and other Aarne-Thompson type 1540 tales
about tricksters who claim
to bring messages from the dead
translated and/or edited by
D. L. Ashliman
There was once a woman, good but simple, who had been twice married. One day when her husband was in the field -- of course that was her second husband, you know -- a weary tramp came trudging by her door and asked for a drink of water. When she gave it to him, being rather a gossip, she asked where he came from.
"From Paris," said the man.
The woman was a little bit deaf, and thought the man said from paradise. "From paradise! Did you meet there my poor dear husband, Lord rest his soul?"
"What was his name?" asked the man.
"Why, John Goody, of course," said the woman. "Did you know him in paradise?"
"What, John Goody!" said the man. "Him and me was as thick as thieves."
"Does he want for anything?" said the woman. "I suppose up in paradise you get all you want."
"All we want! Why, look at me," said the man pointing to his rags and tatters. "They treat some of us right shabby up there."
"Dear me, that's bad. Are you likely to go back?"
"Go back to paradise, marm? I should say. We have to be in every night at ten."
"Well, perhaps you wouldn't mind taking back some things for my poor old John," said the woman.
"Of course, marm. Delighted to help my old chum John."
So the woman went indoors and got a big pile of clothes and a long pipe and three bottles of beer, and a beer jug, and gave them to the man. "But," he said, "please marm, I can't carry all these by my own self. Ain't you got a horse or a donkey that I can take along with me to carry them? I'll bring him back tomorrow."
Then the woman said, "There's our old Dobbin in the stable. I can't lend you mare Juniper 'cause my husband's plowing with her just now."
"Ah, well, Dobbin'll do as it's only until tomorrow."
So the woman got out Dobbin and saddled him, and the man took the clothes and the beer and the pipe and rode off with them.
Shortly afterwards her husband came home and said, "What's become of Dobbin? He's not in the stable."
So his wife told him all that had happened. And he said, "I don't like that. How do we know that he is going to paradise? And how do we know that he'll bring Dobbin back tomorrow? I'll saddle Juniper and get the things back. Which way did he go?"
So he saddled Juniper and rode after the man, who saw him coming afar off and guessed what had happened. So he got off from Dobbin and drove him into a clump of trees near the roadside, and then went and laid down on his back and looked up to the sky. When the farmer came up to him he got down from Juniper and said, "What are you doing there?"
"Oh, such a funny thing," said the man. "A fellow came along here on a horse with some clothes and things, and when he got to the top of the hill here he simply gave a shout and the horse went right up into the sky; and I was watching him when you came up."
"Oh, it's all right then," said the farmer. "He's gone to paradise, sure enough," and went back to his wife.
Next day they waited, and they waited for the man to bring back Dobbin; but he didn't come that day nor the next day, nor the next. So the farmer said to his wife, "My dear, we've been done. But I'll find that man if I have to trudge through the whole kingdom. And you must come with me, as you know him."
"But what shall we do with the house?" said the wife. "You know there have been robbers around here, and while we are away they'll come and take my best china."
"Oh, that's all right," said the farmer. "He who minds the door minds the house. So we'll take the door with us and then they can't get in."
So he took the door off its hinges, and put it on his back and they went along to find the man from paradise. So they went along, and they went along, and they went along until night came, and they didn't know what to do for shelter. So the man said, "That's a comfortable tree there; let us roost in the branches like the birds." So they took the door up with them and laid down to sleep on it as comfortable, as comfortable can be.
Now it happened that a band of robbers had just broken into a castle nearby and taken out a great lot of plunder; and they came under the very tree to divide it. And when they began to settle how much each should have they began to quarrel and woke up the farmer and his wife. They were so frightened when they heard the robbers underneath them that they tried to get up farther into the tree, and in doing so let the door fall down right on the robbers' heads.
"The heavens are falling," cried the robbers, who were so frightened that they all rushed away. And the farmer and his wife came down from the tree and collected all the booty and went home and lived happy ever afterwards.
It was and it was not.
There was an old soldier who had been long in the wars -- so long, that he was quite out-at-elbows, and he did not know where to go to find a living. So he walked up moors, down glens, till at last he came to a farm, from which the good man had gone away to market. The wife of the farmer was a very foolish woman. The farmer was foolish enough, too, and it is hard to say which of the two was the most foolish. When you've heard my tale you may decide.
Now before the farmer goes to market says he to his wife, "Here is ten pounds all in gold. Take care of it till I come home." If the man had not been a fool he would never have given the money to his wife to keep.
Well, off he went in his cart to market, and the wife said to herself, "I will keep the ten pounds quite safe from thieves." So she tied it up in a rag, and she put the rag up the parlor chimney.
"There," said she. "No thieves will ever find it now; that is quite sure."
Jack Hannaford, the old soldier, came and rapped at the door.
"Who is there?" asked the wife.
"Where do you come from?"
"Lord a' mercy! And maybe you've seen my old man there," alluding to her former husband.
"Yes, I have."
"And how was he a-doing?" asked the goody [woman].
"But middling. He cobbles old shoes, and he has nothing but cabbage for victuals."
"Deary me!" exclaimed the woman. "Didn't he send a message to me?"
"Yes, he did," replied Jack Hannaford. "He said that he was out of leather, and his pockets were empty, so you were to send him a few shillings to buy a fresh stock of leather."
"He shall have them, bless his poor soul!" And away went the wife to the parlor chimney, and she pulled the rag with the ten pounds in it from the chimney, and she gave the whole sum to the soldier, telling him that her old man was to use as much as he wanted, and to send back the rest.
It was not long that Jack waited after receiving the money. He went off as fast as he could walk.
Presently the farmer came home and asked for his money. The wife told him that she had sent it by a soldier to her former husband in paradise, to buy him leather for cobbling the shoes of the saints and angels of heaven. The farmer was very angry, and he swore that he had never met with such a fool as his wife. But the wife said that her husband was a greater fool for letting her have the money.
