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Story No. 87

The Enchanted City

Book Name:

Gypsy Folk Tales

Tradition: Gypsy, Roumania, Bukovina, Ukraine

There was a poor lad, and he served seven years, and could not earn anything. And he went into the world, and went into a city, and spent the night there, and lay down under a wall, and slept. In that wall there was a hole, and he awoke, and looked through the hole, and saw a candle. And he crept through the hole, and went into a palace. There was a great city, and there was an emperor in the city; and the emperor was dead, and also the empress was dead. And the emperor had a daughter, and she commanded the army. And that city was excommunicated, and the people were turned into stone. So the lad went into the palace of the emperor, and there in the palace all were turned into stone. And he marvelled what this might be, that the men were like men, but yet were all turned into stone.

A cat came, and set food on the table. He sat down to table, and ate. At night came the cat, and brought him food, and brought. him cards, and said to him, 'There will come a lord, and will say, "Play at cards," and do you play; and he will spit on you, and do you bear it, but look at the clock. When it strikes ten, then give him a slap.'

Then there came devils as many as the blades of grass; and they beat him and tormented him till twelve o'clock; and the cocks crowed, and they fled. He lay down in the bed and slept. In the morning the cat brought him food, and he ate. At nightfall she again brought him food, said to him, 'He will come again for you to play with him, and do you play till ten o'clock, and give him a slap; and they will come to you as many as all the blades of grass, and will beat you and torment you, and do you bear it till twelve o'clock.'

The lord came to him. 'Hah! let us play cards.'

And they played till ten o'clock. He gave him, the devil, a slap. They came as many as all the blades of grass, and they beat him and tormented him till twelve o'clock, and they fled. He lay down in the bed and slept. In the morning he heard the folks talking in the city. In the morning the cat brought him food, and brought him royal clothes. He ate, and put on the clothes, and went into twelve chambers. There was the emperor's daughter in her bed. One half was alive, and she said, 'You are my emperor, and I am your empress, but come no more to me.'

Again at night the cat brought him food, and said to him, He will come again to-night to play cards till ten o'clock. At ten o'clock give him a slap again, and they will come to you as many as all the blades of grass, and they will beat you and torment you, but bear it.'

That lord came to him. 'Hah! let us play cards.'

And they played till ten o'clock. He gave him a slap, and they came as many as all the blades of grass, and they beat him and tormented him, and he bore it till twelve o'clock. At twelve o'clock they fled. He lay down on the bed and slept. In the morning the band began to play, they held a review [It should be remembered that Austro-Hungarian Gypsies have all to serve in the army]. 'For we have a new emperor.' The ministers came to him, and raised him shoulder-high. 'We have a new emperor.'

And he is in a hurry to go to his empress, and said, 'Stay here, I will be back immediately.'

And he went to her. There she stood with her head to the roof, and a vapour went forth from her mouth; and he opened the door, and she just made a sign to him with her hand, and fell back on the bed, and became stone up to the waist. And she called him to her. 'Leave me; I want you not. Why did you not wait to come to me, till I should obtain remission of my sins? Take you my father's horse and his sword, and take a purse; as much money as you want, it shall not fail.'

He set out, and journeyed, and departed into another kingdom. There two emperors were fighting, because one would not give his daughter to the other's son. 'Set yourself to battle with me, since you refuse your daughter.' They fought seven years. So he [The text runs, 'So he, the king's son,' etc., but this makes nonsense] came into that city, and came to an inn, to a certain Armenian. And there was a great famine; the soldiers were dying of hunger. So he asked the Armenian, 'What's the news here?'

'No good. They have been waging a great war seven years here for a girl, and the soldiers are dying of hunger.' And he said, 'Go and call them to me.'

The soldiers came, and he bought bread and brandy, and they drank and ate; and he said to the Armenian, 'I, if I choose, I will cut that army to pieces.'

The Armenian went to the emperor. 'Emperor, a king's son is come, and has boasted that he by himself will cut that army to pieces.'

