tales of Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 750A
and other stories about the foolish use
of magic wishes
selected and edited by
D. L. Ashliman
In a certain place there lived a weaver by the name of Mantharaka, which means "the simpleton." One day, while weaving cloth, the wooden pieces on his loom broke. He took an ax, and set forth to find some wood. He found a large sissoo tree at the ocean's shore, and said aloud, "Now this is a large tree. If I fell it, I will have wood enough for all my weaving tools."
Having thus thought it through, he raised his ax to begin cutting. However, a spirit lived in this tree, and he said, "Listen! This tree is my home, and it must be spared in any event, because I like it here where my body can be stroked by the cool breezes that blow in from the ocean's waves."
The weaver said, "Then what am I to do? If I don't find a good tree, then my family will starve. You will have to go somewhere else. I am going to cut it down."
The spirit answered, "Listen, I am at your service. Ask whatever you would like, but spare this tree!"
The weaver said, "If that is what you want then I will go home and ask my friend and my wife, and when I return, you must give me what I ask for."
The spirit promised, and the weaver, beside himself with joy, returned home. Upon his arrival in his city he saw his friend, the barber, and said, "Friend, I have gained control over a spirit. Tell me what I should demand from him!"
The barber said, "My dear friend, if that is so then you should demand a kingdom. You could be king, and I would be your prime minister, and we two would first enjoy the pleasures of this world and then those of the next one. For they say: A prince who piously gives to others, achieves fame in this world, and through these good deeds, he will arrive in heaven, equal to the gods themselves."
The weaver spoke, "Friend, so be it! But let us also ask my wife."
The barber said, "One should never ask women for advice. They also say: A wise man gives women food, clothing, jewelry, and above all the duties of marriage, but he never asks for their advice. And further: That house must perish where a woman, a gambler, or a child is listened to. And: A man will advance and be loved by worthy people as long as he does not secretly listen to women. Women think only of their own advantage, of their own desires. Even if they love only their own son, still, he will serve their wishes."
The weaver spoke, "Even though this is true, she nonetheless must be asked, because she is subservient to her husband."
Having said this, he went quickly to his wife and said to her, "Dear one, today I have gained control over a spirit who will grant me one wish. Hence I have come to ask for your advice. Tell me, what should I ask for? My friend the barber thinks that I should request a kingdom."
She answered, "Oh, son of your excellence, what do barbers understand? You should never do what they say. After all, it is stated: A reasonable person will no sooner take advice from dancers, singers, the low born, barbers, or children, than from beggars. Furthermore, a king's life is an unending procession of annoyances. He must constantly worry about friendships, animosities, wars, servants, defense alliances, and duplicity. He never gets a moment's rest, because: Anyone who wants to rule must prepare his spirit for misfortune. The same container that is used for salve can also be used to pour out bad luck. Never envy the life of a king."
The weaver said, "You are right. But what should I ask for?"
She answered, "You can now work on only one piece of cloth at a time. That is barely enough to pay for the necessities. You should ask for another pair of arms and a second head so that you can work on two pieces of cloth at once, one in front of you, and one behind you. We can sell the one for household necessities, and you can use the money from the second one for other things. You will thus gain the praise of your relatives, and you will make gains in both worlds."
After hearing this he spoke with joy, "Good, you faithful wife! You have spoken well, and I will do what you say. That is my decision."
With that he went to the spirit and let his will be known, "Listen, if you want to fulfill my wish, then give me another pair of arms and another head."
He had barely spoken before he was two-headed and four-armed. Rejoicing, he returned home, but the people there thought that he was a demon and beat him with sticks and stones, until he fell over dead.
And that is why I say: He who cannot think for himself and will not follow the advice of friends, he will push himself into misfortune, just like the weaver Mantharaka.
A certain man had longed all his life to look upon the Night of Power, and one night it befell that he gazed at the sky and saw the angels, and Heaven's gates thrown open; and he beheld all things prostrating themselves before their Lord, each in its several stead. So he said to his wife, "Harkye, such an one, verily Allah hath shown me the Night of Power, and it hath been proclaimed to me, from the invisible world, that three prayers will be granted unto me; so I consult thee for counsel as to what shall I ask."
Quoth she, "Oh man, the perfection of man and his delight is in his prickle; therefore do thou pray Allah to greaten thy yard and magnify it."
So he lifted up his hands to heaven and said, "Oh Allah, greaten my yard and magnify it." Hardly had he spoken when his tool became as big as a column and he could neither sit nor stand nor move about nor even stir from his stead; and when he would have carnally known his wife, she fled before him from place to place. So he said to her, "Oh accursed woman, what is to be done? This is thy list, by reason of thy lust."
