Cor Hendriks – The Macaws (13): The Eagle and the Snake in ATU 301 (the wonderful cure of the hero)

The episode with the eagle is also a part of the Kirgizian epos Er Töstük, reviewed by Karl Reichl in his article ‘Beowulf, Er Töstük und das Bährensohnmärchen’. The name Er Töstük means ‘Hero Breast-piece’ and is connected with the breast-piece of a horse that made his mother pregnant. The part of the story that resembles ATU 301 starts with a combat between the hero and the witch Džalmaÿus, who manages to escape to the underworld. Er Töstük also comes down there, conquers several giants, while pursuing the witch, and gains two brides, with whom he returns to the upper-world. On his way he saves the young of an eagle from a dragon and by way of thanks the eagle-mother swallows him and vomits him out as a young man. Then she brings him together with his two wives and forty caravans to the surface. When during the flight the provisions are exhausted the hero stabs himself an eye out and cuts a piece from his thigh to feed the bird. After the arrival the eagle heals Er Töstük again by swallowing him and gives him a feather in case he ever needs his help [Reichl, a.c., in: Fragen der mongolischen Heldendichtung, hgg W. Heissig, IV, 328f].

An even more epic treatment the theme receives in the Mongolian epics about Asar caÿan qayicing. In Panzer’s nº33 Asar enters the cave of the mangus (‘dragon’) and descends two days long, till he reached the bottom of the shaft. In the distance he sees as only light the city of the mangus. There he opens an iron door and sees all the mangus-children sleeping and Burmayancin attached to an iron pole with her head down. Without asking he takes her (the abducted princess) on his back and goes back up, hacking with his weapon left and right on the awakening demons. Before he reached the hole-entrance he has killed 200.000 manguses. The heaven above looks as big as a saucer and while he prepares for the jump, Burma prays frightened to the exalted heaven (degedü tngri). The wife of Asar, Aliya caÿan, feels at her ears that her husband is in danger, takes out her prediction tools (tölge) and sees that Asar with Burma dagini on his back can’t get out of the hole of the mangus. She therefore takes the ring from her little finger, throws it in the air, reciting a tarni, after which it changes into a giant bird, that flies to the distant mangus-hole. There Asar is looking desperately around him and sees suddenly on a branch of the gigantic big tree a bird as big as a yurt, sees the opportunity to get out of the hole and embraces quickly the bird, that flying up in fright carries Asar and the on his back hanging Burma out of the hole to the world above (where the bird changes back into the ring) [yurt: Mongolian tent-house]. In Panzer’s nº35 there is the same scene: Asar forces his way into the dark hole of the enemy. There is nothing to be seen. He goes on till he reaches the Brass-iron-town with iron walls of the mangus, without meeting him, because he is hiding, and comes to the brass-iron pole to which Burma yanjin dagini is attached. She tells him that she is the daughter of Khan Bodi ÿalab and abducted by the mangus, who wants to marry her, which she refused. Then the battle with the manguses takes place and after the victory Asar gets Burma from her hiding place and takes her on his back. Then he jumps with her to the edge of the eighty mile deep hole, but breaks his right foot and can’t get up. Burma fears the return of the mangus and begs the Earth-Tengri (ÿajar tngri) for help. Asars wife Aliya caÿan decides after throwing her three dice of fate to go to his rescue, changes her bright many-colored cloth in a cloud and flies on it, shortening the distance, in fifteen minutes to the mangus-hole, where she finds Asar sleeping. She takes on the appearance of a mouse, who walks around Asar, who awakening in anger strikes the mouse and breaks one of her legs, which she heals by licking the bronze-stone. Asar imitates her and his broken leg is also healed. Now he can climb out of the hole and sees on a tree at the edge of the hole on two branches a blue garuda-bird asleep. Asar sets himself with Burma on the sleeping bird, who then awakening unfolds its wings and flies up (to get out of the really deep hole).

The scene with the mouse is comparable with the scene we saw before in the Mongolian epic about the three-year-old Näichan. A close-up of the scene is presented by Heissig.