There was no time to waste words, so the farmer mounted his horse and rode off after Jack Hannaford. The old soldier heard the horse's hoofs clattering on the road behind him, so he knew it must be the farmer pursuing him. He lay down on the ground, and shading his eyes with one hand, looked up into the sky, and pointed heavenwards with the other hand.
"What are you about there?" asked the farmer pulling up.
"Lord save you!" exclaimed Jack. "I've seen a rare sight! A man going straight up into the sky, as if he were walking on a road."
"Can you see him still?"
"Yes, I can."
"Get off your horse and lie down."
"If you will hold the horse."
Jack did so readily.
"I cannot see him," said the farmer.
"Shade your eyes with your hand, and you'll soon see a man flying away from you."
Sure enough he did so, for Jack leaped on the horse, and rode away with it. The farmer walked home without his horse.
"You are a bigger fool than I am," said the wife, "for I did only one foolish thing, and you have done two."
Once upon a time there was a man, and he had a wife. Now this couple wanted to sow their fields, but they had neither seed-corn nor money to buy it with. But they had a cow, and the man was to drive it into town and sell it to get money to buy corn for seed. But when it came to the pinch, the wife dared not let her husband start, for fear he should spend the money in drink, so she set off herself with the cow, and took besides a hen with her.
Close by the town she met a butcher, who asked, "Will you sell that cow, mother?"
"Yes, that I will," she answered.
"Well, what do you want for her?"
"Oh! I must have five shillings for the cow, but you shall have the hen for ten pounds."
"Very good!" said the man; "I don't want the hen, and you'll soon get it off your hands in the town; but I'll give you five shillings for the cow."
Well, she sold her cow for five shillings, but there was no one in the town who would give ten pound for a lean tough old hen, so she went back to the butcher, and said, "Do all I can, I can't get rid of this hen, master! You must take it too, as you took the cow."
"Well," said the butcher, "come along and we'll see about it." Then he treated her both with meat and drink, and gave her so much brandy that she lost her head, and didn't know what she was about, and fell fast asleep. But while she slept, the butcher took and dipped her into a tar barrel, and then laid her down on a heap of feathers; and when she woke up she was feathered all over, and began to wonder what had befallen her.
"Is it me, or is it not me? No, it can never be me. It must be some great strange bird. But what shall I do to find out whether it is me or not? Oh! I know how I shall be able to tell whether it is me. If the calves come and lick me, and our dog Tray doesn't bark at me when I get home, then it must be me and no one else."
Now, Tray, her dog, had scarce set his eyes on the strange monster which came through the gate, than he set up such a barking, one would have thought all the rogues and robbers in the world were in the yard.
"Ah! deary me!" said she, "I thought so. It can't be me surely."
So she went to the straw-yard, and the calves wouldn't lick her, when they snuffed in the strong smell of tar. "No, no!" she said. "It can't be me. It must be some strange outlandish bird."
So she crept up on the roof of the safe [storehouse] and began to flap her arms, as if they had been wings, and was just going to fly off.
When her husband saw all this, out he came with his rifle, and began to take aim at her.
"Oh!" cried his wife, "don't shoot, don't shoot! It is only me."
"If it's you," said her husband, "don't stand up there like a goat on a house-top, but come down and let me hear what you have to say for yourself."
So she crawled down again, but she hadn't a shilling to show, for the crown she had got from the butcher she had thrown away in her drunkenness.When her husband heard her story, he said "You're only twice as silly as you were before," and he got so angry that he made up his mind to go away from her altogether, and never to come back till he had found three other goodies [women] as silly as his own.
So he toddled off, and when he had walked a little way he saw a goody, who was running in and out of a newly built wooden cottage with an empty sieve, and every time she ran in she threw her apron over the sieve, just as if she had something in it, and when she got in she turned it upside down on the floor.
"Why, goody!" he asked, "what are you doing?"
"Oh," she answered, "I'm only carrying in a little sun; but I don't know how it is, when I'm outside I have the sun in my sieve, but when I get inside, somehow or other I've thrown it away. But in my old cottage I had plenty of sun, though I never carried in the least bit. I only wish I knew some one who would bring the sun inside. I'd give him three hundred dollars and welcome."
"Have you got an ax?" asked the man. "If you have, I'll soon bring the sun inside."
So he got an ax and cut windows in the cottage, for the carpenters had forgotten them. Then the sun shone in, and he got his three hundred dollars.
"That was one of them," said the man to himself, as he went on his way.
After a while he passed by a house, out of which came an awful screaming and bellowing; so he turned in and saw a goody, who was hard at work banging her husband across the head with a beetle [wooden pestle], and over his head she had drawn a shirt without any slit for the neck.
"Why, goody!" he asked, "will you beat your husband to death?"
"No," she said, "I only must have a hole in this shirt for his neck to come through."
All the while the husband kept on screaming and calling out, "Heaven help and comfort all who try on new shirts! If anyone would teach my goody another way of making a slit for the neck in my new shirts I'd give him three hundred dollars down, and welcome."
"I'll do it in the twinkling of an eye," said the man, "if you'll only give me a pair of scissors."
So he got a pair of scissors, and snipped a hole in the neck, and went off with his three hundred dollars.
"That was another of them," he said to himself, as he walked along.
Last of all, he came to a farm, where he made up his mind to rest a bit. So when he went in, the mistress asked him, "Whence do you come, master?"
"Oh!" said he, "I come from Paradise Place," for that was the name of his farm.
"From Paradise Place! " she cried, "you don't say so. Why, then, you must know my second husband Peter, who is dead and gone, God rest his soul!" For you must know this goody had been married three times, and as her first and last husbands had been bad, she had made up her mind that the second only was gone to heaven.
"Oh! yes," said the man; "I know him very well."
"Well," asked the goody, "how do things go with him, poor dear soul?"
"Only middling," was the answer; "he goes about begging from house to house, and has neither food nor a rag to his back. As for money, he hasn't a sixpence to bless himself with."
