Myths and Folk-tales of the Russians, Western Slavs, and Magyars | Annotated Tale

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Mouse-hole, and the Underground Kingdom, The

BEFORE times long past there reigned a king somewhere, and he had three sons. When they had grown up, and were trained as befits princes, they came one day to their father and said: "Our kingly father, permit us to visit strange lands, since we know our own country well."

                "Yes, it is proper," answered the king, wisely, "for royal princes to know more than any of my subjects; and I permit what ye ask, but on one condition. Ye are all of an age in which almost every man seeks the partner of his life; and as far as I know, ye also will do the same. I have no wish to tell you what princesses to fall in love with, but I ask this: Return before a year and a day, and bring me some gift--not costly, but valued--from your chosen ones."

                The princes were astonished that their father had guessed their thoughts so well, and agreed without thinking. Then they took their crossbows and went to the open field. The eldest son let the bow-string go, and the arrow flew to the east. The second let the string go, and the arrow flew to the west.

                "And where am I to aim?" cried the youngest, whose name was Yarmil. That moment a mouse ran near him to its hole; he let the string go, and the arrow flew after the mouse.

                "Oh, thoughtless fellow!" said the eldest prince in rebuke; "now thou must go to the mouse-hole."

                "It is settled," answered Yarmil, and shrugged his shoulders.

                They went home, prepared for the road, and next day started; the eldest to the east, the second to the west, and Yarmil to the mouse-hole. Up to that moment he had held it merely a jest; but how was he astonished when on nearing the place the earth opened so that he rode in conveniently, and sooner than he could think was in an open country, in the middle of which stood a white marble castle. Nowhere did he see a living soul; and he felt sure then that he would find no one in the castle; but scarcely had he entered the gate when a lady came forth to meet him who had not only garments, but face, hair, eyes, in short everything, white as newly fallen snow. She held by the bridle a mettlesome white steed, and without saying a word, indicated to Yarmil to descend from his own horse and sit on the white one; but he had barely mounted the white steed when it rose with him through the air, and without heeding the bit, went on till it brought him to the earth before a splendid castle. Yarmil marvelled, for the castle was so brilliant that he could not look at it, such was the glitter of gold and precious stones. Around about, wherever the eye could see, was a beautiful garden, in which the most luxuriant trees were growing, the most beautiful flowers were in bloom, and birds of every color were singing.

                When he had recovered from the first surprise, Yarmil dismounted and wished to lead the steed to the castle; but it tore away, rose through the air, and vanished like a white dove in the clouds.

                Full of expectation Yarmil entered the castle. He struck on the gate; no answer, but it opened of itself. He went in on broad marble steps to the door of the first chamber. Again he knocked; no answer, but the door opened. He entered, but how did he wonder again! There was such splendor that he exclaimed, "My father is by far the richest king, but this chamber alone is worth more than his kingdom."

                But if the first chamber was rich, the second was richer; and that splendor increased till he came to the eleventh, where there was a great crystal tub with golden hoops, into which, through a golden pipe, water still clearer than crystal was flowing. In the twelfth chamber were only four naked walls, an ordinary ceiling, and a common floor, but in the middle of the floor a diamond pan. When Yarmil examined more carefully, he saw written on it: "Whoever wishes to liberate me must carry me next to his body, and bathe me each day."

                Urged by curiosity Yarmil removed a diamond, then a golden, and finally, with great effort, a silver, cover. But how was he frightened when under it appeared a great ugly toad! He wished to escape, but at that moment such terror seized him that in spite of himself he took the toad out of the pan and put it in his bosom. The toad chilled him, but in a moment he was as happy as if he had liberated some one from death. Straightway he went to the eleventh chamber, took the toad from his bosom, and washed it carefully; but to his great affliction he saw that it was a toad, and the more he washed the uglier it grew. When he had grown tired he put it in his bosom again and went to the garden to cheer himself.

