Margot (midnight_birth) wrote in margot_quotes,

Hungarian Folk-tales (retold and illustrated) by Val Biro.


Title: Hungarian Folk-tales.
Author: (retold and illustrated) by Val Biro.
Genre: Fiction, children's lit, fantasy, adventure, folk tales, mythology, faerie tales.
Country: U.K.
Language: English.
Publication Date: 1980.
Summary: This collection combines 21 folk-tales. In The Thieving Goblins, kind and resourceful Georgie and his eleven brothers combat goblins that steal the Black King's horses, to win their life and a great reward. In Tobias and the Dragon, a resourceful and cunning man outwits a dragon out of gold and hard labour. In A Donkey's Load, when a rich barber scams an impoverished man using a linguistic technicality, the poor man uses his ingenuity and his donkey to get his revenge. In Peter Cheater, an ingenious man tricks the Mayor three times, each time more cleverly than the last. In The Magic Doctor, an illiterate but clever bootmaker decides to become his village's new witch doctor, but gets into a sticky situation when he's asked to demonstrate skills he does not possess. In The Devil of a Bailiff, a cruel farmer who can't keep his workers hires the devil to be his new bailiff, with a caveat that at the end of the term he will take as payment only that which the workers are willing to give. In The Honest Thief, a king tests an exceptionally smart young man by getting him to steal more and more impossible things for a higher reward. In The Mayor's Egg, a Mayor of a town brings back to his village what he believes to be a giant egg, which it is the people's responsibility to help hatch. In King Greenbeard, when King Greenbeard unknowingly gambles away his only son to the King of the Devils, the young Prince must use all his courage and wits with the help of a beautiful maiden with extraordinary powers. In Almafi and the Flying Palace, a kind man sets out on a quest to rescue a princess from a mysterious and elusive flying castle. In Almafi and the Golden Cockerel, while on his quest, Almafi encounters a golden cockerel that is in fact an enchanted Fairy Prince, and promises to help rescue the Prince's love from the Wicked Fairy of Deceit. In The Hedgehog, an enchanted prince turned into a hedgehog is adopted by an old couple, and helps three kings in return for wealth and the hands of their daughters. In Ever Thus and As You Were, when a young soldier shows kindness to a stranger, the stranger teaches him the two phrases that make his life and fortune. In A Dragon-tale, in exchange for his kind actions to those in need, a young man is helped on his quest to rescue the Princess-turned-dragon from her two dragon-suiters. In A Cauldron of Gold, when a poor man is defrauded of a cauldron of gold by a scoundrel soldier, the man's three daughters take it upon themselves to get revenge. In Goosy Gander, when a cruel Squire cheats and abuses Matty Gander, he swears three acts of vengeance for the trespass. In The Lazy King, an obese king who hasn't left his room in decades tries to decide which of his three sons is the laziest, and will thus inherit the throne. In The Joking Wolf, a goat, a cow and a horse outwit a wolf when their owner throws them out for the wolf to eat. In The Obstinate Little Rabbit, a little rabbit will get his way and get his bell away from a tree that took it, no matter how many he has to convince that he should, and how. In Sammy Lazybones, a clever, resourceful woman tricks her incredibly lazy husband into good working habits with the help of some cross-dressing and a sword. In Briar Peter, a young man compassionate actions creatures in need comes in helpful when he is challenged to find the one place to hide the Princess cannot guess, at the cost of his life.

My rating: 8/10.
My review:

♥ There was once a poor man who had so many children that he was never able to count them for sure. Sometimes he thought that he had about fifty, at other times there only seemed to be about fifteen.

♥ The little horse whispered to Georgie:

"You don't need real tobacco. Elder leaves will do, and there's plenty of that here in the meadow.

The brothers went to gather some leaves. They denuded half-a-dozen elders so vigorously that the trees were puzzled how autumn had come so soon.


♥ And the castle is still spinning round like a top because it stands on such a strong cockerel's leg. If you don't believe this, go and have a look for yourself one day!

~~The Thieving Goblins.

piz 1

♥ Once upon a time there was a poor man called Tobias.

He was so poor that he could hardly have been poorer, yet every year he became poorer still. And he became poorer each year because each year another baby arrived. When there were more children in his house than there are holes in a sieve, Tobias went out to seek work.

♥ "Let's see what you can squeeze out of that rock," he said, pointing to it.

Without a word the dragon broke off a piece of rock, rubbed it between his palms as if it were a snowball and then he began to squeeze. In no time at all the rock had crumbled into flour.

"Nice," said Tobias," but I can do better than that. I will squeeze whey out of that rock!"

So saying, he got hold of another piece of rock, secretly took a piece of cheese out of his pocket and pressed them together. The dragon tasted the droplets and, sure enough, it was whey.

♥ "Now you must hold the tree down for me," said the dragon. But Tobias could not hold it down. Oh dear! As soon as the dragon let go, the tree straightened up again and that is how Tobias learnt to fly. When he had had enough of flying, the tree flung him straight into the middle of a bush, on top of a fat hare who was resting under it. They were both alarmed and the hare tried to run away. But he could not because Tobias was on top of him.

