Bluebeard

folktales of Aarne-Thompson-Uther types 312 and 312A
about women whose brothers rescue them
from their ruthless husbands or abductors

translated and/or edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 1999-2014


Contents

  1. Bluebeard (France, Charles Perrault).

  2. King Bluebeard (Germany).

  3. Don Firriulieddu (Italy).

  4. The Little Boy and His Dogs (African-American, Joel Chandler Harris).

  5. Blue-Beard (North Carolina, USA).

  6. The Chosen Suitor (Antigua, British West Indies).

  7. The Brahman Girl That Married a Tiger (India).

  8. Related links.


Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

Bluebeard

Charles Perrault

There was once a man who had fine houses, both in town and country, a deal of silver and gold plate, embroidered furniture, and coaches gilded all over with gold. But this man was so unlucky as to have a blue beard, which made him so frightfully ugly that all the women and girls ran away from him.

One of his neighbors, a lady of quality, had two daughters who were perfect beauties. He desired of her one of them in marriage, leaving to her choice which of the two she would bestow on him. Neither of them would have him, and they sent him backwards and forwards from one to the other, not being able to bear the thoughts of marrying a man who had a blue beard. Adding to their disgust and aversion was the fact that he already had been married to several wives, and nobody knew what had become of them.

Bluebeard, to engage their affection, took them, with their mother and three or four ladies of their acquaintance, with other young people of the neighborhood, to one of his country houses, where they stayed a whole week.

The time was filled with parties, hunting, fishing, dancing, mirth, and feasting. Nobody went to bed, but all passed the night in rallying and joking with each other. In short, everything succeeded so well that the youngest daughter began to think that the man's beard was not so very blue after all, and that he was a mighty civil gentleman.

As soon as they returned home, the marriage was concluded. About a month afterwards, Bluebeard told his wife that he was obliged to take a country journey for six weeks at least, about affairs of very great consequence. He desired her to divert herself in his absence, to send for her friends and acquaintances, to take them into the country, if she pleased, and to make good cheer wherever she was.

"Here," said he," are the keys to the two great wardrobes, wherein I have my best furniture. These are to my silver and gold plate, which is not everyday in use. These open my strongboxes, which hold my money, both gold and silver; these my caskets of jewels. And this is the master key to all my apartments. But as for this little one here, it is the key to the closet at the end of the great hall on the ground floor. Open them all; go into each and every one of them, except that little closet, which I forbid you, and forbid it in such a manner that, if you happen to open it, you may expect my just anger and resentment."

She promised to observe, very exactly, whatever he had ordered. Then he, after having embraced her, got into his coach and proceeded on his journey.

Her neighbors and good friends did not wait to be sent for by the newly married lady. They were impatient to see all the rich furniture of her house, and had not dared to come while her husband was there, because of his blue beard, which frightened them. They ran through all the rooms, closets, and wardrobes, which were all so fine and rich that they seemed to surpass one another.

After that, they went up into the two great rooms, which contained the best and richest furniture. They could not sufficiently admire the number and beauty of the tapestry, beds, couches, cabinets, stands, tables, and looking glasses, in which you might see yourself from head to foot; some of them were framed with glass, others with silver, plain and gilded, the finest and most magnificent that they had ever seen.

They ceased not to extol and envy the happiness of their friend, who in the meantime in no way diverted herself in looking upon all these rich things, because of the impatience she had to go and open the closet on the ground floor. She was so much pressed by her curiosity that, without considering that it was very uncivil for her to leave her company, she went down a little back staircase, and with such excessive haste that she nearly fell and broke her neck.

Having come to the closet door, she made a stop for some time, thinking about her husband's orders, and considering what unhappiness might attend her if she was disobedient; but the temptation was so strong that she could not overcome it. She then took the little key, and opened it, trembling. At first she could not see anything plainly, because the windows were shut. After some moments she began to perceive that the floor was all covered over with clotted blood, on which lay the bodies of several dead women, ranged against the walls. (These were all the wives whom Bluebeard had married and murdered, one after another.) She thought she should have died for fear, and the key, which she, pulled out of the lock, fell out of her hand.

After having somewhat recovered her surprise, she picked up the key, locked the door, and went upstairs into her chamber to recover; but she could not, so much was she frightened. Having observed that the key to the closet was stained with blood, she tried two or three times to wipe it off; but the blood would not come out; in vain did she wash it, and even rub it with soap and sand. The blood still remained, for the key was magical and she could never make it quite clean; when the blood was gone off from one side, it came again on the other.

Bluebeard returned from his journey the same evening, saying that he had received letters upon the road, informing him that the affair he went about had concluded to his advantage. His wife did all she could to convince him that she was extremely happy about his speedy return.

The next morning he asked her for the keys, which she gave him, but with such a trembling hand that he easily guessed what had happened.

"What!" said he, "is not the key of my closet among the rest?"

"I must," said she, "have left it upstairs upon the table."

"Fail not," said Bluebeard, "to bring it to me at once."

After several goings backwards and forwards, she was forced to bring him the key. Bluebeard, having very attentively considered it, said to his wife, "Why is there blood on the key?"

"I do not know," cried the poor woman, paler than death.

"You do not know!" replied Bluebeard. "I very well know. You went into the closet, did you not? Very well, madam; you shall go back, and take your place among the ladies you saw there."