Aliya caÿan ginde
Became a virginal-white mouse,
Ran near Qayicing [= Asar] lying wounded
Over here and over there. The
Hero Qayicing saw this and
Great anger caught him towards this mouse.
‘What kind of unquiet animal is this,’ he said,
‘That won’t leave people lying in peace?’ To a
Fist he folded his hand, said:
‘If I see her once more, I’ll kill her!’
Then he struck towards the outside coming mouse,
That she fell at once down,
There was a leg of the mouse broken, she
Ran away, her leg dragging along.
With the tongue she licked then
Several times at a brass-ore-stone.
Then Qayicing saw to his surprise,
That her little leg was again attached without a trace
And amidst the deep rock-holes she
Jumped up criss-cross. Thereupon
The hero Qayicing thought:
‘The brass-ore-stone is a precious thing,
That has fitted the leg of the mouse onto it.
When a human licks at it,
Will not also his foot be fitted to him?’ The
Leg dragging along, he crawled over there,
Touched the brass-ore-stone and when he
had taken it and several times
had licked it, the stone was really a precious thing.
It cured the wound on him, but
When he looked away for [just] a second,
The stone turned into wood [Heissig, 466 = T 149-151].

The scene is also present in the Mongolian Dzangar-epic, summarized by Cerensodnom. After Dzangar has saved the heaven-daughter Ginâri, who was captured by an old female demon with a copper snout and antelope-feet, he fell himself into the hole of the demon [as in the ATU 301 versions we saw], is heavy wounded and maimed, and lies there. Then come a male and a female rat, and after she has said: ‘This is much meat! Let us eat from it!’, she tears off a piece. ‘Because the human is exhausted, even the rat becomes an enemy to him,’ says Dzangar and takes a swing at her. And he crushed the right side of the rat-wife. After the rat-man has gone away, he comes back after a night, holding leaves between his teeth. The male gives the leaves to his wife and makes the rat-wife healthy. Then the rat-wife, stunned by her bodily sufferings, says: ‘I will again bite a piece off,’ goes back, he hits her again crushing the right side, and lays her down next to him. Thereupon she takes the leaves, that the rat-man had brought for his wife, and by eating them she heals and gets out of the dark hole of her suffering [which should rather be: Thereupon he takes the leaves that …, and by eating them he heals and gets out of the dark hole …] [Cerensodnom, in: Fragen 2, 68].

Also the Kirghiz epic of Bos Dshigit the scene with the mouse is present. The heavily wounded Bos Dshigit prays to God:

Wailing the poor man (= Bos Dshigit) prayed to God,
The decision of the Creator he now acknowledged,
Sighing the poor man sat there
Then came a black mouse towards him.

The mouse the poor man grabbed,
Gave it everywhere wounds, like he himself had,
From olden times he had heard a word,
This mouse he made to the doctor of his suffering.

He tied the mouse to a string, let him go,
The mouse, looking around, ate grass everywhere,
The mouse searched, searched grass everywhere,
Eating a certain grass the black mouse became healthy.

The mouse ate this grass,
Eating the herb it rubbed it fine on this spot;
There rubbing fine the herb [rather: smearing it over the spot]
His wounds were completely healed.

The herb that the mouse had eaten, he also found,
Eating a little, he rubbed it on the wound,
When he had put it on the wound,
Also his wound became completely healed [Radloff, Proben, III, 408-518 (here: 461)].

