Sixty Folk-Tales From Exclusively Slavonic Sources by A. H. Wratislaw
The Lame Fox
XL. The Lame Fox
THERE was a man who had three sons--two intelligent, and one a simpleton. This man's right eye was always laughing, while his left eye was weeping and shedding tears. This man's sons agreed to go to him one by one, and ask him why his right eye laughed and his left eye shed tears.
Accordingly the eldest went to his father by himself, and asked him: 'Father, tell me truly what I am going to ask you. Why does your right eye always laugh and your left eye weep?' His father gave him no answer, but flew into a rage, seized a knife, and at him, and he fled out of doors, and the knife stuck in the door. The other two were outside, anxiously expecting their brother, and when he came out, asked him what his father had said to him. But he answered them: 'If you're not wiser than another, go, and you will hear.'
Then the middle brother went to his father by himself, and asked him: 'Father, tell me truly what I am going to ask you. Why does your right eye always laugh and your left weep?' His father gave him no answer, but flew into a rage, seized a knife, and at him, and he fled out of doors, and the knife stuck in the door. When he came out to his brothers, his brothers asked him: 'Tell us, brother--so may health and prosperity attend you I--what our father has said to you.' He answered them: 'If you're not wiser than another, go, and you will hear.' But this he said to his elder brother on account of the simpleton, that he, too, might go to his father to hear and see.
Then the simpleton, too, went by himself to his father, and asked him: 'Father, my two brothers won't tell me what you have said to them; tell me why your right eye always laughs and your left eye weeps?' His father immediately flew into a rage, seized a knife, and brandished the knife to pierce him through; but as he was standing, so he remained standing where he was, and wasn't frightened in the least. When his father saw that, he came to him, and said: 'Well, you're my true son, I will tell you; but those two are cowards. The reason why my right eye laughs is, that I rejoice and am glad because you children obey and serve me well. And why my left eye weeps, it weeps on this account: I had in my garden a vine, which poured forth a bucket of wine every hour, thus producing me twenty-four buckets of wine every day and night. This vine has been stolen from me, and I have not been able to find it, nor do I know who has taken it or where it is. And for this reason my left eye weeps, and will weep till I die, unless I find it.' When the simpleton came out of doors, his brothers asked him what his father had said, and he told them all in order.
Then they prepared a drinking bout for their father and the domestics, and set out on their journey. On the journey they came to a cross-road, and three ways lay before them. The two elder consulted together, and said to their youngest brother, the simpleton: 'Come, brother, let us each choose a road, and let each go by himself and seek his fortune.' 'Yes, brothers,' answered the simpleton; 'you choose each a road; I will take that which remains to me.' The two elder took two roads which ran into each other, started on their way, and afterwards met, came out into the road, and said: 'Praise be to God that we're quit of that fool!' They then sat down to take their dinner. Scarcely had they sat down to eat, when up came a lame she-fox on three legs, which approached them, fawning and begging to obtain something to eat. But as soon as they saw the fox: 'Here's a fox,' said they; 'come, let us kill it.' Then, stick in hand, and after it. The fox limped away in the best fashion it could, and barely escaped from them. Meanwhile, shepherd-dogs came to their wallet and ate up everything that they had. When they returned to the wallet they had a sight to see.
The simpleton took the third road right on, and went forward till be began to feel hungry. Then he sat down on the grass under a pear-tree, and took bread and bacon out of his wallet to eat. Scarcely had he sat down to eat, when, lo! that very same lame fox which his two brothers had seen began to approach him, and to fawn and beg, limping on three feet. He had compassion on it because it was so lame, and said: 'Come, fox, I know that you are hungry, and that it is hard lines for you that you have not a fourth foot.' He gave it bread and bacon to eat, a portion for himself, and a portion for the fox. When they had refreshed themselves a little, the fox said to him: 'But, brother, tell me the truth: whither are you going?' He said: 'Thus and thus: I have a father and us three brothers; and one of my father's eyes always laughs, because we serve him well, and the other eye weeps, because there has been stolen from him a vine belonging to him, which poured forth a bucket of wine every hour; and now I am going to ask people all over the world whether someone cannot inform me about this vine, that I may obtain it for my father, that his eye may not weep any longer.'
The fox said: 'Well, I know where the vine is; follow me.' He followed the fox, and they came to a large garden. Then the fox said: 'There is the vine of which you are in search; but it is difficult to get to it. Do you now mark well what I am going to say to you. In the garden, before the vine is reached, it is necessary to pass twelve watches, and in each watch twelve warders. When the warders are looking, you can pass them freely, because they sleep with their eyes open. If they have their eyes closed, go not, for they are awake, not sleeping, with their eyes closed. When you come into the garden, there under the vine stand two shovels--one of wood, and the other of gold. But mind you don't take the golden shovel to dig up the vine, for the shovel will ring, and will wake up the watch; the watch will seize you, and you may fare badly. But take the wooden shovel, and with it dig up the vine, and, when the watch is looking, come quietly to me outside, and you will have obtained the vine.'
