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The Little Magic Pony

Source: The Folk-tales Of The Magyars

Once a poor man had twelve sons, and, not having sufficient means to
keep them at home, he sent them into the great world to earn their bread
by work and to try their fortunes. The brothers wandered twelve days and
nights over hills and dales till at last they came to a wealthy king,
who engaged them as grooms, and promised them each three hundred
florins a year for their wages. Among the king's horses there was a
half-starved looking, decrepit little pony; the eleven eldest boys
continually beat and ill-treated this animal on account of its ugliness,
but the youngest always took great care of it, he even saved all the
bread crumbs and other little dainties for his little invalid pony, for
which his brothers very often chaffed him, and in course of time they
treated him with silent contempt, believing him to be a lunatic; he bore
their insults patiently, and their badgering without a murmur, in the
same way as the little pony the bad treatment it received. The year of
service having come to an end, the lads received their wages, and as a
reward they were also each allowed to choose a horse from the king's
stud. The eleven eldest chose the best-looking horses, but the youngest
only begged leave to take the poor little decrepit pony with him. His
brothers tried to persuade him to give up the foolish idea, but, all in
vain, he would have no other horse.

The little pony now confessed to his keeper that it was a magic horse,
and that whenever it wanted it could change into the finest charger and
could gallop as fast as lightning. The twelve brothers then started
homewards; the eleven eldest were proudly jumping and prancing about on
their fine horses, whereas the youngest dragged his horse by its halter
along the road: at one time they came to a boggy place and the poor
little decrepit pony sank into it. The eleven brothers who had gone on
before were very angry about it, as they were obliged to return and drag
their brother's horse out of the mud: after a short journey the
youngest's again stuck in the mud, and his brothers had to drag it out
again, swearing at him all the time. When at last it stuck the third
time they would not listen any more to their brother's cries for help.
"Let them go," said the little pony, and after a short time inquired if
they had gone far? "They have," answered the lad. Again, after a short
time, the pony inquired whether he could still see them. "They look like
flying crows or black spots in the distance," replied his master. "Can
you see them now?" asked the pony in a few minutes. "No," was the reply;
thereupon the pony jumped out of the mud and, taking the lad on its
back, rushed forth like lightning, leaving the others far behind. Having
arrived at home the pony became poor and decrepit as before, and crawled
on to the dung heap, eating the straw it found there, the lad concealing
himself behind the oven. The others having arrived showed their wages
and horses to their father, and being asked about their brother they
replied that he had become an idiot, and chosen as his reward an ugly
pony, just such a one as the one on the dung heap, and that he stuck
fast in a bog, and perhaps was now dead. "It is not true," called out
the youngest from behind the oven, and stepped forth to the astonishment
of all.

Having spent a few days in enjoying themselves at their father's house,
the lads again started on a journey to find wives. They had already
journeyed over seven countries and seven villages as well, and had not
as yet been able to find twelve girls suitable for them, till at last,
as the sun was setting, they came across an old woman with an iron nose,
who was ploughing her field with twelve mares; she asked of them what
they sought, and, having learned the object of their wanderings, she
proposed that they should look at her twelve daughters: the lads having
consented, the old woman drove her twelve mares home and took the lads
into her house and introduced them to her daughters, who were none
others than the twelve mares they saw before. In the evening she bade
each lad go to bed with one of the girls; the eldest lad got into bed
with the eldest girl and so on, her youngest, who was the favourite
daughter and had golden hair, becoming the youngest lad's bedfellow.

This girl informed the lad that it was her mother's intention to kill
his eleven brothers; and so, in order to save them, on their all falling
asleep, the youngest lad got up and laid all his brothers next to the
wall, making all the girls lie outside, and having done this, quietly
crept back into his bed.

After a little while, the old woman with the iron nose got up and, with
a huge sword, cut off the heads of the eleven sleepers who were lying
outside, and then she went back to bed to sleep. Thereupon the youngest
lad again got up, and, waking his brothers, told them how he had saved
them, and urged them to flee as soon as possible. So they hurried off,
their brother remaining there till daybreak. At dawn he noticed that the
old woman was getting up, and that she was coming to examine the beds,
so he, too, got up, and sat on his pony, taking the little girl with the
golden hair with him. The old woman with the iron nose, as soon as she
found out the fraud, picked up a poker, turned it into a horse, and flew
after them; when she had nearly overtaken them, the little pony gave the
lad a currycomb, a brush, and a piece of a horse-rug, and bade him throw
first the currycomb behind him, and in case it did not answer, to throw
the brush, and as a last resource the piece of horse-rug; the lad threw
the currycomb, and in one moment it became a dense forest, with as many
trees as there were teeth in the comb; by the time that the old woman
had broken her way through the wood, the couple had travelled a long
distance. When the old woman came very near again, the lad threw the
brush behind him, and it at once became a dense forest, having as many
trees as there were bristles in the brush. The old woman had the
greatest difficulty in working her way through the wood; but again she
drew close to their heels, and very nearly caught them, when the lad
threw the horse-rug away, and it became such a dense forest between them
and the old woman, that it looked like one immense tree; with all her
perseverance, the old woman could not penetrate this wood, so she
changed into a pigeon to enable her to fly over it; but as soon as the
pony noticed this he turned into a vulture, swooped down on the pigeon,
and tore it in pieces with his claws, thus saving both the lad and the
pretty girl with the golden hair from the fury of the hateful old woman
with the iron nose.

While the eleven elder brothers were still out looking after wives, the
youngest married the pretty little girl with the golden hair, and they
still live merrily together, out of all danger, if they have not died

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