The Wicked Stepmother

: Aino Folktales

In ancient days, when men were allowed to have several wives, a certain

man had two--one about his own age, the other quite young,--and he loved

them both with equal tenderness. But when the younger of the two bore

him a daughter, his love for his daughter made him also perhaps a little

fonder of the mother of the child than of his other wife, to the

latter's great rage. She revolved in her mind what to do, and at last

feigned a grave illness, pretending not to be able even to eat, though

she did eat when everybody's back was turned. At last, being to all

appearance on the point of death, she declared that one thing alone

could cure her. She must have the heart of her little step-child to eat.

On hearing this, the man felt very sad, and knew not what to do; for he

loved this wicked wife of his and his little daughter equally dearly.

But at last he decided that he might more easily get another daughter

than another wife whom he would love as much as he did this one. So he

commanded two of his servants to carry off the child to the forest while

her mother was not looking, to slay her there, and bring back her heart.

So they took her. But, being merciful men, they slew, instead of her, a

dog that came by that way, and brought the child back secretly to her

mother, who was much frightened to hear what had happened, and who fled

with the child. Meanwhile the dog's heart was brought to the

step-mother, who was so overjoyed at the sight of it, that she declared

she required no more. So, without even eating it, she left off

pretending to be sick.

For some time after this, she lived alone with her husband. But at last

he was told of what had happened, and he grew very sullen. She, seeing

this, wished for a livelier husband. So one day, when her husband was

out hunting, a young man, beautifully dressed all in black, came and

courted her, and she flirted with him, and showed him her breasts. Then

they fled together, and came to a beautiful house with gold mats, where

they slept together. But when she woke in the morning it was not a house

at all, but a rubble of leaves and branches in the midst of the forest;

and her new husband was nothing but a carrion-crow perching overhead,

and her own body, too, was turned into a crow's, and she had to eat


But the former husband was warned in a dream to take back his younger

wife and his child, and the three lived happily together ever after.

From that time forward most men have left off the bad habit of having

more than one wife.--(Written down from memory. Told by Ishanashte,

November, 1886.)