Sofia Malkhasian – Vasilisa The Wise
The theme of the flight on the Eagle is part of a Siberian myth about the stolen sun. In olden times it was dark on earth. The evil spirits had stolen the sun and taken to their house, where they played ball with it. The hare decided to go get the sun back. He climbed on the tent of the Kele (the demons), looked inside (through the smoke hole), saw them playing ball and let himself fall into the tent. ‘Oho, we have caught a fat little hare!’ – ‘Don’t hurt me,’ said the hare, ‘I will give you a lot of oil!’ – ‘How many kettles do you have?’ – ‘Two kettles.’ He gave the sun a push with his toe and it sprang almost out of the top hole. The hare jumped up, but he didn’t reach the hole and he fell back. ‘Oho, we have caught a fat little hare!’ Again he promised oil, three kettles, and he gave the sun a push, and it flew out of the hole, high in the air and stuck to the sky. Also the hare jumped out of the tent and fled, pursued by the Kele. He came to an Eagle and asked him to hide him. The Eagle put him under his right wing. The Kele came and asked if he had seen his little hare. ‘Certainly,’ said the Eagle, ‘he climbed in the sky.’ – ‘How can I follow him?’ – ‘Climb on my back, I will bring you up there.’ So the Eagle flew up with the Kele. After a while he asked: ‘Look down to the earth. How big does it look to you?’ – ‘As big as a big pond.’ They flew higher. ‘How big is the earth now?’ – ‘As a little pond.’ They flew higher; ‘and now?’ – ‘As a spread out tent wall.’ Still higher: ‘As the skin of a seal.’ Still higher: ‘As a shoe sole.’ – ‘As a patch on a sole.’ – ‘We are almost there; how big is it now?’ – ‘As a wormhole in a reindeer skin! Now it is all gone.’ – ‘Ah, I’m so tired,’ says the Eagle and throws the Kele of his back, he fell and fell, and finally he reached the earth and went head first with half his body into the earth. The Eagle said to the hare: ‘Your tormentor is gone; you can come out now.’ The hare made a stone hammer, ran to the Kele, and hit him with the hammer on his feet, till he disappeared completely under the earth. Since that time the Kele are beneath the earth [Jockel, 1953, 265 – 267, nº99; Myth of the Chukchee (cf. Allan 1999a, p. 84f for the first part; the demons are called Kelet)].
The story of the hare releasing the sun is also known among the Inuit, but lacks the episode of the flight. The story takes place at the creation. The Maker had created the World, but there was no light. So he wanted to send animals to Tornarak [The Great Spirit] to obtain light, but no one wanted to go. Then the raven offered, but the Maker is afraid he gets distracted and sends the hare. He goes there, sees an old man working on his sledge and asks if he may see the axe. He picks up the axe and says: ‘Look who’s coming!’ The old man looks away and Hare chops off his head. Then he enters the house. The children jump from joy and one wants the head, the other the legs. The hare says he is too cold [to eat] and he starts walking in circles. Then he discovers the sun. He kicks it with his foot in the air. The sun ball flies through the air hole and then there is light. Hare jumps behind it and lands outside where he puts his own fur coat on the old man and pushes the corps in through the air hole, saying [with the voice of the old man]: ‘I’ve caught a hare.’ [cf. AT, p. 327 – 328, where the daughter of the demons is cooked and eaten by the demons]. They start eating but then the wife of the Great Spirit has the penis and recognizes it as her husband’s. They want to pursue the hare, but he is long gone. (Berge, 1987, II, p. 70f recorded in 1901 in Tsherinak by Venki).
