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Story No. 108

De Little Bull-calf

Book Name:

Gypsy Folk Tales

Tradition: Gypsy, England

Centers of yeahs ago, when all de most part of de country wur a wilderness place, deah wuz a little boy lived in a pooah bit of a poverty [Poverty= poor, possibly confused with paltry, is very common among English Gypsies] house. An’ dis boy's father guv him a deah little bull-calf. De boy used to tink de wurl’ of dis bull-calf, an’ his father gived him everyting he wanted fur it.

Afterward dat his father died, an’ his mother got married agin; an’ dis wuz a werry wicious stepfather, an’ he couldn't abide dis little boy. An’ at last he said, if de boy bring'd de bull-calf home agin, he wur a-goin’ to kill it. Dis father should be a willint to dis deah little boy, shouldn't he, my Sampson?

He used to gon out tentin’ his bull-calf every day wid barley bread. An’ arter dat deah wus an ole man comed to him, an’ we have a deal of thought who Dat wuz, eh? An’ he d’rected de little boy, 'You an’ youah bull-calf had better go away an’ seek youah forchants.'

So he wents an, an’ wents an, as fur as I can tell you to-morrow night, [Cf. footnote 1, p. 212: Much the same phrase recurs in 'An Old King and his three Sons in England' (No. 55), and in 'Ashypelt' (No. 57). Cf. also Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield, chapter xiii.:--'They now travelled far, and farther than I can tell, till they met with a company of robbers.'] an’ he wents up to a farmhouse an’ begged a crust of bread, an’ when he comed back he broked it in two, and guv half an it to his little bull-calf.

An’ he wents an to another house, an’ begs a bit of cheese crud, an’ when he comed back, he wants to gin half an it to his bull-calf.

'No,' de little bull-calf says, 'I'm a-goin’ acrost dis field into de wild wood wilderness country, where dere’ll be tigers, lepers, wolfs, monkeys, an’ a fiery dragin. An’ I shall kill dem every one excep’ de fiery dragin, an’ he'll kill me.' (De Lord could make any animal speak dose days. You know trees could speak wonst. Our blessed Lord He hid in de eldon bush, an’ it tell’t an Him, an’ He says, 'You shall always stink,' and so it always do. But de ivy let Him hide into it, and He says, It should be green both winter an’ summer.) [Cf. Noah Young's name for elder, mi-duvel's kandlo ruk ('God's stinking tree'); some other Gypsies, including Isaac Herren, call it wuzén. Oliver Lee's name for ivy is ckirikléskro ruk ('bird's tree'), because it was the tree brought back by the dove into the ark, and this is the reason that birds are fond of clustering round it. Holly is mi-duveléskro ruk ('God's tree'; cf. Cornish Aunt Mary's Tree); and Gypsies pitching their tent against a holly-bush are under divine protection. – J. S].

An’ dis little boy did cry, you 'ah shuah; and he says, 'O my little bull-calf, I hope he won't kill you.'

'Yes, he will,' de little bull-calf says. 'An’ you climb up dat tree, an’ den no one can come anigh you but de monkeys, an’ ef dey come de cheese crud will sef you. An’ when I'm killt de dragin will go away fur a bit. An’ you come down dis tree, an’ skin me, an’ get my biggest gut out, an’ blow it up, an’ my gut will kill everyting as you hit wid it, an’ when dat fiery dragin come, you hit it wid my gut, an’ den cut its tongue out.' (We know deah were fiery dragins dose days, like George an’ his dragin in de Bible. But deah! it aren't de same wurl’ now. De wurl’ is tu’n’d ovah sence, like you tu’n’d it ovah wid a spade.)

In course he done as dis bull-calf tell’t him, an’ he climb’t up de tree, an’ de monkeys climb’t up de tree to him. An’ he belt de cheese crud in his hend, an’ he says, 'I'll squeeze youah heart like dis flint stone.'

An’ de monkey cocked his eye, much to say, 'Ef you can squeeze a flint stone an’ mek de juice come outer it, you can squeeze me.' An’ he never spoked, for a monkey's cunning, ['As cunning as a bushel o’ monkeys' is a favourite figure of a Gypsy friend of mine] but down he went.

An’ de little bull-calf wuz fighting all dese wild tings on de groun’; an’ de little boy wuz clappin' his hands up de tree an’ sayin’, 'Go an, my little bull-calf! Well fit, my little bull-calf!' An’ he mastered everyting barrin’ de fiery dragin. An’ de fiery dragin killt de little bull-calf.

An’ he wents an, an’ saw a young lady, a king's darter, staked down by de hair of her head. (Dey wuz werry savage dat time of day kings to deir darters if dey misbehavioured demselfs, an’ she wuz put deah fur de fiery dragin to ’stry her.)

An’ he sat down wid her several hours, an’ she says, 'Now, my deah little boy, my time is come when I'm a-goin’ to be worried, an’ you'll better go.'

An’ he says, 'No,' he says, 'I can master it, an’ I won't go.'

