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The Secret-keeping Little Boy And His Little Sword






Source: The Folk-tales Of The Magyars

There was once, I don't know where, beyond the seas, a little village,
and in the village a widow. The widow had a pretty little son whose
cheeks were as the rose; on the left side of the little boy a scabbard
had grown, and as the boy grew the scabbard grew with him. On the same
day on which the little boy was born the point of a sword appeared in
the soil in their little garden, which kept pace with the growth of the
scabbard on the little boy's side. When the boy was a year old he
discovered the sword in the garden, and every evening at sunset he tried
the sword in the scabbard. One evening after sunset the little boy lay
down and fell fast asleep. Next morning he awaited dawn squatting by the
side of the growing sword, which he passed seven times into the
scabbard. He ran quite delighted to his mother, who got up as the
morning bell began to ring. "Oh, my dear mother, I had such a nice
dream. I wouldn't give my dream for the whole world." "Then what have
you dreamt, my son?" queried the mother. "I wouldn't tell anyone till my
dream has been realised." "Yes, but I want to know it," said his mother
angrily, "and if you won't tell me, I will thrash you."

But the widow threatened her little son in vain; neither kind words nor
threats could induce him to tell his secret. At last she thrashed him,
but with no result; the little fellow went into the garden and knelt
down by the side of his little sword, which had the peculiar feature
that it continually revolved, and cut everyone's hand who touched it
with the exception of that of the little boy. The little sword as soon
as its point felt the touch of the scabbard stopped and slid into the
scabbard, and the little boy for a long time gazed at his weapon and
wept bitterly. As he was thus weeping in his mother's garden, the king
of the country passed outside the fencing; the king heard the sound of
crying and stopped his carriage, and thus spoke to his footman: "My dear
servant, go to see who is crying in that garden, and ask the cause of
it?" The footman obeyed, and on his return gave the following reply to
his royal master: "Your majesty, a child is kneeling among the flowers,
and cries because his mother has cruelly beaten him." "Bring him here,
my dear servant, tell him his king wants him, who has never cried in his
life, and cannot bear to hear anyone else cry." The footman brought the
child back with him, wiped away his tears, and the king asked the dear
little boy whether he would like to go with him as he was willing to
adopt him as his son. "I would like to go, majesty, if my mother would
let me." "Go, my servant, to this little fellow's mother," said the king
to his footman, "and tell her that the king will take her pretty son to
his palace and if he behave well will give him half of his realm, and
also his prettiest daughter."

The widow, who only a moment ago was so angry, commenced to cry for joy,
and placed her son with her own hands into the king's lap, and kissed
the monarch's hand. "Don't be so stubborn when you are at your royal
father's court as you were at your widow-mother's house," she said to
him, and with these words the old woman ran away from her pretty little
son, who again cried bitterly. Then the dear little prince begged leave
to get down from the carriage; he pulled the little sword up out of the
ground, and placed it in the scabbard, where it rattled unceasingly.
They had driven a good distance, and the boy had had his cry, when the
king said, "Why did you cry so bitterly in the little garden, my dear
son?" "Because" replied the little boy "my mother continually scolded
me, and also thrashed me cruelly." "And why did your mother thrash you
cruelly and scold you?" asked the king. "Because I wouldn't tell her my
dream." "And why would you not tell your dream to your poor mother?"
"Because I will not tell it to anyone till it is fulfilled." "And won't
you tell it to me either?" asked the king in astonishment. "No, nobody
shall know it but God, who knows it already." "I'm sure you will tell me
when we get home," said his royal father smiling. After three days'
journey they arrived at the king's town: the queen with her three
daughters were greatly delighted that their royal husband and father had
brought them such a pretty boy. The girls offered all sorts of things to
their pretty brother.

"Don't love him so much," said the wise king, "as he does not deserve
it; he harbours some secret in his heart which he will not tell anyone."
"He will tell me," said the eldest girl, but the little boy shook his
head. "He will tell it me," said the second. "Not I," said the little
boy angrily. "You won't keep it from me," said the youngest coaxingly.
"I will not tell my secret to anyone till it is realised, and I will
punish anyone who dares to inquire," threatened the little boy. The king
in his great sorrow looked at his wife and daughters; he summoned his
servants, handed the little boy to them, and said, "Take away this
stubborn child, take him to your house, he's not fit for a royal
palace." The sword at the little boy's side clanked loudly; the servants
obeyed their royal master's orders, and took the boy to the place where
they lived. The pretty child cried upon being taken away from the
gorgeous palace, and the servants' children consoled him, offered him
fruits and toys, and thus brought back his spirits in a few hours; the
children got used to each other, and the little boy lived with them
until he became seventeen years of age. The elder daughters of the king
married kings of countries beyond the seas, and the youngest one has
also grown old enough to be married. One day she ran from the lofty
palace into the servants' house, where she saw the little boy, who had
grown so handsome that there wasn't a more handsome lad to be seen over
seven times seven countries. The king's daughter was very much struck as
she had never before seen so fine a lad, and thus spoke to him: "If you,
handsome lad, will reveal your secret to me I will become yours, and you
will be mine, and not even the coffin shall separate us." The lad
thrashed the inquisitive princess as he had promised of yore; the pretty
girl wept bitterly and ran to her royal father and complained about the
lad's cruelty. The old king was very angry and uttered an oath, adding,
"If he had a thousand souls he will have to die; his very memory must
die out in my country."

