Sixty Folk-Tales From Exclusively Slavonic Sources by A. H. Wratislaw
The Fisherman's Son
LVIII. The Fisherman's Son
ONCE upon a time there was a lord on the Danube who had a fisherman to catch fish for him. This lord was preparing a great banquet, and ordered his fisherman to catch three hundredweight of fish in three days. On the first day the fisherman went early in the morning to catch the fish. But he could not obtain any. The second day he went again very early in the morning. He made the round of the water, but again took none. The third day came. The fisherman went to catch fish, and went on till mid-day, but could not net any. In the afternoon he determined to go home by the waterside, and carried himself as if he were very much out of sorts. Suddenly up sailed a striped boat. In the boat sat a gentleman clad in green. He questioned the fisherman saying: 'Man, why are you so sorrowful here by the water?' The fisherman said: 'How should I not be sorrowful? My lord ordered me to catch three hundredweight of fish in three days; to-day is the last day, and I have not obtained any.' Then said the gentleman: 'Promise me that which you don't know that you have, and you shall to-day catch plenty.' The fisherman thought to himself: 'What I don't know that I have, I shall easily do without, if I do promise him.' And the gentleman at the same time added: 'And I will wait twenty years. In twenty years you will be able to fulfil your promise.' 'Agreed,' said the fisherman. He cast his nets and drew them out full of fish. He cast them a second time, and it was just the same. He cast them once more. The gentleman said to him: 'Only send home for them to come with a waggon and four horses.' They came with four horses. They packed the fish in, so that they scarcely drew them with the four horses. But before they went home the gentleman asked the fisherman: 'But do you know what you have promised me?' The fisherman said: 'My lord, I do not. What I don't know that I have, I have promised you, be it what it may.' The gentleman smiled, and said: 'You don't know that your wife will be the mother of a son, and this son you have promised to me. When twenty years have elapsed, you must just bring him here.' Then the fisherman took the fish home. On the one hand he was glad, on the other very downcast. When he brought them home his lord began to grumble, saying: 'You're a thorough fool! Why did a messenger come to me to say that you could not obtain any? Now you have brought me such a quantity that I hardly know where to stow them.' The fisherman excused himself, and related to his lord the whole series of occurrences from beginning to end. Afterwards he put a question to his lord: 'God only knows how it will be now, since I have done such an evil thing, that I have promised him my son.' His lord said: 'What of that? Twenty years is a long time. By then all may be changed.'
It came to pass. The fisherman's wife became the mother of a boy. He grew up right handsome. When he became a little older they sent him to school. At school he learnt so well, that at sixteen he had learnt enough to be ordained a priest. But his father and mother said: 'Not a priest, for he is promised. Let us rather place him for four years more in the black school.' When he had completed the course of the black school, he came back to the Danube, with all before him in the future, as if he were about to succeed, and behind in the past, because he had already been successful. Then said he to his father: 'Father, now it is time for us to go.' The father: 'To go? whither?' The son: 'Whither you promised me.' The father: Who promised you any whither?' The son: 'What? don't you know to whom you promised me twenty years ago? Let us go to that piece of water, where you then went to catch fish.' The father became very sorrowful. The son then said: 'Don't be afraid. Only quickly coat over arm and follow me. Only you must do what I instruct you to do. If you obey me, no harm will happen to you and me.' On the way he also instructed his father as follows: 'When we come to that piece of water, the striped boat will sail up just as when you caught the fish. In it will sit the gentleman in green to whom you promised me. The gentleman will push the boat to the shore in shallow water. I shall step on it with one foot, and stand on dry land with the other. Then say: "My son, I commend you to God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. May these three always be with you!" When you have uttered these holy words I shall spring into the boat.' Everything happened exactly as the son told his father and instructed him on the way. The striped boat sailed up on the water. In it was the gentleman dressed in green. The son stepped with one foot on the boat, and stood with the other on dry land. His father commended him to God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The son sprang on board the boat, and the gentleman pushed it from the shore. All at once all sank, the boat, the gentleman, and the son. The father was terribly frightened, and cried out at the top of his voice: 'Jesus, Maria! my son has gone down to hell!' He then crept home very sorrowful.
