Tag Archives: Folktale

The crystal heart

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A tale from Vietnam

Long ago, in a palace by the Red River, there lived a great mandarin and his daughter, Mi Nuong.

Like other young ladies of her position, Mi Nuong was kept indoors, away from the eyes of admiring men. She spent most of her time in her room at the top of a tower. There she would sit on a bench by a moon-shaped window, reading or embroidering, chatting with her maid, and gazing out often at the garden and the river.

One day as she sat there, a song floated to her from the distance, in a voice deep and sweet. She looked out and saw a fishing boat coming up the river.

“Do you hear it?” she asked her maid. “How beautifully he sings!” She listened again as the voice drew nearer.

My love is like a blossom in the breeze. My love is like a moonbeam on the waves.

“He must be young and very handsome,” said Mi Nuong. She felt a sudden thrill. “Perhaps he knows I am here and sings it just for me!”

The maid’s eyes lit up. “My lady, perhaps he’s a mandarin’s son in disguise—the man you are destined to marry!”

Mi Nuong felt a flush on her face and a stirring in her heart. She tried to make out the man’s features, but he was too far off to see clearly. The boat and the song glided slowly up the river and away.

“Yes,” she said softly. “Perhaps he is.”

All day long, Mi Nuong waited by the window, hoping to hear the singer again. The next day she waited too, and the next. But the voice did not return.

“Why doesn’t he come?” she asked her maid sadly.

As the days passed, Mi Nuong grew pale and weak. At last she went to her bed and stayed there.

The mandarin came to her. “Daughter, what’s wrong?”

“It’s nothing, Father,” she said faintly.

The mandarin sent for the doctor. But after seeing Mi Nuong, the doctor told him, “I can find no illness. And without an illness, I can offer no cure.”

The weeks passed, and Mi Nuong grew no better. Then one day her maid came before the mandarin.

“My lord, I know what ails your daughter. Mi Nuong is sick for love. To cure her, you must find the handsome young man who sings this song.” And she sang it for him.

“It will be done,” said the mandarin, and he sent out a messenger at once.

Days later, the messenger returned.

“Lord, in no great house of this province does any young man know the song. But in a nearby village I found a man who sings it, a fisherman named Truong Chi. I have brought him to the palace.”

“A fisherman?” said the mandarin in disbelief. “Let me see him.”

The messenger brought him in. The fisherman stood uneasily, his eyes wide as they cast about the richly furnished room.

For a moment, the mandarin was too astounded to speak. The man was neither young nor handsome. His clothes were ragged and he stank of fish. Certainly no match for my daughter! thought the mandarin. Somehow, she must not realize . . . .

He gave his order to the messenger. “Bring the fisherman to my daughter’s door and have him sing his song.”

Soon Truong Chi stood anxiously outside the young lady’s room. He could not understand why they’d brought him here. What could they want? He was just a fisherman, wishing only to make an honest living. He had hurt no one, done nothing wrong!

At the messenger’s signal, he nervously started to sing.

My love is like a blossom in the breeze. My love is like a moonbeam on the waves.

In the room beyond the door, Mi Nuong’s eyes flew open. “He’s here!” she cried to her maid. “How can that be? Oh, quickly, help me dress!”

Mi Nuong jumped from her bed. Never had she so swiftly clothed herself, put up her hair, made herself up. By the time the song drew to a close, she looked like a heavenly vision in flowing robes.

“Now, open the door!” she said, trying to calm her wildly beating heart. She forced herself to stand shyly, casting her eyes down in the manner proper to a modest young lady.

As the door pulled open, Truong Chi shrank back, not knowing what to expect. Then all at once he found himself gazing on the greatest beauty he had ever known. He felt his heart leap, and in that moment, he fell deeply, hopelessly, desperately in love.

Mi Nuong could not wait a moment longer. She lifted her eyes to look upon her beloved. And in that moment, her eyes grew wide and she burst out laughing.

A mandarin’s son? Her destined love? Why, he was nothing but a common fisherman! How terribly, terribly silly she’d been!

Shaking with mirth at her folly, she turned her head away and whispered, “Close the door.”

The door shut in Truong Chi’s face. He stood there frozen, the young lady’s laughter ringing in his ears. He felt his heart grow cold and hard.

Truong Chi was sent home. But he could not go on as before. Hardly eating or sleeping, he grew pale and ill. He no longer cared if he lived or died.

And so he died.

The villagers found him on the sleeping mat in his hut. On his chest sat a large crystal.

“What is it?” a man asked.

“It is his heart,” said a wise old woman. “The laugh of the mandarin’s daughter wounded it so deeply, it turned hard to stop the pain.”

“What do we do with it?” asked a young woman. “It is very lovely. Like one of his songs!”

“We should put it in his boat,” said another young man, “and let it float down to the sea.”

At sundown, they set the crystal in the fisherman’s boat. Then they pushed the boat from its mooring and watched in sorrow as it drifted down the river and out of sight.

But the boat did not drift to the sea. It came to shore by the mandarin’s palace. And so it was that the mandarin found it at sunrise as he strolled along the bank.

“What have we here?” he said, reaching in to pick up the crystal. He turned it over in his hand, examining and admiring it. “What a splendid gift the river has brought!”

A few days later, when no one had claimed it, the mandarin sent it to a turner to be made into a teacup. He brought the cup one evening to Mi Nuong’s room.

“A gift for my lovely daughter,” he said.

“Oh, Father, it’s beautiful! I can hardly wait to drink from it!”

