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Russian Fairy Tales

A Choice Collection of Muscovite Folk-lore

W. R. S. Ralston

First digital edition 2016 by Anna Ruggieri

Table of Contents










The stories contained in the following pages are taken from the collections published by Afanasief, Khudyakof, Erlenvein, and Chudinsky. The South-Russian collections of Kulish and Rudchenko I have been able to use but little, there being no complete dictionary available of the dialect, or rather the language, in which they are written. Of these works that of Afanasief is by far the most important, extending to nearly 3,000 pages, and containing distinct stories—of many of which several variants are given, sometimes as many as five. Khudyakof’s collection contains skazkas—as the Russian folk-tales are called—Erlenvein’s, and Chudinsky’s. Afanasief has also published a separate volume, containing “legends,” and he has inserted a great number of stories of various kinds in his “Poetic views of the Old Slavonians about Nature,” a work to which I have had constant recourse.

From the stories contained in what may be called the “chap-book literature” of Russia, I have made but few extracts. It may, however, be as well to say a few words about them. There is a Russian wordlub, diminutivelubok, meaning the soft bark of the lime tree, which at one time was used instead of paper. The popular tales which were current in former days were at first printed on sheets or strips of this substance, whence the termlubochnuiyacame to be given to all such productions of the cheap press, even after paper had taken the place of bark.

The stories which have thus been preserved have no small interest of their own, but they cannot be considered as fair illustrations of Russian folk-lore, for their compilers in many cases took them from any sources to which they had access, whether eastern or western, merely adapting what they borrowed to Russian forms of thought and speech. Through some such process, for instance, seem to have passed the very popular Russian stories of Eruslan Lazarevich and of Bova Korolevich. They have often been quoted as “creationsof the Slavonic mind,” but there seems to be no reason for doubting that they are merely Russian adaptations, the first of the adventures of the Persian Rustem, the second of those of the Italian Buovo di Antona, our Sir Bevis of Hampton. The editors of these “chap-book skazkas” belonged to the pre-scientific period, and had a purely commercial object in view. Their stories were intended simply to sell.

A German version of seventeen of these “chap-book tales,” to which was prefixed an introduction by JacobGrimm, was published some forty years ago,[2]and has been translated into English. Somewhat later, also, appeared a German version of twelve more of these tales.

Of late years several articles have appeared in some of the German periodicals,[5]giving accounts or translations of some of the Russian Popular Tales. But no thorough investigation of them appeared in print, out of Russia, until the publication last year of the erudite work on “Zoological Mythology” by Professor Angelo de Gubernatis. In it he has given a summary of the greater part of the stories contained in the collections of Afanasief and Erlenvein, and so fully has he described the part played in them by the members of the animal world that I have omitted, in the present volume, the chapter I had prepared on the Russian “Beast-Epos.”

Another chapter which I have, at least for a time, suppressed, is that in which I had attempted to say something about the origin and the meaning of the Russian folk-tales. The subject is so extensive thatit requires for its proper treatment more space than a single chapter could grant; and therefore, though not without reluctance, I have left the stories I have quoted to speak for themselves, except in those instances in which I have given the chief parallels to be found in the two collections of foreign folk-tales best known to the English reader, together with a few others which happened to fall within the range of my own reading. Professor de Gubernatis has discussed at length, and with much learning, the esoteric meaning of the skazkas, and their bearing upon the questions to which the “solar theory” of myth-explanation has given rise. To his volumes, and to those of Mr. Cox, I refer all who are interested in those fascinating enquiries. My chief aim has been to familiarize English readers with the Russian folk-tale; the historical and mythological problems involved in it can be discussed at a later period. Before long, in all probability, a copious flood of light will be poured upon the connexion of thePopular Tales of Russia with those of other lands by one of those scholars who are best qualified to deal with the subject.

Besides the stories about animals, I have left unnoticed two other groups of skazkas—those which relate to historical events, and those in which figure the heroes of the Russian “epic poems” or “metrical romances.” My next volume will be devoted to the Builinas, as those poems are called, and in it the skazkas which are connected with them will find their fitting place. In it, also, I hope to find space for the discussion of many questions which in the present volume I have been forced to leave unnoticed.

The fifty-one stories which I have translated at length I have rendered as literally as possible. In the very rare instances in which I have found it necessary to insert any words by way of explanation, I have (except in the case of such additions as “he said” or the like) enclosed them between brackets. In giving summaries, also, I have kept closely to the text, and always translated literally the passages marked as quotations. In the imitation of a finished work of art, elaboration and polish are meet and due, but in a transcript from nature what is most required is fidelity. An “untouched” photograph is in certain cases infinitely preferable to one which has been carefully “worked upon.” And it is, as it were, a photograph of the Russian story-teller that I have tried to produce, and not an ideal portrait.

The following are the principal Russian books to which reference has beenmade:—

Afanasief(A.N.). Narodnuiya Russkiya Skazki[7][Russian Popular Tales]. 8 pts. Moscow, 1863-60-63. Narodnuiya Russkiya Legendui[8][Russian Popular Legends]. Moscow, 1859. Poeticheskiya Vozzryeniya Slavyan na Prirodu [Poetic Views of the Slavoniansabout Nature].[9]3 vols. Moscow, 1865-69.

Khudyakof(I.A.). Velikorusskiya Skazki [Great-Russian Tales]. Moscow, 1860.

Chudinsky(E.A.). Russkiya Narodnuiya Skazki, etc. [Russian Popular Tales, etc.]. Moscow, 1864.

Erlenvein(A.A.). Narodnuiya Skazki, etc. [Popular Tales, collected by village schoolmasters in the Government of Tula]. Moscow, 1863.

Rudchenko(I.). Narodnuiya Yuzhnorusskiya Skazki [South-Russian Popular Tales].[10]Kief, 1869.

Most of the other works referred to are too well known torequire a full setting out of their title. But it is necessary to explain that references to Grimm are as a general rule to the “Kinder- und Hausmärchen,” 9th ed. Berlin, 1870. Those to Asbjörnsen and Moe are to the “Norske Folke-Eventyr,” 3d ed. Christiania, 1866; those to Asbjörnsen only are to the “New Series” of those tales, Christiania, 1871; those to Dasent are to the “Popular Tales from the Norse,” 2d ed., 1859. The name “Karajich” refers to the “Srpske Narodne Pripovijetke,” published at Vienna in 1853 by Vuk Stefanovich Karajich, and translated by his daughter under the title of “Volksmärchen der Serben,” Berlin, 1854. By “Schott” is meant the “Walachische Mährchen,” Stuttgart und Tubingen, 1845, by “Schleicher” the “Litauische Märchen,” Weimar, 1857, by “Hahn” the “Griechische und albanesische Märchen,” Leipzig, 1864, by “Haltrich” the “Deutsche Volksmärchen aus dem Sachsenlande in Siebenbürgen,” Berlin, 1856, and by “Campbell” the “Popular Tales of the West Highlands,” 4 vols., Edinburgh, 1860-62.

