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Prince Csihan Nettles






Source: The Folk-tales Of The Magyars

There was once--I don't know where, at the other side of seven times
seven countries, or even beyond them, on the tumble-down side of a
tumble-down stove--a poplar-tree, and this poplar-tree had sixty-five
branches, and on every branch sat sixty-six crows; and may those who
don't listen to my story have their eyes picked out by those crows!

There was a miller who was so proud that had he stept on an egg he would
not have broken it. There was a time when the mill was in full work, but
once as he was tired of his mill-work he said, "May God take me out of
this mill!" Now, this miller had an auger, a saw, and an adze, and he
set off over seven times seven countries, and never found a mill. So his
wish was fulfilled. On he went, roaming about, till at last he found on
the bank of the Gagy, below Martonos, a tumble-down mill, which was
covered with nettles. Here he began to build, and he worked, and by the
time the mill was finished all his stockings were worn into holes and
his garments all tattered and torn. He then stood expecting people to
come and have their flour ground; but no one ever came.

One day the twelve huntsmen of the king were chasing a fox; and it came
to where the miller was, and said to him: "Hide me, miller, and you
shall be rewarded for your kindness." "Where shall I hide you?" said the
miller, "seeing that I possess nothing but the clothes I stand in?"
"There is an old torn sack lying beside that trough," replied the fox;
"throw it over me, and, when the dogs come, drive them away with your
broom." When the huntsmen came they asked the miller if he had seen a
fox pass that way. "How could I have seen it; for, behold, I have
nothing but the clothes I stand in?" With that the huntsmen left, and in
a little while the fox came out and said, "Miller, I thank you for your
kindness; for you have preserved me, and saved my life. I am anxious to
do you a good turn if I can. Tell me, do you want to get married?" "My
dear little fox," said the miller, "if I could get a wife, who would
come here of her own free will, I don't say that I would not--indeed,
there is no other way of my getting one; for I can't go among the
spinning-girls in these clothes." The fox took leave of the miller, and,
in less than a quarter of an hour, he returned with a piece of copper in
his mouth. "Here you are, miller," said he; "put this away, you will
want it ere long." The miller put it away, and the fox departed; but,
before long, he came back with a lump of gold in his mouth. "Put this
away, also," said he to the miller, "as you will need it before long."
"And now," said the fox, "wouldn't you like to get married?" "Well, my
dear little fox," said the miller, "I am quite willing to do so at any
moment, as that is my special desire." The fox vanished again, but soon
returned with a lump of diamond in his mouth. "Well, miller," said the
fox, "I will not ask you any more to get married; I will get you a
wife myself. And now give me that piece of copper I gave you." Then,
taking it in his mouth, the fox started off over seven times seven
countries, and travelled till he came to King Yellow Hammer's. "Good
day, most gracious King Yellow Hammer," said the fox; "my life and death
are in your majesty's hands. I have heard that you have an unmarried
daughter. I am a messenger from Prince Csihan, who has sent me to ask
for your daughter as his wife." "I will give her with pleasure, my dear
little fox," replied King Yellow Hammer; "I will not refuse her; on the
contrary, I give her with great pleasure; but I would do so more
willingly if I saw to whom she is to be married--even as it is, I will
not refuse her."

The fox accepted the king's proposal, and they fixed a day upon which
they would fetch the lady. "Very well," said the fox; and, taking leave
of the king, set off with the ring to the miller.

"Now then, miller," said the fox, "you are no longer a miller, but
Prince Csihan, and on a certain day and hour you must be ready to start;
but, first of all, give me that lump of gold I gave you that I may take
it to His Majesty King Yellow Hammer, so that he may not think you are a
nobody."

The fox then started off to the king. "Good day, most gracious king, my
father. Prince Csihan has sent this lump of gold to my father the king
that he may spend it in preparing for the wedding, and that he might
change it, as Prince Csihan has no smaller change, his gold all being in
lumps like this."

"Well," reasoned King Yellow Hammer, "I am not sending my daughter to a
bad sort of place, for although I am a king I have no such lumps of gold
lying about in my palace."

The fox then returned home to Prince Csihan. "Now then, Prince Csihan,"
said he, "I have arrived safely, you see; prepare yourself to start
to-morrow."

Next morning he appeared before Prince Csihan. "Are you ready?" asked
he. "Oh! yes, I am ready; I can start at any moment, as I got ready
long ago."

With this they started over seven times seven lands. As they passed a
hedge the fox said, "Prince Csihan, do you see that splendid castle?"
"How could I help seeing it, my dear little fox." "Well," replied the
fox, "in that castle dwells your wife." On they went, when suddenly the
fox said, "Take off the clothes you have on, let us put them into this
hollow tree, and then burn them, so that we may get rid of them." "You
are right, we won't have them, nor any like them."