The scene with the mouse is also present in a tale that resembles type ATU 519, part IV. But in fact it resembles more ATU 301, because we see the same treacherous brothers, who after the hero has provided them with wives are jealous of him and decide to kill him. They tie the sword of the hero, Kadysh Mergen, to the door, then shout that enemies are coming, so that the hero, who has been fed drunk by them, runs outside and cuts off both of his legs. While he is lying there, the brothers drive his cattle away. After a while Kadysh Mergen comes to his senses, and has nothing left: without cattle, without food, without feet he sits there with his back leaned to the wall of his house. The mice gather together and start to eat from Kadysh Mergen’s cut-off feet. Kadysh Mergen grabs a mouse, breaks a leg and says: ‘I’m lame now, you be now lame also!’ Around the lame mouse the healthy mice gather themselves and squeak. The healthy mice dig now the root of a plant out of the earth, this root they give the lame mouse to eat. This mouse eats it. When he has eaten it, after a while his leg is healthy, and he runs away. Kadysh Mergen sees this and says: ‘This mouse has become healthy by this root, I will also take this root and eat it!’ Kadysh Mergen digs with his nails and eats the root, then after a while his cut-off feet become healthy and heal tight, so that no wound remains [but as can be seen by the continuation, this healing could be improved:]. While Kadysh Mergen sits there and looks at his healed legs, half a man comes running, his one side has been cut off. Kadysh Mergen calls out: ‘Hey friend, where are you going from here?’ The half a man says: ‘I have heard that over there a doctor lives, I’m going there.’ Kadysh Mergen says: ‘O friend, let us go together, I also have to let me heal.’ While they are going together, there comes another half a man running towards them, also him they call and take him with them. Now they are with three and go to the doctor. The one half man takes Kadysh Mergen on the one side, the other at the other side, so they go. That doctor is an old woman. They arrive at this old woman; the old woman is a gigantic person, with gigantic stomach and gigantic throat. ‘Hey, my children, where have you gone to?’ she says. ‘We have heard that you are a doctor, that lame, footless and handless people repairs and makes 25-year-old youths out of them [so this is the reason for Kadysh Mergen], that is why we have come here now.’ The old woman says: ‘That will happen, children, spend the night here, tomorrow I will restore one.’ They spend the night there. In the morning they arise, the old woman swallows the one half man and sits there from the morning to the evening. When it becomes evening, the old woman vomits, then he falls as a 25-year-old youth out of her mouth. That day they again spend the night there. In the morning they arise and she swallows the other half man. Till the evening she sits there; when it becomes evening, she vomits, then the half man is whole again, a human he is, as a youth of 25 years he comes out of her mouth. This day they spend the night there. On the third day they arise, then she swallows Kadysh Mergen. When it is evening, she vomits once more, then Kadysh Mergen is a 25-year-old youth (they stay a few weeks, killing a lot of deer to reward the old woman, and then they each go their way, Kadysh Mergen to his brothers; they all three shoot arrows in the air; those of the brothers fall on themselves and kill them) [Radloff, Proben, IV, 72-80 nº8: ‘Kadysch Märgän’. The story starts as ATU 301 with stolen horses. The brothers follow the thieves, but the elder give up, only Kadysh Mergen follows the ‘trail’, kills the three ‘dragons’ and takes on the way back their wives, whom he divides with his brothers (the oldest for the oldest, etc.)].

The story of the footless hero is in a Tartar tale, collected by Radloff in South Siberia, combined with the theme of ATU 300A: The Fight on the Bridge, which is very succinctly described by Thompson as: ‘Aided by his filly, the strong youth defeats three dragons and their wives, in spite of his sleeping helpers’ [Thompson 1961, 90]. We are dealing here with the famous story of ‘Ivan Cow-son’, which has a lot of ATU 301 in it, because of the three dragons. Our story, called ‘Timirgendik’, starts as many ATU 301-versions with the night-watch of the three sons of the king at the horses, that are stolen every night. The elder sons fall asleep, the youngest is accompanied by his father, who also falls asleep, while the boy stays awake and sees around midnight three jilbigens (‘dragons’) coming; out of their mouths spout flames, sparks come out of their behinds. They drive the horses away and in the morning the boy tells what he has seen, whereupon his father sends out the two elder sons to find the horses. The little one also wants to go, to cook for his brothers. They set out and come three times at a bridge, from copper, silver, and gold, where the youngest, while the others sleep, kills a jilbigen (with three, six and 12 heads). Then they come three times to the houses of the jilbigens, where the hero kills the three-, six- and 12-headed offspring of the jilbigens, while the wife of the first is for the oldest brother, the wife of the second for the second and the third one is for himself. Then the six of them go back home, and spend the night [we are at a mysterious point, the crossing of the invisible boundary between the two worlds]. The hero says: ‘Since I am born from the mother, I haven’t slept; now I am tired and want to sleep.’ The brothers let him sleep and one suggest killing him, but the other has a better idea: to cut off his feet at the knees. He doesn’t wake up. They leave him behind, take his wife, horse, and his feet with them and tell their father that the youngest has died, showing him the feet as proof. The wife of the youngest is made to herd the horses. When Timirgendik finally awakes, his horse is not there, his wife is not there, his feet are not there. He laments, walks on his knees, meets a blind man, becomes his friend (nothing about sitting on his shoulders). They meet a man without arms and the three of them set up house in a forest, where they kill massive quantities of wild animals. But then the old jilbigen steals their stuff. Timirgendik sends the others out hunting [as the last day in the woodhouse of ATU 301] and stays at home with a thick iron hook he makes. The old one comes stealing, enters the house. The knee-footed has installed himself on the rafters, catches with his hook the old one in the mouth and ties her then with an iron chain near the door. Then the other two are coming back from the hunt, bringing lots of wild, and they hold a feast. Then they have the blind one swallowed by the old woman, whereupon the knee-footed strikes her with his whip, and she vomits up the blind one with eyes in his head. Thereupon they have her swallow the armless one, again the footless strikes with his whip, and she vomits up the armless with hands. Now the knee-footed wants to be swallowed, but when the other ones strike the old woman, she doesn’t vomit, and they strike her until she is dead. Then they cut her open, search through all of her body, but he isn’t there; the bones they cut open and finally find him in the bone-marrow of her little finger; there he is shaving an arrow. He even complains that he didn’t have the time to finish his arrow. Then they divide their stuff and go each their way. Then Timirgendik arrives home, is recognized by his sister and father, reveals himself to his wife, and takes revenge on his brothers with the arrow-judgement. He shoots at a coin, a day away, and hits it. Then his brothers shoot and their arrows return and fall on their skull, killing them, and their wives he makes servants, while he becomes the king [Radloff 1872, 4, 397-405 nº6: ‘Timirgändik’].

