The Strong Boy

folktales of Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 650A
translated and/or edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 2011


Contents

  1. The Young Giant (Germany).

  2. The Hairy Boy (Switzerland).

  3. Fourteen (Basque).

  4. The Bear's Son (Serbia).

  5. The Strong Man (India).

  6. The Story of Carancal (Philippines).


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The Young Giant

Germany

A peasant had a son who was only as big as a thumb and did not grow any larger. In several years he did not grow even the width of a hair. One day the peasant wanted to go to the field and plow, and the little one said, "Father, I want to go out with you."

"No," said the father, "you have to stay here. There's nothing that you could do to help me, and besides that you might get lost." Then the thumbling began to cry and was not going to give the father any peace until he took him along. So the father put him in his pocket and carried him to the field, where he placed him in a fresh furrow.

While he was sitting there a large giant came over the mountain towards them. "Do you see that bogeyman?" said the father, in order to frighten the little one into being good. "He's coming to get you."

Now the giant had very long legs, and he reached the furrow in only a few steps, picked up the little thumbling, and walked away with him. The father stood there so frightened that he could not speak a word. He believed that his child was lost, and that he would never see him again as long as he lived.

The giant took the child home and let him suckle at his breast, and the thumbling grew large and strong like a giant. After two years had passed, the old giant took him into the woods in order to test him.

He said, "Pull out a switch from over there."

The boy was so strong already that a pulled a young tree up by the roots. The giant thought that he could do better and took him back home and suckled him for two more years. When he took him into the woods to test him this time, he pulled up a much larger tree. This was still not good enough for the giant, and he suckled him for yet another two years, took him into the woods, and said, "Now pull out a decent switch for once."

This time the boy pulled the thickest oak tree out of the ground. He cracked it and laughed. When the old giant saw this, he said, "That's good enough. You've passed the test." And he took him back to the field where he found him.

The father was plowing again, and the young giant walked up to him and said, "Father, see what has become of me. I am your son."

The peasant was frightened and said, "No, you are not my son. Get away from me."

"Of course I am your son. Just let me plow. I can do it just as well as you can."

"No, you are not my son. You can't plow. Get away from me."

He was so afraid of the large man that he let go of the plow and walked to the edge of the field. The boy picked up the handle to plow, but he pushed so hard with his one hand that the plow sank deep into the earth.

The peasant could not watch this, and called to him, "If you insist on plowing, then don't push down so hard, or you will ruin the field."

Then the boy hitched himself in front of the plow and said, "Go on home and tell mother that she should cook up a big plate of something to eat. In the meantime, I'll tear around the field."

The peasant went home and told his wife to fix something to eat, and she cooked up a large dinner, and the boy plowed the field: two full acres all by himself. Then he hitched himself to the harrow and harrowed the entire thing, pulling two harrows at the same time. When he was finished he went into the woods, pulled up two oak trees, laid them on his shoulders, then put a harrow on each end and a horse on each end as well, and carried the whole thing home like a bundle of straw.

When he walked into the farmyard, his mother did not recognize him and asked, "Who is this terrible large man?"

The peasant said, "This is our son."

She said, "No, this could never be our son. We did not have such a large child. Ours was a little thing. Go away. We don't want you."

The boy said nothing. He pulled his horses into the stall, gave them oats and hay, and put everything in order. When he was finished he went into the house, sat down on the bench, and said, "Mother, I'd like to eat. Will it be ready soon?"

She said, "Yes," and did not dare to contradict him. She brought in two very large plates, more than she and her husband could have eaten in an entire week. He ate it all and asked if they didn't have more. "No," she said. "That's all that we have."

"That was only a taste. I have to have more."

Then she went out and filled a large hog cauldron and put it on the fire, and when it was done she brought it in.

"That's a nice little bit," he said, and ate the whole thing, but it still wasn't enough. Then he said, "Father, I see that I'll never be full if I stay here with you. If you can get me an iron rod that is so strong I can't break it against my knees, then I'll go away again."

The peasant was happy to hear this. He hitched his two horses to his wagon and drove to the blacksmith and got a rod so large and thick that the two horses could barely pull it. The boy held it against his knees and -- crash! -- he broke it in two like a bean pole. Then the peasant hitched up four horses and brought back a rod that was so large and thick that the four horses could barely pull it.

The son picked up this one as well, cracked it in two against his knee, tossed it aside, and said, "Father, this one is of no use to me. Hitch up more horses and get me a stronger staff."

So the father hitched up eight horses and fetched one so large and thick that the eight horses could barely pull it. When the son received this one, he broke a little piece from the top of it and said, "Father, I see that you can't get me a proper staff, so I'll just go away anyhow."

So he went on his way, claiming to be a journeyman blacksmith. He came to a village where a smith lived who was a real cheapskate. He would never give anything to anyone, and always wanted everything for himself. The young giant walked into his smithy and asked him if he could use a journeyman.

"Yes," answered the smith, looking at him and thinking what a strong fellow he was, someone who could really earn his keep. "What kind of wages do you want?"

"I don't want any wages at all," said the young giant. "But at the end of every two weeks when the other journeymen receive their pay, just let me hit you twice. And you'll have to be able to take it."

The cheapskate was only too happy with this arrangement, for he thought that it would save him a lot of money.

The next morning the new journeyman was to have the first turn at the anvil. The master brought out a glowing rod, and the young giant knocked it into two pieces with his first blow, at the same time driving the anvil so deep into the ground that they could not get it back out again.

This made the cheapskate angry, and he said, "I can't use you here. Your blows are too rough. What do you need for pay?"

The young giant said, "Just a little kick, nothing more."

He lifted up his foot and gave him a kick that sent him flying over four loads of hay. Then he took the thickest rod from the smithy to use as a walking stick, and went on his way.

