Site Map
Russian Folktales
Section › 55   Set    Search  Previous Next

Reservations   Contents    

  1. The Hired Potter
  2. Thoughtless Words
  3. The Nobleman and the Peasant

The Hired Potter

A potter was driving along a road when a passer-by said to him: "Hire me as your worker."

"But do you know how to make pots?" the potter asked him.

"Oh yes," the stranger said. He did not provide any credentials of it, though.

They made a bargain, shook hands on it, and drove on together. When they came to the potter's home, the worker said: "Now master, prepare forty carts of clay, for tomorrow I shall set to work.

The master prepared forty carts of clay, and the worker said to the potter: "I shall work at night; do not come to my barn."


"Just don't. If you do come, I warn you, you could get into trouble."

Dark night came. On the stroke of twelve, the hired potter cried out in a loud voice, and a numberless host of imps gathered around him and began to fashion pottery. Thunderous pounding, clatter and laughter resounded all over the yard. The master could not restrain himself and went to see what all the noise was about. He came to the barn, looked through a crack, and saw the devils squatting there and molding pots. Only one lame one was not working, but he kept watch - when he caught sight of the master, he seized a lump of clay, hurled it, and hit the potter in the face. The master returned to his house, feeling shame, and in the barn there was even more uproarious laughter than before.

In the morning the worker said: "Eh, master, go and count the pots, see how many have been made in one night."

The master counted: there were thirty thousand of them. "Well," the worker said, "now prepare twenty cubic metres of wood for me, for tonight I will bake the pots."

Exactly at midnight the hired potter cried out in a loud voice; imps came running to him from every corner; they smashed up all the pots, threw the shards into the oven, and began to bake them. And the master came to the barn and found a little crack in the wall and looked in. "Well, all the pots are broken," he thought.

Next day the hired potter called him and said: "Come and see how well I have worked."

The master came to look and found that all of the thirty thousand pots were whole – one was better than the other.

On the third night the hired potter called the imps together, painted the pots with various colours, and put them all on one cart.

They waited till market day and carried the pots to town to sell them. The hired potter ordered his imps to run to all the houses, through all the streets, and invite the people to buy the pots. Crowds came to the market, thronged around the potter, and in half an hour they bought all his merchandise.

The peasant drove home with a bagful of money. "Now," said the evil spirit, "let us share the profits."

They shared half-and-half. The hired potter took his lot, said farewell to the master, and left the place too.

A week later the peasant went to town with puts he had just made. He stood in the market place a long time, but no one bought from him. All the people passed him by and swore and gnarled: "We know your pots, old fellow They look pretty, but the moment you put water into them they fall to pieces. No, you won't cheat us again."

They ceased buying pots from him altogether. Finally, the peasant was ruined. Out of grief he took to drinking and began to spend all his time lying around in alehouses instead of moving to somewhere else.


Thoughtless Words

Once an old man lived in a village with his wife. They were very poor and had one only son. When he grew up, the mother said to her husband: "It's time we secured a wife for our son."

"Well, go and see if you can bargain for a wife."

The old woman went to her neighbour and asked him if her son could marry his daughter. But the neighbour said, "No!" She went to the next peasant, who also declined. She searched the whole village in vain. When she came back she said: "I fear our son is born under an unlucky star!"


"I went through the whole village and there is nobody who will give his daughter in marriage to him."

"That looks bad!" said the husband. "It will soon be summer, and unless we get a wife for him we shall not have anybody to help us at the harvest. Woman, go into the next village, and maybe you find somebody there."

The old woman went to the next village, went from one end to the other, went through all the courtyards and houses of the peasants, but she was put off everywhere. She came back home and sulked: "No one wants to be kin with such poor folk as us!"

"In that case it is best to spare our legs and go and sit behind the oven."

But the son was indignant. He asked: "Father, let me go and seek my own fate."

"Where then will you go?"

"Wherever I feel for!"

Both his parents blessed him and they let him go.

When the boy was on the road, he wept bitterly and spoke to himself: "Am I the feeblest man in the world since no maiden will have me? If so, even if a Bad Master would send me a bride I would examine if she was fit for me."

Suddenly an old man came to meet him. "Good day!"

"Good day, old father!"

"What were you saying just now?"

The boy was frightened and did not know what to answer.

"Relax! Perhaps I can help you in your need. Speak out boldly."

So the boy told him all. "No maiden would marry me. That made me angry; and I said if Milord himself came and gave me a girl, I would examine her to see whether she was fit to be my bride."

The old man laughed and said: "I can give you many brides." They then came to a lake. "Stand with your back to the water, and step backwards," the old man told the boy.

As soon as the boy turned round, and took four steps, he found himself under the water, in a white stone palace. All the rooms were splendidly furnished and finely decorated.

The old man gave him meat and drink, and afterwards showed him twelve maidens, each of whom was fairer than the others. "Choose one, any of them."

"It's a difficult choice! Let me have till tomorrow to think of it."

"Well, you can have till tomorrow," said the old man, and he took him into a large room.

The boy lay down to sleep and began to think which maiden to choose. Suddenly the door opened and a beautiful girl came in. "Are you asleep or not?"

"No, I cannot sleep. I am thinking which bride to choose."

"That is what I came to counsel you about, for you have become the guest of a Bad Master. If you wish to return to the light of day, do as I say. If you don't, you won't get out of this place alive."

"Please counsel me, then."