The dragon was wondering what Tobias was up to.

"Just this," said Tobias, recovering quickly, "that I saw this hare, I leapt over the cherry tree to make sure that he would not run away and, see here, I caught him too!"

♥ When Tobias was asleep, the dragon pulled the cloak off him and threw it into the lake. He thought that as Tobias got stiffer and stiffer with cold during the night it would be easier to deal with him.

Tobias slept and slept until the cold woke him up. As soon as he saw his cloak floating on the lake he knew what the dragon was about. Without a word, he pulled off the dragon's coat and threw it on the fire. Then he went back to sleep and slept until morning. In the morning he spoke to the dragon:

"What has my cloak done to you that you should have thrown it into the lake?"

With that he took his stick and struck at the dragon's coat on the fire, and the coat instantly turned into a heap of ashes.

"This will be your fate too," he warned, "if you don't fetch my cloak out of the lake!"

And he ground his teeth too, the more to frighten the dragon.

The dragon jumped into the lake, not so much as a dragon but as a small dog, to retrieve the cloak.

piz 2

Then he roped up the wood, Tobias sat himself on top of it, the dragon shouldered it and carried it home, with Tobias on top.

♥ "Let us have a sneezing competition, brother. If you sneeze best, you will have a barrel of gold, but if I sneeze best, you must go home!"

"Very well," said Tobias.

With that they went into the dragon-house and the dragon took a deep breath. He sneezed so mightily that Tobias nearly stuck to the ceiling as the wind whirled him up. When he found his feet again, he began to walk round the room along the cracked walls and proceeded to stop the gaps in them with little bits of rag.

"What are you doing?" asked the dragon

"I am just stopping up the holes," replied Tobias.

"And why are you stopping up the holes?"

"So that they shouldn't let out my sneeze. If they do, the house won't collapse. And if the house doesn't collapse, how will you be able to tell that I sneezed best?"

The dragon fell to his knees and begged Tobias not to sneeze the roof away from their heads, their poor dragons' heads!

"Very well," said Tobias, "I shall not sneeze if you don't wish it. But I must have my barrel of gold!"

The dragon measured out the second barrel of gold, too, and said:

"In fighting and in sneezing you are the stronger. But let us see whose voice is stronger? If you shout the loudest you will have a barrel of gold, but if I shout the loudest, you must go home."

"Let's shout, then," agreed Tobias, "but first let's go to the blacksmith."

"By all means," said the dragon, "but why?"

"So that he can make an iron hoop for your head. For if he doesn't hoop your head carefully, it will crack apart like an egg from my shouting."

The dragon was afraid for his head, he was afraid for all his seven heads, and he quickly measured out a third barrel of gold instead.

"I know now," he said, "that you are stronger than me in every way."

"You should have known that before now," said Tobias.

♥ "Come back with me," said the fox. "For a cock and nine hens I will retrieve the gold for you."

With that they turned back toward the village. Tobias saw them as they arrived at his gate. He knew that unless he thought of something quickly, he would never think of anything again, because the dragon would destroy him. A thought flashed through his mind. He shouted to the fox:

"You promised me nine dragon-skins! Do you mean to hoodwink me with this solitary dragon here?"

On hearing this, the dragon became so alarmed that he hit the fox over the head, ran away as fast as he could and never stopped until he got home.

As for Tobias, he built a palace with all his gold. He lives there still, with his ninety-nine children. And the dragons are still frightened of him, as if he had a dragon for breakfast every day!

~~Tobias and the Dragon.


One fine day he looked round his miserable shack for some food. But in vain: there wasn't even a single crust of dry bread in the place. So he drove his donkey out to the forest and loaded him up with a pile of wood. From forest to market. There he stood in a row with the other merchants and waited to sell his wood.

♥ There he unloaded the wood and was about to leave with his donkey when the barber stopped him.

"Look here, my man, we struck a bargain on that donkey's load. And that includes the saddle too."

The poor man protested, but the barber stuck to his guns. The saddle was his because he had paid for it. The poor man was unable to argue with him, so he unsaddled the donkey and trudged home.

But he was so angry that he couldn't rest. Of course he was angry: the barber had cheated him! And he was sorry about the saddle, too. He racked his brains. Then he had an idea. He took the donkey by the halter and didn't stop until he reached the barber's house. There he tied the donkey to the gatepost and entered the barber's shop. He greeted the barber and asked:

"How much for shaving me and my partner?"

The barber told him. The poor man paid accordingly and sat down. The barber shaved him well, then asked:

"And where's your partner?"

"He is just coming," said the poor man. With that he went out, untied the donkey and led him back into the shop.

"Is that your partner?" asked the barber, appalled.

"Yes," replied the poor man. "I'll help you with the lathering."

"You won't," shouted the barber, "I am no horse-barber and I won't shave donkeys!"

"I don't know what you are, sir, all I know is that we struck a bargain and you accepted my money. There is nothing you can do but shave my partner. If you don't, I'll seek justice in the courtroom."

The threat frightened the barber, so he tried to negotiate, offering to return the money and, on top of that, a bran-new razor, if only he were not asked to shave the donkey.