Upon this she threw herself at her husband's feet, and begged his pardon with all the signs of a true repentance, vowing that she would never more be disobedient. She would have melted a rock, so beautiful and sorrowful was she; but Bluebeard had a heart harder than any rock!

"You must die, madam," said he, "at once."

"Since I must die," answered she (looking upon him with her eyes all bathed in tears), "give me some little time to say my prayers."

"I give you," replied Bluebeard, "half a quarter of an hour, but not one moment more."

When she was alone she called out to her sister, and said to her, "Sister Anne" (for that was her name), "go up, I beg you, to the top of the tower, and look if my brothers are not coming. They promised me that they would come today, and if you see them, give them a sign to make haste."

Her sister Anne went up to the top of the tower, and the poor afflicted wife cried out from time to time, "Anne, sister Anne, do you see anyone coming?"

And sister Anne said, "I see nothing but a cloud of dust in the sun, and the green grass."

In the meanwhile Bluebeard, holding a great saber in his hand, cried out as loud as he could bawl to his wife, "Come down instantly, or I shall come up to you."

"One moment longer, if you please," said his wife; and then she cried out very softly, "Anne, sister Anne, do you see anybody coming?"

And sister Anne answered, "I see nothing but a cloud of dust in the sun, and the green grass."

"Come down quickly," cried Bluebeard, "or I will come up to you."

"I am coming," answered his wife; and then she cried, "Anne, sister Anne, do you not see anyone coming?"

"I see," replied sister Anne, "a great cloud of dust approaching us."

"Are they my brothers?"

"Alas, no my dear sister, I see a flock of sheep."

"Will you not come down?" cried Bluebeard.

"One moment longer," said his wife, and then she cried out, "Anne, sister Anne, do you see nobody coming?"

"I see," said she, "two horsemen, but they are still a great way off."

"God be praised," replied the poor wife joyfully. "They are my brothers. I will make them a sign, as well as I can for them to make haste."

Then Bluebeard bawled out so loud that he made the whole house tremble. The distressed wife came down, and threw herself at his feet, all in tears, with her hair about her shoulders.

"This means nothing," said Bluebeard. "You must die!" Then, taking hold of her hair with one hand, and lifting up the sword with the other, he prepared to strike off her head. The poor lady, turning about to him, and looking at him with dying eyes, desired him to afford her one little moment to recollect herself.

"No, no," said he, "commend yourself to God," and was just ready to strike.

At this very instant there was such a loud knocking at the gate that Bluebeard made a sudden stop. The gate was opened, and two horsemen entered. Drawing their swords, they ran directly to Bluebeard. He knew them to be his wife's brothers, one a dragoon, the other a musketeer; so that he ran away immediately to save himself; but the two brothers pursued and overtook him before he could get to the steps of the porch. Then they ran their swords through his body and left him dead. The poor wife was almost as dead as her husband, and had not strength enough to rise and welcome her brothers.

Bluebeard had no heirs, and so his wife became mistress of all his estate. She made use of one part of it to marry her sister Anne to a young gentleman who had loved her a long while; another part to buy captains' commissions for her brothers, and the rest to marry herself to a very worthy gentleman, who made her forget the ill time she had passed with Bluebeard.

Moral:

Curiosity, in spite of its appeal, often leads to deep regret. To the displeasure of many a maiden, its enjoyment is short lived. Once satisfied, it ceases to exist, and always costs dearly.

Another moral:

Apply logic to this grim story, and you will ascertain that it took place many years ago. No husband of our age would be so terrible as to demand the impossible of his wife, nor would he be such a jealous malcontent. For, whatever the color of her husband's beard, the wife of today will let him know who the master is.




King Bluebeard

Germany

Next to a great forest there lived an old man who had three sons and two daughters. Once they were sitting together thinking of nothing when a splendid carriage suddenly drove up and stopped in front of their house. A dignified gentleman climbed from the carriage, entered the house, and engaged the father and his daughters in conversation. Because he especially liked the youngest one, he asked the father if he would not give her to him to be his wife.

This seemed to the father to be a good marriage, and he had long desired to see his daughters taken care of while he was still alive. However, the daughter could not bring herself to say yes, for the strange knight had an entirely blue beard, which caused her to shudder with fear whenever she looked at him.

She went to her brothers, who were valiant knights, and asked them for advice. The brothers thought that she should accept Bluebeard, and they gave her a little whistle, saying, "If you are ever threatened, just blow this whistle, and we will come to your aid!"

Thus she let herself be talked into becoming the strange man's wife, but she did arrange for her sister to accompany her when King Bluebeard took her to his castle.

When the young wife arrived there, there was great joy throughout the entire castle, and King Bluebeard was very happy as well. This continued for about four weeks, and then he said that he was going on a journey. He turned all the keys of the castle over to his wife, saying, "You may go anywhere in the castle, unlock everything, and look at anything you want to, except for one door, to which this little golden key belongs. If you value your life, you are not allowed to open it!"

"Oh no!" she said, adding that she surely would not open that door. But after the king had been away for a while, she could find no rest for constantly thinking about what there might be in the forbidden chamber. She was just about to unlock it when her sister approached her and held her back. However, on the morning of the fourth day, she could no longer resist the temptation, and taking the key she secretly crept to the room, stuck the key into the lock, and opened the door.

