Episode Eight - Bluebeard Tales

Bluebeard (France)

By Charles Perrault

Illustration by Henry Clarke

Illustration by Henry Clarke

 

There was once a man who had fine houses, both in town and country, a deal of silver and gold plate, embroidered furniture, and coaches gilded all over with gold. But this man was so unlucky as to have a blue beard, which made him so frightfully ugly that all the women and girls ran away from him.

One of his neighbors, a lady of quality, had two daughters who were perfect beauties. He desired of her one of them in marriage, leaving to her choice which of the two she would bestow on him. Neither of them would have him, and they sent him backwards and forwards from one to the other, not being able to bear the thoughts of marrying a man who had a blue beard. Adding to their disgust and aversion was the fact that he already had been married to several wives, and nobody knew what had become of them.

Bluebeard, to engage their affection, took them, with their mother and three or four ladies of their acquaintance, with other young people of the neighborhood, to one of his country houses, where they stayed a whole week.

The time was filled with parties, hunting, fishing, dancing, mirth, and feasting. Nobody went to bed, but all passed the night in rallying and joking with each other. In short, everything succeeded so well that the youngest daughter began to think that the man's beard was not so very blue after all, and that he was a mighty civil gentleman.

As soon as they returned home, the marriage was concluded. About a month afterwards, Bluebeard told his wife that he was obliged to take a country journey for six weeks at least, about affairs of very great consequence. He desired her to divert herself in his absence, to send for her friends and acquaintances, to take them into the country, if she pleased, and to make good cheer wherever she was.

"Here," said he," are the keys to the two great wardrobes, wherein I have my best furniture. These are to my silver and gold plate, which is not everyday in use. These open my strongboxes, which hold my money, both gold and silver; these my caskets of jewels. And this is the master key to all my apartments. But as for this little one here, it is the key to the closet at the end of the great hall on the ground floor. Open them all; go into each and every one of them, except that little closet, which I forbid you, and forbid it in such a manner that, if you happen to open it, you may expect my just anger and resentment."

She promised to observe, very exactly, whatever he had ordered. Then he, after having embraced her, got into his coach and proceeded on his journey.

Her neighbors and good friends did not wait to be sent for by the newly married lady. They were impatient to see all the rich furniture of her house, and had not dared to come while her husband was there, because of his blue beard, which frightened them. They ran through all the rooms, closets, and wardrobes, which were all so fine and rich that they seemed to surpass one another.

After that, they went up into the two great rooms, which contained the best and richest furniture. They could not sufficiently admire the number and beauty of the tapestry, beds, couches, cabinets, stands, tables, and looking glasses, in which you might see yourself from head to foot; some of them were framed with glass, others with silver, plain and gilded, the finest and most magnificent that they had ever seen.

They ceased not to extol and envy the happiness of their friend, who in the meantime in no way diverted herself in looking upon all these rich things, because of the impatience she had to go and open the closet on the ground floor. She was so much pressed by her curiosity that, without considering that it was very uncivil for her to leave her company, she went down a little back staircase, and with such excessive haste that she nearly fell and broke her neck.

Having come to the closet door, she made a stop for some time, thinking about her husband's orders, and considering what unhappiness might attend her if she was disobedient; but the temptation was so strong that she could not overcome it. She then took the little key, and opened it, trembling. At first she could not see anything plainly, because the windows were shut. After some moments she began to perceive that the floor was all covered over with clotted blood, on which lay the bodies of several dead women, ranged against the walls. (These were all the wives whom Bluebeard had married and murdered, one after another.) She thought she should have died for fear, and the key, which she, pulled out of the lock, fell out of her hand.

After having somewhat recovered her surprise, she picked up the key, locked the door, and went upstairs into her chamber to recover; but she could not, so much was she frightened. Having observed that the key to the closet was stained with blood, she tried two or three times to wipe it off; but the blood would not come out; in vain did she wash it, and even rub it with soap and sand. The blood still remained, for the key was magical and she could never make it quite clean; when the blood was gone off from one side, it came again on the other.

Bluebeard returned from his journey the same evening, saying that he had received letters upon the road, informing him that the affair he went about had concluded to his advantage. His wife did all she could to convince him that she was extremely happy about his speedy return.

The next morning he asked her for the keys, which she gave him, but with such a trembling hand that he easily guessed what had happened.

"What!" said he, "is not the key of my closet among the rest?"

"I must," said she, "have left it upstairs upon the table."

"Fail not," said Bluebeard, "to bring it to me at once."

After several goings backwards and forwards, she was forced to bring him the key. Bluebeard, having very attentively considered it, said to his wife, "Why is there blood on the key?"

"I do not know," cried the poor woman, paler than death.

"You do not know!" replied Bluebeard. "I very well know. You went into the closet, did you not? Very well, madam; you shall go back, and take your place among the ladies you saw there."

Upon this she threw herself at her husband's feet, and begged his pardon with all the signs of a true repentance, vowing that she would never more be disobedient. She would have melted a rock, so beautiful and sorrowful was she; but Bluebeard had a heart harder than any rock!

