The Widow’s Son – A Scandinavian Tale, by Katharine Pyle

illustration: corbis.com

Once upon a time there was a poor widow who had only one son, and he was so dear to her that no one could have been dearer. All the same she was obliged to send him out into the world to seek his fortune, for they were so very poor that as long as he stayed at home they were like to starve.

The lad kissed her good-by, and she gave him her blessing, and then off he set, always putting one foot before the other.

He journeyed on a short way and a long way, and then he came to a dark and gloomy wood. He had not gone far into it when he met a tall man as dark and gloomy as the wood itself. The man stopped the lad and said to him, “Are you seeking work or shunning work?”

“I am seeking work,” answered the widow’s son.

“Then come with me, and I will give you enough to do but not too much,” said the man, “and the wages will be according.”

That suited the lad. He was quite willing to work for the tall stranger. They set out and traveled along, and after a while they came to a great dark house set all alone in the midst of the wood. The man showed him in and told him what to do. The lad set to work, and everything the man told him to do he did so well and willingly that his master was much pleased with him. After he had done all the tasks set, his master gave him a good bite of supper and a comfortable bed to sleep in.

The next day it was the same thing over. The master told the lad what to do, and the lad did it willingly and well. So it went on for three days. At the end of that time the man said, “Now I am obliged to go away on a journey. Until I return you may do as you please and be your own master. But there is one part of the house you have never seen, and those are the four cellars down below. Into these you must not go under any consideration. If you so much as open one of the doors, you will suffer for it.”

“Why should I want to go into the cellars?” asked the lad. “The house and the yard are good enough for me.”

“That is well,” answered the master, and then he mounted a great black steed and rode away.

The lad stayed at home and cleaned and polished and ate and drank. “I wonder what can be in those cellars that my master does not want me to see!” thought the lad. “Not that I mean to look, but it does no harm to wonder about it.”

Every hour the lad stayed there in the house alone he grew more curious about the cellars. At last he could bear it no longer. “I’ll just take a wee peep into one of them,” he said. “That can surely do no harm to any one.”

So he opened the cellar door and went down a flight of stone steps into the first cellar. He looked all about him, and there was nothing at all there but a switch made of brier lying on a shelf behind the door. “That is not much for the Master to have made such a fuss about,” said the lad. “I could see as much as that any day without coming into a cellar for it;” and he went upstairs again and shut the door behind him.

The next day the master came home, and the first thing he asked was, “Have you looked into any of the cellars?”

“Why should I do that?” asked the lad. “I have plenty to do upstairs without poking my nose in where it is not wanted.”

“I will just see for myself whether or not you have looked,” said the master.

He opened one of the doors and went down into the first cellar. When he came back his face was as black as thunder.

“You have disobeyed me and have gone into one of the cellars,” said he. “Now you shall suffer for it!” He took up a cudgel and beat the lad until he was black and blue. “It’s lucky for you you went only into the first cellar,” said he. “Otherwise you would not have come off so lightly.”

Then he sat down to supper.

As for the lad he sat and nursed his bruises and wished he had never heard tell of such a thing as a cellar.

Not long after the master said he was going on another journey. “I will be gone two weeks,” said he, “and whatever you do, do not dare to look into any of the other cellars, or you will suffer for it.”

“I have learned my lesson,” said the lad. “You’ll not find me doing such a thing again.”

After that the master mounted his horse and rode away.

After he had gone the lad cleaned and polished and ate and drank, and then he began to wonder what was in the second cellar. “There must be something more than a stick to see,” said he, “or my master would not be so particular about it.” In the end he determined to look at what was in the second cellar, whatever it cost him. He opened the door and went down the stone steps that led to it and looked about, but all he saw was a shelf behind the door, and on it a stone and a water bottle.

“They are not much to see, and I wish I had not come,” said the lad to himself. “I hope my master will not know about it;” and then he went upstairs and shut the door behind him.

Not long afterward his master came home. The first thing he asked was, “Have you been down in any of the cellars again?”

“How can you think such a thing!” cried the lad. “I have no wish for another beating.”

“All the same, I will see for myself,” said the master, and he went down into the second cellar. Then the lad was frightened, you may well believe.

When the Master came back his face was as red as fire. “You have disobeyed me again,” cried he. Then he seized a cudgel and beat the lad till he could hardly stand.

“This should teach you to obey,” said he, “but I fear as long as you live you will not learn.”

Not long after the Master was going away on a third journey, and this time he was to be away for three weeks. “And if you look in the third cellar,” said he, “your life shall pay the forfeit.” After that he rode away into the forest and out of sight.

Well, for two weeks the lad would not look into the third cellar, but at last his curiosity got the better of him. He opened the third door and went down into the third cellar. There in the middle of it was a brazen caldron set deep in the floor and full of something that seethed and bubbled. “I wonder what that is in the caldron,” said the lad to himself, and he stuck his finger in. When he drew it out it was covered all over with gold. The lad scrubbed and scrubbed, but he
could not get the gold off. Then he was terribly frightened. He took a rag and wound it about his finger and hoped his master would not notice it. He shut the door into the cellar and tried to forget about it.

The first thing the Master asked when he came home was, “Have you been down in the third cellar?”

“How can you think it?” asked the lad. “Two drubbings are enough for any one.”

“What is the matter with your finger?” asked the Master.

“Oh, I cut it with the bread-knife.”

The Master snatched the rag off, and there the lad’s finger shone as though it were all of solid gold.

“You have been down in the third cellar,” cried the Master, “and now you must die,”–and his face was as pale as death. He took down a sword from the wall, but the lad fell on his knees and begged and pleaded so piteously for his life that at last the man had to spare him. All the same he gave him such a beating that the lad could not rise from the floor. There he lay and groaned. Then the Master took a flask of ointment from the wall and bathed him all over, and after
that the lad was just as well as ever.