When the mandarin left, she told her maid, “It’s late, so you can go to bed. But first make me some tea, so I can drink from my cup.”

The maid finished her task and went off. Mi Nuong poured the tea, blew out the candles on the table, and carried the cup to her window seat. A full moon shone into the room, and looking out, she watched the moonlight play upon the river. The scent of blossoms drifted from the garden.

Mi Nuong lifted the cup to her lips. But just as she was about to drink, she cried out in surprise and fear. She quickly set the cup down on the bench.

On the surface of the tea was the face of Truong Chi, gazing at her with eyes filled with love. And now his sweet song filled the room, familiar but a little changed.

Mi Nuong is like a blossom in the breeze. Mi Nuong is like a moonbeam on the waves.

And Mi Nuong remembered those eyes she had seen so briefly through the open door, and she remembered her laugh. “What have I done? I was so cruel! I didn’t mean to hurt you. I didn’t know. . . . I’m sorry. So very, very sorry!”

Her eyes filled with tears. A single tear dropped into the cup.

It was enough. The crystal melted away, releasing the spirit of Truong Chi. Then Mi Nuong heard the song one last time, floating off over the river.

Mi Nuong is like a blossom in the breeze. Mi Nuong is like a moonbeam on the waves.

“Good-bye,” said Mi Nuong softly. “Good-bye.”

* * *

It was not many months more when Mi Nuong was given in marriage to the son of a great mandarin. He was young and handsome, and she felt that her dreams had come true.

Yet now, as she gazed on a different garden and a different view of the river, she often still heard the song of the fisherman echo softly in her heart.

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Prince Hayachinth and the dear little princess

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Once upon a time there lived a king who was deeply in love with a princess, but she could not marry anyone, because she was under an enchantment. So the King set out to seek a fairy, and asked what he could do to win the Princess’s love. The Fairy said to him:

“You know that the Princess has a great cat which she is very fond of. Whoever is clever enough to tread on that cat’s tail is the man she is destined to marry.”

The King said to himself that this would not be very difficult, and he left the Fairy, determined to grind the cat’s tail to powder rather than not tread on it at all.

You may imagine that it was not long before he went to see the Princess, and puss, as usual, marched in before him, arching his back. The King took a long step, and quite thought he had the tail under his foot, but the cat turned round so sharply that he only trod on air. And so it went on for eight days, till the King began to think that this fatal tail must be full of quicksilver—it was never still for a moment.

At last, however, he was lucky enough to come upon puss fast asleep and with his tail conveniently spread out. So the King, without losing a moment, set his foot upon it heavily.

With one terrific yell the cat sprang up and instantly changed into a tall man, who, fixing his angry eyes upon the King, said:

“You shall marry the Princess because you have been able to break the enchantment, but I will have my revenge. You shall have a son, who will never be happy until he finds out that his nose is too long, and if you ever tell anyone what I have just said to you, you shall vanish away instantly, and no one shall ever see you or hear of you again.”

Though the King was horribly afraid of the enchanter, he could not help laughing at this threat.

“If my son has such a long nose as that,” he said to himself, “he must always see it or feel it; at least, if he is not blind or without hands.”

But, as the enchanter had vanished, he did not waste any more time in thinking, but went to seek the Princess, who very soon consented to marry him. But after all, they had not been married very long when the King died, and the Queen had nothing left to care for but her little son, who was called Hyacinth. The little Prince had large blue eyes, the prettiest eyes in the world, and a sweet little mouth, but, alas! his nose was so enormous that it covered half his face. The Queen was inconsolable when she saw this great nose, but her ladies assured her that it was not really as large as it looked; that it was a Roman nose, and you had only to open any history to see that every hero has a large nose. The Queen, who was devoted to her baby, was pleased with what they told her, and when she looked at Hyacinth again, his nose certainly did not seem to her _quite_ so large.

The Prince was brought up with great care; and, as soon as he could speak, they told him all sorts of dreadful stories about people who had short noses. No one was allowed to come near him whose nose did not more or less resemble his own, and the courtiers, to get into favor with the Queen, took to pulling their babies’ noses several times every day to make them grow long. But, do what they would, they were nothing by comparison with the Prince’s.

When he grew sensible he learned history; and whenever any great prince or beautiful princess was spoken of, his teachers took care to tell him that they had long noses.

His room was hung with pictures, all of people with very large noses; and the Prince grew up so convinced that a long nose was a great beauty, that he would not on any account have had his own a single inch shorter!

When his twentieth birthday was passed the Queen thought it was time that he should be married, so she commanded that the portraits of several princesses should be brought for him to see, and among the others was a picture of the Dear Little Princess!

Now, she was the daughter of a great king, and would some day possess several kingdoms herself; but Prince Hyacinth had not a thought to spare for anything of that sort, he was so much struck with her beauty. The Princess, whom he thought quite charming, had, however, a little saucy nose, which, in her face, was the prettiest thing possible, but it was a cause of great embarrassment to the courtiers, who had got into such a habit of laughing at little noses that they sometimes found themselves laughing at hers before they had time to think; but this did not do at all before the Prince, who quite failed to see the joke, and actually banished two of his courtiers who had dared to mention disrespectfully the Dear Little Princess’s tiny nose!

The others, taking warning from this, learned to think twice before they spoke, and one even went so far as to tell the Prince that, though it was quite true that no man could be worth anything unless he had a long nose, still, a woman’s beauty was a different thing; and he knew a learned man who understood Greek and had read in some old manuscripts that the beautiful Cleopatra herself had a “tip-tilted” nose!