"You must die, madam," said he, "at once."

"Since I must die," answered she (looking upon him with her eyes all bathed in tears), "give me some little time to say my prayers."

"I give you," replied Bluebeard, "half a quarter of an hour, but not one moment more."

When she was alone she called out to her sister, and said to her, "Sister Anne" (for that was her name), "go up, I beg you, to the top of the tower, and look if my brothers are not coming. They promised me that they would come today, and if you see them, give them a sign to make haste."

Her sister Anne went up to the top of the tower, and the poor afflicted wife cried out from time to time, "Anne, sister Anne, do you see anyone coming?"

And sister Anne said, "I see nothing but a cloud of dust in the sun, and the green grass."

In the meanwhile Bluebeard, holding a great saber in his hand, cried out as loud as he could bawl to his wife, "Come down instantly, or I shall come up to you."

"One moment longer, if you please," said his wife; and then she cried out very softly, "Anne, sister Anne, do you see anybody coming?"

And sister Anne answered, "I see nothing but a cloud of dust in the sun, and the green grass."

"Come down quickly," cried Bluebeard, "or I will come up to you."

"I am coming," answered his wife; and then she cried, "Anne, sister Anne, do you not see anyone coming?"

"I see," replied sister Anne, "a great cloud of dust approaching us."

"Are they my brothers?"

"Alas, no my dear sister, I see a flock of sheep."

"Will you not come down?" cried Bluebeard.

"One moment longer," said his wife, and then she cried out, "Anne, sister Anne, do you see nobody coming?"

"I see," said she, "two horsemen, but they are still a great way off."

"God be praised," replied the poor wife joyfully. "They are my brothers. I will make them a sign, as well as I can for them to make haste."

Then Bluebeard bawled out so loud that he made the whole house tremble. The distressed wife came down, and threw herself at his feet, all in tears, with her hair about her shoulders.

"This means nothing," said Bluebeard. "You must die!" Then, taking hold of her hair with one hand, and lifting up the sword with the other, he prepared to strike off her head. The poor lady, turning about to him, and looking at him with dying eyes, desired him to afford her one little moment to recollect herself.

"No, no," said he, "commend yourself to God," and was just ready to strike.

At this very instant there was such a loud knocking at the gate that Bluebeard made a sudden stop. The gate was opened, and two horsemen entered. Drawing their swords, they ran directly to Bluebeard. He knew them to be his wife's brothers, one a dragoon, the other a musketeer; so that he ran away immediately to save himself; but the two brothers pursued and overtook him before he could get to the steps of the porch. Then they ran their swords through his body and left him dead. The poor wife was almost as dead as her husband, and had not strength enough to rise and welcome her brothers.

Bluebeard had no heirs, and so his wife became mistress of all his estate. She made use of one part of it to marry her sister Anne to a young gentleman who had loved her a long while; another part to buy captains' commissions for her brothers, and the rest to marry herself to a very worthy gentleman, who made her forget the ill time she had passed with Bluebeard.

Moral:

Curiosity, in spite of its appeal, often leads to deep regret. To the displeasure of many a maiden, its enjoyment is short lived. Once satisfied, it ceases to exist, and always costs dearly.

Another moral:

Apply logic to this grim story, and you will ascertain that it took place many years ago. No husband of our age would be so terrible as to demand the impossible of his wife, nor would he be such a jealous malcontent. For, whatever the color of her husband's beard, the wife of today will let him know who the master is.

  • Source: Andrew Lang, The Blue Fairy Book, 5th edition (London and New York: Longmans, Green, and Company, 1891), pp. 290-95. First published 1889.

     

  • Lang's source: Charles Perrault, Histoires ou contes du temps passé, avec des moralités: Contes de ma mère l'Oye (Paris, 1697).

     

  • Link to Perrault's tale in the original French: "La Barbe Bleuë," Perrault's Popular Tales, edited from the original editions, with introduction, etc. by Andrew Lang (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1888), pp. 23-29.

Your Hen Is in the Mountain (Norway)

 By Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe

Artwork by Gustave Dore

Artwork by Gustave Dore

 

Once upon a time there was an old widow who lived, with her three daughters, far away from the rest of the world, next to a mountain. She was so poor that her only animal was a single hen, which she prized as the apple of her eye. It was always cackling at her heels, and she was always running to look after it. One day, all at once, the hen was gone. The old woman went out, and walked around and around the cottage, looking and calling for her hen, but it was gone, and could not be found.

So the woman said to her oldest daughter, "You must just go out and see if you can find our hen, for we must have it back, even if we have to fetch it out of the mountain."

The daughter was ready enough to go, so she set off and walked up and down, and looked and called, but she could not find the hen. Suddenly, just as she was about to give up the hunt, she heard someone calling out from a cleft in the rock:

Your hen is in the mountain!
Your hen is in the mountain!