                A sight of the trees and the flowers hitherto unnoticed, the odor of them, and the singing of the birds entertained him so that midday came before he knew it. He went back to the castle, and there, to his great surprise, saw in the first chamber a table covered with the most delicate dishes. He sat down with appetite, and when he had eaten to his content, and drunk of the wine which an unseen hand had placed before him in a golden goblet, he confessed that he had never tasted at his father's table, or at the greatest festivals, such delicate dishes and such good wine.

                Now he looked the room through with more care; the splendor did not charm him so much as at first, but the many musical instruments, writing implements, and beautiful books pleased him beyond measure, for he was skilled in every good art.

                After the supper, which was as good as the dinner, he lay on a soft bed and slept soundly till morning; then he ate a good meal, which was on the table, and spent the time as he had the day before. He was annoyed at his lonely life, but he soon drove away trouble. He was grieved because the more the toad was washed the uglier it grew; still he washed it with care, and carried it in his bosom.

                Now the year was nearing its end, when he had to return to his father with a gift from his bride. He walked like one deprived of reason through the castle and the garden; nothing could comfort him, but still he did not forget to bathe the toad each day, and with greater care. When the last day of the year had come, he knew not what to begin; but while walking through the room he saw on his writing-table a sheet of paper not there before. He seized it quickly; and on it was written in black letters:

                    Dear Yarmil,--I love thee unspeakably; but be thou patient, as I     am patient. A gift for thy father thou hast in the pan; give it     to him, but tarry not long at home. Put me back in the pan.

                Yarmil hastened with joy to the twelfth chamber, took from the pan a rich casket set with diamonds, and put the toad in the pan; then he ran out quickly, mounted the white steed which was waiting, and which rose in the air and flew regardless of bit, till it stopped before the white castle; there the white lady gave Yarmil his horse, took the white steed, and led it away.

                In a short time Yarmil came to the great gate, and when he had ridden through and looked, there was nothing behind but a mouse-hole. Putting spurs to his horse he rushed on at a gallop and came to the gate of his father's castle almost at the same moment as his brothers, so that all three were able to appear together before their father, and say: "Here we are, according to thy command."

                "But have ye brought gifts from your princesses?" asked the king.

                "Of course," cried the elder brothers, proudly. Yarmil answered, as it were, timidly, with a nod; for he knew not what was in that casket taken from the pan.

                The king had invited a great number of guests to look at the gifts. All were in the banqueting-hall. The king led his sons thither, and when the feast was ended, he said to the eldest: "Now give me the gift from thy princess."

                "My love is the daughter of a great king," said the prince, proudly; and he gave his father a casket containing a small mirror.

                The king looked, and wondered not a little that he saw his whole person. Then he said: "Well, men's hands can do everything."

                The second son gave him a still smaller mirror, but the king saw in it his whole person; still he only said: "Men's hands can do everything. But what has thy princess sent me?" asked he of Yarmil. In silence, and timidly, Yarmil gave him the casket. The king barely looked in it when he cried in amazement, "That princess of thine has wealth in abundance; these diamonds alone have more value than my kingdom." But he wondered when he took from the casket another such mirror, but smaller; and he was really frightened when in a twinkle a puppet sprang out and held the glass for him as soon as he looked at it, and the moment he stopped looking the puppet was gone.

                "Oh," cried the king, "no hand of man could frame that;" and embracing Yarmil, he added with tenderness: "Thou hast brought me true joy, my son."

                Yarmil called to mind the ugly toad, and had no regret now that he had spent a whole year with it; but his brothers and his mother, who was a witch and hated Yarmil, were enraged though they dissembled.

                When the feast was over and the princes were parting with their father, he said: "Go now with rejoicing, but return in a year and a day, and bring me portraits of your princesses."

                The elder brothers promised with joy, but Yarmil barely nodded, for he feared what his father would say should he bring the toad's portrait; still he went with his brothers beyond the town, where he parted with them, and galloped on to the mouse-hole. He was just drawing near when the ground opened to give a good entrance. At the white castle the white lady took his horse and gave him the white steed, which rose through the air, and regardless of bit, flew on till it reached the golden castle. Yarmil hurried to the twelfth chamber; the steed disappeared like a dove in the clouds.

