one were shouting from the tree
in a shivering voice; "Oh, how cold I am!" it said. "If you're cold,"
replied Rose, "get down and warm yourself." "Yes," said the voice, "but
I'm afraid of the dogs." "Don't be afraid as they won't hurt an honest
person." "I believe you," said the voice in the tree, "but still I want
you to throw this hair between them; let them smell it first, then they
will know me by it." Rose took the hair and threw it into the fire. Down
came an old witch from the tree and warmed herself. Then she spitted a
toad and began to roast it. As she did so she said to Rose, "This is
mine, that is yours," and threw it at him. As Rose couldn't stand this
he jumped up, drew his sword, and smote the witch; but lo! the sword
turned into a log of wood, and the witch flew at him to kill him,
crying, "It's all up with you also. I've killed your brothers in
revenge because you killed my seven giant sons."[1] But Rose set the
dogs at her, and they dragged her about till they drew blood. The blood
was spilt on the log of wood and it became a sword again. Rose caught
hold of it and chopped the old witch's left arm off. Now the witch
showed him the place where she had buried his brothers. Rose smote her
once more with his sword and the old witch went to Pluto's. Rose dug out
the bodies, put the bits together, anointed them with the healing-grass,
and sprinkled them with the water of life and death, and they came to
life again.

When they opened their eyes and saw Rose, they both exclaimed, "Oh! how
long I have been asleep." "Very long indeed," said Rose, "and if I
hadn't come you'd have been asleep still." They told him that soon after
they had separated they received the news that the enemy had withdrawn
from their country, and they decided to return, and that the elder
should undertake the government of the land, and the other go in search
of Rose. On their way they happened to go into the hut, and the old
witch treated them as she was going to treat Rose.

Rose also told them his tale, and spoke to them thus: "You, my eldest
brother, go home, and sit on our father's throne. You my other brother
come with me, and let us two govern the vast country over which the
giants had tyrannised until now:" and thus they separated and each went
on his own business.

Rose found his pretty love again, who was nearly dead with fretting for
him, but who quite recovered on his happy return. They took into their
hands the government of the vast country which they had delivered from
the sway of the giants. Rose and his love got married with the most
splendid wedding-feast, and the bride had to dance a great deal; and if
they've not died since they're alive still to this very day.

May they curl themselves into an eggshell and be your guests to-morrow.

[1] According to Kozma this is the only instance in the Szekely
folk-lore which accounts for the origin of giants.

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