The story about the feetless hero is quite popular, and Ramstedt has collected a version in Mongolia, called ‘Börögîn Bökön Tsagân and his evil brothers’. The story starts with the familiar night-watch of the three brothers in order to catch the thief of the foal that is born in the night. Only the youngest brother shoots an arrow at the black cloud, so that the tail and the manes fall off, and when he looks in the morning he sees that it is a coral-tail and a pearl-mane (such a foal it is). The boy pursues the cloud [the blood-trail?] in the direction of the sunset. He has an adventure comparable with ATU 300A: The Fight on the Bridge, and liberates three girls, the daughters of Heaven, Sun and Moon, who had been abducted by the three ‘dragons’ and forced to become their wives. He takes them and the possessions of the three brothers with him, then thinks about his own brothers, and goes in search for them. They are counting their turds: ‘This one we will eat today, that one tomorrow.’ At that moment the boy arrives and when the brothers see him, they faint. The youngest revives them, slaughters his horse for them. They cook and eat. After a while the three women come, and he gives the daughter of Heaven to his oldest brother, the daughter of the Moon to the second, and the daughter of the Sun is for himself. Once the brothers see a light coming from the tent of the youngest brother, and they spy through the underside of the wall. They see that the light comes from the woman. The second says to the oldest: ‘He has given us the lesser women and taken himself the best. He deserves to die!’ The oldest doesn’t agree: ‘He has given us our possessions.’ The second insist and has an idea: ‘When we attach to the door a sword, and shout “A thief robs your horses;” he will come out running and so his knees will be cut off. Then we can take his wife.’ They do this the next night at midnight, and Börögîn Bökön Tsagân rushes outside, although his wife tries to stop him, and both his legs are cut off. The next morning the brothers depart with all their stuff and leave Börögîn Bökön Tsagân behind, taking his wife with them. After a while someone comes, a man blinded by his two elder brothers. They become brothers. Then another man comes, whose hands have been cut off by his elder brothers. So now they are three brothers. They build a house from gypsum weed and steal the daughter of a Khan. They live from the hunt. One day the khan’s daughter has let the fire go out, sees in the distance smoke, goes there and sees an old woman in the earth cooking lice and nits in a kettle. She receives fire (the girl holds up her skirt, the woman puts in a layer of ashes and upon that the live coals) and returns home, but the old woman has followed her, louses the girl who falls asleep, sucks her blood, and leaves. Then the ‘brothers’ come home and are served by the girl. But the next day the woman comes again, sucks her blood again, and the brothers notice that the girl is weak, but she doesn’t want to say what is going on. The third day the girl is too weak to leave the tent, and reveals to the brothers about the woman. They stand guard, first the handless one, who is not able to hold her. The blind one tries to jump her, but misses. The third day Börögîn Bökön Tsagân stays home, jumps on the woman, holds her tight between his knees and binds her with ropes. The other two come home and the three of them beat the woman. When she is near her death, the old woman says: ‘The handless I will give hands, the eyeless I will give eyes, the feetless I will give feet.’ ‘Eyeless!’ she says and swallows him up; as a man with two eyes he comes back out. ‘Handless!’ she says and swallows him up; as a man with two arms he comes out again. Börögîn Bökön Tsagân says: ‘Because she is angry with me, she will swallow me up, but won’t let me come out again. Kill her then right away and search for me inside her,’ he says and goes through the mouth of the old woman inside. ‘What I intended to do, has already been accomplished. When you want to kill me, then kill me! When you want to bury me, then bury me! I won’t give him back!’ she says. They kill the old woman, search inside her, but find him nowhere. A grey sparrow comes sitting above the smoke-hole. ‘In the right hand, in the little finger!’ he says and flies away. In the little finger of the right hand they find him. He comes out as a man with both his feet. After this they bring the girl back to her father and go each their way, Börögîn Bökön Tsagân to his brothers to chop off their heads [Ramstedt 1909, 31-47 nº11].

