Animals As Friends And As Enemies
: Hero Tales And Legends Of The Serbians
Once upon a time, a long while ago, there lived in a very far-off
country, a young nobleman who was so exceedingly poor that all his
property was an old castle, a handsome horse, a trusty hound, and a
This nobleman spent all his time in hunting and shooting, and lived
entirely on the produce of the chase.
One day he mounted his well-kept horse and rode off to the neighbouring
forest, accompanied, as usual, by his faithful hound. When he came to
the forest he dismounted, fastened his horse securely to a young tree,
and then went deep into the thicket in search of game. The hound ran
on at a distance before his master, and the horse remained all alone,
grazing quietly. Now it happened that a hungry fox came by that way
and, seeing how well-fed and well-trimmed the horse was, stopped a
while to admire him. By and by she was so charmed with the handsome
horse, that she lay down in the grass near him to bear him company.
Some time afterward the young nobleman came back out of the forest,
carrying a stag that he had killed, and was extremely surprised to
see the fox lying so near his horse. So he raised his rifle with the
intention of shooting her; but the fox ran up to him quickly and said,
"Do not kill me! Take me with you, and I will serve you faithfully. I
will take care of your fine horse whilst you are in the forest."
The fox spoke so pitifully that the nobleman was sorry for her,
and agreed to her proposal. Thereupon he mounted his horse, placed
the stag he had shot before him, and rode back to his old castle,
followed closely by his hound and his new servant, the fox.
When the young nobleman prepared his supper, he did not forget to
give the fox a due share, and she congratulated herself that she was
never likely to be hungry again, at least so long as she served so
skilful a hunter.
The next morning the nobleman went out again to the chase; the fox also
accompanied him. When the young man dismounted and bound his horse,
as usual, to a tree, the fox lay down near it to keep it company.
Now, whilst the hunter was far off in the depth of the forest looking
for game, a hungry bear came by the place where the horse was tied,
and, seeing how invitingly fat it looked, ran up to kill it. The
fox hereupon sprang up and begged the bear not to hurt the horse,
telling him if he was hungry he had only to wait patiently until her
master came back from the forest, and then she was quite sure that
the good nobleman would take him also to his castle and feed him,
and care for him, as he did for his horse, his hound, and herself.
The bear pondered over the matter very wisely and deeply for some
time, and at length resolved to follow the fox's advice. Accordingly
he lay down quietly near the horse, and waited for the return of the
huntsman. When the young noble came out of the forest he was greatly
surprised to see so large a bear near his horse, and, dropping the
stag he had shot from his shoulders, he raised his trusty rifle and
was about to shoot the beast. The fox, however, ran up to the huntsman
and entreated him to spare the bear's life, and to take him, also, into
his service. This the nobleman agreed to do; and, mounting his horse,
rode back to his castle, followed by the hound, the fox, and the bear.
The next morning, when the young man had gone again with his dog into
the forest, and the fox and the bear lay quietly near the horse,
a hungry wolf, seeing the horse, sprang out of a thicket to kill
it. The fox and the bear, however, jumped up quickly and begged him
not to hurt the animal, telling him to what a good master it belonged,
and that they were sure, if he would only wait, he also would be taken
into the same service, and would be well cared for. Thereupon the
wolf, hungry though he was, thought it best to accept their counsel,
and he also lay down with them in the grass until their master come
out of the forest.
You can imagine how surprised the young nobleman was when he saw a
great gaunt wolf lying so near his horse! However, when the fox had
explained the matter to him, he consented to take the wolf also into
his service. Thus it happened that this day he rode home followed by
the dog, the fox, the bear, and the wolf. As they were all hungry,
the stag he had killed was not too large to furnish their suppers that
night, and their breakfasts next morning. Not many days afterward a
mouse was added to the company, and after that a mole begged so hard
for admission that the good nobleman could not find in his heart to
refuse her. Last of all came the great bird, the kumrekusha--so strong
a bird that she can carry in her claws a horse with his rider! Soon
after a hare was added to the company, and the nobleman took great
care of all his animals and fed them regularly and well, so that they
were all exceedingly fond of him.
The Animals' Council
One day the fox said to the bear, "My good Bruin, pray run into the
forest and bring me a nice large log, on which I can sit whilst I
preside at a very important council we are going to hold."
Bruin, who had a great respect for the quick wit and good management
of the fox, went out at once to seek the log, and soon came back
bringing a heavy one, with which the fox expressed herself quite
satisfied. Then she called all the animals about her, and, having
mounted the log, addressed them in these words:
"You know all of you, my friends, how very kind and good a master we
have. But, though he is very kind, he is also very lonely. I propose,
therefore, that we find a fitting wife for him."
The assembly was evidently well pleased with this idea, and responded
unanimously, "Very good, indeed, if we only knew any girl worthy to
be the wife of our master; which, however, we do not."
Then the fox said, "I know that the king has a most beautiful daughter,
and I think it will be a good thing to take her for our lord; and
therefore I propose, further, that our friend the kumrekusha should
fly at once to the king's palace, and hover about there until the
princess comes out to take her walk. Then she must catch her up at
once, and bring her here."