"Mercy on me!" cried out the goody; "he never ought to go about such a figure when he left so much behind him. Why, there's a whole cupboard full of old clothes upstairs which belonged to him, besides a great chest full of money yonder. Now, if you will take them with you, you shall have a horse and cart to carry them. As for the horse, he can keep it, and sit on the cart, and drive about from house to house, and then he needn't trudge on foot."
So the man got a whole cart-load of clothes, and a chest full of shining dollars, and as much meat and drink as he would; and when he had got all he wanted, he jumped into the cart and drove off.
"That was the third," he said to himself, as he went along.
Now this goody's third husband was a little way off in a field plowing, and when he saw a strange man driving off from the farm with his horse and cart, he went home and asked his wife who that was that had just started with the black horse.
"Oh, do you mean him?" said the goody; "why, that was a man from paradise, who said that Peter, my dear second husband, who is dead and gone, is in a sad plight, and that he goes from house to house begging, and has neither clothes nor money; so I just sent him all those old clothes he left behind him, and the old money box with the dollars in it."
The man saw how the land lay in a trice, so he saddled his horse and rode off from the farm at full gallop. It wasn't long before he was close behind the man who sat and drove the cart; but when the latter saw this he drove the cart into a thicket by the side of the road, pulled out a handful of hair from the horse's tail, jumped up on a little rise in the wood, where he tied the hair fast to a birch, and then lay down under it, and began to peer and stare up at the sky.
"Well, well, if I ever! " he said, as Peter the third came riding up. "No! I never saw the like of this in all my born days!"
Then Peter stood and looked at him for some time, wondering what had come over him; but at last he asked, "What do you lie there staring at?"
"No," kept on the man, "I never did see anything like it! Here is a man going straight up to heaven on a black horse, and here you see his horse's tail still hanging in this birch; and yonder up in the sky you see the black horse."
Peter looked first at the man, and then at the sky, and said, "I see nothing but the horse hair in the birch; that's all I see."
"Of course you can't where you stand," said the man; "but just come and lie down here, and stare straight up, and mind you don't take your eyes off the sky; and then you shall see what you shall see."
But while Peter the third lay and stared up at the sky till his eyes filled with tears, the man from Paradise Place took his horse and jumped on its back, and rode off both with it and the cart and horse.
When the hoofs thundered along the road, Peter the third jumped up, but he was so taken aback when he found the man had gone off with his horse, that he hadn't the sense to run after him till it was too late.
He was rather down in the mouth when he got home to his goody; but when she asked him what he had done with the horse, he said, "I gave it to the man too for Peter the second, for I thought it wasn't right he should sit in a cart and scramble about from house to house; so now he can sell the cart and buy himself a coach to drive about in."
"Thank you heartily!" said his wife. "I never thought you could be so kind."
Well, when the man reached home, who had got the six hundred dollars and the cart-load of clothes and money, he saw that all his fields were ploughed and sown, and the first thing he asked his wife was, where she had got the seed-corn from.
"Oh," she said, "I have always heard that what a man sows he shall reap, so I sowed the salt which our friends the north country men laid up here with us, and if we only have rain I fancy it will come up nicely."
"You are crazy," said her husband, "and crazy you will be so long as you live. But that is all one now, for the others are not a bit better than you."
Once upon a time there was a peasant's wife, a good, simple soul who was just returning from the market. She had almost reached home when she met a young man on the road who was continuously looking up toward heaven.
"What is the meaning of that?" thought the old woman, and when she came closer to him, she asked, "My friend, why are you looking up into the air? Did something happen up there?"
"Dear woman," he said, "I just fell from heaven, and now I cannot find the hole again."
"So," said the old woman, "if you just fell from heaven, then you must know your way around up there pretty well?"
"Of course," said the young man.
"Then perhaps you know my son Kees, who died last year?"
"Kees," said the man. "Is he your son? And you ask me if I know him? My dear woman, he is my nearest neighbor!"
"That is wonderful," said the old woman, "and how is he doing?"
"Quite well! Quite well! But last week he was complaining that his stockings are worn out. And the sausage, the ham, and the butter are all gone, but other than that he is doing well."
"Oh, man, oh, man! Isn't there anyone there who can take care of his clothes?"
"No," said the man, "in heaven you have to take care of your own clothes."
"Can't he buy sausage and butter?"
"Yes, they are for sale, but everything is terribly expensive, and he cannot afford what is there."
"Oh dear, it is too bad that Kees still has to be in need now that he is dead. And I could well afford to give him something!"
Then the man told her exactly how Kees was doing, and what he was doing, and where he lived. Finally he said that he had to go, otherwise he would be late in returning to heaven.
"Are you going back to heaven now?" asked the old woman.
"Yes, indeed," he said.
"Then because you know Kees so well, would you be so kind as to do me a great favor? Come home with me, and I will pack a few things that you can give to him."
"Well," he said, "I will do it because it is for Kees, but I shall get my ears pulled for being away so long."
They went together to the farmhouse, and the old woman prepared two packages: one for the man who had fallen from heaven, because he had been so friendly, and one for Kees, but the package for Kees was the larger one. She also gave him a bag of money for her son. Then he took leave in order to make his return trip.
Thinking, "Kees will be so happy when his neighbor comes home, and Kees hears that he has been here," the old woman watched him until he was out of sight.
She never learned if Kees received her package. A short time ago someone told me that this was because the man still has not found the hole through which he had fallen from heaven.
One day a peasant took his good hazel stick out of the corner and said to his wife, "Trina, I am going across country, and shall not return for three days. If during that time the cattle dealer should happen to call and want to buy our three cows, you may strike a bargain at once, but not unless you can get two hundred talers for them, nothing less, do you hear."
"In God's name, just go in peace," answered the woman, "I will manage that."
"You, indeed," said the man. "You once fell on your head when you were a little child, and that affects you even now. But let me tell you this, if you do anything foolish, I will make your back black and blue, and not with paint, I assure you, but with the stick which I have in my hand. And the coloring shall last a whole year. You may rely on that." Having said that, the man went on his way.