                In the castle nothing was changed, and the diamond pan was standing in the twelfth chamber. Yarmil removed the three covers, took out the toad and placed it in his bosom. Now he bathed it twice each day, but to his grief it grew uglier. How could he take the portrait of his princess to his father! He might paint the most beautiful lady, because he was very well skilled in painting, but he would not deceive his father. Only the hope that the toad would help him as before gave him strength to endure the dreary life.

                At last the day was near in which he must return to his father. He looked continually on his writing-table till he saw to his great joy a sheet of paper on which was written in silver letters,--

                    Dear Yarmil,--I love thee unspeakably; be patient, as I am     patient. Thou hast my portrait in the pan; give it to thy     father, but tarry not long. Put me back in the pan.

                Yarmil hastened to the twelfth chamber, found in the pan a casket still richer than the first. He took it quickly, and put the toad in its place. Then he hurried forth, sat on the white steed, which brought him to the white castle, where the white lady gave him his own horse. When he had ridden through the gate and looked back, he saw nothing behind but a mouse-hole. He put spurs to his horse, and rode to the gate of his father's castle at the same time with his brothers. They stood before their father and said: "Here we are, as thou hast commanded."

                "Do ye bring me portraits of your princesses?" asked the king.

                "Of course!" exclaimed the two elder brothers, full of pride. But Yarmil only answered with a nod, for he knew not what portrait the casket contained.

                The king led them to the banqueting-hall, where the guests were assembled. When the banquet was over, he said to the eldest: "Now show me the portrait of thy princess."

                The eldest brother gave a rich casket to his father. He opened it, took out a portrait, and looking at it from every side, said at last: "That is a beautiful lady; she pleases me. Still there are fairer than she in the world, but any man might love her." Then he gave the portrait to the guests, and said to his second son: "And the portrait of thy princess?"

                The second son gave him promptly a richer casket, and smiled with happiness. He thought doubtless that his father must be astonished at the beauty of his princess; but he looked on her with indifference and said: "A beautiful lady too, but there are more beautiful in the world; still any man might fall in love with her."

                Then he nodded to Yarmil, who gave with trembling hand his diamond casket. Scarcely had the king looked at it when he exclaimed: "Thy princess must be rich beyond measure; thy casket is at any time worth twice my whole kingdom." But how was he astonished when he took out the portrait! He looked fixedly at it for a while, unable to utter a word. Then he said with the greatest enthusiasm, "No; such a lady cannot be found in the world."

                All the guests crowded around the portrait, and in one voice agreed with the king. At last Yarmil drew near to look at his princess, unknown till that moment. Now he regretted no whit that he had spent two years in lone life and nursing a toad; but his brothers and his mother were raging, and envied him his princess.

                Next day the princes were taking farewell, and the king said to them: "After this time I will not let you go again. In a year and a day I wish to see your princesses; then we will celebrate the weddings."

                The two elder brothers were shouting with joy, but Yarmil answered no word. They took leave of their father and went together to the edge of the town, where they separated; the eldest went to the east, the second to the west, but Yarmil to the mouse-hole, which opened quickly to give him a convenient passage. At the white castle the white lady gave him the white steed, which flew to the golden castle regardless of bit. There Yarmil descended, and the steed vanished like a dove in the clouds.

                Full of hope Yarmil hastened to the twelfth chamber, for he trusted to find there his wondrous fair princess whose portrait he had taken to his father; but he found in the pan the ugly toad, which he put in his bosom, and now washed three times each day. In vain was all his labor, for the more he bathed the uglier grew the toad. Had it not been for the portrait he would have fled from the castle, and who knows what he might have done? Every day his strength decreased, and when the last day of the year drew near it is a wonder that he did not despair; for the toad had become now not only ugly beyond measure, but all mangy, so that he shivered when he looked at it. And now he must bring this to his father as his chosen one.

                "My father will kill me!" cried he with grief, and threw himself on the couch. He thought what to do, but could come to no resolve. At last he reached to his bosom to look once more at the toad, hoping that at sight of it a happy thought might come; but a new surprise,--the toad was gone. Now he began to lament. He ran through the whole castle, searched every room, in the garden every tree and bush, but no trace of the toad.

