Savitri

Indian Folktale

 

In India, in the time of legend, there lived a king with many wives but not one child. Morning and evening for eighteen years, he faced the fire on the sacred altar and prayed for the gift of children.

Finally, a shining goddess rose from the flames.

“I am Savitri, child of the Sun. By your prayers, you have won a daughter.”

Within a year, a daughter came to the king and his favorite wife. He named her Savitri, after the goddess.

Beauty and intelligence were the princess Savitri’s, and eyes that shone like the sun. So splendid was she, people thought she herself was a goddess. Yet, when the time came for her to marry, no man asked for her.

Her father told her, “Weak men turn away from radiance like yours. Go out and find a man worthy of you. Then I will arrange the marriage.”

In the company of servants and councilors, Savitri traveled from place to place. After many days, she came upon a hermitage by a river crossing. Here lived many who had left the towns and cities for a life of prayer and study.

Savitri entered the hall of worship and bowed to the eldest teacher. As they spoke, a young man with shining eyes came into the hall. He guided another man, old and blind.

“Who is that young man?” asked Savitri softly.

“That is Prince Satyavan,” said the teacher, with a smile. “He guides his father, a king whose realm was conquered. It is well that Satyavan’s name means ‘Son of Truth,’ for no man is richer in virtue.”

When Savitri returned home, she found her father sitting with the holy seer named Narada.

“Daughter,” said the king, “have you found a man you wish to marry?”

“Yes, father. His name is Satyavan.”

Narada gasped. “Not Satyavan! Princess, no man could be more worthy, but you must not marry him! I know the future. Satyavan will die, one year from today.”

The king said, “Do you hear, daughter? Choose a different husband!”

Savitri trembled but said, “I have chosen Satyavan, and I will not choose another. However long or short his life, I wish to share it.”

Soon the king rode with Savitri to arrange the marriage.

Satyavan was overjoyed to be offered such a bride. But his father, the blind king, asked Savitri, “Can you bear the hard life of the hermitage? Will you wear our simple robe and our coat of matted bark? Will you eat only fruit and plants of the wild?”

Savitri said, “I care nothing about comfort or hardship. In palace or in hermitage, I am content.”

That very day, Savitri and Satyavan walked hand in hand around the sacred fire in the hall of worship. In front of all the priests and hermits, they became husband and wife.

* * *

For a year, they lived happily. But Savitri could never forget that Satyavan’s death drew closer.

Finally, only three days remained. Savitri entered the hall of worship and faced the sacred fire. There she prayed for three days and nights, not eating or sleeping.

“My love,” said Satyavan, “prayer and fasting are good. But why be this hard on yourself?”

Savitri gave no answer.

The sun was just rising when Savitri at last left the hall. She saw Satyavan heading for the forest, an ax on his shoulder.

Savitri rushed to his side. “I will come with you.”

“Stay here, my love,” said Satyavan. “You should eat and rest.”

But Savitri said, “My heart is set on going.”

Hand in hand, Savitri and Satyavan walked over wooded hills. They smelled the blossoms on flowering trees and paused beside clear streams. The cries of peacocks echoed through the woods.

While Savitri rested, Satyavan chopped firewood from a fallen tree. Suddenly, he dropped his ax.

“My head aches.”

Savitri rushed to him. She laid him down in the shade of a tree, his head on her lap.

“My body is burning! What is wrong with me?”

Satyavan’s eyes closed. His breathing slowed.

Savitri looked up. Coming through the woods to meet them was a princely man. He shone, though his skin was darker than the darkest night. His eyes and his robe were the red of blood.

Trembling, Savitri asked, “Who are you?”

A deep, gentle voice replied. “Princess, you see me only by the power of your prayer and fasting. I am Yama, god of death. Now is the time I must take the spirit of Satyavan.”

Yama took a small noose and passed it through Satyavan’s breast, as if through air. He drew out a tiny likeness of Satyavan, no bigger than a thumb.

Satyavan’s breathing stopped.

Yama placed the likeness inside his robe. “Happiness awaits your husband in my kingdom. Satyavan is a man of great virtue.”

Then Yama turned and headed south, back to his domain.

Savitri rose and started after him.

Yama strode smoothly and swiftly through the woods, while Savitri struggled to keep up. At last, he stopped to face her.

“Savitri! You cannot follow to the land of the dead!”

“Lord Yama, I know your duty is to take my husband. But my duty as his wife is to stay beside him.”

“Princess, that duty is at an end. Still, I admire your loyalty. I will grant you a favor—anything but the life of your husband.”

Savitri said, “Please restore my father-in-law’s kingdom and his sight.”

“His sight and his kingdom shall be restored.”

Yama again headed south. Savitri followed.

Along a river bank, thorns and tall sharp grass let Yama pass untouched. But they tore at Savitri’s clothes and skin.

“Savitri! You have come far enough!”

“Lord Yama, I know my husband will find happiness in your kingdom. But you carry away the happiness that is mine!”

“Princess, even love must bend to fate. Still, I admire your devotion. I will grant you another favor—anything but the life of your husband.”

Savitri said, “Grant many more children to my father.”

“Your father shall have many more children.”

Yama once more turned south. Again, Savitri followed.

Up a steep hill Yama glided, while Savitri clambered after him. At the top, he halted.

“Savitri! I forbid you to come farther!”

“Lord Yama, you are respected and revered by all. Yet, no matter what may come, I will remain by Satyavan!”

“Princess, I tell you for the last time, you will not! Still, I can only admire your courage and your firmness. I will grant you one last favor—anything but the life of your husband.”

“Then grant many children to me. And let them be children of Satyavan!”

Yama’s eyes grew wide as he stared at Savitri. “You did not ask for your husband’s life, yet I cannot grant your wish without releasing him. Princess! Your wit is as strong as your will.”