"I accept the brand-new razor," replied the poor man, "but only if you return my saddle as well, sir."

What could the barber do but return the saddle? And ever since then the poor man does his own shaving.

~~A Donkey's Load.

♥ A peasant accosted him and asked how much he wanted for his horse.

"With his tail, a thousand florins," said Peter, "without his tail a hundred."

The peasant scratched his head. He could make no sense of this.

"Look," explained Peter patiently, "you can have the whole horse for a thousand. You can have him without his tail for a hundred. But if you want the tail only, give me nine hundred and the tail is yours!"

"In that case," said the peasant, who wasn't born yesterday, "I'd rather have the horse without the tail."

"Done!" said Peter. He snipped off the tail, put it under his arm, pocketed the hundred florins, shook hands with the peasant and made himself scarce.

♥ "You are quite right, Mr Mayor," he said. "What you think is perfectly true."

"How do you know what I am thinking?" ground out the Mayor.

"You are thinking, sir, that I am the biggest blackguard in the world."

The Mayor was impressed by this discernment. "And how did you know that?" he enquired.

"Chiefly because I, too, think that I am the biggest blackguard in the world."

♥ Peter pocketed the money, took the reins in his hand and gave the tin whistle to the Mayor.

"To make quite sure," said Peter, "that I am not cheating you this time, sir, I suggest that we try it out first."

"Very well," said the Mayor, "but how?"

"I suggest, Mr Mayor, that I hit you over the head with the bludgeon, and that my sister blows the whistle. If you, Mr Mayor, don't revive then it is clear that I've cheated you, and I will return all the money. But if you do revive, then all is well!"

The Mayor thought this was an excellent suggestion. Accordingly, Peter hit him over the head thump! and the Mayor sank to the ground like a sack of potatoes. By the time he came round, Peter Cheater was miles away!

~~Peter Cheater.

♥ The bootmaker forgot to remove his hat, but in the crowded waiting-room a man standing by the door accidentally knocked it off. The bootmaker took this to be the custom of the town, and went in.

The doctor sitting behind the table was no ordinary doctor: he was a magic doctor. He wore a black cloak and a tall pointed hat with a feather in it.

"What's wrong with you, then?" he asked.

The bootmaker shook his head—there was nothing wrong with him.

"So you are healthy?" enquired the doctor.

"I am," said the bootmaker.

"Then perhaps you want me to make you ill?" joked the doctor.

The simple bootmaker tried to explain:

"No sir, but my wife is ill, and I wish to ask you to cure her."

"Then why didn't she come herself?" demanded the doctor.

"Because she can't walk, so I came instead, because I can! So please give me a prescription."

But the doctor refused to give him a prescription because, he said, patients must come to see him in person. So he sent the bootmaker away.

As he went out, the bootmaker took a good look round, to see what was involved in being a magic doctor. There was the cloak and the pointed hat, there were the tables and chairs, the papers and books, and there was the man at the door to knock people's hats off. It was quite a simple matter really, he thought.

♥ The royal sentry barred him at the gates of the palace. When the bootmaker told him why he had come, the sentry replied:

"I will only let you in if you promise to give me half the King's reward."

The poor bootmaker had no choice but to agree. Then the royal steward barred him at the King's door. The bootmaker again explained why he had come and the steward said:

"I will only let you in if you promise to give me half the King's reward."

The bootmaker had no choice yet again and promised to give the other half of the king's reward to the steward. So the door was opened to him and he stood in front of the King.

"What do you want, my man?" asked the King.

The bootmaker produced the pair of boots.

"Your Majesty, I made these boots and I would like to give them to you as a present."

.."You must have a reward for these," said the King. "I will measure out a plateful of gold for you."

But the poor bootmaker shook his head. No, he had no wish for a plateful of gold.

"Well," said the King, "what can I giver you instead?"

"Your Majesty," replied the bootmaker, "if you have no objection, would you kindly measure out a hundred strokes of the birch?"

The King was surprised, but he said, "If that is what you want, you shall have it." He called for three servants: one to hold the bootmaker, the other to wield the birch and the third to count the strokes.


The king gave the order and the first servant grabbed the bootmaker. Just as the second servant lifted his birch to begin the beating, the bootmaker said:

"Your Majesty, I promised the first half of my reward to the sentry. Would you please send for him?"

In came the sentry. "Do you want half the reward?" asked the bootmaker.

"Not 'arf!" replied the sentry.

"Then give it to him!" laughed the king, and the servants grabbed the sentry. They gave him the full measure of fifty strokes.

Then it was the turn of the bootmaker again, but he told the king that the second half of the reward was promised to the steward. In came the steward and the fifty strokes were duly measured out on his back too.

The king was so amused by the bootmaker's cunning that he gave him two platefuls of gold.

~~The Magic Doctor.


♥ Once upon a time there was a farmer. He was very rich and very fat. He lived in a big house with his wife who was also very rich and very fat. He employed a lot of casual labourers on his farm, but he harassed and tormented them so much that none of them ever returned a second time. He was a cruel, selfish and mean employer.