His son passed through the water into a town which is called Perdonkorten. (1) In this town all the population was enchanted. He walked and walked about the town, but nowhere was there anybody. Hunger took possession of him, but he could get nothing to eat. He bethought himself of going to catch some fish. He went to the water, caught some, lit a fire, cooked them, and ate his fill. He then went into the shade, laid himself down, and fell asleep. He dreamt that he was told to go to pass the night in a lordly castle, to seat himself at table, to light a taper on each side of him, and wait. He did according as he had dreamt. The clock struck midnight, when suddenly the door opened outside of itself. A huge snake glided into the house. It came up opposite the young man, and besought him: 'Kiss me.' He cursed it, and said: 'Take thyself off from me, Satan! Thou hast no power over me.' The snake retired through the door. Thereupon day broke. The young man walked and walked again about the town. He saw here and there carriages ready harnessed, but no human being. In the afternoon he went again to the water to catch fish. When he had eaten his fill, he went into the shade. He lay down, and soon fell asleep. Erelong he dreamt what would have happened, if he had kissed the snake. He woke up, and thought: 'This evening I will go back, and will kiss it if it comes. In fact, he went again into the same house, seated himself at table, lit two tapers, and waited. The clock struck twelve. The door opened. Through it glided a very much larger snake, with two heads. It came up the room opposite him, and besought him again: 'Kiss me!' Terror seized him, for it was much more horrible than the one he had seen the preceding night. Therefore he cursed it again: 'Take thyself off from me, Satan! Thou hast no power over me.' The snake again quitted the house. Afterwards day broke. He went again into the town, caught fish, and ate his fill. When he had eaten, he went into the shade, lay down, and fell asleep. Ere long he dreamt again: 'Thou wouldst, nevertheless, have only done rightly if thou hadst kissed the snake.' He woke up, and said: 'This evening I will kiss it, even if it appears still more terrible.' In the evening he went into the same house. He seated himself at table, lit two tapers, and waited. When the tower clock struck twelve, the door opened. A terrible snake glided in. It had three heads, and was still larger than the one he saw the preceding evening. It came puffing opposite him. It began to twine round him, and beseech him: 'Kiss me!' He pressed his lips to it, and kissed it.
As soon as he had kissed it, the snake turned into a beautiful maiden, as beautiful as a damsel could be. The snake was the enchanted daughter of the lord of the castle. After the kiss, all belonging to the castle, and the whole town, were disenchanted. Erelong the father and mother of the disenchanted daughter came into the room. They welcomed him with the greatest joy. The father said to him: 'Friend, I give you my kingdom and my daughter, if she pleases you.' He replied: 'Let us wait a bit, that we may make a little acquaintance with each other.' Thereupon they prepared a grand supper. They supped, and did not go to bed till late. In the morning they got up. The young man and the damsel went a walk in the town. The whole town rejoiced over him, and pointed at him, saying: 'That is our deliverer.'
Now the young man was content with all. Only he still felt sorry, when he bethought himself: 'Here am I in such good fortune, while my father on the Danube is thinking that I have fallen into the abyss of hell. If I could only just go to my father on the Danube, to tell him of my luck, I should then be completely content.' Thereupon the damsel. said to him: 'I have something such that you could easily go to your father, if you would but be sure to come back.' He said: 'You know that I shall come. Nowhere have I had such good fortune as here.' Now they agreed that she would wait for him seven years, if he did not return before. The damsel gave him a certain ring, and said: 'Here is this ring, look through it, and think to yourself that you would like to be with your father by the Danube, and you will find yourself there. When you wish to come back to me, look again through the ring, and think to yourself that you would like to be with me, and you will find yourself here with me. But you must not show it to anybody, lest you lose it. If you lose it, it will be very difficult for you ever to come to us.' The young man looked through the ring, thought to himself that he would like to be with his father by the Danube, and in a moment there he was. His father and mother were very, very glad to see him safe and sound once more. They asked him all manner of questions. He related to them how he had darted through the water into an enchanted city, and what had been his hap afterwards. The whole household jumped for joy at hearing how fortunate he had been. Especially rejoiced was his mother, who walked continually on tiptoe for joy. Afterwards his father took him to his lord, for whom he still caught fish. There, again, the whole household rejoiced greatly over him. The lord had two daughters. Erelong he said to him: 'Stay with us. I will give you a portion of my kingdom and one daughter, if it pleases you.' He thought to himself: 'There there awaits me a whole kingdom, and a larger one than this. The lady, too, there, is handsomer than this one.' Nevertheless he said within himself: 'Suppose I stay here a day or two. I shall easily go back before the time is out. Seven years don't pass so quickly.'