She replied, "No, by Allah, I did not ask for this length and huge bulk, for which the gate of a street were too strait. Pray Heaven to make it less."
So he raised his eyes to Heaven and said, "Oh Allah, rid me of this thing and deliver me therefrom." And immediately his prickle disappeared altogether and he became clean smooth.
When his wife saw this she said, "I have no occasion for thee, now thou art become pegless as a eunuch, shaven and shorn."
And he answered her, saying, "All this comes of thine ill-omened counsel and thine imbecile judgment. I had three prayers accepted of Allah, wherewith I might have gotten me my good, both in this world and in the next, and now two wishes are gone in pure waste, by thy lewd will, and there remaineth but one."
Quoth she, "Pray Allah the Most High to restore thee thy yard as it was."
So he prayed to his Lord and his prickle was restored to its first estate. Thus the man lost his three wishes by the lack of wit in the woman.
There was once a poor woodcutter who, tired of his hard life, longed for rest in the world to come. In his unhappiness, he declared that in all his days heaven had not granted even one of his wishes.
One day in the woods, as the woodcutter was complaining of his unhappy lot, Jupiter appeared before him, his thunderbolts in his hands. It would be difficult to picture the terror of the poor man.
"I desire nothing," he said, casting himself on the ground. I will give up my wishes if you, in turn, will give up your thunder. That's a fair exchange!"
"Have no fear," said Jupiter. "I have heard your complaints and I have come to show you how unfairly you judge me. Now listen! I am king of all the world and I promise to grant your first three wishes, no matter what they may be. See that they make you happy and content; and since your happiness depends on them, think carefully before you make them."
With these words, Jupiter returned to his heavens and the happy woodcutter, taking up his bundle of sticks, hurried to his home. Never had his burden seemed so light.
"This is an important matter," he said to himself. ''I certainly must have my wife's advice."
"Hey, Fanchon," he shouted, as he entered his cottage. "Let us up a good fire. We are rich for the rest of our lives. All we have to do is to make three wishes!"
With this, he told his wife what had happened, whereupon she in her imagination began to form a thousand plans. But realizing the importance of acting prudently, she said to her husband, "Blaise, my dear, let us not spoil anything by our impatience. We must think things over very carefully. Let us put off our first wish until tomorrow. Let us sleep on it."
"I think you are right," said he. "But first go draw some of that special wine."
On her return, the woodcutter drank deeply and leaned back in his chair before the fire. "To match such a fine blaze," he said, "I wish we had a measure of sausage. It would go very well indeed!"
Scarcely had he spoken these words when his wife, to her great astonishment, saw a long link of sausage moving over to them like a snake from the chimney corner. She cried out in alarm, but realizing at once that this was the result of the wish which her foolish husband had made, she began to abuse and scold him angrily.
"When you might," she said, "have a kingdom, with gold, pearls, rubies, diamonds, fine clothes; and all you wish for is a sausage!"
"Alas," her husband replied. "I was wrong, I made a very bad choice. I admit my mistake. Next time I will do better."
"Yes! Yes!" said his wife. "I'll repeat it till Doomsday. To make such a choice as you did, you must be a donkey."
At this the husband became very angry and almost wished his wife was dead. "Mankind," he said, "is born to suffer. A curse on this and all sausages. I wish that it was hanging from the end of your nose!"
The wish was heard at once in heaven, and the sausage fastened itself on her nose. Fanchon had once been pretty, and, -- to tell the truth -- this ornament did not have a very pleasing effect. Since it hung down over her face, however, it interfered with her talking, and this was such an advantage to her husband that he did not think he had wished too badly.
"With my remaining wish I could very well still make myself a king," he said to himself. "But we must think of the queen, too, and her unhappiness if she were to sit on the throne with her new yard-long nose. She must decide which she wants, to be a queen with that nose or a woodcutter's wife and an ordinary person."
Whereupon his wife agreed that they had no choice. She would never have the riches and diamonds and fine clothes she had dreamed of, but she would be herself again if the last wish would free her from the frightful sausage on her nose.
And so the woodcutter did not change his lot. He did not become a king. His purse was not filled with gold. He was only too glad to use his remaining wish in restoring his poor wife to her former state.
There was once an old woman, who was all alone one evening in her cottage, occupied with her household affairs. While she was waiting for her husband, who was away at work over in the forest, and while she was bustling about, a fine, grand lady came in, and so the woman began to curtsy and curtsy, for she had never seen such a grand person before.