Horrified, she saw that the entire room was filled with corpses, all of them women. She wanted to slam the door shut immediately, but the key fell out and into the blood. She quickly picked it up, but it was stained with blood. And however much she rubbed and cleaned it, the stains would not go away. With fear and trembling she went to her sister.

When King Bluebeard finally returned from his journey, he immediately asked for the golden key. Seeing the bloodstains on it, he said, "Wife, why did you not heed my warning? Your hour has now struck! Prepare yourself to die, for you have been in the forbidden room!"

Crying, she went to her sister, who lived upstairs in the castle. While she was bemoaning her fate to her, the sister thought of the whistle that she had received from her brothers, and said, "Give me the whistle! I shall send a signal to our brothers. Perhaps they will be able to help!" And she blew the whistle three times, issuing a bright sound that rang through the woods.

An hour later they heard Bluebeard rustling up the stairs to get his wife and slaughter her. "Oh God, oh God!" she cried out. "Aren't my brothers coming?" She rushed to the door and locked it, then fearfully stood there holding it shut as well.

Bluebeard pounded on the door, crying out that she should open it, and when she did not do so, he tried to break it down.

"Oh sister, oh sister, aren't my brothers coming?" she said to her sister, who was standing at the window looking out into the distance.

She replied, "I don't see anyone yet."

Meanwhile, Bluebeard was breaking the door apart more and more, and the opening was almost large enough for him to get through, when three knights suddenly appeared before the castle. The sister cried from the window as loudly as she could, "Help! Help!" and waved to her brothers.

They stormed up the stairs to where they had heard their sister's cry for help. There they saw King Bluebeard, sword in hand, standing before the broken door, and they heard their sister screaming inside the room. Immediately sensing what he was up to, they quickly ran their daggers into his breast and killed him.

When the brothers learned what the godless king was going to do to their sister, and that he had already killed so many women, they destroyed his castle, so that there was not one stone remaining on another one. They took with them all his treasures, and lived happily with their sisters in their father's house.




Don Firriulieddu

Italy

Once upon a time there was a farmer who had a daughter who used to take his dinner to him in the fields. One day he said to her, "So that you may find me I will sprinkle bran along the way. You follow the bran, and you will come to me."

By chance the old ogre passed that way, and seeing the bran, said, "This means something." So he took the bran and scattered it so that it led to his own house.

When the daughter set out to take her father his dinner, she followed the bran until she came to the ogre's house. When the ogre saw the young girl, he said, "You must be my wife."

Then she began to weep. When the father saw that his daughter did not appear, he went home in the evening, and began to search for her, and not finding her, he asked God to give him a son or a daughter.

A year after, he had a son whom they called Don Firriulieddu. When the child was three days old it spoke, and said, "Have you made me a cloak? Now give me a little dog and the cloak, for I must look for my sister." So he set out and went to seek his sister.

After a while he came to a plain where he saw a number of men, and asked, "Whose cattle are these?"

The herdsman replied, "They belong to the ogre, who fears neither God nor the saints, who fears Don Firriulieddu, who is three days old, and is on the way, and gives his dog bread and says, 'Eat, my dog, and do not bark, for we have fine things to do.'"

Afterwards he saw a flock of sheep, and asked, "Whose are these sheep?" and received the same answer as from the herdsman.

Then he arrived at the ogre's house and knocked, and his sister opened the door and saw the child. "Who are you looking for?" she said.

"I am looking for you, for I am your brother, and you must return to mamma."

When the ogre heard that Don Firriulieddu was there, he went and hid himself upstairs. Don Firriulieddu asked his sister, "Where is the ogre?"

"Upstairs."

Don Firriulieddu said to his dog, "Go upstairs and bark, and I will follow you."

The dog went up and barked, and Firriulieddu followed him, and killed the ogre. Then he took his sister and a quantity of money, and they went home to their mother, and are all contented.




The Little Boy and His Dogs

African American, Joel Chandler Harris

Uncle Remus's little patron seemed to be so shocked at the burning of the woman [in the previous story, "How a Witch Was Caught"] that the old man plunged at once into a curious story about a little boy and his two dogs.

One time there was a woman living alongside the big road, and this woman, she had one little boy. It seems to me that he must have been just about your size. He might have been a little broader in the shoulders and a little longer in the legs, yet, take him up one side and down the other, he was just about your shape and size.

He was a mighty smart little boy, and his mammy set lots by him. It seems like she had never had any luck except with that boy, because there was a time when she had a little gal, and bless your soul, somebody came along and carried the little gal off, and the little boy didn't have a little sister anymore. This made both of them mighty sorry, but it looked like the little boy was the sorriest, because he showed it the most.

Some days he'd take a notion to go and hunt for his little sister, and then he'd go down the big road and climb a big pine tree, and get clear to the top, and look all around to see if he couldn't see his little sister somewhere in the woods. He couldn't see her, but he'd stay up there in the tree and swing in the wind and allow to himself that maybe he might see her by and by.

One day while he was sitting up there, he saw two mighty fine ladies walking down the road. He climbed down out of the tree, he did, and ran and told his mammy. The she up an asked, "How fine are they, honey?"

"Mighty fine, mammy, mighty fine: puffy-out petticoats and long green veils."

"How do they look, honey?"

"Spick-and-span new, mammy."

"They aren't any of our kin, are they, honey?"

"That they aren't, mammy. They are mighty fine ladies."