A few of the ghost stories contained in the following pages appeared in the “Cornhill Magazine” for August 1872, and an account of some of the “legends” was given in the “Fortnightly Review” for April 1, 1868.




There are but few among those inhabitants of Fairy-land of whom “Popular Tales” tell, who are better known to the outer world than Cinderella—the despised and flouted younger sister, who long sits unnoticed beside the hearth, then furtively visits the glittering halls of the great and gay, and at last is transferred from her obscure nook to the place of honor justly due to her tardily acknowledged merits. Somewhat like the fortunes of Cinderella have been those of the popular tale itself. Long did it dwellbeside the hearths of the common people, utterly ignored by their superiors in social rank. Then came a period during which the cultured world recognized its existence, but accorded to it no higher rank than that allotted to “nursery stories” and “old wives’ tales”—except, indeed, on those rare occasions when the charity of a condescending scholar had invested it with such a garb as was supposed to enable it to make a respectable appearance in polite society. At length there arrived the season of its finalchange, when, transferred from the dusk of the peasant’s hut into the full light of the outer day, and freed from the unbecoming garments by which it had been disfigured, it was recognized as the scion of a family so truly royal that some of its members deduce their origin from the olden gods themselves.

In our days the folk-tale, instead of being left to the careless guardianship of youth and ignorance, is sedulously tended and held in high honor by the ripest of scholars. Their views with regard to its origin may differ widely. But whether it be considered in one of its phases as a distorted “nature-myth,” or in another as a demoralized apologue or parable—whether it be regarded at one time as a relic of primeval wisdom, or at another as a blurred transcript of a page of mediæval history—its critics agree in declaring it to be no mere creation of the popular fancy, no chance expression of the uncultured thought of the rude tiller of this or that soil. Rather is it believed of most folk-tales that they, intheir original forms, were framed centuries upon centuries ago; while of some of them it is supposed that they may be traced back through successive ages to those myths in which, during a prehistoric period, the oldest of philosophers expressed their ideasrelative to the material or the spiritual world.

But it is not every popular tale which can boast of so noble a lineage, and one of the great difficulties which beset the mythologist who attempts to discover the original meaning of folk-tales in general is to decide which of them are really antique, and worthy, therefore, of being submitted to critical analysis. Nor is it less difficult, when dealing with the stories of any one country in particular, to settle which may be looked upon as its own property,and which ought to be considered as borrowed and adapted. Everyone knows that the existence of the greater part of the stories current among the various European peoples is accounted for on two different hypotheses—the one supposing that most of them “were common in germ at least to the Aryan tribes before their migration,” and that, therefore, “these traditions are as much a portion of the common inheritance of our ancestors as their language unquestionably is:”[11]the other regarding at least a great part of them as foreign importations, Oriental fancies whichwere originally introduced into Europe, through a series of translations, by the pilgrims and merchants who were always linking the East and the West together, or by the emissaries of some of the heretical sects, or in the train of such warlike transferrers as the Crusaders, or the Arabs who ruled in Spain, or the Tartars who so long held the Russia of old times in their grasp. According to the former supposition, “these very stories, theseMährchen, which nurses still tell, with almost the same words, in the Thuringian forest and in the Norwegian villages, and to which crowds of children listen under the pippal trees of India,”[12]belong “to the common heirloom of the Indo-European race;” accordingto the latter, the majority of European popular tales are merely naturalized aliens in Europe, being as little the inheritance of its present inhabitants as were the stories and fables which, by a circuitous route, were transmitted from India to Boccaccioor La Fontaine.

On the questions to which these two conflicting hypotheses give rise we will not now dwell. For the present, we will deal with the Russian folk-tale as we find it, attempting to become acquainted with its principal characteristics to see in what respects it chiefly differs from the stories of the same class which are current among ourselves, or in those foreign lands with which we are more familiar than we are with Russia, rather than to explore its birthplace or to divine its original meaning.

We often hear it said, that from the songs and stories of a country we may learn much about the inner life of its people, inasmuch as popular utterances of this kind always bear the stamp of the national character, offer a reflex of the national mind. So far as folk-songs are concerned, this statement appears to be well founded, but it can be applied to the folk-tales of Europe only within very narrow limits. Each country possesses certain stories which have special reference to its own manners and customs, and by collecting such tales as these, something approximating to a picture of its national life may be laboriously pieced together. But the stories of this class are often nothing more than comparatively modern adaptations of old and foreign themes; nor are they sufficiently numerous, so far as we can judge from existing collections, to render by any means complete the national portrait for which they are expected to supply the materials. In order to fill up the gaps they leave, it is necessary to bring together a number of fragments taken from stories which evidently refer to another clime—fragments which may be looked upon as excrescences or developments due to the novel influences to which the foreign slip, or seedling, or even full-grown plant, has been subjected since its transportation.

The great bulk of the Russian folk-tales, and, indeed, of those of all the Indo-European nations, is devoted to the adventures of such fairy princes and princesses, such snakes and giants and demons, as are quiteout of keeping with ordinary men and women—at all events with the inhabitants of modern Europe since the termination of those internecine struggles between aboriginals and invaders, which some commentators see typified in the combats between the heroes of our popular tales and the whole race of giants, trolls, ogres, snakes, dragons, and other monsters. The air we breathe in them is that of Fairy-land; the conditions of existence, the relations between the human race and the spiritual world on the one hand, the material world on the other, are totally inconsistent with those to which we are now restricted. There is boundless freedom of intercourse between mortals and immortals, between mankind and the brute creation, and, although there are certain conventional rules which must always beobserved, they are not those which are enforced by any people known to anthropologists. The stories which are common to all Europe differ, no doubt, in different countries, but their variations, so far as their matter is concerned, seem to be due less to the moral character than to the geographical distribution of their reciters. The manner in which these tales are told, however, may often be taken as a test of the intellectual capacity of their tellers. For in style the folk-tale changes greatly as it travels. A story which we find narrated in one country with terseness and precision may be rendered almost unintelligible in another by vagueness or verbiage; by one race it may be elevated into poetic life, by another it may be degraded into the most prosaic dulness.