"I should be so much obliged if you would lend me your brewing pan," said the lady, "for my daughter is going to be married, and I expect guests from all parts."
Oh, dear, yes! That she might have, said the woman, although she could not remember whether she had ever seen her before, and so she went to fetch the pan.
The lady took it, and thanked the woman, saying that she would pay her well for the loan of it, and so she went her way.
Two days afterwards the lady came back with it, and this time she also found the woman alone.
"Many thanks for the loan," said the lady. "and now in return you shall have three wishes."
And with this the lady left, and vanished so quickly that the old woman had not even time to ask her name or where she lived. But that did not matter, she thought, for now she had three wishes, and she began to think what she should wish for. She expected her husband back soon, and she thought it would be best to wait until he came home and could have a say in the matter. But the least they could wish for must be a fine big farm -- the best in the parish, and a box full of money, and just fancy how happy and comfortable they would be then, for they had worked so hard all their days! Ah, yes, then the neighbors would have something to wonder at, for you may guess how they would stare at all the fine things she would have.
But since they were now so rich it was really a shame that there should be nothing but some blue, sour milk and some hard crusts of bread in the cupboard for her husband when he came home tired and weary, he who was fond of hot food. She had just been to her neighbor's and there she had seen a fine big sausage, which they were going to have for supper.
"Ah, deary me, I wish I had that sausage here!" sighed the old woman; and the next moment a big sausage lay on the table right before her.
She was just going to put it in the pan when her husband came in.
"Father, father!" cried the woman, "it's all over with our troubles and hard work now. I lent my brewing pan to a fine lady, and when she brought it back she promised we should have three wishes. And now you must help me to wish for something really good, for you're so clever at hitting upon the right thing -- and it's all true, for just look at the sausage, which I got the moment I wished for it!"
"What do you mean, you silly old woman?" shouted the husband, who became angry. "Have you been wishing for such a paltry thing as a sausage, when you might have had anything you liked in the world? I wish the sausage were sticking to your nose, since you haven't any better sense."
All at once the woman gave a cry, for sure enough there was the sausage sticking to her nose; and she began tearing and pulling away at it, but the more she pulled the firmer it seemed to stick. She was not able to get it off.
"Oh, dear! oh, dear!" sobbed the woman. "You don't seem to have any more sense than I, since you can wish me such ill luck. I only wanted something nice for you, and then -- , oh dear! oh, dear!" and the old woman went on crying and sobbing.
The husband tried, of course, to help his wife to get rid of the sausage; but for all he pulled and tugged away at it he did not succeed, and he was nearly pulling his wife's head off her body.
But they had one wish left, and what were they now to wish?
Yes, what were they to wish? They might, of course, wish for something very fine and grand; but what could they do with all the finery in the world, as long as the mistress of the house had a long sausage sticking to the end of her nose? She would never be able to show herself anywhere!
"You wish for something," said the woman in the midst of her crying.
"No, you wish," said the husband, who also began crying when he saw the state his wife was in, and saw the terrible sausage hanging down her face.
So he thought he would make the best use he could of the last wish, and said, "I wish my wife was rid of that sausage."
And the next moment it was gone! They both became so glad that they jumped up and danced around the room in great glee -- for you must know that although a sausage may be ever so nice when you have it in your mouth, it is quite a different thing to have one sticking to your nose all your life.
Every evening husband and wife sat next to the stove like two dried-up tree stumps, and often, for no reason at all, their bitterness spilled over, and they quarreled. As everyone knows, unfortunate people usually try to push their own guilt onto others, and even if they are not willfully evil, they blame others for their own bad luck.
Thus Loppi often angrily said, "If only I had had the good luck to marry a better woman, I would have lacked nothing. Today I could have been a wealthy man."
Lappi had an even quicker tongue, and for every one of her husband's words, she came back with a dozen of her own. "Just look at you, you stupid lout! Of course it is partially my fault that in my child-like simplicity I did not know enough to choose a better husband, but there must have been witchcraft involved to make me turn to you. Only the devil knows what you secretly put into my food or drink. I had plenty of suitors, and if I had not settled for you, you miserable creature, today I could be a lady seated at a full table. It is your fault, you worthless man, that I'll be suffering from hunger and sorrow until I die. And it is also your fault that all our children have died, because you did not know how to take care of a wife and children."
This stream of words gushed forth, not ceasing until the husband stopped her mouth with his fist.