Sometime later he came to an estate and asked the overseer if he could use a chief farmhand.

"Yes," said the overseer. "You look like a strong fellow who knows how to work. What kind of yearly wage do you want."

The young giant replied that the only pay he wanted was to be able to give the overseer three blows, and that he would have to be able to stand them. The overseer was satisfied with this, for he too was a cheapskate.

The next morning the workers were supposed to go to work in the woods. The others were already up, but the young giant was still lying in bed. One of them shouted to him, "Get up now. It's time to go to the woods, and you have to come along too."

He replied, coarsely and sarcastically, "Go on without me. I'll be finished before any of you."

The others reported to the overseer that the new chief farmhand was still lying in bed and would not go to the woods with them. The overseer told them to wake him up again and tell him to harness the horses.

The young giant answered the same as before, "Go on without me. I'll be finished before any of you." He slept two more hours, then finally got out of bed, got two shovels full of peas from the barn, cooked them, ate them at his leisure, and when he had finished all this, he harnessed the horses and drove them to the woods. Just before the woods, the road passed through a hollow. He drove his wagon through the hollow, but then filled it in with such a pile of trees and branches that no horse would ever be able to get through.

He had just arrived in the woods when he met the others on their way home with their loaded wagons. He said to them, "Drive on. I'll be home before you are."

He drove a little further into the woods, ripped two of the largest trees out of the ground, loaded them onto his wagon, and turned around. When he came to the pile of trees and branches, the others were just standing there, unable to get through. He said, "See, if you had stayed with me, you could have gone straight home, and you'd be able to sleep an extra hour."

He started to drive through, but his four horses couldn't make it, so he unhitched them, hitched himself to the wagon, and pulled it through as easily as if it had been loaded with feathers. When he was on the other side of the rubble he called out, "See, I got through before you did," and he drove off, leaving them standing there. When he arrived at the farmyard he picked up a tree with one hand, showed it to the overseer, and said, "How is this for a measuring stick?"

Then the overseer said to his wife, "This chief farmhand is all right. Even when he sleeps in, he arrives home before the others."

He worked for the overseer for one year. When the year had passed and the other workers received their wages, he said that it was also time for his payment. The overseer became frightened that he was going to have to receive his blows, and he asked him to spare him. If he would do so, the overseer himself would become chief farmhand, and the young giant could become overseer.

"No," replied the young giant. "I do not want to be overseer. I am chief farmhand and will remain chief farmhand. I only want to deliver what was promised me."

The overseer offered to give him anything that he asked for, but there was no way out. The chief farmhand insisted on the original agreement.

The overseer did not know what else to do, so he asked for an extension of two weeks, and then called all of his clerks together and asked for their advice. They thought for a long time, and finally concluded that the chief farmhand would have to die. He would be asked to bring a load of large millstones to the edge of the well in the farmyard, then he would be sent down into the well to clean it, and while he was down there, they would throw the millstones onto his head.

The overseer was delighted with this plan. Everything was prepared. The largest millstones were brought in. As soon as the chief farmhand was down in the well, they rolled the stones in on top of him. They fell with a great splash. Everyone thought that they had crushed his head, but he called out, "Chase the chickens away from the well. They are scratching in the sand, and throwing little grains into my eyes until I can't see."

The overseer called out, "Shoo! Shoo!" as though he were chasing the chickens away.

When the chief farmhand was finished, he climbed out and said, "Look at this nice necklace." He was wearing the millstones around his neck.

When the overseer saw that he again became frightened again, because the chief farmhand wanted to give him his wages, so he asked for another extension of fourteen days. He summoned the clerks, and they advised him to send the farmhand to the haunted mill to grind grain during the night. No human had ever come from there alive. This advice pleased the overseer, and that same evening he summoned the farmhand and told him to haul eight bushels of grain to the mill and to grind it during the night. They were in need of it.

So the chief farmhand went to the loft and put two bushels in his right pocket and two bushels in his left pocket. Then he loaded four bushels in a large sack which he carried over his shoulder. He took all this to the haunted mill.

The miller told him that during the daytime he could grind the grain very well, but at nighttime the mill was haunted and anyone who went inside during the night was found dead the next morning.

The farmhand said, "I will do all right. Just leave me alone and go to bed now."

Then he went inside the mill and dumped out the grain. When it began to strike eleven he went into the sitting area and sat on a bench. He had just eaten a little when the door opened and a large table came inside. On the table were wine, roasted meat, and many good things to eat. Everything was by itself; no one had carried it in. Then the chairs moved themselves into place, but no one was there. Suddenly he saw fingers handling the knives and forks and placing food onto the plates, but he could see nothing else. He was hungry, and he could see food, so he sat down and ate alongside the unseen ones, and everything tasted very good. He was full, and the others had cleaned off their plates as well, when suddenly all the lights were blown out. He heard this very distinctly.

Sitting there in total darkness, something gave him a slap in the face.

He said, "If you do that again, I'll give the same thing back to you."

He received a second slap, and he struck back. Thus it continued the entire night, but he was never afraid, always striking back fiercely. At daybreak everything ceased.

When the miller got up, he looked in on the farmhand to see how he was, and was amazed to see that he was still alive.

The farmhand said, "I received some slaps, but I also gave out some slaps, and had plenty to eat."

The miller was delighted and said that the mill was now freed of its curse, and he offered him a large sum of money as a reward.

But the farmhand said, "I don't want any money; I have enough."

Then he loaded his flour onto his back and returned home. He told the overseer he had completed the task and now wanted the wages that they had agreed upon.

The overseer, beside himself with fear, walked back and forth in his room until sweat dripped from his face. He opened the window for some fresh air. Before he knew what had happened, the young giant kicked him from behind. He flew so far through the air, that no one has seen him since.

