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The Wicked Stepmother


Source: Aino Folktales

In ancient days, when men were allowed to have several wives, a certain
man had two--one about his own age, the other quite young,--and he loved
them both with equal tenderness. But when the younger of the two bore
him a daughter, his love for his daughter made him also perhaps a little
fonder of the mother of the child than of his other wife, to the
latter's great rage. She revolved in her mind what to do, and at last
feigned a grave illness, pretending not to be able even to eat, though
she did eat when everybody's back was turned. At last, being to all
appearance on the point of death, she declared that one thing alone
could cure her. She must have the heart of her little step-child to eat.

On hearing this, the man felt very sad, and knew not what to do; for he
loved this wicked wife of his and his little daughter equally dearly.
But at last he decided that he might more easily get another daughter
than another wife whom he would love as much as he did this one. So he
commanded two of his servants to carry off the child to the forest while
her mother was not looking, to slay her there, and bring back her heart.
So they took her. But, being merciful men, they slew, instead of her, a
dog that came by that way, and brought the child back secretly to her
mother, who was much frightened to hear what had happened, and who fled
with the child. Meanwhile the dog's heart was brought to the
step-mother, who was so overjoyed at the sight of it, that she declared
she required no more. So, without even eating it, she left off
pretending to be sick.

For some time after this, she lived alone with her husband. But at last
he was told of what had happened, and he grew very sullen. She, seeing
this, wished for a livelier husband. So one day, when her husband was
out hunting, a young man, beautifully dressed all in black, came and
courted her, and she flirted with him, and showed him her breasts. Then
they fled together, and came to a beautiful house with gold mats, where
they slept together. But when she woke in the morning it was not a house
at all, but a rubble of leaves and branches in the midst of the forest;
and her new husband was nothing but a carrion-crow perching overhead,
and her own body, too, was turned into a crow's, and she had to eat

But the former husband was warned in a dream to take back his younger
wife and his child, and the three lived happily together ever after.
From that time forward most men have left off the bad habit of having
more than one wife.--(Written down from memory. Told by Ishanashte,
November, 1886.)

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Previous: The Bride Bewitched

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