Now the Master stayed at home for a long while, but at last he had to go away on still another journey, and now he was to be gone a whole month. “And if you dare to look in the fourth cellar while I am away, then you shall surely die,” said he. “Do not hope that I will spare you again, for I will not.”

After he had gone the lad resisted his curiosity for three whole weeks. He was dying to look in the fourth cellar and see what was there, but he dared not, for dear life’s sake. But at the end of the third week he was so curious that he could resist no longer. He opened the fourth door and went down the steps into the cellar, and there was a magnificent coal-black horse chained to a manger, and the manger was filled with red-hot coals. At the horse’s tail was a basket of hay.

“That is a cruel thing to do to an animal,” cried the lad, and he loosed the horse from the manger and turned him so he could eat.

Then the black steed spoke to him in a human tone. “You have done a Christian act,” said the horse, “and you shall not suffer for it. If the Troll Master finds you here when he returns he will surely take your life, and that must not be. Look over in yonder corner, and you will find a suit of armor and a sword. Put on the armor and take up the sword in your hand.”

The lad went over to the corner, and there lay the armor and the sword, but when he would have taken them up they were too heavy for him. He could scarce stir them. “Well, there is no help for it,” said the horse. “You will have to bathe in the caldron that is in the third cellar. Only so can you take up the armor and wear it.”

This the lad did not want to do, for he was afraid. “If you do not,” said the horse, “we will both of us lose our lives.”

Then the lad went back to the third cellar and shut his eyes and stepped down into the caldron, and though the waters in it bubbled and seethed they were as cold as ice and as bitter as death. He thought he would have died of cold, but presently he grew quite warm again. He stepped out from the caldron, and he had become the handsomest lad in the world; his skin was red and white, and his eyes shone like stars. He went back to where the horse was, and now he lifted the armor with
ease, he had become so strong. He put it on and buckled the sword about him.

“Now we must be off,” cried the horse. “Take the briar whip and the stone and the jug of water and the flask of ointment. Then mount my back and ride. If the Troll Master finds us here when he returns, it will be short shrift for both of us.”

The lad did as the horse bade him; he took the briar whip and the stone, the jug of water and the flask of ointment, and mounted the black steed’s back; and the steed carried him up the steps and out of the house and fast, fast away through the forest and over the plains beyond.

After a while the black horse said, “I hear a noise behind us. Look and see whether any one is coming.”

The lad turned and looked. “Yes, yes; it is the Master,” said he, “and with him is a whole crowd of people.”

“They are his friends he has brought out against us,” said the steed. “If they catch us it will go ill with us. Throw the thorn whip behind us, but be sure you throw it clear and do not let it touch even the tip of my tail.”

The lad threw the whip behind him, and at once a great forest of thorns grew up where it fell. No one could have forced a way through it. The Master and his friends were obliged to go home and get hatchets and axes and cut a path through.

Meanwhile the black horse had gone a long way. Then he said, “Look behind you, for I hear a noise; is any one coming?”

The youth looked over his shoulder. “Yes, it is the Master,” said he, “and with him are a multitude of people–like a church congregation.”

“Still more of his friends have come to help him catch us,” said the horse. “Throw the stone behind us, but be very sure it does not touch me.”

The lad threw the stone behind him, and at once a great stone mountain rose up where it fell. The Master and his friends could by no means cross over it. They were obliged to go home and get something to bore a way through, and this they did.

But by this time the horse had gone a long, long way. Then he said to the lad, “Look back and see whether you see any one, for I hear a noise behind us.”

The lad looked back. “I see the Master coming,” said he, “and a great multitude with him, so that they are like an army for numbers.”

“Yes, yes,” said the horse. “He has all of his friends with him now. Woe betide us if they catch us. Pour the water from the jug behind us, but be careful that none of it touches me.”

The lad stretched back his arm and poured the water out from the jug, but his haste was such that three drops fell upon the horse’s flanks. Immediately a great lake rose about them, and because of the three drops that had fallen on the horse, the lake was not only behind them but about them, too; the steed had to swim for it.

The Trolls came to the edge of the lake, and as there was no way to cross over they threw themselves down on their stomachs and began to drink it up. They drank and they drank and they drank, until at last they all burst.

But the steed came out from the water and up on dry land. Then he went on until he came to a wood, and here he stopped. “Light down now,” said he to the lad, “and take off your armor and my saddle and bridle and hide them in yon hollow oak tree. Over there, a little beyond, is a castle, and you must go and take service there. But first make yourself a wig of hanging gray mosses and put it on.”

The lad did as the horse told him. He took off the saddle and bridle and the armor and hid them in the tree, and made for himself a moss wig; when he put it upon his head all the beauty went out of his face, and he looked so pale and miserable that no one would have wanted him around.

“If you ever need me,” said the horse, “come here to the wood and take out the bridle and shake it, and at once I will be with you.” Then he galloped away into the wood.

The lad in his moss wig went on until he came to the castle. He went to the kitchen door and knocked, and asked if he might take service there.

The kitchen wench looked at him and made a face as though she had a sour taste in her mouth. “Take off that wig and let me see how you look,” said she. “With that on your head you are so ugly that no one would want you around.”

“I cannot take off my wig,” said the lad, “for that I have been told not to do.”

“Then you may seek service elsewhere, for I cannot bear the look of you,” said the kitchen wench, and she shut the door in his face.

Next the lad went to the gardener and asked if he could help him in the gardens, digging and planting.

The gardener looked and stared. “You are not a beauty,” said he, “but out here in the garden no one will be apt to see you, and I need a helper, so you may stay.”

So the lad became the gardener’s helper and dug and hoed in the garden all day.

Now the King and Queen of that country had one fair daughter, and she was as pretty and as fresh as a rose.

