ONCE on a time, there lived an old man and an old woman; each had two children by previous marriages. The wife took good care of her own children, feeding them well, and giving them good clothes; while the children, of the husband were neglected, and left almost without food. Not content with thus ill-treating them, and seeing that they were better looking, and better behaved, than her own, she made up her mind to get rid of them.
So one day she said to her husband, "your boy and girl are too lazy and good-for-nothing, you must send them from here, or I will not eat bread and salt out of the same platter with you again.
"Where can I take them to?" asked he.
"Where you please, so long as I am no longer troubled with them."
Finding no other way of pacifying his wife, he determined to take them next day to a wood and leave them there. The boy overheard the conversation, and repeated it to his sister; so they took their precautions, and next morning they each filled a canvas bag, one with ashes, the other with malain
[paragraph continues] (corn flour), before their father called them to accompany him, and on the way, the boy scattered the ashes. On arriving at the four cross roads, the father bade them wait there for him, as he was going further into the forest to cut down some branches.
Giving them some food, he disappeared amongst the thickets, and tying a hollow gourd to a tree, he returned by another way to his cottage.
When the wind blew, it struck the gourd against the tree, and produced a sound like wood-chopping, so when the children heard this they said, "hark, to father, cutting wood!"
Waiting half the day, and seeing that their father did not come, they set off to search him from whence the sound came. On reaching the tree from whence the noise proceeded they found only the gourd; so they began to cry, but by the aid of the traces of the ashes, found their home again.
The parents, with the wife's children were sitting round the fire eating long white loaves, the outside of which being burnt, the wife said to her husband it where are your children that they may cat these spoiled pieces?" "Here we are!" cried they, entering the cottage, and beginning to eat the burnt bread.
A few days passed, and again the wife told her husband to take away his children; the second journey
had the same result as the first, for the girl scattered some malain, and so found their way home again.
Seeing that he could not live in peace with his wife, he determined to take them to a greater distance, and on a road quite unknown to them. The girl had still some malain left, which she scattered as before, but this time rain fell, and made it into a paste, which was greedily eaten up by the little birds. So they walked all day until evening, and seeing no signs of their home they climbed into a tree, and made themselves a bed amongst the branches, and slept until daybreak. When morning came, they again began their wanderings through the forest. After a time hunger seized them, and they had nothing to eat; but at last the boy cut himself a pliant stick, and taking a mesh of his sister's hair, with it and the stick made himself a bow. Soon he shot some birds, while his sister procured a fire by rubbing two pieces of wood together and setting alight some dry branches. Thus they lived for some days, until in their wanderings they met with a fox; the boy was on the point of adjusting his bow, when the fox cried "do not shoot me, and then I will give you one of my cubs, who will be useful to you," so taking the cub the boy continued his way.
Further on he encountered a she-wolf; he was
again about to draw his bow when the wolf begged him to spare her life, and she would give him one of her young ones, who would be useful to him. Taking with him the young wolf, as well as the cub-fox, he went along.
Soon on his path he encountered a bear, and the same form of words and acts was gone through as with the fox and the wolf. When evening approached, the children, followed by the young animals, came suddenly on a fine palace. Entering fearlessly, the boy found in the lodge a bundle of keys; thinking that they were the keys of the palace, he took them and began to open the various doors. At length he reached a very fine carved steel door, and opening it he found there, a huge giant, bound to the wall by three iron bands. When the giant saw him he called, "youngster, bring me a jug of water, for I am dying of thirst." Instead of doing this he went in search of his sister. Giving her all the keys, he told her she might enter every room excepting the one with the steel door, but if she went into that one a misfortune would befall her.
Thus saying, he set out for the chase, followed by his three young animals.
After his departure the girl began exploring the palace, and arriving at the steel door, she said to
herself, "I wonder why my brother has forbidden me this chamber! perhaps there are treasures in it which he wants for himself alone--why should he do this, seeing that I am his sister?" So trying the lock, she turned the key and entered. At sight of her, the giant cried, "maiden, bring me a jug of water, and I will be of great service to you." She went quickly, and returned with the water. After the giant had drunk it, one of his irons snapped and fell asunder.
Again the giant cried, "maiden bring me another jug of water, and you shall not have cause to repent it." Quickly she came with the water, the giant drank it eagerly, and the second band fell away.
A third time he cried, "maiden bring me but one more jug, then I shall be free, I am weary of being bound for so many years, and I will do whatsoever thou desirest." She brought him water for the third time, and after he had drunk that also, the last band snapped and fell away. The giant finding himself free, said to the maiden, "where is your brother?" "Nenna is gone shooting," said she. "I should like to kill your brother," said he, "and to keep you to live with me here in this splendid palace, will you consent to this? Tell me so, for you have grown so dear to me, that I cannot live without you."
"How can you kill him?" said she, "he has always his fox and his wolf and his bear with him." Said the giant, "the next time he goes out, you must manuvre to keep his beasts at home, and then I can go and swallow him up." The maiden consented, and the giant returned to his chamber.
When Nenna arrived from the forest, his sister was very loving and caressing to him; and after eating their supper they retired to rest. Next morning by daybreak, the boy was again ready to set out for the chase, but his sister fondling him, and showing signs of great affection said, "brother you amuse yourself in the forest, while I am alone all day! leave me your beasts to play with." With reluctance he consented and set off alone.
Shortly after his departure, the giant came out and bade the maiden shut up the animals securely in the room with the steel door, and to roll a heavy stone against it. Then the giant set off in pursuit of the boy, who, when he saw the giant, like a moving cloud in the distance, knew that his sister had disobeyed him, and set the giant free.
Climbing a lofty tree, he waited the approach of the giant, who was soon at the foot of the tree, calling him to come down so that he might eat him up. The boy flung him his sheep-skin cap, and
called to him to gnaw at that until he had time to sing a song.
This was what he sang.
The fox heard this song, and said, "Hark! our master is in danger." "Shut your woollen ears," said the other two.
The giant had got to the last morsel of the sheepskin cap, so the boy flung one of his opinci (sandals) and told him to eat that also, as he had not yet finished his song.
Beginning again his song, this time the wolf heard him, but the bear said, "Be quiet I sharp ears."
By this time the sandal was devoured, and the giant in a loud voice called him to descend, but the boy flung the other sandal, and entreated time to sing one more song.
This time the bear also heard him, and said, "In truth, our master is in great peril, but how can we get to him? For we are locked in here." Said the fox, "I will make an opening," and forced himself with all his strength against the door, without success;
the same result with the wolf; but when the bear put his broad back there, the door flow open, and the stone rolled twenty paces away.
Finding themselves at liberty, the wolf said, "Shall we go like wind, or as quick as thought?"
"Like the wind!" said the bear, "for if we travel as quick as thought, we shall be breathless, and incapable of fighting when we arrive."
Like the wind they arrived to help their master. The giant, seeing their approach, transformed himself into a log of wood.
The boy cried to his beasts, "you must eat up all this wood for me, and leave for my share, only its heart and its liver."
They made no difficulty about it, so the boy, seizing the heart and the liver, returned home, to the great astonishment and vexation of his sister.
The boy made a wooden spit, and thrusting the liver and the heart on it, bade his sister prepare this food. When it was cooked he seized the spit, and striking his sister with it said, "this is because you set the giant free, and consented to my death,--do you see?"
"I see as if I were looking through a sieve!"
Striking her again, he said, "can you see now?"
"I see as through a mist."
Placing over her head nine casks, one above the other, and covering her completely with them, he said, "you will see clear when you have filled these nine casks with your tears;" and so he went on his way and left her to die.