So she went into the cleft to see what it was, but she had barely set foot inside, when she fell through a trapdoor, deep, deep down, into an underground cavern. When she got to the bottom she went through many rooms, each finer than the one before it; but in the innermost room of all, a large ugly troll came to her and asked, "Will you be my sweetheart?"

"No! I will not," she said. She wouldn't have him for any price! All she wanted was to get above ground again as fast as ever she could, and to find her lost hen. Then the troll got so angry that he picked her up, twisted her head off, and then threw both the head and body into the cellar.

While this was going on, her mother sat at home waiting and waiting, but no daughter came. After she had waited a bit longer, and neither heard nor saw anything of her daughter, she told her middle daughter to go out and look for her sister, and, she added, "Give our hen a call at the same time."

So the second sister had to set off, and the very same thing happened to her. She was looking and calling, and suddenly she too heard a voice calling from from the cleft in the rock:

Your hen is in the mountain!
Your hen is in the mountain!

She thought that this was strange, and went to see what it was. She too fell through the trapdoor, deep, deep down, into the cavern. She too went from room to room, and in the innermost one the troll came to her and asked if she would be his sweetheart? No, she would not. All she wanted was to get above ground again, and hunt for her lost hen. The troll got angry, and picked her up, twisted her head off, and threw both head and body into the cellar.

Now, when the old woman had sat and waited seven lengths and seven breadths for her second daughter, and could neither see nor hear anything of her, she said to the youngest, "Now, you must go out and look for your sisters. It was silly to lose the hen, but it would be sillier still to lose both your sisters. Of course, you can give the hen a call at the same time." You see, the old woman's heart was still set on her hen.

Yes, the youngest was ready to go, and she walked up and down, hunting for her sisters and calling the hen, but she could neither see nor hear anything of them. She too came to the cleft in the rock, and heard something say:

Your hen is in the mountain!
Your hen is in the mountain!

She thought that this was strange, so she too went to see what it was, and she too fell through the trapdoor, deep, deep down, into a cavern. When she reached the bottom she went from one room to another, each grander than the one before it; but she wasn't at all afraid, and took time to look carefully about her. As she was peeping into this and that, she saw the trapdoor into the cellar, and looked down it, and what should she see there but her dead sisters. She barely had time to slam to the trapdoor before the troll came to her and asked, "Will you be my sweetheart?"

"With all my heart," answered the girl, for she saw very well how it had gone with her sisters. When the troll heard that, he brought her the finest clothes in the world. Indeed, she had only to ask, and she got whatever she wanted, because the troll was so glad that someone would be his sweetheart.

One day, after she had been there a little while, she was looking very gloomy and downcast, so the troll asked her what was the matter, and why she was so sad.

"Ah!" said the girl, "it's because I can't get home to my mother. I know that she has very little to eat and drink, and she has no one with her."

"Well!" said the troll, "I can't let you go to see her; but just stuff some meat and drink into a sack, and I'll carry it to her."

With many thanks, she said that she would do that. However, she put a lot of gold and silver into the bottom of the sack, then laid a little food on top. She told the ogre the sack was ready, but that he must be sure not to look into it. He gave his word not to look inside, and set off. As the troll walked off, she peeped out at him through a chink in the trapdoor. When he had gone a little way, he said, "This sack is very heavy. I'll just see what is inside." He was about to untie the the sack, when the girl called out to him, "I can still see you! I can still see you!"

"The devil you can!" said the troll; "you must have mighty sharp eyes!" And the troll did not try to look into it again. When he reached the widow's cottage, he threw the sack in through the cottage door, saying, "Here you have meat and drink from your daughter; she doesn't want for anything."

After the girl had been in the mountain a good bit longer, one day a billy goat fell down the trapdoor.

"Who sent for you, you long bearded beast!" said the troll, in an awful rage, and he picked up the goat, twisted his head off, and threw him into the cellar.

"Oh!" said the girl, "why did you do that? I might have had the goat to play with down here."

"Well!" said the troll, "you don't need to be so down in the mouth about it. I can bring the billy goat back to life again."

So saying, he took down a flask that was hanging on the wall, put the billy goat's head on his body again, and smeared it with some ointment from flask, and he was as well and as lively as before.

"Aha!" said the girl to herself; "that flask is worth something -- that it is."

When she had been in the mountain some time longer, on a day when the troll was away, she took her oldest sister, put her head on her shoulders, smeared her with some of the ointment from the flask, just as she had seen the troll do with the billy goat, and in an instant her sister came to life again.

The girl stuffed her into a sack, laid a little food over her, and when the troll came home, she said to him, "Dear friend! Now do go home to my mother with a morsel of food again. I'm certain that the poor thing is both hungry and thirsty, and besides that, she's all alone in the world. But you must not look into the sack."

He said that he would carry the sack, and that he would not look into it. But when he had gone a little way, he thought that the sack was getting very heavy; and when he had gone a bit further he said to himself, "Come what will, I must see what's inside this sack, for however sharp her eyes may be, she can't see me all this way off."