Then the young giant turned to the overseer's wife and said that she would have to receive the next blow.

"No, I'd never be able to withstand it," she said, and opened a window, because of the sweat dripping from her face. He gave her a kick as well, and she flew even higher than her husband.

"Come to me," he called to her.

"No, you come to me," she called back. "I can't come to you."

And they soared through the air, neither of them able to get to the other one. I do not know if they are still soaring. But as for the young giant, he picked up his iron rod and went on his way.




The Hairy Boy

Switzerland

Once upon a time a king was out hunting when he came upon a hollow tree that his dogs would not pass by. They barked and jumped about and could not be brought to move on. Taking a closer look, the king discovered a beautiful maiden sitting in the hollow trunk. She was entirely naked and looked at him with terror. He threw his coat over her, and whistled to his servants. They came immediately, and he showed them the maiden, saying, "See what a beautiful animal I have captured!" Then he whistled again, and his coach came. He placed the maiden inside, rode home with her to his castle, and married her.

The old queen, the king's mother, still lived in the castle, and she did not like the young queen and did everything to make her life miserable. With time the king had to go off to war, and while he was away his wife gave birth to a son. The old queen cooked up a brew and gave it to the newborn, which caused hair to grow all over his body. Then the wicked old woman wrote to the king, "Your wife has given birth to a hairy animal. We do not know whether it is a dog or a cat."

This news greatly angered the king, and he commanded that the newborn be tied to his wife's back, and that they both be driven away.

Thus the young queen and her hairy son were put out of the castle, and she returned to the hollow tree where the king had first seen her. She lived there as before. However, life in the woods was so good for the hairy boy that he grew a foot every day, and soon there was not enough room in the hollow tree. One day he went out and pulled up a bundle of large fir trees. He broke them over his knee and built a comfortable cabin for himself and his mother. Soon afterward he said to his mother, "Now tell me once and for all, who is my father?"

"Alas," answered the mother, "your father is the king, but you will never see him as long as you live."

"But I want to see him right now!" said the hairy boy, and he ripped a fir tree out of the ground, roots and all. He set forth carrying it, and did not rest until he had found the royal castle. The king had just sat down to eat and had a great quantity of expensive food before him. The hairy boy acted as if he were right at home, walked up to the king and said to him, "I am here too. I am your son, and I want to eat at your table with you." The king was terrified and wanted to stop him, but the hairy boy continued without hindrance, reaching his hairy hands into the king's plates and dishes. No one dared say a thing, for the king's people were all terrified and stood by helplessly. After the hairy boy had eaten every last morsel from the table, he said to the king, "I am going now, but I will be back tomorrow."

"Wait," thought the king, "I'll see that you do not come back." He quickly summoned five hundred soldiers, and placed them immediately before the castle with the command to shoot at the hairy boy on sight. The next day when the hairy boy returned carrying his fir tree the soldiers all fired at him. But the hairy boy calmly plucked the bullets from his body and threw them, fifty at a time, back at the soldiers, until he had killed them all.

He entered the castle just as the king was again sitting down to eat. The hairy boy said to him, "But father, what are you up to? Your soldiers are all lying dead outside, struck down by their own bullets. I am your son, and I want to eat at your table with you." And once again he reached his hairy hands into the king's plates and dishes, and did not stop eating until every last morsel had disappeared from the table. "I am going now," he said at last, "but I will be back tomorrow, and I am bringing my mother along."

"Stop!" thought the king, "That you will not do!" He immediately called up ten hundred soldiers and positioned them before the castle, half in the courtyard and half surrounding the castle, commanding them by their very lives to not let the hairy boy inside.

The next day the hairy boy returned, leading his mother by her hand. When soldiers shot at him, he placed himself in front of his mother. He again plucked the bullets from his body and threw them back, one hundred at a time, until all the soldiers lay dead on the ground. Then he walked into the castle and approached his father, saying, "But father, what are you up to again? Your soldiers are all dead as doornails, struck down by their own bullets! Go and see for yourself!" Then he took him by the hand and threw him into the courtyard below. He took him by the hand a second time and threw him back inside through the window. He threw him to the floor a third time, and the king was dead.

The old queen hurried in, and the hairy boy threatened to kill her if she did not treat him well, and she had to promise to rid his body of the ugly hair. Once again she cooked up a brew, and it removed the hair from his body and hands. From this hour on he had no more power than ordinary people. But the kingdom was now his, and he ruled with his mother in peace and splendor.




Fourteen

Basque

Like many others in the world, there was a mother and her son. The lad was as strong as fourteen men together, but he was also obliged to eat as much as fourteen men. They were poor, and on that account he often suffered from hunger. He said one day to his mother, that it would be better for him to try and go somewhere else to see if he could be any better off; that he could not bear it any longer like this; that he was pained to see how much it cost her to feed him.

The mother with regret allows him to depart. He goes off then far, far, far away, and comes to a large house. He asks if they want a servant there, and they answer that they will speak to the master. The master himself comes and says to him, "I employ experienced laborers generally, but I will take you nevertheless."

The lad answers, "I must forewarn you, that I eat as much as fourteen men, but I do work in proportion."

He asks him, "What do you know how to do?"

He says to him, "I know a little of everything."

The next day the master takes him into a field, and says to him, "You must mow all this meadow."

He says to him, "Yes."

The master goes away. At eight o'clock the servant comes with the breakfast. She had a basket full of provisions; there were six loaves, half a ham, and six bottles of wine. Our lad was delighted. The servant was astonished to see that all the meadow was mown, and she goes and tells it to the master.

He too was pleased to see that he had such a valuable servant. He tells him to go and cut another meadow. Before midday he had it all down. The servant comes with the dinner, and was astonished to see how much work he had done. She brought him seven loaves, seven bottles of wine, and ever so much ham, but he cleared it all off. The master gives him again another field of grass to cut. Before night he had done it easily. Our master was delighted at it, and gave him plenty to eat. The servant too was highly pleased.