The next morning the cattle dealer came, and the woman had no need to say many words to him. When he had seen the cows and heard the price, he said, "I am quite willing to give that. Honestly speaking, they are worth it. I will take the animals away with me at once."
He unfastened their chains and drove them out of the stall, but just as he was going out of the farmyard gate, the woman clutched him by the sleeve and said, "You must give me the two hundred talers now, or I cannot let the cows go."
"Right," answered the man, "but I have forgotten to buckle on my money belt. Have no fear, however, you shall have security until I pay. I will take two cows with me and leave one, so you will have good collateral."
The woman saw the wisdom of this, and let the man go away with the cows, and thought to herself, "How pleased Hans will be when he finds how cleverly I have managed."
The peasant came home on the third day as he had said he would, and at once inquired if the cows were sold. "Yes, indeed, dear Hans," answered the woman, "and as you said, for two hundred talers. They are scarcely worth so much, but the man took them without making any objection."
"Where is the money?" asked the peasant. "Oh, I have not got the money," replied the woman. "He had happened to forget his money belt, but he will soon bring it, and he left good security behind him."
"What kind of security?" asked the man.
"One of the three cows, which he shall not have until he has paid for the other two. I have managed very cunningly, for I have kept the smallest, which eats the least."
The man was enraged and lifted up his stick, and was just going to give her the beating he had promised her, when suddenly he lowered the stick and said, "You are the stupidest goose that ever waddled on God's earth, but I am sorry for you. I will go out into the highway and wait for three days to see if I find anyone who is still stupider than you. If I succeed in doing so, you shall go free, but if I do not find him, you shall receive your well-deserved reward without any discount."
He went out into the great highway, sat down on a stone, and waited for what would come along. Then he saw a farm wagon coming towards him, and a woman was standing upright in the middle of it, instead of sitting on the bundle of straw which was lying beside her, or walking near the oxen and leading them.
The man thought to himself, "That is certainly one of the kind I am in search of," and jumped up and ran back and forth in front of the wagon like one who is not in his right mind.
"What do you want, my friend?" said the woman to him. "I don't know you, where do you come from?"
"I have fallen down from heaven," replied the man, "and don't know how to get back again. Couldn't you drive me up?"
"No," said the woman, "I don't know the way. But if you come from heaven you can surely tell me how my husband is, who has been there these three years. You must have seen him."
"Oh, yes, I have seen him, but not everyone can get on well. He herds sheep, and these creatures give him a great deal to do. They run up the mountains and lose their way in the wilderness, and he has to run after them and drive them together again. His clothes are all torn to pieces too, and will soon fall off his body. There is no tailor there, for Saint Peter won't let any of them in, as you know by the story."
"Who would have thought it?" cried the woman. "I tell you what. I will fetch his Sunday coat which is still hanging at home in the cupboard. He can wear that and look respectable. You will be so kind as to take it with you."
"That won't be possible," answered the peasant. "People are not allowed to take clothes into heaven. They are taken away at the gate."
"Then listen to me," said the woman. "I sold my good wheat yesterday and got a lot of money for it. I will send that to him. If you hide the purse in your pocket, no one will know that you have it."
"If you can't manage it any other way," said the peasant, "I will do you that favor."
"Just sit still where you are," said she, "and I will drive home and fetch the purse. I shall soon be back again. I do not sit down on the bundle of straw, but stand up in the wagon, because it makes it lighter for the cattle."
She drove her oxen away, and the peasant thought, "That woman has a perfect talent for folly. If she really brings the money, my wife may think herself fortunate, for she will get no beating."
It was not long before she came in a great hurry with the money, and with her own hands put it in his pocket. Before she went away, she thanked him again a thousand times for his courtesy.
When the woman got home again, she found her son who had come in from the field. She told him what unexpected things had befallen her, and then added, "I am truly delighted at having found an opportunity of sending something to my poor husband. Who would ever have imagined that he could be suffering for want of anything up in heaven?"
The son was full of astonishment. "Mother," said he, it is not every day that a man comes from heaven in this way. I will go out immediately, and see if he is still to be found, he must tell me what it is like up there, and how the work is done.
He saddled the horse and rode off with all speed. He found the peasant who was sitting under a willow tree, and was about to count the money in the purse. "Have you seen the man who has come from heaven?" cried the youth to him.
"Yes," answered the peasant, "he has set out on his way back there, and has gone up that hill, from whence it will be rather nearer. You could still catch him up, if you ride fast."
"Alas," said the youth, "I have been doing tiring work all day, and the ride here has completely worn me out. You know the man. Be so kind as to get on my horse, and go and persuade him to come here."
"Aha," thought the peasant. "Here is another who has not no wick in his lamp."
"Why should I not do you this favor?" said he, and mounted the horse and rode off at a quick trot. The youth remained sitting there until night fell, but the peasant never came back.
"The man from heaven must certainly have been in a great hurry, and would not turn back," thought he, "and the peasant has no doubt given him the horse to take to my father." He went home and told his mother what had happened, and that he had sent his father the horse so that he might not have to be always running about.
"You have done well," answered she. "You still have young legs and can go on foot."
When the peasant got home, he put the horse in the stable beside the cow which had been left as security, and then went to his wife and said, "Trina, as your luck would have it, I have found two who are still more stupid fools than you. This time you escape without a beating. I will store it up for another occasion."
Then he lighted his pipe, sat down in his grandfather's chair, and said, "It was a good stroke of business to get a sleek horse and a great purse full of money into the bargain, for two lean cows. If stupidity always brought in as much as that, I would be quite willing to hold it in honor."
So thought the peasant, but you no doubt prefer the simpletons.
The hostess said, "Where are you coming from?"
"I have just come from heaven!" said the stranger.
"What do you say! You have come from heaven?" said the woman.
"But of course," he replied.
"Well, then," said the woman, "you must have seen my blessed husband. His name is Hans."
"But of course I have seen him," said the stranger. "I know him very well. We have always been good friends with each other."