Yama took out the spirit of Satyavan and removed the noose. The spirit flew north, quickly vanishing from sight.

“Return, Savitri. You have won your husband’s life.”

The sun was just setting when Savitri again laid Satyavan’s head in her lap.

His chest rose and fell. His eyes opened.

“Is the day already gone? I have slept long. But what is wrong, my love? You smile and cry at the same time!”

“My love,” said Savitri, “let us return home.”

* * *

Yama was true to all he had promised. Savitri’s father became father to many more. Satyavan’s father regained both sight and kingdom.

In time, Satyavan became king, and Savitri his queen. They lived long and happily, blessed with many children. So they had no fear or tears when Yama came again to carry them to his kingdom.

 

Source: Savitri by Aaron Shepard

 

 

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The Adventures of Mouse Deer

Mouse Deer and TigerI’m quick and smart as I can be.
Try and try, but you can’t catch me!

Mouse Deer sang his song as he walked through the forest. He was looking for tasty fruits and roots and shoots.

Though he was small, he was not afraid. He knew that many big animals wanted to eat him. But first they had to catch him!

Then he heard something. Rowr!

There was Tiger!

“Hello, Mouse Deer. I was just getting hungry. Now you can be my lunch.”

Mouse Deer didn’t want to be lunch. He looked around and thought fast. He saw a mud puddle.

“I’m sorry, Tiger. I can’t be your lunch. The King has ordered me to guard his pudding.”

“His pudding?” said Tiger.

“Yes. There it is.” Mouse Deer pointed to the mud puddle. “It has the best taste in the world. The King doesn’t want anyone else to eat it.”

Tiger looked longingly at the puddle. “I would like to taste the King’s pudding.”

“Oh, no, Tiger! The King would be very angry.”

“Just one little taste, Mouse Deer! The King will never know.”

“Well, all right, Tiger. But first let me run far away, so no one will blame me.”

“All right, Mouse Deer, you can go now.”

Mouse Deer ran quickly out of sight.

“Imagine!” said Tiger. “The King’s pudding!” He took a big mouthful.

Phooey! He spit it out.

“Yuck! Ugh! Bleck! That’s no pudding. That’s mud!”

Tiger ran through the forest. Rowr! He caught up with Mouse Deer.

“Mouse Deer, you tricked me once. But now you will be my lunch!”

Mouse Deer looked around and thought fast. He saw a wasp nest in a tree.

“I’m sorry, Tiger. I can’t be your lunch. The King has ordered me to guard his drum.”

“His drum?” said Tiger.

“Yes. There it is.” Mouse Deer pointed to the wasp nest. “It has the best sound in the world. The King doesn’t want anyone else to hit it.”

Tiger said, “I would like to hit the King’s drum.”

“Oh, no, Tiger! The King would be very angry.”

“Just one little hit, Mouse Deer! The King will never know.”

“Well, all right, Tiger. But first let me run far away, so no one will blame me.”

“All right, Mouse Deer, you can go now.”

Mouse Deer ran quickly out of sight.

“Imagine!” said Tiger. “The King’s drum!” He reached up and hit it. Pow.

Bzzzzzzzzzzzzz. The wasps all flew out. They started to sting Tiger.

“Ouch! Ooch! Eech! That’s no drum. That’s a wasp nest!”

Tiger ran away. But the wasps only followed him! Bzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

“Ouch! Ooch! Eech!”

Tiger came to a stream. He jumped in—splash!—and stayed underwater as long as he could. At last the wasps went away.

Then Tiger jumped out. Rowr! He ran through the forest till he found Mouse Deer.

“Mouse Deer, you tricked me once. You tricked me twice. But now you will be my lunch!”

Mouse Deer looked around and thought fast. He saw a cobra! The giant snake was coiled asleep on the ground.

“I’m sorry, Tiger. I can’t be your lunch. The King has ordered me to guard his belt.”

“His belt?” said Tiger.

“Yes. There it is.” Mouse Deer pointed to the cobra. “It’s the best belt in the world. The King doesn’t want anyone else to wear it.”

Tiger said, “I would like to wear the King’s belt.”

“Oh, no Tiger! The King would be very angry.”

“Just for one moment, Mouse Deer! The King will never know.”

“Well, all right, Tiger. But first let me run far away, so no one will blame me.”

“All right, Mouse Deer, you can go now.”

Mouse Deer ran quickly out of sight.

“Imagine!” said Tiger. “The King’s belt!” He started to wrap it around himself.

The cobra woke up. Ssssssssssssss. It didn’t wait for Tiger to finish wrapping. It wrapped itself around Tiger. Then it squeezed him and bit him. Sstt!

“Ooh! Ow! Yow! That’s no belt. That’s a cobra! Help! Mouse Deer! Help!”

But Mouse Deer was far away. And as he went, he sang his song.I’m quick and smart as I can be.
Try and try, but you can’t catch me!

 

Source: The Adventure of Mouse Deer by Aaron Shepard (To contiune reading the other adventures click here!)

Kintaro, The Golden Boy

Long, long ago there lived in Kyoto a brave soldier named Kintoki. Now he fell in love with a beautiful lady and married her. Not long after this, through the malice of some of his friends, he fell into disgrace at Court and was dismissed. This misfortune so preyed upon his mind that he did not long survive his dismissal—he died, leaving behind him his beautiful young wife to face the world alone. Fearing her husband’s enemies, she fled to the Ashigara Mountains as soon as her husband was dead, and there in the lonely forests where no one ever came except woodcutters, a little boy was born to her. She called him Kintaro or the Golden Boy. Now the remarkable thing about this child was his great strength, and as he grew older he grew stronger and stronger, so that by the time he was eight years of age he was able to cut down trees as quickly as the woodcutters. Then his mother gave him a large ax, and he used to go out in the forest and help the woodcutters, who called him “Wonder-child,” and his mother the “Old Nurse of the Mountains,” for they did not know her high rank. Another favorite pastime of Kintaro’s was to smash up rocks and stones. You can imagine how strong he was!