But just as he was about to untie the sack, the girl inside the sack called out, "I can still see you! I can still see you!"

"The devil you can!" said the ogre; "then you must have mighty sharp eyes," for he thought it was the girl inside the mountain who was speaking. So he didn't dare so much as to peep into the sack again, but carried it straight to her mother as fast as he could, and when he got to the cottage door he threw it in through the door, and cried out, "Here you have meat and drink from your daughter; she wants for nothing."

When the girl had been in the mountain a while longer, she did the very same thing with her other sister. She put her head on her shoulders, smeared her with ointment from the flask, brought her to life, and put her into the sack. This time she crammed in also as much gold and silver as the sack would hold, laying just a little food on top.

"Dear friend," she said to the troll, "you really must run home to my mother with a little food again; and don't look into the sack."

Yes, the troll was eager to do as she wished, and he gave his word too that he wouldn't look into the sack; but when he had gone a little way he began to think that the sack was getting very heavy, and when he had gone a bit further, he could scarce stagger along under it, so he set it down, and was just about to untie the string and look into it, when the girl inside the sack cried out, "I can still see you! I can still see you!"

"The devil you can," said the troll, "then you must have mighty sharp eyes."

Well, he did not dare to try to look into the sack, but hurried straight to the girl's mother. When he got to the cottage he threw the sack in through the door, and roared out, "Here you have food from your daughter; she wants for nothing!"

After the girl had been there a good while longer, on a day when the troll had decided to go out for the day, the girl pretended to be sick. She moaned and complained. "There's no need for you to come home before twelve o'clock tonight," she said, "for I won't be able to have supper ready before then. I'm just too sick!"

As soon as the troll was out of the house, she stuffed some of her clothes with straw, and stood this straw girl in the corner by the chimney, with a broom in her hand, so that it looked just as though she herself were standing there. After that she stole off home, and got a marksman to stay in the cottage with her mother.

So when the clock struck twelve, or thereabouts, the troll came home, and the first thing he said to the straw girl was, "Give me something to eat."

But she did not answer him.

"Give me something to eat, I say!" called out the troll, "for I am almost starved."

But she did not have a word for him.

"Give me something to eat!" roared out the ogre the third time. "I think you'd better open your ears and hear what I say, or else I'll wake you up, I will!"

But the girl stood just as still as ever; so he flew into a rage, and gave her such a slap in the face, that the straw flew all about the room. When he saw that he had been tricked, he began to hunt everywhere. When he came to the cellar, and found both the girl's sisters missing, he soon figured out what had happened, and ran off to the cottage, saying, "I'll soon pay her for this!"

But when he reached the cottage, the marksman fired off his piece. The troll did not dare go into the house, for he thought it was thunder [Thor]. So he set off for home again as fast as he could run; but just as he reached the trapdoor, the sun rose and he exploded.

There's a lot of gold and silver down there still, if you only knew where the trapdoor is!

Source: Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe, Popular Tales from the Norse, translated by George Webbe Dasent (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1859), pp. 16-24.

Link to the text in the original Norwegian: Høna tripper i bergetNorske Folkeeventyr

The Little Boy and His Dogs (African American)

by Joel Chandler Harris

Illustration by Arthur Rackham

Illustration by Arthur Rackham

Uncle Remus's little patron seemed to be so shocked at the burning of the woman [in the previous story, "How a Witch Was Caught"] that the old man plunged at once into a curious story about a little boy and his two dogs.

One time there was a woman living alongside the big road, and this woman, she had one little boy. It seems to me that he must have been just about your size. He might have been a little broader in the shoulders and a little longer in the legs, yet, take him up one side and down the other, he was just about your shape and size.

He was a mighty smart little boy, and his mammy set lots by him. It seems like she had never had any luck except with that boy, because there was a time when she had a little gal, and bless your soul, somebody came along and carried the little gal off, and the little boy didn't have a little sister anymore. This made both of them mighty sorry, but it looked like the little boy was the sorriest, because he showed it the most.

Some days he'd take a notion to go and hunt for his little sister, and then he'd go down the big road and climb a big pine tree, and get clear to the top, and look all around to see if he couldn't see his little sister somewhere in the woods. He couldn't see her, but he'd stay up there in the tree and swing in the wind and allow to himself that maybe he might see her by and by.

One day while he was sitting up there, he saw two mighty fine ladies walking down the road. He climbed down out of the tree, he did, and ran and told his mammy. The she up an asked, "How fine are they, honey?"

"Mighty fine, mammy, mighty fine: puffy-out petticoats and long green veils."

"How do they look, honey?"

"Spick-and-span new, mammy."

"They aren't any of our kin, are they, honey?"

"That they aren't, mammy. They are mighty fine ladies."

The fine ladies, they came on down the road, they did, and stopped by the woman's house, and begged to please give them some water. The little boy, he ran and fetched them a gourd full, and they put the gourd under their veils and drank, and drank, and drank just like they were nearly perished for water. The little boy watched them. Soon he hollered out, "Mammy, mammy! What do you reckon? They are lapping the water."