The Prince made him a splendid present as a reward for this good news, and at once sent ambassadors to ask the Dear Little Princess in marriage. The King, her father, gave his consent; and Prince Hyacinth, who, in his anxiety to see the Princess, had gone three leagues to meet her was just advancing to kiss her hand when, to the horror of all who stood by, the enchanter appeared as suddenly as a flash of lightning, and, snatching up the Dear Little Princess, whirled her away out of their sight!

The Prince was left quite unconsolable, and declared that nothing should induce him to go back to his kingdom until he had found her again, and refusing to allow any of his courtiers to follow him, he mounted his horse and rode sadly away, letting the animal choose his own path.

So it happened that he came presently to a great plain, across which he rode all day long without seeing a single house, and horse and rider were terribly hungry, when, as the night fell, the Prince caught sight of a light, which seemed to shine from a cavern.

He rode up to it, and saw a little old woman, who appeared to be at least a hundred years old.

She put on her spectacles to look at Prince Hyacinth, but it was quite a long time before she could fix them securely because her nose was so very short.

The Prince and the Fairy (for that was who she was) had no sooner looked at one another than they went into fits of laughter, and cried at the same moment, “Oh, what a funny nose!”

“Not so funny as your own,” said Prince Hyacinth to the Fairy; “but, madam, I beg you to leave the consideration of our noses—such as they are—and to be good enough to give me something to eat, for I am starving, and so is my poor horse.”

“With all my heart,” said the Fairy. “Though your nose is so ridiculous you are, nevertheless, the son of my best friend. I loved your father as if he had been my brother. Now _he_ had a very handsome nose!”

“And pray what does mine lack?” said the Prince.

“Oh! it doesn’t _lack_ anything,” replied the Fairy. “On the contrary quite, there is only too much of it. But never mind, one may be a very worthy man though his nose is too long. I was telling you that I was your father’s friend; he often came to see me in the old times, and you must know that I was very pretty in those days; at least, he used to say so. I should like to tell you of a conversation we had the last time I ever saw him.”

“Indeed,” said the Prince, “when I have supped it will give me the greatest pleasure to hear it; but consider, madam, I beg of you, that I have had nothing to eat to-day.”

“The poor boy is right,” said the Fairy; “I was forgetting. Come in, then, and I will give you some supper, and while you are eating I can tell you my story in a very few words—for I don’t like endless tales myself. Too long a tongue is worse than too long a nose, and I remember when I was young that I was so much admired for not being a great chatterer. They used to tell the Queen, my mother, that it was so. For though you see what I am now, I was the daughter of a great king. My father——”

“Your father, I dare say, got something to eat when he was hungry!” interrupted the Prince.

“Oh! certainly,” answered the Fairy, “and you also shall have supper directly. I only just wanted to tell you——”

“But I really cannot listen to anything until I have had something to eat,” cried the Prince, who was getting quite angry; but then, remembering that he had better be polite as he much needed the Fairy’s help, he added:

“I know that in the pleasure of listening to you I should quite forget my own hunger; but my horse, who cannot hear you, must really be fed!”

The Fairy was very much flattered by this compliment, and said, calling to her servants:

“You shall not wait another minute, you are so polite, and in spite of the enormous size of your nose you are really very agreeable.”

“Plague take the old lady! How she does go on about my nose!” said the Prince to himself. “One would almost think that mine had taken all the extra length that hers lacks! If I were not so hungry I would soon have done with this chatterpie who thinks she talks very little! How stupid people are not to see their own faults! That comes of being a princess: she has been spoiled by flatterers, who have made her believe that she is quite a moderate talker!”

Meanwhile the servants were putting the supper on the table, and the prince was much amused to hear the Fairy who asked them a thousand questions simply for the pleasure of hearing herself speak; especially he noticed one maid who, no matter what was being said, always contrived to praise her mistress’s wisdom.

“Well!” he thought, as he ate his supper, “I’m very glad I came here. This just shows me how sensible I have been in never listening to flatterers. People of that sort praise us to our faces without shame, and hide our faults or change them into virtues. For my part I never will be taken in by them. I know my own defects, I hope.”

Poor Prince Hyacinth! He really believed what he said, and hadn’t an idea that the people who had praised his nose were laughing at him, just as the Fairy’s maid was laughing at her; for the Prince had seen her laugh slyly when she could do so without the Fairy’s noticing her.

However, he said nothing, and presently, when his hunger began to be appeased, the Fairy said:

“My dear Prince, might I beg you to move a little more that way, for your nose casts such a shadow that I really cannot see what I have on my plate. Ah! thanks. Now let us speak of your father. When I went to his Court he was only a little boy, but that is forty years ago, and I have been in this desolate place ever since. Tell me what goes on nowadays; are the ladies as fond of amusement as ever? In my time one saw them at parties, theatres, balls, and promenades every day. Dear me! _what_ a long nose you have! I cannot get used to it!”

“Really, madam,” said the Prince, “I wish you would leave off mentioning my nose. It cannot matter to you what it is like. I am quite satisfied with it, and have no wish to have it shorter. One must take what is given one.”

“Now you are angry with me, my poor Hyacinth,” said the Fairy, “and I assure you that I didn’t mean to vex you; on the contrary, I wished to do you a service. However, though I really cannot help your nose being a shock to me, I will try not to say anything about it. I will even try to think that you have an ordinary nose. To tell the truth, it would make three reasonable ones.”