Now, so far as style is concerned, the Skazkas or Russian folk-tales, may justly be said to be characteristic of the Russian people. There are numerous points on which the “lower classes” of all the Aryan peoples in Europe closely resemble each other, but the Russian peasant has—in common with all his Slavonic brethren—a genuine talent for narrative which distinguishes him from some of his more distant cousins. And the stories which are current among the Russian peasantry are for the most part exceedingly well narrated. Their language is simple and pleasantly quaint, their humor is natural and unobtrusive, and their descriptions, whether of persons or of events, are often excellent.[13]A taste for acting is widelyspread in Russia, and the Russian folk-tales are full of dramatic positions which offer a wide scope for a display of their reciter’s mimetic talents. Every here and there, indeed, a tag of genuine comedy has evidently been attached by the story-teller toa narrative which in its original form was probably devoid of the comic element.

And thus from the Russian tales may be derived some idea of the mental characteristics of the Russian peasantry—one which is very incomplete, but, within its narrow limits, sufficiently accurate. And a similar statement may be made with respect to the pictures of Russian peasant life contained in these tales. So far as they go they are true to nature, and the notion which they convey to a stranger of the manners and customs of Russian villagers is not likely to prove erroneous, but they do not go very far.On some of the questions which are likely to be of the greatest interest to a foreigner they never touch. There is very little information to be gleaned from them, for instance, with regard to the religious views of the people, none with respect to the relations which, during the times of serfdom, existed between the lord and the thrall. But from the casual references to actual scenes and ordinary occupations which every here and there occur in the descriptions of fairy-land and the narratives of heroic adventure—from the realistic vignettes which are sometimes inserted between the idealized portraits of invincible princes and irresistible princesses—some idea may be obtained of the usual aspect of a Russian village, and of the ordinary behavior of its inhabitants. Turning from one to another of these accidental illustrations, we by degrees create a mental picture which is not without its peculiar charm. We see the wide sweep of the level corn-land, the gloom of the interminable forest, the gleam of the slowly winding river. We pass along the single street of the village, and glance at its wooden barn-like huts,[14]so different from the ideal English cottage with its windows set deep in ivy and its porch smiling with roses. We see the land around a Slough ofDespond in the spring, an unbroken sea of green in the early summer, a blaze of gold at harvest-time, in the winter one vast sheet of all but untrodden snow. On Sundays and holidays we accompany the villagers to their white-walled, green-domed church, andafterwards listento the songs which the girls sing in the summer choral dances, or take part in the merriment of the social gatherings, which enliven the long nights of winter. Sometimes the quaint lyric drama of a peasant wedding is performed before oureyes, sometimes we follow a funeral party to one of those dismal and desolate nooks in which the Russian villagers deposit their dead. On working days we see the peasants driving afield in the early morn with their long lines of carts, to till the soil, or ply the scythe or sickle or axe, till the day is done and their rude carts come creaking back. We hear the songs and laughter of the girls beside the stream or pool which ripples pleasantly against its banks in the summer time, but in the winter shows nosign of life, except at the spot, much frequented by the wives and daughters of the village, where an “ice-hole” has been cut in its massive pall. And at night we see the homely dwellings of the villagers assume a picturesque aspect to which they are strangers by the tell-tale light of day, their rough lines softened by the mellow splendor of a summer moon, or their unshapely forms looming forth mysteriously against the starlit snow of winter. Above all we become familiar with those cottage interiors to which the stories contain so many references. Sometimes we see the better class of homestead, surrounded by its fence through which we pass between the often-mentioned gates. After a glance at the barns and cattle-sheds, and at the garden which supplies thefamily with fruits and vegetables (on flowers, alas! but little store is set in the northern provinces), we cross the threshold, a spot hallowed by many traditions, and pass, through what in more pretentious houses may be called the vestibule, into the “living room.” We become well acquainted with its arrangements, with the cellar beneath its wooden floor, with the “corner of honor” in which are placed the “holy pictures,” and with the stove which occupies so large a share of space, within which daily beats, as it were the heart of the house, above which is nightly taken the repose of the family. Sometimes we visit the hut of the poverty-stricken peasant, more like a shed for cattle than a human habitation, with a mud-floor and a tattered roof, through which the smoke makes its devious way. In these poorer dwellings we witness much suffering; but we learn to respect the patience and resignation with which it is generally borne, and in the greater part of the humble homes we visit we become aware of the existence of many domestic virtues, we see numerous tokens of family affection, of filial reverence, of parental love. And when, as we pass along the village street at night, we see gleaming through the utter darkness the faint rays which tell that even in many a poverty-stricken home a lamp is burning before the “holy pictures,” we feel that these poor tillers of the soil, ignorant and uncouth though they too often are, may be raised at times by lofty thoughts and noble aspirations far above the low level of the dull and hard lives which they are forced to lead.

From among the stories which contain the most graphic descriptions of Russian village life, or which may be regarded as specially illustrative of Russian sentiment and humor those which the present chapter contains have been selected. Any information they may convey will necessarily be of a most fragmentary nature, but for all that it may be capable of producing a correct impression. A painter’s rough notes and jottings are often more true to nature thanthe most finished picture into which they may be developed.

The word skazka, or folk-tale, does not very often occur in the Russian popular tales themselves. Still there are occasions on which it appears. The allusions to it are for the most part indirect, as when a princess is said to be more beautiful than anybody ever was, except in a skazka; but sometimes it obtains direct notice. In a story, for instance, of a boy who had beencarried off by a Baba Yaga (a species of witch), we are told that when hissister came to his rescue she found him “sitting in an arm-chair, while the cat Jeremiah told him skazkas and sang him songs.”[15]In another story, aDurak,—a “ninny” or “gowk”—is sent to take care of the children of a village during the absence of theirparents. “Go and get all the children together in one of the cottages and tell them skazkas,” are his instructions. He collects the children, but as they are “all ever so dirty” he puts them into boiling water by way of cleansing them, and so washes themto death.[16]

There is a good deal of social life in the Russian villages during the long winter evenings, and at some of the gatherings which then take place skazkas are told, though at those in which only the young people participate, songs, games, and dances are more popular. The following skazka has been selected on account of the descriptions of avechernitsa, or villagesoirée,[17]and of a rustic courtship, which its opening scene contains. The rest of the story is not remarkable for its fidelity tomodern life, but it will serve as a good illustration of the class to which it belongs—that of stories about evil spirits, traceable, for the most part, to Eastern sources.