He went into the garden, arrived at the first watch; the warders directed their eyes towards him; one would have thought they would have looked him to powder. But he went past them as past a stone, came to the second, third, and all the watches in succession, and arrived in the garden at the vine itself. The vine poured forth a bucket of wine every hour. He was too lazy to dig with the wooden shovel, but took the golden one, and as soon as he struck it into the ground, the shovel rang and woke the watch; the watch assembled, seized him, and delivered him to their lord.
The lord asked the simpleton: 'How did you dare to pass so many watches, and come into the garden to take my vine away?' The simpleton said: 'It is not your vine, but my father's; and my father's left eye weeps, and will weep till I obtain him the vine, and I must do it; and if you don't give me my father's vine, I shall come again, and the second time I shall take it away.' The lord said: 'I cannot give you the vine. But if you procure me the golden apple-tree which blooms, ripens, and bears golden fruit every twenty-four hours, I will give it you.'
He went out to the fox, and the fox asked him: 'Well, how is it?' He answered: 'No how. I went past the watch, and began to dig up the vine with the wooden shovel; but it was too long a job, and I took the golden shovel; the shovel rang and woke the watch; the watch seized me, and delivered me to their lord, and the lord promised to give me the vine, if I procured him the golden apple-tree which, every twenty-four hours, blooms, ripens, and bears golden fruit.' The fox said: 'But why did you not obey me? You see how nice it would have been to go to your father with the vine.' He shook his head: 'I see that I have done wrong; but I will do so no more.' The fox said: 'Come! now let us go to the golden apple-tree.' The fox led him to a far handsomer garden than the first one, and told him that he must pass similarly through twelve similar watches. 'And when you come in the garden,' said she, 'to where the golden apple-tree is, two very long poles stand there--one of gold, and the other of wood. Don't take the golden one to beat the golden apple-tree, for the golden branch will emit a whistling sound, and will wake the watch, and you will fare ill; but take the wooden pole to beat the golden apple-tree, and then mind you come out immediately to me. If you do not obey me, I will not help you further.' He said: 'I will, fox, only that it may be mine to acquire the golden apple-tree to purchase the vine; I am impatient to go to my father.' He went into the garden, and the fox stayed waiting for him outside. He passed the twelve watches, and also arrived at the apple-tree. But when he saw the apple-tree, and the golden apples on the apple-tree, he forgot for joy where he was, and hastily took the golden pole to beat the golden apple-tree. As soon as he had stripped a golden branch with the pole, the golden branch emitted a whistling sound, and woke the watch; the watch hastened up, seized and delivered him to the lord of the golden apple-tree.
The lord asked the simpleton: 'How did you dare, and how were you able, to go into my garden in face of so many watches of mine, to beat the golden apple-trees?' The simpleton said: 'Thus and thus: my father's left eye weeps because a vine has been stolen from him, which poured forth a bucket of wine every hour. That vine is kept in such and such a garden, and the lord of the garden and the vine said to me: "If you procure me the golden apple-tree which, every twenty-four hours, blooms, ripens, and produces golden fruit, I will give you the vine." And, therefore, I have come to beat the golden apple-tree, to give the apple-tree for the vine, and to carry the vine to my father, that his left eye may not weep. And if you do not give me the golden apple-tree now, I shall come again to steal it.'
The lord said: 'It is good, if it is so. Go you and procure me the golden horse which, in twenty-four hours, goes over the world, and I will give you the golden apple-tree; give the apple-tree for the vine, and take the vine to your father, that he may weep no more.'
Then he went outside, and the fox, awaiting him, said: 'Now, then; how is it?' 'Not very well. The golden apple-trees are so beautiful that you can't look at them for beauty. I forgot myself, and couldn't take the wooden pole, as you told me, but took the golden pole to beat the golden apple-tree; the branch emitted a whistling sound, and woke the watch; the watch seized me, and delivered me to their lord, and the lord told me, if I procured him the golden horse which goes over the world in twenty-four hours, he would give me the golden apple-tree, that I may give the apple-tree for the vine to take to my father, that he may weep no more.'
Again the fox began to scold and reproach him: 'Why did you not obey me? You see that you would have been by now at your father's. And thus you torment both yourself and me.' He said to the fox: Only procure me the horse, fox, and I will always henceforth obey you.'
