Some Serbian Popular Anecdotes

St. Peter and the Sand

A townsman went one day to the country to hunt and came at noon to

the house of a peasant whom he knew. The man asked him to share his

dinner, and while they were eating, the townsman looked around him

and noticed that there was but little arable land to be seen. There

were rocks and stones in abundance, however. Surprised at this,

the townsman exclaimed: "In the name of all that is good, my friend,

how on earth can you good people of this village exist without arable

land! and whence these heaps of rocks and stones?" "It is, indeed,

a great misfortune!" answered the peasant. "People say that our

ancestors heard from their fore-fathers that when our Lord walked on

this earth, St. Peter accompanied Him carrying on his back a sack full

of sand. Occasionally our Lord would take a grain of sand and throw

it down to make a mountain, saying: 'May this grain multiply!' When

they arrived here St. Peter's sack burst and half of its contents

poured out in our village."

Why the Serbian People are Poor

The nations of the world met together one day on the middle of the

earth to divide between themselves the good things in life. First they

deliberated upon the methods of procedure. Some recommended a lottery,

but the Christians, well knowing that they, as the cleverest, would

be able to obtain the most desirable gifts, and not wishing to be at

the mercy of fortune, suggested (and the idea was instantly adopted

by all) that each should express a wish for some good thing and it

would be granted to him. The men of Italy were allowed to express

their wish first, and they desired Wisdom. The Britons said: "We will

take the sea." The Turks: "And we will take fields." The Russians:

"We will take the forests and mines." The French: "And we will have

money and war." "And what about you Serbians?" asked the nations,

"What do you wish for?" "Wait till we make up our mind!" answered

the Serbians; and they have not yet agreed upon their reply.

The Gipsies and the Nobleman

A very rich and powerful nobleman was one day driving through his

vast estates. From afar four Tzigans [86] noted that he was alone,

and greedily coveting his fine carriage horses, determined to deprive

him of them. As the carriage approached, they rushed on to the road,

respectfully took off their hats, knelt before him, and one of them

began to speak, saying: "O how happy we are to have an opportunity

of manifesting to you, O most gracious lord, our deep gratitude for

the noble deeds and many acts of kindness with which your late and

generous father used to overwhelm us! As we have no valuable presents

to offer you, allow us to harness ourselves to your carriage and draw

you home." The haughty nobleman, proud of his father's good deeds,

was pleased to assent to this unusual form of courtesy. Two gipsies

thereupon detached the horses, harnessed themselves to the carriage

and drew it for some distance. Suddenly, however, they cut themselves

loose and ran back to the two other rascals who by this time had got

clear away with the horses.

Why the Priest was drowned

A few peasants and a priest were once crossing a river. Suddenly a

tempest arose and overturned the boat. All were good swimmers except

the poor priest, and when the peasants regained their boat and righted

it, which they did very soon, they approached the struggling preacher

and called to him to give them his hand that they might save him; but

he hesitated and was drowned. The peasants went to impart the sad news

to the priest's widow who, hearing it, exclaimed: "What a pity! But

had you offered him your hands, he would surely have accepted them,

and thus his precious life would have been saved--for it was ever

his custom to receive."

The Era from the other World

A Turk and his wife halted in the shadow of a tree. The Turk went

to the river to water his horse, and his wife remained to await his

return. Just then an Era passed by and saluted the Turkish woman:

"Allah help you, noble lady." "May God aid you," she returned;

"whence do you come?" "I come from the Other World, noble lady." "As

you have been in the Other World, have you not, perchance, seen there

my son Mouyo, who died a few months ago?" "Oh, how could I help seeing

him? He is my immediate neighbour." "Happy me! How is he, then?" "He

is well, may God be praised! But he could stand just a little more

tobacco and some more pocket-money to pay for black coffee." "Are you

going back again? And if so, would you be so kind as to deliver to

him this purse with his parent's greetings?" The Era took the money

protesting that he would be only too glad to convey so pleasant a

surprise to the youth, and hurried away. Soon the Turk came back,

and his wife told him what had transpired. He perceived at once

that she had been victimized and without stopping to reproach her,

he mounted his horse and galloped after the Era, who, observing the

pursuit, and guessing at once that the horseman was the husband of

the credulous woman, made all the speed that he could. There was a

mill near by and making for it, the Era rushed in and addressed the

miller with: "For Goodness' sake, brother, fly! There is a Turkish

horseman coming with drawn sword; he will kill you. I heard him say

so and have hurried to warn you in time." The miller had no time to

ask for particulars; he knew how cruel the Turks were, and without

a word he dashed out of the mill and fled up the adjacent rocks.