"Good heavens!" said the woman. "What do you say! Have you really seen him? And spoken with him? And know him?"
"Why not?" replied the man.
"For heaven's sake!" said the woman. "How is he then?"
"Oh, just so-so. Not the very best," said the stranger. "It is difficult to get by up there. He has to work hard, and the wages are very low. The last time I saw him he just about did not have a whole shirt on his body."
"For pity's sake!" sobbed the woman. "If only I knew," she continued, "how I could send something back to him. I would like to give him something. I have enough here, thank heaven!"
"Oh!" said the wanderer. "That would be good. I am going back right away, and I could take something to him, whatever you would like to send him. I would be glad to do it!"
"Oh, my dear friend," said the woman, "you say that he no longer has a shirt on his body, a whole one? I just had a half dozen new ones made for my oldest son. They would also fit my blessed husband. Would you take them along?"
"Gladly!" he said.
"And these three hundred florins as well?"
"Those as well," he said. "I can manage to carry them."
"Oh heaven," she continued, "and I have half a ham and a few sausages -- he always liked them so much!"
The stranger took these as well, and then, while saying a thousand thanks, he set forth on his journey.
When the hostess's oldest son came home and learned from his mother what had happened, he quickly saddled his horse and chased after the traveler from heaven. The latter, in good spirits, had walked into the country and had just sat down at the edge of some woods. When he saw the rider galloping toward him he sensed that it meant trouble. He immediately set his hat on the ground and pretended to be carefully watching over it.
When the rider came near he stopped and asked the wanderer if he was the man who was traveling to heaven.
"Yes indeed," he said. "I am the one."
"Then," he shouted, "give me at once the money that you were to take to my father!"
"Whatever you want," said the traveler. "It is all the same to me. If you don't want your father to have it, then I won't have to carry it. But you will have to wait a little while. I have caught a very valuable and rare bird under my hat. It is worth at least three hundred florins. I sent a man into town to fetch a cage for me. Because he did not have anything to carry, I gave the man the three hundred florins that your father was to have. When he comes back with the cage then you will have to ride to town with me."
The son agreed to do this, and he remained there.
After a while the traveler from heaven said, "If you would watch over this bird very carefully then I could run after the man right now, otherwise he may not come back very soon. Or, it would be even faster if you would lend me your horse. Then I would be back immediately, and you could return home in good time."
The son thought that this proposal made good sense. He agreed to it at once and let the traveler mount his horse. Meanwhile, he kept watch over the valuable bird under the hat.
There he sat, and after sitting there for several hours the traveler from heaven still had not returned with the horse and the money. He could not leave his post because of the valuable bird, which he considered to be security for the three hundred florins.
Evening came, and finally he decided to pick up the bird in his hand and take it into town himself. Very carefully he lifted the hat a little, so that he could reach his hand under it. It was not a bird that he took hold of, but something entirely different, something that he never told anyone about.
Suddenly he decided to return home to his mother. She was surprised that he came home so late, and without his horse. He told her that he had decided to give the horse as well to the traveler from heaven, so that he could deliver the things more quickly to his father. She was satisfied with this answer. The son did not have anything further to say about the matter.
Stupid Gretel lived with her husband in a lonely little house just outside the village, and she did not deal with people very much. One day a hungry fellow came to her while her husband was in the field, and he asked her to give him something to eat, for he had gone hungry the entire day. He would be satisfied even if it were only a piece of meat, or half of one.
Now her husband had slaughtered a pig only yesterday, so she went inside and brought back half of the pig.
Yes, he could manage that, said the hungry man, and he loaded the burden onto his shoulders and went on his way.
When Gretel's husband came home and learned what she had done, he ruffled his hair and said, "Gretel, my Gretel, when will you ever learn? Why didn't you just cut him a slice?"
"Oh, dear husband," said Gretel, "you know that I cannot shed blood. How would I have been able to cut a slice out of that poor man?"
The husband said, "Gretel, my Gretel, you will never learn! I am going to town now, and if I can find a woman there who is more stupid than you, then I'll spare your life, otherwise it will cost you your neck."
So he went to town. The market had just begun, and as he, lost in his thoughts, approached an egg woman, he stumbled into her basket, breaking the eggs until the ground looked like it was plastered with pancakes made without lard.
"Hey!" the egg woman jumped up shouting, "What kind of crazy man is that?"
"Now, now," cried the man. "Clear out your mouth and speak differently. Who can see a miserable egg peddler if he has just fallen from heaven?"
"Oh my dear God, you have come from heaven?" cried the woman. "How could I have known that? Tell me, have you seen my blessed husband Christian? God willing, he will have been there one year this Easter."
"I hope to say I have seen him," answered the man. "Only yesterday we ate together. He is the best companion I have in all of heaven, and when I return, he is the first person I will seek out. But he's not doing too well polishing the stars. He has to clean the stars every night, and having only one shirt for Sundays and workdays alike is no fun."
"Oh my dear God," cried the woman. "Is he doing so poorly, my dear Christian? In that case may God bless you if you will take him the piece of cloth that I bought for him before he died. It is as good as new."
"If it's not too heavy, I will give it a try," said the man, and went with the woman to her house. She gave him the cloth, and she wouldn't stop until she had given him a basket full of eggs for her Christian as well.
Then he set off toward home. As he approached home, Gretel became frightened, for she could only think that her last hour had struck. But her husband waved to her from afar and shouted, "Gretel, my Gretel, you are not yet the most stupid woman!"
Then he told her about his dealings with the egg woman. He was very pleased with the new cloth and the gift of the eggs. And Gretel too was much relieved that this time, at least, it had not cost her her neck.
Once upon a time there lived in a Russian village an old peasant woman who had two sons. One, however, died; and the other was from home, but was soon expected to return to his native village.
One evening, as the peasant woman was working in her little hut, a soldier walked in at the open door. "Good day, little mother!" he said. "Can I stay here the night?"
"Yes, certainly, with pleasure, little father. But whence come you, and who are you?"