On the same day on which the widow's son had beaten the king's daughter,
lofty gallows were erected on the western side of the royal town, and
the whole population went out to the place where the execution was to
take place. The hangman tied the handsome lad's hands behind his back,
when the sword again clanked at the lad's side. The assembled people,
who a moment ago were so noisy, grew silent, when the king's preacher
read out the sentence. Suddenly a great hubbub arose, and a gorgeous
coach, from which a white flag was waving, was seen driving rapidly up
to the gallows; in the coach sat the King of the Magyars. The coach
stopped underneath the gallows, and the King of the Magyars jumped out
and asked for the handsome lad's reprieve, who was blindfolded. The
angry king informed him that he had great reason to have the scoundrel
hanged, because he thrashed his daughter for no other cause than her
asking him to reveal his secret. The secret was a dream which he could
only tell when it was realised. "My royal colleague, hand the culprit
over to me," said the king of the Magyars, "I'm sure he will tell me his
secret. I have a pretty daughter who is like the Morning Star, and she
will get it out of him." The sword again clanked at the side of the
handsome lad. The king handed the prisoner to the Magyar king, who bade
him sit in his carriage, and asked him his secret. "It is impossible, my
king and master," said the sad lad, "until the dream is fulfilled." "You
will tell my daughter," said the Magyar king smiling. "To none!" said
the lad resolutely, and his sword gave a terrific clank. The king and
the handsome lad arrived at Buda in a few days. The king's daughter was
just promenading in the garden when her father arrived with the handsome
lad. The pretty girl hurried to her father, and as she kissed his hand
she noticed the handsome lad, the like of whom she had never seen
before. "Have you brought him for me?" inquired the love-sick maid,
"from fairy land? No woman has yet carried, has yet borne, such a child
in her arms!"

"My dear daughter, I've brought him not from fairy land, but from the
gallows," replied the king, who was vexed with his daughter for having
so quickly fallen in love with him, although she had never spoken to a
man before. "I don't care, my dear father," said the blushing maid,
"even if you brought him from the gallows, he's mine, and I am his, and
we shall die together." The last words were addressed by the king's
daughter to the handsome lad, who smothered the pretty princess with
kisses. "You will soon be angry with him, my dear daughter," said the
sorrowful king, "if you ask his secret; he's a coarse fellow, he's of no
royal blood, his place is among the servants." "If he killed me, if he
gouged out my eyes, or bit off my nose, I couldn't get angry with him,"
said the princess. "He will tell me his secret, his lodging will be in
the room set apart for my guests, and he will find a place in the middle
of my heart!"

But the king shook his head, and sent the lad down into the
summer-house, where he could amuse himself with reading. No sooner had a
week passed than the girl, who was as pretty as a fairy, put her best
dress on and went to the summer-house to pay a visit to the lad who
lived secluded there, to get his secret out of him. When the young lad
saw the pretty girl and had examined her beautiful dress, the book
dropped from his hand, and he stared but could not utter a single word.
The princess thereupon addressed him in such a beautiful voice as his
ear had never heard before, "Tell me, my handsome lad, why have I come
to see you, if you guess it I will be yours?" "My dove, my angel!" said
the lad with glowing cheeks, "I won't tell you my secret, and if you
wish to get back safely to your royal father's palace you had better not
ask any more questions about the matter." But the girl would not listen
to the lad's warning but pressed for an answer more urgently and
embraced him and kissed him. The lad at last got so angry that he
slapped the princess's face and made her nose bleed. The princess ran
screaming back to the palace, where her father was waiting for her
answer; when the king beheld the blood running down upon the pretty
girl's beautiful dress, he yelled down from the window into the garden,
"I will starve you to death, you son of a dragon!" and began to wash his
daughter's cheek and nose.

The very same day the king summoned all the masons and bricklayers in
the town, and gave them orders to run up in all haste a square building
in which there was to be just room for a stool and a small table, the
table to be so small that only a prayer book could find room on it. In
two hours a small tower was built; the masons had already left off work,
and were going to inform the king that the structure was finished. They
met the king's daughter, who asked one of the masons to stay, the one
who appeared to be the eldest, and asked him whether he could make so
small a hole in the tower that a plate of food and a bottle of wine
could be passed through, and which could not be noticed by any one. "To
be sure," said the grey old mason, "I can and I will make it." The hole
was ready in a quarter of an hour; the king's daughter paid the mason
handsomely and hurried home.