One evening the couple were again quarrelling in their hut when a stately woman dressed in clothes of German cut stepped inside. Her appearance brought the wife's tongue to a standstill, and caused the husband to lower his raised arm.
After a friendly greeting, the strange woman said, "You are poor wretches and until now have suffered much. However, three days from now your misery will suddenly end. Therefore keep peace in your house, and decide what destiny you would best choose for yourselves. I am not a human, as I appear to you, but rather a higher being who, through God's power, can cause wishes to be fulfilled. You have three days' time for consideration, and then you may state three wishes that you desire. Say your wishes aloud, and in the same instant they will come true through magic power. But be careful not to wish for unnecessary things."
Following these words, the stately woman greeting them once again, then disappeared out the door in a flash.
Loppi and Lappi, who had now forgotten their quarrel, stared speechlessly out the door through which the miraculous vision had entered and disappeared. Finally the husband said, "Let's go to bed now. We have three days to think about this. We want to use these wishes wisely, so we can get the best luck for ourselves."
Although they had three days for consideration, they spent more than half the night burdened with thoughts of which wish would be the very best. Oh, what precious freedom ruled in the hut without interruption for the next three days! Loppi and Lappi had become different people. They spoke together friendlily, and looked after one another's needs. They spent the greatest part of each day sitting quietly in the corner thinking about what they should wish for.
On the third day Loppi went into the village, where that morning a swine had been slaughtered, and the sausage kettle must just now be standing on the fire. He took with him the butter pot, with its lid, wanting to ask his neighbor's wife for sausage water to cook his cabbage in that evening. Loppi felt that they would be able to think better if their stomachs were filled with good food. Arriving home he put the cabbage on the fire so their meal would be ready at the right time.
Evening arrived, and with it the time when they could make their wishes. The pot of cabbage soup was steaming on the table, and husband and wife sat down to eat. Now they could have their wishes fulfilled. They had already eaten several spoonfuls of the tasty soup when Lappi said, contentedly, "Thanks be to God for this good soup. It will fill us up nicely, but it would taste even better if we only had a sausage to go with it!"
Bang! A large sausage fell from above onto the middle of the table. For a while husband and wife were so startled that it did not occur to them to eat the sausage. Loppi remarked that with the sausage their first wish had been fulfilled, and that so angered him that he shouted, "May the Evil One grab you and stick this sausage onto your nose! If...."
But the poor man was too frightened to continue speaking, for the sausage was already hanging from Lappi's nose, not like a normal sausage, but like a piece of flesh growing out of the nose. What could they do now? Two wishes had already been wasted, and the second one had so misshapen the woman that she would not dare to be seen by other people. They still had one wish that had not been stated, and with this one they could set everything right. At this moment poor Lappi had no other desire than to free herself from the long sausage, so she said this wish aloud, and the sausage disappeared.
Now all three wishes were gone, and Loppi and Lappi had to continue living poorly in their hut. For some time afterward they expected the beautiful woman to return, but the stranger never appeared again. Whoever fails to take immediate advantage of unexpected luck will lose it forever.
There was once, it doesn't matter where: there was once upon a time, a poor man who had a pretty young wife; they were very fond of each other. The only thing they had to complain of was their poverty, as neither of them owned a farthing; it happened, therefore, sometimes, that they quarreled a little, and then they always cast it in each other's teeth that they hadn't got anything to bless themselves with. But still they loved each other.
One evening the woman came home much earlier than her husband and went into the kitchen and lighted the fire, although she had nothing to cook. "I think I can cook a little soup, at least, for my husband. It will be ready by the time he comes home."
But no sooner had she put the kettle over the fire, and a few logs of wood on the fire in order to make the water boil quicker, than her husband arrived home and took his seat by the side of her on the little bench. They warmed themselves by the fire, as it was late in the autumn and cold. In the neighboring village they had commenced the vintage on that very day.
"Do you know the news, wife?" inquired he.
"No, I don't. I've heard nothing. Tell me what it is."
"As I was coming from the squire's maize field, I saw in the dark, in the distance, a black spot on the road. I couldn't make out what it was, so I went nearer, and lo! do you know what it was? -- A beautiful little golden carriage, with a pretty little woman inside, and four fine black dogs harnessed to it."
"You're joking," interrupted the wife.