One day the gardener set the lad to spading under the Princess’s window. She looked out, and there she saw him. “Br-r-r! But he is an ugly one,” said she. Nevertheless she couldn’t keep her eyes off him.

After a while the lad grew hot with his work. He looked about him, and he saw nobody, so he whipped off his wig to wipe his forehead, and then he was as handsome a lad as ever was seen, so that the Princess’s heart turned right over at the sight of him. Then he put on his wig and became ugly again, and went on spading, but now the Princess knew what he was really like.

The next day there was the lad at work under her window again, but as he had his wig on he was just as ugly as before. Then the Princess said to her maid, “Go down there where the gardener’s lad is working and creep up behind him and twitch his wig off.”

The maid went down to the garden and crept up back of the lad and gave the wig a twitch, but he was too clever for her. He heard her coming, and he held the wig tight down over his ears. All the same the Princess had once seen what he was like without it, and she made up her mind that if she could not have the gardener’s lad for a husband she would never marry any one.

Now after this there was a great war and disturbance in the land. The King’s enemies had risen up against him and had come to take away his land from him. But the King with his courtiers and his armed men rode out to meet them and turn them back. The lad would have liked to ride with them and strike a blow for the King, but the gardener would not hear of it. Nevertheless the day the King and his army were ready to set out the lad stole away to the stables and begged the stablemen to give him a mount.

It seemed to the men that that would be a merry thing to do. He was such a scarecrow they gave him a scarecrow horse. It was old and blind of one eye and limped on three legs, dragging the fourth behind it. The lad mounted and rode forth with all the rest, and when the courtiers saw him they laughed and laughed until their sides ached.

They had not gone far before they had to cross a swamp, and midway through it the nag stuck fast. There sat the lad, beating it and shouting, “Hie! Hie! Now will you go? Hie! Hie! Now will you go?” Every one went riding by, and as they passed him they pointed and laughed and jeered.

After they had all gone the lad slipped from the nag’s back and ran off to the wood. He snatched off his wig and took his armor from the hollow tree and shook the bridle. At once the black steed came galloping up. The lad mounted him and rode off after the others. His armor shone in the sun, and so handsome was he, and so noble his air that any one would have taken him for a prince at least.

When he reached the battle ground he found the King sore pressed, but he rode so fiercely against the enemy that they were obliged to fall back, and the King’s own forces won the day. Then the lad rode away so quickly that no one knew what had become of him. The King was sorry, for he wished to thank the brave hero who had fought for him.

But the lad rode back to the wood and hid his armor in a tree and turned the black steed loose. Then he put on his wig and ran back and mounted the sorry nag that was still stuck in the swamp where he had left it.

When the King and his courtiers came riding back there sat the lad in rags and a gray moss wig, and he was beating his horse and shouting, “Hie! Hie! Now will you go?”

Then the courtiers laughed more than ever, and one of them threw a clod at him.

The next day the King again rode forth to war with all his train. There was the lad still seated on the nag in the swamp. “What a fool he is,” they cried. “He must have been sitting there all night.” Then they rode on and left him.

But the lad ran with haste to the wood and took his armor from the tree and put it on. He shook the bridle, and the black steed came galloping up to him. The lad mounted and rode away to the battle field. The King’s forces were falling back, but the lad attacked the enemy so fiercely that they were put to rout. Every one wondered who the hero could be, but as soon as the battle was won he rode away so swiftly that no one had a chance to question him and no one knew what had become of him. “If I could but find him,” said the King, “I would honor him as I have never honored any one, for such a hero never was seen before.”

But the lad hastened back to the wood; he laid aside his armor and turned the black steed loose. Then he put on his wig again and ran back to the swamp and mounted the sorry nag.

When the King’s forces came riding home, there sat the gardener’s ugly lad, whipping his sorry nag and crying “Hie! Hie! Now will you go?”

The courtiers looked upon him with scorn. “Why does he not go home and get to work?” they cried. “Such a scarecrow is an insult to all who see him.” One of the courtiers, more ill-natured than the rest, shot an arrow at him, and it pierced his leg so the blood flowed. The lad cried out so that it was pitiful to hear him. The King felt sorry for him, ugly though he was, and drew out his own royal handkerchief and threw it to him.

“There, Sirrah! Take that and bind up thy wound!” he cried.

The lad took the handkerchief and bound it about his leg, and so the bleeding was stopped.

The next day, when the courtiers rode by, there sat the lad still upon his broken-down nag, shouting to it as if to urge it forward, and his leg was tied up with the bloody kerchief, and the King’s own initials were on the kerchief in letters of gold.

The courtiers did not dare to jeer at him this time, because the King had been kind to him, but they turned their faces aside so as not to see him.

As soon as they had gone the lad sprang down and ran to the wood and put on his armor and shook the bridle for the black steed, but he was in such haste, that he forgot the kerchief that he had used to bind up his wound, and so, when he rode out upon the battle field, he had it still tied about his leg.

That day the lad fought more fiercely than ever before, and it was well he did, for otherwise the King’s forces would certainly have been defeated. Already they were in retreat when the lad rode forth upon the field. But at sight of him they took heart again, and he led them on and did not stop or stay till he came to where the enemy’s leader was, and with one blow of his sword cut off his head.

Then all the enemy’s forces fled back, and the King’s men pursued after them and cut many of them to pieces, and the rest were glad to get safely back into their own country.

After that the lad would have ridden away as before, but this the King would not allow. He called to him and rode up to where he was, and when he saw the bloody kerchief tied about the stranger’s leg he knew he must be the very one he had left sitting on the old nag in the swamp awhile back.

This the lad could not deny, and when the King questioned him he told him everything.

Then the King said, “Though you are only a gardener’s lad still you are a mighty hero, and the hand of the Princess shall be yours. You shall marry her, and after I die you shall rule over the kingdom in my stead.”