'Call him to me.'

'What is this you've been boasting? will you cut that army to pieces?'

'I will.'

'If you do, I will give you my daughter, and give you one half of my kingdom.'

And he, when he went to battle, waved to the right hand, and slew one half of the army, and he waved to the left hand, and slew the other half. And he came home, and the emperor gave him his daughter, and made a marriage.

'Ask him what strength is his, that he slew so great an army.' [This inquiry as to the secret of the hero's strength should by rights be made, not by the emperor, but by a former lover].

And he said, 'My sword slays.'

And she sent back a letter, 'The sword alone slays; send me another sword, and I will send this one to you.'

She sent him the sword, and he then said, 'Set yourself now to battle with me.'

And he went in hope. But the emperor slew him, and cut him all in pieces, and put him in the saddle-bags, and placed him on his horse, and said, 'Whence thou didst bear him living, bear him dead.' [Cf. supra, pp. 28, (No. 8. 'The Bad Mother') 33, 35. (No. 9. 'The Mother's Chastisement)].

The horse carried him home, thither to that lady who was of stone. She cried, 'Bring him to me.' She laid him on a table, and put him all together; and she sprinkled him with dead water, and he became whole; and she sprinkled him with living water, and he arose [Cf. supra, pp. 28, (No. 8. 'The Bad Mother') pp.33 (No. 9. 'The Mother's Chastisement)].

Go back; take you this purse, you have but to wish and you will find it full of money. And go to that Armenian, and give him whatever he wants, and tell him you will turn yourself into a horse. Take a hair from my tail, [This suggests that the cat and the princess really were one. Cf. footnote on No. 46 'Tale of a Girl who was sold to the Devil, and of her Brother'] and bind it round you like a girdle, and fling a somersault.' [Cf. footnote 2, p. 16: Dá pes pe sherésti, lit. gave, or threw, herself on her head. In Gypsy stories this undignified proceeding almost invariably precedes every transformation. Cf. 'The Red King and the Witch,' 'The Snake who became the King's Son-in-law,' 'Tropsyn,' etc.]

So he turned himself into a horse; and the Armenian took him, and led him into the city. The emperor bought him, and mounted him. He dashed him to the earth, and he died. The horse took the sword in his mouth, and went to the Armenian. The Armenian' loosened the hair, and he became a man again. He made the Armenian king; and he departed home to his mistress, the first one, and wedded her. And he became emperor.


A mere ruin of a folk-tale, but what a fine ruin. The cat reminds one of Grimm's No. 106, 'The Poor Miller's Boy and the Cat' (ii. 78, 406), where the cat takes the hero into an enchanted castle, and gives him to eat and to drink. But Grimm's No. 92, 'The King of the Golden Mountain' (ii. 28, 390), comes much closer to our Gypsy story. There the hero has three nights running to let himself be tortured in a bewitched castle by twelve black men till twelve o'clock, so to set free an enchanted maiden. Grimm's No. 121, 'The King's Son who feared Nothing' (ii. 134, 419), should also be compared, and our Welsh-Gypsy story, 'Ashypelt' (No. 57). The latter half of 'The Enchanted City' is identical with Krauss's No. 47 (i. 224), a Slovenian story. For the magic sword cf. infra, p. 160 (No. 45. 'Tale of a Foolish Brother and of a Wonderful Bush')

; Clouston's notes to Lane's Continuation of Chaucer's 'Squire's Tale' (Chaucer Soc. 1888, pp. 372-381); Wratislaw's Polish story, 'The Spirit of a buried Man,' No. 18, p. 122; and F. A. Steel's Wide-awake Stories, p. 62. Playing cards with the devil or a monster occurs also in our No. 63 (p. 256) ('The Black Lady'), and in folk-tales from Russia, Germany, French Flanders, Lorraine, and Brittany (cf. Ralston, p. 375; Grimm, No. 4, i. 16, 346; and Cosquin, i. 28; ii. 254, 259, 260).


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