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The King And The Devil

Source: The Folk-tales Of The Magyars

In the country where lions and bearded wolves live there was a king
whose favourite sport was hunting and shooting; he had some hundred
hounds or more, quite a house full of guns, and a great many huntsmen.
The king had a steady hand, a sharp eye, and the quarry he aimed at
never escaped, for the king never missed what he aimed at; his only
peculiarity was that he did not care to go out shooting with his own
people only, but he would have liked the whole world to witness his
skill in killing game, and that every good man in the world should
partake of it. Well then, whenever he made a good bag the cook and the
cellarer had so much work to do that they were not done till dawn. Such
was the king who reigned in the land where lions and bearded wolves

Once upon a time this king, according to custom, invited the sovereigns
of the neighbouring lands to a great shooting party, and also their
chief men. It was in the height of summer, just at the beginning of the
dog-days. In the early morning, when they were driving out on to the
pasture the sheep with the silken fleece, the dogs could already be
heard yelping, huntsmen blowing with all their might into the thin end
of their horns, and all was noise and bustle, so that the royal
courtyard rang out with the noise. Then the king swallowed his breakfast
in a soldierlike fashion, and all put on their hunting hats adorned with
eagle's feathers, buckled the shining straps under their chins, mounted
their horses, and in a short time were off over hedges and ditches,
plunging into the vast forest, as the heat was too great for them to
hunt in the open country. Each king accompanied by his own men went in
his own direction, and game was killed with lightning speed; but the
king who owned the forest went by himself in order to show his friends
how much game he could kill single handed. But by some strange
chance--who can tell how?--no game crossed the king's track. He went
hither and thither but found nothing; looking round he discovered that
he had got into a part of the wood where not even his grandfather had
ever been; he went forward but still was lost; sideways, but still did
not know the way; to the right, and found that he was in the same
predicament as the man in Telek, namely, that unless he was taken home
he would never find it. He called upon God for help, but as he never did
that before--for the king didn't like to go to church and never invited
the priest, except upon All Souls' Day, to dinner--the Lord would not
help him; so he called upon the Devil, who appeared at once, as he will
appear anywhere, even where he is not wanted. "You need not tell me
what you are doing here, good king," said the evil spirit, "I know that
you have been out shooting and have found no game and that you have lost
your way. Promise me that you will give me what you have not got in your
house and you shall find plenty of game and I will take you home." "You
ask very little, poor soul," said the king, "Your request shall be
granted; moreover, I will give you something of what I have, whatever
you may wish, if you will but take me home."

Shortly afterwards the king arrived at home, and had so much game with
him that his horse could scarcely stand beneath the weight; the other
kings were quite impatient with waiting for him, and were highly
delighted when he arrived. At last they sat down to supper and ate and
drank heartily, but the devil ate nothing but the scrapings from the
pots and pans, and drank no wine but the dregs that were left in the
bottles. At midnight an old woman appeared before the company of jolly
kings and shouted as loud as she could in delight because a beautiful
little daughter had been born to the king. The devil jumped up and
capered about in his joy; standing on his toes and clapping his bony
heels together, he spun the king round like a whirlwind and shouted in
his ear, "That girl, king, was not in your house to-day and I will come
for her in ten years." The devil hereupon saddled midnight and darted
off like lightning, while the guests stared at each other in amazement,
and the king's face turned ghastly pale.

Next morning they counted the heads of game and found that the king had
twice as much as all the rest put together: yet he was very sad; he made
presents to all his guests, and gave them an escort of soldiers as far
as the boundary of his realm.