Quite unlike other boys, Kintaro, grew up all alone in the mountain wilds, and as he had no companions he made friends with all the animals and learned to understand them and to speak their strange talk. By degrees they all grew quite tame and looked upon Kintaro as their master, and he used them as his servants and messengers. But his special retainers were the bear, the deer, the monkey and the hare.

The bear often brought her cubs for Kintaro to romp with, and when she came to take them home Kintaro would get on her back and have a ride to her cave. He was very fond of the deer too, and would often put his arms round the creature’s neck to show that its long horns did not frighten him. Great was the fun they all had together.

One day, as usual, Kintaro went up into the mountains, followed by the bear, the deer, the monkey, and the hare. After walking for some time up hill and down dale and over rough roads, they suddenly came out upon a wide and grassy plain covered with pretty wild flowers.

Here, indeed, was a nice place where they could all have a good romp together. The deer rubbed his horns against a tree for pleasure, the monkey scratched his back, the hare smoothed his long ears, and the bear gave a grunt of satisfaction.

Kintaro said, “Here is a place for a good game. What do you all say to a wrestling match?”

The bear being the biggest and the oldest, answered for the others:

“That will be great fun,” said she. “I am the strongest animal, so I will make the platform for the wrestlers;” and she set to work with a will to dig up the earth and to pat it into shape.

“All right,” said Kintaro, “I will look on while you all wrestle with each other. I shall give a prize to the one who wins in each round.”

“What fun! we shall all try to get the prize,” said the bear.

The deer, the monkey and the hare set to work to help the bear raise the platform on which they were all to wrestle. When this was finished, Kintaro cried out:

“Now begin! the monkey and the hare shall open the sports and the deer shall be umpire. Now, Mr. Deer, you are to be umpire!”

“He, he!” answered the deer. “I will be umpire. Now, Mr. Monkey and Mr. Hare, if you are both ready, please walk out and take your places on the platform.”

Then the monkey and the hare both hopped out, quickly and nimbly, to the wrestling platform. The deer, as umpire, stood between the two and called out:

“Red-back! Red-back!” (this to the monkey, who has a red back in Japan). “Are you ready?”

Then he turned to the hare:

“Long-ears! Long-ears! are you ready?”

Both the little wrestlers faced each other while the deer raised a leaf on high as signal. When he dropped the leaf the monkey and the hare rushed upon each other, crying “Yoisho, yoisho!”

While the monkey and the hare wrestled, the deer called out encouragingly or shouted warnings to each of them as the hare or the monkey pushed each other near the edge of the platform and were in danger of falling over.

“Red-back! Red-back! stand your ground!” called out the deer.

“Long-ears! Long-ears! be strong, be strong—don’t let the monkey beat you!” grunted the bear.

So the monkey and the hare, encouraged by their friends, tried their very hardest to beat each other. The hare at last gained on the monkey. The monkey seemed to trip up, and the hare giving him a good push sent him flying off the platform with a bound.

The poor monkey sat up rubbing his back, and his face was very long as he screamed angrily. “Oh, oh! how my back hurts—my back hurts me!”

Seeing the monkey in this plight on the ground, the deer holding his leaf on high said:

“This round is finished—the hare has won.”

Kintaro then opened his luncheon box and taking out a rice-dumpling, gave it to the hare saying:

“Here is your prize, and you have earned, it well!”

Now the monkey got up looking very cross, and as they say in Japan “his stomach stood up,” for he felt that he had not been fairly beaten. So he said to Kintaro and the others who were standing by:

“I have not been fairly beaten. My foot slipped and I tumbled. Please give me another chance and let the hare wrestle with me for another round.”

Then Kintaro consenting, the hare and the monkey began to wrestle again. Now, as every one knows, the monkey is a cunning animal by nature, and he made up his mind to get the best of the hare this time if it were possible. To do this, he thought that the best and surest way would be to get hold of the hare’s long ear. This he soon managed to do. The hare was quite thrown off his guard by the pain of having his long ear pulled so hard, and the monkey seizing his opportunity at last, caught hold of one of the hare’s legs and sent him sprawling in the middle of the dais. The monkey was now the victor and received, a rice-dumpling from Kintaro, which pleased him so much that he quite forgot his sore back.

The deer now came up and asked the hare if he felt ready for another round, and if so whether he would try a round with him, and the hare consenting, they both stood up to wrestle. The bear came forward as umpire.

The deer with long horns and the hare with long ears, it must have been an amusing sight to those who watched this queer match. Suddenly the deer went down on one of his knees, and the bear with the leaf on high declared him beaten. In this way, sometimes the one, sometimes the other, conquering, the little party amused themselves till they were tired.

At last Kintaro got up and said:

“This is enough for to-day. What a nice place we have found for wrestling; let us come again to-morrow. Now, we will all go home. Come along!” So saying, Kintaro led the way while the animals followed.

After walking some little distance they came out on the banks of a river flowing through a valley. Kintaro and his four furry friends stood and looked about for some means of crossing. Bridge there was none. The river rushed “don, don” on its way. All the animals looked serious, wondering how they could cross the stream and get home that evening.

Kintaro, however, said:

“Wait a moment. I will make a good bridge for you all in a few minutes.”

The bear, the deer, the monkey and the hare looked at him to see what he would do now.

