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Folk Tales from Bohemia by Adolf Wenig (translated by Lillian P. Mokrejs).


Title: Folk Tales from Bohemia.
Author: Adolf Wenig (translated by Lillian P. Mokrejs)..
Genre: Fiction, literature, folk tales, mythology.
Country: Czech Republic.
Language: English.
Publication Date: 1923.
Summary: This collection includes 9 folk tales from Bohemia, providing a taste of the cryptic and enchanting folklore of that region. In How the Devil Contended with Man, a cunning man tricks the devil three times in a competition for strength, speed, and whistling. In How a Soldier Punished the Devils, a man gives his last money away to the poor, and in return receives three wishes, which he cleverly arranges to help him out with some mischievous devils, and with the rest of his life and beyond. In About the Real and the Unreal Devils, when a greedy sedlak decides he impersonate the devil to rob his poor neighbour of his new-found gold, he doesn't count on the real devil catching him in the lie. In The Devil's Gifts, after being mistreated by his rich and miserly neighbour, an impoverished man asks charity of Lucifer, giving up all he has to offer, and receives three magical gifts which he uses to punish the greedy and bring himself great fortune. In About the Devil and the Blacksmith, a poor blacksmith makes a deal with the devil to get out of poverty, but when he helps three strangers and is granted three wishes, he arranges them in such a way so as to outwit the devil out of their contract for the rest of his life. In How the Devil Became Afraid of a Woman, when a devil banished from hell weds a horrible woman and is saved from her by a passing traveller, he sets out to repay his deed, although the traveller is much cleverer than he seems. In How a Young Man Served in Hell, a man seeking work finds it in hell, and because of his kindness gets a great reward, though is turned black by the fires of hell and shunned by society when he finishes his contract. The Devil's Mill is a tale in which a travelling journeyman helps out a village by tricking and getting rid of the devil who owns the local mill. In How an Old Woman Cheated the Devil, an old poor woman tricks the devil by asking of him seemingly very simple tasks in exchange for her soul.

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♥ So the devil came up to earth, sought out the poor man, and said that he had given him too much for his favor; that they should wrestle together, the stronger one to have the gold.

The man, cunning as a fox, agreed at once.

"I have a grandfather," he said, "an old man ninety and nine years old. If you overcome him, it will be the same as though you overcame me."

And he led the devil into the woods, among the rocks, where a bear had his den.

"There lies my grandfather; do you see him?"

The devil went bravely up to the bear, wakened him, and said, "Come, grandfather, let us wrestle."

But the bear quickly snatched the devil with his great paws and hugged him till his bones began to crack. The devil had all he could do to get away, and straight as an arrow, he flew back to hell.

"I want nothing to do with that man. He has a grandfather, an old man ninety and nine years old, who has so much strength that it is terrible. What must the grandson's be?"

♥ So the devil again sought out the man and asked him to race, the money to go to the swifter.

The man, a thorough rogue, consented at once.

"I have a little son, a tiny fellow, who is not yet a year old. If you outrun him, it will be the same as though you had outrun me."

And he led the devil to the edge of the woods where a rabbit lived among the bushes.

"There lies my little son; do you see him?"

The devil went to waken the rabbit.

"Get up, little fellow, let us race."

But the rabbit did not wait for the devil to get ready. He sprang from his hiding-place and ran. The devil started after him and ran as hard as he could, but was not able to catch up. Directly in their path was a gorge, deep and rocky, with a stream at the bottom. The rabbit leaped; the devil leaped after him, only to fall splashing into the water. Crawling out all bruised and dripping, he looked about for the rabbit, which was just then scampering over the other side. So the devil went limping back to hell.

"I want nothing more to do with that man. He has a son, a little fellow not yet a year old, who runs like the wind. How must the father ran?"

♥ This time to whistle.

The man was willing at once.

"Whistle!" ordered the devil.

"Just you begin and do your best," answered the man.

The devil whistled once; leaves fell from the trees. He whistled the second time, more loudly; twins dropped off. He whistled the third time, and great branches broke.

"Oh, your whistling is weak," said the man. "When I whistle, the trees will fall, the noise will deafen you!"

At that the devil begged the man to tie up his ears. The man gladly tied a kerchief not only over his ears, but over his eyes too. Then, picking up one of the strongest of the broken branches, he whistled and struck the devil over the head with it.

