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Lying For A Wager






Source: Hero Tales And Legends Of The Serbians

One day a father sent his boy to the mill with corn to be ground,
and, at the moment of his departure, he warned him not to grind it
in any mill where he should happen to find a beardless man. [84]

When the boy came to a mill, he was therefore disappointed to find
that the miller was beardless.

"God bless you, Beardless!" saluted the boy.

"May God help you!" returned the miller.

"May I grind my corn here?" asked the boy.

"Yes, why not?" responded the beardless one, "my corn will be soon
ground; you can then grind yours as long as you please."

But the boy, remembering his father's warning, left this mill and
went to another up the brook. But Beardless took some grain and,
hurrying by a shorter way, reached the second mill first and put some
of his corn there to be ground. When the boy arrived and saw that
the miller was again a beardless man, he hastened to a third mill;
but again Beardless hurried by a short cut, and reached it before
the boy. He did the same at a fourth mill, so that the boy concluded
that all millers are beardless men. He therefore put down his sack,
and when the corn of Beardless was ground he took his turn at the
mill. When all of his grain had been ground Beardless proposed:
"Listen, my boy! Let us make a loaf of your flour."

The boy had not forgotten his father's injunction to have nothing to
do with beardless millers, but as he saw no way out of it, he accepted
the proposal. So Beardless now took all the flour, mixed it with water,
which the boy brought him, and thus made a very large loaf. Then they
fired the oven and baked the loaf, which, when finished, they placed
against the wall.

Then the miller proposed: "Listen, my boy! If we were now to divide
this loaf between us, there would be little enough for either of
us, let us therefore tell each other stories, and whoever tells the
greatest lie shall have the whole loaf for himself."

The boy reflected a little and, seeing no way of helping himself, said:
"Very well, but you must begin."

Then Beardless told various stories till he got quite tired. Then the
boy said: "Eh, my dear Beardless, it is a pity if you do not know
any more, for what you have said is really nothing; only listen,
and I shall tell you now the real truth."




The Boy's Story

"In my young days, when I was an old man, we possessed many beehives,
and I used to count the bees every morning; I counted them easily
enough, but I could never contrive to count the beehives. Well,
one morning, as I was counting the bees, I was greatly surprised to
find that the best bee was missing, so I saddled a cock, mounted it,
and started in search of my bee. I traced it to the sea-shore, and
saw that it had gone over the sea, so I decided to follow it. When I
had crossed the water, I discovered that a peasant had caught my bee;
he was ploughing his fields with it and was about to sow millet. So
I exclaimed: 'That is my bee! How did you get it?' And the ploughman
answered: 'Brother, if this is really your bee, come here and take
it!' So I went to him and he gave me back my bee, and a sack full of
millet on account of the services my bee had rendered him. Then I
put the sack on my back, and moved the saddle from the cock to the
bee. Then I mounted, and led the cock behind me that it might rest
a little. As I was crossing the sea, one of the strings of my sack
burst, and all the millet poured into the water. When I had got across,
it was already night, so I alighted and let the bee loose to graze;
as to the cock, I fastened him near me, and gave him some hay. After
that I laid myself down to sleep. When I rose next morning, great was
my surprise to see that during the night, the wolves had slaughtered
and devoured my bee; and the honey was spread about the valley,
knee-deep and ankle-deep on the hills. Then I was puzzled to know in
what vessel I could gather up all the honey. Meantime I remembered I
had a little axe with me, so I went into the woods to catch a beast,
in order to make a bag of its skin. When I reached the forest, I saw
two deer dancing on one leg; so I threw my axe, broke their only leg
and caught them both. From those two deer I drew three skins and made a
bag of each, and in them gathered up all the honey. Then I loaded the
cock with the bags and hurried homeward. When I arrived home I found
that my father had just been born, and I was told to go to heaven
to fetch some holy water. I did not know how to get there, but as I
pondered the matter I remembered the millet which had fallen into the
sea. I went back to that place and found that the grain had grown up
quite to heaven, for the place where it had fallen was rather damp,
so I climbed up by one of the stems. Upon reaching heaven I found
that the millet had ripened, and an angel had harvested the grain
and had made a loaf of it, and was eating it with some warm milk. I
greeted him, saying: 'God bless you!' The angel responded: 'May God
help you!' and gave me some holy water. On my way back I found that
there had been a great rain, so that the sea had risen so high that my
millet was carried away! I was frightened as to how I should descend
again to earth, but at length I remembered that I had long hair--it is
so long that when I am standing upright it reaches down to the ground,
and when I sit it reaches to my ears. Well, I took out my knife and
cut off one hair after another, tying them end to end as I descended on
them. Meantime darkness overtook me before I got to the bottom, and so
I decided to make a large knot and to pass the night on it. But what
was I to do without a fire! The tinder-box I had with me, but I had
no wood. Suddenly I remembered that I had in my vest a sewing needle,
so I found it, split it and made a big fire, which warmed me nicely;
then I laid myself down to sleep. When I fell asleep, unfortunately
a flame burnt the hair through, and, head over heels, I fell to the
ground, and sank into the earth up to my girdle. I moved about to see
how I could get out, and, when I found that I was tightly interred,
I hurried home for a spade and came back and dug myself out. As soon
as I was freed, I took the holy water and started for home. When I
arrived reapers were working in the field. It was such a hot day,
that I feared the poor men would burn to death, and called to them:
'Why do you not bring here our mare which is two days' journey long
and half a day broad, and on whose back large willows are growing;
she could make some shade where you are working?' My father hearing
this, quickly brought the mare, and the reapers continued working
in the shade. Then I took a jug in which to fetch some water. When
I came to the well, I found the water was quite frozen, so I took my
head off and broke the ice with it; then I filled the jug and carried
the water to the reapers. When they saw me they asked me: 'Where is
your head?' I lifted my hand, and, to my great surprise, my head was
not upon my shoulders, and then I remembered having left it by the
well. I went back at once, but found that a fox was there before me,
and was busy devouring my head. I approached slowly and struck the
beast fiercely with my foot, so that in great fear, it dropped a little
book. This I picked up and on opening it, found written in it these
words: 'The whole loaf is for thee, and Beardless is to get nothing!'"

Saying this, the boy took hold of the loaf and made off. As for
Beardless, he was speechless, and remained gazing after the boy
in astonishment.





Next: The Maiden Wiser Than The Tsar

Previous: The Bird Maiden



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