Ten years passed as swiftly as the bird flies and the devil appeared
punctually to the minute. The king tried to put him off, and walked up
and down his room greatly agitated; he thought first of one thing and
then of another. At last he had the swineherd's daughter dressed up like
a princess, and placed her on his wife's arm, and then took her to the
devil, both parents weeping most bitterly, and then handed the child
over to the black soul. The devil carried her away in high glee, but
when the pretty little creature was passing a herd of swine she said,
"Well, little sucking pigs, my father won't beat me any more on your
account, for I'm leaving you and going to the 77th country, where the
angels live." The devil listened to the little girl's words and at last
discovered that he had been deceived; in a rage he flew back to the
royal fortress, and dashed the poor child with such force against the
gate-post that her smallest bone was smashed into a thousand atoms. He
roared at the king in such a voice that all the window fittings dropped
out and the plaster fell off the walls in great lumps. "Give me your own
daughter," he screamed, "for whatever you promise to the devil you must
give to him or else he will carry off what you have not promised." The
king again tried to collect his wits and had the shepherd's daughter who
tended the sheep with the golden fleece, and who was ten years old,
dressed in the royal fashion and handed her to the devil amidst great
lamentation. He even placed at the devil's disposal a closed carriage,
"so that the sun might not tan his daughter's face or the wind blow upon
her," as he said, but it was really to prevent the little girl seeing
what was passing and so betraying herself. As the carriage passed by the
silken meadow and the little girl heard the baaing of the lambs she
opened the door and called to the little animals, saying, "Well, little
baa-lambs, my father won't beat me any more on your account, and I won't
run after you in the heat now, because the king is sending me to the
77th country, where the angels live." The devil was now in a towering
passion, and the flame shot out of his nostrils as thick as my arm; he
threw the little girl up into the clouds and returned to the royal

The king saw the carriage returning and trembled like an aspen leaf. He
dressed up his daughter, weeping bitterly as he did so, and when the
devil stepped across the threshold of the palace he went to meet him
with the beautiful child, the like of which no other mother ever bore.
The devil, in a great rage, pushed the pretty lily into a slit of his
shirt, and ran with her over hill and dale. Like a thunderstorm he
carried off the little trembling Maria into his dark home, which was
lighted up with burning sulphur, and placed her on a pillow stuffed with
owl's feathers. He then set a black table before her, and on it mixed
two bushels of millet seed with three bushels of ashes, saying, "Now,
you little wretch, if you don't clean this millet in two hours, I will
kill you with the most horrible tortures." With this he left her, and
slammed the door that it shock the whole house. Little innocent Maria
wept bitterly, for she knew she could not possibly finish the work in
the stated time. While she wept in her loneliness, the devil's son very
quietly entered the room. He was a fine handsome lad, and they called
him Johnnie. Johnnie's heart was full of pity at seeing the little
girl's sorrow, and cheered her up, telling her that if she ceased crying
he would do the work for her at once. He felt in his pocket, and took
out a whistle; and, going into a side-room, he blew it, and in a moment
the whole place was filled with devils, whom Johnnie commanded to clean
the millet in the twinkling of an eye. By the time little Maria winked
three times, the millet was not only cleansed, but every seed was
polished and glittered like diamonds. Until the father's return Maria
and Johnnie amused themselves in childish games. The old devil upon his
return, seeing all the work done, shook his head so vehemently that
burning cinders dropped from his hair. He gave the little girl some
manna to eat and lay down to sleep.

Next day the ugly old devil mixed twice as much millet and ashes, as he
was very anxious to avenge himself on the child whose father had taken
him in twice; but, by the help of Johnnie's servants, the millet was
again cleaned. The devil in his rage gnawed off the end of his beard
and spat it out on the ground, where every hair became a venomous
serpent. The little girl screamed, and at the sound of her voice all the
serpents stretched themselves on the ground, and wriggled about before
the little girl like young eels, for they were charmed, never having
heard so sweet a voice before. The devil was very much enraged that all
the animals and the devils themselves, with the exception of himself,
were so fond of this pretty little girl. "Well, soul of a dog, you
little imp," said the devil, gnashing his teeth, "if by to-morrow
morning you do not build from nothing, under my window, a church, the
ceiling of which will be the sky, and the priest in it the Lord Himself,
whom your father does not fear, I will slay you with tortures the like
of which are not known even in nethermost hell."