The Fiend.[18]

In a certain country there lived an old couple who had a daughter called Marusia (Mary). In their village it was customary to celebrate the feast of St. Andrew the First-Called (November 30). The girls used to assemble in some cottage, bakepampushki,[19]and enjoy themselves for a whole week, or even longer. Well, the girls met together once when this festival arrived, and brewed and baked what was wanted. In the evening came the lads with the music, bringing liquor with them, and dancing and revelry commenced. All the girls danced well, but Marusia the best of all. Aftera while there came into the cottage such a fine fellow! Marry, come up! regular blood and milk, and smartly and richly dressed.

“Hail, fair maidens!” says he.

“Hail, good youth!” say they.

“You’re merry-making?”

“Be so good as to join us.”

Thereupon hepulled out of his pocket a purse full of gold, ordered liquor, nuts and gingerbread. All was ready in a trice, and he began treating the lads and lasses, giving each a share. Then he took to dancing. Why, it was a treat to look at him! Marusia struck his fancy more than anyone else; so he stuck close to her. The time came for going home.

“Marusia,” says he, “come and see me off.”

She went to see him off.

“Marusia, sweetheart!” says he, “would you like me to marry you?”

“If you like to marry me, I will gladly marry you. But where do you come from?”

“From such and such a place. I’m clerk at a merchant’s.”

Then they bade each other farewell and separated. When Marusia got home, her mother asked her:

“Well, daughter! have you enjoyed yourself?”

“Yes, mother. ButI’ve something pleasant to tell you besides. There was a lad there from the neighborhood, good-looking and with lots of money, and he promised to marry me.”

“Harkye Marusia! When you go to where the girls are to-morrow, take a ball of thread with you, make a noose in it, and, when you are going to see him off, throw it over one of his buttons, and quietly unroll the ball; then, by means of the thread, you will be able to find out where he lives.”

Next day Marusia went to the gathering, and took a ball of thread with her. The youth came again.

“Good evening, Marusia!” said he.

“Good evening!” said she.

Games began and dances. Even more than before did he stick to Marusia, not a step would he budge from her. The time came for going home.

“Come and see me off,Marusia!” says the stranger.

She went out into the street, and while she was taking leave of him she quietly dropped the noose over one of his buttons. He went his way, but she remained where she was, unrolling the ball. When she had unrolled the whole of it, she ran after the thread to find out where her betrothed lived. At first the thread followed the road, then it stretched across hedges and ditches, and led Marusia towards the church and right up to the porch. Marusia tried the door; it was locked. She went round the church, found a ladder, set it against a window, and climbed up it to see what was going on inside. Having got into the church, she looked—and saw her betrothed standing beside a grave and devouring a dead body—for a corpse had been leftfor that night in the church.

She wanted to get down the ladder quietly, but her fright prevented her from taking proper heed, and she made a little noise. Then she ran home—almost beside herself, fancying all the time she was being pursued. She was all but dead before she got in. Next morning her mother asked her:

“Well, Marusia! did you see the youth?”

“I saw him, mother,” she replied. But what else she had seen she did not tell.

In the morning Marusia was sitting, considering whether she would go to thegathering or not.

“Go,” said her mother. “Amuse yourself while you’re young!”

So she went to the gathering; the Fiend[20]was there already. Games, fun, dancing, began anew; the girls knew nothing of what had happened. When they began to separate and go homewards:

“Come, Marusia!” says the Evil One, “see me off.”

She was afraid, and didn’t stir. Then all the other girls opened out upon her.

“What are you thinking about? Have you grown so bashful, forsooth? Go and see the good lad off.”

There was no help forit. Out she went, not knowing what would come of it. As soon as they got into the streets he began questioning her:

“You were in the church last night?”


“And saw what I was doing there?”


“Very well! To-morrow your father will die!”

Having said this, he disappeared.

Marusia returned home grave and sad. When she woke up in the morning, her father lay dead!

They wept and wailed over him, and laid him in the coffin. In the evening her mother went off to the priest’s, but Marusia remained at home.At last she became afraid of being alone in the house. “Suppose I go to my friends,” she thought. So she went, and found the Evil One there.

“Good evening, Marusia! why arn’t you merry?”

“How can I be merry? My father is dead!”

“Oh! poor thing!”

They all grieved for her. Even the Accursed One himself grieved; just as if it hadn’t all been his own doing. By and by they began saying farewell and going home.

“Marusia,” says he, “see me off.”

She didn’t want to.

“What are you thinking of, child?” insist the girls. “What are you afraid of? Go and see him off.”

So she went to see him off. They passed out into the street.

“Tell me, Marusia,” says he, “were you in the church?”


“Did you see what I was doing?”


“Very well! To-morrow your mother will die.”

He spoke and disappeared. Marusia returned home sadder than ever. The night went by; next morning, when she awoke, her mother lay dead! She cried all day long; but when the sun set, and it grew dark around, Marusia became afraid of being left alone; so shewent to her companions.

“Why, whatever’s the matter with you? you’re clean out of countenance!”[21]say the girls.

“How am I likely to be cheerful? Yesterday my father died, and to-day my mother.”

“Poor thing! Poor unhappy girl!” they all exclaimsympathizingly.

Well, the time came to say good-bye. “See me off, Marusia,” says the Fiend. So she went out to see him off.

“Tell me; were you in the church?”


“And saw what I was doing?”


“Very well! To-morrow evening you will die yourself!”

Marusia spent the night with her friends; in the morning she got up and considered what she should do. She bethought herself that she had a grandmother—an old, very old woman, who had become blind from length of years. “Suppose I go and ask her advice,” she said, and then went off to her grandmother’s.

“Good-day, granny!” says she.

“Good-day, granddaughter! What news is there with you? How are your father and mother?”

“They are dead, granny,” replied the girl, and then told her all that had happened.

The old woman listened, and said:—

“Oh dear me! my poor unhappy child! Go quickly to the priest, and ask him this favor—that if you die, your body shall not be taken out of the house through the doorway, but that the ground shall be dug away from under the threshold, and that you shall be dragged out through that opening. And also beg that you may be buried at a crossway, at a spot where four roads meet.”

Marusia went to the priest, wept bitterly, and made him promise to do everything according to her grandmother’sinstructions. Then she returned home, bought a coffin, lay down in it, and straightway expired.

Well, they told the priest, and he buried, first her father and mother, and then Marusia herself. Her body was passed underneath the threshold and buried at acrossway.

Soon afterwards a seigneur’s son happened to drive past Marusia’s grave. On that grave he saw growing a wondrous flower, such a one as he had never seen before. Said the young seigneur to his servant:—

“Go and pluck up that flower by the roots. We’ll take it home and put it in a flower-pot. Perhaps it will blossom there.”

