Handsome Paul

: The Folk-tales Of The Magyars

There was once, over seven times seven countries, a poor woman who had a

son, and he decided to go into service. So he said to his mother,

"Mother, fill my bag and let me go out to work, for that will do me more

good than staying here and wasting my time." The lad's name was Paul.

His mother filled his bag for him, and he started off. As it became dark

he reached a wood, and in the distance he saw, as it were, a spark

limmering amongst the trees, so he made his way in that direction

thinking that he might find some one there, and that he would be able to

get a night's lodging. So he walked and walked for a long time, and the

nearer he came the larger the light became. By midnight he reached the

place where the fire was, and lo! there was a great ugly giant sleeping

by the fire. "Good evening, my father," said Paul. "God has brought you,

my son," replied the giant; "you may think yourself lucky that you

called me father, for if you had not done so I would have swallowed you

whole. And now what is your errand?"

"I started from home," said Paul, "to find work, and good fortune

brought me this way. My father, permit me to sleep to-night by your

fire, for I am alone and don't know my way." "With pleasure, my son,"

said the giant. So Paul sat down and had his supper, and then they both

fell asleep. Next morning the giant asked him where he intended to go in

search of work. "If I could," replied Paul, "I should like to enter the

king's service, for I have heard he pays his servants justly." "Alas! my

son," said the giant, "the king lives far away from here. Your

provisions would fail twice before you reached there, but we can manage

the matter if you will sit on my shoulder and catch hold of the hair on

the back of my head." Paul took his seat on the giant's shoulders. "Shut

your eyes," said the giant, "because if you don't you will turn giddy."

Paul shut his eyes, and the giant started off, stepping from mountain to

mountain, till noon, when he stopped and said to Paul, "Open your eyes

now and tell me what you can see."

Paul looked around as far as he could see, and said, "I see at an

infinite distance something white, as big as a star. What is it, my

father?" "That is the king's citadel," said the giant, and then they sat

down and had dinner. The giant's bag was made of nine buffalo's skins,

and in it were ten loaves (each loaf being made of four bushels of

wheat), and ten large bottles full of good Hungarian wine. The giant

consumed two bottles of wine and two loaves for his dinner, and gave

Paul what he needed. After a short nap the giant took Paul upon his

shoulders, bade him shut his eyes, and started off again, stepping from

mountain to mountain. At three o'clock he said to Paul, "Open your eyes,

and tell me what you can see." "I can see the white shining thing

still," said Paul, "but now it looks like a building." "Well, then, shut

your eyes again," said the giant, and he walked for another hour, and

then again asked Paul to look. Paul now saw a splendid glittering

fortress, such a one as he had never seen before, not even in his

dreams. "In another quarter-of-an-hour we shall be there," said the

giant. Paul shut his eyes again, and in fifteen minutes they were there;

and the giant put him down in front of the gate of the king's palace,

saying, "Well, now, I will leave you here, for I have a pressing

engagement, and must get back, but whatsoever service they offer to you,

take it, behave well, and the Lord keep you." Paul thanked him for his

kindness and his good-will, and the giant left. As Paul was a fine

handsome fellow he was engaged at once, for the first three months to

tend the turkeys, as there was no other vacancy, but even during this

time he was employed on other work: and he behaved so well, that at the

end of the time he was promoted to wait at the king's table. When he was

dressed in his new suit he looked like a splendid flower. The king had

three daughters; the youngest was more beautiful than the rose or the

lily, and this young lady fell in love with Paul, which Paul very soon

noticed; and day by day his courage grew, and he approached her more and

more, till they got very fond of each other.

The queen with her serpent's eye soon discovered the state of affairs,

and told the king of it.

"It's all right," said the king, "I'll soon settle the wretched fellow;

only leave it to me, my wife."

Poor Paul, what awaits thee?

The king then sent for Paul and said, "Look here, you good-for-nothing,

I can see you are a smart fellow! Now listen to me: I order you to cut

down during the night the whole wood that is in front of my window, to

cart it home, chop it up, and stack it in proper order in my courtyard;

if you don't I shall have your head chopped off in the morning." Paul

was so frightened when he heard this that he turned white and said, "Oh,

my king! no man could do this." "What!" said the king, "you

good-for-nothing, you dare to contradict me? go to prison at once!" Paul

was at once taken away, and the king repeated his commands, saying that

unless they were obeyed Paul should lose his head. Poor Paul was very

sad, and wept like a baby; but the youngest princess stepped into his

prison through a secret trap-door, and consoled him, giving him a copper

whip, and telling him to go and stand outside the gate on the top of the

hill, and crack it three times, when all the devils would appear. He was

then to give his orders, which the devils would carry out.