She begged an’ prayed an him as ever she could to get him away, but he wouldn't go. An’ he could heah it comin' far enough, roarin’ an’ doin’. An’ dis dragin come spitting fire, wid a tongue like a gret speart: an’ you could heah it roarin’ fur milts; an’ dis place wheah de king's darter wur staked down wuz his beat wheah he used to come. And when it comed, de little boy hit dis gut about his face tell he wuz dead, but de fiery dragin bited his front finger affer him. Den de little boy cut de fiery dragin’s tongue out, an’ he says to de young lady, 'I've done all dat I can, I mus’ leave you.' An’ you ’ah shuah she wuz sorry when he hed to leave her, an’ she tied a dimant ring into his hair, an’ said good-bye to him.

Now den, bime bye, de ole king comed up to de werry place where his darter wuz staked by de hair of her head, ’mentin’ an’ doin’, an’ espectin’ to see not a bit of his darter, but de prents of de place where she wuz. An’ he wuz disprised, an’ he says to his darter, 'How come you seft?'

'Why, deah wuz a little boy comed heah an’ sef me, daddy.'

Den he untied her, an’ took’d her home to de palast, for you’ah shuah he wor glad, when his temper comed to him agin. Well, he put it into all de papers to want to know who seft dis gal, an’ ef de right man comed he wur to marry her, an’ have his kingdom an’ all his destate. Well, deah wuz gentlemen comed fun all an’ all parts of England, wid deir front fingers cut aff, an’ all an’ all kinds of tongues – foreign tongues, an’ beastès’ tongues, an’ wile animals' tongues. Dey cut all sorts of tongues out, an’ dey went about shootin’ tings a-purpose, but dey never could find a dragin to shoot. Deah wuz genlemen comin' every other day wid tongues an’ dimant rings; but when dey showed deir tongues, it warn’t de right one, an’ dey got turn’t aff.

An’ dis little ragged boy comed up a time or two werry desolated like; an’ she had an eye on him, an’ she looked at dis boy, tell her father got werry angry an’ turn’t dis boy out.

Daddy,' she says, 'I've got a knowledge to dat boy.'

You may say deah wuz all kinds of kings' sons comin’ up showin’ deir parcels; an’ arter a time or two dis boy comed up agin dressed a bit better.

An’ de ole king says, 'I see you've got an eye on dis boy. An’ ef it is to be him, it has to be him.'

All de oder genlemen wuz fit to kill him, an’ dey says, 'Pooh! pooh! tu’n dat boy out; it can't be him.'

But de ole king says, 'Now, my boy, let's see what you got.'

Well, he showed the dimant ring, with her name into it, an’ de fiery dragin's tongue. Dordi! how dese genlemen were mesmerised when he showed his ’thority, and de king tole him, 'You shall have my destate, an’ marry my darter.'

An’ he got married to dis heah gal, an’ got all de ole king's destate. An’ den de stepfather came an’ wanted to own him, but de young king didn't know such a man.


A bull-calf helps twins in a Russian story summarised by Ralston, p.134; the squeezing of the cheese crud can be matched from the Slovak-Gypsy story of 'The Gypsy and the Dragon' (No. 22, p. 84; cf. also Hahn, i. 152 and ii. 211). For the slaying of a dragon with the aid of helpful animals, and so rescuing a princess, and for the recognition of the rescuer by means of the dragon's tongues, cf. Grimm's No. 60, 'The Two Brothers' (i. 244-264 and 418-422). That story must be known to the Gypsies of Hungary, for we get a rude version of it in the latter half of Dr. Friedrich Müller's No. 5, whose first half we have summarised on p. 34 [No. 9. 'The Mother's Chastisement']. The hero here comes to a city deprived of its water by twelve dragons, who are also going to devour the king's daughter. He undertakes to rescue her, but falls asleep with his head on her knees. The twelve white dragons roar beneath the earth, and then emerge one by one from the fountain, but are torn in pieces by the hero's twelve wild animals, whose lives he has spared when hunting. Thereupon the water becomes plentiful, and the hero marries the princess. Her former lover, however, poisons him. The twelve animals find his grave, and dig him up. They go in quest of the healing herb; and the hare, 'whose eyes are always open,' sees a snake with that herb in its mouth, robs it thereof, and is running away, but at the snake's request gives back a bit. They then resuscitate their master, who sends a challenge to the lover by the lion. The marriage is just about to come off, but the princess reads, weeps, and breaks off the match. In comes the hero, and having packed off the lover, remarries her. 'If they are not dead, they are still alive.' Cf. our No. 30, 'The Rich and the Poor Brother,' pp. 112-117, for stopping the water [Cf. also Hahn, Nos. 22, 70, 98, and i. 308]; No. 29, ' Pretty-face,' p. 111, for the snake-leaf; and No. 42, 'The Dragon,' p. 143. None of these stories, however, offers more than analogues to 'De Little Bull-calf,' whose humour as to the dragon's tongue is peculiarly its own. The tongue as the test of who killed the demon occurs in 'Kara and Guja' (A. Campbell's Santal Folk-tales, 1891, pp. 20-21).


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