Well, they dug up the flower, took it home, put it in a glazed flower-pot, and set it in a window. The flower began to grow larger and more beautiful. One night the servant hadn’t gone to sleep somehow, and he happened to be looking at the window, when he saw a wondrous thing take place. All of a sudden the flower began to tremble, then it fell from its stem to the ground, and turned into a lovely maiden. The flower was beautiful,but the maiden was more beautiful still. She wandered from room to room, got herself various things to eat and drink, ate and drank, then stamped upon the ground and became a flower as before, mounted to the window, and resumed her place upon the stem. Next day the servant told the young seigneur of the wonders which he had seen during the night.

“Ah, brother!” said the youth, “why didn’t you wake me? To-night we’ll both keep watch together.”

The night came; they slept not, but watched. Exactly at twelve o’clock the blossom began to shake, flew from place to place, and then fell to the ground, and the beautiful maiden appeared, got herself things to eat and drink, and sat down to supper. The young seigneur rushed forward and seized her by her white hands. Impossible was it for him sufficiently to look at her, to gaze on her beauty!

Next morning he said to his father and mother, “Please allow me to get married. I’ve found myself a bride.”

His parents gave their consent. As for Marusia, she said:

“Only on thiscondition will I marry you—that for four years I need not go to church.”

“Very good,” said he.

Well, they were married, and they lived together one year, two years, and had a son. But one day they had visitors at their house, who enjoyed themselves, anddrank, and began bragging about their wives. This one’s wife was handsome; that one’s was handsomer still.

“You may say what you like,” says the host, “but a handsomer wife than mine does not exist in the whole world!”

“Handsome, yes!” reply the guests,“but a heathen.”

“How so?”

“Why, she never goes to church.”

Her husband found these observations distasteful. He waited till Sunday, and then told his wife to get dressed for church.

“I don’t care what you may say,” says he. “Go and get ready directly.”

Well, they got ready, and went to church. The husband went in—didn’t see anything particular. But when she looked round—there was the Fiend sitting at a window.

“Ha! here you are, at last!” he cried. “Remember old times. Were you in the church that night?”


“And did you see what I was doing there?”


“Very well! To-morrow both your husband and your son will die.”

Marusia rushed straight out of the church and away to her grandmother. The old woman gave her two phials, the one full of holy water, the other of the water of life, and told her what shewas to do. Next day both Marusia’s husband and her son died. Then the Fiend came flying to her and asked:—

“Tell me; were you in the church?”

“I was.”

“And did you see what I was doing?”

“You were eating a corpse.”

She spoke, and splashed the holy water over him; in a moment he turned into mere dust and ashes, which blew to the winds. Afterwards she sprinkled her husband and her boy with the water of life: straightway they revived. And from that time forwardthey knew neither sorrow nor separation, but they all lived together long and happily.[22]

Another lively sketch of a peasant’s love-making is given in the introduction to the story of “Ivan the widow’s son and Grisha.”[23]The tale is one of magic and enchantment, of living clouds and seven-headed snakes; but the opening is a little piece of still-life very quaintly portrayed. A certain villager, named Trofim, having been unable to find a wife, his Aunt Melania comes to his aid, promising to procure him an interview with a widow who has been left well provided for, and whose personal appearance is attractive—“real blood and milk! When she’s got on her holiday clothes, she’s as fine as a peacock!” Trofim grovels with gratitude at his aunt’s feet. “My own dear auntie, Melania Prokhorovna, get me married for heaven’s sake! I’ll buy you an embroidered kerchief in return, the very best in the whole market.” The widow comes to pay Melania a visit, and is induced to believe, on the evidence of beans (frequently used for the purpose of divination), that her destined husband is close at hand. At this propitious moment Trofim appears. Melania makes a little speech to the young couple, ending her recommendation to get married with the words:—

“I can see well enough bythe bridegroom’s eyes that the bride is to his taste, only I don’t know what the bride thinks about taking him.”

“I don’t mind!” says the widow. “Well, then, glory be to God! Now, stand up, we’ll say a prayer before the Holy Pictures; then give each othera kiss, and go in Heaven’s name and get married at once!” And so the question is settled.

From a courtship and a marriage in peasant life we may turn to a death and a burial. There are frequent allusions in the Skazkas to these gloomy subjects, with reference to which we will quote two stories, the one pathetic, the other (unintentionally) grotesque. Neither of them bears any title in the original, but we may style the first—

The Dead Mother.[24]

In a certain village there lived a husband and wife—lived happily, lovingly, peaceably. All their neighbors envied them; the sight of them gave pleasure to honest folks. Well, the mistress bore a son, but directly after it was born she died. The poor moujik moaned and wept. Above all hewas in despair about the babe. How was he to nourish it now? how to bring it up without its mother? He did what was best, and hired an old woman to look after it. Only here was a wonder! all day long the babe would take no food, and did nothing but cry; there was no soothing it anyhow. But during (a great part of) the night one could fancy it wasn’t there at all, so silently and peacefully did it sleep.

“What’s the meaning of this?” thinks the old woman; “suppose I keep awake to-night; may be I shall find out.”

Well, just at midnightshe heard some one quietly open the door and go up to the cradle. The babe became still, just as if it was being suckled.

The next night the same thing took place, and the third night, too. Then she told the moujik about it. He called his kinsfolk together, and held counsel with them. They determined on this; to keep awake on a certain night, and to spy out who it was that came to suckle the babe. So at eventide they all lay down on the floor, and beside them they set a lighted taper hidden in an earthen pot.

At midnight the cottage door opened. Some one stepped up to the cradle. The babe became still. At that moment one of the kinsfolk suddenly brought out the light. They looked, and saw the dead mother, in the very same clothes in which she had been buried, on her knees besides the cradle, over which she bent as she suckled the babe at her dead breast.

The moment the light shone in the cottage she stood up, gazed sadly on her little one, and then went out of the room without a sound, not saying a word to anyone. All those who saw her stood for a time terror-struck; and then they found the babe was dead.[25]

The second story will serve as an illustration of one of the Russian customs with respect to the dead, and also of the ideas about witchcraft, still prevalent in Russia. We may create for it the title of—

The Dead Witch.[26]

There was once an old woman who was a terrible witch, and she had a daughter and a granddaughter. The time came for the old crone to die, so she summoned her daughter and gave herthese instructions:

“Mind, daughter! when I’m dead, don’t you wash my body with lukewarm water; but fill a cauldron, make it boil its very hottest, and then with that boiling water regularly scald me all over.”