Paul went off through the trap, and the princess remained in prison till

Paul returned; he went out, stood on the hill, and cracked his whip well

thrice, and lo! the devils came running to him from all sides, crying,

"What are your commands handsome Paul?" "I order you," replied Paul, "by

to-morrow morning to have all that large forest cut down, chopped, and

stacked in the king's courtyard;" with this he went back to prison and

spent a little time with the princess before she went away. The devils

entered the wood, and began to hew the trees down; there was a roaring,

clattering, and cracking noise as the big trees were dragged by root and

crown into the king's yard; they were chopped up and stacked; and the

devils, having finished the task, ran back to hell. By one o'clock all

was done.

In the morning the first thing the king did was to look through the

window in the direction of the wood; he could not see anything but bare

land, and when he looked into the courtyard he saw there all the wood

chopped and stacked.

He then called Paul from prison and said, "Well, I can see that you know

something, my lad, and I now order you to plough up to-night the place

where the wood used to be, and sow it with millet. The millet must grow,

ripen, be reaped, threshed, and ground into flour by the morning, and of

it you must make me a large millet-cake, else you lose your head." Paul

was then sent back to prison, more miserable than ever, for how could he

do such an unheard-of thing as that? His sweetheart came in again

through the trap-door and found him weeping bitterly. When she heard the

cause of his grief she said, "Oh, don't worry yourself, dear; here is a

golden whip, go and crack it three times on the hill-top, and all the

devils will come that came last night; crack it again three times and

all the female devils will arrive; crack it another three times and even

the lame ones will appear, and those enceinte come creeping forth. Tell

them what you want and they will do it."

Paul went out and stood on the hill-top, and cracked his whip three good

cracks, and then three more, and three more, such loud cracks that his

ears rung, and again the devils came swarming in all directions like

ants, old ones and young ones, males and females, lame and enceinte,

such a crowd that he could not see them all without turning his head all

round. They pressed him hard, saying, "What are your commands, handsome

Paul? What are your commands, handsome Paul? If you order us to pluck

all the stars from heaven and to place them in your hands it shall be


Paul gave his orders and went back to prison, and stayed with the

princess till daybreak.

There was a sight on the hill-side, the devils were shouting and making

such a din that you could not tell one word from another. "Now then!

Come here! This way, Michael! That way, Jack! Pull it this way! Turn it

that way! Go at it! See, the work is done!"

The whole place was soon ploughed up, the millet sown, and it began to

sprout, it grew, ripened, was cut, carted in wagons, in barrows, on

their backs, or as best they could. It was thrashed with iron flails,

carried to the mill, crushed and bolted, a light was put to the timber

in the yard, it took fire, and the wood crackled everywhere, and there

was such a light that the king in the seventh country off could see to

count his money by it. Then they brought from hell the biggest cauldron

they could find, put it on the fire, put flour into it and boiling

water; as the millet-cake was bubbling and boiling they took it out of

the pot and put it into Mrs. Pluto's lap, placed a huge spoon into her

hands, and she began to stir away, mix it up, and cut it up with her

quick hands till it began to curl up at the side of the cauldron after

the spoon. As it was quite done she mixed it well once more, and being

out of breath handed the spoon to Pluto himself--who was superintending

the whole work,--who took out his pocket-knife--which was red-hot--and

began to scrape the cake off the spoon and to eat it with great gusto.

Mrs. Pluto then took the cake out with a huge wooden spoon, heaped it up

nicely, patted it all round, and put it on the fire once more; when it

was quite baked she turned it out a large millet-cake in the midst of

the yard, and then they all rushed back, as fast as they could run, to


Next morning, when the king looked through the window, an immense

millet-cake was to be seen there, so large that it nearly filled the

whole yard; and he, however vexed he was, could not help bursting out

into a loud laugh. He gave instant orders for the whole town to come and

clear away the millet-cake, and not to leave so much as a mouthful.