As long as he had work the master said nothing, but afterwards, when he saw that all the harvest served only for the servant to eat, he did not know how to get rid of him. He sends him to a forest in which he knew that there were terrible beasts, and told him to bring wood from there. As soon as he has arrived a bear attacks him. He takes him by the nostrils and throws him on the ground, and twists his neck. He keeps pulling up all the young trees, and again a wolf attacks him; he takes him like the bear by the nostrils, throws him down, and twists his neck.

In the evening he arrives at the house, and the master is astonished to see him return. He gave him a good supper; but he was not pleased, because he had torn up all the young trees. At night the master turns over in his head what he could do with his servant, and he determines to send him into a still more terrible forest, in the hope that some animal will devour him. Our lad goes off again. He tears up many large trees, when a lion attacks him. He kills him in a moment. There comes against him another terrible animal, and he finishes him off too.

In the evening, when he comes home, he said to himself, "Why does my master send me into the forest? Perhaps he is tired of me."

And he resolves to tell him that he will leave the house. When he arrives his master receives him well, but cannot understand how it is that he comes back. He gives him a good supper, and our lad says to him, "It is better for me to go off somewhere. There is no more work for me here."

You may reckon how pleased the master was. He gives him his wages at once, and he goes away. He goes off, far, far, far away; but soon his money is exhausted, and he does not know what is to become of him.

He sees two men standing on the bank of a river. He went up to them, and the men ask him if he will cross them over to the other side of the water. He answers, "Yes," and takes them both at once on his back; and these men were our Lord and St. Peter.

Our Lord says to him in the middle of the stream, "I am heavy."

"I will throw you into the water if you do not keep quiet, for I have quite enough to do."

When they had come to the other side, the Lord said to him, "What must I give you as a reward?"

"Whatever you like; only give it quickly, for I am very hungry."

He gives him a sack, and says to him, "Whatever you wish for will come into this sack."

And he goes off, far away. He comes to a town, and passing before a baker's shop he smells an odor of very good hot loaves, and he says to them, "Get into my sack," and his sack is quite full of them. He goes off to a corner of a forest, and there he lives by his sack. He returns again into the town, and passes before a pork butcher's. There were there black puddings, sausages, hams, and plenty of good things.

He says, "Come into my sack," and as soon as he has said it the sack is full. He goes again to empty it as he had done with the loaves, and he returns into the town.

In front of an inn he says, "Come into my sack." There were there bottles of good wine and of liqueurs, and to all these good things he says, "Come into my sack," and his sack was filled.

He goes off to his corner of the forest, and there he had provision for some days; and, when he had well stuffed himself, he went out for a walk. One day he saw some young girls weeping, and he asks them, "What is the matter with you?" They answer that their father is very ill. He asks if he can see him.

They tell him, "Yes."

He goes there then, and the poor man tells him how he has given his soul to the devil, and that he was expecting him that very day, and he was trembling even then. Our Fourteen asks if he will let him be on a corner of the bed, that he might see the devil.

He tells him, "Yes."

He then hides himself with his sack. A moment after the devil arrives, and our lad says to him, "Come into my sack."

And as soon as he had said it, in goes the devil. Judge of the joy of our man!

Our lad goes off to some stonebreakers, and says to them, "Hit hard! the devil is in this sack."

They went at it, blow upon blow, stroke upon stroke, and the devil went, "Ay! ay! ay! Let me out! Let me go! Ay! ay! ay!"

The lad said, "You shall bring me, then, a paper, signed by all the devils of hell, that you have no rights over this man."

The devil agrees, and he lets him go. In a moment he comes back with the paper, and the lad makes him go into the sack again, and has him beaten by the stonebreakers, while he carries the precious paper to the former man; and think how happy they were in that house!

Our man goes off, walking, walking, on, and on, and always on, and he grew tired of this world.

He said to himself, " I should like to go to heaven."

He goes on, and on, and on, but he comes to hell; but as soon as ever the devils saw that it was Fourteen they shut all the gates. He goes off again, far, far, very far, and comes to heaven. There the gates are shut against him.

What does Fourteen do? He put his sack in through the keyhole, and says to himself, "Go into the sack."

As soon as he has said it he finds himself inside, and he is there still behind the door; and when you go to heaven, look about well, and you will see him there.




The Bear's Son

Serbia

Once upon a time a bear married a woman, and they had one son. When the boy was yet a little fellow he begged very hard to be allowed to leave the bear's cave, and to go out into the world to see what was in it.

His father, however, the bear, would not consent to this, saying, "You are too young yet, and not strong enough. In the world there are multitudes of wicked beasts, called men, who will kill you."

So the boy was quieted for a while, and remained in the cave.

But, after some time, the boy prayed so earnestly that the bear, his father, would let him go into the world, that the bear brought him into the wood, and showed him a beech tree, saying, "If you can pull up that beech by the roots, I will let you go; but if you cannot, then this is a proof that you are still too weak, and must remain with me."

The boy tried to pull up the tree, but, after long trying, had to give it up, and go home again to the cave.

Again some time passed, and he then begged again to be allowed to go into the world, and his father told him, as before, if he could pull up the beech tree he might go out into the world. This time the boy pulled up the tree, so the bear consented to let him go, first, however, making him cut away the branches from the beech, so that he might use the trunk for a club. The boy now started on his journey, carrying the trunk of the beech over his shoulder.

One day as the bear's son was journeying, he came to a field where he found hundreds of plowmen working for their master. He asked them to give him something to eat, and they told him to wait a bit till their dinner was brought them, when he should have some -- for, they said, "Where so many are dining one mouth more or less matters but little."