After saying this, the witch lay ill two or three days, and then died. The daughter ran round to all her neighbors, begging them to come and help her to wash the old woman, and meantime the little granddaughter was left all alone in the cottage. And this is what she saw there. All of a sudden there crept out from beneath the stove two demons—a big one and a tiny one—andthey ran up to the dead witch. The old demon seized her by the feet, and tore away at her so that he stripped off all her skin at one pull. Then he said to the little demon:

“Take theflesh for yourself, and lug it under the stove.”

So the little demon flung his arms round the carcase, and dragged it under the stove. Nothing was left of the old woman but her skin. Into it the old demon inserted himself, and then he lay down just where the witch had been lying.

Presently the daughter came back, bringing a dozen other women with her, and they all set to work laying out the corpse.

“Mammy,” says the child, “they’ve pulled granny’s skin off while you were away.”

“What do you mean by tellingsuch lies?”

“It’s quite true, Mammy! There was ever such a blackie came from under the stove, and he pulled the skin off, and got into it himself.”

“Hold your tongue, naughty child! you’re talking nonsense!” cried the old crone’s daughter; then she fetcheda big cauldron, filled it with cold water, put it on the stove, and heated it till it boiled furiously. Then the women lifted up the old crone, laid her in a trough, took hold of the cauldron, and poured the whole of the boiling water over her at once. The demon couldn’t stand it. He leaped out of the trough, dashed through the doorway, and disappeared, skin and all. The women stared:

“What marvel is this?” they cried. “Here was the dead woman, and now she isn’t here. There’s nobody left to lay out or tobury. The demons have carried her off before our very eyes!”[27]

A Russian peasant funeral is preceded or accompanied by a considerable amount of wailing, which answers in some respect to the Irish “keening.” To thezaplachki,[28]or laments, which are uttered on such occasions—frequently by hired wailers, who closely resemble the Corsican “vociferators,” the modern Greek “myrologists”—allusions are sometimes made in the Skazkas. In the “Fox-wailer,”[29]for example—one of the variants of the well-known “Jack and the Beanstalk” story—an old man puts his wife in a bag and attempts to carry her up the beanstalk to heaven. Becoming tired on the way, he drops the bag, and the old woman is killed. After weeping over her dead body he sets out in search of a Wailer. Meeting a bear, he cries, “Wail a bit, Bear, for my old woman! I’ll give you a pair of nice white fowls.” The bear growls out “Oh, dear granny of mine! how I grieve for thee!” “No, no!” says the old man, “you can’t wail.” Going a little further he triesa wolf, but the wolf succeeds no better than the bear. At last a fox comes by, and on being appealed to, begins to cry aloud “Turu-Turu, grandmother! grandfather has killed thee!”—a wail which pleases the widower so much that he hands over the fowls to the fox at once, and asks, enraptured, for “that strain again!”[30]

One of the most curious of the stories which relate to a village burial,—one in which also the feeling with which the Russian villagers sometimes regard their clergy finds expression—is thatcalled—

The Treasure.[31]

In a certain kingdom there lived an old couple in great poverty. Sooner or later the old woman died. It was in winter, in severe and frosty weather. The old man went round to his friends and neighbors, begging them to help him todig a grave for the old woman; but his friends and neighbors, knowing his great poverty, all flatly refused. The old man went to the pope,[32](but in that village they had an awfully grasping pope, one without any conscience), and says he:—

“Lend a hand,reverend father, to get my old woman buried.”

“But have you got any money to pay for the funeral? if so, friend, pay up beforehand!”

“It’s no use hiding anything from you. Not a single copeck have I at home. But if you’ll wait a little, I’ll earn some, and then I’ll pay you with interest—on my word I’ll pay you!”

The pope wouldn’t so much as listen to the old man.

“If you haven’t any money, don’t you dare to come here,” says he.

“What’s to be done?” thinks the old man. “I’ll go to the graveyard, dig a grave as I best can, and bury the old woman myself.” So he took an axe and a shovel, and went to the graveyard. When he got there he began to prepare a grave. He chopped away the frozen ground on the top with the axe, and then he took to the shovel. He dug and dug, and at last he dug out a metal pot. Looking into it he saw that it was stuffed full of ducats that shone like fire. The old man was immensely delighted, and cried, “Glory be to Thee, O Lord! I shall have wherewithal both to bury my old woman, and toperform the rites of remembrance.”

He did not go on digging the grave any longer, but took the pot of gold and carried it home. Well, we all know what money will do—everything went as smooth as oil! In a trice there were found good folks to dig the graveand fashion the coffin. The old man sent his daughter-in-law to purchase meat and drink and different kind of relishes—everything there ought to be at memorial feasts—and he himself took a ducat in his hand and hobbled back again to the pope’s. The momenthe reached the door, out flew the pope at him.

“You were distinctly told, you old lout, that you were not to come here without money; and now you’ve slunk back again.”

“Don’t be angry, batyushka,”[33]said the old man imploringly. “Here’s gold for you. Ifyou’ll only bury my old woman, I’ll never forget your kindness.”

The pope took the money, and didn’t know how best to receive the old man, where to seat him, with what words to smooth him down. “Well now, old friend! Be of good cheer; everything shall be done,” said he.

The old man made his bow, and went home, and the pope and his wife began talking about him.

“There now, the old hunks!” they say. “So poor, forsooth,so poor! And yet he’s paid a gold piece. Many a defunct person of quality have I buried in my time, but I never got so from anyone before.”

The pope got under weigh with all his retinue, and buried the old crone in proper style. After the funeral the oldman invited him to his house, to take part in the feast in memory of the dead. Well, they entered the cottage, and sat down to table—and there appeared from somewhere or other meat and drink and all sorts of snacks, everything in profusion. The (reverend)guest sat down, ate for three people, looked greedily at what was not his. The (other) guests finished their meal, and separated to go to their homes; then the pope also rose from the table. The old man went to speed him on his way. As soon as they got into the farmyard, and the pope saw they were alone at last, he began questioning the old man: “Listen, friend! confess to me, don’t leave so much as a single sin on your soul—it’s just the same before me as before God! How have you managed to get on at sucha pace? You used to be a poor moujik, and now—marry! where did it come from? Confess, friend, whose breath have you stopped? whom have you pillaged?”

“What are you talking about, batyushka? I will tell you the exact truth. I have not robbed, nor plundered,nor killed anyone. A treasure tumbled into my hands of its own accord.”

And he told him how it all happened. When the pope heard these words he actually shook all over with greediness. Going home, he did nothing by night and by day but think, “That such awretched lout of a moujik should have come in for such a lump of money! Is there any way of tricking him now, and getting this pot of money out of him?” He told his wife about it, and he and she discussed the matter together, and held counsel over it.