"I am nobody in particular, little mother. I am an emigrant for the next world."
"Ah! My precious soul! One of my sons died a little while ago. Did you happen to come across him?"
"Why, yes, of course! We lived in the same sphere."
"No, really! You don't mean it?"
"He feeds and looks after the young cranes in the next world."
"Oh, my precious soul! But where did he get them?"
"Where did he get them! Why, the young cranes roam about among the sweet-briar!"
"How did he look? What clothes had he on?"
"Clothes!" He was all in tatters, and a pair of wings."
"Poor fellow! Well, I have got about forty yards of gray cloth and a ten-ruble note. Take them, good man, and give them to my son."
"With pleasure, little mother."
Next morning the old woman gave the soldier the cloth and the money, and wished him a safe journey back. And she also begged him to come again soon and tell her how her son was getting on.
She waited and waited for many a week, but the soldier did not return. At last the day arrived when her other son was expected home.
"How are you, mother mine?" he exclaimed, coming into the hut and embracing his mother. "Have you any news?"
"Yes, my boy. Not very long ago an emigrant from the other world came to stay the night here, and he brought some news of your brother, for they both lived in the same sphere. But he said that the poor fellow had nothing but a pair of wings, so I gave him forty yards of cloth and ten rubles."
"Good gracious, mother, you have given away everything we had. And for what? Just because that man was artful enough to tell you a lot of lies. It really is most astonishing how confiding some people are! I think I will go into the wide world and tell a lot of lies, and see whether, after cheating everybody, I become a very rich man or not. If I succeed, I shall come home again, and then we can live happily together, and have food and money in plenty ever after."
Next day the son went off to try his luck. He went on and on until he came to an estate belonging to a rich Russian barin or gentleman. He walked up to the lordly mansion and saw, in a garden near the house, a large pig with a number of little ones walking about. A thought struck him, and he went down on his knees before the pigs, and began making most polite bows to them.
Now the mistress of the house, who was looking out of one of the windows, saw the performance, and was greatly amused. "Go," she said to one of her maids, "and ask the mujik [peasant] what he is bowing for."
The maid went up to the peasant, saying, "Little mujik, tell me why you are on your knees before the pigs, and why you are bowing to them? My lady has sent me to ask."
"Tell your mistress, my little dear, that yonder pig is my wife's sister, and my son is going to be married tomorrow, so I am asking her and her young ones to come to the wedding. That is all. And she has consented, on condition that your lady allows them. So go and ask your mistress whether she will let them come with me."
The girl burst out laughing, and went straight to her mistress, who also began laughing heartily when she heard all the peasant had said. "What a donkey!" she cried. "Fancy asking the pigs to his son's wedding! Well, never mind. Let all his friends have a good laugh at him. Yes, he may take the pigs. But first dress them up in my shuba (fur coat), and let the coachman get my own little carriage and team ready, so that the pigs need not go to the wedding on foot."
When the carriage was ready, they dressed the pig up in the lady's fur coat, and placed it in the carriage with the young ones, and gave the reins to the peasant, who at once rode away homewards.
Now the master of the house, who was away shooting at the time, returned home a few minutes after the peasant had left. His wife ran out to meet him, laughing.
"I am so glad you have returned, my dear!" she said, "as I am longing to have someone to laugh with. Such a funny thing happened while you were away. A peasant came here and began kneeling and bowing before our pigs. He declared that one of them was his wife's sister, and he was asking her and the little ones to come to his son's wedding!"
"Yes," the husband replied. "and did you let her go?"
"Of course I did. I even had the pig dressed in my best shuba, and had her put in my own little carriage and team, and let the peasant drive it himself. I think it was nothing but right for me to do so. The peasant was so very polite to the pigs. What do you think, my dear?"
"What did I think? Well this: that the peasant was an ass, and you were another!"
And the good man, like the rest of his sex, thought it was a splendid opportunity for flying into a rage. He told his wife that she had been cheated, and then rushing out of the house, he flung himself upon his horse and galloped off after the peasant, who, when he heard that he was being being pursued, conveyed the carriage and team into a dark forest hard by, and then going back, took off his cap, seated himself near the entrance of the forest, put the cap beside him on the ground, and waited until the horseman came up to him.
"Hark you, little father!" cried the barin, "have you seen a peasant drive this way with a carriage and team and a number of pigs in it?"
"See him? I should rather think I did! He rode past a long time ago."
"In which direction did he drive? How had I better go? Do you think I am likely to overtake him?"
"Yes, you could overtake him, I daresay. But the way he went by has many a turning, and you are sure to lose yourself. Is the road quite unknown to you?"
"Yes, little brother. I think, if you don't mind, it would be better for you to go in search of him and bring him back to me, for you seem to know the way so well!"
"No, brother, I could not possibly, for I have a falcon under my cap here and must watch it."
"I can do that for you."
"No, you are sure to let him out, and the bird is very valuable. Besides, if I lost it my master would never forgive me."
"But how much is it worth?"
"Three hundred rubles, I should think."
"Very well then, if I lose the bird I will pay the money."
"No, brother, if you really want me to go after the peasant, you had better give me the money now, for heaven knows what might happen afterwards. You might lose the bird, and then take your departure too, and I should never see either the falcon or the money!"
"Oh, you incredulous man! Here, take the three hundred rubles anyhow!"
The peasant took the money, and at the barin's wish mounted his horse and rode off into the forest, leaving the barin to watch over the empty cap.
He waited and waited, but the peasant did not return, which he thought looked rather queer. The sun began to set. Still no peasant.
"Stop!" thought the barin. "Let me look and see whether there really is a falcon under that cap. If there is, then the peasant may possibly return. If not, well, then it is of no use waiting here and wasting my time." He peeped under the cap, but no falcon was to be seen.
"Ah, the wretch! he laughed. "I do believe that he was the very same man who cheated my wife out of her carriage and team, her shuba, and the pigs."
He spat on the ground three times with vexation, and returned home to his wife penitent.