♥ The far farmer was now in real trouble. Without a bailiff, he told his fat wife, how could he hire labourers? Without labourers, who would cultivate the land? And without the land being cultivated, what would they eat in order to nourish their renowned fatness?

They considered the problem from every angle, but it never occurred to them to do the work themselves! They loved to eat, but they hated work.

♥ He threw down his hat and exclaimed:

"I've had enough! I would engage the devil himself for a bailiff if I could!"

No sooner were these words out of his mouth but that flames started flaring up in the stove. There was such a stinging cloud of smoke billowing out of it that the farmer had to rub his eyes. When he opened them again, he saw a short, dark figure standing in front of him. The fat farmer was so startled that he nearly fell off his chair.

"Who on earth are you?" he cried in alarm.

"I am the devil," replied the other.

"And what do you want here?" bellowed the farmer.

"To become your bailiff," said the devil.

"My bailiff?" fulminated the fat farmer. "What do you mean?"

"Well, didn't you say just now that you would engage the devil himself for a bailiff, if you could?"

The fat farmer had to admit that he had. He calmed down a bit and agreed that he would engage the devil to become his bailiff. But first he enquired:

"Do you know anything about farming?"

The devil replied that of course he knew about it because he farmed in hell himself. There remained the question of wages, but the devil was very modest:

"For wages, I shall only take what your labourers are willing to offer me."

♥ At that the bride exclaimed:

"If you don't come with me, the devil take you!"

At which the fat farmer exclaimed:

"Did you hear that bailiff? You can take the young man, he's been offered to you!"

"True," said the devil, "but not willingly. It is most unlikely that a bride should want to give up her young man to the devil."

"You don't know these people," said the farmer. "If she sent her man to the devil, she meant it."

"Very well, replied the devil, "let's put it to the test."


With that he skipped across and, taking the young man by the neck, he spoke to the bride.

"Thank you for your present. We need young men just like this in hell."

The bride was flabbergasted and began to weep and beseech the devil with all her heart that of course she wasn't serious and if he must take anybody at all, it should be herself, so long as he had mercy on her young man.

The devil released the man.

♥ The farmer sobered up quickly and, shaking his head, said in an unctuous voice:

"No, these people weren't speaking seriously, either."

"Very well," replied the devil. "Let's put it to the test."

He skipped to the fence and addressed the labourers:

"Thank you for your present. I shall take the farmer, provided that you give him to me willingly."

"We give him willingly all right," they replied, "so willingly that you can have his fat wife too, if you can carry them both!"

"Yes, I can carry them easily," replied the devil. "We need fat people just like these in hell!"

And, without further ado, he popped the fat farmer into a sack. He returned to the big house and popped the fat wife in as well. He tied a rope round the sack, swung it over his shoulder and didn't stop going until he had reached the deepest regions of hell.

The fat farmer and his wife are there to this day. If you don't believe it, look for them in the big house. And if you can't find them there, seek them in the other place.

~~The Devil of a Bailiff.

♥ Next day the King and Queen sat down to lunch. The dish stood in front of them on the table. Suddenly, they saw a hand reaching for it through the window!

You must know that the night before Michael had carved a wooden hand and painted it. He tied it to a rope and secured the rope to the wishing-well in the King's garden. He was now hiding beneath the window and was pushing the hand towards the dish when the King noticed it. The King gave a triumphant yell:

"That's Michael! Yo-ho-ho! we shall catch him now!

The King grabbed the hand. The Queen grabbed the King. The maid grabbed the Queen. The cook grabbed the maid. And they pulled. They pulled and pulled until the rope gave way. The King, the Queen, the maid and the cook fell flat on their backs in a heap. By the time they got to their feet at last and looked round, Michael and the dish had disappeared.

He and his mother had a good dinner that night.

~~The Honest Thief.

♥ "Fellow Councillors," announced the Mayor, "we have done well so far. The question now arises, however, as to what we should do with it?"

"Hatch it!" came the unanimous reply.

"Yes, indeed, but how? We have no horses."

There was silence. Everybody pondered for a while. They thought and thought and racked their brains. But it was the Mayor, once more, who found the solution.

"I am of the opinion," he said, "that we should take this splendid egg and hatch it ourselves!"

There was again general agreement among the Councillors.

To set a good example, the Mayor took it upon himself to sit on the egg first. He was followed by the others in turn, according to age and precedence. Each of them sat for a day. Exactly as broody hens do.

The Council would have continued to sit in turn on the pumpkin 'til Doomsday except for a rumour which emanated from the neighbouring village. It was said there that the worthy Councillors were sitting on an addled egg! It must have been addled because it hadn't hatched! Hearing this, the Councillors expostulated and refused to sit on the mare's egg any further.

The Mayor was deeply wounded. He could have sworn that the little foal was already moving inside the egg. He shook it. He smelt it. He required the Councillors to smell it themselves. But the Councillors refused to listen to him. According to them, the egg had a distinct smell. It was addled!


After a long discussion, however, it was decided that the addled egg should be taken to the parish border and placed on the top of the hill, whence it could be rolled down towards the very village which was so insolent in its disparagement of the Parish Council.

~~The Mayor's Egg.

♥ Beyond the seven kingdoms, and further still, where the short-tailed piglets grub, there lived, once upon a time, a greenbearded king.