To continue the story of ‘The Box Without Key’, the woodcock flies with the man on his back in the direction of the sea, climbs higher and higher and asks: ‘How big does the sea appear to you?’ – ‘Not bigger than a flour sieve.’ Suddenly the Eagle drops the man, but before he hit the water, the bird is underneath him and catches him on his wings. ‘This kind of fear I had also, when you wanted to shoot at me (the first time).’ The bird goes higher, the earth is like a ring, second drop, as the eye of a needle, third drop (fear second and third shot). The bird promises not to let him fall again. They fly on and then the bird asks if he sees something. ‘I see something shining, a copper pillar.’ – ‘There lives my youngest sister. Ask her for the Box without Key.’ They arrive at the copper castle and the bird changes into a young man. He tells his sister that the man has taken care of him for three years, and she asks the man what he wants, but the box she doesn’t want to give. So they leave and after a long flight they come to the silver castle of the second sister. But she will also not give the box, and they fly on till they come to the golden castle of the oldest sister, who gives the box to the man, who rescued her brother. They fly back, a very long journey, till the bird gets tired and puts his burden down on a high mountain. The box weighs heavy and the man, in desperation, throws the box on the ground, whereby it falls open and a castle appears complete with food and servants. The hunter has a hearty meal, but doesn’t want to stay there. When he leaves, he meets a man, who offers to bring him home for that, that has come in his house. The hunter accepts the proposition and is brought home with his box in a jiffy [Goldberg, 1969, p. 178 – 184. In the Talmud it is told, that Alexander the Great on his legendary journey to heaven, built after the Etana myth, had seen that the World had the form of a ball (kaddur) (Eisler, 1910, p. 493, nº 1); this looks like a deformation of: he saw that the World and sea was no bigger than a ball].
In ‘The Fairytale of the Eagle Prince’ of the RUssian Siberian storyteller Winokurowa the Eagle takes Ivan on his back and brings him to a ‘state’, where his oldest sister lives. There the Eagle takes on human appearance with Ivan’s help (?), after which he sends him to his sister. ‘Go to the window,’ he says to him, ‘and ask for alms, but not for Christ’s sake but for the sake of the Eagle Prince.’ Then follows a description of this situation: he went to the window and asked for alms not for Christ’s sake but for the Eagle Prince’s sake. At the window stood a servant girl ironing the laundry. Well, she ran as fast as her legs could carry her to her mistress. ‘How one asks now in new fashion for alms!’ The mistress guessed the meaning and went herself to the window; he told her everything and asked for the key [instead of the box!]. She listened to his whole story and at the end she said: ‘How long I haven’t seen my brother, but even if it was twice that long, I won’t give the key.’ He goes back to the Eagle and repeats the words of the sister. ‘Well, here we didn’t succeed, so let us go to another city to my second sister.’ To tell it shortly, there they also received a declining response. They went to the third city to the youngest sister. Again Ivan the Merchant’s Son went and asked for alms in the same way. This [sister] was sincerely glad. ‘Where is he then, the Eagle Prince?’ – ‘Give me the key, then I’ll bring him to you.’ She handed him the key. And then they came to the Eagle, there was a lot to tell and after that they gave a party. And after that the Eagle Prince married Ivan the Merchant’s Son with his sister. ‘And I,’ he said, ‘am going to seek my fortune.’ And he entrusted to Ivan all twelve vaults loaded with much gold and silver [M Asadowskij, in: FFC 68, p. 39 (only parts of the tale are told, as examples of the style of Winokurowa)].
In the Estonian tale of ‘The Knight’s Son’ the knight is taken up in the air by the bird Teevits and on the way the bird is three times, above a forest, a city, a sea, gone from under the knight, who plummets down like a brick, but each time, in the nick of time, the bird is back, and in the end they see a light at the edge of a forest, where he receives his reward, the knight asks the bird why he gave him such terrible frights, and the bird compares them with the fear he had to endure when the wife of the knight wanted to kill him [Prager, 1971, p. 132ff (coll. Juhan Kunder)] (Cf. AT 537, III. The Journey by Air. The bird (Eagle) carries the man on his back across the sea [B552] to his Kingdom [B222], and intimidates him three times by nearly dropping him into the sea (the hunter has once aimed three times with his gun at the bird), IV, The Secret Box, the Eagle’s father (sister) gives him a box [D1174.1] with the warning not to open it before the man reaches home [C321] [Thompson, 1961, p. 193]).