You may guess the lad did not say no to that, for he had seen the Princess sitting at her window, and just from looking at her there he loved her with all his heart.

So the King and the courtiers rode home with the lad in their midst, and when the Princess heard she was to marry him she was filled with joy, for she recognized him at once as the gardener’s boy who had worked beneath her window.

Then all was joy and happiness. A great feast was prepared, and the lad and the Princess were married with the greatest magnificence. But first the lad rubbed his leg with the ointment and then it became quite well again; for it would never have done for him to go limping to his own wedding.

Now as soon as he was married he went out to the stable to tell it to the black steed. He found the horse sad and sorrowful. It stood drooping and would not raise its head or speak when he entered the stall.

The lad was troubled at this. “What ails you, my steed, that you stand there so sorrowful when all around rejoice?” asked he.

“I am sick at heart,” answered the steed, “and you alone can cure me of my sickness.”

“How is that?” asked the lad.

“Promise to do whatsoever I ask of you, and I will tell you.”

“I promise,” replied the lad, “for there is nothing I would not do for you.”

“Then take your sword and cut off my head,” said the steed.

When the lad heard this he was horrified. “What is this you ask of me?” he cried. “All that I have I owe to you, and shall I in return do you such an injury?”

But the black horse reminded him that he had promised. “If you do not do as I ask you,” said he, “then I shall know that you are a coward who dares not keep his word.”

The youth could not refuse after that. He was obliged to do as the horse bade him, but the tears dimmed his eyes so that he could scarcely see. He drew his sword and cut off the horse’s head. At once, instead of a coal-black steed, a handsome young Prince stood before him. The lad could scarce believe his eyes. He stared about him, wondering what had become of the horse.

“There is no need to look for the black steed,” said the princely stranger, “for I am he.” He then told the lad that he was the son of the King of a neighboring country. An enemy had risen up and slain the King and had given the Prince to the black master who had turned him into a horse and taken him away to his castle. “You have rescued me from the enchantment, and now I am free to claim my land again,” said the Prince. He then told the lad that the enemy King whom he had lately slain in battle was the very one who had taken his kingdom from him.

Then the Prince went back with the lad to the palace, and was introduced to the King and the Princess and all the court.

After that the lad and his bride and the Prince rode forth with a great retinue into the Prince’s own country, and his people received him with joy, and he and the lad lived in the greatest love and friendship forever after.

Jean Malin and the Bull-man – A Louisiana Tale, by Katharine Pyle

There was once a little boy who was all alone in the world; he had no father or mother, and no home; and no one to care for him. That made him very sad.

One day he sat by the roadside, and he was so sad that he began to weep. Presently a fine coach came rolling along, and in it sat a beautiful, grand lady. She leaned back against the cushions and looked about, first on this side and then on that, and enjoyed herself.

When she saw the little boy she made the coachman stop.

“Come here, little boy,” she called in a gentle voice.

The child lifted his head, and then he rose and came over to her.

“What is your name?” asked the lady.

“Jean Malin,” the child answered.

“Why are you weeping, Jean? Has some one been unkind to you?”

“No; I am weeping because I have no one to be either unkind or kind to me. I am all alone in the world, and I have no home.”

When the lady heard that she felt very sorry for him. “Come; sit here in the coach beside me,” she said, “and I will take you home with me. My home shall be your home, and I will keep you with me always if you are a good boy and do as I tell you.”

Jean Malin climbed into the coach, and the lady took him home with her. She talked to him and questioned him on the way, and she soon found that he was a clever boy and very polite in his manners.

When they arrived at the lady’s house she gave him a pretty little suit of clothes and bade him wash and dress himself, and then he came in and waited on her at supper.

After that he lived there, and the lady became very fond of him. As for Jean Malin, he soon loved his mistress so dearly that if she had been his own mother he could not have loved her better. Everything she said and did seemed to him exactly right.

The lady had a lover who was a great, handsome man with a fine deep voice. This gentleman often came to the house to take meals with the lady, and he always spoke to Jean Malin very pleasantly; but Jean could not abide him. He used to run and hide whenever this man came to the house. The lady scolded him for it, but he could not help it.

The gentleman’s name was Mr. Bulbul.

“I do not know what is the matter with you,” said the lady to Jean Malin. “Why is it you do not like Mr. Bulbul? He is very kind to you.”

“I do not know, but I wish I might never see him again,” answered Jean.

“That is very wrong of you. Perhaps sometime I may marry Mr. Bulbul. Then he will be your master. What will you do then?”

“Perhaps I will run away.”

That angered the lady. “And perhaps I will send you away if you do not behave better and learn to like him.”

Now not far from the lady’s house there was a pasture, and in this pasture there was a bull,–a fine, handsome animal. Jean Malin often saw it there.

After a while Jean began to notice a curious thing. Whenever Mr. Bulbul came to the house, which was almost every day, the bull disappeared from the pasture, and whenever the bull was in the pasture there was nothing to be seen of the gentleman.

“That is a curious thing,” said Jean to himself. “I will watch and find out what this means. I am sure something is wrong.”

So one day Jean went out and hid himself behind some rocks at the edge of the pasture. The bull was grazing with his head down and did not see him. After a while the bull raised his head and looked all about him to see if there were any one around. He did not see Jean, because the little boy was behind the rocks, so the animal thought itself alone. Then it dropped on its knees and cried, “Beau Madjam, fat Madjam, djam, djam, djara, djara!”

At once the bull became a man, and the man was the very Mr. Bulbul who came to visit Jean’s mistress.

The boy was so frightened he shivered all over as though he were cold.

Mr. Bulbul walked away in the direction of the lady’s house, and after he had gone Jean Malin ran home by another way. He crept into the house and heard the lady calling to him, but he would not go to her or show himself. She did not know what had become of him.