Whilst they were speaking there came carts, horses, mules, and asses, all carrying the dinner. But when the meats were spread out the bear's son declared he could eat all that up himself. The workmen wondered greatly at his words, not believing it possible that one man could consume as great a quantity of victuals as would satisfy several hundred men. This, however, the bear's son persisted in affirming he could do, and offered to bet with them that he would do this. He proposed that the stakes should be all the iron of their plowshares and other agricultural implements. To this they assented. No sooner had they made the wager than he fell upon the provisions, and in a short time consumed the whole. Not a fragment was left. Hereupon the laborers, in accordance with their wager, gave him all the iron which they possessed.

When the bear's son had collected all the iron, he tore up a young birch tree, twisted it into a band and tied up the iron into a bundle, which he hung at the end of his staff, and throwing it across his shoulder, trudged off from the astonished and affrighted laborers.

Going on a short distance, he arrived at a forge in which a smith was employed making a plowshare. This man he requested to make him a mace with the iron which he was carrying. This, the smith undertook to do; but putting aside half the iron, he made of the rest a small, coarsely finished mace.

Bear's son saw at a glance that he had been cheated by the smith. Moreover, he was disgusted at the roughness of the workmanship. He however took it, and declared his intention of testing it. Then fastening it to the end of his club and throwing it into the air high above the clouds he stood still and allowed it to fall on his shoulder. It had no sooner struck him than the mace shivered into fragments, some of which fell on and destroyed the forge. Taking up his staff, bear's son reproached the smith for his dishonesty, and killed him on the spot.

Having collected the whole of the iron, the bear's son went to another smithy, and desired the smith whom he found there to make him a mace, saying to him, "Please play no tricks on me. I bring you these fragments of iron for you to use in making a mace. Beware that you do not attempt to cheat me as I was cheated before!"

As the smith had heard what had happened to the other one, he collected his work-people, threw all the iron on his fire, and welded the whole together and made a large mace of perfect workmanship.

When it was fastened on the head of his club the bear's son, to prove it, threw it up high, and caught it on his back. This time the mace did not break, but rebounded.

Then the bear's son got up and said, "This work is well done!" and, putting it on his shoulder, walked away. A little farther on he came to a field wherein a man was plowing with two oxen, and he went up to him and asked for something to eat.

The man said, "I expect every moment my daughter to come with my dinner, then we shall see what God has given us!"

The bear's son told him how he had eaten up all the dinner prepared for many hundreds of plowmen, and asked, "From a dinner prepared for one person how much can come to me or to you?"

Meanwhile the girl brought the dinner. The moment she put it down, bear's son stretched out his hand to begin to eat, but the man stopped him. "No!" said he, "you must first say grace, as I do!"

The bear's son, hungry as he was, obeyed, and, having said grace, they both began to eat. The bear's son, looking at the girl who brought the dinner (she was a tall, strong, beautiful girl), became very fond of her, and said to the father, "Will you give me your daughter for a wife?"

The man answered, "I would give her to you very gladly but I have promised her already to the Moustached."

The bear's son exclaimed, "What do I care for Moustachio? I have my mace for him!"

But the man answered, "Hush! hush! Moustachio is also somebody! You will see him here soon."

Shortly after a noise was heard afar off, and lo! behind a hill a moustache showed itself, and in it were three hundred and sixty-five bird's nests. Shortly after appeared the other moustache, and then came Moustachio himself. Having reached them, he lay down on the ground immediately, to rest. He put his head on the girl's knee and told her to scratch his head a little.

The girl obeyed him, and the bear's son, getting up, struck him with his club over the head. Whereupon Moustachio, pointing to the place with his finger, said," Something bit me here!"

The bear's son struck with his mace on another spot, and Moustachio again pointed to the place, saying to the girl, "Something has bitten me here!"

When he was struck a third time, he said to the girl angrily, "Look you! Something bites me here!"

Then the girl said, "Nothing has bitten you; a man struck you!"

When Moustachio heard that he jumped up, but bear's son had thrown away his mace and ran away. Moustachio pursued him, and though the bear's son was lighter than he, and had gotten the start of him a considerable distance, he would not give up pursuing him.

At length the bear's son, in the course of his flight, came to a wide river, and found, near it, some men threshing corn. "Help me, my brothers, help -- for God's sake!" he cried; "Help! Moustachio is pursuing me! What shall I do? How can I get across the river?"

One of the men stretched out his shovel, saying, "Here! Sit down on it, and I will throw you over the river!"

The bear's son sat on the shovel, and the man threw him over the water to the other shore. Soon after Moustachio came up, and asked, "Has any one passed here?"

The threshers replied that a man had passed.

Moustachio demanded, "How did he cross the river?"

They answered, "He sprang over."

Then Moustachio went back a little to take a start, and with a hop he sprang to the other side, and continued to pursue the bear's son. Meanwhile this last, running hastily up a hill, got very tired. At the top of the hill he found a man sowing, and the sack with seeds was hanging on his neck. After every handful of seed sown in the ground, the man put a handful in his mouth and eat them.

The bear's son shouted to him, "Help, brother, help! -- for God's sake! Moustachio is following me, and will soon catch me! Hide me somewhere!"

Then the man said, "Indeed, it is no joke to have Moustachio pursuing you. But I have nowhere to hide you, unless in this sack among the seeds."

So he put him in the sack. When Moustachio came up to the sower he asked him it he had seen the bear's son anywhere?

The man replied, "Yes, he passed by long ago, and God knows where he has got before this!"

Then Moustachio went back again. By-and-by the sower forgot that bear's son was in his sack, and he took him out with a handful of seeds, and put him in his mouth. Then bear's son was afraid of being swallowed, so he looked round the mouth quickly, and, seeing a hollow tooth, hid himself in it.