In ‘The Fairytale of Vassilissa the Wise’ the Eagle asks the merchant how big the sea is. ‘As a carriage wheel.’ The Eagle shakes the merchant from his back, and his breath caught a gasp. But before he hits the waves, the Eagle grabs him and flies higher. Now the sea is like an egg, and again the merchant is thrown off, but the Eagle picks him up again and flies even higher. This time the sea is like a maw seed, and again he drops the merchant and grabs him just above the waves. He asks if he knows now what fear of death is, and compares it with the fear he had three times when the merchant aimed his gun at him [Angarowa, 1957, p. 137f; cf. Gruel-apert, 1990, p. 170 – 180, nº 99: ‘Le tsar mécréant et Vassilissa la magique’ (Afan. 224, p. 125f)].
In the tale of ‘The Sea King and Vasilisa the Wise’ the Eagle with the King on his back soon flies over a large sea and the Eagle throws the King down; he falls into the sea and gets wet up to his knees; then the Eagle lifts up the King onto his wing and asks: ‘Well, my King, were you frightened?’ That he was indeed. Flying over another sea he throws him down again, this time up to his waist, the third time to his neck, and then explains that he himself had endured the same fear when the King aimed at him [Bozoki, 1978, p. 291 – 298, nº 74: ‘Le Roi de la Mer et Vassilissa la sage’ (Afan. 219, p. 125a) = Heemskerk, 1964, p. 109 – 117 = Ralston, 1874, p. 122ff, nº 19 = Guterman, 1975, p. 427 – 437 (also Allan, 1999b, p. 50 – 53)]
In the Mokshan version ‘The Lame Winged Eagle and the Hunter’ the Eagle says after the three years to the hunter: ‘Now, young man, you come as a guest to me! Hold yourself tight to my back, don’t be afraid to fall off.’ He holds himself tight to the Eagle’s back and it takes him to the sky, high up, and then drops him. But it doesn’t let him fall on the ground, but caught him again. ‘What did you see, young man?’ – ‘I saw water in a tub.’ – ‘That was the sea, young man.’ Again it takes him up and drops him, asks what he saw. ‘Now I saw little heaps of dung.’ – ‘That were villages.’ A third time it takes him up and drops him. This time he saw a lizard in a wheel track. ‘You have seen the road.’ Then he wants to know why the Eagle has frightened him (each time more) and the Eagle compares it with the fear it had when the man aimed at him [Paasonen, 1947, p. 874 – 887, nº 12: ‘Der flügellahme Adler und der Jäger’].
The dumpling scene is also part of another Estonian tale, called ‘The Miracle Mirror’, a version of ATU 551: The Water of Life. An old King with three sons, two smart and one that is considered stupid, wants the Miracle Mirror to rejuvenate himself. One after another the sons set out, and also the youngest is finally allowed to go, finds his brothers drinking beer in a very big inn, rides on and finally comes in a wood where on the third day he arrives at a hut, where an old woman is surprised to see someone, because she hasn’t seen someone since the forest grew up. She sends him to her older sister, three days further on, who sends him to the oldest sister, who calls with a flute all the animals, then all the birds, finally an enormous twoheaded hawk, who knows that it is on an island that is surrounded by rocks, so no ship can come there, in the possession of a Princess in a fortified castle. The hawk flies nine days and nights and then they reach the island. He just has to get the mirror lying at the headrest of the bed of the Princess who is sleeping so heavy nothing can wake her, and run back. At the gate are two mighty bears that he quiets with two feathers of the hawk. Inside everyone is asleep, though it is light as day. He goes into the bedroom and takes the mirror, but then he sees a table full of wonderful food (he hasn’t eaten for nine days). Then his interest goes to the Princess who is gorgeous as is her ring that he takes off her finger. Then he hurries back to the hawk, who is angry that he has stayed away so long. With his beak he throws him on his back and flies up. At the same moment the bears come roaring and jump in the air to catch the hawk, but they cannot reach him. Above the sea the hawk takes the Prince with his second beak and plunges him till his knees in the water and puts him again on his back. A little later he plunges the Prince till his chest and the third time to his neck and each time the prince yells as if his feet are burnt. When they have crossed the sea, the Prince asks why he did this and the hawk explains it was for his tarrying at the castle (he takes the same route back, passing the three sisters, who think themselves too old to look in the mirror, finally reaching the inn, where his brothers still are and steal the mirror from him) [Prager, 1971, p. 64 – 71: ‘De Wonderspiegel’ (collection Juhan Kunder)].