The story of the blood-sucking demon is old. In Jataka nº253 there are two Brahman-brothers, the oldest of whom is the Bodhisattva. They have become ascetics and live near each other. One day the king of the Nagas, Manikantha (jewel-throat), comes out of the river in human shape, visits the youngest brother, and soon they have become the best of friends. The Naga comes often and each time when taking leave the Naga takes on his snake-appearance and curls around his friend to show him his affection [but in fact to suck his blood, but this is not said]. The ascetic becomes meager and his skin-color becomes pale from fright. When the Bodhisattva comes and sees his brother wither away, he lets him tell everything and asks: ‘What kind of jewel does the king of the Nagas wear when he visits you?’ ‘A precious jewel.’ ‘Well, when he comes, ask him before he can go sit down to give you the jewel. He will leave right away without hugging you as a snake. Tomorrow you wait for him at the door and ask the same question; the day thereafter you wait for him where he comes out of the river with your question and he won’t visit you again.’ This all comes about and the third day the Naga says to the ascetic: ‘That I have an abundance to eat and drink I have thanks to this jewel that you ask for. You ask too much. I won’t give you the jewel and you will never see me again’ [Cosquin 1922, 266].

Another old version can be found in the 1st-century Testamentum Salomonis, extensively treated by Rappoport in his Ancient Israel. It happened, when King Solomon was building the Temple, that the demon named Ornias came every day at sunset among the artificers. He took away half of the pay of the foreman’s little son and also half of his food. He then sucked away the life blood of the boy by sucking the thumb of his right hand, so that the child grew thinner every day and began to pine away. And when King Solomon, who loved the boy, inquired after the reason of his thinness and his ailment, the boy thus spoke: ‘O mighty King! An evil demon named Ornias takes away every day at sunset half of my food and he also sucks the thumb of my right hand.’ When King Solomon heard these words he was very grieved and prayed to the Lord of Hosts that he might deliver into his hands and give him authority over the evil demon Ornias. The prayer of the King was heard, for soon the angel Michael appeared to him and brought him a signet ring with a seal upon which was the Ineffable Name was engraved. […] Thereupon King Solomon called the boy who was the son of the foreman of the artificers, and thus he spoke unto him: ‘Take this ring, my child, and when at sunset the fierce demon comes to visit you, throw the ring at his chest and command him to appear in my presence. And thus you shall speak unto him: “In the name of God, the Lord of the Universe, King Solomon calls thee hither!When you will have spoken these words you will at once run and come to me and not be afraid of the demon whatever he may say.’ Thus spoke King Solomon. And the boy took the ring and did as the King had commanded him. When at sunset Ornias descended upon him and prepared to take away his pay and his food, he threw the ring at the demon’s chest, and commanded him in the name of God to appear before King Solomon. Thereupon he went off and ran to the King. When the demon heard the words of the boy and the command of the King, he was greatly perturbed and begged the child to take off the ring, and not to lead him before the King, promising him as a reward all the gold of the earth. But the boy, remembering the instructions he had received, would not listen to Ornias. And thus, greatly rejoicing, he brought the demon before the gates of the royal palace (etc.) [Rappoport 1995, 88-90. Solomon then questions the demon and gives him assignments].

In modern European tales the motif can also be detected. In a French version of ATU 330 an old Bask soldier asks an alms from the Lord Jesus and gets the choice between a bag now or heaven later, and although saint Peter advises otherwise he takes the bag, from which comes what he wishes [cf. ATU 564] when he says: ‘Trentekutchilo!’ But in practice the bag works differently. A baker passes by with a wagon full of bread, refuses to give something to the begging soldier, whereupon the latter says: ‘Trentekutchilo!’ and the bag is full of bread, namely the bread of the baker. So he asks a tax-collector for a few pennies and has then the bag full of gold-pieces. Now he is rich and marries, but one day he notices that his wife pines away. Pressed hard she confesses that she is visited by a terrible, big man, a monster. With his power-word the soldier commands him in the bag and hammers him dead. He takes the bones to a smith [in most versions of ATU 330 it is the devil in the bag and it is the smith who is the hero and hammers him dead], who wants to make a cross out of them, which doesn’t succeed, from which they conclude that the monster was a demon [Soupault 1963, 250-253 nº50 = Barbier, Légendes du pays basque, 50].

