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  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.