Little Maria was terribly frightened. The old devil, having given his
orders, disappeared amidst thunder. The kind-hearted Johnnie here
appeared, blew his whistle, and the devils came. They listened to the
orders, but replied, that no devil could build a church out of nothing,
and that, moreover, they dare not go up to heaven and had no power over
the Lord to make him become a priest; that the only advice they could
give was, for Johnnie and the little girl to set off at once, before it
was too late, and so escape the tortures threatened by the old devil.
They listened to the advice of the devils, and Johnnie buried his
whistle in a place where his father would not be able to find it, and
send the devils after them. They hurried off towards Maria's father's
land; when, all of a sudden, Maria felt her left cheek burning very
much, and complained of it to Johnnie, who, looking back, found that his
mother was galloping after them on the stick of a whitewashing brush.
Johnnie at once saw their position, and told Maria to turn herself into
a millet field, and he would be the man whose duty it was to scare away
the birds. Maria did so at once, and Johnnie kept the sparrows off with
a rattle. The old woman soon came up, and asked whether he had not seen
a boy and girl running past, a few minutes before. "Well, yes," replied
he, "there are a great many sparrows about, my good lady, and I can't
guard my millet crop from them. Hush! Hush!" "I didn't ask you," replied
she, "whether you had any sparrows on your millet field or not; but
whether you saw a boy and girl running past." "I've already broken the
wings of two cock sparrows, and hanged them to frighten away the rest,"
replied the artful boy.

"The fellow's deaf, and crazy too," said the devil's wife, and hurried
back to the infernal regions. The boy and girl at once retransformed
themselves, and hurried on, when Maria's left cheek began to burn again,
more painfully this time than before; and not without reason, for when
Johnnie looked back this time, he saw his father, who had saddled the
south wind, tearing after them, and great, awe-inspiring, rain-bearing
clouds following in his track. Maria at once turned into a tumble-down
church, and Johnnie into an aged monk, holding an old clasp-bible in his

"I say, old fool, have you not seen a young fellow and a little wench
run past? If you have, say so; if you have not, may you be struck dumb!"
yelled the old devil to the monk with the Bible. "Come in," said the
pious monk, "come in, into the house of the Lord. If you are a good soul
pray to Him and He will help you on your journey, and you will find what
you are so anxiously looking for. Put your alms into this bag, for our
Lord is pleased with the offerings of the pure in heart." "Perish you,
your church, and your book, you old fool. I'm not going to waste any
money in such tomfoolery. Answer my question! Have you seen a boy and
girl go past?" again inquired the devil, in a fearful rage. "Come back
to your Lord, you old cursed soul," replied the holy father, "it's never
too late to mend, but it's a sin to put off amending your ways. Offer
your alms, and you will find what you seek!" The devil grew purple with
rage; and, lifting up his huge mace, he struck like lightning at the
monk's head, but the weapon slipped aside and hit the devil on the shin
such a blow that made him and all his family limp; they would limp to
this very day, if they had not perished since! Jumping on the wind with
his lame leg, the devil rode back home. The young couple by this time
had nearly reached the land where Maria's father reigned; when, all of a
sudden, both the girl's cheeks began to burn as they had never burnt
before. Johnnie looked back and saw that both his father and his mother
were riding after them on two dragons, who flew faster than even the
whirlwind. Maria at once became a silver lake and Johnnie a silver duck.
As soon as the two devils arrived they at once scented out that the lake
was the girl and the duck the boy; because wherever there are two devils
together nothing can be concealed. The woman began to scoop up the water
of the lake, and the male devil to throw stones at the duck; but each
scoop of water taken out of the lake only caused the water to rise
higher and higher; and every stone missed the duck, as he dived to the
bottom of the lake and so dodged them. The devil became quite exhausted
with throwing stones, and beckoned to his wife to wade with him into the
lake, and so catch the duck, as it would be a great pity for their son
to be restored to earth. The devils swam in, but the water of the lake
rose over their heads so quickly that they were both drowned before they
could swim out, and that's the reason why there are no devils now left.
The boy and the girl, after all their trials, at last reached the palace
of Maria's parents. The girl told them what had happened to her since
the devil carried her off, and praised Johnnie very highly, telling them
how he had guarded her. She also warned her father, that he who does not
love God must perish, and is not worthy of happiness. The king listened
to his daughter's advice, and sent for a priest to the next village, and
first of all married Maria to the son of the devil, and the young couple
lived very happily ever after. The king gave up hunting, and sent
messages to the neighbouring kings, that he was a happy father; and the
poor found protection and justice in his land. The king and his wife
both died at the same time, and, after that, Johnnie and his wife became
rulers of the land inhabited by lions and bearded wolves.

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