                At last he remembered the dish in the twelfth chamber, ran thither, but stopped on the threshold as if thunderstruck; for that poor chamber had become a real paradise, and in the middle of it stood a lady as beautiful, if not still more beautiful, than the portrait which he had carried to his father. In speechless amazement he looked at her, and who knows how long he might have stood there had she not turned to him and said: "My dear, thou hast suffered much; but I am not yet entirely free, and my people are not. Hurry now to the cellar; here is the key, and do to a hair what I command, or it will go ill with us. When the door is opened, thou wilt hear a terrible wailing; but listen to nothing, and speak not a word. Go down on the steps; below thou wilt find on a table twelve burning tapers, and before each taper one shirt. Roll up the shirts, quench the tapers, bring them all with thee."

                Yarmil took the key. When he opened the door of the cellar he heard such wailing that it is a wonder his heart did not break; but mindful of what had been said by his bride, he went boldly, descended the steps, rolled up the twelve shirts, quenching at each one, one taper; then he took the shirts and the tapers and hurried back. But how did he wonder when he saw a man nailed to the door by his tongue! The man begged Yarmil by all things to set him free, so that there was a strange feeling in Yarmil's heart; but after short hesitation he mastered this feeling, and shut the door.

                When he came to his bride and gave her the shirts, with the tapers, she said: "These twelve shirts are my twelve skins, in which I was a toad; and these twelve tapers burned me continually. Now I am liberated, it is true; but it will be three years before I shall be completely free. Know that I am the daughter of a mighty king, whom that foul monster, who is nailed to the cellar door by the tongue, changed into a toad because I refused him my hand. He is a wizard; but there is a witch more powerful than he. To punish him, she nailed him to that door; I, too, am still in her power. Now promise that for three years thou wilt tell no living person into what creature I was enchanted; but especially tell not how many skins I had."

                "Not even to my own mother!" exclaimed Yarmil, with excitement.

                "It is just from thy own mother that thou must hide it most, for she is a witch, and hates thee; she knows long since that thou art three years with me, and most carefully will she try to learn from thee just what I have forbidden thee to tell."

                Yarmil was greatly grieved, but the princess soon cheered him, especially when she said: "It is now high time to go, so as to come to thy father's at the right moment." Then she took him by the hand, and led him down the stairs. In front of the castle a carriage with four white horses was waiting; when they entered, the horses rushed off with such speed that soon they passed the white castle. Yarmil was going to ask who the white lady was, when the princess said: "That is my mother, who has aided in my liberation."

                Soon they were at the great gate; and when they had passed it, and looked back, there was nothing but a mouse-hole. They arrived at the king's castle just in the same moment with the two elder brothers and their princesses. But no one looked at them, for the eyes of all were turned to Yarmil's bride.

                The king was rejoiced most of all. He conducted the bride to the banqueting-hall, where there was a multitude of guests, and with tears of delight he exalted the happiness of his favorite son; but the elder princes and the queen were enraged, though they would not let it be known.

                On the following day came the weddings of the three princes; though Yarmil and his bride were the last, still glory came only to them. At the banquet the guests drank continually to the health of his bride, so that the other princesses were purple from shame.

                When Yarmil was almost reeling with delight, the queen drew near him, and praised with great flattery the beauty of his bride; but all at once she spoke of her origin, and in every way tried to discover whence she had come.

                Yarmil at first evaded her questions; but when she urged him vehemently to tell from what land came his bride, he said: "Dear mother, I will do everything according to thy wish, but of this one thing ask me not."

                "I know well whence she comes," smiled the queen; "I know, too, that thou didst not see her first in her present form."

                "Of course not; but I am proud that I liberated her."

                "Oh, my dear son!" exclaimed the queen, compassionately. "I pity thee greatly for letting thyself be so duped; but dost thou know that that beauty of hers is pure deceit?"

                "Why?" asked Yarmil in fright.