He travelled far – he must have wandered the length of a hundred needles at least – when one day he realized that it must be fully seventeen years since he left home. He had journeyed so far that he was exceedingly tired and thirsty. So he sat down on the bank of a brook and then lay flat on his stomach the better to take a good long drink. Hardly had he gulped once or twice but somebody grabbed him by the beard. He tried to pull back, but couldn't.


At last the palace door itself opened, and there stood the King of the Devils.

.."Here is a cabbage leaf, take it. I shall lock you in your room and if by morning you have not made a feathered hat out of it, you may start praying!"

♥ If ever there was speed, the king of the Devils was twice as fast. The little bird too was flying at her swiftest. She knew that if she did not reach the border of the Devil's kingdom soon, she would be caught. She could feel a mighty wind at her back. Sher could see the Devil behind her, like forked lightning. But just then, in the nick of time, she flew over the border and away to safety! The might of the king of the Devils did not reach beyond the border of his country and, when he saw that the little bird flew safely over it, he became so furious that he promptly exploded.

~~King Greenbeard.


He journeyed all day, and by nightfall he was tired and hungry. He sat down by the roadside and pulled the barley loaf out of his satchel. He had hardly taken a few mouthfuls before he saw a white-haired old man standing in front of him.

"Good evening, my son!" greeted the old man.

"It is indeed good, father!" said the boy.

"Yes, my son, I can see that it is for you because you have something to eat. But I have not eaten for these last three days."

"I have only this loaf. But what I have I will share with you," said the boy.

♥ How long he lay there he knew not but he suddenly heard a tremendous humming in the air. He looked up into the copper-coloured sky to see what could be the cause of such a mighty rumbling roar. To his amazement, he saw a beautiful palace floating through the air!

And only when it was about to disappear did he catch sight of a lovely young maiden sitting on its balcony. In that single moment, he felt himself falling desperately in love with her. And he knew that so long as life remained, he would pursue that vision.

♥ One day, he came to the foot of an immense mountain, with its peak in the clouds. Surely, he thought, he would be able to glimpse the flying palace from its summit!

It took him seven days to reach the top of the mountain. It was wreathed in swirling cloud as he looked all around. The power which the fairies had given his eyes made it possible for them to penetrate the dense ramparts of cloud and he saw a limitless horizon. And as he looked, he saw the flying palace far away, coming towards him!


The summit on which he stood was so high that the palace was at Almafi's own level as it came ever nearer. When it was almost within reach, Almafi leapt off the topmost rock and landed in the courtyard of the palace itself!

♥ And so they grappled. Almafi fought with the strength of a thousand men, but the monster with that of twelve hundred. He threw Almafi to the ground. The boy was dazed for a while but slowly got to his feet again. He faced the monster again, this time feeling that he had acquired the strength of fifteen hundred men, and flung the monster with such force that he never got up again. And so the monster gave up his wicked soul.

Almafi ran forthwith back to the girl's balcony. He declared to her:

"My dearest heart, I have been roaming round the world for more than a year to find you, and if you so will, only the spade and the great bell will ever separate us!"

~~Almafi and the Flying Palace.

♥ So he asked for the whereabouts of the garden with the well.

"I do not know," said the cock, "but the speaking mountain does. Within it is a marble board. He who finds it and reads what is written on it will be able to open the mountain's throat, and hear the human voice with which it speaks."


He was beside himself with fury.

"I thought you had starved to death, and I was about to burn your body. But since you are alive, I shall burn you just the same!" And he advanced on Almafi.

But the boy was quicker than the Fairy of Deceit whom he caught and tied hand and foot with his own chains and carried on to the bonfire.

"Just as you planned to burn me on the fire," he said, "so now you must burn yourself!"

The wicked Fairy of Deceit was burnt to ashes, and Almafi scattered these to the wind. Since when deceit has spread over the whole world.

~~Almafi and the Golden Cockerel.


Once upon a time there was a poor couple. They wished to have children, but they wished in vain. As they grew older, they felt sad in the empty house. So the man bethought himself:

"Do you hear me, wife?"

"I hear you," said his wife.

"We will go out now and walk towards the church. You will take the upper road and I the lower. Whatever we find, dog, cat or bird, we shall bring it back and rear it as our child."

The woman agreed and they set out. She found nothing, but the man found a hedgehog. He brought it home.

"Not perhaps the most beautiful of children," said the woman, "but, never mind, I shall love him just the same."

♥ The old ones looked up. They had never seen a talking hedgehog before, and were much amazed. But, they thought, if he can speak, we might as well answer.

♥ When spring came, the herd had to be driven out. The old man asked:

"Who will sound the horn?"

"I will," said the hedgehog. "Just give me the horn, father."

He took the horn and climbed up to the top of the house. He blew so hard that he frightened all the swine in the village. When he had finished blowing, he slid off the roof, mounted the black cock and drove the herd out into the forest. There he tied up the cock and lay down to rest himself.

♥ "Well," enquired the King when the coachman returned, " did you find anyone?"

"Yes, a dangerous hedgehog."

"I suppose he will do," said the King.