The woman hollered back, "I reckon that's the way quality folks do, honey."

Then the ladies begged for some bread, and the little boy took them a pone. They ate it like they were mighty nigh famished for bread. By and by the little boy hollered out and said, "Mammy, mammy! What do you reckon? They've got great long teeth."

The woman, she hollered back, "I reckon all the quality folks have got them, honey."

Then the ladies asked for some water to wash their hands, and the little boy brought them some. He watched them, and by and by he hollered out, "Mammy, mammy! What do you reckon? They've got hairy hands and arms."

The woman, she hollered back, "I reckon all the quality folks have got them, honey."

Then the ladies begged the woman to please let the little boy show them where the big road forks. But the little boy didn't want to go. He hollered out, "Mammy, folks don't have to be shown where the road forks."

But the woman, she allowed, "I reckon the quality folks do, honey."

The little boy, he began to whimper and cry, because he didn't want to go with the ladies, but the woman said he ought to be ashamed of himself for going on that way in front of the quality folks, and more than that, he might run into his little sister and fetch her home.

Now this here little boy had two mighty bad dogs. One of them was named Minnyminny Morack, and the other one was named Follerlinsko, and they were so bad that they had to be tied in the yard day and night, except when they were a-hunting. So the little boy, he went and got a pan of water and set in down in the middle of the floor, and then he went and got himself a willow limb, and he stuck it in the ground.

Then he allowed, "Mammy, when the water in this here pan turns to blood, then you run out and set loose Minnyminny Morack and Follerlinsko, and when you see that there willow limb a-shaking, you run and sick them on my track."

The woman, she up and said, she'd turn the dogs loose, and then the little boy, he stuck his hands in his pockets and went on down the road a-whistling, just the same as any other little boy, except that he was a lot smarter. He went on down the road, he did, and the fine quality ladies, they came on behind.

The further he went the faster he walked. This made the quality ladies walk fast too, and it wasn't so mighty long before the little boy heard them making a mighty curious fuss, and when he turned around, bless gracious! they were a-panting, because they were so tired and hot. The little boy allowed to himself that it was mighty curious how ladies could pant the same as a wild varmint, but he said he expected that was the way quality ladies do when they get hot and tired, and he made like he couldn't hear them, because he wanted to be nice and polite.

After a while, when the quality ladies thought the little boy wasn't looking at them, he saw one of them drop down on her all fours and trot along just like a varmint, and it wasn't long before the other one dropped down on her all fours. Then the little boy allowed, "Shoo! If that is the way quality ladies rest themselves when they get tired, I reckon a little chap about my size had better be fixing to rest himself."

So he looked around, he did, and he took and picked himself out a great big pine tree by the side of the road, and began to climb it. Then, when they saw that, one of the quality ladies allowed, "My goodness! What in the world are you up to now?"

The little boy, he said, "I'm just a-climbing a tree to rest my bones."

The ladies, they allowed, "Why don't you rest them on the ground?"

The little boy, he said, "Because I want to get up where it is cool and high."

The quality ladies, they took and walked around and around the tree like they were measuring it to see how big it was. By and by, after a while, they said, "Little boy, little boy! You'd better come down from there and show us the way to the forks of the road."

Then the little boy allowed, "Just keep right on, ladies. You'll find the forks of the road. You can't miss them. I'm afraid to come down, because I might fall and hurt one of you all."

The ladies, they said, "You'd better come down before we run and tell your mammy how bad your are."

The little boy allowed, "While you are telling her, please tell her how scared I am."

The quality ladies got mighty mad. They walked around that tree and fairly snorted. They pulled off their bonnets, and their veils, and their dresses, and, lo and behold, the little boy saw that they were two great big panthers. They had great big eyes, and big sharp teeth, and great long tails, and they looked up at the little boy and growled and grinned at him until he mighty nigh had a chill. They tried to climb the tree, but they had trimmed their claws so they could get gloves on, and they couldn't climb any more.

Then one of them sat down in the road and made a curious mark in the sand, and their great long tales turned into axes, and no sooner did the tails turn into axes than they began to cut the tree down. I don't dare tell you how sharp those axes were, because you wouldn't nigh believe me. One of them stood on one side of the tree, and the other one stood on the other side, and they whacked at that tree like they were taking a holiday. They whacked out chips as big as your hat, and it wasn't so mighty long before the tree was ready to fall.

But while the little boy was sitting up there, scared mighty nigh to death, it came into his mind that he had some eggs in his pocket that he had brought with him to eat whenever he got hungry. He took out one of the eggs and broke it, and said, "Place fill up!" And bless your soul, the place sure enough filled up, and the tree looked just exactly like nobody had been a-cutting on it.

But them there panthers, they were very vigorous. They just spit on their hands and cut away. When they got the tree mighty nigh cut down, the little boy, he pulled out another egg and broke it, and said, "Place, fill up!" And by the time he said it, the tree was done made sound again. They kept on this a-way until the little boy began to get scared again. He had broken all his eggs except one, and them there creatures were a-cutting away like they were venomous, which they most surely were.