The Prince, who was no longer hungry, grew so impatient at the Fairy’s continual remarks about his nose that at last he threw himself upon his horse and rode hastily away. But wherever he came in his journeyings he thought the people were mad, for they all talked of his nose, and yet he could not bring himself to admit that it was too long, he had been so used all his life to hear it called handsome.

The old Fairy, who wished to make him happy, at last hit upon a plan. She shut the Dear Little Princess up in a palace of crystal, and put this palace down where the Prince would not fail to find it. His joy at seeing the Princess again was extreme, and he set to work with all his might to try to break her prison; but in spite of all his efforts he failed utterly. In despair he thought at least that he would try to get near enough to speak to the Dear Little Princess, who, on her part, stretched out her hand that he might kiss it; but turn which way he might, he never could raise it to his lips, for his long nose always prevented it. For the first time he realized how long it really was, and exclaimed:

“Well, it must be admitted that my nose _is_ too long!”

In an instant the crystal prison flew into a thousand splinters, and the old Fairy, taking the Dear Little Princess by the hand, said to the Prince:

“Now, say if you are not very much obliged to me. Much good it was for me to talk to you about your nose! You would never have found out how extraordinary it was if it hadn’t hindered you from doing what you wanted to. You see how self-love keeps us from knowing our own defects of mind and body. Our reason tries in vain to show them to us; we refuse to see them till we find them in the way of our interests.”

Prince Hyacinth, whose nose was now just like anyone’s else, did not fail to profit by the lesson he had received. He married the Dear Little Princess, and they lived happily ever after.

 Le Prince Desir et la Princesse Mignonne. Par Madame Leprince de Beaumont.

The strange judgment of Karakoush.”

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Long ago a sultan known as Saladin appointed a man called Karakoush to be the governor of Cairo. For many years, Karakoush acted as judge in that land as well.

Now one day a thief broke into the house of a merchant to steal as many goods as he could find inside. He climbed over the wall and was prying open a window, when the window broke loose. Before he could steady himself, the thief tumbled right through that window and fell, head over heels, onto the hard floor below.

He cried out in pain, for he had fallen on his leg, and when he tried to stand, he realized his leg was broken.

When the merchant came home and discovered the thief, he caught him easily and shouted, “Come with me to the courthouse!” Off they went, the poor thief crying in agony as he hobbled along on his broken leg.

Karakoush was sitting in court, and when the two men arrived, the merchant rushed in and cried, “Hear this case.”

“One at a time,” the guards said. “One at a time!” And so the merchant told his side of the story.

Then the thief painfully hobbled before the judge. “I believe it is I who have a case, your honor,” he said. “I was only trying to climb into his house, but the merchant’s window broke, and so I fell inside. I am the injured one!”

“What is it you wish from me?” Karakoush asked the thief.

“Fine this merchant! He must pay for my medical care. After all, his house is at fault. He should be punished.”

The merchant was aghast, but he was also afraid, for Karakoush was known to make peculiar judgments. “He is the thief,” the merchant argued. “If he hadn’t tried to break into my house, he wouldn’t have broken his leg.”

“Ah, yes,” said Karakoush, “but this man is correct. The window that caused this man to fall and break his leg is your window, and so you’re at fault.”

The merchant trembled with indignation, but he knew — just as everyone knew — that there was no use arguing with Karakoush. The man had his own brand of logic. The merchant was quiet a moment, but then he had an idea.

“Sir,” he said, “that broken window is not my fault. I paid a great deal of money to the carpenter who built my house. He should have made a window that would not break. He is obviously the criminal.”

“I agree,” said Karakoush. Then he turned to his guards. “Bring the carpenter to this courthouse.”

The guards hurried to the village, and soon they returned with the carpenter.

Karakoush glared at the man. “The owner of this house claimshe paid you to construct his house,” he said.

“That is true,” the carpenter responded.

“Why did you build a window so weak it broke when a thief tried to open it?”

The carpenter also feared the judgment of Karakoush, and so he too began to tremble, but then he had an idea. “I cannot be responsible,” he said, “for as I was hammering the frame into that window, a woman in an exquisite dress walked past. She looked so beautiful I couldn’t help but be distracted by her. Surely she is to blame.”

“Bring this woman to the court,” Karakoush commanded his guards.

The guards set off to find the woman who had distracted the carpenter who had built the faulty window that had broken and caused the thief to fall and break his leg.

When the woman heard the carpenter’s accusation, she too was afraid, for she understood that Karakoush’s judgments often didn’t make sense. “Your honor,” she said, bowing, “my beauty is from Allah, but surely Allah cannot be blamed.”

“Of course not!” Karakoush boomed. “But what about that dress you wore?”

This gave the woman an idea. “Ah, that dress, yes it is indeed a marvel. The tailor made that dress. He must be to blame.”

“Bring the tailor to this court!” ordered Karakoush, and soon the tailor stood before the judge, wondering what punishment he might soon face.

“You made a dress so beautiful that this woman distracted the carpenter, so he built a faulty window on the merchant’s house, a window that was not strong enough to stop a thief from falling in and breaking his leg when he tried to pry it open.”

The tailor stared in disbelief at Karakoush. He did not know what to say. “Sir, you cannot be serious. That is a foolhardy claim!”

Karakoush was furious when he heard the tailor’s words. “No one speaks back to this judge,” he cried. “Imprison this man!”

The guards hastily led the tailor to the prison door, but the door to the cell was too low, the tailor too tall. Even when he bent his knees, he could not fit inside the prison cell. So the guards rushed back to Karakoush. “Your honor,” they said, “we apologize, but the tailor doesn’t fit inside our prison.”