At sunset, among a large crowd of people, the secret-keeping lad was
conducted into the stone structure, and after all his misdeeds had been
once more enumerated he was walled in. But the king's daughter did not
allow him to suffer either hunger or thirst, she visited her sweetheart
three times every day; and brought him books for which he asked. The
king sent every third day his secretary to look after the prisoner and
to see if he were dead, but the scribe found him still alive, and the
king was very much astonished. One day the Turkish Sultan sent a letter
to the Magyar king; the messenger bearing the letter brought with him
also three canes; the Turkish Sultan wrote in the letter, that if the
king could not tell him which of the three canes grew nearest the root,
which in the middle, and which at the top, he would declare war against
him. The king was very much alarmed, and became sad. His daughter
noticed her father's sorrow, and inquired, "Why are you so downcast, my
royal father?" "How can I be otherwise, my dear daughter," said the good
king; "look here, the Turkish Sultan has sent me three canes, and
writes, that if I cannot tell him which is the cane's root-end,
middle-part, and top-end, he will send his army against my country."
"The God of the Magyar's will help you, my dear father," said the
girl; and hurried to the tower, and informed her sweetheart through the
secret hole of the Turkish Sultan's message, and of her father's sorrow.
"Go home, my love, my sweetheart; go to bed and sleep, and when you wake
tell your royal father that you have dreamt that the canes have to be
placed in lukewarm water, and he will then be able to tell on which part
of the plant the canes grew: the one that sinks to the bottom is the one
from nearest the root; the one which does not sink and does not float
on the surface, comes from the middle; and the one that remains on the
surface is from the top." The girl ran home, went to bed and slept, and
told her father her dream, as her sweetheart had instructed her. The
king did as his daughter advised him, and marked the three canes,
namely, with one notch the root-piece, the middle-piece with two
notches, and the top-piece with three, and sent the explanation to the
Sultan; and, actually, the canes had grown as the Magyar king had picked
them out; and the Sultan did not declare war against the Magyar.

After a year the Sultan wrote another letter to the Magyar king and sent
him three foals; in the letter he asked him to guess which of the three
animals was foaled in the morn, which at noon, and which in the evening,
and threatened with war in case a correct guess was not forthcoming. The
king was again sorrowful, and his daughter asked him the reason. "How
should I not be sorrowful, my pretty sweet daughter," said the old king,
"I had another letter from the Sultan, and he sent me three foals, and
if I cannot tell him which was foaled in the morn, noon, and even, he
will declare war against me." "The Lord will again help you, my dear
royal father," said the girl quite joyfully. In half an hour she was
again with her sweetheart, and communicated to him her father's trouble
and sorrow. "Go home, idol of my heart," said the captive lad; "go to
bed and sleep. In your dream scream out, and when your father asks you
what is the matter, tell him that you dreamt that the Sultan had sent
some Turks in order to carry your father off to captivity, as he was not
able to guess when the foals were born; but just as they were pinioning
him, you dreamt that the lad who had slapped your face got out somehow
from his prison, and told you which of the foals was foaled in the
morning, which at noon, and which in the evening." The king's daughter
ran home and did exactly as the immured lad had told her. Next morning
the tower was pulled down and the handsome lad conducted before the
king. "The Lord has preserved you in your long captivity, my son, and I
also feel inclined to grant you pardon. But before doing this you will
have to help me in an important matter. I hand you here the Sultan's
letter, read it; the three foals are in my stables; can you answer his
query?" "I can, my king and master," said the liberated lad, "but I must
ask you some questions. Have you got three exactly similar troughs?"
"No, but I will get some," replied the king. In a quarter of an hour
three troughs of the same size and colour were ready. "Give orders, my
king," said the lad, "to have some oats put into one, some live coals in
the other, and some dry coal in the third: the foal which goes to the
oats was foaled in the morning, the one to the live coals, at noon, and
the one which goes to the dry coals, in the evening." The king did as
the lad advised him. He marked the foals and sent them home. The Sultan
was satisfied and did not send any troops against the Magyar king.

The Sultan had an aunt who was a witch, whom he consulted what to do in
order to get possession of Hungary, and to tell him how he could get to
know who was the man who answered all his questions so cleverly. "Alas!
my dear relative," said the witch, "it isn't the Magyar king who
answered all your queries: he has a lad who is the son of a very poor
woman, but who will become king of Hungary; so long as you do not kill
him you will covet Hungary in vain." Another letter came to the king of
Hungary, in which it was written that if the lad who was kept by the
king, and who was the brat of a poor woman, be not sent to Turkey, war
shall be declared against the king. The king shewed the letter to the
good lad in great sorrow, who, after having read the haughty monarch's
lines, spoke thus: "I'm not afraid of bald-headed dogs, and I will cut
to pieces the whole lot of them." At these words the sword clanked as it
never did before. "I do not want anything save two lads; they must be
both alike, and I will paint a mask resembling their features, and if we
three look alike I'm not afraid of the whole world."