Kintaro went from one tree to another that grew along the river bank. At last he stopped in front of a very large tree that was growing at the water’s edge. He took hold of the trunk and pulled it with all his might, once, twice, thrice! At the third pull, so great was Kintaro’s strength that the roots gave way, and “meri, meri” (crash, crash), over fell the tree, forming an excellent bridge across the stream.

“There,” said Kintaro, “what do you think of my bridge? It is quite safe, so follow me,” and he stepped across first. The four animals followed. Never had they seen any one so strong before, and they all exclaimed:

“How strong he is! how strong he is!”

While all this was going on by the river a woodcutter, who happened to be standing on a rock overlooking the stream, had seen all that passed beneath him. He watched with great surprise Kintaro and his animal companions. He rubbed his eyes to be sure that he was not dreaming when he saw this boy pull over a tree by the roots and throw it across the stream to form a bridge.

The woodcutter, for such he seemed to be by his dress, marveled at all he saw, and said to himself:

“This is no ordinary child. Whose son can he be? I will find out before this day is done.”

He hastened after the strange party and crossed the bridge behind them. Kintaro knew nothing of all this, and little guessed that he was being followed. On reaching the other side of the river he and the animals separated, they to their lairs in the woods and he to his mother, who was waiting for him.

As soon as he entered the cottage, which stood like a matchbox in the heart of the pine-woods, he went to greet his mother, saying:

“Okkasan (mother), here I am!”

“O, Kimbo!” said his mother with a bright smile, glad to see her boy home safe after the long day. “How late you are to-day. I feared that something had happened to you. Where have you been all the time?”

“I took my four friends, the bear, the deer, the monkey, and the hare, up into the hills, and there I made them try a wrestling match, to see which was the strongest. We all enjoyed the sport, and are going to the same place to-morrow to have another match.”

“Now tell me who is the strongest of all?” asked his mother, pretending not to know.

“Oh, mother,” said Kintaro, “don’t you know that I am the strongest? There was no need for me to wrestle with any of them.”

“But next to you then, who is the strongest?”

“The bear comes next to me in strength,” answered Kintaro.

“And after the bear?” asked his mother again.

“Next to the bear it is not easy to say which is the strongest, for the deer, the monkey, and the hare all seem to be as strong as each other,” said Kintaro.

Suddenly Kintaro and his mother were startled by a voice from outside.

“Listen to me, little boy! Next time you go, take this old man with you to the wrestling match. He would like to join the sport too!”

It was the old woodcutter who had followed Kintaro from the river. He slipped off his clogs and entered the cottage. Yama-uba and her son were both taken by surprise. They looked at the intruder wonderingly and saw that he was some one they had never seen before.

“Who are you?” they both exclaimed.

Then the woodcutter laughed and said:

“It does not matter who I am yet, but let us see who has the strongest arm—this boy or myself?”

Then Kintaro, who had lived all his life in the forest, answered the old man without any ceremony, saying:

“We will have a try if you wish it, but you must not be angry whoever is beaten.”

Then Kintaro and the woodcutter both put out their right arms and grasped each other’s hands. For a long time Kintaro and the old man wrestled together in this way, each trying to bend the other’s arm, but the old man was very strong, and the strange pair were evenly matched. At last the old man desisted, declaring it a drawn game.

“You are, indeed, a very strong child. There are few men who can boast of the strength of my right arm!” said the woodcutter. “I saw you first on the hanks of the river a few hours ago, when you pulled up that large tree to make a bridge across the torrent. Hardly able to believe what I saw I followed you home. Your strength of arm, which I have just tried, proves what I saw this afternoon. When you are full-grown you will surely be the strongest man in all Japan. It is a pity that you are hidden away in these wild mountains.”

Then he turned to Kintaro’s mother:

“And you, mother, have you no thought of taking your child to the Capital, and of teaching him to carry a sword as befits a samurai (a Japanese knight)?”

“You are very kind to take so much interest in my son.” replied the mother; “but he is as you see, wild and uneducated, and I fear it would be very difficult to do as you say. Because of his great strength as an infant I hid him away in this unknown part of the country, for he hurt every one that came near him. I have often wished that I could, one day, see my boy a knight wearing two swords, but as we have no influential friend to introduce us at the Capital, I fear my hope will never come true.”

“You need not trouble yourself about that. To tell you the truth I am no woodcutter! I am one of the great generals of Japan. My name is Sadamitsu, and I am a vassal of the powerful Lord Minamoto-no-Raiko. He ordered me to go round the country and look for boys who give promise of remarkable strength, so that they may be trained as soldiers for his army. I thought that I could best do this by assuming the disguise of a woodcutter. By good fortune, I have thus unexpectedly come across your son. Now if you really wish him to be a SAMURAI (a knight), I will take him and present him to the Lord Raiko as a candidate for his service. What do you say to this?”

As the kind general gradually unfolded his plan the mother’s heart was filled with a great joy. She saw that here was a wonderful chance of the one wish of her life being fulfilled—that of seeing Kintaro a SAMURAI before she died.

Bowing her head to the ground, she replied:

“I will then intrust my son to you if you really mean what you say.”

Kintaro had all this time been sitting by his mother’s side listening to what they said. When his mother finished speaking, he exclaimed:

“Oh, joy! joy! I am to go with the general and one day I shall be a SAMURAI!”

Thus Kintaro’s fate was settled, and the general decided to start for the Capital at once, taking Kintaro with him. It need hardly be said that Yama-uba was sad at parting with her boy, for he was all that was left to her. But she hid her grief with a strong face, as they say in Japan. She knew that it was for her boy’s good that he should leave her now, and she must not discourage him just as he was setting out. Kintaro promised never to forget her, and said that as soon as he was a knight wearing two swords he would build her a home and take care of her in her old age.