“Then find a tailor who does!” Karakoush bellowed, and the guards rushed to the village. Just as the judge had demanded, they found a small tailor, and though he protested, and was of course innocent, they locked him inside the prison.

The merchant and the carpenter and the woman and the tailor hurried home. The thief, pleased to be free, hobbled away, grateful for the judgment of this strange man.

And ever since that day, whenever people hear of a foolish or silly judgment, they say it is like “the judgment of Karakoush.”

Snow white and Rose red

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From the Grim Brothers

There was once a poor Widow who lived alone in her hut with her two children, who were called Snow-White and Rose-Red, because they were like the flowers which bloomed on two rosebushes which grew before the cottage. But they were two as pious, good, industrious, and amiable children as any that were in the world, only Snow-White was more quiet and gentle than Rose-Red. For Rose-Red would run and jump about the meadows, seeking flowers and catching butterflies, while Snow-White sat at home helping her Mother to

keep house, or reading to her if there were nothing else to do.

The two children loved one another dearly, and always walked hand in hand when they went out together; and ever when they talked of it they agreed that they would never separate from each other, and that whatever one had the other should share. Often they ran deep into the forest and gathered wild berries; but no beast ever harmed them. For the hare would eat cauliflowers out of their hands, the fawn would graze at their side, the goats would frisk about them in play, and the birds remained perched on the boughs singing as if nobody were near. No accident ever befell them; and if they stayed late in the forest, and night came upon them, they used to lie down on the moss and sleep till morning; and because their Mother knew they would do so, she felt no concern about them.

One time when they had thus passed the night in the forest, and the dawn of morning awoke them, they saw a beautiful Child dressed in shining white sitting near their couch. She got up and looked at them kindly, but without saying anything went into the forest; and when the children looked round they saw that where they had slept was close to the edge of a pit, into which they would have certainly fallen had they walked a couple of steps further in the dark. Their Mother told them the figure they had seen was doubtless the good angel who watches over children.

Snow-White and Rose-Red kept their Mother’s cottage so clean that it was a pleasure to enter it. Every morning in the summer time Rose-Red would first put the house in order, and then gather a nosegay for her Mother, in which she always placed a bud from each rose tree. Every winter’s morning Snow-White would light the fire and put the kettle on to boil, and although the kettle was made of copper it yet shone like gold, because it was scoured so well. In the evenings, when the flakes of snow were falling, the Mother would say: “Go, Snow-White, and bolt the door;” and then they used to sit down on the hearth, and the Mother would put on her spectacles and read out of a great book while her children sat spinning. By their side, too, laid a little lamb, and on a perch behind them a little white dove reposed with her head under her wing.

One evening, when they were thus sitting comfortably together, there came a knock at the door as if somebody wished to come in. “Make haste, Rose-Red,” cried her Mother; “make haste and open the door; perhaps there is some traveler outside who needs shelter.” So Rose-Red went and drew the bolt and opened the door, expecting to see some poor man outside, but instead, a great fat Bear poked his black head in. Rose-Red shrieked out and ran back, the little lamb bleated, the dove fluttered on her perch, and Snow-White hid herself behind her Mother’s bed. The Bear, however, began to speak, and said: “Be not afraid, I will do you no harm; but I am half frozen, and wish to come in and warm myself.”

“Poor Bear!” cried the Mother; “come in and lie down before the fire; but take care you do not burn your skin;” and then she continued: “Come here, Rose-Red and Snow-White, the Bear will not harm you, he means honorably.” So they both came back, and by degrees the lamb too and the dove overcame their fears and welcomed the rough visitor.

“You children!” said the Bear, before he entered, “come and knock the snow off my coat.” And they fetched their brooms and swept him clean. Then he stretched himself before the fire and grumbled out his satisfaction; and in a little while the children became familiar enough to play tricks with the unwieldy animal. They pulled his long, shaggy skin, set their feet upon his back and rolled him to and fro, and even ventured to beat him with a hazel stick, laughing when he grumbled. The Bear bore all their tricks good temperedly, and if they hit him too hard he cried out:

“Leave me my life, you children,

Snow-White and Rose-Red,

Or you’ll never wed.”

When bedtime came and the others were gone, the Mother said to the Bear: “You may sleep here on the hearth if you like, and then you will be safely protected from the cold and bad weather.”

As soon as day broke the two children let the Bear out again, and he trotted away over the snow, and ever afterward he came every evening at a certain hour. He would lie down on the hearth and allow the children to play with him as much as they liked, till by degrees they became so accustomed to him that the door was left unbolted till their black friend arrived.

But as soon as spring returned, and everything out of doors was green again, the Bear one morning told Snow-White that he must leave her, and could not return during the whole summer. “Where are you going, then, dear Bear?” asked Snow-White, “I am obliged to go into the forest and guard my treasures from the evil Dwarfs; for in winter, when the ground is hard, they are obliged to keep in their holes, and cannot work through; but now, since the sun has thawed the earth and warmed it, the Dwarf’s pierce through, and steal all they can find; and what has once passed into their hands, and gets concealed by them in their caves, is not easily brought to light.”

Snow-White, however, was very sad at the departure of the Bear, and opened the door so hesitatingly that when he pressed through it he left behind on the sneck a piece of his hairy coat; and through the hole which was made in his coat Snow-White fancied she saw the glittering of gold; but she was not quite certain of it. The Bear, however, ran hastily away, and was soon hidden behind the trees.