In the Irish tale ‘The Bird of the Gold Land’, that we saw above, there was an episode that the horse went over the sea. The mare ran over the sea as if over land. On the other side she asked: ‘Where are you now?’ – ‘I’m sitting almost on your tail, and I’m on the brink of falling off!’ After a while they reach an even bigger sea and again the horse said: ‘If you are really the son of a King, we will come across without problems.’ At the end of the ride over the sea the horse asked again where he was: ‘I almost fell off!’ The third sea is most terrible and big, but fortunately there are three little islands to rest, and at the end of the triple jump the Prince is sitting in the middle, where the horse likes having him sit [Knipping, 1947, p. 11f].
The proof of being a real King’s son is common in myth. The hero Tahaki of Tuamotuan texts: his mother laments that he is destined to die in a faraway country (a repeated complaint). Tahaki sings: ‘I go to the night realm of Kiho, the last bourne of repose.’ (When still a child, his cousin, with whom he plays diving for pearls, kills and dismembers him; but his foster brother saves the vital parts, from which his mother revives him again.) He sets out with this brother to free his father from the ‘goblin myriads’. When reaching the home of his grandparents, he wins the love of Hapai, daughter of Tane (the Deus Faber). When Hapai tells her father about the young man, he answers: ‘If he really is Tahaki go and say to him: Tane of ancient waters told me that if you can pass before his face you must be Tahaki; if you can sit upon his four legged stool, you must be Tahaki; if you can pull up his sacred tree by the roots then you are surely Tahaka.’ Then Tahaka went to Tane of ancient waters and stood beside him; and immediately he passed before his face; he sat upon his high four legged stool – and it broke to pieces under him; then Tahaki pulled up his sacred tree by the roots – and Tahaki looked down and saw the entrance to Havaiki beneath (Santillana, 1969, p. 444f; cf. Thor before Utgard-Loki).
In the Hungarian ‘Fairytale of Prince Brunzik’, the hero, the youngest of the three sons of the Red King, has found a miserable excuse of a horse on the dung heap, and his brothers don’t want to travel with him because of this ugly little foal, so he goes alone, under laughter of the whole town, and someone shouts: ‘He looks just like Prince Brunzik in the fairytale’, whereupon he takes on this name. On the road the little horse is troublesome, and three times Brunzik is on the brink of beating it to death with a big stick after he has carried it a while. Finally the foal turns into a wonderful six legged horse and flies with Brunzik high up in the air, so he can hardly see the earth. Then it strikes out its sixth leg, and Brunzik falls from its back. But 20 meters above the ground the horse flies under him and catches him. Again the horse flies up, so high that the starry sky is only 20 meters away, but then again the horse strikes out and the Prince falls, but is caught only 10 meters above the ground. He gets off, but the horse assures him, and takes him up so high that Brunzik’s head touches the Morning Star. But then again the horse strikes out and Brunzik falls, but is caught three meter above ground. The horse asks if he was afraid; Brunzik confirms and never wants to ride the horse again, but the horse shuts him up; it was for the fright he had given him (then Brunzik may chose to go as fast as the wind or as thought, he takes the latter, and the speed tears his eyes and mouth open) [Kiadó, 1984, p. 232 – 246: ‘Das Märchen vom Prinzen Brunzik’].
In the Swedish tale of ‘The Wood picker’ a boy exchanges the cow of his mother for the gun of an old man, who gave him the advice to shoot at the first animal that he sees. In the forest he sees a little bird on a tree and shoots and it drops on a lower branch, at the second shot it falls again to a lower branch, and after the third shot it falls to the ground. He picks the bird from the ground and carries it a while; then the bird wants to carry him. ‘That is not possible!’ – ‘You watch! Hang on to me.’ And then they go up in the air, and soon they fly above a big lake. Then the bird dips the boy in the water till his belt. ‘Are you afraid?’ – ‘Sure.’ – ‘That much fear I had at your first shot.’ This happens two more time, till his arms and his chin, for the fear at the other shots.