All the animals, those he had tamed to serve him, the bear, the deer, the monkey, and the hare, as soon as they found out that he was going away, came to ask if they might attend him as usual. When they learned that he was going away for good they followed him to the foot of the mountain to see him off.

“Kimbo,” said his mother, “mind and be a good boy.”

“Mr. Kintaro,” said the faithful animals, “we wish you good health on your travels.”

Then they all climbed a tree to see the last of him, and from that height they watched him and his shadow gradually grow smaller and smaller, till he was lost to sight.

The general Sadamitsu went on his way rejoicing at having so unexpectedly found such a prodigy as Kintaro.

Having arrived at their destination the general took Kintaro at once to his Lord, Minamoto-no-Raiko, and told him all about Kintaro and how he had found the child. Lord Raiko was delighted with the story, and having commanded Kintaro to be brought to him, made him one of his vassals at once.

Lord Raiko’s army was famous for its band called “The Four Braves.” These warriors were chosen by himself from amongst the bravest and strongest of his soldiers, and the small and well-picked band was distinguished throughout the whole of Japan for the dauntless courage of its men.

When Kintaro grew up to be a man his master made him the Chief of the Four Braves. He was by far the strongest of them all. Soon after this event, news was brought to the city that a cannibal monster had taken up his abode not far away and that people were stricken with fear. Lord Raiko ordered Kintaro to the rescue. He immediately started off, delighted at the prospect of trying his sword.

Surprising the monster in its den, he made short work of cutting off its great head, which he carried back in triumph to his master.

Kintaro now rose to be the greatest hero of his country, and great was the power and honor and wealth that came to him. He now kept his promise and built a comfortable home for his old mother, who lived happily with him in the Capital to the end of her days.

Is not this the story of a great hero?

 

Source: http://worldoftales.com/Asian_folktales/Japanese_folktale_29.html

 

The Red Shoes

There was once a little girl who was very pretty and delicate, but in summer she was forced to run about with bare feet, she was so poor, and in winter wear very large wooden shoes, which made her little insteps quite red, and that looked so dangerous!

In the middle of the village lived old Dame Shoemaker; she sat and sewed together, as well as she could, a little pair of shoes out of old red strips of cloth; they were very clumsy, but it was a kind thought. They were meant for the little girl. The little girl was called Karen.

On the very day her mother was buried, Karen received the red shoes, and wore them for the first time. They were certainly not intended for mourning, but she had no others, and with stockingless feet she followed the poor straw coffin in them.

Suddenly a large old carriage drove up, and a large old lady sat in it: she looked at the little girl, felt compassion for her, and then said to the clergyman:

“Here, give me the little girl. I will adopt her!”

And Karen believed all this happened on account of the red shoes, but the old lady thought they were horrible, and they were burnt. But Karen herself was cleanly and nicely dressed; she must learn to read and sew; and people said she was a nice little thing, but the looking-glass said: “Thou art more than nice, thou art beautiful!”

Now the queen once travelled through the land, and she had her little daughter with her. And this little daughter was a princess, and people streamed to the castle, and Karen was there also, and the little princess stood in her fine white dress, in a window, and let herself be stared at; she had neither a train nor a golden crown, but splendid red morocco shoes. They were certainly far handsomer than those Dame Shoemaker had made for little Karen. Nothing in the world can be compared with red shoes.

Now Karen was old enough to be confirmed; she had new clothes and was to have new shoes also. The rich shoemaker in the city took the measure of her little foot. This took place at his house, in his room; where stood large glass-cases, filled with elegant shoes and brilliant boots. All this looked charming, but the old lady could not see well, and so had no pleasure in them. In the midst of the shoes stood a pair of red ones, just like those the princess had worn. How beautiful they were! The shoemaker said also they had been made for the child of a count, but had not fitted.

“That must be patent leather!” said the old lady. “They shine so!”

“Yes, they shine!” said Karen, and they fitted, and were bought, but the old lady knew nothing about their being red, else she would never have allowed Karen to have gone in red shoes to be confirmed. Yet such was the case.

Everybody looked at her feet; and when she stepped through the chancel door on the church pavement, it seemed to her as if the old figures on the tombs, those portraits of old preachers and preachers’ wives, with stiff ruffs, and long black dresses, fixed their eyes on her red shoes. And she thought only of them as the clergyman laid his hand upon her head, and spoke of the holy baptism, of the covenant with God, and how she should be now a matured Christian; and the organ pealed so solemnly; the sweet children’s voices sang, and the old music-directors sang, but Karen only thought of her red shoes.

In the afternoon, the old lady heard from everyone that the shoes had been red, and she said that it was very wrong of Karen, that it was not at all becoming, and that in future Karen should only go in black shoes to church, even when she should be older.

The next Sunday there was the sacrament, and Karen looked at the black shoes, looked at the red ones–looked at them again, and put on the red shoes.

The sun shone gloriously; Karen and the old lady walked along the path through the corn; it was rather dusty there.

At the church door stood an old soldier with a crutch, and with a wonderfully long beard, which was more red than white, and he bowed to the ground, and asked the old lady whether he might dust her shoes. And Karen stretched out her little foot.

“See, what beautiful dancing shoes!” said the soldier. “Sit firm when you dance”; and he put his hand out towards the soles.

And the old lady gave the old soldier alms, and went into the church with Karen.

And all the people in the church looked at Karen’s red shoes, and all the pictures, and as Karen knelt before the altar, and raised the cup to her lips, she only thought of the red shoes, and they seemed to swim in it; and she forgot to sing her psalm, and she forgot to pray, “Our Father in Heaven!”

Now all the people went out of church, and the old lady got into her carriage. Karen raised her foot to get in after her, when the old soldier said,

“Look, what beautiful dancing shoes!”