“Listen, mother,” says he; “we’ve a goat, haven’t we?”


“All right, then; we’ll wait until it’s night, and then we’ll do the job properly.”

Late in the evening the pope dragged the goat indoors, killed it, and took off its skin—horns, beard, and all complete. Then he pulled the goat’s skin over himself and said to his wife:

“Bring a needle and thread, mother, and fasten up the skin all round, so that it mayn’t slip off.”

So she took a strong needle, and some tough thread, and sewed him up in the goatskin. Well, at the dead of night, the pope went straight to the old man’s cottage, got under the window, and began knocking and scratching. The old man hearing the noise, jumped up and asked:

“Who’s there?”

“The Devil!”

“Ours is a holy spot![34]” shrieked themoujik, and began crossing himself and uttering prayers.

“Listen, old man,” says the pope, “From me thou will not escape, although thou may’st pray, although thou may’st cross thyself; much better give me back my pot of money, otherwise I will make thee pay for it. See now, I pitied thee in thy misfortune, and I showed thee the treasure, thinking thou wouldst take a little of it to pay for the funeral, but thou hast pillaged it utterly.”

The old man looked out of window—the goat’s horns and beard caught his eye—it was the Devil himself, no doubt of it.

“Let’s get rid of him, money and all,” thinks the old man; “I’ve lived before now without money, and now I’ll go on living without it.”

So he took the pot of gold, carried it outside, flung it on the ground,and bolted indoors again as quickly as possible.

The pope seized the pot of money, and hastened home. When he got back, “Come,” says he, “the money is in our hands now. Here, mother, put it well out of sight, and take a sharp knife, cut the thread, and pull the goatskin off me before anyone sees it.”

She took a knife, and was beginning to cut the thread at the seam, when forth flowed blood, and the pope began to howl:

“Oh! it hurts, mother, it hurts! don’t cut mother, don’t cut!”

She began ripping the skinopen in another place, but with just the same result. The goatskin had united with his body all round. And all that they tried, and all that they did, even to taking the money back to the old man, was of no avail. The goatskin remained clinging tight to the pope all the same. God evidently did it to punish him for his great greediness.

A somewhat less heathenish story with regard to money is the following, which may be taken as a specimen of the Skazkas which bear the impress of the genuine reverence whichthe peasants feel for their religion, whatever may be the feelings they entertain towards its ministers. While alluding to this subject, by the way, it may be as well to remark that no great reliance can be placed upon the evidence contained in the folk-tales of any land, with respect to the relations between its clergy and their flocks. The local parson of folk-lore is, as a general rule, merely the innocent inheritor of the bad reputation acquired by some ecclesiastic of another age and clime.

The Cross-Surety.[35]

Once upon a time two merchants lived in a certain town just on the verge of a stream. One of them was a Russian, the other a Tartar; both were rich. But the Russian got so utterly ruined by some business or other that he hadn’t a single bit ofproperty left. Everything he had was confiscated or stolen. The Russian merchant had nothing to turn to—he was left as poor as a rat.[36]So he went to his friend the Tartar, and besought him to lend him some money.

“Get me a surety,” says the Tartar.

“Butwhom can I get for you, seeing that I haven’t a soul belonging to me? Stay, though! there’s a surety for you, the life-giving cross on the church!”

“Very good, my friend!” says the Tartar. “I’ll trust your cross. Your faith or ours, it’s all one to me.”

And he gave the Russian merchant fifty thousand roubles. The Russian took the money, bade the Tartar farewell, and went back to trade in divers places.

By the end of two years he had gained a hundred and fifty thousand roubles by the fifty thousand he hadborrowed. Now he happened to be sailing one day along the Danube, going with wares from one place to another, when all of a sudden a storm arose, and was on the point of sinking the ship he was in. Then the merchant remembered how he had borrowed money, and given the life-giving cross as a surety, but had not paid his debt. That was doubtless the cause of the storm arising! No sooner had he said this to himself than the storm began to subside. The merchant took a barrel, counted out fifty thousand roubles,wrote the Tartar a note, placed it, together with the money, in the barrel, and then flung the barrel into the water, saying to himself: “As I gave the cross as my surety to the Tartar, the money will be certain to reach him.”

The barrel straightway sank to the bottom; everyone supposed the money was lost. But what happened? In the Tartar’s house there lived a Russian kitchen-maid. One day she happened to go to the river for water, and when she got there she saw a barrel floating along. So she went a little way into the water and began trying to get hold of it. But it wasn’t to be done! When she made at the barrel, it retreated from her: when she turned from the barrel to the shore, it floated after her. She went on trying and trying for some time, then she went home and told her master all that had happened. At first he wouldn’t believe her, but at last he determined to go to the river and see for himself what sort of barrel it was that was floating there. When he got there—sureenough there was the barrel floating, and not far from the shore. The Tartar took off his clothes and went into the water; before he had gone any distance the barrel came floating up to him of its own accord. He laid hold of it, carried it home, opened it, and looked inside. There he saw a quantity of money, and on top of the money a note. He took out the note and read it, and this is what was said in it:—

“Dear friend! I return to you the fifty thousand roubles for which, when I borrowed them from you, Igave the life-giving cross as a surety.”

The Tartar read these words and was astounded at the power of the life-giving cross. He counted the money over to see whether the full sum was really there. It was there exactly.

Meanwhile, the Russian merchant, after trading some five years, made a tolerable fortune. Well, he returned to his old home, and, thinking that his barrel had been lost, he considered it his first duty to settle with the Tartar. So he went to his house and offered him the money he had borrowed. Then the Tartar told him all that had happened and how he had found the barrel in the river, with the money and the note inside it. Then he showed him the note, saying:

“Is that really your hand?”

“It certainly is,” replied the other.

Every one was astounded at this wondrous manifestation, and the Tartar said:

“Then I’ve no more money to receive from you, brother; take that back again.”

