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Story No. 115

The Old Soldier

Book Name:

Gypsy Folk Tales

Tradition: Gypsy, Roumania, Bukovina, Ukraine

There was a very old soldier; he was twelve years in military service. Then the colonel asked him, 'My good man, what do you want for having served me so many years here? Whatever you want I will give you, for you have served me well so many years. I will give you a beautiful white horse, and I will give you three big tobacco-pipes, so that you'll smoke like a gentleman. I will give you three rolls for your journey. The whole company never served as well as you have served me. I left everything to you; you have performed every sentry.'

'If I went home on furlough, I should weep bitterly. How can I leave you, my good comrades? Now I go home, shall never see you more; I have none but my God and good comrades. I was a good soldier, the sergeant over the entire company. The major has given me a beautiful white horse to go home on. O God, I am going; but I have not much money, only a little.'

When he had come into great forests, there came a beggar and begs of the soldier. He said to him, did the soldier, 'O God! what can I give you? I am, you see, a poor soldier, and I have far to go, yet my heart is not heavy. But, wait a bit, O beggar, I will give you a roll.' Then he bade him farewell.

Afterwards the same beggar came again to the soldier, and begs of him, 'O my soldier, give me something, make me a present.'

'How can I make you a present, seeing I have given already to four beggars? But wait, here I'll give you these couple of kreutzers, to get a drink of brandy with.'

Well, he went further. Again a third beggar met him; again .he begs of him. 'My God!' he said to him, 'I am a poor soldier; I have no one but God and myself. I shall have no money; I shall have nothing for myself; I'm giving you everything. My God! what am I to do? I'm an old soldier, a poor man; and, being so poor, where shall I now get anything? I gave you everything – bread, money, and my white horse. Now I must tramp on alone on my old legs. No one ever will know that I was a soldier. But my Golden God be with you, farewell.'

Then the beggar said to the soldier, 'Old soldier, I permit you to ask whatever you will. For I am God.'

The soldier answered, 'I want nothing but a stick that when I say "Beat" will beat every one and fear nobody.'

God gave it him. 'Tell me now what do you want besides.'

'Give me further a sack that if I say to a man "Get in" he must forthwith get into it.'

'Good, but you still may ask for a third gift. Only think well, so that God in your old days may succour you.'

'I want nothing but a sack that will let fall money when shaken.'

God gave him that too, and went off. The old soldier goes further, comes to a city, comes into an inn. There were many country-folk and other people of all sorts. He sits down to table, and orders victuals and drink. Straight-way the gentleman brought him something to eat. When he had eaten and drunk, he asks him to pay. He takes the sack, shakes it; golden pieces come tumbling out. He paid them all to the gentleman, and went away. The gentleman was right glad that he had given him all that money.

He goes further, came into a vast forest. There were four-and-twenty robbers; they kept an inn there, and sold what one required. He went in, and orders victuals to eat and brandy to drink; forthwith they brought him brandy strong as iron. He drank; he got drunk. 'Now pay.' He takes the sack, and shook out golden pieces, and hands them over. He paid the robbers, 'but he did not know that they were robbers. When he had paid up, they marvel to see him shake a sack like that and the money come falling out. They took him, take the sack, and go into another room. There four of them held him down, whilst two shake the sack; the money came tumbling out to their hearts' desire. They told their chief, seize the soldier, and kill him, and cut him in pieces; then they hung up his body like an ox on a peg. Let us leave them and come to the soldier. When he got to paradise, my Golden God let him be, but not long. 'Do you, Peter, go to that old soldier, and ask him what he wants here.' Good, Peter came. 'What are you wanting?' 'I just want the peace of God.' 'Hah! I'll ask God if he will let you stay here.' Peter went to my God and asks him, 'God, that old soldier is wanting your peace.' 'Go to the devils; tell them all to lay hold of him, tear him in pieces, and put as much wood as possible beneath the pot, so as to roast him thoroughly.' Well, they cooked him to shreds; but after all had to chuck him out, for he knocked them about so that he broke their bones. A second time my God sent Death for him, and him too the old soldier thrashed. But now he is dead and rotten, and we are alive.


This very confused story Professor von Sowa got from a Gypsy lad, A. Facsuna. Another Gypsy, with whom he conversed about Gypsy folk-tales, said that it should be much longer, and told him in Slovak that, Death refusing to repeat his visit, God at last finished the old soldier's existence by sending him so much vermin that he died.


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