After the flight of the wood picker over the lake it becomes night and the bird puts him down at a castle, where he has to ask (besides for a meal) for a flute, a sword, a carpet and a horse [instead of the box]; in the morning they come to a second glimmering castle and in the day [order: Moon, Morning Star, Sun] at a third, where he has to ask for the same things [so he has three sets of everything], after which they travel on till they come to a Royal palace, where the boy has to go work in the kitchen under the name ‘wood picker’. [Schier, 1971, p. 127 – 130].
In the RUssian tale of ‘The Firebird’ the bird takes Ivan over plains, hills, marshes and the sea till they come to a palace at the coast, where the firebird lets himself fall as a comet and alights in the courtyard of his oldest sister, a golden Princess, who refuses to drink tea with Ivan. The firebird flies immediately away with Ivan and drops from up high a feather, that reduces the palace to ashes. In the night they arrive at a second palace with a silver Princess, also a sister where Ivan isn’t welcome and whose palace is also burnt down by the firebird. In the morning they arrive at a bronze palace with a little copper princess [the three sisters are Sun, Moon and Daybreak/Morning Star], where Ivan is welcome, and they stay the whole day drinking tea. As his reward she gives Ivan her palace; she claps her hands, it shrinks and fits in a wooden box, after which they fly together on the firebird back and put the palace on the open spot and live there together, because the firebird has flown away [Ransome, 1985, p. 7 – 21].
In the Scottish ‘The Battle of the Birds’ the King’s son is taken by the raven ‘over seven Bens, and seven Glens, and seven Mountain Moors’, and put down near the house of the raven’s sister, where he has to say that he was at the Battle of the Birds and has seen the raven. The Prince gets a good reception and in the morning he goes to the raven, who takes him again over seven bens, glens and mountain moors to the second sister, and the day after that to the third. The day after not a raven but a beautiful young man is waiting for the Prince, the [from his spell] released raven, who gives him a bundle, that he must open there, where he wants to live. Then the Prince returned the same way lodging with the three raven sisters [but how?]. When he is not far from his father’s house he comes in a close wood, and it seems to him that the bundle grows heavy, and he decides to have a look. When he opens the bundle, a whole castle comes out, and he regrets to have opened it. Then a giant comes who offers to restore the bundle in exchange for the knight’s first son when he is seven. The Prince accepts and goes with the bundle to the spot he had in mind (in the pretty green hollow opposite his father’s house) and lets the castle arise there. In it he finds a wonderful beauty [cf. the youngest sister of the raven in ‘The Firebird’], whom he marries [Rackham, 1978, p. 15 – 17].
In the Estonian tale the knight receives after his flight on the Teevits a box, that he should not open before he is home, and has to see for himself how he gets home. On the way the question what is in the box torments him and finally he opens the box. A golden bal rolls out that quickly grows into a golden city. The knight immediately regrets his action and out of the woods comes an old man, who wants to restore the box in exchange for that, which he doesn’t know he has in his house. Together they go with the restored box to the house of the knight, where it turns out that he has been away for seven years and has a son of seven, who may stay home for another seven years [Prager, 1971, p. 134f (coll. Juhan Kunder); cf. Thompson, 1961, p. 193: AT 537.V. The Castle. Overcome with curiosity, the man, on his way home, opens the box. A castle appears. For getting the castle back into the box, the man promises his son to the devil [motive S222, note: this is usually an introduction to AT 313B].