"Yes, but he says that he will only lead us out of here if he gets an official note saying that his reward will be Your Majesty's daughter and half your kingdom."

The Black King turned to his daughter who sat by the fire eating a baked potato.

"What do you think, my daughter?"

The beautiful Princess shrugged her shoulders.

"I would rather marry a hedgehog than be eaten up by wolves."


When the Black King saw him he turned as green as an unripe apple.

"Is this your gratitude?" asked the hedgehog. "I led you out of the forest and saved you from being eaten by wolves and now you greet me with locked doors! I am a bridegroom, not a beggar!"

♥ When they were some distance from the palace, the hedgehog turned to the Princess.

"My sweet bride, do you love me?"

"Do I love you? I don't want to se you until I can see my own back!"

The hedgehog pulled the reins and the coach stopped.

"Well," said the hedgehog to the Princess, "of you don't love me, you may go home."

The Princess jumped promptly to the ground. "And what about my dowry?" she questioned.

"I shall take that home as payment for leading you out of the forest."

When he reached home, the hedgehog packed the vast treasure into the lumber-room. He stabled the horses, had supper and then said:

"My dear parents, there's money, but no bride. I'll get one tomorrow. If not tomorrow, then the day after."

♥ "I do love you, of course I love you!"

At that very instant the hedgehog turned into a handsome young prince! He was so very, very, very handsome that the Princess broke into tears of joy, the six horses pulling their coach took fright and didn't stop until they reached the old couple's home.

~~The Hedgehog.


"I need a coachman, my son. But first you must prove to me that you can drive well."

"I'll prove it," promised the soldier.

So the King took the soldier down to the stables. Two miserable nags stood by the manger. They were so feeble that their legs could hardly support their own weight.

"Well, my son," said the King, "harness these horses and drive the cart out to the royal forest. If you can bring me back a load of timber with these horses, I will believe that you can drive and I'll make you my coachman."


"Ever thus."

Immediately the cart moved off, as if through air, like the wind. The King was at the palace window to see the soldier return with the timber. When he saw the two miserable nags galloping along he was astounded. He saw the cart turning into the palace yard."

"As you were," said the soldier and the horses stopped.

♥ The general drew his sword. The soldier wasn't a soldier for nothing and he struck the sword out of the general's hand. When the general bent down to pick it up, the soldier gave a great shout:

"Ever thus!"

The general kept bending, the Queen kept gabbling, the King kept hiccuping, the doctor kept sneezing and the Princess and the bridegroom kept eating!

♥ And the soldier married the youngest Princess.

"Are you happy?" he asked her.

"Very happy," answered the youngest Princess.

Upon which the soldier simply said:

"Ever thus."

And since he was never to say "as you were", the two of them lived happily ever after.

~~Ever Thus and As You Were.


The unfortunate Princess was indeed in dire trouble. She was first courted by a seven-headed copper dragon, and then by a seven-headed iron dragon. The copper dragon had seated himself one day by her side and had announced:

"I shall not move from here until you consent to become my wife."

Similarly, the iron dragon had taken a seat on her other side, declaring:

"I swear I shall remain here until you consent to become my wife."

The Princess had no wish to assume the condition of a dragon's wife and had resolutely refused to consent to either. So the two dragons remained where they sat, watching over each other and guarding the Princess. What was even worse, they had changed her into a dragon, too, for greater safety. A visitor to the throne-room would have observed a sorrowing King, weeping on his throne, and, on the other side of the room, three identical dragons sitting close together in a row, also bathed in tears!


He donned the pin-encrusted suit, then he stepped out and stamped three times. The ground opened up and the giant leaned out. He was so huge that his mouth was the size of an oven and his teeth resembled anvils.

"What do you want, you impertinent worm?" thundered the giant. "I will gobble you up instantly!"

And this is exactly what he did, except that the pins on Janos's suit pricked every part of the giant's mouth most painfully! He couldn't bear to swallow him. He couldn't bear to spit him out either, and he couldn't bear to bite him, because Janos sat on his tongue.

♥ And Istvan, the elder brother, who had learnt his lesson in that terrible chasm, became good-tempered and generous. In fact, if you happen to be in the vicinity of that castle in Fairyland, you will see him feeding the ants and ducklings every day!

~~A Dragon-tale.


In no time at all they spotted him. There he sat among all his bottles: his nose was as red as a pepper, his ears were as red as beetroot and his face was as red as a carrot. It must have been all the red wine that had coloured him so cruelly.

.."My name is Danny Drinkalott," he said.

"And mine is Bringmewyne," said the eldest girl.

"Mine is Hadenuff," said the middle girl.

"And mine is Irunaweigh," said the youngest girl.

♥ "Because if you think of running away without first paying me, I will first pay you off with this stick!"

With which he belaboured the soldier to his heart's content.

When he got tired of it he asked, "Well, soldier, do you still want to run away?"

I do," groaned the soldier, "but I can hardly crawl."

And that is how he left the inn, on all fours, and he is probably crawling still.

~~The Cauldron of Gold.


