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Story No. 1033

The Beautiful Damsel and the Wicked Old Woman

Book Name:

Sixty Folk-Tales from Exclusively Slavonic Sources

Tradition: Slavonic, South Russia

In the woods stood a cottage. In it lived a man and his wife, but they had no children. Well, they went on a pilgrimage to beseech God to give them a child. God gave them a daughter. She grew and prospered. The prince about that time rode up to the place, as he was out hunting, and sent his attendant, saying: 'Be so good as to go and ask for a draught of water at yon cottage.' The attendant went to ask for the water just when the child was weeping, and pearls were rolling down from her eyes. Her mother pacified her; she began to smile; all manner of flowers bloomed. The servant went out and said: 'Prince, I have seen a little girl; when she weeps, pearls roll down; and when she smiles, all manner of flowers bloom.' The prince went into the cottage, and began to tease the child to make her cry. She cried, and pearls rolled down. He then begged her mother to pacify her. When she smiled, the prince saw that all manner of flowers bloomed.

The girl continued to grow, and the prince always rode round that way when he went hunting. Well, she grew up. The prince said: 'Old man, give me your daughter to wife.' She now embroidered handkerchiefs with eagles. But the emperor said: 'Where are your wits gone to, my son, that you want to take a peasant girl to wife?' Then the prince took one of the handkerchiefs that she had embroidered, and carried it to the emperor, whereat the emperor clapped his hands. 'Marry,' said he, 'my son, marry!' Then he conducted her homeward, but in his suite was an old woman who had her daughter with her. Well, as they were on their way, the prince stopped to shoot something, and the old woman took everything from the damsel, scooped out her eyes, and thrust her into a cavern in the ground, and dressed her daughter in her apparel; so the prince took her to wife without recognising her.

But round the cavern there grew a multitude of bushes. An old man came to gather brushwood. The girl, the damsel, was sitting in the cavern, and in front of her a heap of pearls, which she had wept as she sat; but she had no eyes. 'Take me,' said she, 'kind old man, and pick up this jewellery here.' Well, the old man took her, collected the jewellery, and led her home. At the old man's there were no children, but there was an old woman. She, the damsel, said: 'Collect the jewellery in a bag, and carry it to the town for sale; and if a certain old woman meets you, then don't sell to her, but say: "Give what you have about you."' Well, he carried it to the town and met the old woman. The old woman said: 'Sell me the jewellery!' 'Purchase.' 'How much for it?' 'Give what you have about you?' She gave him an eye. Then the damsel began with one eye to embroider a handkerchief. Again the old man carried jewellery to the town. The old woman again said: 'Old man, sell me the jewellery!' 'Purchase.' 'How much for it?' 'Give what you have about you?' She gave him the other eye. The damsel then began to embroider still more beautifully. The old man said: 'There's a dinner at the emperor's.' The damsel said to him: 'Go, kind old man, to the dinner and take a jug, that you may beg some soup for me.' She also tied a handkerchief of her own sewing on the old man's neck. When the prince espied the handkerchief on the old man's neck, he cried: 'Whence come you, old man?' 'From the farm yonder, prince; and there is also a damsel living at my house, so be so kind as to give her something in this jug.' 'But, old man, where did you get that handkerchief?' 'I found a damsel in a cavern in the ground, and she embroidered it.' The prince at once recognised it by the embroidery. '’Tis she! ’tis she!' But the old woman's daughter he packed off to tend swine. That's all.


O Krasavitsye i o zloi babye. P. Kulish, Memoirs of Southern Russia,' ii. 10



Here again Mr. Ralston informs us in his preface that he 'has been able to use but little the South Russian collections of Kulish and Rudchenko, there being no complete dictionary available of the dialect, or rather language, in which they are written.' He has, however, given a long and interesting story from the Ukraine, which I find also in Erben, the 'Norka.' One of Erben's South Russian stories is too closely identical with a pretty tale from the government of Voronezh, given by Ralston (p. 63), for me to give it a place here. All the other South Russian stories in Erben's collection I have translated, and only wish they had been more numerous.

The tales of Snake Husbands always appear to have an evil end, though the two that I have translated do not conclude so touchingly as the beautiful Great Russian story, 'The Watersnake' (Ralston, p. 116). Certainly the science of comparative mythology cannot be considered as having its data complete, until Slavonic folklore has been thoroughly investigated and analyzed.

In No. 28 an old friend will be discovered in a very rustic dress.


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