Rumanian Bird and Beast Stories | Annotated Tale

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Why is the wasp the gipsies' bee?

The Story of the Wasp, the Gipsies and the Rumanians.

IN THE beginning the wasp belonged to the Rumanians, and the bee to the Gipsies. When the former saw how useless, nay, dangerous, the wasps were, and how useful the bees, they cheated the Gipsies into changing with them.

               Those of aforetime tell us that when God made the living creatures which move with the sun, he made the bee first. The Gipsy, impudent and greedy, as he has remained to this very day, stole the bee from the hand of God saying, "Give it to me, O Lord, that I may eat of its honey, I and my little ones. And of the wax--I will make candles to light them up for thee in the Church." God did not say anything, but kept silent and looked angrily at the Gipsy, for he was annoyed at the Gipsy's impudence. He made up his mind to punish him. He therefore at once made the big wasp, and, after he had made it, he gave it to the Rumanians, saying, "Take this, for the bee has been ordained for the Gipsy, and he has taken his share." The Rumanian took the wasp, and thanked God. Sometime afterwards the Gipsy met the Rumanian, and he asked him whether his bee had brought him much honey. The Rumanian, smart as ever, replied, "My bee has filled many barrels, for this bee carries the honey in bagfuls, as it was big and strong."

               "Oh," cried the Gipsy, "I see that he has deceived me; my bee has not filled a cup with honey, and my duckies have not even rubbed their lips with honey. Let us exchange our bees, my little Rumanian."

               "But what do you give in addition?"

               "What shall I give you? By God, I have nothing. I will make an axe of my iron and give it to you."

               "Well, then, let it be so. Bring here your hive and I will bring you mine."

               "I will do so," and the Gipsy went with the Rumanian to the hut and gave him the hive. The Rumanian took it home, and when they reached the forest the Rumanian showed him a big tree, as thick as a barrel and high as the heavens, where the Rumanian had put before the wasps and where they had grown to a very large number.

               "Here, you Gipsy, are my bees in this hollow tree. It is full of honey enough to satisfy your whole nation of Gipsies and some to remain over."

               "Thank you. May God bless you," replied the Gipsy.

               The Rumanian went home to look after the bees. The Gipsy gathered his whole nation together. They brought copper pans and pots and ladders, and came to the tree to eat of the honey to their fill. Arrived there, they leaned the ladder just against the hole by which the wasps went out and came in. Full of courage, as the Gipsy is by nature, he took a pot for the honey and climbed up the ladder. No sooner had he got there when a wasp thrust its sting into him. Another stung him on the nose, and another, and again another, and the Gipsy could not see out of his eyes because of the pain, and he began howling there on the top of the tree. He forgot the honey and everything, and cried, "Keep the ladder, keep the pot, keep me also, for we are falling," and down he came with a thud. How long he lay there with broken bones I do not know, but I do know that he had had enough of wasps' honey to last him to the end of his days. Since then the bees belong to the Rumanians, and the wasps are the Gipsies' bees.

Another Version of the Wasp Legend.

                Another legend which omits the first part of the story does not mention anything about the Gipsy stealing the bee from God, but simply tells of a Gipsy who found a hive in the forest, and taking it home, went about bragging of his wonderful hive and of the honey. A clever Rumanian, finding a wasp nest, told the Gipsy that his bees were making gold, and induced him to change with him. Since then the bees belong to the Rumanians.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Why is the wasp the gipsies' bee?
Tale Author/Editor: Gaster, Moses
Book Title: Rumanian Bird and Beast Stories
Book Author/Editor: Gaster, Moses
Publisher: Sidgwick & Jackson
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1915
Country of Origin: Romania
Classification: unclassified

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