Arriving at the marker, Matty settled down to wait for a customer to buy his geese. He had not long to wait either, because a man came and stopped in front of him. Matty looked up and saw that it was none other than the Squire of Dobrog himself.

♥ As they proceeded, so some axe-men stayed behind to cut down the marked trees, and as they went deeper still they came to a dark dell and found themselves all alone. Matty and the Squire could hardly hear the sound of the axes way behind them.

Matty found a suitable tree and spoke. "Will you measure the girth of that tree? I think it will serve."

The Squire of Dobrog embraced the tree to see how thick it was. And that was the moment Matty had been waiting for. Quick as a flash he skipped round to the other side and tied the Squire's wrists together with some twine. Then he cut himself a goodly cane and with it he proceeded to repay the Squire for the beating he had himself been given. He beat him so well that the Squire was quite unable to shout for help: all he could do was to revolve his eyes in agonized surprise.

When Matty had finished with the cane at last he said:

"I am not a carpenter at all. I am Matty Gander! Remember? The goosy one. Goosy Gander, and that is my name from now on. I am the one from whom you stole the geese. The one whom you had beaten up. And I shall come twice more because I promised to repay you three times and I still owe you two more beatings!


The Squire realized that he was beaten. His lordship of Dobrog had come to an end. So he quietly opened the other door of his coach, stepped down and crept away. He is probably creeping still.

~~Goosy Gander.

♥ He never did a blessed thing, but idled round the livelong day. As an idler though, he was a master. Hardly had he finished his morning laziness, he began to loaf at midday. Then it was time to dawdle in the afternoon, and then in the evening. After that, it was time for his morning laziness again.


In other words, whatever free space there had been in the room was now filled out by his own fat royal body. It was just as well that he poked a hole through the ceiling with his head: thus, he obtained some air. Otherwise, he would have choked in a nasty way. Even the laziest of kings need air to breathe.

♥ "Let us see," said the King to his eldest son. "How lazy are you, my son?"

"I am so lazy," said the eldest son, "that I will not even close my eyes to go to sleep."

The Lazy King made a face: "What sort of an idler is he who cannot even sleep? You will not make a king!"

Then he asked his younger son, "Let us see, my son, how lazy are you?"

"I am so vert lazy," replied the younger son, "that when they pour drink into my mouth I am too idle to swallow it."

The Lazy King made a face: "He who will not swallow a drink that is poured into his mouth is not lazy but crazy. You will not make a king, either."

Then it was the turn of the youngest son: "Let us see, my son, how lazy you are."

"I am so very, very lazy," replied the youngest son, "that when they put good into my mouth, I will not eat it because I am too idle to chew!"

The Lazy King made a face: "You are foolish, my son, not lazy. He who does not eat dies, and he who is dead will never make a king."

With that the Lazy King dismissed his sons. When they were gone the Prime Minister asked:

"Your Majesty, who will be our future king?"

"I shall," replied the Lazy King, "because my laziness is so frightfully, so awfully, and so immensely vast that I am too lazy even to die."

And neither did the Lazy King die for another seven hundred and forty-seven years. But then a wasp settled on his nose. The King was too lazy to brush it off and the wasp stung the King's nose. This made the King give such a mighty kick that the palace collapsed on top of him.

If you don't believe it, look under the ruins.

~~The Lazy King.


A wolf happened to be lurking around the house just then and he saw the horse coming through the gate.

♥ "Welcome, my friend," he greeted the goat. "I am glad to see you so fit and ready to be eaten. But mind you don't play a trick on me like that old sow!"

"Why should I play a trick on you?" protested the goat in a hurt voice. "Didn't I eat my way diligently through the whole of the summer so that you could have a satisfying meal?"

"You are an honest animal," said the wolf, slobbering, "and I am very grateful. As a reward I shall eat your gently."

"I am so glad," replied the goat, "because I meant to ask you to spare me any unnecessary pain. To do this, could you perhaps swallow me whole, without any chewing?"


The wolf nodded his assent. Whereupon the goat asked the wolf to throw his head back and open his mouth as wide as possible so that he could jump neatly down his throat. The wolf did as he was told. The goat then lowered his head, ran up and charged. He butted so hard that the wolf fell in a daze and rolled over and over. The goat followed him and butted him again and again before running home.

♥ A woodman happened to be digging in the forest just then. He heard that almighty hullabaloo from the village and looked out to see what was amiss. But when he saw a panting wolf loping towards him he was so frightened that he hid himself behind a tree. The wolf was afraid, too, lest the men from the village should chase after him, so he hid behind the same tree. But on the other side of it.

He remained there for a while, licking his wounds. Then he sighed bitterly and moaned, "It serves me right for being so stupid! I deserve to be thumped over the head for my folly!"

"Well if that's what you want," said the woodman – and he hit the wolf over the head, thump!

"But I was only joking!" cried the wolf in alarm as he jumped up and ran away deep into the forest. What's the world coming to, he pondered, when people can't even take a joke any more?

~~The Joking Wolf.

♥ Once upon a time there was an obstinate little rabbit. This obstinate little rabbit had a silver-tinkling little bell round his neck. Every time the little rabbit took a step, the little bell tinkled, just as every time he didn't take a step, the little bell didn't tinkle.