The fine ladies, they came on down the road, they did, and stopped by the woman's house, and begged to please give them some water. The little boy, he ran and fetched them a gourd full, and they put the gourd under their veils and drank, and drank, and drank just like they were nearly perished for water. The little boy watched them. Soon he hollered out, "Mammy, mammy! What do you reckon? They are lapping the water."

The woman hollered back, "I reckon that's the way quality folks do, honey."

Then the ladies begged for some bread, and the little boy took them a pone. They ate it like they were mighty nigh famished for bread. By and by the little boy hollered out and said, "Mammy, mammy! What do you reckon? They've got great long teeth."

The woman, she hollered back, "I reckon all the quality folks have got them, honey."

Then the ladies asked for some water to wash their hands, and the little boy brought them some. He watched them, and by and by he hollered out, "Mammy, mammy! What do you reckon? They've got hairy hands and arms."

The woman, she hollered back, "I reckon all the quality folks have got them, honey."

Then the ladies begged the woman to please let the little boy show them where the big road forks. But the little boy didn't want to go. He hollered out, "Mammy, folks don't have to be shown where the road forks."

But the woman, she allowed, "I reckon the quality folks do, honey."

The little boy, he began to whimper and cry, because he didn't want to go with the ladies, but the woman said he ought to be ashamed of himself for going on that way in front of the quality folks, and more than that, he might run into his little sister and fetch her home.

Now this here little boy had two mighty bad dogs. One of them was named Minnyminny Morack, and the other one was named Follerlinsko, and they were so bad that they had to be tied in the yard day and night, except when they were a-hunting. So the little boy, he went and got a pan of water and set in down in the middle of the floor, and then he went and got himself a willow limb, and he stuck it in the ground.

Then he allowed, "Mammy, when the water in this here pan turns to blood, then you run out and set loose Minnyminny Morack and Follerlinsko, and when you see that there willow limb a-shaking, you run and sick them on my track."

The woman, she up and said, she'd turn the dogs loose, and then the little boy, he stuck his hands in his pockets and went on down the road a-whistling, just the same as any other little boy, except that he was a lot smarter. He went on down the road, he did, and the fine quality ladies, they came on behind.

The further he went the faster he walked. This made the quality ladies walk fast too, and it wasn't so mighty long before the little boy heard them making a mighty curious fuss, and when he turned around, bless gracious! they were a-panting, because they were so tired and hot. The little boy allowed to himself that it was mighty curious how ladies could pant the same as a wild varmint, but he said he expected that was the way quality ladies do when they get hot and tired, and he made like he couldn't hear them, because he wanted to be nice and polite.

After a while, when the quality ladies thought the little boy wasn't looking at them, he saw one of them drop down on her all fours and trot along just like a varmint, and it wasn't long before the other one dropped down on her all fours. Then the little boy allowed, "Shoo! If that is the way quality ladies rest themselves when they get tired, I reckon a little chap about my size had better be fixing to rest himself."

So he looked around, he did, and he took and picked himself out a great big pine tree by the side of the road, and began to climb it. Then, when they saw that, one of the quality ladies allowed, "My goodness! What in the world are you up to now?"

The little boy, he said, "I'm just a-climbing a tree to rest my bones."

The ladies, they allowed, "Why don't you rest them on the ground?"

The little boy, he said, "Because I want to get up where it is cool and high."

The quality ladies, they took and walked around and around the tree like they were measuring it to see how big it was. By and by, after a while, they said, "Little boy, little boy! You'd better come down from there and show us the way to the forks of the road."

Then the little boy allowed, "Just keep right on, ladies. You'll find the forks of the road. You can't miss them. I'm afraid to come down, because I might fall and hurt one of you all."

The ladies, they said, "You'd better come down before we run and tell your mammy how bad your are."

The little boy allowed, "While you are telling her, please tell her how scared I am."

The quality ladies got mighty mad. They walked around that tree and fairly snorted. They pulled off their bonnets, and their veils, and their dresses, and, lo and behold, the little boy saw that they were two great big panthers. They had great big eyes, and big sharp teeth, and great long tails, and they looked up at the little boy and growled and grinned at him until he mighty nigh had a chill. They tried to climb the tree, but they had trimmed their claws so they could get gloves on, and they couldn't climb any more.

Then one of them sat down in the road and made a curious mark in the sand, and their great long tales turned into axes, and no sooner did the tails turn into axes than they began to cut the tree down. I don't dare tell you how sharp those axes were, because you wouldn't nigh believe me. One of them stood on one side of the tree, and the other one stood on the other side, and they whacked at that tree like they were taking a holiday. They whacked out chips as big as your hat, and it wasn't so mighty long before the tree was ready to fall.

But while the little boy was sitting up there, scared mighty nigh to death, it came into his mind that he had some eggs in his pocket that he had brought with him to eat whenever he got hungry. He took out one of the eggs and broke it, and said, "Place fill up!" And bless your soul, the place sure enough filled up, and the tree looked just exactly like nobody had been a-cutting on it.

But them there panthers, they were very vigorous. They just spit on their hands and cut away. When they got the tree mighty nigh cut down, the little boy, he pulled out another egg and broke it, and said, "Place, fill up!" And by the time he said it, the tree was done made sound again. They kept on this a-way until the little boy began to get scared again. He had broken all his eggs except one, and them there creatures were a-cutting away like they were venomous, which they most surely were.