In the royal town were two brothers who were exactly alike, and the
handsome lad painted himself a mask and put it on, and all three went to
Turkey. The witch smelt the strangers' approach from a great distance.
When they arrived in the Sultan's palace they all three saluted him, and
all three bowed simultaneously; they answered the Sultan's questions all
together; they sat down to supper all together; they all conveyed their
food to their mouths at the same time; they all got up at the same time;
after supper they all three bowed, and at the signal from the Sultan all
three went to bed. The Sultan could not see any difference between the
three, but he did not like to kill all three. The witch, however,
recognised the lad, and explained to her nephew his distinguishing
feature, but the Sultan could not understand her explanation. "Well, you
will know to-morrow morning, my Sultan and relative, which is the one
whom we intend to kill," said the witch; "you will know him by his
shirt-collar, which will have a scissors-cut in it; he is the Magyar
king's man." An hour before midnight, at the time the witches are
invisible, and when they are able to pass through the eye of a needle,
the old witch glided through the keyhole into the bedroom where the
youths soundly slept. All three were lying in the same bed, the handsome
lad on the outside. The witch produced a pair of small scissors, and
clipped out a piece of his shirt-collar, and then crept out of the room.
But the handsome lad, when dressing in the morning, noticed in the
looking-glass the damaged shirt-collar and marked his two mates' collars
the same way. The Sultan asked the three lads to breakfast. The old
witch stood in the window, and was very much surprised that the
shirt-collars of all three were marked in the same way. After breakfast,
they bowed and retired, and were allowed to return home. The king's
daughter was very anxious until her sweetheart returned, but when she
saw him one evening in her father's palace in good health and safe she
was greatly delighted, and begged her father's permission to marry him.
The king, however, made no reply, and the girl was very vexed with her
father. One evening when she was again pleading on his behalf she
suddenly fainted away; her eye fell on a letter sent by the Turkish
Sultan asking her Father to send him this strange lad alone, because he
was a dangerous man to Hungary. The old king sent the letter to the lad
by his daughter, which the girl handed to him with tears. "Do not weep,
love of my heart. God is with me, and his power." Thus he consoled her.
"I will start at sunrise to-morrow, and in a year's time we shall be
each other's." The brave hero went alone to the Sultan; he met the old
witch in the courtyard, who whispered to him, "It is the last time you
will come to beautiful Turkey." The sword clanked, and the youth would
not even listen to the old woman's words. When he stepped across the
Sultan's threshold, fifteen armed Turks confronted him: the sword darted
forth from its scabbard, and cut up the Turks into pulp. It did not
touch the Sultan, but went back into its scabbard. At night the old
witch tried to steal the lad's sword, but the sword jumped out and
chopped off the witch's iron nose. Next morning the Sultan arrayed an
enormous army against the lad, but the sword did its work so swiftly
that not a sword, nor an arrow even so much as scratched the lad, and
all the Turks were killed in a heap.

The daughter of the Magyar king was nearly in despair, because her
sweetheart did not return on the appointed day, and she bothered her
father with her requests until he led an army against Turkey. The girl
led the troops herself in military uniform, but the troops had not to
march more than a mile, as the lad was already on his way home with his
little sword. The king's daughter and the army conducted him to the
royal palace, and proclaimed him viceroy. The young hero with a few
thousand soldiers returned to the country where he was born. His mother
was very much frightened when she saw the soldiers approach, as she
thought that they had come to destroy the town; and was still more
frightened when she discovered that, while other courtyards were free
from soldiers, her own was full of them, so full that one could not even
drop a needle among them. She trembled, when a handsome fellow got off
his horse, and approached her, but was very much surprised when the same
handsome fellow took hold of her hand and kissed it, saying: "Well, my
dear mother, I will now tell you what I have dreamt. I dreamt that I
should become king of Hungary, my dream has become true, and I may tell
you now what it was, because it is an accomplished fact, and I am king
of Hungary. I wouldn't tell you in my childhood when you asked me,
because had I told you my dream the Magyar king would have killed me.
And now may the Lord bless you that you did beat me; had you not beaten
me the king would not have taken me; had he not taken me he would not
have sentenced me to the gallows; had the king not sentenced me to the
gallows the other king would not have carried me off.... I am now off to
get married." And so it happened; he went home with his soldiers, and
married the daughter of the Magyar king. He is still alive if he has not
died since!





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