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The Stepmother And Her Stepdaughter

Source: Hero Tales And Legends Of The Serbians

Once upon a time there was a girl who lived with her stepmother. The
woman hated her stepdaughter exceedingly, because she was more
beautiful than her own daughter, whom she had brought with her to the
house. She did her utmost to turn the poor girl's own father against
her, and with such success that he soon began to scold and even to
hate his own child.

One day the woman said to her husband: "We must send your daughter
away. She must go into the world to seek her fortune!" And he answered:
"How can we send the poor girl away? Where could she go alone?" But
the wicked stepmother replied: "To-morrow you must take her far into
the woods, leave her there and hurry home, or I will no longer live
with you."

The unfortunate father at length gave way, and said: "At least
prepare the girl something for her journey, that she may not die
of hunger." The stepmother therefore made a cake, and gave it to
the girl next morning as she was leaving the house. The man and his
daughter trudged on until they were right in the depth of the woods,
and then the father stole away and returned home.

The girl, alone in the woods, wandered all the rest of that day in
search of a path, but could not find one. Meanwhile it grew darker
and darker, and at length she climbed a tree, fearing lest some
wild beast should devour her if she remained through the night on
the ground. And indeed, all night long the wolves howled under the
tree so ravenously that the poor girl, in her nervous terror, could
hardly keep from falling.

Next morning she descended the tree and wandered on again in search
of some way out, but the more she walked the denser grew the forest,
and there seemed to be no end to it. When it grew dark again, she
looked about for another suitable tree in the branches of which
she might safely pass the night, but suddenly she noticed something
shining through the darkness. She thought it might, perhaps, be a
dwelling, and she went toward it. And indeed, she came soon to a large
fine house, the doors of which were open. She entered, and saw many
elegant rooms, in one of which was a large table with lights burning
on it. She thought this must be the dwelling of brigands, but she had
no fear at all, for she reasoned with herself: "Only rich people need
fear robbers; I, a poor simple girl, have nothing to be afraid of;
I shall tell them that I am ready to work for them gladly if they
will give me something to eat."

A Strange Dwelling

Then she took the cake from her bag, made the sign of the cross
[80] and began her meal. No sooner had she begun to eat than a cock
appeared and flew near her as if begging for a share. The good girl
crumbled a piece of her cake and fed him. Shortly afterward a little
dog came and began in his own way to express friendly feeling toward
her. The girl broke another piece of her cake, gently took the little
dog in her lap, and began feeding and caressing it. After that a cat
came in too, and she did the same with her.

Suddenly she heard a loud growling, and she was terrified to see
a lion coming toward her. The great beast waved his tail in such a
friendly manner, and looked so very kind, however, that her courage
revived, and she gave him a piece of her cake, which the lion ate;
and then he began to lick her hand. This proof of gratitude reassured
the girl completely, and she stroked the lion gently, and gave him
more of the cake.

All at once the girl heard a great clashing of weapons, and nearly
swooned as a creature in a bear-skin entered the room. The cock, the
dog, the cat and the lion all ran to meet it, and frisked about it
affectionately, showing many signs of pleasure and rejoicing. She,
poor creature, did not think this strange being could be anything
but cruel, and expected it would spring upon her and devour her. But
the seeming monster threw the bear-skin from its head and shoulders,
and at once the whole room gleamed with the magnificence of its
golden garments. The girl almost lost her senses when she saw before
her a handsome man of noble appearance. He approached her and said:
"Do not fear! I am not a lawless man, I am the tsar's son; and when
I wish to hunt, I usually come here, disguised in this bear-skin,
lest the people should recognize me. Save you, no one knows that I
am a man; people think I am an apparition, and flee from me. No one
dares to pass near this house, still less to enter it, for it is known
that I dwell in it. You are the first who has ventured to come in;
probably you knew that I was not a ghost?"

Thereupon the girl told the prince all about her wicked stepmother,
and declared that she knew nothing of this dwelling or who lived in
it. When the young prince heard her story, moved with indignation and
pity, he said: "Your stepmother hated you, but God loved you. I love
you very much, too, and if you feel you could return my love, I would
like to marry you--will you be my wife?" "Yes," replied the maiden.

Next morning the prince took the girl to his father's palace and they
were married. After some time the prince's bride begged to be allowed
to go and pay a visit to her father. The prince gladly allowed her
to do as she wished, and donning a fine robe embroidered with gold
she went to her old home. Her father happened to be absent, and her
stepmother, seeing her coming, feared that she had come to revenge
herself; therefore she hurried out to meet her, saying: "You see now
that I sent you on the road of happiness?" The stepdaughter embraced
the woman and kissed her; she also embraced her stepsister. Then she
sat down to await her father's return, but at length, as he did not
come, she was compelled reluctantly to leave without seeing him. On
going away she gave much money to her stepmother, nevertheless when
she had got some distance from the house, the ungrateful woman
steathily shook her fist at her, muttering: "Wait a little, you
accursed creature, you shall certainly not be the only one so elegantly
dressed; to-morrow I shall send my own daughter the same way!"

The Envy of the Stepmother

The husband did not return until late in the evening, when his wife
met him, saying: "Listen, husband! I propose that my own daughter
should be sent out into the world that she may also seek her fortune;
for your girl came back to visit us to-day and lo! she was glittering
in gold." The man sighed and agreed.

Next morning the woman prepared for her daughter several cakes and
some roast meat and sent her with the father into the forest. The
unfortunate man guided her as he had led his own daughter, into the
heart of the forest, and then stole off leaving her alone. When the
girl saw that her father had disappeared she walked on slowly through
the woods, till she came to the gates of the same house in which
her stepsister had found happiness. She entered, closed the door
and resolved not to open it for anybody. Then she took a cake out
of her bag and began her meal. Meanwhile the cock, the dog and the
cat came in, and began to frisk about her playfully expecting that
she would give them something to eat, but she exclaimed angrily:
"Get away, you ugly creatures! I have hardly enough for myself;
I will not give you any!" Then she began to beat them; whereat the
dog howled, and the lion, hearing his friend's lamentation, rushed
in furiously and killed the unkind girl.

Next morning the prince rode out with his wife to hunt. They came to
the house, and saw what had happened, and when the princess recognized
her stepsister's dress, she gathered up the torn garment and carried it
to her father's house. This time she found her father at home, and he
was indeed very happy to learn that his dear daughter was married to a
handsome prince. When, however, he heard what had befallen his wife's
daughter he was sad indeed, and exclaimed: "Her mother has deserved
this punishment from the hand of God, because she hated you without
reason. She is at the well, I will go and tell her the sad news."

When his wife heard what had happened, she said: "O husband! I cannot
bear the sight of your daughter; let us kill both her and the tsar's
son! Do this thing or I will jump at once into the well." The man
indignantly answered: "Well then, jump! I shall not murder my own

And the wicked woman said: "If you cannot kill her, I cannot bear to
look at her!" Thereupon she jumped into the well and was killed.

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