The fox led him to a large and horrible forest, and in the forest they found a farmyard. In this farmyard twelve watches, as in the case of the vine and the apple-tree, guarded the golden horse. The fox said: 'Now you will pass the watches as before; go if they are looking; do not go if they have their eyes shut. When you enter the stable, there stands the golden horse, equipped with golden trap-pings. By the horse are two bridles--one of gold, and the other plaited of tow. Mind you don't take the golden bridle, but the one of tow; if you bridle him with the golden bridle, the horse will neigh and will wake the watch; the watch will seize you, and who will be worse off than you? Don't come into my sight without the horse!' 'I won't, fox,' said he, and went. He passed all the watches, and entered the stable where the horse was. When he was there, golden horse! golden wings! so beautiful, good heavens! that you couldn't look at them for beauty! He saw the golden bridle; it was beautiful and ornamented; he saw also that of tow; it was dirty, and couldn't be worse. Now he thought long what to do and how to do. 'I can't put that nasty thing' (the tow bridle)--'it's so nasty!--on that beauty; I had rather not have him at all than put such a horse to shame.' He took the golden bridle, bridled the golden horse, and mounted him. But the horse neighed, and woke the watch; the watch seized him and delivered him to their lord.
Then the lord said: 'How did you have resolution to pass my numerous warders into my stable to take away my golden horse?' The simpleton replied: 'Need drove me; I have a father at home, and his left eye continually weeps, and will weep till I obtain for him a vine which in a day and night poured forth twenty-four buckets of wine; this vine has been stolen from him. Well, I have found it, and it has been told me that I shall obtain the vine if I procure the golden apple-tree for the lord of the vine. And the lord of the golden apple-tree said if I procured him the golden horse, he would give me the golden apple-tree. And I came from him to take away the golden horse, that I might give the golden horse for the golden apple-tree, and the golden apple-tree for the vine, to take it home and give it my father, that he may weep no more.' The lord said: 'Good; if it is so, I will give you my golden horse, if you procure me the golden damsel in her cradle, who has never yet seen either the sun or the moon, so that her face is not tanned.' And the simpleton said: 'I will procure you the golden damsel, but you must give me your golden horse, on which to seek the golden damsel and bring her to you. And a golden horse properly appertains to a golden damsel.' The lord: 'And how will you guarantee that you will return to me again?' The simpleton: 'Behold, I swear to you by my father's eyesight, that I will return to you again, and either bring the horse, if I do not find the damsel, or give you the damsel, if I find her, for the horse.' To this the lord agreed, and gave him the golden horse; he bridled it with the golden bridle, and came outside to the fox. The fox was impatiently expecting him, to know what had happened.
The fox: 'Well, have you obtained the horse?' The simpleton: 'I have, but on condition that I procure for him the golden damsel in her cradle, who has never yet seen the sun or the moon, so that her face is not tanned. But if you know what need is, good friend, in the world, say whether she is anywhere, and whether you know of such a damsel.' The fox said: 'I know where the damsel is; only follow me.' He followed, and they came to a large cavern. Now the fox said: 'There the damsel is. You will go into that cavern, deep into the earth. You will pass the watches as before. In the last chamber lies the golden damsel in a golden cradle. By the damsel stands a huge spectre, which says: "No! No! No!" Now, don't be at all afraid; it cannot do anything to you in any wise; but her wicked mother has placed it beside her daughter, that no one may venture to approach her to take her away. And the damsel is impatiently waiting to be released and freed from her mother's cruelty. When you come back with the damsel in the cradle, push all the doors to behind you, that they may be shut, that the watch may not be able to come out after you in pursuit.' He did so. He passed all the watches, entered the last chamber, and in the chamber was the damsel, rocking herself in a golden cradle, and on the way to the cradle stood a huge spectre, which said: 'No! No! No!' But he paid no attention to it. He took the cradle in his hands, seated himself with the cradle on the horse, and proceeded, pushed the doors to, and the doors closed from the first to the last, and out he flew with the damsel in the cradle before the fox. The fox was anxiously expecting him.
Now the fox said to him: 'Are you not sorry to give so beautiful a damsel for the golden horse? But you will not otherwise be able to acquire the golden horse, because you have sworn by your father's eyesight. But come! let me try whether I can't be the golden damsel.' She bounded hither and thither, and transformed herself into a golden damsel; everything about her was damsel-like, only her eyes were shaped like a fox's eyes. He put her into the golden cradle, and left the real damsel under a tree to take charge of the golden horse. He went, he took away the golden cradle, and in the cradle the fox-damsel, delivered her to the lord of the golden horse, and absolved himself from the oath by his father's eyesight. He returned to the horse and the damsel. Now that same lord of the golden horse, full of joy at acquiring the golden damsel, assembled all his lordship, prepared a grand banquet for their entertainment, and showed them what he had acquired in exchange for his golden horse. While the guests were gazing at the damsel, one of them scrutinized her attentively, and said: 'All is damsel-like, and she is very beautiful, but her eyes are shaped like a fox's eyes.' No sooner had he said this, when up sprang the fox and ran away. The lord and the guests were enraged that he had said 'fox's eyes,' and put him to death.
