Saturday, October 6, 2012

There was once an old woman who had an only daughter. The lass was good and amiable, and also extremely beautiful, but at the same time so indolent that she would hardly turn her hand to any work. This was a cause of great grief to the mother, who tried all sorts of ways to cure her daughter of so lamentable a failing. But there was no help. The old woman then thought no better plan could be devised than to set her daughter to spin on the roof of their cottage, in order that all the world might be witness of her sloth. But her plan brought her no nearer the mark. The girl continued as useless as before.

One day, as the king's son was going to the chase, he rode by the cottage where the old woman dwelt with her daughter. On seeing the fair spinner on the roof, he stopped and inquired why she sat spinning in such an unusual place.

The old woman answered, "Aye, she sits there to let all the world see how clever she is. She is so clever that she can spin gold out of clay and long straw."

At these words the prince was struck with wonder, for it never occurred to him that the old woman was ironically alluding to her daughter's sloth. He therefore said, "If what you say is true, that the young maiden can spin gold from clay and long straw, she shall no longer sit there, but shall accompany me to my palace and be my consort."

The daughter thereupon descended from the roof and accompanied the prince to the royal residence, where, seated in her maiden-bower, she received a pail full of clay and a bundle of straw, by way of trial, whether she were so skillful as her mother had said.

The poor girl now found herself in a very uncomfortable state, knowing but too well that she could not spin flax, much less gold. So, sitting in her chamber, with her head resting on her hand, she wept bitterly. While she was thus sitting, the door was opened, and in walked a very little old man, who was both ugly and deformed. The old man greeted her in a friendly tone, and asked why she sat so lonely and afflicted.

"I may well be sorrowful," answered the girl. "The king's son has commanded me to spin gold from clay and long straw, and if it be not done before tomorrow's dawn, my life is at stake."

The old man then said, "Fair maiden, weep not, I will help you. Here is a pair of gloves. When you have then on you will be able to spin gold. Tomorrow night I will return, when, if you have not found out my name, you shall accompany me home and be my wife."

In her despair she agreed to the old man's condition, who then went his way. The maiden now sat and span, and by dawn she had already spun up all the clay and straw, which had become the finest gold it was possible to see.

Great was the joy throughout the whole palace, that the king's son had got a bride who was so skillful and, at the same time, so fair. But the young maiden did nothing but weep, and the more the time advanced the more she wept, for she thought of the frightful dwarf who was to come and fetch her. When evening drew nigh, the king's son returned from the chase, and went to converse with his bride. Observing that she appeared sorrowful, he strove to divert her in all sorts of ways, and said he would tell her of a curious adventure, provided only she would be cheerful. The girl entreated him to let her hear it.

Then said the prince, "While rambling about in the forest today I witness an odd sort of thing. I saw a very, very little old man dancing round a juniper bush and singing a singular song."

"What did he sing?" asked the maiden inquisitively, for she felt sure that the prince had met with the dwarf.

"He sang these words, answered the prince,

Today I the malt shall grind,
Tomorrow my wedding shall be.
And the maiden sits in her bower and weeps;
She knows not what I am called.
I am called Titteli Ture.
I am called Titteli Ture.

Was not the maiden now glad? She begged the prince to tell her over and over again what the dwarf had sung. He then repeated the wonderful song, until she had imprinted the old man's name firmly in her memory. She then conversed lovingly with her betrothed, and the prince could not sufficiently praise his young bride's beauty and understanding. But he wondered why she was so overjoyed, being like everyone else, ignorant of the cause of her past sorrow.

When it was night, and the maiden was sitting alone in her chamber, the door was opened, and the hideous dwarf again entered. On beholding him the girl sprang up, and said, "Titteli Ture! Titteli Ture! Here are your gloves."

When the dwarf heard his name pronounced, he was furiously angry, and hastened away through the air, taking with him the whole roof of the house.

The fair maiden now laughed to herself and was joyful beyond measure. She then lay down to sleep, and slept till the sun shone. The following day her marriage with the young prince was solemnized, and nothing more was ever heard of Titteli Ture.

* retold by Benjamin Thorpe in Yule-Tide Stories: A Collection of Scandinavian and North German Popular Tales and Traditions, from the Swedish, Danish, and German published 1853
story found online here

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Bundle of Sticks


"Boys, why are you always quarreling? That is no way to live," said a farmer to his sons one day.