The episode is also part of a ‘true’ Russian version of ATU 519: The Strong Woman as Bride (Brunhilde). I. The Suitor. A prince with his extraordinary companion woos a bride who is beautiful, strong, and warlike, and who will have a husband no man who is not her equal in strength. II. Suitor Tests. (a) The prince must wield her gigantic weapons and ride her untamed steed. (b) By substitution of his companion this is accomplished. III. The bridal night. (a) In the bridal night she lays her feet and hands on the prince and almost stifles him. (b) He asks permission to go outside and in the darkness the helper substitutes himself and overcomes the princess. IV. The Princess’s Revenge. (a) When on the return to the prince’s home she discovers the betrayal, she cuts off the feet of the helper and drives forth the prince, who becomes a swineherd. (b) The lamed helper joins a blind man and they assist each other. (c) They overcome a giant and compel him to show healing water. (d) The helper with his feet restored returns and compels the restoration of his master [Thompson 1961, 187, based on Löwis of Menar, Die Brünhildsage in Russland, Leipzig 1923. See also BP I, 311 (in ‘Girl without hands’): versions from White Russia; Great Russia and Sartic].

So the hero is the son of a tsar who wants to marry the beautiful princess, who has put the heads of her suitors on a fence around a palace. He gets help from a lowly peasant, Ivan the Beggar, and together they go to the princess, who receives the tsar’s son festively. Then the games take place and each time Ivan breaks the weapons saying that they are not fit for a worthy man (kills her steed). In the wedding night she discovers that she is tricked, and while they are travelling she has the opportunity when Ivan sleeps to cut off his legs. She takes the prince as servant back with her and leaves Ivan behind. Fortunately Marko the Runner passes by, takes him, as a friend, on his shoulders and goes with him into the forest where they build an isba (wooden house) and a cart, in which Ivan, pulled by Marko, hunts for wild, from which they live. They get bored and steal the daughter of a pope (Ivan grabs her, and Marko runs away on his long legs). They make her their sister, who keeps the house. One day coming back from the hunt they notice that their sister is meager and pale, and they ask what has happened. She tells that she is visited every day by a dragon [who sucks her blood]. Ivan hides under the bench. Marko stands behind the door. A half hour later the trees rustle, the roof creaks, and the flying dragon arrives. Hitting the ground he becomes a beautiful young man, enters the house and asks for something to eat. Ivan grabs his legs, [he falls,] while Marko lets himself fall on him and crushes his loins. They drag the dragon to a tree-trunk, split it, push his head in between, and beat him with rods, until he offers to take them to the Waters of Life and Death. When they arrive at the lake, Marko wants to jump immediately into it, but Ivan withholds him and throws a (green) branch in the water; it burns immediately to a crisp. The dragon gets renewed beatings and takes them to a 2nd lake, in which Ivan throws a dead stick, that immediately starts to make leaves [cf. Medea’s kettle]. They jump in and are both cured. Then they throw the dragon in the first lake, go back to the girl, that Marko brings home and marries. Ivan finds a good horse, goes looking for the tsar’s son, finds him tending pigs, exchanges clothing with him, puts him on his horse and drives the pigs in his stead. When the princess sees them coming, she orders them to be punished, but Ivan runs towards her, grabs her by the braids and drags her around until she shows remorse [Gruel-apert 1990, 112-115 nº89: ‘Le cul-de-jatte et le manchot’ (Afan. 200/116c) = Guterman 1975, 269ff].