Then said the fox, "Prince Csihan, go into the river and take a bath."
Having done so the prince said, "Now I've done." "All right," said the
fox; "go and sit in the forest until I go into the king's presence." The
fox set off and arrived at King Yellow Hammer's castle. "Alas! my
gracious king, my life and my death are in thy hands. I started with
Prince Csihan with three loaded wagons and a carriage and six horses,
and I've just managed to get the prince naked out of the water." The
king raised his hands in despair, exclaiming, "Where hast thou left my
dear son-in-law, little fox?" "Most gracious king, I left him in
such-and-such a place in the forest." The king at once ordered four
horses to be put to a carriage, and then looked up the robes he wore in
his younger days and ordered them to be put in the carriage; the
coachman and footman to take their places, the fox sitting on the box.

When they arrived at the forest the fox got down, and the footman,
carrying the clothes upon his arm, took them to Prince Csihan. Then said
the fox to the servant, "Don't you dress the prince, he will do it more
becomingly himself." He then made Prince Csihan arise, and said, "Come
here, Prince Csihan, don't stare at yourself too much when you get
dressed in these clothes, else the king might think you were not used to
such robes." Prince Csihan got dressed, and drove off to the king. When
they arrived, King Yellow Hammer took his son-in-law in his arms and
said, "Thanks be to God, my dear future son-in-law, for that He has
preserved thee from the great waters; and now let us send for the
clergyman and let the marriage take place."

The grand ceremony over, they remained at the court of the king. One
day, a month or so after they were married, the princess said to Prince
Csihan, "My dear treasure, don't you think it would be as well to go and
see your realm?" Prince Csihan left the room in great sorrow, and went
towards the stables in great trouble to get ready for the journey he
could no longer postpone. Here he met the fox lolling about. As the
prince came his tears rolled down upon the straw. "Hollo! Prince Csihan,
what's the matter?" cried the fox. "Quite enough," was the reply; "my
dear wife insists upon going to see my home." "All right," said the fox;
"prepare yourself, Prince Csihan, and we will go."

The prince went off to his castle and said, "Dear wife, get ready; we
will start at once." The king ordered out a carriage and six, and three
waggons loaded with treasure and money, so that they might have all they
needed. So they started off. Then said the fox, "Now, Prince Csihan,
wherever I go you must follow." So they went over seven times seven
countries. As they travelled they met a herd of oxen. "Now, herdsmen,"
said the fox, "if you won't say that this herd belongs to the Vasfogu
Baba, but to Prince Csihan, you shall have a handsome present." With
this the fox left them, and ran straight to the Vasfogu Baba. "Good day,
my mother," said he. "Welcome, my son," replied she; "it's a good thing
for you that you called me your mother, else I would have crushed your
bones smaller than poppy-seed." "Alas! my mother," said the fox, "don't
let us waste our time talking such nonsense, the French are coming!"
"Oh! my dear son, hide me away somewhere!" cried the old woman. "I know
of a bottomless lake," thought the fox; and he took her and left her on
the bank, saying, "Now, my dear old mother, wash your feet here until I
return." The fox then left the Vasfogu Baba, and went to Prince Csihan,
whom he found standing in the same place where he left him. He began to
swear and rave at him fearfully. "Why didn't you drive on after me? come
along at once." They arrived at the Vasfogu's great castle, and took
possession of a suite of apartments. Here they found everything the
heart could wish for, and at night all went to bed in peace.

Suddenly the fox remembered that the Vasfogu Baba had no proper abode
yet, and set off to her. "I hear, my dear son," said she, "that the
horses with their bells have arrived; take me away to another place."
The fox crept up behind her, gave her a push, and she fell into the
bottomless lake, and was drowned, leaving all her vast property to
Prince Csihan. "You were born under a lucky star, my prince," said the
fox, when he returned; "for see I have placed you in possession of all
this great wealth." In his joy the prince gave a great feast to
celebrate his coming into his property, so that the people from Banczida
to Zsukhajna were feasted royally, but he gave them no drink. "Now,"
said the fox to himself, "after all this feasting I will sham illness,
and see what treatment I shall receive at his hands in return for all my
kindness to him." So Mr. Fox became dreadfully ill, he moaned and
groaned so fearfully that the neighbours made complaint to the prince.
"Seize him," said the prince, "and pitch him out on the dunghill." So
the poor fox was thrown out on the dunghill. One day Prince Csihan was
passing that way. "You a prince!" muttered the fox; "you are nothing
else but a miller; would you like to be a house-holder such as you were
at the nettle-mill?" The prince was terrified by this speech of the fox,
so terrified that he nearly fainted. "Oh! dear little fox, do not do
that," cried the prince, "and I promise you on my royal word that I
will give you the same food as I have, and that so long as I live you
shall be my dearest friend and you shall be honoured as my greatest
benefactor."

He then ordered the fox to be taken to the castle, and to sit at the
royal table, nor did he ever forget him again.

So they lived happily ever after, and do yet, if they are not dead. May
they be your guests to-morrow!





Next: Stephen The Murderer

Previous: Peronnik The Idiot



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