"See, I told you the trees would fall!"

He whistled the second time and brought the branch down on to the devil's head still harder. At this the devil begged the man not to whistle again.

"As you whistled three times, I will too," said the man.

He whistled the third time and struck with all his might. At this the devil tore the bandage from his eyes and, without even looking for the uprooted trees, ran straight off to hell.

The bag of gold was left with the man.

~~How the Devil Contended with Man.

♥ When the soldier began to feel that it was nearly time to part with this world, he asked that his knapsack, bottle and pipe be buried with him. It was done as he wished. Upon reaching the other world, he went straight to the gate of heaven and knocked. Saint Peter opened, but when he saw who it was, he said:

"You do not belong here. You were once allowed to choose what you wished and you never thought of heaven."

What was the soldier to do? He turned about and went down to hell. There he knocked upon the gate and, as it opened, a devil without horns stuck out his head. Seeing the soldier, he cried: "Don't let him in. He is the one who broke off our horns." The gate was slammed in the soldier's face and nothing remained for him to do but to go back whence he had come.

On the way he wondered what he should do, when, suddenly, a bright thought came. He went up again to the gate of heaven and knocked. Saint Peter opened. "Into my knapsack!" he called out, and instantly Saint Peter found himself in the sack, unable to get out. The soldier slipped into heaven, closed the gate and then set Saint Peter free. The saint ran off to complain that the soldier would make trouble in heaven.

"Never mind," he was answered, "just be careful not to find yourself in the knapsack again!"

So the soldier remained in heaven and he is still there to this very day.

~~How a Soldier Punished the Devils.

♥ That evening, after a day's work, the poor man was sitting in front of his hut, when a strange man in a hunter's dress came up the road. Dusty and tired from his journey, he asked the poor man to lodge him for the night.

"If you are brave enough to stay, I shall be glad to have you. Terrible things have been happening here."

And then the poor man told him about the money they had found and how the devil had been coming for it. The hunter was eager to see this devil, so the poor man led him into the hut, glad that they were not to be alone that night.

As it neared twelve o'clock, the same noise and rattling was heard. The poor man was preparing to give up the money, when the hunter said: "Open the door! Let him in!"

The wife objected, thinking that if they paid no attention, he would go away again. At this the hunter jumped up and opened the door. When the horned monster stepped into the room, the hunter asked: "Who are you and what are you looking for?"

"I am the devil and I have come for my money."

The hunter answered: "You are a devil? I am one too. Well then, we shall go where we both belong."

He picked up the sedlak and flew with him out of the widow and all that remained in the room was a little smoke and the smell of brimstone.

In the morning, the sedlak's wife came to ask if her husband had been there.

"He hasn't been here for a long time," answered the poor man's wife. "I can scarcely remember when. But a strange thing happened here last night."

And then she told her all.

The sedlak's wife knew at once that it was her husband whom the devil had carried off, but she never said a word.

Afterward, the poor man bought a fine piece of land with the money and he and his family were very happy.

~~About the Real and the Unreal Devils

♥ When the news reached his rich neighbor, he came running to the weaver and asked: "My dear fellow, tell me where you went for these things. If I had not given you the meat, how would you have found this fortune?"

The weaver told him all truthfully.

At this tie the miser took the best piece of meat he had and said that he, too, would take it to Lucifer. Suddenly, somehow, from somewhere, a black man appeared in the road before him and offered to show him the way. Before he was aware, he found himself in hell. The gates opened and the devils all stood there asking: "What are you bringing us?"

"A piece of meat," the miser replied.

Thereupon they all laughed and said: "Surely you have never given alms so willingly to any one as you bring us this meat. In return for such generosity, we shall keep you with us forever."

The gates of hell closed behind the miser and he returned home no more.

~~The Devil's Gifts.

♥ "I know of help, but you would have to be a very brave man."

"Why should I not be?" answered the blacksmith. "Hunger adds courage and want makes heroes. I should not fear even the devil himself."

At this the strange laughed and said: "I am the devil."