"Tomorrow Milord will show you twelve maidens that look very much alike. You must choose me: Look at me very carefully then, for I will wear a patch over my right eye, and that will be the sign."

The maiden went on to tell him her story. "Do you know the parish priest in a neighbouring village? I am his daughter, and was stolen from his house nine years ago. One day my father was angry with me and made a hasty wish that the devil might take me. I went in front of the house and cried, and then and there I was snatched and carried off here, and I have never left the place since."

Next day the old man set the twelve maidens in a row before the boy, and commanded him to choose one of them. He looked till he found the one with the patch over the right eye, and chose her.

The old man was angry at the thought of giving her up. He therefore mixed the maidens together and told the boy to make a second choice. The boy hit on the same one, and after a third choice he got her for his bride.

"This has been your piece of luck. Now take her home!"

All at once the boy and the maiden found themselves on the bank of the lake. From there they walked on till they reached the high road. The devil wanted to hunt after them; but all at once the lake vanished, and there was no trace of the water.

When the boy had taken his bride into the village, he stopped at the priest's house. The priest saw her, and sent a servant out and asked what they desired. r

"We are wandering folk, and ask for shelter."

"I have merchant guests staying here, and my hut would be too small anyhow."

"But, father!" said the merchants to their host, "wandering folk must be always taken in: they will not disturb us."

"Well, come in."

The boy and the maiden came in, made due greetings, and sat down on a corner of the lire bank.

"Don't you know me, father? I am your own daughter!" She told him what had happened; and they kissed, embraced, and shed tears of joy.

"Who is he?" said the priest, pointing to the boy.

"That is my own chosen bridegroom, the one who brought me back to the light of day. Were it not for him I should have remained beneath for ever!" Then the girl opened her bag. There were golden and silver vessels in it which she had taken with them from the bad place.

A merchant looked at the vessels and said: "I know these! I used to own them. But once I was dining with guests I became rather drunk, quarrelled with my wife, and wished the gold and silver on the table to hell. Afterwards then were gone!"

As soon as the man mentioned hell the Bad Master appeared on the threshold, gathered up all the gold and silver vessels and threw some muck back instead.

So the boy got a fine bride, married her, and drove to see his parents. They had long given him up for dead, for he had been away for three years, although it had seemed to him only twenty-four hours under water.

(Magnus 1916, 70-74. "The Thoughtless Word")


The Nobleman and the Peasant

One day a nobleman went to market and bought a canary for fifty rubles. A peasant saw this. When he came home he told his wife: "Imagine, today I was at the market and I saw the nobleman buying a small bird for fifty rubles. I will take my gander to him, perhaps he will buy that."

"Take it."

The peasant brought his gander to the nobleman. "Nobleman buy this gander."

"How much is it?" asked the nobleman.

"A hundred rubles!"

"You idiot!"

"Since you were willing to pay fifty rubles for a small bird, a hundred is cheap for this one!"

The nobleman flew into a rage and knocked the peasant for the clever answer, and took his gander for nothing.

The peasant said, "You may come to emember this gander."

He returned home, disguised himself as a mason, took a saw and ax and went by the nobleman's house, crying: "Who wants a warm vestibule built?"

The nobleman heard him, called him in, and asked: "How will you do it?"

"It's rather simple. A vestibule built of warm trees does not have to be heated in winter."

"Ah," said the nobleman, "show me such trees at once."

"With pleasure."

Both of them went to the woods. There the peasant cut down a huge pine tree and began to slice it into two halves; he cut the tree lengthwise and began to drive in a wedge. The nobleman watched him for a while and then foolishly thrust his hand into the cut. No sooner had he done this than the peasant pulled out the wedge and the nobleman's hand was firmly caught. Then the peasant took a leather strap and began to thrash the nobleman, repeating: "Don't beat a peasant, and don't take his gander! Don't!"

He thrashed for a good while and said: "Well, I have beaten you once, and I will beat you again unless you return my gander and add a hundred rubles into the bargain."

The peasant left the nobleman there. After nightfall the nobleman's worried family found him and freed him from the vise.

The nobleman fell ill, he lay on his bed and moaned. The peasant picked herbs and flowers, disguised himself as a doctor, and once again went near the nobleman's courtyard, crying: "Does someone need curing?"

The nobleman heard him, called him in, and said: "Do cure me!"

"Have a bath heated."

Straightway a bath was heated.

"Now come," said the peasant to the nobleman. "Only don't take anyone with us to the bath-room. Be careful!"

They went to the bathroom and the nobleman undressed. "Well, sir," asked the doctor, "can you bear it if I apply ointment to you in this heat?"

"No," said the nobleman.

"What then? Shall I tie you so that the ointment may be applied?"

"Do tie me." The peasant tied him with a rope, but instead of putting unguents, creams and salves on the nobleman's skin, he took a whip and began to beat and bash him, repeating: "Don't beat a peasant, don't take his gander! Don't!"

When he was about to leave, he said: "Now I have beaten you twice. If you don't return my gander and give me two hundred rubles into the bargain, I shall beat you a third time."

The nobleman got out of his bath more dead than alive, decided to send the peasant the gander and two hundred rubles.

(Retold. See Guterman 1973, 59-60)


Book Nook

Russian folktales, fables, folk tales and fairy tales of Russia, To top    Section     Set    Next

Russian folktales, fables, folk tales and fairy tales of Russia. User's Guide   ᴥ    Disclaimer 
© 2014–2018, Tormod Kinnes [Email]