Meantime the Era placed the miller's hat upon his own head and

sprinkled flour copiously over his clothes, that he might look like a

miller. No sooner was this done than the Turk came up. Alighting from

his horse, he rushed into the mill and hurriedly asked the Era where

he had hidden the thief. The Era pointed indifferently to the flying

miller on the rock, whereupon the Turk requested him to take care

of his horse while he ran and caught the swindler. When the Turk was

gone some distance up the hill our Era brushed his clothes, swiftly

mounted the horse and galloped away. The Turk caught the real miller,

and demanded: "Where is the money you took from my wife, swindler?" The

poor miller made the sign of the cross [88] and said: "God forbid! I

never saw your noble lady, still less did I take her money."

After about half an hour of futile discussion, the Turk was convinced

of the miller's innocence, and returned to where he had left his

horse. But lo! There was no sign of a horse! He walked sadly back

to his wife, and she, seeing that her husband had no horse, asked in

surprise: "Where did you go, and what became of your horse?" The Turk

replied: "You sent money to our darling son; so I thought I had better

send him the horse that he need not go on foot in the Other World!"

A Trade before Everything

Once upon a time a king set out in his luxurious pleasure-galley

accompanied by his queen and a daughter. They had proceeded a very

little way from the shore when a powerful wind drove the galley far out

to sea, where at last it was dashed upon a barren rock. Fortunately

there was a small boat upon the galley, and the king, being a good

sailor, was able to launch this frail bark, and he rescued his wife and

daughter from the waves. After long tossing and drifting, good fortune

smiled upon the wanderers; they began to see birds and floating leaves,

which indicated that they were approaching dry land. And, indeed,

they soon came in sight of shore, and, as the sea was now calm, were

able to land without further adventure. But, alas, the king knew no

trade, and had no money upon his person. Consequently he was forced

to offer his services as a shepherd to a rich landowner, who gave

him a hut and a flock of sheep to tend. In these idyllic and simple

conditions they lived contentedly for several years, undisturbed by

regrets for the magnificence of their past circumstances.

One day the only son of the ruler of that strange country lost his

way while riding in the neighbourhood after a fox, and presently

he beheld the beautiful daughter of our shepherd. No sooner did his

eyes fall upon the maiden than he fell violently in love with her,

and she was not unwilling to receive the protestations of undying

affection which he poured into her ears. They met again and again,

and the maiden consented to marry the prince, provided her parents

would approve the match.

The prince first declared his wish to his own parents, who, of course,

were greatly astonished at their son's apparently foolish selection,

and would not give their consent. But the prince protested solemnly

that his resolution was unshakable; he would either marry the girl

he loved or remain single all his days. Finally his royal father took

pity on him, and sent his first adjutant to the shepherd secretly to

ask the hand of his daughter for the prince.

The Condition

When the adjutant came and communicated the royal message, the

shepherd asked him: "Is there any trade with which the royal prince is

familiar?" The adjutant was amazed at such a question. "Lord forbid,

foolish man!" he exclaimed, "how could you expect the heir-apparent to

know a trade? People learn trades in order to earn their daily bread;

princes possess lands and cities, and so do not need to work."

But the shepherd persisted, saying: "If the prince knows no trade,

he cannot become my son-in-law."

The royal courier returned to the palace and reported to the king

his conversation with the shepherd, and great was the astonishment

throughout the palace when the news became known, for all expected

that the shepherd would be highly flattered that the king had chosen

his daughter's hand for the prince in preference to the many royal

and imperial princesses who would have been willing to marry him for

the asking.

The king sent again to the shepherd, but the man remained firm in his

resolution. "As long as the prince," said he, "does not know any trade,

I shall not grant him the hand of my daughter."

When this second official brought back to the palace the same answer,

the king informed his son of the shepherd's condition, and the royal

prince resolved to put himself in the way of complying with it.

His first step was to go through the city from door to door in

order to select some simple and easy trade. As he walked through

the streets he beheld various craftsmen at their work, but he did

not stay until he came to the workshop of a carpet-maker, and this

trade appeared to him both easy and lucrative. He therefore offered

his services to the master, who gladly undertook to teach him the

trade. In due time the prince obtained a certificate of efficiency,

and he went to the shepherd and showed it to him, together with

samples of his hand work. The shepherd examined these and asked the

prince: "How much could you get for this carpet?" The prince replied:

"If it is made of grass, I could sell it for threepence." "Why, that

is a splendid trade," answered the shepherd, "threepence to-day and

another threepence to-morrow would make sixpence, and in two other

days you would have earned a shilling! If I only had known this

trade a few years ago I would not have been a shepherd." Thereupon he

related to the prince and his suite the story of his past life, and

what ill fate had befallen him, to the greatest surprise of all. You

may be sure that the prince rejoiced to learn that his beloved was

highly born, and the worthy mate of a king's son. As for his father,

he was especially glad that his son had fallen in love, not with the

daughter of a simple shepherd, but with a royal princess.

The marriage was now celebrated with great magnificence, and when the

festivities came to an end, the king gave the shepherd a fine ship,

together with a powerful escort, that he might go back to his country

and reassume possession of his royal throne.

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