The next day Mr. Bulbul came again to the lady’s house. He came very early for he was to have breakfast with her. The lady called Jean Malin to come and wait on them. He did not want to come, but he was obliged to. He was so frightened that he darted about the room, first on one side and then on the other, and did not understand what was said to him. When the lady asked for water he gave her the toast rack, and when she asked for toast he brought her a towel. It really was very provoking.

After Mr. Bulbul had gone the lady called Jean Malin to her. “I am very angry,” said she. “You have acted very stupidly this morning. If you cannot do better and behave in a sensible manner, I will have to send you away.”

When she said this Jean Malin felt very much hurt. He could hardly refrain from weeping.

“Mistress, I will tell you why I acted so. I was afraid, and if you knew what I know, you would be afraid, too, and you would never let that big man come into your house again.”

“What is it that you know and I do not know?” asked the lady.

But Jean Malin would not tell her.

“Very well,” said his mistress; “if you will not tell me willingly I will have you beaten. I will have you beaten until you do tell, so you had better speak now before they begin.”

Jean Malin began to cry. “I did not want to tell you,” said he, “but if I must I must. Dear Mistress, Mr. Bulbul is not a man at all, but that bull that you sometimes see over in the pasture. He uses magic to make himself look like a man so as to come to see you, and then he goes right out and becomes a bull again and eats grass.”

The lady began to laugh. “You are either crazy or dreaming,” said she. “Or, more likely still, you are telling me an untruth so as to excuse yourself and make trouble between him and me.”

But Jean Malin insisted that what he told her was true. “I have seen it, and I know it,” said he. “Moreover I will prove it to you. I do not know how, but I am sure I can prove it.”

“Very well,” said the lady, “if you prove it I will forgive you and treat you as my own son, but if you do not I will have you beaten and sent out of the house as a mischief maker.”

After that Jean went away by himself and thought and thought. He tried to remember the exact words the bull had said when he turned himself into a man, but he could not be sure about them. So the next day he went out and hid himself behind the rocks again, taking care, as before, that the bull should not see him. The bull’s head was down, and it was eating grass.

Soon, however, it raised its head and looked all about it. Seeing no one, the creature dropped on its knees and bellowed, “Beau Madjam, fat Madjam, djam, djam, djara, djara!” At once the bull became a man and walked away in the direction of the lady’s house.

Jean Malin followed, being careful to keep out of sight, and as he went he kept saying over and over to himself, “Beau Madjam, fat Madjam, djam, djam, djara, djara, Beau Madjam, fat Madjam, djam, djam, djara, djara!” He said it over and over, so that he should not forget any least word of it.

When Jean Malin reached home Mr. Bulbul was in the salon with his mistress; Jean could hear them talking together there; his mistress’s voice very fine and clear and then Mr. Bulbul’s big, deep voice.

Jean Malin took a tray of cakes and wine and carried it into the salon just as though his mistress had ordered him to do so. The lady was surprised to see him coming with the tray, but she said, “That is right, Jean. Offer the cake and wine to Mr. Bulbul.”

Jean Malin went over to Mr. Bulbul, close in front of him, and then he said in a low voice, as though to himself, “Beau Madjam, fat Madjam, djam, djam, djara, djara!”

Such a noise you never heard. The fine Mr. Bulbul bellowed aloud and jumped up, smashing his chair and knocking the tray with all the plates and glasses and everything out of Jean Malin’s hands. The lady shrieked and almost fainted. Then, right there before her, Mr. Bulbul’s head grew long and hairy, horns sprouted from his forehead, his arms turned into legs, and his hands and feet into hoofs, and he became a bull and all his clothes fell off him,–his trousers and coat
and vest and eyeglasses and collar and everything. He galloped across the salon in a fright, his hoofs clattering on the floor, and burst out through the glass door so fast that he carried it away on his horns and back into the pasture with him.

Then the lady knew that everything Jean Malin had told her was true, and she could not thank him enough.

“Now you shall indeed be to me as a son,” said she, “and you shall live here always and never leave me.”

Jean Malin was very happy when the lady said that to him. Nevertheless, when he thought of Mr. Bulbul, he could not feel easy in his mind. He was sure the bull would try to revenge itself on him in some way or other. He kept away from the pasture, and wherever he went he was always looking around to see whether the bull were anywhere in sight.

At last he grew so afraid that he determined to go and talk to a black man he knew who dealt in magic. He found the man sitting at the door of his hut, making magic with a horsehair and a snakeskin, and some ground-up glass. Jean Malin, told him everything that had happened, about the bull, and how it had changed itself into a man and had come
to visit the lady, and about the magic words, and how he had forced the man to turn back into a bull again. “And now,” said he, “I am afraid, for I think he means harm to me.”

“You do well to be afraid,” said the black man. “Bulbul will certainly try to do you harm. He knows much magic, but my magic is stronger than his magic, and I will help you. Get me three owl’s eggs and a cup of black goat’s milk and bring them here.”

Jean Malin went away and got the three owl’s eggs and the cup of black goat’s milk, though they were things not easy to find, and then he brought them to the black man.

The black man took them from him and rolled the owl’s eggs in the milk and made magic over them. Then he gave them back to the boy. “Keep these by you all the time,” said he. “Then if the bull comes after you do thus and so, and this and the other, and you will have no more trouble with him.”

Jean Malin thanked the black man and gave him a piece of silver, and went away with the eggs tied up in his handkerchief.

It was a good thing he had them. He had not gone more than halfway home, and was just coming out from a wood, when he heard a big noise, and the bull burst out of a thicket and came charging down on him.

But quick as a flash Jean Malin put the eggs in his mouth and climbed up a tree, and the eggs were not broken.

The bull galloped up and struck the tree with its horns. “You think you are safe, but I will soon have you down,” it cried.