As the kumrekusha was glad to do anything for her kind master, she
flew away at once, without even waiting to hear the decision of the
assembly on this proposal.
Just before evening set in, the princess came out to walk before her
father's palace: whereupon the great bird seized her and placed her
gently on her outspread wings, and thus carried her off swiftly to
the young nobleman's castle.
The king was exceedingly grieved when he heard that his daughter had
been carried off, and sent out everywhere proclamations promising
rich rewards to any one who should bring her back, or even tell
him where he might look for her. For a long time, however, all his
promises were of no avail, for no one in the kingdom knew anything
at all about the princess.
At last, however, when the king was well-nigh in despair, an old
gipsy woman came to the palace and asked the king, "What will you
give me if I bring back to you your daughter, the princess?"
The king answered quickly, "I will gladly give you whatever you like
to ask, if only you bring me back my daughter!"
Then the old gipsy went back to her hut in the forest, and tried all
her magical spells to find out where the princess was. At last she
found out that she was living in an old castle, in a very distant
country, with a young nobleman who had married her.
The Magic Carpet
The gipsy was greatly pleased when she knew this, and taking a whip
in her hand seated herself at once in the middle of a small carpet,
and lashed it with her whip. Then the carpet rose up from the ground
and bore her swiftly through the air, toward the far country where
the young nobleman lived, in his lonely old castle, with his beautiful
wife, and all his faithful company of beasts.
When the gipsy came near the castle she made the carpet descend on the
grass among some tress, and leaving it there went to look about until
she could meet the princess walking about the grounds. By and by the
beautiful young lady came out of the castle, and immediately the ugly
old woman went up to her, and began to fawn on her and to tell her all
kinds of strange stories. Indeed, she was such a good story-teller
that the princess grew quite tired of walking before she was tired
of listening; so, seeing the soft carpet lying nicely on the green
grass, she sat down on it to rest awhile. The moment she was seated
the cunning old gipsy sat down by her, and, seizing her whip, lashed
the carpet furiously. In the next minute the princess found herself
borne upon the carpet far away from her husband's castle, and before
long the gipsy made it descend into the garden of the king's palace.
You can easily guess how glad he was to see his lost daughter,
and how he generously gave the gipsy even more than she asked as
a reward. Then the king made the princess live from that time in a
very secluded tower with only two waiting-women, so afraid was he
lest she would again be stolen from him.
Meanwhile the fox, seeing how miserable and melancholy her young
master appeared after his wife had so strangely been taken from him,
and having heard of the great precautions which the king was using
in order to prevent the princess being carried off again, summoned
once more all the animals to a general council.
When all of them were gathered about her, the fox thus began: "You know
all of you, my dear friends, how happily our kind master was married;
but you know, also, that his wife has been unhappily stolen from him,
and that he is now far worse off than he was before we found the
princess for him. Then he was lonely; now he is more than lonely--he
is desolate! This being the case, it is clearly our duty, as his
faithful servants, to try in some way to bring her back to him. This,
however, is not a very easy matter, seeing that the king has placed
his daughter for safety in a strong tower. Nevertheless, I do not
despair, and my plan is this: I will turn myself into a beautiful
cat, and play about in the palace gardens under the windows of the
tower in which the princess lives. I dare say she will long for me
greatly the moment she sees me, and will send her waiting-women down
to catch me and take me up to her. But I will take good care that the
maids do not catch me, so that, at last, the princess will forget her
father's orders not to leave the tower, and will come down herself
into the gardens to see if she may not be more successful. I will
then make believe to let her catch me, and at this moment our friend,
the kumrekusha, who must be hovering over about the palace, must fly
down quickly, seize the princess, and carry her off as before. In
this way, my dear friends, I hope we shall be able to bring back to
our kind master his beautiful wife. Do you approve of my plan?"
Of course, the assembly were only too glad to have such a wise
counsellor, and to be able to prove their gratitude to their
considerate master. So the fox ran up to the kumrekusha, who flew
away with her under her wing, both being equally eager to carry out
the project, and thus to bring back the old cheerful look to the face
of their lord.
When the kumrekusha came to the tower wherein the princess dwelt she
set the fox down quietly among the trees, where it at once changed
into a most beautiful cat, and commenced to play all sorts of graceful
antics under the window at which the princess sat. The cat was striped
all over the body with many different colours, and before long the
king's daughter noticed her, and sent down her two women to catch
her and bring her up in the tower.
The two waiting-women came down into the garden, and called,
"Pussy! pussy!" in their sweetest voices; they offered her bread and
milk, but they offered it all in vain. The cat sprang merrily about
the garden, and ran round and round them, but would on no account
consent to be caught.
At length the princess, who stood watching them at one of the windows
of her tower, became impatient, and descended herself into the garden,
saying petulantly, "You only frighten the cat; let me try to catch
her!" As she approached the cat, who seemed now willing to be caught,
the kumrekusha darted down quickly, seized the princess by the waist,
and carried her high up into the air.