When the sower returned home in the evening, he called to his sisters-in-law, "Children, give me my toothpick! There is something in my broken tooth."

The sisters-in-law brought him two iron picks, and, standing one on each side, they poked about with the two picks in his tooth till the bear's son jumped out.

Then the man remembered him, and said, "What bad luck you have! I had very nearly swallowed you."

After they had taken supper they talked about many different things, till at last the bear's son asked what had happened to break that one tooth, whilst the others were all strong and healthy. Then the man told me in these words:

Once on a time ten of us started with thirty horses to the sea-shore to buy some salt. We found a girl in a field watching sheep, and she asked us where we were going. We said we were going to the sea-shore to buy salt.

She said, "Why go so far? I have in the bag in my hand here some salt which remained over after feeding the sheep. I think it will be enough for you."

So we settled about the price, and then she took the salt from her bag, whilst we took the sacks from the thirty horses, and we weighed the salt and filled the sacks with it till all the thirty sacks were full. We then paid the girl, and returned home. It was a very fine autumn day; but as we were crossing a high mountain, the sky became very cloudy and it began to snow, and there was a cold north wind, so we could not see our path and wandered about here and there.

At last, by good luck, one of us shouted, "Here, brothers! Here is a dry place!"

So we went in one after the other till we were all, with the thirty horses, under shelter. Then we took the sacks from the horses, made a good fire, and passed the night there as if it were a house. Next morning, just think what we saw! We were all in one man's head, which lay in the midst of some vineyards; and whilst we were yet wondering and loading our horses, the keeper of the vineyards came and picked the head up. He put it in a sling and slinging it about several times, threw it over his head, and cast it far away over the vines to frighten the starlings away from his grapes. So we rolled down a hill, and it was then that I broke my tooth.




The Strong Man

India

There was once a strong man but no one knew of his strength. He was in the service of a farmer who made him headman over all his laborers. In those days much of the country was still covered with jungle. One day the farmer chose a piece of forest land which he thought suitable for cultivation and told his laborers to set to work and clear it, and as usual after giving his orders he troubled himself no more about the matter, as he could fully rely on the strong man.

The next morning, the strong man set the other laborers to work plowing a field and then said that he would go and have a look at the jungle which his master wanted cleared. So he went off alone with only a stick in his hand. When he reached the place, he walked all round it, and saw how much could be made into good arable land, and then he began to clear it. He pulled up the trees by the roots and piled them into a heap and he took the rocks and threw them to one side and made the ground quite clear and smooth, and then went back to the house. On being asked why he had been so long away, he answered that he had been pulling up a few bushes at the place which was to be cleared.

The following morning the strong man told the farm laborers to take their plows to the clearing and begin to plow it. When the farmer heard this, he was puzzled to think how the land could be ready for plowing so soon, and went to see it and to his amazement found the whole land cleared, every tree pulled up by the roots and all the rocks removed.

Then he asked the strong man whether he had done the work by himself. The strong man answered "no," a number of people had volunteered to help him and so the work had been finished in a day.

The farmer said nothing but he did not believe the story and saw that his servant must really be a man of marvellous strength. Neither he nor the farm laborers let any one else know what had happened, they kept it to themselves.

Now the strong man's wages were twelve measures of rice a year. After working for four years he made up his mind to leave his master and start farming on his own account. So he told the farmer that he wished to leave but offered to finish any work there was to do before he went, that no one might be able to say that he had gone away, leaving his work half done. The farmer assured him that there was nothing for him to do and gave him rice equal to his four years' wages. The rice made two big bandis, each more than an ordinary man could lift, but the strong man slung them onto a bamboo and carried them off over his shoulder.

After he had gone a little way, it struck the farmer that it would not do to let him display his strength in this way and that it would be better if he took the rice away at night. So he had the strong man called back and told him that there was one job which he had forgotten to finish; he had put two bundles of sabai grass into the trough to steep and had forgotten to twist it into string. Without a word the strong man went and picked the sabai out of the water and began to twist it, but he could tell at once by the feel that the sabai had only just been placed in the water and he charged the farmer with playing a trick on him. The farmer swore that there was no trick and, rather than quarrel, the strong man went on with the work.

While he was so engaged the farmer offered him some tobacco, and the strong man took it without washing and wiping his hands. Now no one should prepare or chew tobacco while twisting sabai; if one does not first wash and dry one's hands one's strength will go. The strong man knew this, but he was so angry at being called back on false pretences that he forgot all about it.

But when he had finished the string and the farmer said that he might go, he essayed to take up the two bandis of rice as before. To his sorrow he found that he could not lift them. Then he saw the mistake that he had made. He had to leave one bandi behind and divide the other into two halves and sling them on the bamboo and carry them off with him.

The strong man's cultivation did not prosper, and after three or four years he found himself at the end of his means and had again to take service with a farmer.

One day when field work was in full swing the strong man had a quarrel with his new master. So when he had finished the morning's plowing he pulled the iron point of the plowshare out of its socket and snapped it in two. Then he took the pieces to his master and explained that it had caught on the stump of a tree and got broken. The master took the broken share to the blacksmith and had it mended. The next day the strong man went through the same performance and his master had again to go the blacksmith.

The same thing happened several days running, till at last the farmer decided to keep watch and see what really happened. So he hid himself and saw the strong man snap the plowshare in two; but in view of such a display of strength he was much too frightened to let his servant know that he had found out the trick that was being played on him. He took the pieces to the blacksmith as usual and at the smithy he found some of his friends and told them what had happened.

They advised him to set the strong man to twisting sabai string and then by some pretext induce him to take tobacco. The farmer did as they advised and in about a fortnight the strong man lost all his strength and became as other men. Then his master dismissed him and he had to go back to his house and his strength never returned to him.