It dropped down on its knees and muttered magic, but Jean could not hear what it said. Then the bull changed into a man with an ax in his hands and began to chop down the tree. Gip, gop! Gip, gop! The chips flew and the branches trembled.

Jean tried to remember the words that would turn the man back into a bull again, but he was so frightened he could not think of them. What he did remember, though, were the eggs the black man had given him. He took one out of his mouth and dropped it down on the bull-man’s right shoulder, and at once his right arm fell off, and the ax dropped to the ground. This did not trouble the bull-man, however. He caught up the ax in his left hand and chopped away, Gip, gop! Gip, gop! The chips flew faster than ever.

Then Jean Malin dropped the second egg down on the man’s left shoulder, and his left arm fell off. Now he had no arms, but he caught up the ax in his mouth and went on chopping, Gip, gop! Gip, gop! The whole tree shook and trembled.

Then Jean Malin dropped the third and last egg down on the man’s head, and at once his head fell off.

That ended the man’s magic; he could do nothing more, and had to turn into a bull again. He bellowed like anything, but he could not help it, for the black man’s magic was stronger than his magic. Away he galloped, with his tail in the air, and that was the last Jean Malin ever saw of him. What became of him nobody ever knew, but he must have gone far, far away.

But Jean Malin climbed down from the tree and went on home, and after that he lived very happily in the lady’s house and was like a son to her, just as she had promised him.

The Meester Stoorworm – A Story from Scotland, by Katharine Pyle

There was once a lad, and what his real name was nobody remembered, unless it was the mother who bore him; but what every one called him was Ashipattle. They called him that because he sat among the ashes to warm his toes.

He had six older brothers, and they did not think much of him. All the tasks they scorned to do themselves they put upon Ashipattle. He gathered the sticks for the fire, he swept the floor, he cleaned the byre, he ran the errands, and all he got for his pains were kicks and cuffs and mocking words. Still he was a merry fellow, and as far as words went he gave his brothers as good as they sent.

Ashipattle had one sister, and she was very good and kind to him. In return for her kindness he told her long stories of trolls and giants and heroes and brave deeds, and as long as he would tell she would sit and listen. But his brothers could not stand his stories, and used to throw clods at him to make him be quiet. They were angry because Ashipattle was always the hero of his own stories, and in his tales there was nothing he dared not do.

Now while Ashipattle was still a lad, but a tall, stout one, a great misfortune fell upon the kingdom, for a Stoorworm rose up out of the sea; and of all Stoorworms it was the greatest and the worst. For this reason it was called the Meester Stoorworm. Its length stretched half around the world, its one eye was as red as fire, and its breath was so poisonous that whatever it breathed upon was withered.

There was great fear and lamentation throughout the land because of the worm, for every day it drew nearer to the shore, and every day the danger from it grew greater. When it was first discovered it was so far away that its back was no more than a low, long, black line upon the horizon, but soon it was near enough for them to see the horns upon its back, and its scales, and its one fierce eye, and its nostrils that breathed out and in.

In their fear the people cried upon the King to save them from the monster, but the King had no power to save them more than any other man. His sword, Snickersnapper, was the brightest and sharpest and most wonderful sword in all the world, but it would need a longer sword than Snickersnapper to pierce through that great body to the monster’s heart. The King summoned his councillors,–all the wisest men in the kingdom,–and they consulted and talked together, but none of them could think of any plan to beat or drive the Stoorworm off, so powerful it was.

Now there was in that country a sorcerer, and the King had no love for him. Still, when all the wisemen and councillors could think of no plan for destroying the Stoorworm, the King said, “Let us send for this sorcerer, and have him brought before us, and hear what he has to say; for ‘twould seem there is no help in any of us for this evil that has come upon us.”

So the sorcerer was brought, and he stood up in the council and looked from one to another. Last of all he looked at the King, and there his eyes rested.

“There is one way, and only one,” said he, “by which the land can be saved from destruction. Let the King’s only daughter, the Princess Gemlovely, be given to the Stoorworm as a sacrifice, and he will be satisfied and quit us.”

No sooner had the sorcerer said this than a great tumult arose in the council. The councillors were filled with horror, and cried aloud that the sorcerer should be torn to pieces for speaking such words.

But the King arose and bade them be silent,–and he was as white as death.

“Is this the only way to save my people?” he asked.

“It is the only way I know of,” answered the sorcerer.

The King stood still and white for a time. “Then,” said he, “if it is the only way, so let it be. But first let it be proclaimed, far and wide throughout my kingdom, that there is an heroic deed to be done. Whosoever will do battle with the Stoorworm and slay it, or drive it off, shall have the Princess Gemlovely for a bride, and the half of my kingdom, and my sword Snickersnapper for his own; and after my death he shall rule as king over all the realm.”

Then the King dismissed the Council, and they went away in silence, with dark and heavy looks.

A proclamation was sent out as the King commanded, saying that whoever could kill the Stoorworm or drive it away should have the Princess, and the half of the kingdom as a reward, and the King’s sword, and after the King’s death should reign over the whole realm.

When this news went out many a man wished he might win these three prizes for himself, for what better was there to be desired than a beauteous wife, a kingdom to reign over, and the most famous sword in all the world. But fine as were the prizes, only six-and-thirty bold hearts came to offer themselves for the task, so great was the fear of the Stoorworm. Of this number the first twelve who looked at the Stoorworm fell ill at sight of him and had to be carried home. The next twelve did not stay to be carried, but ran home on their own legs and shut themselves up in strong fortresses; and the last twelve stayed at the King’s palace with their hearts in their stomachs, and their wrists too weak with fear to strike a blow, even to win a kingdom.

So there was nothing left but for the Princess to be offered up to the Stoorworm, for it was better that one should be lost, even though that one were the Princess, than that the whole country should be destroyed.