In another version from the collection of Afanassiev the king’s son is called Ivan and his helper is the old Katoma-woodcap, recommended by his parents. The latter takes the young king to a gallery in the palace, where the portraits of all the princesses of the world hang; he chooses Anna the Beauty, who has no equal, but who only wants to marry someone who can pose a riddle she can’t solve. Finding a purse Ivan finds also the riddle that Anna can’t solve, but then she imposes difficult tasks in which the prince receives help from Katoma. The princess thinks she marrying a powerful man, but when they leave the church she presses his hand and the blood flows to his head, so she knows she has been tricked. She wants to take revenge on Katoma and manages to get the prince to leave Katoma to her will, whereupon she has his legs chopped off and him left behind on a tree-trunk. Ivan is made cowherd. After a three days a blind man (also the victim of Anna, who scratched out his eyes 30 years ago) bumps into the tree-trunk and Katoma falls down. They become friends, and the blind man takes the legless on his back, so he can function as his eyes. One day they decide to abduct the daughter of a merchant and make her sister and housekeeper. She stays with them, but starts looking bad after a while. After being hard pressed she reveals to get visits from an ugly old woman with long white hair, who commands her to louse her, while she sucks on her white breasts. The two heroes take their position and when the girl louses the baba-yaga, she has to hang the witch’s hair out of the window. The blind man grabs them, whereupon Katoma comes out from under the bench and strangles her. The baba-yaga is seeing 36 candles! She begs for mercy and promises to do what they want, and takes them through the woods to a well: ‘Look there the Water of Life.’ Katoma withholds the blind man, throws a green stick in it, that burns right away. They want to throw the baba-yaga in it, but she quickly shows them the right well and the heroes cure themselves and throw the incorrigible baba-yaga in the burning well anyway. Then Katoma marries the merchant’s daughter and the three of them go to the kingdom of Anna the Beauty, where they find near the capital Ivan, herding cows (etc.) [Bozoki 1978, 242-249 nº65: ‘Le cul-de-jatte et l’aveugle’ (Afan. 198/116a) = Ralston/Brueyre 1874, 219-237: ‘L’aveugle et l’estropié’].

In another version from the collection of Afanassiev the hero and helper is called Nikita Koltoma and the blind man is his brother Timofej Koltoma, who has been blinded on orders of Jelena the Most Beautiful, and who is discovered by his brother, who has been put without legs in a boat and set adrift. The blind one takes the other on his shoulders and together they form a whole man. They come into a dark wood upon the little house of the baba-yaga. She is not home and they enjoy themselves eating and drinking. Then the baba-yaga comes, scolds them as thieves of her food. Timofej grabs the witch and Nikita drags her by the hairs. She begs them to stop, and will do what they want. They want healing and life-giving water. She takes them to two wells. Nikita takes from the healing well and his legs grow whole, but are not able to move; then he takes from the life-giving water and now he can move. His brother does the same: the healing water gives him his eyes back and the life-giving water enables them to see. They thank the old woman, and return to free the tsar from his life as pig-herd [Heemskerk 1964, 174-184 (nº45) = Gruel-apert 1990, 105-112 nº88: ‘Le cul-de-jatte et l’aveugle II’ (Afan. 199/116b)].

In a White-Russian version the hero is called Ivan Chicken-Leg, because he is born with chicken legs, didn’t grow from day to day but from hour to hour and after a day he was as big as a normal man, so he says to his father: ‘Tomorrow we are going to look at the daughter of the tsar.’ His father goes reluctantly with him, but the tsar has three assignments: jump over the highest tower of his palace, then jump over the palace, and finally to throw his seven-pud tsar-scepter over the highest tower and the whole of the estate. As Ivan fulfils all three tasks the tsar has to give him his daughter, but she doesn’t want a man with chicken feet and when he is asleep, she cuts them off with a knife. When he wakes up, he notices it and sets out into the world, walks and walks [!] till he meets a man without arms, called Kusma Without Arms, although he had arms the day before, but they were torn off by a seven-pud tsar-scepter falling out of the air. Ivan apologizes, takes the scepter with him, seats himself on Kusma’s shoulders, and they walk and walk till they meet the devil, who can’t stop laughing when he sees the strange duo. He mocks them and is beaten by Ivan with the scepter, who doesn’t stop until the devil promises to take them to a source with Water of Life. He takes them to a source in the wood, but Ivan first puts in a twig that withers. Ivan threatens with his scepter and the devil quickly takes them to another source. This time the twig put into it becomes weak as a string. Again Ivan waves the scepter and the devil says it was a mistake, takes them to another source, this time the right one, that makes the twig blossom, gives legs to Ivan still called Chicken-Leg, and arms to Kusma. Ivan goes to the palace, where the wedding is celebrated of the daughter of the tsar. He storms in, but as soon as the tsar’s daughter sees him, she comes to him, happy that he is back [Verroen 1973, 136-141].