The Story of Carancal

Philippines

Once upon a time there lived a couple who had long been married, but had no child. Every Sunday they went to church and begged God to give them a son. They even asked the witches in their town why God would not give them a child. The witches told them that they would have one after a year, but that when born he would be no longer than a span. Nevertheless the couple gave thanks.

After a year a son was born to them. He was very small, as the witches had foretold, but he was stronger than any one would expect such a small child to be.

"It is strange," said a neighbor. "Why, he eats more food than his stomach can hold."

The boy grew larger and larger, and the amount of food he ate became greater and greater. When he became four feet tall, his daily requirements were a cavan [about 75 quarts] of rice and twenty-five pounds of meat and fish.

"I can't imagine how so small a person can eat so much food," said his mother to her husband. "He is like a grasshopper: he eats all the time."

Carancal, as the boy was called, was very strong and very kind-hearted. He was the leader of the other boys of the town, for he could beat all of them in wrestling.

After a few years the family's property had all been sold to buy food for the boy. Day after day they became poorer and poorer, for Carancal's father had no other business but fishing.

So one day when Carancal was away playing, the wife said to her husband, "What shall we do with Carancal? He will make us as poor as rats. It is better for us to tell him to go earn his living, for he is old enough to work."

"No, it is a shame to send him off," said the father, "for we asked God for him. I will take him to the forest and there kill him; and if the neighbors ask how he died, we will say that an accident befell him while cutting trees."

Early the next morning his father led Carancal to the forest, and they began to cut down a very big tree. When the tree was about to fall, Carancal's father ordered the son to stand where the tree inclined; so that when it fell, Carancal was entirely buried. The father immediately went home, thinking that his son had surely been killed; but when he and his wife were talking, Carancal came home with the big tree on his shoulders.

"Father, father, why did you leave me alone in the forest?" said the obedient boy.

The father could not move or speak, for shame of himself. He only helped his son unload the heavy burden. The mother could not speak either, for fear Carancal might suspect their bad intentions toward him. Accordingly she and her husband planned another scheme.

The next day Carancal was invited by his father to go fishing. They rowed and rowed until they were far out into the blue sea. Then they put their net into the water.

"Carancal, dive down and see that our net is sound," said the father.

Carancal obeyed. In about a minute the water became red and began to foam. This made the old man think that his son had been devoured by a big fish, so he rowed homeward. When he reached home, his wife anxiously asked if Carancal was dead; and the husband said, "Yes."

They then cooked their meal and began to eat. But their supper was not half finished when Carancal came in, carrying a big alligator. He again asked his father why he had left him alone to bring such a big load.

The father said, "I thought you had been killed by a large fish." Carancal then asked his mother to cook him a cavan of rice, for he was tired from swimming such a long distance.

The couple were now discouraged; they could not think of any way by which to get rid of Carancal. At last the impatient woman said, "Carancal, you had better go out into the world to see what you can do toward earning your own living. You know that we are becoming poorer and poorer...."

"Mother," interrupted the boy, "I really did not wish to go away from you; but, now that you drive me as if I were not your son, I cannot stay." He paused for a moment to wipe the tears from his cheeks. "You know that I love you; but you, in turn, hate me. What shall I do? I am your son, and so I must not disobey you. But before I depart, father and mother, please give me a bolo [a cutlass-like knife], a big bolo, to protect myself in case of danger."

The parents willingly promised that he should have one. and after two days an enormous bolo five yards long was finished. Carancal took it, kissed the hands of his parents, and then went away with a heavy heart.

When he had left his little village behind, he did not know which way to go. He was like a ship without a rudder. He walked and walked until he came to a forest, where he met Bugtongpalasan. [This name literally means, "only one palasan (a large plant of liana)." The hero was so called because he was the strongest man in his town.]

Carancal asked him where he was going; and Bugtongpalasan said, "I am wandering, but I do not know where to go. I have lost my parents, and they have left me nothing to inherit."

"Do you want to go with me?" said Carancal.

"Yes," said Bugtongpalasan.

"Let us wrestle first, and the loser will carry my bolo," said Carancal as a challenge. They wrestled; and Bugtongpalasan was defeated, so he had to carry the big bolo.

Then they continued their journey until they met Tunkodbola [so called because he used as a cane (Tagalog tungkod) the large cylindrical piece of iron used for crushing sugar-cane (Tagalog bold)], whom Carancal also challenged to a wrestling match. Tunkodbola laughed at Carancal, and said, "Look at this!" He twisted up a tree near by, and hurled it out of sight.

"That is all right. Let us wrestle, and we will see if you can twist me," said Carancal scornfully. So they wrestled. The earth trembled, trees were uprooted, large stones rolled about; but Tunkodbola was defeated.

"Here, take this bolo and carry it!" said Carancal triumphantly; and they continued their journey.

When they reached the top of a mountain, they saw a big man. This was Macabuhalbundok [literally, "one who can overturn a mountain"]. Carancal challenged him; but Macabuhalbundok only laughed, and pushed up a hill. As the hill fell, he said, "Look at this hill! I gave it only a little push, and it was overthrown."

"Well, I am not a hill," said Carancal. "I can balance myself." They wrestled together, and Carancal was once more the winner.

The four companions now walked on together. They were all wandering about, not knowing where to go. When they were in the midst of a thick wood, they became hungry; so Carancal, their captain, ordered one of them to climb a tall tree and see if any house was nigh. Bugtongpalasan did so, and he saw a big house near the edge of the forest. They all went to the house to see if they might not beg some food.

It was a very large house; but all the windows were closed, and it seemed to be uninhabited. They knocked at the door, but no one answered. Then they went in, and found a table covered with delicious food; and as they were almost famished, they lost no time in devouring what seemed to have been prepared for them. After all had eaten, three of them went hunting, leaving Bugtongpalasan behind to cook more food for them against their return.

