Sixty Folk-Tales From Exclusively Slavonic Sources by A. H. Wratislaw
Stories From Bosnia
Stories From Carniola
XLVIII. God's Cock
THE earth was waste: nowhere was there aught but stone. God was sorry for this, and sent his cock to make the earth fruitful, as he knew how to do. The cock came down into a cave in the rock, and fetched out an egg of wondrous power and purpose. The egg chipped, and seven rivers trickled out of it. The rivers irrigated the neighbourhood, and soon all was green: there were all manner of flowers and fruits; the land, without man's labour, produced wheat, the trees not only apples and figs, but also the whitest and sweetest bread. In this paradise men lived without care, working, not from need, but for amusement and merriment. Round the paradise were lofty mountains, so that there was no violence to fear, nor devilish storm to dread. But further: that men, otherwise their own masters, and free, might not, from ignorance, suffer damage, God's cock hovered high in the sky, and crowed to them every day, when to get up, when to take their meals, and what to do, and when to do it. The nation was happy, only God's cock annoyed them by his continual crowing. Men began to murmur, and pray God to deliver them from the restless creature: 'Let us now settle for ourselves,' said they, 'when to eat, to work, and to rise.' God hearkened to them; the cock descended from the sky, but crowed to them just once more: 'Woe is me! Beware of the lake!' Men rejoiced, and said that it was never better; no one any more interfered with their freedom. After ancient custom, they ate, worked, and rose, all in the best order, as the cock had taught them. But, little by little, individuals began to think that it was unsuitable for a free people to obey the cock's crowing so slavishly, and began to live after their own fashion, observing no manner of order. Through this arose illnesses, and all kinds of distress; men looked again longingly to the sky, but God's cock was gone for ever. They wished, at any rate, to pay regard to his last words. But they did not know how to fathom their meaning. The cock had warned them to dread the lake, but why? for they hadn't it in their valley; there flowed quietly, in their own channel, the seven rivers which had burst out of the egg. Men therefore conjectured that there was a dangerous lake somewhere on the other side of the mountains, and sent a man every day to the top of a hill to see whether he espied aught. But there was danger from no quarter; the man went in vain, and people calmed themselves again. Their pride became greater and greater; the women made brooms from the wheat-ears, and the men straw mattrasses. They would not go any more to the tree to gather bread, but set it on fire from below, that it might fall, and that they might collect it without trouble. When they had eaten their fill, they lay down by the rivers, conversed, and spoke all manner of blasphemies. One cast his eyes on the water, wagged his head, and jabbered: 'Eh! brothers! A wondrous wonder! I should like to know, at any rate, why the water is exactly so much, neither more nor less.' 'This, too,' another answered, 'was a craze of the cock's; it is disgraceful enough for us to be listening to orders to beware of a lake, which never was, and never will be. If my opinion is followed, the watcher will go to-day for the last time. As regards the rivers, I think it would be better if there were more water.' His neighbour at first agreed, but thought, again, that there was water in abundance; if more, there would be too much. A corpulent fellow put in energetically that undoubtedly both were right; it would, therefore, be the most sensible thing to break the egg up, and drive just as much water as was wanted into each man's land, and there was certainly no need of a watchman to look out for the lake. Scarcely had these sentiments been delivered, when an outcry arose in the valley; all rushed to the egg to break it to pieces; all men deplored nothing but this, that the disgraceful look-out could not be put a stop to before the morrow. The people stood round the egg, the corpulent man took up a stone, and banged it against the egg. It split up with a clap of thunder, and so much water burst out of it that almost the whole human race perished. The paradise was filled with water, and became one great lake. God's cock warned truly, but in vain, for the lawless people did not understand him. The flood now reached the highest mountains, just to the place where the watchman was standing, who was the only survivor from the destruction of mankind. Seeing the increasing waters, he began to flee.
The text came from:
Wratislaw, A. H. Sixty Folk-Tales From Exclusively Slavonic Sources. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, & Company, 1890.