Just about that time the little boy's mammy happened to stumble over the pan of water that was sitting down on the floor, and there it was, all turned to blood. Then she ran and unloosed Minnyminny Morack and Follerlinsko. Then when she did that she saw the willow limb a-shaking, and then she put the dogs on the little boy's track, and away they went.

The little boy heard them a-coming, and he hollered out, "Come on, my good dogs. Here, dogs, here."

The panthers, they stopped chopping and listened. One asked the other one what she could hear. The little boy said, "You don't hear anything. Go on with your chopping."

The panthers, they chopped some more, and then they thought they heard the dogs a-coming. Then they tried their best to get away, but it wasn't any use. They didn't have time to change their axes back into tails, and because they couldn't run with axes dragging behind them, the dogs caught them.

The little boy, he allowed, "Shake them and bite them. Drag them around and around, until you drag them two miles." So the dogs dragged them around for two miles.

Then the little boy said, "Shake them and tear them. Drag them around and around, until you drag them ten miles." They dragged them ten miles, and by the time they got back, the panthers were cold and stiff.

Then the little boy climbed down out of the tree and sat down to rest himself. By and by, after a while, he allowed to himself that beings he was having so much fun, he believed he'd take his dogs and go way off into the woods to see if he couldn't find his little sister. He called his dogs, he did, and went off into the woods, and they hadn't gone so mighty far before he saw a house in the woods away off by itself.

The dogs, they went up and smelled around, they did, and came back with their bristles up, but the little boy allowed he'd go up there anyhow and see what the dogs were mad about. So he called the dogs and went towards the house, and when he got close up he saw a little gal toting wood and water. She was a might pretty little gal, because she had milk-white skin and great long yellow hair, but her clothes were all in rags, and she was crying because she had to work so hard. Minnyminny Morack and Follerlinsko wagged their tales when they saw the little gal, and the little boy knew by that that she was his sister.

So he went up and asked her what her name was, and she said she didn't know what her name was, because she was so scared she forgot. Then he asked her what in the name of goodness she was crying about, and she said she was crying because she had to work so hard. Then he asked her who the house belonged to, and she allowed it belonged to a great big old black bear, and this old bear made her tote wood and water all the time. She said the water was to go into the big wash-pot, and the wood was to make the pot boil, and the pot was to cook folks that the great big old bear brought home to his children.

The little boy didn't tell the little gal that he was her brother, but he allowed that he was going to stay and eat supper with the big old bear.

The little gal cried and allowed he'd better not, but the little boy said he wasn't afraid to eat supper with a bear. So they went into the house, and when the little boy got in there, he saw that the bear had two great big children, and one of them was squatting on the bed, and the other one was squatting down in the hearth. The children were both named Cubs for short, but the little boy wasn't scared of them, because there were his dogs to do away with them if they so much as rolled an eyeball.

The old bear was a mighty long time coming back, so the little gal, she up and fixed supper anyhow, and the little boy, he scrounged from Cubs first on one side and then on the other, and he and the little gal got as much as they wanted. After supper the little boy told the little gal that he'd take and comb her hair just to while away the time. But the little gal's hair hadn't been combed for so long, and it was in such a tangle, that it made the poor creature cry to hear anybody talking about combing it. Then the little boy allowed he wasn't going to hurt her, and he took and warmed some water in a pan and put it on her hair, and then he combed and curled it, just as nice you ever did see.

When the old bear got home he was mighty taken back when he saw he had company, and when he saw them all sitting down like they had come to stay. But he was mighty polite, and he shook hands all around, and sat down by the fire and dried his boots, and asked about the crops, and allowed that the weather would be monstrous fine if they could get a little season of rain.

Then he took and made a great admiration over the little gal's hair, and he asked the little boy how in the whole world he could curl it and fix it so nice. The little one allowed it was easy enough. Then the old bear said he believed he would like to get his hair curled up that way, and the little boy said, "Fill the big pot with water."

The old bear filled the pot with water. Then the little boy said, "Build a fire under the pot and heat the water hot."

When the water got scalding hot, the little boy said, "All ready now. Stick your head in. It's the only way to make your hair curl."

Then the old bear stuck his head in the water, and that was the last of him, bless gracious! The scalding water curled the hair until it came off, and I suspect that is where they got the idea about putting bear grease on folks's hair. The young bears, they cried like everything when they saw how their daddy had been treated, and they wanted to bite and scratch the little boy and his sister, but those dogs -- Minnyminny Morack and Follerlinsko -- they just laid hold of them there bears, and there wasn't enough left of them to feed a kitten.

"What did they do then?" asked the little boy who had been listening to the story.

The old man took off his spectacles and cleaned the glasses on his coattail. "Well, sir," he went on, "the little boy took and carried his sister home, and his mammy said that she never again would set any store by folks with fine clothes, because they were so deceitful. No, never, so long as the Lord might spare her. And then after that they lived together right straight along, and if it hadn't been for the war, they'd be a-living there now. Because war is a mighty dangerous business."