Meanwhile our friend the peasant had long since got safely back to his mother with all his treasures. "Well, mother mine!" he cried, "this world of ours can certainly boast of some very good-natured fools. Just look, without any reason whatever, they gave me three horses, a carriage, three hundred rubles, and a pig with her little ones. Now we can live happily for some time at least, thanks to the stupidity of these people. It really is wonderful.
Once a journeyman came to a peasant woman and asked her for a handout. She gave him something to eat and asked where he came from.
"From Paris," he answered, but the peasant woman, who was somewhat hard of hearing, understood "from paradise."
"Oh," she said, "if you come from paradise then for sure you must know my blessed first husband, who was released from purgatory long ago and by now must be in heaven."
The journeyman, who caught on very quickly, said, "Of course, I know him very well. But he is suffering from the severe cold, and he asked me when I go to earth to look up his wife and ask her if she wouldn't send him a pair of boots and some warm clothes."
So the peasant woman put together a bundle of clothes from her second husband: boots, jacket, trousers, vest, and hat. These she gave to journeyman so he could take them to her husband in paradise. And then the journeyman disappeared with the clothes.
When her husband came home, the woman told him that a little while ago a journeyman had been here, and that she had given him boots and clothes for her blessed deceased husband, for the journeyman had come directly from paradise.
The man cursed about her stupidity, and asked in which direction the journeyman had left, for he intended to pursue him and take the clothes away from him. In order to make better time, he chased after him on horseback.
The journeyman had gone a good way down the main road when he saw a rider in the distance. Seeing that it was a peasant, he immediately assumed that he was being pursued. Therefore he quickly threw the boots and the clothing over a garden fence, then sat down next to the road and placed his hat next to him in the grass.
When the peasant reached him, he asked him if he had seen a man carrying a bundle of clothes and a pair of boots.
"Yes," said the sitting man, "I met him a little while ago, and he told me where he was going. But you will never catch him, because he will see from afar that you are chasing after him. But, do you know what? If you will look after the bird that I have here under my hat, I will get on your horse and ride after him and bring the clothes back to you. He won't run away from me."
The peasant was very pleased with this, and he let the rascal mount his horse, while he sat down on the ground and watched the bird.
Hour after hour passed by, and the horse and rider did not return. Finally the peasant began to see the light. Cautiously he lifted up the hat to see what kind of rare bird was under it. O horror! He held his nose and quickly put the hat back over the "bird." Sadly he returned home.
He arrived home on foot and without his horse and without the clothes and boots. His wife asked him where he had left the horse, and where the clothes and boots were.
"Oh," said the man, "he really was a messenger from heaven. I let him keep the clothes and gave him the horse so he could return to heaven faster."
A Turk and his wife halted in the shadow of a tree. The Turk went to the river to water his horse, and his wife remained to await his return. Just then an Era [peasant] passed by and saluted the Turkish woman, "Allah help you, noble lady!"
"May God aid you," she returned. "Where are you coming from?"
"I come from the other world, noble lady."
"As you have been in the other world, have you not, perchance, seen there my son Mouyo, who died a few months ago?"
"Oh, how could I help seeing him? He is my immediate neighbor."
"Happy me! How is he, then?"
"He is well, may God be praised! But he could stand just a little more tobacco and some more pocket money to pay for black coffee."
"Are you going back again? And if so, would you be so kind as to deliver to him this purse with his parent's greetings?"
The Era took the money, protesting that he would be only too glad to convey so pleasant a surprise to the youth, and hurried away. Soon the Turk came back, and his wife told him what had transpired. He perceived at once that she had been victimized and without stopping to reproach her, he mounted his horse and galloped after the Era, who, observing the pursuit, and guessing at once that the horseman was the husband of the credulous woman, made all the speed that he could.
There was a mill nearby, and making for it, the Era rushed in and addressed the miller with, "For Goodness' sake, brother, fly! There is a Turkish horseman coming with drawn sword. He will kill you. I heard him say so and have hurried to warn you in time."
The miller had no time to ask for particulars. He knew how cruel the Turks were, and without a word he dashed out of the mill and fled up the adjacent rocks.
Meantime the Era placed the miller's hat upon his own head and sprinkled flour copiously over his clothes, that he might look like a miller. No sooner was this done than the Turk came up. Alighting from his horse, he rushed into the mill and hurriedly asked the Era where he had hidden the thief. The Era pointed indifferently to the fleeing miller on the rock, whereupon the Turk requested him to take care of his horse while he ran and caught the swindler. When the Turk had gone some distance up the hill, our Era brushed his clothes, swiftly mounted the horse, and galloped away.
The Turk caught the real miller, and demanded, "Where is the money you took from my wife, swindler?"
The poor miller made the sign of the cross and said, "God forbid! I never saw your noble lady, still less did I take her money."
After about half an hour of futile discussion, the Turk was convinced of the miller's innocence, and returned to where he had left his horse. But lo! There was no sign of a horse! He walked sadly back to his wife, and she, seeing that her husband had no horse, asked in surprise, "Where did you go, and what became of your horse?"
The Turk replied, "You sent money to our darling son; so I thought I had better send him the horse that he need not go on foot in the other world!"
In a remote village there lived a man and his wife, who was a stupid little woman and believed everything that was told her. Whenever people wanted anything from her they used to come and flatter her; but this had to be done in the absence of her husband, because he was a very miserly man, and would never part with any of his money, for all he was exceedingly rich.
Nevertheless, without his knowledge cunning beggars would now and then come to his wife and beg of her, and they used generally to succeed, as she was so amenable to flattery. But whenever her husband found her out he would come down heavily upon her, sometimes with words and sometimes with blows. Thus quarrels arose, until at last, for the sake of peace, the wife had to give up her charitable propensities.
Now there lived in the village a rogue of the first water, who had many a time witnessed what took place in the rich miser's family. Wishing to revive his old habit of getting what he wanted from the miser's wife he watched his opportunity and one day, when the miser had gone out on horseback to inspect his land, he came to his wife in the middle of the day and fell down at the threshold as if overcome by exhaustion. She ran up to him at once and asked him who he was.