Then there was great grief and lamenting throughout the land, for the Princess Gemlovely was so kind and gentle that she was beloved by all, both high and low. Only Ashipattle heard it all unmoved. He said nothing, but sat by the fire and thought and thought, and what his thoughts were he told to nobody.

The day was set when the Princess was to be offered up to the Stoorworm, and the night before there was a great feast at the palace, but a sad feast it was. Little was eaten and less was said. The King sat with his back to the light and bit his fingers, and no one dared to speak to him.

In the poorer houses there was a great stir and bustle and laying out of coats and dresses, for many were planning to go to the seashore to see the Princess offered up to the Stoorworm,–though a gruesome sight ‘twould be to see. Ashipattle’s father and brothers were planning to go with the rest, but his mother and sister wept, and said they would
not see it for anything in the world.

Now Ashipattle’s father had a horse named Feetgong, and he was not much to look at. Nevertheless the farmer treasured him, and it was not often he would let any one use him but himself. When the farmer rode Feetgong he could make him go like the wind,–none faster,–and that without beating him, either. Then when the farmer wished him to stop Feetgong would stand as still as though he were frozen to the ground; no one could make him budge. But if any one other than the farmer rode him, then it was quite different. Feetgong would jog along, and not even a beating would drive him faster, and then if one wanted him to stop that was as hard to do as it was to start him. Ashipattle was sure there was some secret about this; that his father had a way to make him go that no one knew about; but what that way was he could not find out.

The day before the beauteous Gemlovely was to be sacrificed Ashipattle said to his mother, “Tell me something; how is it that Feetgong will not go for you or my brothers or any one, but when my father mounts him he goes like the wind,–none faster?”

Then his mother answered, “Indeed, I do not know.”

“It seems a strange thing that my father would not tell you that,” said Ashipattle, “and you his own true wife.”

To this his mother answered nothing.

“A strange thing,” said Ashipattle; “and in all the years you’ve lived together not a thing have you kept back from him, whether he wished it or no. But even a good husband always holds back some secret from his wife.”

Still his mother spoke never a word, but Ashipattle could see that she was thinking.

That night Ashipattle lay awake long after the others were asleep. He heard his father snoring and his brothers, too, but it seemed his mother could not sleep. She turned and twisted and sighed aloud, until at last she awakened her husband.

“What ails you,” he asked, “that you turn and twist in bed and sigh so loud that a body scarce can sleep.”

“It’s no wonder I sigh and cannot sleep,” answered his wife. “I have been thinking and turning things over in my mind, and I can see very plainly that you do not love me as a good husband should love his wife.”

“How can you say that?” asked her husband. “Have I not treated you well in all these years? Have I not shown my love in every way?”

“Yes, but you do not trust me,” said his wife. “You do not tell me what is in your heart.”

“What have I not told you?”

“You have never told me about Feetgong; you have never told me why it is that he goes like the wind whenever you mount him, and when any one else rides him he is so slow there is no getting anywhere with him.” Then she began to sob as if her heart would break. “You do not trust me,” said she.

“Wait, wait!” cried the Goodman. “That is a secret I had never thought to tell any one, but since you have set your heart on knowing–listen! Only you must promise not to tell a living soul what I tell you now.”

His wife promised.

“Then this is it,” said her husband. “When I want Feetgong to go moderately fast I slap him on the right shoulder; when I want him to stop I slap him on the left shoulder, and when I want him to go like the wind I blow upon the dried windpipe of a goose that I always carry in the right-hand pocket of my coat.”

“Now indeed I know that you love me when you tell me this,” said his wife. And then she went to sleep, for she was satisfied.

Ashipattle waited until near morning, and then he arose and dressed himself. He put on the coat of one brother, and the breeches of another, and the shoes of a third, and so on, for his own clothes were nothing but rags. He felt in the right-hand pocket of his father’s coat, and there, sure enough, he found the dried windpipe of a goose. He took that and he took a pot of burning peat, and covered it over so it would keep hot; and he took also a big kitchen knife. Then he went out and led Feetgong from the stable. He sprang upon his back and slapped him on the right shoulder, and away they went.

The noise awoke the goodman and he jumped from bed and ran to the window. There was some one riding away on his dear Feetgong. Then he called out at the top of his voice:

“Hie! Hie! Ho!
Feetgong, whoa!”

When Feetgong heard his master calling he stopped and stood stockstill. But Ashipattle whipped out the dried windpipe of the goose and blew upon it, and away went Feetgong like the wind; none could go faster. No one could overtake them.

After a while, and not so long either, they came to the seashore, and there, a little way out from the shore, lay the King’s own boat with the boatman in it. He was keeping the boat there until day dawned. Then the King and his court would come, bringing the beauteous Gemlovely to offer up to the Stoorworm. They would put her in the boat and set the sails to carry her toward him.

Ashipattle looked out across the water, and he could see the black back of the beast rising out of the sea like a long low mountain.

He lighted down from Feetgong and called across the water to the boatman, “Hello, friend! How fares it with you out there?”

“Bitterly, bitterly!” answered the boatman. “Here I sit and freeze all night, for it is cold on the water, and not a soul except myself but what is safe asleep in a good warm bed.”

“I have a fire here in the pot,” called Ashipattle. “Draw your boat in to shore and come and warm yourself, for I can see even from here that you are almost perished.”

“That I may not do,” answered the man. “The King and his court may come at any time now, and they must find me ready and waiting for them as the commands were.”

Then Ashipattle put his pot down on the shore and stood and thought a bit. Suddenly he dropped on his knees and began to dig in the sand as though he had gone mad. “Gold! Gold!” he shouted.

“What is the matter?” called the boatman. “What have you found?”

“Gold! Gold!” shouted Ashipattle, digging faster than ever.