Some time afterward the Mother sent the children into the wood to gather sticks; and while doing so, they came to a tree which was lying across the path, on the trunk of which something kept bobbing up and down from the grass, and they could not imagine what it was. When they came nearer they saw a Dwarf, with an old wrinkled face and a snow- white beard a yard long. The end of this beard was fixed in a split of the tree, and the little man kept jumping about like a dog tied by a chain, for he did not know how to free himself.

He glared at the Maidens with his red fiery eyes, and exclaimed, “Why do you stand there? are you going to pass without offering me any assistance?” “What have you done, little man?” asked Rose-Red. “You stupid, gaping goose!” exclaimed he. “I wanted to have split the tree, in order to get a little wood for my kitchen, for the little wood which we use is soon burned up with great fagots, not like what you rough, greedy people devour! I had driven the wedge in properly, and everything was going on well, when the smooth wood flew upward, and the tree closed so suddenly together that I could not draw my beautiful beard out, and here it sticks and I cannot get away. There, don’t laugh, you milk- faced things! are you dumfounded?”

The children took all the pains they could to pull the Dwarf’s beard out; but without success. “I will run and fetch some help,” cried Rose-Red at length.

“Crack-brained sheep’s head that you are!” snarled the Dwarf; “what are you going to call other people for? You are two too many now for me; can you think of nothing else?”

“Don’t be impatient,” replied Snow-White; “I have thought of something;” and pulling her scissors out of her pocket she cut off the end of the beard. As soon as the Dwarf found himself at liberty, he snatched up his sack, which lay between the roots of the tree, filled with gold, and throwing it over his shoulder marched off, grumbling and groaning and crying: “Stupid people! to cut off a piece of my beautiful beard. Plague take you!” and away he went without once looking at the children.

Some time afterward Snow-White and Rose-Red went a-fishing, and as they neared the pond they saw something like a great locust hopping about on the bank, as if going to jump into the water. They ran up and recognized the Dwarf. “What are you after?” asked Rose-Red; “you will fall into the water.” “I am not quite such a simpleton as that,” replied the Dwarf: “but do you not see this fish will pull me in?” The little man had been sitting there angling, and unfortunately the wind had entangled his beard with the fishing line; and so, when a great fish bit at the bait, the strength of the weak little fellow was not able to draw it out, and the fish had the best of the struggle.

 The Dwarf held on by the reeds and rushes which grew near; but to no purpose, for the fish pulled him where it liked, and he must soon have been drawn into the pond. Luckily just then the two Maidens arrived, and tried to release the beard of the Dwarf from the fishing line; but both were too closely entangled for it to be done. So the Maiden pulled out her scissors again and cut off another piece of the beard. When the Dwarf saw this done he was in a great rage, and exclaimed: “You donkey! that is the way to disfigure my face. Was it not enough to cut it once, but you must now take away the best part of my fine beard? I dare not show myself again now to my own people. I wish you had run the soles off your boots before you had come here!” So saying, he took up a bag of pearls which lay among the rushes, and without speaking another word, slipped off and disappeared behind a stone.

Not many days after this adventure, it chanced that the Mother sent the two Maidens to the next town to buy thread, needles and pins, laces and ribbons. Their road passed over a common, on which here and there great pieces of rock were lying about. Just over their heads they saw a great bird flying round and round, and every now and then, dropping lower and lower, till at last it flew down behind a rock. Immediately afterward they heard a piercing shriek, and running up they saw with affright that the eagle had caught their old acquaintance. the Dwarf, and was trying to carry him off. The compassionate children thereupon laid hold of the little man, and held him fast till the bird gave up the struggle and flew off. As soon then as the Dwarf had recovered from his fright, he exclaimed in his squeaking voice: “Could you not hold me more gently? You have seized my fine brown coat in such a manner that it is all torn and full of holes, meddling and interfering rubbish that you are!” With these words he shouldered a bag filled with precious stones, and slipped away to his cave among the rocks.

The maidens were now accustomed to his ingratitude, and so they walked on to the town and transacted their business there. Coming home, they returned over the same common, and unawares walked up to a certain clean spot on which the Dwarf had shaken out his bag of precious stones, thinking nobody was near. The sun was shining, and the bright stones glittered in its beams and displayed such a variety of colors that the two Maidens stopped to admire them.

“What are you standing there gaping for?” asked the Dwarf, while his face grew as red as copper with rage; he was continuing to abuse the poor Maidens, when a loud roaring noise was heard, and presently a great black Bear came rolling out of the forest. The Dwarf jumped up terrified, but he could not gain his retreat before the Bear overtook him. Thereupon, he cried out: “Spare me, my dear Lord Bear! I will give you all my treasures. See these beautiful precious stones which lie here; only give me my life; for what have you to fear from a little weak fellow like me? you could not touch me with your big teeth. There are two wicked girls, take them; they would make nice morsels, as fat as young quails; eat them for heaven’s sake.”

The Bear, however, without troubling himself to speak, gave the bad- hearted Dwarf a single blow with his paw, and he never stirred after.

The Maidens were then going to run away, but the Bear called after them: “Snow-White and Rose-Red, fear not! wait a bit and I will accompany you.” They recognized his voice and stopped; and when the Bear came, his rough coat suddenly fell off, and he stood up a tall man, dressed entirely in gold. “I am a king’s son,” he said, “and was condemned by the wicked Dwarf, who stole all my treasures, to wander about in this forest, in the form of a bear, till his death released me. Now he has received his well-deserved punishment.”