"Let me not be called an obstinate little rabbit if you don't give it back!" said the little rabbit and he ran and he ran until he reached the axe.

"Look here, axe," he said, "go to the slender tree, ask for the silver bell and if he doesn't give it back, cut him down."


"Look here, cat," he said, "go to the crow, send the crow to the bee, and if he won't go, wring his neck!"

~~The Obstinate Little Rabbit.


Sammy became so used to his pampered life that eventually he hardly bothered to open his mouth. When he was hungry he just pointed to his stomach and that was enough for the old couple. They ran for food. One of them would hold Sammy's head while the other fed him by the spoonful. They cut up his meat to save him from chewing. Afterwards they undressed him and put him to bed. In the morning they washed him and combed his hair. He was a big lad by then, yet he had never been anywhere beyond his own backyard. As for doing any work, he had never done a stroke. A sick flea would have done more.

♥ Sammy promised faithfully that he would look after himself from now on and that he would not disturb his neighbour again.

Promises, just promises.

♥ There was only one thing to be done, Sammy decided. It was a terrible decision to make, but he made it. He would get up

The very thought made him groan. He groaned for a good hour before he managed to heave himself into a sitting position. He groaned for another hour before he managed to place his feet on the floor. However, by that time he was so hungry that with a final groan he stood up and staggered straight towards the larder.

♥ The neighbour's son was a soldier and he was at home on leave. Juliska spoke to him.

"Gallant sir, if you would be so kind may I borrow your uniform for a while?"

The soldier gave it to her. She put it on, buckled the sword to her side and pencilled a moustache under her nose so that Sammy should not recognize her. Thus equipped she went straight back to the cornfield.

"Good day!" she greeted Sammy. "May I enquire what you are doing here sitting on that chair?"

"I am waiting for my life, sir soldier," said he.

"And why are you waiting for your wife?" pursued the soldier.

"To bring me a pie because I am hungry, and to move my chair into the shade because I am hot."

The soldier surveyed Sammy with narrowed eyes, just like a horse-dealer inspecting a broken old nag.

"Don't you do any harvesting, then?

"No, because I don't know how to."

The soldier's eyes sparked. The sword flew out of its scabbard and it flashed in front of Sammy's nose. He was so alarmed that it nearly made him sneeze.

"W-what d-do you want, s-sir soldier?" stammered Sammy in sheer terror.

"I will teach you to harvest."

"B-but my wife does all the harvesting here!"

"Does she now?" sneered the soldier. No matter. Sammy was ordered to pick up his sickle and get down to work. He protested and begged to be left in peace, but that wicked sword was still flashing under his nose. So what could he do? He took up the sickle and began to work in a half-hearted manner.


"Faster!" commanded the soldier. "Faster!" And with each command the flat of that sword thwacked smartly down on Sammy's back. He was chased round the cornfield thus until less than half the corn was left standing.

..So ever since then there is nobody in the whole of the village who works as hard as Sammy. And when he remembers the soldier he works twice as hard. Juliska just smiles and bakes him a pie to cheer him up, and she is glad that nobody calls him Lazybones any more.

~~Sammy Lazybones.


Next morning he was on his way again when, once more, he heard someone call his name:

"Peter, Peter, Briar Peter, come here!"

This time it was a little bird lying on the ground, evidently too young to fly. He asked Peter to lift him up into a tree. Peter put him on a branch and, as he went his way, he heard the little bird call after him:

"Your good deed will be rewarded one day!"

♥ It seemed that the King had a daughter. She decided one day to get married. The King agreed and sent for a dozen princes so that she could make her choice. But the stubborn Princess refused to accept any of them. So the King ordered three dozen dukes. The Princess didn't want any of those, either. Neither did she want any of the earls or viscounts.

The King had lost patience by then.

"If you refuse to marry anybody whom you have seen with your own eyes," growled the King, "you must marry somebody whom you have not. Let me tell you this. As from now, you shall only marry a man who can hide himself three times in succession and whom you can't find. If you do find him every time, he must go to the gallows!"

The Princess burst into tears. Had she tried to pick and choose amongst all those princes, dukes, earls and viscounts only to marry a man whom she had never seen?

♥ "Your good deed is now rewarded," said the bird. He spread his wings and told Peter to hide himself beneath them. Then, the bird flew up and up, and hid behind the sun.

At midday the Princess came out again, rubbed her eyes twice and said:

"Come forth, Briar Peter, come forth from beneath the wings of the bird who hides behind the sun."

The little bird brought Peter down and placed him at the side of the Princess. She took another secret glance at him. Her look was filled with such tenderness and longing that it would have melted the heart of a stone. But Peter's eyes remained downcast in his sorrow.

~~Briar Peter.
Tags: 1980s - fiction, 20th century - fiction, 3rd-person narrative, adventure, animals (fiction), art in post, british - fiction, children's lit, class struggle (fiction), cross-dressing (fiction), faerie tales, fantasy, fiction, folk tales, humour (fiction), hungarian - fiction, hungarian - mythology, mythology (fiction - myths retold), mythology (fiction - myths), romance, short stories, social criticism (fiction)

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