Just about that time the little boy's mammy happened to stumble over the pan of water that was sitting down on the floor, and there it was, all turned to blood. Then she ran and unloosed Minnyminny Morack and Follerlinsko. Then when she did that she saw the willow limb a-shaking, and then she put the dogs on the little boy's track, and away they went.

The little boy heard them a-coming, and he hollered out, "Come on, my good dogs. Here, dogs, here."

The panthers, they stopped chopping and listened. One asked the other one what she could hear. The little boy said, "You don't hear anything. Go on with your chopping."

The panthers, they chopped some more, and then they thought they heard the dogs a-coming. Then they tried their best to get away, but it wasn't any use. They didn't have time to change their axes back into tails, and because they couldn't run with axes dragging behind them, the dogs caught them.

The little boy, he allowed, "Shake them and bite them. Drag them around and around, until you drag them two miles." So the dogs dragged them around for two miles.

Then the little boy said, "Shake them and tear them. Drag them around and around, until you drag them ten miles." They dragged them ten miles, and by the time they got back, the panthers were cold and stiff.

Then the little boy climbed down out of the tree and sat down to rest himself. By and by, after a while, he allowed to himself that beings he was having so much fun, he believed he'd take his dogs and go way off into the woods to see if he couldn't find his little sister. He called his dogs, he did, and went off into the woods, and they hadn't gone so mighty far before he saw a house in the woods away off by itself.

The dogs, they went up and smelled around, they did, and came back with their bristles up, but the little boy allowed he'd go up there anyhow and see what the dogs were mad about. So he called the dogs and went towards the house, and when he got close up he saw a little gal toting wood and water. She was a might pretty little gal, because she had milk-white skin and great long yellow hair, but her clothes were all in rags, and she was crying because she had to work so hard. Minnyminny Morack and Follerlinsko wagged their tales when they saw the little gal, and the little boy knew by that that she was his sister.

So he went up and asked her what her name was, and she said she didn't know what her name was, because she was so scared she forgot. Then he asked her what in the name of goodness she was crying about, and she said she was crying because she had to work so hard. Then he asked her who the house belonged to, and she allowed it belonged to a great big old black bear, and this old bear made her tote wood and water all the time. She said the water was to go into the big wash-pot, and the wood was to make the pot boil, and the pot was to cook folks that the great big old bear brought home to his children.

The little boy didn't tell the little gal that he was her brother, but he allowed that he was going to stay and eat supper with the big old bear.

The little gal cried and allowed he'd better not, but the little boy said he wasn't afraid to eat supper with a bear. So they went into the house, and when the little boy got in there, he saw that the bear had two great big children, and one of them was squatting on the bed, and the other one was squatting down in the hearth. The children were both named Cubs for short, but the little boy wasn't scared of them, because there were his dogs to do away with them if they so much as rolled an eyeball.

The old bear was a mighty long time coming back, so the little gal, she up and fixed supper anyhow, and the little boy, he scrounged from Cubs first on one side and then on the other, and he and the little gal got as much as they wanted. After supper the little boy told the little gal that he'd take and comb her hair just to while away the time. But the little gal's hair hadn't been combed for so long, and it was in such a tangle, that it made the poor creature cry to hear anybody talking about combing it. Then the little boy allowed he wasn't going to hurt her, and he took and warmed some water in a pan and put it on her hair, and then he combed and curled it, just as nice you ever did see.

When the old bear got home he was mighty taken back when he saw he had company, and when he saw them all sitting down like they had come to stay. But he was mighty polite, and he shook hands all around, and sat down by the fire and dried his boots, and asked about the crops, and allowed that the weather would be monstrous fine if they could get a little season of rain.

Then he took and made a great admiration over the little gal's hair, and he asked the little boy how in the whole world he could curl it and fix it so nice. The little one allowed it was easy enough. Then the old bear said he believed he would like to get his hair curled up that way, and the little boy said, "Fill the big pot with water."

The old bear filled the pot with water. Then the little boy said, "Build a fire under the pot and heat the water hot."

When the water got scalding hot, the little boy said, "All ready now. Stick your head in. It's the only way to make your hair curl."

Then the old bear stuck his head in the water, and that was the last of him, bless gracious! The scalding water curled the hair until it came off, and I suspect that is where they got the idea about putting bear grease on folks's hair. The young bears, they cried like everything when they saw how their daddy had been treated, and they wanted to bite and scratch the little boy and his sister, but those dogs -- Minnyminny Morack and Follerlinsko -- they just laid hold of them there bears, and there wasn't enough left of them to feed a kitten.

"What did they do then?" asked the little boy who had been listening to the story.

The old man took off his spectacles and cleaned the glasses on his coattail. "Well, sir," he went on, "the little boy took and carried his sister home, and his mammy said that she never again would set any store by folks with fine clothes, because they were so deceitful. No, never, so long as the Lord might spare her. And then after that they lived together right straight along, and if it hadn't been for the war, they'd be a-living there now. Because war is a mighty dangerous business."