♥ When, finally, that old man with the scythe came for the blacksmith, he went up to the gate of heaven, but Saint Peter refused to admit him, saying that as he had not wished for heaven before, it was too late now. The blacksmith turned back and followed the road to hell. There at the gate sat that very devil whom he had so outwitted. Remembering what had befallen him at the apple-tree, the devil jumped up, locked the gate and would not let him in. So the blacksmith went back to heaven, knocked at the gate and, when Saint Peter opened, quickly slipped in. There he hurriedly spread out his leather apron, sat down upon it and would not be driven away. He was sitting on his own, he said, and would not leave it. What could they do? They finally left him, and he is there, sitting on his own, to this very day.

~~About the Devil and the Blacksmith.

♥ Outside the gate, the devil was waiting and the traveller thanked him for all the money. But the devil answered: "That is not enough. Because you helped me to escape from my wife, you deserve much more."

♥ At that time, the seven years, which the devil had to serve on earth, were ended, and so he said: "Now that you have money enough, I shall leave you. I shall find another princess, but from her I will not depart. I have served long, I wish also to rule."

~~How the Devil Became Afraid of a Woman.

♥ "..I will go into the world to seek my fortune."

He set out, but fortune is a rare flower; who seeks it, often seeks in vain.

♥ The two sisters would not go to the wedding, but hid in the garden, where they could get a glimpse of their sister sitting beside her ugly, black lover. How great was their astonishment and dismay when they beheld, in the carriage with Milina, the handsome bridegroom with his smiling face!

Suddenly they felt some one's hands upon their shoulders. Turning around, they saw before them the devil. He grinned at them mockingly and said: "So my proud beauties, you did not want a black bridegroom! What if I marry one of you and find a husband for the other in hell?"

They fell on their knees and begged for mercy. The devil only chuckled.

"One of you said you would sink through the earth for shame. So be it!"

The devil seized them, stamped upon the ground and immediately the earth opened and swallowed them up. They went there, where people long had been sending them—to hell.

~~How a Young Man Served in Hell.

♥ And so ten years passed, then twenty, a hundred were gone, and now two hundred, and still no one would go near the haunted mill, until one day in the fall, when the wind whistled through the trees and blew the red leaves from the branches, a wandering journeyman passed that way. He was of middle age, his hair streaked with gray, his body like the trunk of an oak, with the strength of four men, and he knew not what it was to be afraid. As he neared some woodcutters, who were felling trees in the forest, he called out to them: "The Lord help you!" "The Lord grant it!" they answered and immediately warned him not to follow the road at the left, as that led to the haunted mill, that the devil lived there.

~~The Devil's Mill.

♥ "I will bring you as many as you like, if you will promise me your soul. I am the devil."

The old woman was not frightened a bit and she answered: "I will not promise, but I will sell. In the loft by the window hangs a bag. Fill that with ducats and when it is filled, you may have mu soul."

At this the devil jumped up and flew off to hell for the money. Meanwhile the old woman hurried up to the loft and cut a hole in the bottom of the bag. When the devil arrived with the money and poured it into the bag, it fell through this hole into the loft. The devil had to fly back for more money, and he flew again and again, until there was so much money in the loft that the bag stayed filled.

Tired and angry at the way the old woman had served him, he demanded his reward. "You have the money, now give me your soul!"

But to that she answered: "It isn't yours yet. You must do one thing more for me and then you may have my soul."

To avoid a quarrel, the devil agreed and asked what he was to do. The old woman handed him a sieve and ordered: "Carry water from the pond into the barrel which stands in the garden. The vegetables need watering and there is no water."

The devil took the sieve and ran to the pond, but dip as he would and run as he would, he could never get the water as far as the barrel. When the sweat dripped from every pore and he had become so tired he could hardly drag his feet, he flung the sieve to the ground and angrily exclaimed: "Truly I am an old devil and a mean one, but you, old woman, are still worse."

He slapped her across the face so that stars flashed before her eyes, and then vanished.

Thus the old woman got rid of the devil and had a whole loft full of money. After that everything went well with her, but the marks left by the devil's claws remained on her face all the rest of her life.

~~How an Old Woman Cheated the Devil.
Tags: 1920s - fiction, 20th century - fiction, 3rd-person narrative, austrian - fiction, austrian - mythology, bohemian - fiction, bohemian - mythology, czech - fiction, czech - mythology, fiction, folk tales, foreign lit, humour (fiction), literature, my favourite books, mythology (fiction - myths), mythology (fiction), religion (fiction), religion - christianity (fiction), short stories, translated

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