The sons would not listen to their father. Each wanted the best of everything. Each thought the father did more for the others than for him.

The father bore the quarreling as long as he could. One day he called his seven sons to him. He had in his hand a bundle of seven sticks.

"I wish to see which one of you can break this bundle of sticks," he said.

The oldest one tried first. He was the strongest, but he could not break it though he used all his strength. Then each of his brothers tried hard to break the bundle. None of them could break it.

At last they gave the bundle of sticks back to their father, saying, "We cannot break it."

The father untied the bundle and gave each son one stick.

"Now see if you can break the sticks," said their father.

They all said, "That is very easily done," and they held up the broken sticks.

"Now tell us why you asked us to break these sticks," said the sons.

"Do you not see," replied the father, "that if you all stand together, nothing can harm you; but if each of you stands by himself, you may easily be ruined?"

from Fifty Famous Fables retold by Lida Brown McMurry 1917

Sunday, May 13, 2012

 Sometime after God had created all the living beings, he called everyone to see them and their offspring. He wanted to see how the young birds and animals looked, and then to give them suitable gifts, and food for their little ones. They came one by one, and God looked at them, patted some and stroked others, and was very pleased with every one of them, for each one had something of beauty in it. And so he blessed them and gave them food by which to live.

The last to come was the crow, bringing her little brood with her, very proud of them.

When God cast his eyes upon the young crows, he spat in astonishment, and said, "Surely these are not my creatures. I could not have made such ugly things. Every one of my creatures has such beautiful young ones that they are a pleasure to look at, but yours are so ugly that it makes one sick to look at them. Where did you get this one?"

"Where should I get them from?" replied the crow. "It is my very own young child," she added with pride.

"You had better go back and bring me another one. This is much too ugly. I cannot look at it."

Annoyed at the words of God, the crow went away and flew all over the earth to search for another young one that would be more beautiful than the one she had brought to God. But no other young bird appeared so beautiful in her eyes as her own.

So she returned back to God and said, "I have been all over the world, and I have searched high and low, but young birds more beautiful and more dainty than mine I have not been able to find."

Then God smilingly replied, "Quite right. Just so are all mothers. No other child is so beautiful in their eyes as their own."

Then he blessed the little crows and sent them away into the world with his gifts.

story found in  Rumanian Bird and Beast Stories  by M. Gaster published in 1915

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Story Spirits.....a tale from Korea

There once lived a very rich family. They had only one child, a boy, who loved to have stories told to him. Whenever he met a new person, he would say: “Tell me a different story.”

And, each time, he would store away the story he heard in a small bag he carried at his belt. So many stories did he hear that soon the bag was packed tight and he had to push hard to get each new story in. then, to make sure that none of the stories escaped, he kept the bag tied tightly at the mouth.

The boy eventually grew into a handsome young man. The time came for him to take a wife. A bride was chosen for him, and the whole house was preparing to greet the young master’s new wife. Everything was in an uproar.

Now, there happened to be in this rich home a faithful old servant who had been with the family ever since the time when the story-loving boy was still very young. As the household made ready for the young master’s wedding, this servant was tending a fire on the kitchen hearth. Suddenly his ears caught faint whispering sounds coming from somewhere. He listened carefully an soon discovered that the voices were coming from a bag hanging on the wall. It was the bag of stories which the young master had kept in his childhood. Now it hung forgotten on an old nail on the kitchen wall. The old servant listened carefully.

“Listen, everyone,” said a voice. “the boy’s wedding is to take place tomorrow. He has kept us this long while stuffed in this bag, packed so closely and uncomfortably together. We have suffered for a long time. We must make him pay for this some way or another.”

“Yes,” said another voice, “I have been thinking the same thing. Tomorrow the young man will leave by horse to bring home his bride. I shall change into bright red berries, ripening by the roadside. There I shall wait for him. I shall be poisonous but shall look so beautiful that he will want to eat me. If does, I shall kill him.”

“And, if he doesn’t die after eating the berries,” piped up a third voice, “I shall become a clear, bubbling spring by the roadside. I shall have a beautiful gourd dipper floating in me. When he sees me he will feel thirsty and will drink me. When I get inside of him, I shall make him suffer terribly.”