While Bugtongpalasan was cooking, he felt the earth tremble, and in a short time he saw a big giant ascending the stairs of the house, saying, "Ho, bajo tao cainco," which means "I smell a man whom I will eat."

Bugtongpalasan faced him, but what could a man do to a big giant? The monster pulled a hair out of his head and tied Bugtongpalasan to a post. Then he cooked his own meal. After eating, he went away, leaving his prisoner in the house.

When the three arrived, they were very angry with Bugtongpalasan because no food had been prepared for them; but they untied him, and made him get the meal. Tunkodbola was the next one left behind as cook while the others went hunting, but he had the same experience as Bugtongpalasan. Then Macabuhalbondok; but the same thing happened to him too.

It was now the turn of Carancal to try his wit, strength, and luck. Before the three left, he had them shave his head. When the giant came and saw that Carancal's head was white, he laughed. "It is a very fine thing to have a white head," said the giant. "Make my head white, too."

"Your head must be shaved to be white," said Carancal, "and it is a very difficult thing to shave a head."

"Never mind that! I want to have my head shaved," said the giant impatiently. Carancal then got some ropes and wax. He tied the giant tightly to a post, and then smeared his body with wax. He next took a match and set the giant's body on fire. Thus the giant was destroyed, and the four lived in the house as if it were their own.

Not long afterwards a rumor reached their ears. It was to this effect: that in a certain kingdom on the other side of the sea lived a king who wanted to have a huge stone removed from its place. This stone was so big that it covered much ground. The prize that would be given to the one who could remove it was the hand of the king's prettiest daughter.

The four set out to try their strength. At that time there were no boats for them to sail on, so they had to swim. After three weeks' swimming, they landed on an island-like place in the sea, to rest. It was smooth and slippery, which made them wonder what it could be. Carancal, accordingly, drew his bolo and thrust it into the island. How fast the island moved after the stroke! It was not really an island, but a very big fish. Fortunately the fish carried the travelers near the shores of the kingdom they were seeking.

When the four arrived, they immediately presented themselves to the king, and told him that they would try to move the stone. The king ordered one of his soldiers to show them the stone. There a big crowd of people collected to watch the four strong men.

The first to try was Bugtongpalasan. He could hardly budge it. Then Tunkodbola tried, but moved it only a few yards. When Macabuhalbundok's turn came, he moved the great stone half a mile; but the king said that it was not satisfactory. Carancal then took hold of the rope tied to the stone, and gave a swing. In a minute the great stone was out of sight.

The king was very much pleased, and asked Carancal to choose a princess for his wife.

"I am not old enough to marry, my lord," said Carancal sadly. "I will marry one of my companions to your daughter, however, if you are willing."

The king agreed, and Bugtongpalasan was made a prince.

The three unmarried men lived with Bugtongpalasan. By this time they were known not only throughout the whole kingdom where they were, but also in other countries. They had not enjoyed a year's hospitality in Bugtongpalasan's home when a letter addressed to the four men came. It was as follows:

I have heard that you have superhuman strength, which I now greatly need. About a week ago a monster fish floated up to the shore of my town. It is decaying, and has a most offensive odor. My men in vain have tried to drag the fish out into the middle of the sea. I write to inform you that if you can rid us of it, I will let one of you marry my prettiest daughter.

King Walangtacut [literally, "without fear, fearless"]

After Carancal had read the letter, he instantly remembered the fish that had helped them in traveling. The three companions made themselves ready, bade Bugtongpalasan good-bye, and set out for Walangtacut's kingdom. They traveled on foot, for the place was not very far away.

In every town they passed through, the people cried, "Hurrah for the strong men!" The king received them with a banquet, and all the houses of the town were decorated with flags. In a word, every one welcomed them.

After the banquet was over, the three men marched with the king and all his counsellors, knights, dukes, and the common people to where the decaying fish lay. In this test, too, Carancal was the only successful one. Again he refused to marry; but as the princess was very anxious to have a strong man for her husband, Tunkodbola was chosen by Carancal, and he became her husband.

The fame of the strong men was now nearly universal. All the surrounding kings sent congratulations. The heroes received offers of marriage from many beautiful ladies of the neighboring kingdoms.

One day when Carancal and Macabuhalbundok were talking together, one of them suggested that they go on another journey. The other agreed, and both of them made preparations. But when they were about to start, a letter from another king came, addressed to Carancal. The king said in his letter that a great stone had fallen in his park. "It is so big that I thought it was the sky that fell," he wrote. "I am willing to marry you to my youngest daughter if you can remove it from its present place," said the king.

The two friends accepted the invitation, and immediately began their journey. They traveled by land and sea for many a day. At last they reached the place. There they found the same stone which they had removed before. As he knew that he could not move it far enough, Macabuhalbundok did not make any attempt: Carancal was again the one who did the work.

Once more Carancal refused to marry. "I am too young yet to marry," he said to the king. "In my place I will put my companion." So Macabuhalbundok was married.

Carancal remained a bachelor, for he did not wish to have a wife. The three princes considered him as their father, though he was younger than any of them. For a long time Carancal lived with each of them a year in rotation. Not long after the marriage of Macabuhalbundok, the father-in-law of Bugtongpalasan died, and so Bugtongpalasan became the king. Then the following year Tunkodbola's father-in-law died, and Tunkodbola became also a king. After many years the fatherin-law of Macabuhalbundok died, and Macabuhalbundok succeeded to the throne. Thus Carancal was the benefactor of three kings.

One day Carancal thought of visiting his cruel parents and of living with them. So he set out, carrying with him plenty of money, which the three kings had given him. This time his parents did not drive him away, for he had much wealth. Carancal lived once more with his parents, and had three kings under him.




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

Revised April 7, 2011.