The tsar becomes an anti-hero in the Russian version ‘Mathusha the Ashes-grey One’, collected by A.N. Netsjaev. Mathusha advices against the plan of the tsar to court the strong Nastassia Vagrameevna, but the tsar is pissed, and treats Mathusha as a slave. After the winning of the bride (Mathusha chops a 300-year old oak with a 100 pud sword to matches, shoots with a 300 pud bow and five pud arrows the cupola of a tower in the realm of the neighbor-king, and tames the wild stallion), during the sail-trip home (after the bride has already discovered that she is tricked) the tsar, observing the sleeping Mathusha, remembers his words, and in a fit of anger he cuts off the legs of his sleeping servant and throws him overboard. Mathusha uses his legs as peddles, arrives at the shore, and thinks of the bird Magaj he has met in the beginning of the story, when he was 15 and said goodbye to his parents. After a long walk he came to a dark forest, that was hit by a thunderstorm. To protect himself he climbed in the highest oak and saw there a bird’s nest with young birds, that were getting cold and wet and pounded by hail, so he covered them with his caftan, joined the birds in the nest and shared with them his provisions. After a while the storm passed, but then there was a great noise and it became dark, and the bird Magaj landed and started beating Mathusha, but the little birds called off their mother, telling what he had done for them. The bird was very pleased and told Mathusha that at the foot of the oak there was buried a bottle out of which he had to take three sips. He did this and became very strong (so strong, that when there would have been a pillar standing in the ground reaching to the sky and he would grab it, he would be able to turn mother earth around her axis). After that he became water-carrier for the tsar, slept among the garbage and ash-hill, which gave him the name ‘The Ashes-grey One’. Thinking of this bottle, he sees a man coming, stumbling every step of the way. It turns out he is blind, and he offers to carry Mathusha in his backpack, so that he can show him the way. Together they go (a tale is rapidly told), and finally they arrive at the oak where the copper bottle with the healing water is buried. First Mathusha heals the eyes of his fellow, who then helps him to put on his legs. They both take a good sip and revitalized they go to the city of the tsar. When they approach the city, they see the tsar herding cows, forced by the strong Nastassia. When Mathusha makes himself known, the tsar begs him to help him, but Mathusha tells him to disappear out of the kingdom and the former tsar runs off. The strong Nastassia was secretly in love with Mathusha, and had cried when he had fallen overboard. He tells her what has happened, after which they marry, and Mathusha becomes the new tsar [Siebelink 1993, 118-134: ‘Matjoesja de Asgrauwe’ (cf. Cendrillon)].

Also in Bohemia versions have been recorded and Tille has two versions under the heading ‘Die zwei Krüppel’. In the first the legs of the hero Hans are cut off, while his brother Prokop is turned into a shepherd by the deceived princess. Hans goes on stilts away, finds in the woods a man nailed with his hands to a tree, who asks him to free him. Hans pulls him free, which costs the man his hands. Together they find a cart, in which Hans sits while his comrade pulls. They abduct a princess to an abandoned castle. When the princess lies sick in bed, she is attacked by a snake [he was the cause of the sickness, sucking her blood daily]. Hans forces the snake to bring him to a curing well. The snake first takes him to a fire well (the branch dipped in the water enflames), then to the curing well, where Hans regains his feet and his comrade his hands. [Tille 1921, §7G, version Prikryl 70 (377).] The second version starts with the intro of ATU 502, but Tille uses often the word ‘entstellt’ to indicate that the version deviates from the ‘norm’. At a certain point the ‘giant’ (cf. Iron Hans) falls from the carriage and breaks (= loses) both feet. The coachman takes him to gallows (entstellt), where a man hangs without hands who carries the giant on his back to a castle. They often go hunting, the giant sitting on the other, and once they abduct a girl to do their cooking. Once the girl is attacked by a witch and killed. The giant heals the girl with unguent from a white snake, catches the witch and forces her to bring him his feet and his comrade his hands (two times she brings the wrong ones) [Tille 1921, §7G, version C. Lid XI (410) from Olesna near Blansko].


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Cosquin, E., Les Contes Indiens et l’Occident, Paris 1922
Heissig, Walther, Erzählstoffe rezenter mongolischer Heldendichtung I, Wiesbaden 1988 (Asiatische Forschungen 100)
Panzer, F., Beowulf, München 1910
Radloff, Proben … Türkische Stämme Süd-Siberiens 3, 1870
Radloff, Proben … Türkische Stämme Süd-Siberiens 4, 1872
Ramstedt, G.J., Kalmückische Märchen, Helsingfors 1909 (MSFO XXVII)
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Rappoport, Angelo S., Ancient Israel. Myths & Legends, London 1995 (3 Vol.)
Siebelink, C. (ed.), Russische Sprookjes, Rijswijk 1993
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