It came to pass that he went a walk one day with the two daughters. On the road the silly fellow showed them the ring, and told them how he had come back into that country. They thought to themselves: 'Behold! if we could but take that ring from him, then he would be glad to stay with us.' They went a little farther on, and one of them said: 'Let us sit down a bit here in the shade.' They sat down on the grass under a tree. They had not sat there long when one of them said to him: 'Listen! listen! What have you got in your hair?' He: 'I don't know that I've anything.' She: You have something; you have indeed. Let me look at your head.' Now she began to examine and stroke his head till he fell fast asleep. The other, on seeing this, put her hand quickly into his pocket, and took out his ring. They rose up, and prolonged their walk. They walked and walked about the country, when he put his hand into his pocket, and found that the ring was no longer there. He said: 'I've lost my ring. What shall I do now?' They said: 'Let us go back. We will look for it. Maybe we shall find it.' They went back to the selfsame place where they had been sitting. They helped him to look for it carefully. They looked for it in vain, for one of them had got it in her own pocket.
After this, he remained five years more in that house. When the fifth year had elapsed, he said: 'This won't do: If I remain here, I shall never get to Perdonkorten. Now go I must. There will be two years for me, eventually, to get there.' Once upon a time he was benighted. He went through thickets, where there was no living soul. He espied a light on another hill. He said: 'Thither I must go. There will be people there.' He went thither. There was nobody at home but a woman. He asked whether they would take him in for the night. The woman said to him: 'I would willingly take you in for the night, but I do not advise you to stay here. My three brothers are three thieves. When night is over, they will come home, and will soon put you to death.' He said: 'Never fear! Only bring me a pint of wine, that I may drink and wait for them here at the table.' When night was over, up came the three brothers home. He sat in the house at the table, and busied himself with the wine. They asked him: 'Who are you?' He replied: 'I don't know who I am. I'm a poor fellow who roams hither and thither in the world, wheresoever I must.' They said: 'But to what family do you belong?' He said: 'That also I don't know. All through I am knocking about in the world. Nowhere am I at home.' They said: 'What is your name? How do you write yourself?' He had gone through the course of study at the black school; therefore he knew how they wrote their names, and that they had lost a brother. He therefore told them their surname, and the name of their lost brother. They said: 'You are indeed our own brother, whom we lost many years ago.' He said: 'It is easy to see that I am.' They asked him: 'But are you willing to take up our business?' He said: 'Why not, if your business is honest, and one can easily get one's living from it?' They said:
From our handicraft a living is got right easily. At home we do nothing at all, and have always plenty to eat and plenty to drink.' He inquired: 'What have you gained to-day?' They replied: 'To-day we have gained more than we ever gained before. We have obtained shoes: whoever puts them on will fly two hundred miles in half an hour. We have obtained a mantle: whoever wraps himself in it, nobody sees him. We have obtained a hat: whoever puts it on his head, and throws it before him, hills open themselves to him, so that he follows it whithersoever he will.' He: 'But is this true?' They: 'It is.' He: Now, then, let's try this dress on me. We'll see how it will fit me.' He put on the shoes, wrapped himself in the mantle, clapped the hat on his head, and stepped a little way from them. He asked them: 'But don't you really see me?' They said: 'Nobody sees you.' Then he gave a jump, so that the earth quaked. They hurried after him, as it were, in the dark; but he escaped them, for nobody saw him.
He then flew to the place where the sun rises. He thought to himself: 'The sun gives light in all regions; he will therefore know the way to Perdonkorten.' When he came to the sun's house, he asked the servant: 'Is my lord the sun at home?' The servant: 'He is not; he is gone to give light on the earth. He will come home in the evening. You must wait for him if you want to speak with him. Only I tell you that when he comes home, there will be such a heat, that you will curl up like a rasher of bacon, if you don't hide yourself.' The traveller: 'If it is so, I will bury myself in the ground. When the sun comes home, come and call me.' He went, and did bury himself deep in the ground. When the sun came home and flew down, the servant came to call him. Now, then, my lord the sun is at home.' He got up and went to the sun. When he came into the house the sun asked him: 'What have you got to say?' He said: 'I have come to ask you the road to the city of Perdonkorten. You enlighten all lands; surely you know the way thither.' The sun: 'I don't know the way thither. It must be somewhere among hills and narrow dales, where I never go. The moon gives light more in hollow places; you must go where she rises.'