And Karen could not help dancing a step or two, and when she began her feet continued to dance; it was just as though the shoes had power over them. She danced round the church corner, she could not leave off; the coachman was obliged to run after and catch hold of her, and he lifted her in the carriage, but her feet continued to dance so that she trod on the old lady dreadfully. At length she took the shoes off, and then her legs had peace.

The shoes were placed in a closet at home, but Karen could not avoid looking at them.

Now the old lady was sick, and it was said she could not recover. She must be nursed and waited upon, and there was no one whose duty it was so much as Karen’s. But there was a great ball in the city, to which Karen was invited. She looked at the old lady, who could not recover, she looked at the red shoes, and she thought there could be no sin in it; she put on the red shoes, she might do that also, she thought. But then she went to the ball and began to dance.

When she wanted to dance to the right, the shoes would dance to the left, and when she wanted to dance up the room, the shoes danced back again, down the steps, into the street, and out of the city gate. She danced, and was forced to dance straight out into the gloomy wood.

Then it was suddenly light up among the trees, and she fancied it must be the moon, for there was a face; but it was the old soldier with the red beard; he sat there, nodded his head, and said, “Look, what beautiful dancing shoes!”

Then she was terrified, and wanted to fling off the red shoes, but they clung fast; and she pulled down her stockings, but the shoes seemed to have grown to her feet. And she danced, and must dance, over fields and meadows, in rain and sunshine, by night and day; but at night it was the most fearful.

She danced over the churchyard, but the dead did not dance–they had something better to do than to dance. She wished to seat herself on a poor man’s grave, where the bitter tansy grew; but for her there was neither peace nor rest; and when she danced towards the open church door, she saw an angel standing there. He wore long, white garments; he had wings which reached from his shoulders to the earth; his countenance was severe and grave; and in his hand he held a sword, broad and glittering.

“Dance shalt thou!” said he. “Dance in thy red shoes till thou art pale and cold! Till thy skin shrivels up and thou art a skeleton! Dance shalt thou from door to door, and where proud, vain children dwell, thou shalt knock, that they may hear thee and tremble! Dance shalt thou–!”

“Mercy!” cried Karen. But she did not hear the angel’s reply, for the shoes carried her through the gate into the fields, across roads and bridges, and she must keep ever dancing.

One morning she danced past a door which she well knew. Within sounded a psalm; a coffin, decked with flowers, was borne forth. Then she knew that the old lady was dead, and felt that she was abandoned by all, and condemned by the angel of God.

She danced, and she was forced to dance through the gloomy night. The shoes carried her over stack and stone; she was torn till she bled; she danced over the heath till she came to a little house. Here, she knew, dwelt the executioner; and she tapped with her fingers at the window, and said, “Come out! Come out! I cannot come in, for I am forced to dance!”

And the executioner said, “Thou dost not know who I am, I fancy? I strike bad people’s heads off; and I hear that my axe rings!”

“Don’t strike my head off!” said Karen. “Then I can’t repent of my sins! But strike off my feet in the red shoes!”

And then she confessed her entire sin, and the executioner struck off her feet with the red shoes, but the shoes danced away with the little feet across the field into the deep wood.

And he carved out little wooden feet for her, and crutches, taught her the psalm criminals always sing; and she kissed the hand which had wielded the axe, and went over the heath.

“Now I have suffered enough for the red shoes!” said she. “Now I will go into the church that people may see me!” And she hastened towards the church door: but when she was near it, the red shoes danced before her, and she was terrified, and turned round. The whole week she was unhappy, and wept many bitter tears; but when Sunday returned, she said, “Well, now I have suffered and struggled enough! I really believe I am as good as many a one who sits in the church, and holds her head so high!”

And away she went boldly; but she had not got farther than the churchyard gate before she saw the red shoes dancing before her; and she was frightened, and turned back, and repented of her sin from her heart.

And she went to the parsonage, and begged that they would take her into service; she would be very industrious, she said, and would do everything she could; she did not care about the wages, only she wished to have a home, and be with good people. And the clergyman’s wife was sorry for her and took her into service; and she was industrious and thoughtful. She sat still and listened when the clergyman read the Bible in the evenings. All the children thought a great deal of her; but when they spoke of dress, and grandeur, and beauty, she shook her head.

The following Sunday, when the family was going to church, they asked her whether she would not go with them; but she glanced sorrowfully, with tears in her eyes, at her crutches. The family went to hear the word of God; but she went alone into her little chamber; there was only room for a bed and chair to stand in it; and here she sat down with her Prayer-Book; and whilst she read with a pious mind, the wind bore the strains of the organ towards her, and she raised her tearful countenance, and said, “O God, help me!”

And the sun shone so clearly, and straight before her stood the angel of God in white garments, the same she had seen that night at the church door; but he no longer carried the sharp sword, but in its stead a splendid green spray, full of roses. And he touched the ceiling with the spray, and the ceiling rose so high, and where he had touched it there gleamed a golden star. And he touched the walls, and they widened out, and she saw the organ which was playing; she saw the old pictures of the preachers and the preachers’ wives. The congregation sat in cushioned seats, and sang out of their Prayer-Books. For the church itself had come to the poor girl in her narrow chamber, or else she had come into the church. She sat in the pew with the clergyman’s family, and when they had ended the psalm and looked up, they nodded and said, “It is right that thou art come!”

“It was through mercy!” she said.

And the organ pealed, and the children’s voices in the choir sounded so sweet and soft! The clear sunshine streamed so warmly through the window into the pew where Karen sat! Her heart was so full of sunshine, peace, and joy, that it broke. Her soul flew on the sunshine to God, and there no one asked after the RED SHOES.

