He Who Asks Little Receives Much

: Hero Tales And Legends Of The Serbians

Once upon a time there lived three brothers, who instead of much

property had only a pear-tree. Each would watch that tree in turn,

whilst the other two went away from home to work for hire. One night

God sent His angel to see how the brothers lived, and, should they

be in misery, to improve their position. The angel came disguised as

a beggar, and when he found one of the brothers watching the tree,

he went forward an
asked him for a pear. The youth plucked some of

the fruit from his own part of the tree, handed them to the beggar,

and said: "Accept these pears from my share of the tree, but I cannot

give you those belonging to my brothers." The angel took the fruit,

thanked the youth, and disappeared.

The next day it was the turn of the second brother to watch the fruit,

and the angel, again in the semblance of a beggar, came and asked for a

pear. This brother likewise gave from his own part of the tree, saying:

"Take these, they are my own; but of those belonging to my brothers I

dare not offer you." The angel took the fruit gratefully and departed.

The third brother had a similar experience.

When the fourth day came, the angel disguised himself as a monk,

and came very early so that he could find all three brothers at home,

and he said to the youths: "Come with me, I shall improve your state

of life," whereupon they obeyed without question.

Soon they arrived at a river where the water was flowing in torrents,

and the angel asked the eldest brother: "What would you like to

have?" He answered: "I should like all this water to be changed into

wine and to belong to me." The angel made the sign of the cross with

his stick, and lo! wine was flowing instead of water, and that very

moment there appeared on the banks of the streamlet many barrels,

and men filling them with wine; in one word, there was a whole

village. Then the angel turned again to the young man and said:

"Here is what you wished; farewell!" and he continued his journey

with the others.

The three went on till they came to a field where they saw numbers of

doves, and the angel asked the second brother: "Now, what is it that

you would like?" And he answered: "I should like all these doves

to be changed into sheep, and to be mine!" The angel again made

the sign of the cross in the air, and lo! sheep instead of doves

covered the field. Suddenly there appeared many dairies; maidens

were busy milking the sheep, others pouring out the milk, others

again making cream. There was also a slaughter-house, and men busy,

some cutting the meat into joints, others weighing it, others again

selling the meat and receiving the money for it. Then the angel said:

"Here is all you wished for; farewell!"

The angel now proceeded with the youngest brother, and having

crossed the field he asked him what he would like to have. The

young man answered: "I should consider myself the happiest of men

if God were graciously pleased to grant me a wife of pure Christian

blood!" Thereupon the angel replied: "Oh, that is rather difficult to

find; in the whole world there are but three such women, two of whom

are married. The youngest is a maid, it is true, but she is already

sought in marriage by two wooers."

Journeying on, they came to a city where a mighty tsar dwelt with his

daughter. She, indeed, was of pure Christian blood. The travellers

entered the palace and found two princes already there with their

wedding apples [82] laid upon a table. Then the young man also

placed his apple on the table. When the tsar saw the newcomers he

said to those around him: "What shall we do now? Those are imperial

princes, and these men look like beggars!" Thereupon the angel said:

"Let the contest be decided thus: the princess shall plant three

vines in the garden, dedicating one to each of the three wooers;

and he on whose vine grapes are found next morning, is to be the

one whom the princess shall marry!" This plan was agreed to by all,

and the princess accordingly planted three vines.

When the next morning dawned, lo! grapes hung in clusters on the vine

dedicated to the poor man. So the tsar could not refuse his daughter

to the youngest brother. After the marriage, the angel led the young

couple to the forest, where he left them for a full year.

The Angel Returns

Then God sent again His angel, saying: "Go down to earth and see how

those poor ones are living now: if they are in misery, it may be you

will be able to improve their condition!" The angel obeyed immediately,

and disguising himself again as a beggar, he went first to the eldest

brother and asked him for a glass of wine. But the rich man refused,

saying: "If I were to give every one a glass of wine, there would be

none left for myself!" Upon this the angel made the sign of the cross

with his stick, and the stream began instantly to flow with water as

before. Then he turned to the man and said: "This was not for you;

go back under the pear-tree and continue to guard it!"

Then the angel went on to the second brother, whose fields were

covered with sheep, and asked him for a slice of cheese; but the rich

man refused, saying: "If I were to give everybody a slice of cheese,

there would be none left for myself!" Again the angel made the sign

of the cross with his stick, and lo! all the sheep turned instantly

into doves, who flew away. Then he said to the second brother: "Of

a surety that was not for you, go under the pear-tree and watch it!"

Finally the angel went to the youngest brother in order to see how

he was living, and found him with his wife in the forest, dwelling

as a poor man in a hut. He begged to be admitted into their hut, and

to pass the night there. They welcomed him very cordially, but they

explained that they could not entertain him as well as they would like

to do. "We are," they added, "very poor people." To which the angel

answered: "Do not speak so, I shall be quite content with what you

have!" They wondered then what to do, for there was no corn in their

hut to make real bread; they usually ground the bark of certain trees

and made bread from it. Such bread the wife now made for their guest,

and placed it in the oven to bake. When she came later to inspect her

baking, she was pleasantly surprised to find a fine loaf of real bread.

When the couple saw this wonder they lifted their hands toward

heaven and gave thanks: "We thank thee, O God! that we are now able

to entertain our guest!" After they had placed the bread before their

guest, they brought a vessel of water, and lo! when they came to drink,

they found it was wine.

Then the angel once more made the sign of the cross with his stick

over the hut, and on that spot instantly rose a beautiful palace,

containing an abundance of everything. Then the angel blessed the

couple and disappeared. The modest and pious man and woman lived

there happily ever after.