A fourth voice than broke in: “If you fail, then I shall become an iron skewer, heated red-hot, and I shall hide in the bag of chaff that will be placed by his horse for him to dismount on when he reaches his bride’s home. And when he steps on me, I shall burn his feet badly.” Because, you see, according to the custom of the land in those days, a bag of chaff was always placed by the bridegroom’s horse so that he would not have to step directly on the ground.

Then a fifth voice whispered: “If that fails too, I shall become those poisonous string-snakes, thin as threads. Then I shall hide in the bridal chamber. When the bride and the bridegroom have gone to sleep, I shall come out and bite them.”

The servant was filled with alarm by what he heard. “This is terrible,” he told himself. “I must not let any harm come to the young master. When he leaves the house tomorrow, I must take the bridle and lead the horse myself.”

Early next morning, the final preparations were completed, and the wedding procession was ready to set forth. The groom, dressed in his best, came out of the house and mounted his horse. Suddenly the faithful servant came running out and grabbed the horse’s bridle. He then asked to be allowed to lead the horse.
The old master of the house said: “You have other work to do. You had better stay behind.”

“But I must lead the horse today,” the servant said. “I don’t care what happens, but I insist that I take the bridle.”

He refused to listen to anyone and, finally, the master, surprised a the old man’s obstinacy, allowed him to led the horse to the bride’s home.

As the procession wound along its way, the bridegroom came to an open field. There by the roadside many bright berries were growing. They looked temptingly delicious.

“Wait!” the bridegroom called out. “Stop the horse and pick me some of those berries.”

However, the servant would not stop. In fact, he purposely made the horse hurry on and said: “Oh, those berries. You can find them anywhere. Just be a little patient. I shall pick some for you later.” And he gave the horse a good crack of the whip.

After a while, they came to a bubbling spring. Its clear waters seemed cool and tempting. There was even a small gourd dipper floating on the water, as if to invite the passerby to have a drink.

“Bring me some of that water,” the bridegroom said to the servant. “I have been thirsty for some time.”
But, again, the servant prodded the horse and hurried by. “Once we get into the shade of those trees, your thirst will soon disappear,” he said, and he gave the horse another crack of the whip, a blow much harder than the first.

The bridegroom grumbled and mumbled from atop his horse. He was in a bad mood, but the servant took no notice. He only made the horse hurry the faster.

Soon they reached the bride’s home. There, already gathered in the yard, was a large crowd of people. The servant led the horse into the compound and stopped it beside the waiting bag of chaff. As the bridegroom put down his foot to dismount, the servant pretended to stumble and shoved the bridegroom to keep him from stepping on the bag.

The bridegroom fell to the straw mats laid out on the ground. He blushed in shame at his clumsy fall. However, he could not scold his servant in front of all the people. So he kept silent and entered the bride’s home.

There, the wedding ceremony was held without untoward incident, and the newly-married couple returned to the groom’s home.

Soon night fell, and the bride and bridegroom retired to their room. The faithful servant armed himself with a sword and hid himself under the veranda outside the bridal chamber.

As soon as the bride and bridegroom turned out the lights and went to bed, the servant opened the door of the room and leapt inside.

The newly-wed couple was startled beyond description. “Who’s there?” they both shouted, jumping out of bed.

“Young master,” the servant said, “I shall explain later. Right now, just hurry and get out of the way.”

The servant kicked the bedding aside and lifted the mattress. A terrible sight greeted their eyes. There hundreds of string-snakes coiled and writhed in a single ball. The servant slashed at the snakes with the sword in his hand. As he cut some into pieces, they opened their red mouths and darted their black forked tongues at him. Other snakes slithered here and there, trying to escape the servant’s flashing sword. The servant whirled here and there like a madman and finally killed every one of the snakes in the room.

Then he let out a great sigh of relief and began: “Young master, this is the story…” And the old servant recounted the whispers that he had heard coming form the old bag on the kitchen wall.

That is why when stories are heard they must never be stored away to become mean and spiteful, but must always be shared with other people. In this way, they are passed from one person to another so that as many people as possible can enjoy them.

This story can be found in The Story Bag: a collection of Korean Folktales by Kim So-un

Story Bag book cover