Blue-Beard

North Carolina, USA

He had a big basket he car'ed on his back. He'd go to people's house an' beg fur something to eat; an' when de pretty girls would come out an' gi' him something to eat, he grabbed 'em in the basket an' run away wi' them. He had a fine large place he car'ed 'em to -- to his kingdom. He gi' 'em de keys. He tol' 'em everything there belonged to them but one room. "Don't go in there." He tol' 'em the day they went in that room, they would be put to death. Married seven times, an' all was sisters. The seven wife one day, when he was gone away, she taken the keys an' looks in dat room. Finds all her sisters dead in there in a pile. She is so excited, she dropped the keys an' got them bloody. So he come back an' call for his keys. She kep' them hid from him for several days, didn' want him to see 'em. At las' she brought them out an' give them to him. He tol' her to say a prayer. She prayed seven times. An' her seven brothers came jus' as he went to kill her. An' he ran away into the woods, an' never been seen since.




The Chosen Suitor

Antigua, British West Indies

Dere's a woman had one daughter an' one son. Dis boy coco-bay (leprosy) boy, an' he was an ol' witch too. Dis woman wouldn't allow da girl to court anybody, you know. So one day Bro' Boar-Hog came dere, properly dressed same as any gentleman. When he want to drop off his clothes, he had a song to sing.

Da day when dis Bro' Boar-Hog come to see da daughter, the son tell his mother, "Ma, don' let sister marry to dis man, for he's a boar-hog!" Da mother drive him off, an' say dat he was rude. She say dat dis man was a gentleman.

He tol' da mother, "All right! you will see."

One day da mother give him some food to carry to dis man, all tied up nicely on a tray. When da boy reach to da yard, he got behind a tree. While he got behind da tree, he see dis boar-hog rooting' up de ground. An' dis boar-hog root all de ground, like ten men with forks. Dis boy stay behind da tree an' see all he do. When da boy see him, he wait a little; den da boy say, "Ahem!"

Boar-Hog jump around; he start to say:

Indiana, Indiana, um, um!
Indiana, Indiana, um, um!
Indiana, Indiana, um, um!
Dat caused his clothes to jump right on him according' as he sing da song.

He step out, put his two hands in his pocket, an' say, "Boy, see how I plough up dis land!" He boast about da work he do on da field. Den he say to da boy, "How long you come?"

Boy say, "Just come."

He took da food an' carry it in da house, and tell da boy all right, he can go home. Da boy didn't go home. He got behind de tree again. When Bro' Boar-Hog t'ought da boy gone, he had a long trough, and he dump all de food in da trough. He t'row a bucket a water in too.

Den, when he done, he start to say:

Indiana, Indiana, um, um!
Indiana, Indiana, um, um!
Indiana, Indiana, um, um!
An' all his clothes drop off. He went in da trough. All dat time da boy watchin' him, you know.

Boy start for home now, an' tell his mother all what he see. Da grandfather tell him all right, dey'll catch him. De daughter an' mother didn't believe, but da grandfather believed.

So dat same afternoon dis Bro' Boar-Hog came to da house all dressed up in frock-coat. As he come in da house, he start talkin' an' laughin' wid da mother an' daughter. During dis time da ol' man had his gun prepare.

Little boy take up his fife an' start to play da same song:

Indiana, Indiana, um, um!
Indiana, Indiana, um, um!
Indiana, Indiana, um, um!
Bro' Boar-Hog say, "What vulgar song dat boy singin'!" He start to movin'. He not able to keep still, 'cause his tail comin' out fast. Quick he say, "Stop it, stop it! Let's go out for a walk! Let's go out for a walk! I can't stay here."

So dey all went out, -- da daughter, da mother, an' da grandfather. After dey was goin' on, dey was talkin' when Bro' Boar-Hog look back, he see da boy was comin'.

He say, "Where dat boy goin', where he goin'? Turn him back. I don't want to be in his company."

So da grandfather tol' him let da boy alone, let him go for a walk too.

Grandfather say, "Play, boy! Play, boy!"

Da boy start:

Indiana, Indiana, um, um!
Indiana, Indiana, um, um!
Indiana, Indiana, um, um!
His beaver drop off. Den he play on again da same song: his coat drop, his shirt drop. All drop save his pant.

Da ol' man tell him, "Play, boy! play, play, play!"

An' his pant drop off. Dey see his long tail show, an' he start to run. Da ol' man point da gun at him an' shoot him dead.

And I went through Miss Havercomb alley,
And I see a lead was bending;
So the lead ben',
So the story en'.


  • Source: John H. Johnson, "Folk-Lore from Antigua, British West Indies," Journal of American Folklore, vol. 34, no. 131 (January - March, 1921), pp. 62-63.

  • Johnson's source: George W. Edwards.

  • Type 312A.

  • Return to the table of contents.



    The Brahman Girl That Married a Tiger

    India

    In a certain village there lived an old Brahman who had three sons and a daughter. The girl being the youngest was brought up most tenderly and become spoilt, and so whenever she saw a beautiful boy she would say to her parents that she must be wedded to him. Her parents were, therefore, much put about to devise excuses for taking her away from her youthful lovers. Thus passed on some years, until the girl was very nearly grown up, and then the parents, fearing that they would be driven out of their caste if they failed to dispose of her hand in marriage before she came to the years of maturity, began to be eager about finding a bridegroom for her.

    Now near their village there lived a fierce tiger, that had attained to great proficiency in the art of magic, and had the power of assuming different forms. Having a great taste for Brahman's food, the tiger used now and then to frequent temples and other places of public refreshment in the shape of an old famished Brahman in order to share the food prepared for the Brahmans. The tiger also wanted, if possible, a Brahman wife to take to the woods, and there to make her cook his meals after her fashion. One day, when he was partaking of his meals in Brahman shape at a public feeding place, he heard the talk about the Brahman girl who was always falling in love with every beautiful Brahman boy.