Never was such a feast seen before, and I don't think ever will be

again: some carried it away in their hands, some in bags, some in large

table-cloths, sacks, and even in wagons; everybody took some, and it

went in all directions in every possible manner, so that in three hours

the huge cake was all gone; even the part that had stuck to the ground

was scraped up and carried away. Some made tarts of it at home, pounded

poppy-seed, and spread it over them; others wanted pork to eat with it,

others ate it with fresh milk, with dried prunes, with perry, with

craps, with cream-milk, sour-milk, cow's-milk, goat's-milk; some with

curds; others covered it over with cream-cheese, rolled it up and ate it

thus; better houses mixed it with good buffalo-milk, and ate it with

butter, lard, and cream-cheese, so that it was no longer millet-cake

with cream-cheese, but cream-cheese with millet-cake! There were many

who had never eaten anything like it before, and they got so full of it

they could just breathe; even the king had a large piece served up for

his breakfast on a porcelain plate; he then went to the larder for a

large tub, which was full of the best cream-cheese of Csik like unto the

finest butter; he took a large piece of this, spread it on his cake, set

to and ate it to the very last. He then drank three tumblerfuls of the

best old claret, and said, "Well, that really was a breakfast fit for

the gods!" And thus it happened that all the millet-cake was used up,

and then the king sent for Paul and said to him, "Well, you brat of a

devil, did you do all this, or who did it?" "I don't know." "Well, there

are in my stables a bay stallion, a bay mare, two grey fillies and a bay

filly, you must walk them about, in turn, to-morrow morning, till they

are tired out; if you don't I'll have your head impaled." Paul wasn't a

bit frightened this time, but began to whistle, and hum tunes to himself

in the prison, being in capital spirits. "It will be very easy to walk

these horses out," said he; "it's not the first time I've done that."

The matter looked different however in the evening when his sweetheart

came and he told her all about it. "My love," said she, "this is even

worse than all the rest, because the devils did all your former tasks

for you, but this you must do yourself. Moreover, you must know that the

bay stallion will be my father, the bay mare my mother, the two grey

foals my elder sisters, and the bay foal myself. However, we shall find

some way of doing even this. When you enter the stable we all will begin

to kick so terribly that you won't be able to get near us; but you must

try to get hold of the iron pole that stands inside the door, and with

it thrash them all till they are tame; then you must lead them out as

well as you can; but don't beat me, for I shall not desert you." His

love then gave him a copper bridle, which he hid in his bosom, and

buttoned his coat over it. And his lady-love went back to her bedroom;

for she knew there was plenty of hard work in store for her on the

morrow; for the same reason she ordered Paul to try to sleep well.

In the morning the jailer came, and brought two warders with him, and

led Paul to the stable to take the horses out for a walk. Even in the

distance he could hear the snorting, kicking, pawing, and neighing in

the stable, so that it filled the air. He tried in vain to get inside

the stable-door, he had not courage enough to take even one step inside.

Somehow or other, however, he got hold of the iron pole, and with it he

beat, pounded, and whacked the bay stallion till it lay down in agony.

He then took out his bridle, threw it over its head, led it out, jumped

upon its back, and rode it about till the foam streamed from it, and

then led it in and tied it up. He did the same with the bay mare, only

she was worse; and the grey foals were worse still, till by the end he

was nearly worn out with beating them. At last he came to the bay foal,

but he would not have touched her for all the treasure of the world;

yet, in order to deceive the others, he banged the crib, box, manger,

and posts right lustily, till at last the bay foal lay down. With this

the mare, who was the queen, said to the bay stallion, "You see it was

that bay foal who was the cause of all this. But wait a bit, confound

her!" she cried after them as he led her out of the stable; "I also have

as many wits as you, and I will teach you both a lesson. Never mind, my

sweet daughter, you have treated us all most cruelly with that iron

pole, but you shall pay for it shortly." When Paul heard this he was so

frightened he could hardly lead the foal. "Don't be afraid," said the

foal, "let's get away from here, and the sooner the better, never to

return, or woe betide us!" They cantered up to the house, where she sent

him in to get money, and jewellery, and the various things they would

need, and then galloped off as fast as she could with Paul on her back,

over seven times seven countries, till noon; and just as the sun was at

noon the foal said to Paul, "Look back; what can you see?" Paul looked

back and saw in the distance an eagle flying towards them, from whose

mouth shot forth a flame seven fathoms long. Then said the foal, "I will

turn a somersault, and become a sprouting millet-field; you do the same,

you will become the garde champetre, and when the eagle, which is my

father, comes, if he ask you if you have seen such and such travellers,

tell him, yes, you saw them pass when this millet was sown." So the foal

turned over and became a sprouting millet-field, and Paul became the

garde champetre. The eagle arrived, and said, "My lad, have you not seen

a young fellow on a bay foal pass this way in a great hurry?" "Well,

yes," replied Paul, "I saw them at the time this millet was sown, but I

can't tell you where they may be now." "I don't think they can have come

this way," said the eagle, and flew back home and told his wife all

about it. "Oh! you baulked fool!" cried she, "the millet-field was your

daughter, and the lad Paul. So back you go at once, and bring them


Paul and his foal rode on half the afternoon, and then the foal said,

"Look back, what can you see?" "I see the eagle again," said Paul, "but

now the flame is twice seven fathoms long; he flies very quickly."