Source: Joel Chandler Harris, Daddy Jake, the Runaway; and, Short Stories Told After Dark by "Uncle Remus" (New York: The Century Company, 1896), pp. 93-107

The Robber Bridegroom (Germany)

by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Illustration by Helen Stratton

Illustration by Helen Stratton

 

THERE was once on a time a miller, who had a beautiful daughter, and as she was grown up, he wished that she was provided for, and well married. He thought, "If any good suitor comes and asks for her, I will give her to him." Not long afterwards, a suitor came, who appeared to be very rich, and as the miller had no fault to find with him, he promised his daughter to him. The maiden, however, did not like him quite so much as a girl should like the man to whom she is engaged, and had no confidence in him. Whenever she saw, or thought of him, she felt a secret horror. Once he said to her, "Thou art my betrothed, and yet thou hast never once paid me a visit." The maiden replied, "I know not where thy house is." Then said the bridegroom, "My house is out there in the dark forest." She tried to excuse herself and said she could not find the way there. The bridegroom said, "Next Sunday thou must come out there to me; I have already invited the guests, and I will strew ashes in order that thou mayst find thy way through the forest." When Sunday came, and the maiden had to set out on her way, she became very uneasy, she herself knew not exactly why, and to mark her way she filled both her pockets full of peas and lentils. Ashes were strewn at the entrance of the forest, and these she followed, but at every step she threw a couple of peas on the ground. She walked almost the whole day until she reached the middle of the forest, where it was the darkest, and there stood a solitary house, which she did not like, for it looked so dark and dismal. She went inside it, but no one was within, and the most absolute stillness reigned. Suddenly a voice cried, 

"Turn back, turn back, young maiden dear,
'Tis a murderer's house you enter here." 

The maiden looked up, and saw that the voice came from a bird, which was hanging in a cage on the wall. Again it cried, 

"Turn back, turn back, young maiden dear,
'Tis a murderer's house you enter here." 

Then the young maiden went on farther from one room to another, and walked through the whole house, but it was entirely empty and not one human being was to be found. At last she came to the the cellar, and there sat an extremely aged woman, whose head shook constantly. "Can you not tell me," said the maiden, "if my betrothed lives here?"

"Alas, poor child," replied the old woman, "whither hast thou come? Thou art in a murderer's den. Thou thinkest thou art a bride soon to be married, but thou wilt keep thy wedding with death. Look, I have been forced to put a great kettle on there, with water in it, and when they have thee in their power, they will cut thee to pieces without mercy, will cook thee, and eat thee, for they are eaters of human flesh. If I do not have compassion on thee, and save thee, thou art lost.

Thereupon the old woman led her behind a great hogshead where she could not be seen. "Be as still as a mouse," said she, "do not make a sound, or move, or all will be over with thee. At night, when the robbers are asleep, we will escape; I have long waited for an opportunity." Hardly was this done, than the godless crew came home. They dragged with them another young girl. They were drunk, and paid no heed to her screams and lamentations. They gave her wine to drink, three glasses full, one glass of white wine, one glass of red, and a glass of yellow, and with this her heart burst in twain. Thereupon they tore off her delicate raiment, laid her on a table, cut her beautiful body in pieces and strewed salt thereon. The poor bride behind the cask trembled and shook, for she saw right well what fate the robbers had destined for her. One of them noticed a gold ring on the little finger of the murdered girl, and as it would not come off at once, he took an axe and cut the finger off, but it sprang up in the air, away over the cask and fell straight into the bride's bosom. The robber took a candle and wanted to look for it, but could not find it. Then another of them said, "Hast thou looked behind the great hogshead?" But the old woman cried, "Come and get something to eat, and leave off looking till the morning, the finger won't run away from you."

Then the robbers said, "The old woman is right," and gave up their search, and sat down to eat, and the old woman poured a sleeping-draught in their wine, so that they soon lay down in the cellar, and slept and snored. When the bride heard that, she came out from behind the hogshead, and had to step over the sleepers, for they lay in rows on the ground, and great was her terror lest she should waken one of them. But God helped her, and she got safely over. The old woman went up with her, opened the doors, and they hurried out of the murderers' den with all the speed in their power. The wind had blown away the strewn ashes, but the peas and lentils had sprouted and grown up, and showed them the way in the moonlight. They walked the whole night, until in the morning they arrived at the mill, and then the maiden told her father everything exactly as it had happened.

When the day came when the wedding was to be celebrated, the bridegroom appeared, and the Miller had invited all his relations and friends. As they sat at table, each was bidden to relate something. The bride sat still, and said nothing. Then said the bridegroom to the bride, "Come, my darling, dost thou know nothing? Relate something to us like the rest." She replied, "Then I will relate a dream. I was walking alone through a wood, and at last I came to a house, in which no living soul was, but on the wall there was a bird in a cage which cried,

"Turn back, turn back, young maiden dear,
'Tis a murderer's house you enter here."