The frightened waiting-women ran to report to the king what had
happened to the princess; whereupon the king immediately let loose
all his greyhounds to seize the cat which had been the cause of
his daughter's being carried off a second time. The dogs followed
the cat closely, and were on the point of catching her, when she,
just in the nick of time, saw a cave with a very narrow entrance and
ran into it for shelter. There the dogs tried to follow her, or to
widen the mouth of the cave with their claws, but all in vain; so,
after barking a long time very furiously, they at length grew weary,
and stole back ashamed and afraid to the king's stables.
When all the greyhounds were out of sight the cat changed herself
back into a fox, and ran off in a straight line toward the castle,
where she found her young master very joyful, for the kumrekusha had
already brought back to him his beautiful wife.
The King makes War on the Animals
Now the king was exceedingly angry to think that he had again lost
his daughter, and he was all the more angry to think that such poor
creatures as a bird and a cat had succeeded in carrying her off after
all his precautions. So, in his great wrath, he resolved to make a
general war on the animals, and entirely exterminate them.
To this end he gathered together a very large army, and determined
to be himself their leader. The news of the king's intention spread
swiftly over the whole kingdom, whereupon for the third time the fox
called together all her friends--the bear, the wolf, the kumrekusha,
the mouse, the mole, and the hare--to a general council.
When all were assembled the fox addressed them thus: "My friends, the
king has declared war against us, and intends to destroy us all. Now
it is our duty to defend ourselves in the best way we can. Let us each
see what number of animals we are able to muster. How many of your
brother bears do you think you can bring to our help, my good Bruin?"
The bear got up as quickly as he could on his hind legs and called out,
"I am sure I can bring a hundred."
"And how many of your friends can you bring, my good wolf?" asked
the fox anxiously.
"I can bring at least five hundred wolves with me," said the wolf
with an air of importance.
The fox nodded her satisfaction and continued, "And what can you do
for us, dear master hare?"
"Well, I think, I can bring about eight hundred," said the hare
"And what can you do, you dear little mouse?"
"Oh, I can certainly bring three thousand mice."
"Very well, indeed!--and you Mr. Mole?"
"I am sure I can gather eight thousand."
"And now what number do you think you can bring us, my great friend,
"I fear not more than two or three hundred, at the very best," said
the kumrekusha sadly.
"Very good; now all of you go at once and collect your friends; when
you have brought all you can, we will decide what is to be done," said
the fox; whereupon the council broke up, and the animals dispersed
in different directions throughout the forest.
Not very long after, very unusual noises were heard in the
neighbourhood of the castle. There was a great shaking of trees; and
the growling of bears and the short sharp barking of wolves broke the
usual quiet of the forest. The army of animals was gathering from
all sides at the appointed place. When all were gathered together
the fox explained to them her plans in these words: "When the king's
army stops on its march to rest the first night, then you, bears
and wolves, must be prepared to attack and kill all the horses. If,
notwithstanding this, the army proceeds farther, you mice must be ready
to bite and destroy all the saddle-straps and belts while the soldiers
are resting the second night, and you hares must gnaw through the
ropes with which the men draw the cannon. If the king still persists
in his march, you moles must go the third night and dig out the earth
under the road they will take the next day, and must make a ditch full
fifteen yards in breadth and twenty yards in depth all round their
camp. Next morning, when the army begins to march over this ground
which has been hollowed out, you kumrekushas must throw down on them
from above heavy stones while the earth will give way under them."
The plan was approved, and all the animals went off briskly to attend
to their allotted duties.
When the king's army awoke, after their first night's rest on their
march, they beheld, to their great consternation, that all the horses
were killed. This sad news was reported at once to the king; but he
only sent back for more horses, and, when they came late in the day,
pursued his march.
The second night the mice crept quietly into the camp, and nibbled
diligently at the horses' saddles and at the soldiers' belts, while the
hares as busily gnawed at the ropes with which the men drew the cannon.
Next morning the soldiers were terrified, seeing the mischief the
animals had done. The king, however, reassured them, and sent back to
the city for new saddles and belts. When they were at length brought
he resolutely pursued his march, only the more determined to revenge
himself on these presumptuous and despised enemies.
On the third night, while the soldiers were sleeping, the moles
worked incessantly in digging round the camp a wide and deep trench
underground. About midnight the fox sent the bears to help the moles,
and to carry away the loads of earth.
Next morning the king's soldiers were delighted to find that no harm
seemed to have been done on the previous night to their horses or
straps, and started with new courage on their march. But their march
was quickly arrested, for soon the heavy horsemen and artillery began
to fall through the hollow ground, and the king, when he observed that,
called out, "Let us turn back. I see God himself is against us, since
we have declared war against the animals. I will give up my daughter."
Then the army turned back, amidst the rejoicings of the soldiers. The
men found, however, to their great surprise and fear, that whichever
way they turned, they fell through the earth. To make their
consternation yet more complete, the kumrekushas now began to throw
down heavy stones on them, which crushed them completely. In this
way the king, as well as his whole army, perished.
Very soon afterward the young nobleman, who had married the king's
daughter, went to the enemy's capital and took possession of the
king's palace, taking with him all his animals; and there they all
lived long and happily together.