Then they went home, and Snow-White was married to the prince, and Rose-Red to his brother, with whom they shared the immense treasure which the Dwarf had collected. The old Mother also lived for many years happily with her two children, and the rose trees which had stood before the cottage were planted now before the palace, and produced every year beautiful red and white roses.

Little burnt face

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This tale is from the Mi’kmaq people

http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/cinderella/stories/littleburntface.html

ONCE upon a time, in a large Indian village on the border of a lake, there lived an old man who was a widower. He had three daughters. The eldest was jealous, cruel, and ugly; the second was vain; but the youngest of all was very gentle and lovely.

Now, when the father was out hunting in the forest, the eldest daughter used to beat the youngest girl, and burn her face with hot coals; yes, and even scar her pretty body. So the people called her “Little Burnt-Face.”

When the father came home from hunting he would ask why she was so scarred, and the eldest would answer quickly: “She is a good-for-nothing! She was forbidden to go near the fire, and she disobeyedand fell in.” Then the father would scold Little Burnt-Face and she would creep away crying to bed.

By the lake, at the end of the village, there was a beautiful wigwam. And in that wigwam lived a Great Chief and his sister. The Great Chief was invisible; no one had ever seen him but his sister. He brought  her many deer and supplied her with good things to eat from the forest and lake, and with the finest blankets and garments. And when visitors came all they ever saw of the Chief were his moccasins; for when he took them off they became visible, and his sister hung them up.

Now, one Spring, his sister made known that her brother, the Great Chief, would marry any girl who could see him.

Then all the girls from the village—except Little Burnt-Face and her sisters—and all the girls for miles around hastened to the wigwam, and walked along the shore of the lake with his sister.

And his sister asked the girls, “Do you see my brother?”

And some of them said, “No”; but most of them answered, “Yes.”

Then his sister asked, “Of what is his shoulder-strap made?”

And the girls said, “Of a strip of rawhide.”

“And with what does he draw his sled?” asked his sister.

And they replied, “With a green withe.”

Then she knew that they had not seen him at all, and said  quietly, “Let us go to the wigwam.”

So to the wigwam they went, and when they entered, his  sister told them not to take the seat next the door, for that was where her brother sat.

Then they helped his sister to cook the supper, for they were very curious to see the Great Chief eat. When all was ready, the  food disappeared, and the brother took off his moccasins, and his sister hung them up. But they never saw the Chief, though many of them stayed all night.

One day Little Burnt-Face’s two sisters put on their finest blankets and brightest strings of beads, and plaited their hair beautifully, and slipped embroidered moccasins on their feet. Then they started out to see the Great Chief.

As soon as they were gone, Little Burnt-Face made herself a dress of white birch-bark, and a cap and leggings of the same. She threw off her ragged garments, and dressed herself in her birch-bark clothes. She put her father’s moccasins on her bare feet; and the moccasins were so big that they came up to her knees. Then she, too, started out to visit the beautiful wigwam at the end of the village.

Poor Little Burnt-Face! She was a sorry sight! For her hair was singed off, and her little face was as full of burns and scars  as a sieve is full of holes; and she shuffled along in her birch-bark clothes and big moccasins. And as she passed through the village the boys and girls hissed, yelled, and hooted.

And when she reached the lake, her sisters saw her coming, and they tried to shame her, and told her to go home. But the Great Chief’s  sister received her kindly, and bade her stay, for she saw how sweet and gentle Little Burnt-Face really was.

Then as evening was coming on, the Great Chief’s sister took all three girls walking beside the lake, and the sky grew dark, and they knew the Great Chief had come.

And his sister asked the two elder girls, “Do you see my brother?”

And they said, “Yes.”

“Of what is his shoulder-strap made?” asked his sister.

“Of a strip of rawhide,” they replied.

“And with what does he draw his sled?” asked she.

And they said, “With a green withe.”

Then his sister turned to Little Burnt-Face and asked, “Do you see him?”

“I do! I do!” said Little Burnt-Face with awe. “And he is wonderful!”

“And of what is his sled-string made?” asked his sister gently.

“It is a beautiful Rainbow!” cried Little Burnt-Face.

“But, my sister,” said the other, “of what is his bow-string made?”

“His bow-string,” replied Little Burnt-Face,  “is the Milky Way!”

Then the Great Chief’s sister smiled with delight, and taking Little Burnt-Face by the hand, she said, “You have surely  seen him.”

She led the little girl to the wigwam, and bathed her with dew until the burns and scars all disappeared from her body and face. Her skin became soft and lovely again. Her hair grew long and dark like               the Blackbird’s wing. Her eyes were like stars. Then his sister brought from her treasures a wedding-garment, and she dressed Little Burnt-Face in it. And she was most beautiful to behold.

After all this was done, his sister led the little girl to the seat next the door, saying, “This is the Bride’s seat,” and made her sit down.

And then the Great Chief, no longer invisible, entered, terrible and beautiful. And when he saw Little Burnt-Face, he smiled and said gently, “So we have found each other!”

And she answered, “Yes.”

Then Little Burnt-Face was married to the Great Chief, and the wedding-feast lasted for days, and to it came all the people of the village. As for the two bad sisters, they went back to their wigwam in disgrace, weeping with shame.

Aside

This tale comes from Southern Nigeria

UDO UBOK UDOM was a famous king who lived at Itam, which is an inland town, and does not possess a river. The king and his wife therefore used to wash at the spring just behind their house.