In the Russian tale of Vassilissa the Wise the Eagle flew with the merchant over the sea to the Copper Kingdom, where his oldest sister is queen; he is to accept nothing then the copper etui. He alights and turns into a wonderful young man. But the sister doesn’t want to give the copper etui and her brother gets angry, becomes an Eagle, grabs the merchant and flies away. The sister shouts that she wants to give it, but he shouts back that it is too late. While flying away the Eagle asks the merchant what he sees: flames behind and flowers ahead. The Eagle explains: the copper Kingdom is burning and before them is the silver Kingdom of his second sister, whom he should ask for the silver etui. She also refuses, and again the brother flies away and behind them the silver Kingdom is burning. Soon they reached the Golden Kingdom, and the sister gives gladly the golden etui and the merchant stays a long time there. Then it is time to go home and after the warning not to open the etui before he is home, the merchant goes back. After a long or short journey he comes on a meadow in the Kingdom of the Tsar of the Unbaptized Forehead, and he has to look in the etui. And immediately there stands before him a wonderful castle and servants come and ask what he, their master and lord, commands. After a copious meal he goes to sleep, but the Tsar is not amused and sends messengers. The merchant confesses not to be able to restore the castle to the etui, and the Tsar will do it in exchange for that, which he doesn’t know he has at home. The merchant agrees and the Tsar puts the castle back in the etui. At home it turns out he has a little son and the three of them live in the wonderful castle till ten years have passed. Then the son dreams of the Tsar, commanding him to come to him [Angarowa, 1957, p. 137f; cf. Gruel-apert, 1990, p. 170 – 180 nº 99: ‘Le Tsar mécréant et Vassilissa la magique’ (Afan, 224, p. 125f)].
In the tale of ‘The Sea King and Vasilisa the Wise’ the Eagle with the King on his back flies past the three times 9th country; then the King must look, sees a house, that of the youngest sister of the Eagle, who will receive her brother but not the King and sets her dogs on him. The Eagle flies with the King away and tells him to look back: he sees a red house, the burning house of the youngest sister; the same thing happens at the second sister, but the oldest sister receives with the mother of the Eagle the King with all honors and the Eagle gives him a ship to sail home and two coffers, that he is not to open before he gets home. On the way the boat stops at an island, and the King can no longer control his curiosity and opens the red suitcase: out of it comes an enormous herd of animals of all kinds, filling the whole island. While the King sits crying, a little man comes out of the water and offers to help him if he gives him what he does not know that he has it at home. The King promises it, receives the coffer in original state and continues his journey. At home it turns out he has a son and says that he weeps tears for joy. Then he opens the coffers and before the palace appears a beautiful garden, behind it all kinds of animals. And the King is so glad that he forgets to deliver his son [Bozoki, 1978, p. 291 – 298, nº 74: ‘Le Roi de la Mer et Vassilissa la sage’ (Afan. 219, p. 125a) = Heemskerk, 1964, p. 109 – 117 = Ralston, 1874, p. 122ff, nº 19 = Guterman, 1975, 427 – 437 (also Allan 1999b, p. 50 – 53)].
In the Mokshan version ‘The Lame Winged Eagle and the Hunter’ the Eagle continues his flight for 40 days and then they arrive in the city of the Eagle. He has three houses and three wives. First they go to the oldest wife, but for her the Eagle might have stayed away another three years, the same with the second wife. The third wife receives the Eagle with open arms and gives the bringer of the good message a basket with wool. He stays three years and then he flies home on the basket, but he is not to look into it. Of course he has to know and on a meadow he opens it and many animals come out: a herd of horses, of cows and sheep. There is no way of getting them back and he sits there and weeps. Above him flies the Iron Beak Khan, says: ‘Cock, cock [a bird-sound], what are you weeping?’ – ‘Why wouldn’t I weep? My brother Eagle has given me cattle, and I have let it loose.’ – ‘Cock, cock, young man, what will you give me if I lock them in the basket?’ – ‘Take half of them.’ – ‘I don’t need animals, but hire out your son to me as servant.’ – ‘I have no son.’ – ‘There is one born to you 15 years ago.’ The hunter promises it and he locks the animals in the basket. The hunter continues his flight on the basket, arrives home, where wife and son await him. The father weeps and the son wants to know why and he tells him that he has hired him out to the Iron Beak Khan as servant [Paasonen, 1947, p. 874 – 887, nº 12: ‘Der flügellahme Adler und der Jäger’].