The fox ran to the simpleton, and on they went to give the golden horse for the golden apple-tree. They arrived at the place. Here again the fox said: 'Now, you see, you have got possession of the golden damsel, but the golden horse properly appertains to the golden damsel. Are you sorry to give the golden horse?' 'Yes, fox; but though I am sorry, yet I wish my father not to weep.' The fox: But stay; let me try whether I can be the golden horse.' She bounded hither and thither, and transformed herself into a golden horse, only she had a fox's tail. Then she said: 'Now lead me; let them give you the golden apple-tree, and I know when I shall come to you.'
He led off the fox-horse, delivered it to the lord of the golden apple-tree, and obtained the golden apple-tree. Now, the lord of the golden apple-tree was delighted at having acquired so beautiful a horse, and invited his whole lordship to a feast, to boast to them what a horse he had acquired. The guests began to gaze at the horse, and to wonder 'how beautiful he was. All at once one scrutinized his tail attentively, and said: 'All is beautiful and all pleases me, only I should say that it is a fox's tail!' The moment he said that, the fox jumped up and ran away. But the guests were enraged at him for using the expression 'fox's tail,' and put him to death. The fox came to the simpleton, and proceeded with the golden damsel, the horse, and the golden apple-tree to the vine.
Now again the fox said: 'You see, now you have acquired the golden apple-tree. But the golden damsel is not appropriate without the golden horse, or the golden horse without the golden apple-tree. Are you sorry to give the golden apple-tree?' The simpleton: 'Yes, fox; but I must, to obtain the vine, that my father may not weep. I had rather that my father did not weep than all that I have.' The fox said: 'Stay! I will try whether I can be the golden apple-tree.' She bounded hither and thither, and transformed herself into a golden apple-tree, and told him to take it away and give it for the vine. He took off the golden fox-apple-tree, and gave it to the lord of the vine, obtained the vine, and went away.
The lord for joy assembled his whole lordship, and prepared a grand feast, to display what a golden apple-tree he had acquired. The guests assembled and began to gaze at the apple-tree. But one scrutinized it attentively, and said: 'All is beautiful, and cannot be more beautiful, only the fruit is in shape a fox's head, and not like other apples.' No sooner had he said this when up jumped the fox and ran away. But they were enraged at him and slew him, because he had said 'fox's head.'
Now the simpleton took leave of the fox and went home, having with him the golden damsel, the golden horse, the golden apple-tree, and the vine. When he arrived at the crossroad, where he had parted from his brothers when he went from home to seek the vine, he saw a multitude of people assembled, and he, too, went thither to see what was the matter. When he got there, his two brothers were standing condemned, and the people were going to hang them. He told the damsel that they were his brothers, and that he would like to ransom them. The damsel took a large quantity of treasure out of her bosom, and he ransomed his brothers, the malefactors, who had thought to acquire the vine by slaying, burning, and plundering. They envied him, but could not help themselves. They proceeded home. The simpleton planted the vine in the garden where it had been; the vine began to pour forth wine, and his father's left eye ceased to weep and began to laugh. The apple-tree began to blossom, the golden horse to neigh, the damsel to sing, and there was love and beauty at the farm-house. Everything was merry, everything was rejoicing and making progress.
All at once the father sent his sons to bring him from the country three ears of rye, that he might see what manner of season it would be. When they came to a well in the country, they told their simpleton brother to get them some water to drink. He stooped over the well to reach the water for them; they pushed him into the water and he was drowned. Immediately the vine ceased to pour forth wine, the father's eye began to weep, the apple-tree drooped, the horse ceased to neigh, the damsel began to weep, and everything lost its cheerful appearance. Thereupon that selfsame lame fox came up, got down into the well, gently drew her adopted brother out, poured the water out of him, placed him on the fresh grass, and he revived. As soon as he revived the fox was transformed into a very beautiful damsel. Then she related to him how her mother had cursed her because she had rescued her greatest enemy-from death. She was cursed, and was transformed into a cunning fox, and limped on three feet until she should rescue her benefactor from a watery death. 'And, lo! I have rescued you, my adopted brother. Now, adieu!' She went her way, and the simpleton his way to his father, and when he arrived at the farmhouse the vine began again to pour forth wine, his father's eye to laugh [the golden apple-tree to bloom], the golden horse to neigh, and the golden damsel to sing. He told his father what his brothers had done to him on the way, and how a damsel had rescued him and freed herself from a curse. When his father heard this he drove the two villains into the world. But he married the simpleton to the golden damsel, with whom he lived long in happiness and content.
The text came from:
Wratislaw, A. H. Sixty Folk-Tales From Exclusively Slavonic Sources. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, & Company, 1890.