And this it cried once more. 'My darling, I only dreamt this. Then I went through all the rooms, and they were all empty, and there was something so horrible about them! At last I went down into the cellar, and there sat a very very old woman, whose head shook; I asked her, 'Does my bridegroom live in this house? She answered, 'Alas poor child, thou hast got into a murderer's den, thy bridegroom does live here, but he will hew thee in pieces, and kill thee, and then he will cook thee, and eat thee.' My darling, I only dreamt this. But the old woman hid me behind a great hogshead, and, scarcely was I hidden, when the robbers came home, dragging a maiden with them, to whom they gave three kinds of wine to drink, white, red, and yellow, with which her heart broke in twain. My darling, I only dreamt this. Thereupon they pulled off her pretty clothes, and hewed her fair body in pieces on a table, and sprinkled them with salt. My darling, I only dreamt this. And one of the robbers saw that there was still a ring on her little finger, and as it was hard to draw off, he took an axe and cut it off, but the finger sprang up in the air, and sprang behind the great hogshead, and fell in my bosom. And there is the finger with the ring!" And with these words she drew it forth, and showed it to those present.

The robber, who had during this story become as pale as ashes, leapt up and wanted to escape, but the guests held him fast, and delivered him over to justice. Then he and his whole troop were executed for their infamous deeds.

by The Brothers Grimm

Grimms' Notes

From two stories heard in Lower Hesse: in one, ashes are strewn on the road to mark it instead of peas and lentils. A third and less perfect version comes from the district of the Maine. In this it is a king's daughter, to whom the bridegroom shows the way by means of ribbons which he ties to every tree. While she is hidden behind the barrel, the robbers bring in her grandmother and cut off her finger. Compare Carol. Stahl's story of the Miller's Daughter (see further on). See Meier, No. 63. No. 33 in Pröhle's Märchen für die Jugend. In Danish, see Thiele, 2. pp. 12, 13. In Hungarian, Streit, p. 45 [1].

1: In Boswell's Life of Johnson, with notes by Malone, there is this very similar English story, which is thus alluded to by Benedick in Much Ado about Nothing. "Like the old tale, my lord, it is not so, nor 'twas not so but indeed, God forbid that it should be so." Once upon a time these was a young lady (called Lady Mary in the story) who had two brothers. One summer they all went to a country seat of theirs, which they had not before visited. Among the other gentry in the neighbourhood who came to see them was a Mr. Fox, a bachelor, with whom they, particularly the young lady, were much pleased. He used often to dine with them, and frequently invited Lady Mary to come and see his house. One day when her brothers were absent elsewhere, and she had nothing better to do, she determined to go thither, and accordingly set out unattended. When she arrived at the house and knocked at the door, no one answered. At length she opened it and went in. Over the portal of the hail was written, "Be bold, be bold, but not too bold." She advanced: over the staircase the same inscription. She went up: over the entrance of a gallery, the same. She proceeded: over the door of a chamber she read: "Be bold, be bold, but not too bold, lest that your heart's blood should run cold." She opened it-it was full of skeletons, tubs full of blood, &c. She retreated in haste. Coming down stairs she saw from a window, Mr. Fox advancing towards the house, with a drawn sword in one hand, while with the other he dragged along a young lady by her hair. Lady Mary had just time to slip down and hide herself under the stairs before Mr. Fox and his victim arrived at the foot of them. As he pulled the young lady upstairs she caught hold of one of the banisters with her hand on which was a rich bracelet, Mr. Fox cut it off with his sword: the hand and bracelet fell into Lady Mary's lap, who then contrived to escape unobserved, and got home safe to her brother's house. After a few days Mr. Fox came to dine with them as usual (whether by invitation or of his own accord this deponent saith not). After dinner, when the guests began to amuse each other with extraordinary anecdotes, Lady Mary at length said she would relate to them a remarkable dream she had lately had. "1 dreamt," said she, "that as you, Mr. Fox, had often invited me to your house, I thought I would go there one morning. When I cane to the house I knocked, but no one answered. When I opened the door, over the hall was written 'Be bold, be bold, but not too bold.' But," said she, turning to Mr. Fox and smiling, "It is not so, nor it was not so;" then she pursued the rest of the story, concluding at every turn with "It is not so, nor it was not so," till she came to the room full of dead bodies, when Mr. Fox took up the burden of the tale and said, "It is not so, nor it was not so, and God forbid that it should be so; "which he continued to repeat at every turn of the dreadful story, till she came to the circumstance of his cutting off the young lady's hand, when, upon his saying as usual, "It is not so, nor it was not so, and God forbid that it should be so," Lady Mary retorted, "But it is so, and it was so, and here is the hand I have to show," at the same time producing the hand and bracelet from her lap: whereupon the guests drew their swords, and instantly cut Mr. Fox into a thousand pieces.-TR.

Source: Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Household Tales. Margaret Hunt, translator. London: George Bell, 1884.