"I am a native of Kailâsa," said he, "sent down by an old couple living there, for news of their son and his wife."
"Who are those fortunate dwellers on Siva's mountain?" said she.
On this the rogue gave the names of her husband's deceased parents, which he had taken good care, of course, to learn from the neighbors.
"Do you really come from them?" said she. "Are they doing well there? Dear old people. How glad my husband would be to see you, were he here! Sit down please, and take rest awhile until he returns. How do they live there? Have they enough to eat and to dress themselves?"
These and a thousand other questions she put to the rogue, who, for his part, wanted to get away as quick as possible, as he knew full well how he would be treated if the miser should return while he was there, so he said, "Mother, language has no words to describe the miseries they are undergoing in the other world. They have not a rag to cover themselves, and for the last six days they have eaten nothing, and have lived on water only. It would break your heart to see them."
The rogue's pathetic words fully deceived the good woman, who firmly believed that he had come down from Kailâsa, sent by the old couple to her.
"Why should they suffer so?" said she, "when their son has plenty to eat and to dress himself, and when their daughter-in-law wears all sorts of costly ornaments?"
With that she went into the house and came out with two boxes containing all the clothes of herself and her husband, and gave the whole lot to the rogue, with instructions to take them to her poor old people in Kailâsa. She also gave him her jewel box for her mother-in-law.
"But dress and jewels will not fill their hungry stomachs," said he.
Requesting him to wait a little, the silly woman brought out her husband's cash chest and emptied the contents into the rogue's coat, who now went off in haste, promising to give everything to the good people in Kailâsa. Our good lady in accordance with etiquette, conducted him a few hundred yards along the road and sent news of herself through him to her relatives, and then returned home. The rogue now tied up all his booty in his coat and ran in haste towards the river and crossed over it.
No sooner had our heroine reached home than her husband returned after his inspection of his lands. Her pleasure at what she had done was so great, that she met him at the door and told him all about the arrival of the messenger from Kailâsa, and how she had sent clothes, and jewels, and money through him to her husband's parents.
The anger of her husband knew no bounds. But he checked himself for a while, and asked her which road the messenger from Kailâsa had taken, as he said he wanted to follow him and send some more news to his parents. To this she willingly agreed and pointed out the direction the rogue had gone.
With rage in his heart at the trick played upon his stupid wife, our hero rode on in hot haste, and after a ride of two ghatikâs he caught sight of the departing rogue, who, finding escape hopeless, climbed up into a big pîpal tree. Our hero soon reached the bottom of the tree and shouted to the rogue to come down.
"No, I cannot, this is the way to Kailâsa," said the rogue, and climbed up on the top of the tree.
Seeing no chance of the rogue's coming down, and as there was no third person present to whom he could call for help, our hero tied his horse to an adjacent tree and began climbing up the pîpal tree himself.
The rogue thanked all his gods when he saw this, and waited until his enemy had climbed nearly up to him, and then, throwing down his bundle of booty, leapt quickly from branch to branch until he reached the bottom. He then got upon his enemy's horse, and with his bundle rode into a dense forest in which no one was likely to find him.
Our hero being much older in years was no match for the rogue. So he slowly came down, and cursing his stupidity in having risked his horse to recover his property, returned home at his leisure.
His wife, who was waiting his arrival, welcomed him with a cheerful countenance and said, "I thought as much, you have sent away your horse to Kailâsa to be used by your father."
Vexed as he was at his wife's words, our hero replied in the affirmative to conceal his own stupidity.
Thus, some there are in this world, who, though they may not willingly give away anything, pretend to have done so when, by accident, or stupidity, they happen to lose it.
A millet trader, traveling from village to village, came to a house where a woman was weeping and weeping. "I have been to the other world and back," he said, to emphasize the length and difficulty of his journey. Then he added, "Why are you crying?"
"My daughter died six days ago," said the woman. "My Latti is now in the other world. Did you meet her there?"
The millet trader said, "Don't cry, mother. I did meet her there. She is now in the other world, and I am to marry that very Latti. In fact, I have come for Latti's necklaces and bracelets. She sent me for them."
The woman quickly arose and cooked an abundant meal for the trader.
"Mother," he said, "I must go immediately. Where is my father-in-law?"
"He is plowing," she said. "Wait until he comes."
"I cannot," he said. "Our wedding feast is tomorrow. I must be off now to go to the wedding."
So the woman gave the trader her daughter's gold and silver necklaces and bracelets. These he took, along with his bundles of millet, and went away.
When the woman's husband returned from plowing, he found her laughing. "What are you laughing at?" he asked.
The woman replied, "Why shouldn't I laugh? Our son-in-law came."
"What son-in-law?" the man asked.
The woman said over and over again, "Latti's man came. Latti's man came. Our son-in-law, to whom our daughter is given in the other world. It is true."
The man asked, "Can anyone in the other world come to this world? Did you cook for him and feed him?"
The woman replied, "Of course I cooked for him and fed him! And he said that Latti had told him to fetch her necklaces and bracelets for her. So I gave them to him as well."
Then the man said, "Where is our horse, and which way did the man go?" Mounting his horse he went to seek the millet trader.
The trader, walking along in a rice field, looked back and saw a man approaching on horseback. He said, "That man is coming to seize me."
The trader climbed into a nearby tree. The man tied his horse to a root of the tree and then climbed into the tree to catch the trader. But the trader dropped from the end of a branch, cut the horse's tether, placed his millet bundles and other goods on the horse, mounted it, and rode off.
The man descended slowly from the tree and called out to the fleeing trader, "Tell Latti that your mother-in-law gave you a few things for her arms and neck, but that your father-in-law gave you a horse."
Having returned home, he said to the woman, "It is true. He really is Latti's man. I gave him the horse, so he would not have to go on foot."
The woman said, "Isn't it so indeed! I told you so."
Then the millet trader returned to his own village, where he remained.
Revised December 29, 2002.