 

Source: The Red Shoes, by Hans Christian Andersen

 

 

The Real Princess

There was once a Prince who wished to marry a Princess; but then she must be a real Princess. He travelled all over the world in hopes of finding such a lady; but there was always something wrong. Princesses he found in plenty; but whether they were real Princesses it was impossible for him to decide, for now one thing, now another, seemed to him not quite right about the ladies. At last he returned to his palace quite cast down, because he wished so much to have a real Princess for his wife.

One evening a fearful tempest arose, it thundered and lightened, and the rain poured down from the sky in torrents: besides, it was as dark as pitch. All at once there was heard a violent knocking at the door, and the old King, the Prince’s father, went out himself to open it.

It was a Princess who was standing outside the door. What with the rain and the wind, she was in a sad condition; the water trickled down from her hair, and her clothes clung to her body. She said she was a real Princess.

“Ah! we shall soon see that!” thought the old Queen-mother; however, she said not a word of what she was going to do; but went quietly into the bedroom, took all the bed-clothes off the bed, and put three little peas on the bedstead. She then laid twenty mattresses one upon another over the three peas, and put twenty feather beds over the mattresses.

Upon this bed the Princess was to pass the night.

The next morning she was asked how she had slept. “Oh, very badly indeed!” she replied. “I have scarcely closed my eyes the whole night through. I do not know what was in my bed, but I had something hard under me, and am all over black and blue. It has hurt me so much!”

Now it was plain that the lady must be a real Princess, since she had been able to feel the three little peas through the twenty mattresses and twenty feather beds. None but a real Princess could have had such a delicate sense of feeling.

The Prince accordingly made her his wife; being now convinced that he had found a real Princess. The three peas were however put into the cabinet of curiosities, where they are still to be seen, provided they are not lost.

Wasn’t this a lady of real delicacy?

Source: The Real Princess, by Hans Christian Andersen

The Little Match Girl

A Fairy Tale, by Hans Christian Andersen

Most terribly cold it was; it snowed, and was nearly quite dark, and evening– the last evening of the year. In this cold and darkness there went along the street a poor little girl, bareheaded, and with naked feet. When she left home she had slippers on, it is true; but what was the good of that? They were very large slippers, which her mother had hitherto worn; so large were they; and the poor little thing lost them as she scuffled away across the street, because of two carriages that rolled by dreadfully fast.

One slipper was nowhere to be found; the other had been laid hold of by an urchin, and off he ran with it; he thought it would do capitally for a cradle when he some day or other should have children himself. So the little maiden walked on with her tiny naked feet, that were quite red and blue from cold. She carried a quantity of matches in an old apron, and she held a bundle of them in her hand. Nobody had bought anything of her the whole livelong day; no one had given her a single farthing.

She crept along trembling with cold and hunger–a very picture of sorrow, the poor little thing!

The flakes of snow covered her long fair hair, which fell in beautiful curls around her neck; but of that, of course, she never once now thought. From all the windows the candles were gleaming, and it smelt so deliciously of roast goose, for you know it was New Year’s Eve; yes, of that she thought.

In a corner formed by two houses, of which one advanced more than the other, she seated herself down and cowered together. Her little feet she had drawn close up to her, but she grew colder and colder, and to go home she did not venture, for she had not sold any matches and could not bring a farthing of money: from her father she would certainly get blows, and at home it was cold too, for above her she had only the roof, through which the wind whistled, even though the largest cracks were stopped up with straw and rags.

Her little hands were almost numbed with cold. Oh! a match might afford her a world of comfort, if she only dared take a single one out of the bundle, draw it against the wall, and warm her fingers by it. She drew one out. “Rischt!” how it blazed, how it burnt! It was a warm, bright flame, like a candle, as she held her hands over it: it was a wonderful light. It seemed really to the little maiden as though she were sitting before a large iron stove, with burnished brass feet and a brass ornament at top. The fire burned with such blessed influence; it warmed so delightfully. The little girl had already stretched out her feet to warm them too; but–the small flame went out, the stove vanished: she had only the remains of the burnt-out match in her hand.

She rubbed another against the wall: it burned brightly, and where the light fell on the wall, there the wall became transparent like a veil, so that she could see into the room. On the table was spread a snow-white tablecloth; upon it was a splendid porcelain service, and the roast goose was steaming famously with its stuffing of apple and dried plums. And what was still more capital to behold was, the goose hopped down from the dish, reeled about on the floor with knife and fork in its breast, till it came up to the poor little girl; when–the match went out and nothing but the thick, cold, damp wall was left behind. She lighted another match. Now there she was sitting under the most magnificent Christmas tree: it was still larger, and more decorated than the one which she had seen through the glass door in the rich merchant’s house.

Thousands of lights were burning on the green branches, and gaily-colored pictures, such as she had seen in the shop-windows, looked down upon her. The little maiden stretched out her hands towards them when–the match went out. The lights of the Christmas tree rose higher and higher, she saw them now as stars in heaven; one fell down and formed a long trail of fire.

“Someone is just dead!” said the little girl; for her old grandmother, the only person who had loved her, and who was now no more, had told her, that when a star falls, a soul ascends to God.

She drew another match against the wall: it was again light, and in the lustre there stood the old grandmother, so bright and radiant, so mild, and with such an expression of love.

“Grandmother!” cried the little one. “Oh, take me with you! You go away when the match burns out; you vanish like the warm stove, like the delicious roast goose, and like the magnificent Christmas tree!” And she rubbed the whole bundle of matches quickly against the wall, for she wanted to be quite sure of keeping her grandmother near her. And the matches gave such a brilliant light that it was brighter than at noon-day: never formerly had the grandmother been so beautiful and so tall. She took the little maiden, on her arm, and both flew in brightness and in joy so high, so very high, and then above was neither cold, nor hunger, nor anxiety–they were with God.