                "Because she is a witch," whispered the queen in his ear, with an anxious look. "There is still time," continued she, when she saw that Yarmil as it were believed, "to extricate thyself from her snares; and I wish to aid thee in every way. But thou must tell me what form she had before."

                Yarmil said that he would not tell, but the queen did not abandon her plan. When she could not discover from him directly, she began to name every kind of beast, looking with exceeding quickness at his face. Yarmil shook his head unceasingly, but was confused when she said "toad."

                "Then she was a toad before," cried in horror the queen. "Ah! dear son, it is ill, very ill with thee; but it may be well yet if only I know in how many skins she was living."

                Again Yarmil answered decidedly that he would not tell, but the queen tried so long that at last she discovered. Now she knew what she wanted, and went from Yarmil. It is a wonder that he was not suspicious, but he said nothing to the princess.

                Next morning a number of guests went with the king and his sons to the chase, and stayed in the forest till evening; thus the queen could act freely.

                While the three princesses and the remaining guests were walking in the garden, she stole into the chamber of Yarmil's bride, found the twelve shirts and the tapers, hid them in her own apartments, and in the evening, when the king had returned from the chase and all were sitting in the banqueting-hall at table, she went to the garden, where she burned the shirts and the tapers. At that moment Yarmil's bride felt great faintness, so that she went for fresh air in the garden.

                Yarmil hurried after her, but he had scarcely gone through the door, when she cried: "Woe is me, Yarmil! Thou hast told what I forbade thee to tell. Forget me; I must now to the glass mountain, from which there is no liberation." Straightway she vanished in the darkness of night.

                Yarmil remained a moment as if paralyzed; then he ran through the garden as if he had lost his wits, and called his bride by the most endearing names, but in vain. The guests ran out at the sound of his lamentation, and were greatly terrified when Yarmil told his misfortune. The queen also came quickly, and listened as if with terrified wonder to what had happened.

                "That was a witch," said she; "and 'tis well that other mishaps have not come."

                But the king was grieved more than all, and put an end to the rejoicing. Next day the two elder brothers went away with their brides, and poor Yarmil stayed home alone. In vain did his father try to comfort him; in vain did he promise that he would go himself to seek another bride for him. Yarmil was not to be consoled; and when the first onrush of sorrow had passed, he resolved to go to the glass mountain for his bride.

                "In what direction wilt thou go?" objected his father. "While I live no one has heard of a glass mountain."

                "Still I will go," said Yarmil, firmly. "It will come to the same whether I perish on the road or at home; in any event I shall die of disappointment."

                The king tried in all ways to dissuade him from going, but Yarmil would not let him talk. He mounted his horse, dropped the reins, and let him go whithersoever he would. He travelled long in this objectless way, hither and thither; but at last he saw that he must act differently if he meant to reach the glass mountain. But now came his real trouble; for wherever he asked about the glass mountain, people stared at him, and said that there was no such mountain in the world. Yarmil did not let himself be frightened; and now he galloped the more eagerly on his horse, and asked the more carefully everywhere. He had passed through towns without number, but still no one knew of a glass mountain. At last he heard the name.

                In a certain town there was a juggler,--a showman with every kind of wonder. Yarmil was just going past him at the moment when he cried out: "The witch with her twelve daughters on the glass mountain!"

                Yarmil called the juggler aside and said: "Here are ten goldpieces, tell me where the glass mountain is."

                "I am a poor man," said the juggler, honestly, "and need these goldpieces greatly; but I know nothing of the glass mountain."

                "Nor in what country it is?" asked Yarmil, impatiently.

                "I know that," answered the man. "It is in the east, but they say it is very far off; and besides, they say that no one can go within twenty miles of it."

                Yarmil threw the ten goldpieces into the juggler's cap, and putting spurs to his horse galloped off to the east. Many a time did the sun rise and set before he reached the glass mountain. But what good did it do him to go there? Around the mountain flowed an immensely great river, and on the bridge which was across it stood on guard three very fierce giants.