The boatman thought Ashipattle must certainly have found a treasure in the sand. He made haste to bring the boat to land. He sprang out upon the shore, and pushing Ashipattle aside, he dropped on his knees and began to scoop out the sand. But Ashipattle did not wait to see whether he found anything. He caught up the pot and leaped into the boat, and before the boatman could stop him he pushed off from the shore.

Too late the boatman saw what he was doing. He ran down to the edge of the water and shouted and stormed and cried to Ashipattle to come back, but Ashipattle paid no heed to him. He never even turned his head. He set the sail and steered over toward where the great monster lay, with the waves washing up and breaking into foam against him.

And now the dawn was breaking. It was time for the monster to awake, and down the road from the castle came riding the King and all his court, and the Princess Gemlovely rode among them on a milk-white horse. All the color was gone from her face, and she looked as white as snow.

When the King and all the others reached the shore there stood the boatman, wringing his hands and lamenting, and the boat was gone.

“What is this?” asked the King. “What have you done with my boat, and why are you standing here?”

“Look! Look!” cried the boatman and he pointed out to sea.

The King looked, and then first he saw Ashipattle in the boat, sailing away toward the monster,–for before his eyes had been dim with sorrow, and he had seen naught but what was close before him.

The King looked, and all the court looked with him, and a great cry arose, for they guessed that Ashipattle was sailing out to do battle with the Stoorworm.

As they stood staring the sun shone red and the monster awoke. Slowly, slowly his great jaws opened in a yawn, and as he yawned the water rushed into his mouth like a great flood and on down his throat. Ashipattle’s boat was caught in the swirl and swept forward faster than any sail could carry it. Then slowly the monster closed his mouth and all was still save for the foaming and surging of the waters.

Ashipattle steered his boat close in against the monster’s jaws, and it lay there, rocking in the tide, while he waited for the Stoorworm to yawn again.

Presently slowly, slowly, the great jaws gaped, and the flood rushed in, foaming. Ashipattle’s boat was swept in with the water, and it almost crushed against one of the monster’s teeth, but Ashipattle fended it off, and it was carried on the flood down into the Stoorworm’s throat.

Down and down went the boat with Ashipattle in it and the sound of surging waters filled his ears. It was light there in the monster’s throat, for the roof and the sides of it shone with phosphorescence so that he could see everything.

As he swept on, the roof above him grew lower and lower, and the water grew shallower and shallower; for it drained off into passages that opened off from the throat into the rest of the body.

At last the roof grew so low that the mast of the boat wedged against it. Then Ashipattle stepped over the side of the boat into the water, and it had grown so shallow it was scarce as high as his knees. He took the pot of peat, that was still hot, and the knife, and went a little further until he came to where the beast’s heart was. He could see it beat, beat, beating.

Ashipattle took his knife and dug a hole in the heart, and emptied the hot peat into it. Then he blew and blew on the peat. He blew until his cheeks almost cracked with blowing, and it seemed as though the peat would never burn. But at last it flared up; the oil of the heart trickled down upon it, and the flame burst into a blaze. Higher and higher waxed the fire. All the heart shone red with the light of it.

Then the lad ran back and jumped into the boat and pushed it clear of the roof. And none too soon, for as the fire burned deeper into the heart, the monster felt the burn of it and began to writhe and twist. Then he gave a great cough that sent the waters surging back out of his body and into the sea again in a mighty flood.

Ashipattle’s boat was caught in the rush and swept like a straw up out of the Stoorworm’s throat and into the light of day. The monster spewed him and his boat all the way across the sea and up on the shore, almost at the King’s feet.

The King himself sprang from his steed and ran and helped Ashipattle to his feet. Then every one fled back to a high hill, for the sea was rising in a mighty flood with the beating and tossing of the Stoorworm.

Then began such a sight as never was seen before and perchance will never be seen again. For first the monster flung his tail so high that it seemed as though it would strike the sun from the sky. And next it fell into the sea with such a slap as sent the waves high up the rocks; and now it was his head that flung aloft, and the tongue caught on the point of the crescent moon and hung there, and for a while it looked as though the moon would be pulled from the sky, but it stood firm, and the monster’s tongue tore, so that the head dropped back into the sea with such force that the teeth flew out of its mouth, and these teeth became the Orkney Islands.

Again its head reared high and fell back, and more teeth flew out, and these became the Shetland Islands. The third time his head rose and fell, and teeth flew out; they became the Faroe Islands.

So the monster beat and threshed and struggled, while the King and the Princess and Ashipattle and all the people looked on with fear and wonder at the dreadful sight.

But at last the struggle became weaker, for the heart was almost burned out. Then the Stoorworm curled up and lay still, for it was dead, and its great coils became the place called Iceland.

So was the monster killed, and that was the manner of his death!

But the King turned to Ashipattle and called him son, and took the hand of the Princess Gemlovely and laid it in the lad’s hand, for now she was to be his bride as the King had promised.

Then they all rode back to the palace together, and the King took the sword Snickersnapper and gave it to Ashipattle for him to keep as his own.

A great feast was spread in honor of the slaying of the Stoorworm. All who chose to come were welcome, and all was mirth and rejoicing.

The honest farmer, Ashipattle’s father, and his mother and his sister and his brothers heard of the feast and put on their best clothes and came, but the farmer had no Feetgong to ride. When they entered the great hall and saw Ashipattle sitting there at the King’s right hand in the place of honor, with the Princess Gemlovely beside him, they could hardly believe their eyes, for they had not known he was the hero every one was talking about. But Ashipattle looked at them and nodded, and all was well.

Not long after that Ashipattle and the Princess were married, and a grand wedding it was, I can tell you; and after the old King died Ashipattle became ruler of the whole realm, and he and the Princess lived in mutual love and happiness together the rest of their long lives.