    Said he to himself, "Praised be the face that I saw first this morning. I shall assume the shape of a Brahman boy, and appear as beautiful as can be, and win the heart of the girl."

    Next morning he accordingly assumed the form of a Brahman teacher proficient in the Ramayana near the landing of the sacred river of the village. Scattering holy ashes profusely over his body he opened the Ramayana and began to read.

    "The voice of the new teacher is most enchanting. Let us go and hear him," said some women among themselves, and sat down before him to hear him expound the great book. The girl for whom the tiger had assumed this shape came in due time to bathe at the river, and as soon as she saw the new teacher fell in love with him, and bothered her old mother to speak to her father about him, so as not to lose her new lover. The old woman too was delighted at the bridegroom whom fortune had thrown in her way, and ran home to her husband, who, when he came and saw the teacher, raised up his hands in praise of the great god Mahesvara. The teacher was now invited to take his meals with them, and as he had come with the express intention of marrying the daughter, he, of course, agreed.

    A grand dinner followed in honor of the teacher, and his host began to question him as to his parentage, etc., to which the cunning tiger replied that he was born in a village beyond the adjacent wood. The Brahman had no time to wait for further inquiries, and as the boy was very fair he married his daughter to him the very next day. Feasts followed for a month, during which time the bridegroom gave every satisfaction to his new relatives, who supposed him to be human all the while. He also did full justice to the Brahman dishes, and swallowed everything that was placed before him.

    After the first month was over the tiger bridegroom yearned for his accustomed prey, and hankered after his abode in the woods. A change of diet for a day or two is all very well, but to renounce his own proper food for more than a month was hard. So one day he said to his father-in-law, "I must go back soon to my old parents, for they will be pining at my absence. But why should we have to bear the double expense of my coming all the way here again to take my wife to my village? So if you will kindly let me take the girl with me I shall take her to her future home, and hand her over to her mother-in-law, and see that she is well taken care of."

    The old Brahman agreed to this, and replied, "My dear son-in-law, you are her husband, and she is yours, and we now send her with you, though it is like sending her into the wilderness with her eyes tied up. But as we take you to be everything to her, we trust you to treat her kindly."

    The mother of the bride shed tears at the idea of having to send her away, but nevertheless the very next day was fixed for the journey. The old woman spent the whole day in preparing cakes and sweetmeats for her daughter, and when the time for the journey arrived, she took care to place in her bundles and on her head one or two margosa leaves to keep off demons. The relatives of the bride requested her husband to allow her to rest wherever she found shade, and to eat wherever she found water, and to this he agreed, and so they began their journey.

    The boy tiger and his human wife pursued their journey for an hour or so in free and pleasant conversation, when the girl happened to see a fine pond, around which the birds were warbling their sweet notes. She requested her husband to follow her to the water's edge and to partake of some of the cakes and sweetmeats with her.

    But he replied, "Be quiet, or I shall show you my original shape."

    This made her afraid, so she pursued her journey in silence until she saw another pond, when she asked the same question of her husband, who replied in the same tone.

    Now she was very hungry, and not liking her husband's tone, which she found had greatly changed ever since they had entered the woods, said to him, "Show me your original shape."

    No sooner were these words uttered than her husband's form changed from that of a man. Four legs, striped skin, a long tail, and a tiger's face came over him suddenly and, horror of horrors! a tiger and not a man stood before her! Nor were her fears stilled when the tiger in human voice began as follows: "Know henceforth that I, your husband, am a tiger -- this very tiger that now speaks to you. If you have any regard for your life you must obey all my orders implicitly, for I can speak to you in human voice, and understand what you say. In an hour or so we shall reach my home, of which you will become the mistress. In the front of my house you will see half a dozen tubs, each of which you must fill up daily with some dish or other, cooked in your own way. I shall take care to supply you with all the provisions you want." So saying the tiger slowly conducted her to his house.

    The misery of the girl may more be imagined than described, for if she were to object she would be put to death. So, weeping all the way, she reached her husband's house. Leaving her there he went out and returned with several pumpkins and some flesh, of which she soon prepared a curry and gave it to her husband. He went out again after this and returned in the evening with several vegetables and some more flesh, and gave her an order, "Every morning I shall go out in search of provisions and prey, and bring something with me on my return; you must keep cooked for me whatever I leave in the house."

    So next morning as soon as the tiger had gone away she cooked everything left in the house and filled all the tubs with food. At the fourth hour the tiger returned and growled out, "I smell a man! I smell a woman in my wood." And his wife for very fear shut herself up in the house.

    As soon as the tiger had satisfied his appetite he told her to open the door, which she did, and they talked together for a time, after which the tiger rested awhile, and then went out hunting again. Thus passed many a day, until the tiger's Brahman wife had a son, which also turned out to be only a tiger.

    One day, after the tiger had gone out to the woods, his wife was crying all alone in the house, when a crow happened to peck at some rice that was scattered near her, and seeing the girl crying, began to shed tears.

    "Can you assist me?" asked the girl.

    "Yes," said the crow.