                Yarmil's courage fell. That moment the white lady from the white castle appeared suddenly before him and said: "Bind thy horse's hoofs with thy coat, and go very carefully over the bridge. The giant who stands on watch will see thee only when thou art in front of him, and will start after thee; but throw behind this dust and nothing will harm thee. Do the same for the second and third giant." She gave him three packages of dust, and said: "Beyond the river is a mill in which they give a witch to grind. Ask the miller for a night's lodging; he will give it thee, and invite thee to supper. Towards the end of the supper the cook will bring him a roast cock, and to that he will not invite thee; he eats it all himself. The bones of it he leaves on the plate and the cook must throw them under the wheel; but tell her to hide them for thee. And when it will be midnight, go to the glass mountain and put the bones before thee; but be careful to save one till thou art on the summit, then throw that last one back over thy head."

                The moment the lady had finished, she disappeared. Yarmil sprang from his horse, tore his coat into four pieces, and with them muffled the feet of his horse; then he mounted and rode cautiously to the bridge. The first giant was sitting with his back to him and dozing. Yarmil passed him safely; but that moment the giant woke, and howled with a terrible voice to him to come back. Here Yarmil threw the dust behind, and that moment there was such darkness that it hid the giant completely. The same happened with the second and third giant, and Yarmil crossed the river safely. Not far off was the mill, and the miller stood just on the threshold.

                "What dost thou wish here?" growled he at Yarmil.

                "Oh, grant me a night's lodging," said Yarmil; "I am a traveller from distant lands."

                "I'll give thee nothing," answered the miller, roughly, "for if I did I should lose my place."

                Yarmil begged again, and begged so long that the miller asked: "Whence art thou?" Yarmil told him; and the miller, meditating awhile, said: "Well, if thou art the son of so powerful a king, I will give thee a night's lodging; for we are from the same country, and I knew thy father very well."

                Then he led him to a sitting-room; and since it was just dark, he asked him to supper. Yarmil watched continually to see if the cock would soon come to the table, and he had not long to wait. The miller grew sullen, and without speaking a word ate the cock. Yarmil went out, and pressing a few goldpieces into the hands of the cook, begged her to hide the bones of the cock for him. The moment the cook saw the goldpieces she was glad to agree.

                When the miller had picked the cock he called the cook and ordered her strictly to throw the bones under the wheel. The cook took the plate and motioning as if she had thrown them into the water, put them very adroitly into her apron; when all were asleep she gave them to Yarmil. He waited quietly till the approach of midnight, then he went out cautiously and made for the glass mountain with his horse. Full of expectation he took out the first bone and put it on the mountain; and behold! in a moment a step was made so that he could walk comfortably on it, and so it happened with every bone. Yarmil was already at the summit and only one bone remained to him; this he threw with all his power over his head, and in a twinkle there was a pleasant highway along which his horse ran after him with ease.

                All wearied, Yarmil fell down at the castle, in which lived the sorceress with the twelve princesses her daughters, and he soon fell asleep. When he woke the sun was high in the heavens; and before he could think what further to do, his own princess came to him.

                "I told thee," said she, reproachfully, "to forget me; but thou didst not obey."

                "Hide me somewhere quickly from the sorceress; in the night we will flee."

                "Simple man!" said the princess smiling. "She knows long ago that thou art here; rather go to her, but be polite beyond measure. At dinner, rise after each dish and walk through the room, otherwise thou wilt stay here for the ages."

                Yarmil had to obey. When he came to the sorceress he bowed low before her, and said: "Great mighty lady, I have come for my bride."

                "I will give her to thee," smiled the sorceress, "but first thou must serve me three years."

                "I am glad to do everything thou mayest desire," said Yarmil bowing; and the sorceress answered graciously, inviting him at once to the table, to which just then one of the princesses brought the first dish. Yarmil ate with a relish; but when he had finished, he said to the sorceress: "Permit me, great mighty lady, to walk a little. I have travelled so much that I fear my legs will lose their power."

                "Oh, walk if it please thee," answered the sorceress, but her eyes glittered with anger. And Yarmil did the same after each dish, and the sorceress was ready to split from rage. Next day she gave him a wooden axe and saw, and said: "Thou must clear all that forest over there, or be the son of Death."