He went. He leaped, and was at once at the place where the moon rises. Neither was she at home. He asked her lady's maid: 'Whither has my lady moon gone that she is not at home?' The maid: 'She is gone to give light on the earth.' He: 'I will wait, then.' The maid: 'It is dangerous to wait. When she flies faintly shining home, such a frost will be caused that you will stiffen like an icicle.' He: 'I'll bury myself therefore in the ashes. When she returns home, come and call me.' Towards morning the moon came freezing home. He shivered in the ashes, but didn't stiffen. When the moon had put herself to rights, her maid went to call him, and said: 'Now come; the moon is at home.' He rose out of the ashes, shivered a little, and went to the moon. When he entered the house, the moon asked him: 'What do you want? What have you got to say?' He said: 'Nothing wrong, my lady moon--nothing wrong. I have come to ask you the road to the city of Perdonkorten. You throw light into all dark holes; therefore, you surely know which way to go thither.' The moon: 'I don't know that. It must be among such hills that I never get there. If you wish to learn it, you must go where the wind rises. He flies over all abysses, therefore he will surely be able to indicate you the way thither.'
In a jiffy he was there. The wind was just then at home. He asked him: 'My lord the wind, do you know the way to the city of Perdonkorten?' The wind: 'Of course I do. Anyhow, I'm going thither to-morrow morning at three. The king's daughter there is betrothed, and I am going to blow for them at the wedding, that it may not be too warm. But I shall go through such abysses and such rocks, that I don't know whether you will be able to follow me.' The traveller: 'My lord the wind, never fear. No rock will stop me. I have such a hat, that if I throw it, the ground opens and I go after it whithersoever I will.' The wind: 'Well, then, let us go.' They went at three. They came to a terrible rock. The wind roared, and made his way by a hole through the terrible rock. He could not follow him. Therefore he took off his hat and threw it against the rock. The rock opened. The wind glided on in front and he followed quickly behind.
When it was half-past four in the morning, they had made their way to the city of Perdonkorten. The wind went to blow at the wedding that it mightn't be too warm for them. He went into the church, seated himself on a bench, and waited for the wedding-party. At eleven music was heard, and fifty couples of wedding guests came into the church. One was more handsomely dressed than the rest. His reverence the chaplain proceeded to say mass for them. After mass he began to take the marriage service. He was sitting on a bench, but nobody saw him, because he had that mantle on. Suddenly he rose from the bench, and gave a thump on the chaplain's books, so that they fell with a bang on the floor. The chaplain said: One of you two must have such a sin upon him, that you are unfit to receive this sacrament.' Now the bride began to relate how someone had once come to deliver them. With this person a mutual engagement had been made that she would wait for him seven years, etc. The chaplain: 'How much time has elapsed?' She: 'Five years and a half.' The chaplain: Now you two must wait a year and a half more. If in that time nothing is heard of him, then you may marry.' The chaplain, moreover, asked her: 'Which would you rather have, this one or that other?' The lady: 'I should prefer the other, should he come. But I know that I shall never see him again.'
He heard these words, and they pleased him. Now they went home from the church. He who had thumped the books walked amidst the wedding-party, but nobody saw him, because he had the mantle on. The damsel's father thought it hard thus to send the wedding guests away home, therefore he gave them several cups of wine. The guests drank the wine, and lie went up and down in the house, but nobody saw him. When all the wedding guests had taken themselves off home, he doffed his mantle, hung it on a peg, and they recognised him as their deliverer. The beautiful damsel met him in the middle of the house. She threw her arms round his neck, and said: 'Behold! to-day I should have been married to another husband, if God had not protected me.'
Hereupon they soon prepared a marriage with this new bridegroom. They went to the wedding. The wedding passed off successfully. They got ready a right handsome wedding-feast for them. They had plenty of everything--plenty to drink, and plenty to eat. Moreover, they gave me wine to drink out of a sieve, and bread to eat out of a glass, and one on the back with a shovel. After that I took myself off.
The text came from:
Wratislaw, A. H. Sixty Folk-Tales From Exclusively Slavonic Sources. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, & Company, 1890.