"Let's turn over again," said the foal, "and I will become a lamb and

you will be the shepherd, and if my father ask you if you have seen the

travellers say yes, you saw them when the lamb was born." So they turned

over, and one became a lamb and the other a shepherd; the eagle arrived

and asked the shepherd if he had seen the travellers pass by, and was

told that they were seen when the lamb was born. The king returned and

told his wife all, who drove him back, crying, "The lamb was your

daughter and the shepherd, Paul, you empty-headed fool." Paul and the

foal went on a long way, when the foal said, "What can you see?" He saw

the eagle again, but now it was enveloped in flames; they turned over

and the foal became a chapel, and Paul a hermit inside; the eagle

arrived and inquired after the travellers, and was told by the hermit

that they had passed by when the chapel was building. The eagle went

back a third time, and his wife was in an awful rage and told him to

stay where he was, telling him that the chapel was his daughter and the

hermit Paul. "But you are so dense," said she, "they can make you

believe anything; I will go myself and see whether they will fool me."

The queen started off as a falcon. Paul and the foal went still

travelling on, when the foal said, "Look back, what can you see?" "I see

a falcon," said Paul, "With a flame seventy-seven yards long coming out

of its mouth." "That's my mother," said the foal, "We must be careful

this time, Paul, for we shall not be able to hoodwink her with lies; let

us turn over quickly, she will be here in a second. I will be a lake of

milk and you a golden duck on it; take care she doesn't catch you, or we

are done for." They turned over and changed; the falcon arrived and

swooped down upon the duck like lightning, who had just time to dive and

escape. The falcon tried again and again till it got quite tired; for

each time the duck dived and so she missed him. In a great rage the

falcon turned over and became the queen. She picked up stones and tried

to strike the duck dead, but he was clever enough to dodge her, so she

soon got tired of that and said, "I can see, you beast, that I cannot do

anything with you; my other two daughters died before my eyes to-day

from the beating you gave them with the iron pole, you murderer. Now I

curse you with this curse, that you will forget each other, and never

remember that you have ever known each other."

With this she turned over, became a falcon, and flew away home very sad,

and the other two changed also, this time into Paul and the princess.

"Nobody will persecute us now," said she, "let us travel on quietly. The

death of my two sisters is no sad or bad news to me, for now when my

father and mother are dead the land will be ours, my dear Paul;" so they

wandered on, and talked over their affairs, till they came to a house;

and as the day was closing they felt very tired and sat down to rest and

fell asleep. After sunset they awoke and stared at each other, but

couldn't make out who the other was, for they had forgotten all the

past, and inquired in astonishment "Who are you?" and "Well, who are

you?" But neither could tell who the other was; so they walked into the

town as strangers and separated. Paul got a situation as valet to a

nobleman, and the princess became a lady's maid in another part of the

city. They lived there for twelve months, and never once remembered

anything that had happened in the past. One night Paul dreamt that the

bay stallion was in its last agony, and soon afterwards died; the lady's

maid, at the same time, dreamt that the bay mare was dying, and died; by

this dream they both remembered all that had happened to each other; but

even then they did not know that they were in the same town. On the day

following this dream Paul was sent by the nobleman's son secretly with a

love-letter to the nobleman's youngest daughter where the lady's maid

lived. Paul took the letter, and handed it to the lady's maid so that

she might place it in her mistress's hands; then he saw who the lady's

maid was, that it was his old sweetheart, the beloved of his soul; now

he remembered how often before he had given her letters from his young

master for the young lady of the house, and how he had done a little

love-making on his own account, but never till now had he recognised

her. The princess recognised Paul at a glance and rushed into his arms

and wept for joy. They told each other their dreams, and knew that her

father and mother--the bay mare and bay stallion of yore--died last

night. "Let us be off," said the princess, "or else the kingdom will be

snatched from us." So they agreed, and fixed the day after the morrow

for the start. Next morning the official crier proclaimed that the king

and queen had died suddenly about midnight; it happened at the very

moment they had had their dreams.

They started secretly by the same road, and arrived at home in a day.

The king and queen were still laid in state, and the princess, who was

thought to be lost, shed tears over them.

She was soon afterwards crowned queen of the realm, and chose Paul for

her consort, and got married; if they have not died since they are still

alive, and in great happiness to this day.