                Yarmil took the axe and the saw, and went on. In the forest he threw himself on the ground and thought of death; for such a stretch of forest no man could clear alone, still less with such tools. At midday his princess brought him dinner.

                "Ah!" scolded she, "thou art not working diligently."

                "Why trouble myself for nothing?" sighed Yarmil.

                "Only be of good courage," said the princess, comforting him. "It is not so bad to-day; it will be worse to-morrow."

                Then she gave him dinner; and when Yarmil had eaten, he put his head on her lap and fell asleep soundly. Then the princess took out of her bosom some kind of powder, and muttering mysterious words she threw it in the air. And wonder of wonders! in the twinkle of an eye invisible hands began to fell the aged trees, cut, split, and pile, so that in a short time the whole forest was felled.

                Now Yarmil woke up, and hurried with the princess to the castle. The sorceress praised him; she suppressed her rage with difficulty, and said: "Thou hast worked out thy first year in order."

                Next day the sorceress gave him a spade and a wheelbarrow, and said: "Thou must carry away that mountain out there, or be the son of Death."

                Yarmil went with his tools to the hill, but when there he threw himself on the ground, for a thousand men would not have been able to carry off the hill in ten years. At midday his princess brought him dinner, and said: "Oh, thou art working as diligently as yesterday!"

                "I am," sighed Yarmil.

                "Only be of good cheer," said the princess, comforting him. "To-day it is not so bad; it will be worse to-morrow."

                When Yarmil had eaten, he put his head on her lap and fell asleep. The princess again threw into the air a powder of some kind, muttering mysterious words; and straightway unseen hands began to work so vigorously that in a short time the hill was carried away.

                Then Yarmil woke up, and hurried to the sorceress to tell her he had done what she had commanded. She flamed up in anger, but nevertheless said: "Thou hast worked the second year of thy service in order."

                Next day she gave him a tailor's thimble, and said: "Thou must bail out that fish-pond, or be the son of Death."

                Yarmil took the thimble and went. At the fish-pond, however, he threw himself on the ground and waited for the princess. She came sooner than usual; and when Yarmil, strengthened with food, had fallen asleep with his head on her lap, she threw powder in the air, muttering mysterious words. Soon the water began to disappear from the fish-pond. Now she roused Yarmil, and said to him: "Draw thy sword, and give good care. When all the water is gone from the pond the sorceress will take the shape of a rain-storm, and try to destroy us; but look well at the darkness, and where it is blackest strike there with thy sword."

                Yarmil promised to do so, and had barely drawn his sword when a black darkness rushed from the castle,--but almost on the ground, so that Yarmil could strike the blackest spot with ease. At that moment the darkness turned into the sorceress, and Yarmil's sword stuck in her heart. With fearful cursing, she fell to the earth and died. Yarmil hurried to the castle with the princess, mounted his horse, and rushed off at a swift gallop.

                He had to travel far before he came to his father's castle; but to make up, there was joy unspeakable at the happy meeting. The queen was terrified when she saw them, and she had reason; for when Yarmil told all to his father the king gave her to be burned without mercy.

                When the feasting was over Yarmil set out with his wife on the journey to their kingdom. When they came to the mouse-hole it was no longer a mouse-hole, but a magnificent gate leading to a great city, in the middle of which stood a golden castle on a hill; and in that city there were multitudes of people everywhere, and in the castle throngs of courtiers and servants, who greeted with mighty applause their master and mistress, thanking Yarmil at the same time for their liberation.

                Now followed feasting, which lasted for eight whole days; and when the feasting was over they all lived happily beyond measure, because the royal pair were goodness itself.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Mouse-hole, and the Underground Kingdom, The
Tale Author/Editor: Curtin, Jeremiah
Book Title: Myths and Folk-tales of the Russians, Western Slavs, and Magyars
Book Author/Editor: Curtin, Jeremiah
Publisher: Little, Brown, and Company
Publication City: Boston
Year of Publication: 1890
Country of Origin: Czech Republic
Classification: unclassified

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