King Udo had a daughter, of whom he was very fond, and looked after her most carefully, and she grew up into a beautiful woman.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/afr/fssn/fsn30.htm

For some time the king had been absent from his house, and had not been to the spring for two years. When he went to his old place to wash, he found that the Idem Ju Ju tree had grown up all round the place, and it was impossible for him to use the spring as he had done formerly. He therefore called fifty of his young men to bring their matchets and cut down the tree. They started cutting the tree, but it had no effect, as, directly they made a cut in the tree, it closed up again; so, after working all day, they found they had made no impression on it.

When they returned at night, they told the king that they had been unable to destroy the tree. He

[ A matchet is a long sharp knife in general use throughout the country. It has a wooden handle; it is about two feet six inches long and two inches wide.]

was very angry when he heard this, and went to the spring the following morning, taking his own matchet with him.

When the Ju Ju tree saw that the king had come himself and was starting to try to cut his branches, he caused a small splinter of wood to go into the king’s eye. This gave the king great pain, so he threw down his matchet and went back to his house. The pain, however, got worse, and he could not eat or sleep for three days.

He therefore sent for his witch men, and told them to cast lots to find out why he was in such pain. When they had cast lots, they decided that the reason was that the Ju Ju tree was angry with the king because he wanted to wash at the spring, and had tried to destroy the tree.

They then told the king that he must take seven baskets of flies, a white goat, a white chicken, and a piece of white cloth, and make a sacrifice of them in order to satisfy the Ju Ju.

The king did this, and the witch men tried their lotions on the king’s eye, but it got worse and worse.

He then dismissed these witches and got another lot. When they arrived they told the king that, although they could do nothing themselves to relieve his pain, they knew one man who lived in the spirit land who could cure him; so the king told them to send for him at once, and he arrived the next day,

Then the spirit man said, “Before I do anything to your eye, what will you give me? ” So King Udo, said, “”will give you half my town with the people in it, also seven cows and some money.” But the spirit man refused to accept the king’s offer. As the king was in such pain, he said, “Name your own price, and I will pay you.” So the spirit man said the only thing he was willing to accept as payment was the king’s daughter. At this the king cried very much, and told the man to go away, as he would rather die than let him have his daughter.

That night the pain was worse than ever, and some of his subjects pleaded with the king to send for the spirit man again and give him his daughter, and told him that when he got well he could no doubt have another daughter but that if he died now he would lose everything.

The king then sent for the spirit man again, who came very quickly, and in great grief, the king handed his daughter to the spirit.

The spirit man then went out into the bush, and collected some leaves, which he soaked in water and beat up. The juice he poured into the king’s eye, and told him that when he washed his face in the morning he would be able to see what was troubling him in the eye.

The king tried to persuade him to stay the night, but the spirit man refused, and departed that same night for the spirit land, taking the king’s daughter with him.

Before it was light the king rose up and washed his face, and found that the small splinter from the Ju Ju tree, which had been troubling him so much, dropped out of his eye, the pain disappeared, and he was quite well again.

When he came to his proper senses he realised that he had sacrificed his daughter for one of his eyes, so he made an order that there should be general mourning throughout his kingdom for three years.

For the first two years of the mourning the king’s daughter was put in the fatting house by the spirit man, and was given food; but a skull, who was in the house, told her not to eat, as they were fatting her up, not for marriage, but so that they could eat her. She therefore gave all the food which was brought to her to the skull, and lived on chalk herself.

Towards the end of the third year the spirit man brought some of his friends to see the king’s daughter, and told them he would kill her the next day, and they would have a good feast off her.

When she woke up in the morning the spirit man brought her food as usual; but the skull, who wanted to preserve her life, and who had heard what the spirit man had said, called her into the room and told her what was going to happen later in the day. She handed the food to the skull, and he said, “When the spirit man goes to the wood with his friends to prepare for the feast, you must run back to your father.”

He then gave her some medicine which would make her strong for the journey, and also gave her directions as to the road, telling her that there were two roads but that when she came to the parting of the ways she was to drop some of the medicine on the ground and the two roads would become one.

He then told her to leave by the back door, and go through the wood until she came to the end of the town; she would then find the road. If she met people on the road she was to pass them in silence, as if she saluted them they would know that she was a stranger in the spirit land, and might kill her. She was also not to turn round if any one called to her, but was to go straight on till she reached her father’s house.

Having thanked the skull for his kind advice, the king’s daughter started off, and when she reached the end of the town and found the road, she ran for three hours, and at last arrived at the branch roads. There she dropped the medicine, as she had been instructed, and the two roads immediately became one; so she went straight on and never saluted any one or turned back, although several people called to her.

About this time the spirit man had returned from the wood, and went to the house, only to find the king’s daughter was absent. He asked the skull where she was, and he replied that she had gone out by the back door, but he did not know where she had gone to. Being a spirit, however, he very soon guessed that she had gone home; so he followed as quickly as possible, shouting out all the time.

When the girl heard his voice she ran as fast as she could, and at last arrived at her father’s house, and told him to take at once a cow, a pig, a sheep, a goat, a dog, a chicken, and seven eggs, and cut them into seven parts as a sacrifice, and leave them on the road, so that when the spirit man saw these things he would stop and not enter the town. This the king did immediately, and made the sacrifice as his daughter had told him.

When the spirit man saw the sacrifice on the road, he sat down and at once began to eat.

When he had satisfied his appetite, he packed up the remainder and returned to the spirit land, not troubling any more about the king’s daughter.

When the king saw that the danger was over, he beat his drum, and declared- that for the future, when people died and went to the spirit land, they should not come to earth again as spirits to cure sick people.

The King and the Ju Ju tree