But in the corner, at the cold hour of dawn, sat the poor girl, with rosy cheeks and with a smiling mouth, leaning against the wall–frozen to death on the last evening of the old year. Stiff and stark sat the child there with her matches, of which one bundle had been burnt. “She wanted to warm herself,” people said. No one had the slightest suspicion of what beautiful things she had seen; no one even dreamed of the splendor in which, with her grandmother she had entered on the joys of a new year.

Source: http://worldoftales.com/fairy_tales/Hans_Christian_Andersen/matchgirl.html

Sangkuriang

In the time when West Java was still thickly covered with woods and undergrowth and wonders existed, there reigned a king, named Raden Sungging Pebangkara. He was a good ruler and to convince himself of the welfare of his subjects, he used to visit them. But the thing he liked most was hunting in the forest.

It happened that in one of the forests the king often visited there lived a she-pig, actually a cursed goddess. One day, as it was very warm, she came out of her hiding place looking for water. There she saw a coconut-shell, filled with water. Glad to have found something and expecting it to be coconut-milk, she drank it at a draught, having no suspicions whatsoever that it was the King’s urine left there the day before when hunting. The consequence was very strange. She became pregnant. In a few months she gave birth to a very pretty girl. When the king was once again hunting in the forest, he saw the girl and, attracted by her beauty, he took her to his palace, called her Dayang Sumbi and treated her as his own daughter.

Time passed and Dayang Sumbi grew up into a fine young girl. She was fond of weaving and thus passed her time. One bright morning, as she was absorbed in weaving, her weaving-spool suddenly got loose. Before she could prevent it, it flew out of the window to the field below. It was out of her reach, as her room was about three stories high. Furthermore she was very tired and had no wish to descend the stairs to fetch the spool. Quite at ease, she mumbled: “Whoever is willing to help me pick up the spool, I’ll treat as my sister, if she is a girl. If he is a man, I’ll take him as my husband.” These words were overheard by a dog, called Tumang, who happened to come along. He immediately picked up the spool and brought it to Dayang Sumbi. Tumang was in fact a cursed god too, like the she-pig. Seeing the dog with the spool in his mouth, Dayang Sumbi fainted. The gods had decided her for her to undergo the same fate as her mother, the she-pig. She too become pregnant and a short time afterwards she gave birth to a strong healthy son, whom she called Sangkuriang.

Sangkuriang became a handsome young man, as time went by. Like his grandfather, he was fond of hunting in the forest and Tumang was his faithful friend when roaming the woods. He loved this creature very much; having no idea at all that it was his own father. One day while hunting, they came across a fat pig. Sangkuriang strung his bow and z-z-z-z-z-z-z! the arrow hissed towards the she-pig, and hit but did not kill her. Wounded, she vanished into the undergrowth.

“Come on, Tumang, run after her!” Sangkuriang shouted, eager to taste the pork. Tumang, however, did not move. Whatever Sangkuriang said to urge Tumang to pursue the pig, it left him unmoved. Sangkuriang lost his self control. In his anger he killed Tumang, cut up his flesh and took it home to his mother. She prepared a tasty dish of it and after the meal she asked:

“Sangkuriang, what kind of flesh is this? It is delicious!”

“This is Tumang’s, mother,” Sangkuriang responded. “I killed him, as he did not obey my command to pursue a fat pig.” For one moment Dayang Sumbi was speechless. Then in rage she took a spool and flung it at him. It struck his forehead and blood dropped out of the wound. This left later on a scar on the spot. Then Dayang Sumbi sent him away.

Deeply grieved, Sangkuriang left and wandered through the woods. He walked for years. Finally he returned to his native place, but did not recognize it any longer. There he stood, looking around him, all alone, musing about the past. At the end of a vast rice-field, which stretched in front of him, he noticed a house on stilts. Looking closely, he saw a young girl sitting at her weaving-loom. He approached her and, charmed by her beauty, he immediately proposed to her, unaware that she was his own mother. The girl looked at him and, noticing his good looks, she promised to marry him. For some time they loved each other tenderly, making plans for their wedding day, but one day she discovered the scar on his forehead.

“That wound!” she whispered, and at the moment she realized that he was no other than her own son who had come back to his village. After being left by Sangkuriang, Dayang Sumbi had been given eternal beauty by the gods, which was why she looked so young and Sangkuriang did not recognize her as his mother. She made efforts to make him understand that a marriage between them was impossible and withdrew her promise to marry him. But Sangkuriang refused to accept the truth and was determined to get his own way. Dayang Sumbi was very sad, as she was ashamed to reveal her secret.

“What is to be done?” she pondered. She had an idea and said to him: “All right then, you shall marry me only on condition that you fulfill a wish of mine. Dam up the Citarum River and build a big vessel, which we shall use after being married. But you have only one night to complete the work.” Sangkuriang agreed and started to work. Only at daybreak did he approach the end, in spite of his magic powers and his prayers to the gods for help. Noticing this, Dayang Sumbi got alarmed and hit upon another plan to prevent the marriage. She stretched the red woven veil which covered her head over the eastern side of the plain. Through her magic powers, red light spread over the landscape, giving the impression that the sun was rising, which meant that time was up for Sangkuriang. He was astonished.

“In vain!” he shouted in despair and at the same time, filled with rage; he kicked the vessel, which was almost finished, upside-down. Then he made for the south, for the Indian Ocean. He had not gone very far when the water of the lake rose and overflowed its banks, dragging everything in its way. Sangkuriang himself had no chance of escape and with all his workers he was driven away. Sometime later the lake dried up. The mountain of Tangkuban Prahu on the northern side of Bandung is thought to be the overturned vessel of Sangkuriang. In time it became covered with trees and the lake became the present fertile rice-fields around Bandung area, every year yielding great benefits for all the people.

Source: indonesianfolktales.blogspot.com