    So she brought out a palmyra leaf and wrote on it with an iron nail all her sufferings in the wood, and requested her brothers to come and relieve her. This palmyra leaf she tied to the neck of the crow, which, seeming to understand her thoughts, flew to her village and sat down before one of her brothers. He untied the leaf and read the contents of the letter and told them to his other brothers. All the three then started for the wood, asking their mother to give them something to eat on the way. She had not enough rice for the three, so she made a big ball of clay and stuck it over with what rice she had, so as to make it look like a ball of rice. This she gave to the brothers to eat on their way, and started them off to the woods.

    They had not proceeded long before they caught sight of a donkey. The youngest, who was of a playful disposition, wished to take the donkey with him. The two elder brothers objected to this for a time, but in the end they allowed him to have his own way. Further on they saw an ant, which the middle brother took with him. Near the ant there was a big palmyra tree lying on the ground, which the eldest took with him to keep off the tiger.

    The sun was now high in the horizon and the three brothers became very hungry. So they sat down near a tank and opened the bundle containing the ball of rice. To their utter disappointment they found it to be all clay, but being extremely hungry they drank all the water in the pond and continued their journey. On leaving the tank they found a big iron tub belonging to the washerman of the adjacent village. This they took also with them in addition to the donkey, the ant, and the palmyra tree. Following the road described by their sister in her letter sent by the crow, they walked on and on until they reached the tiger's house.

    The sister, overjoyed to see her brothers again, ran out at once to welcome them, "My dearest brothers, I am so glad to see that you have come here to relieve me after all, but the time for the tiger's coming home is approaching, so hide yourselves in the loft, and wait until he is gone." So saying, she helped her brothers to ascend into the loft.

    By this time the tiger returned, and perceived the presence of human beings by the peculiar smell. He asked his wife whether anyone had come to their house. She said, "No." But when the brothers, who with their trophies of the way -- the donkey, the ant, and so on -- were sitting upon the loft, saw the tiger dallying with their sister, they were greatly frightened; so much so that the youngest, through fear, began to quake, and they all fell on the floor.

    "What is all this?" said the terrified tiger to his wife.

    "Nothing," said she, "but your brothers-in-law. They came here three hours ago, and as soon as you have finished your meals they want to see you."

    "How can my brothers-in-law be such cowards?" thought the tiger to himself. He then asked them to speak to him, whereon the youngest brother put the ant which he had in his hand into the ear of the donkey, and as soon as the latter was bitten, it began to bawl out most horribly.

    "How is it that your brothers have such a hoarse voice?" said the tiger to his wife.

    He next asked them to show him their legs. Taking courage at the stupidity of the tiger on the two former occasions, the eldest brother now stretched out the palmyra tree.

    "By my father, I have never seen such a leg," said the tiger, and asked his brothers-in-law to show their bellies. The second brother now showed the tub, at which the tiger shuddered, and saying, "such a harsh voice, so stout a leg, and such a belly, truly I have never heard of such persons as these!" He ran away.

    It was already dark, and the brothers, wishing to take advantage of the tiger's terror, prepared to return home with their sister at once. They ate up what little food she had, and ordered her to start. Fortunately for her, her tiger child was asleep. So she tore it into two pieces and suspended them over the hearth, and, thus getting rid of the child, she ran off with her brothers towards home.

    Before leaving she bolted the front door from inside, and went out at the back of the house. As soon as the pieces of the cub, which were hung up over the hearth, began to roast, they dripped, which made the fire hiss and sputter; and when the tiger returned at about midnight, he found the door shut and heard the hissing of the fire, which he mistook for the noise of cooking muffins.

    "I see," said he to himself, "how very cunning you are; you have bolted the door and are cooking muffins for your brothers. Let us see if we can't get your muffins."

    So saying, he went around to the back door and entered his house, and was greatly perplexed to find his cub torn in two and being roasted, his house deserted by his Brahman wife, and his property plundered; for his wife, before leaving, had taken with her as much of the tiger's property as she could conveniently carry.

    The tiger now discovered all the treachery of his wife, and his heart grieved for the loss of his son, that was now no more. He determined to be revenged on his wife, and to bring her back into the wood, and there tear her into many pieces in place of only two. But how to bring her back? He assumed his original shape of a young bridegroom, making, of course, due allowance for the number of years that had passed since his marriage, and next morning went to his father-in-law's house. His brothers-in-law and his wife saw from a distance the deceitful form he had assumed, and devised means to kill him. The younger ones too ran here and there to bring provisions to feed him sumptuously, and the tiger was highly pleased at the hospitable way in which he was received.

    There was a ruined well at the back of the house, and the eldest of the brothers placed some thin sticks across its mouth, over which he spread a fine mat. Now it is usual to ask guests to have an oil bath before dinner, and so his three brothers-in-law requested the tiger to take his seat on the fine mat for his bath. As soon as he sat on it, the thin sticks being unable to bear his weight, gave way, and down fell the cunning tiger with a heavy crash! The well was at once filled in with stones and other rubbish, and thus the tiger was effectually prevented from doing any more mischief.

    But the Brahman girl, in memory of her having married a tiger, raised a pillar over the well and planted a tulasi shrub on the top of it. Morning and evening, for the rest of her life, she used to smear the pillar with sacred cow dung, and water the tulasi shrub.

    This story is told to explain the Tamil proverb, "Be quiet, or I shall show you my original shape."




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    Revised November 14, 2014.