The Russian merchant had a service performed as a thank-offering to God, and next day the Tartar was baptized with allhis household. The Russian merchant was his godfather, and the kitchen-maid his godmother. After that they both lived long and happily, survived to a great age, and then died peacefully.[37]

There is one marked feature in the Russian peasant’s character to which the Skazkas frequently refer—his passion for drink. To him strong liquor is a friend, a comforter, a solace amid the ills of life. Intoxication is not so much an evil to be dreaded or remembered with shame, as a joy to be fondly anticipated, or classed with the happy memories of the past. By him drunkenness is regarded, like sleep, as the friend of woe—and a friend whose services can be even more readily commanded. On certain occasions he almost believes that to get drunk is a duty he owes either to the Church, or to the memory of the Dead; at times without the slightest apparent cause, he is seized by a sudden and irresistible craving for ardent spirits, and he commences a drinking-bout which lasts—with intervals of coma—for days, or even weeks, after which he resumes his everyday life and his usual sobriety as calmly as if no interruption had taken place. All these ideas and habits of his find expression in his popular tales, giving rise to incidents which are often singularly out of keeping with the rest of the narrative in which they occur. In one of the many variants,[38]for instance, of a widespread and well known story—that of the three princesses who are rescued from captivity by a hero from whom they are afterwards carried away, and who refuse to get married until certain clothes or shoes or other things impossible for ordinary workmen to make are supplied to them—an unfortunate shoemaker is told that if he does not next day produce the necessary shoes (of perfect fit, although no measure hasbeen taken, and all set thick with precious stones) he shall be hanged. Away he goes at once to atraktir, or tavern, and sets to work to drown his grief in drink. After awhile he begins to totter. “Now then,” he says, “I’ll take home a bicker of spiritswith me, and go to bed. And to-morrow morning, as soon as they come to fetch me to be hanged, I’ll toss off half the bickerful. They may hang me then without my knowing anything about it.”[39]

In the story of the “Purchased Wife,” the Princess Anastasia,the Beautiful, enables the youth Ivan, who ransoms her, to win a large sum of money in the following manner. Having worked a piece of embroidery, she tells him to take it to market. “But if any one purchases it,” says she, “don’t take any money from him, but ask him to give you liquor enough to make you drunk.” Ivan obeys, and this is the result. He drank till he was intoxicated, and when he left the kabak (or pot-house) he tumbled into a muddy pool. A crowd collected and folks looked at him and said scoffingly, “Oh, the fair youth! now’d be the time for him to go to church to get married!”

“Fair or foul!” says he, “if I bid her, Anastasia the Beautiful will kiss the crown of my head.”

“Don’t go bragging like that!” says a rich merchant—“why she wouldn’t even so much as look at you,” and offers to stake all that he is worth on the truth of his assertion. Ivan accepts the wager. The Princess appears, takes him by the hand, kisses him on the crown of his head, wipes the dirt off him, and leads him home, still inebriated but no longer impecunious.[40]

Sometimes even greater people than the peasants get drunk. The story of “Semilétka”[41]—a variant of the well known tale of how a woman’s wit enables her to guess all riddles, to detectall deceits, and to conquer all difficulties—relates how the heroine was chosen by a Voyvode[42]as hiswife, with the stipulation that if she meddled in the affairs of his Voyvodeship she was to be sent back to her father, but allowed to take with her whatever thing belonging to her she prized most. The marriage takes place, but one day the well known casecomes before him for decision, of the foal of the borrowed mare—does it belong to the owner of the mare, or to the borrower in whose possession it was at the time of foaling? The Voyvode adjudges it to the borrower, and this is how the story ends:—

“Semilétka heard of this and could not restrain herself, but said that he had decided unfairly. The Voyvode waxed wroth, and demanded a divorce. After dinner Semilétka was obliged to go back to her father’s house. But during the dinner she made the Voyvode drinktill he was intoxicated. He drank his fill and went to sleep. While he was sleeping she had him placed in a carriage, and then she drove away with him to her father’s. When they had arrived there the Voyvode awoke and said—

“‘Who brought me here?’

“‘I brought you,’ said Semilétka; ‘there was an agreement between us that I might take away with me whatever I prized most. And so I have taken you!’

“The Voyvode marvelled at her wisdom, and made peace with her. He and she then returned home and went on living prosperously.”

But although drunkenness is very tenderly treated in the Skazkas, as well as in the folk-songs, it forms the subject of many a moral lesson, couched in terms of the utmost severity, in thestikhi(or poems of a religious character, sung by the blind beggars and other wandering minstrels who sing in front of churches), and also in the “Legends,” which are tales of a semi-religious (or rather demi-semi-religious) nature. No better specimen of the stories of this class referring to drunkenness can be offered than the history of—

The Awful Drunkard.[43]

Once there was an old man who was such an awful drunkard as passes all description. Well, one day he went to a kabak, intoxicated himself with liquor, and then went staggering home blind drunk. Nowhis way happened to lie across a river. When he came to the river, he didn’t stop long to consider, but kicked off his boots, hung them round his neck, and walked into the water. Scarcely had he got half-way across when he tripped over a stone, tumbled into the water—and there was an end of him.

Now, he left a son called Petrusha.[44]When Peter saw that his father had disappeared and left no trace behind, he took the matter greatly to heart for a time, he wept for awhile, he had a service performed for the repose of his father’s soul, and he began to act as head of the family. One Sunday he went to church to pray to God. As he passed along the road a woman was pounding away in front of him. She walked and walked, stumbled over a stone, and began swearing at it, saying, “What devil shoved you under my feet?”

Hearing these words, Petrusha said:

“Good day, aunt! whither away?”

“To church, my dear, to pray to God.”

“But isn’t this sinful conduct of yours? You’re going to church, to pray to God, and yet you think about the Evil One; your foot stumbles and you throw the fault on the Devil!”

Well, he went to church and then returned home. He walked and walked, and suddenly, goodness knows whence, there appeared before him a fine-looking man, who saluted him and said:

“Thanks, Petrusha, for your good word!”

“Who are you, and why do you thank me?” asks Petrusha.

“I am the Devil.[45]I thank you because, when that woman stumbled, and scolded me without a cause, you said a good word for me.” Then he began to entreat him, saying, “Come and pay me a visit, Petrusha. How I will reward you to be sure! With silver and with gold, with everything will I endow you.”

“Very good,” says Petrusha, “I’ll come.”

Having told him all about the road he was to take, the Devil straightway disappeared, and Petrusha returned home.

Next day Petrusha set off on his visit to the Devil. He walked and walked, for three whole days did he walk, and then he reached a great forest, dark and dense—impossible even to see the sky from within it! And in that forest there stood a rich palace. Well, he entered the palace, and a fair maiden caught sight of him. She had beenstolen from a certain village by the evil spirit. And when she caught sight of him she cried:

“Whatever have you come here for, good youth? here devils abide, they will tear you to pieces.”

Petrusha told her how and why he had made his appearance in thatpalace.

“Well now, mind this,” says the fair maiden; “the Devil will begin giving you silver and gold. Don’t take any of it, but ask him to give you the very wretched horse which the evil spirits use for fetching wood and water. That horse is your father.When he came out of the kabak drunk, and fell into the water, the devils immediately seized him and made him their hack, and now they use him for fetching wood and water.”