In the RUssian version ‘Kolja and the Beautiful Natassia’ the hunter has received from the Eagle a rusty box that he shouldn’t open before he gets home. But as soon as he gets out of the forest he cannot control his curiosity, thinking that there cannot be much in it, so he turns the rusty key in the rusty lock, and a door opens and out if the box come first flies and hornets, soon followed by herds of cows, of sheep, and of pigs. Even more comes out: pots and pans, shoes, kerchiefs, cloths, merchants, shouting: ‘Here is your money, sir!’ But the hunter doesn’t want the money, sits crying over his stupidity, but then an old man with an iron nose proposes to put everything back in the box in exchange for that what he doesn’t know he has at home. He thinks it cannot be much, so he agrees, signs a paper with his blood. Then the old man puts it all back, even the flies and hornets, whereupon the hunter turns the key and goes home. There it turns out his wife has given birth to a son [so also here the hunter must have been away for some time to not know this]. Anyway, he now understands what he has given away and he cannot look at the son without crying. So when Kolja is about 15 he asks his father why he always becomes sad when he looks at him, and the father tells him about the contract he has signed with the old man with the iron nose, and the boy decides to go to him at once [Verroen, 1973, p. 119 – 135].
Santillana, in his Hamlet’s Mill, refers to a Finnish folktale which repeats the well known Babylonian story of Etana and the Eagle. Here, instead of the King, it is the ‘Son of the Widow’ (S remarks: no reason is given for this epithet, which appears to belong to Perceval in the first line, but we find it again in later Masonic tradition) who is taken up into the air by a griffin and sees the earth growing smaller and smaller under him. When the earth appears ‘no bigger than a pea’ (analogous similes are to be found also in Etana), the griffin plunges straightaway to the bottom of the sea, where the hero finds a certain object for which he had looked everywhere, and finally he is restored to land. This looks like the full story of what in the Babylonian cuneiform is interrupted halfway through because the tablet is broken off: it might be the first version of the legend of Alexander exploring the Three Realms. [Santillana, 1969, p. 114, referring to Haavio, 1955, p. 8 – 12 and S Langdon, The Legend of Etana and the Eagle, 1932, p. 46 – 50. The Son of a Widow is already used by Apuleius in the tale of Amor and Psyche, where Amor calls his mother Venus a widow, making him the Son of a Widow. In the Bible there are also sons of widows].
A modern Indonesian version of Alexander’s travels to the ocean bottom and into the air, is the story of ‘The Sketch Artist’. This is about a boy that makes drawings all day of everything he sees. He makes his living with drawing portraits and he soon is so famed that the King hires him to make drawings for his palace. Baju performs so well that the King sends him into the jungle to draw all the animals, next he sends him down into the sea in a diving bell with a long tube for air to draw all the fish of the sea. The last assignment for Baju is to go to heaven and draw everything he sees there. As he cannot fly, a kite is made, three times as big as he is, and with it he flies up and sees the World getting smaller, till the people are like ants, the jungle a stubble field, the river Sangi a shiny lint and the Gunung Agung, the highest mountain on Bali a flattened rice cone. Suddenly he feels a shock, the rope has broken and he goes up, higher and higher, through the clouds, until he can only see the blue sky above and the blue sea below. He sees in the west a silver sky, in the east a yellow, in the south a red, and in the north a black heaven. Each heaven, except the northern, is a splendid garden with beautiful temples. High above this is the many colored temple of the Gods. When Baju arrives here he hears beautiful music and is almost overwhelmed by the sweet fragrances of flowers and plants. The heaven nymphs look like lelong girls with their beautiful headdresses and gold woven sarongs. They stand in a long file ready to receive him, and Baju immediately makes a drawing of them and every page he completes he lets fly down, but if the King of Klun-Kung has ever received them is very much to be doubted, but a sure thing is that Baju never returned to earth [Indonesische Sprookjes, Rijswijk, 1991, p. 121 – 124, nº 40: ‘De tekenaar’ = Molen, 2002, p. 152 – 157].