"I'm not, indeed, it's perfectly true. You know how muddy the roads about here are; it happened that the dogs stuck fast with the carriage and they couldn't move from the spot; the little woman didn't care to get out into the mud, as she was afraid of soiling her golden dress. At first, when I found out what it was, I had a good mind to run away, as I took her for an evil spirit, but she called out after me and implored me to help her out of the mud; she promised that no harm should come to me, but on the contrary she would reward me. So I thought that it would be a good thing for us if she could help us in our poverty; and with my assistance the dogs dragged her carriage out of the mud. The woman asked me whether I was married. I told her I was. And she asked me if I was rich. I replied, not at all; I didn't think, I said, that there were two people in our village who were poorer than we. 'That can be remedied,' replied she. 'I will fulfill three wishes that your wife may propose.' And she left as suddenly as if dragons had kidnapped her. She was a fairy."
"Well, she made a regular fool of you!"
"That remains to be seen. You must try and wish something, my dear wife."
Thereupon the woman without much thought said, "Well, I should like to have some sausage, and we could cook it beautifully on this nice fire."
No sooner were the words uttered than a frying pan came down the chimney, and in it a sausage of such length that it was long enough to fence in the whole garden.
''This is grand!" they both exclaimed together.
"But we must be a little more clever with our next two wishes; how well we shall be off! I will at once buy two heifers and two horses, as well as a sucking pig," said the husband. Whereupon he took his pipe from his hatband, took out his tobacco pouch, and filled his pipe; then he tried to light it with a hot cinder, but was so awkward about it that he upset the frying pan with the sausage in it.
"Good heavens! The sausage! What on earth are you doing! I wish that sausage would grow on to your nose," exclaimed the frightened woman, and tried to snatch the same out of the fire, but it was too late, as it was already dangling from her husband's nose down to his toes.
"My Lord Creator help me!" shouted the woman.
"You see, you fool, what you've done, there! Now the second wish is gone," said her husband. "What can we do with this thing?"
"Can't we get it off?" said the woman. "Take off the devil! Don't you see that it has quite grown to my nose. You can't take it off."
"Then we must cut it off," said she, "as we can do nothing else."
"I shan't permit it. How could I allow my body to be cut about? Not for all the treasures on earth. But do you know what we can do, love? There is yet one wish left. You'd better wish that the sausage go back to the pan, and so all will be right."
But the woman replied, " How about the heifers and the horses, and how about the sucking pig? How shall we get those?"
"Well, I can't walk about with this ornament, and I'm sure you won't kiss me again with this sausage dangling from my nose."
And so they quarreled for a long time, till at last he succeeded in persuading his wife to wish that the sausage go back to the pan. And thus all three wishes were fulfilled; and yet they were as poor as ever.
They, however, made a hearty meal of the sausage; and as they came to the conclusion that it was in consequence of their quarrelling that they had no heifers, nor horses, nor sucking pig, they agreed to live thenceforth in harmony together; and they quarreled no more after this. They got on much better in the world, and in time they acquired heifers, horses, and a sucking pig into the bargain, because they were industrious and thrifty.
Whether from natural forgetfulness, or fairy illusion, we know not, but certain it is, that long before evening all remembrance of his visitor had passed from his noddle. At night, when he and his dame were dozing before a blazing fire, the old fellow waxed hungry, and audibly wished for a link of hog's pudding.
No sooner had the words escaped his lips than a rustling was heard in the chimney, and down came a bunch of the wished-for delicacies, depositing themselves at the feet of the astounded woodman, who, thus reminded of his morning visitor, began to communicate the particulars to his wife.
"Thou bist a fool, Jan," said she, incensed at her husband's carelessness in neglecting to make the best of his good luck. " I wish em wer atte noäse!" whereupon, the legend goes on to state, they immediately attached themselves to the member in question, and stuck so tight that the woodman, finding no amount of force would remove these unsightly appendages from his proboscis, was obliged, reluctantly, to wish them off, thus making the third wish, and at once ending his brilliant expectations.
Once upon a time, and be sure 'twas a long time ago, there lived a poor woodman in a great forest, and every day of his life he went out to fell timber. So one day he started out, and the goodwife filled his wallet and slung his bottle on his back, that he might have meat and drink in the forest. He had marked out a huge old oak, which, thought he, would furnish many and many a good plank. And when he was come to it, he took his ax in his hand and swung it round his head as though he were minded to fell the tree at one stroke. But he hadn't given one blow, when what should he hear but the pitifullest entreating, and there stood before him a fairy who prayed and beseeched him to spare the tree. He was dazed, as you may fancy, with wonderment and affright, and he couldn't open his mouth to utter a word. But he found his tongue at last, and, "Well," said he, "I'll e'en do as thou wishest."
"You've done better for yourself than you know," answered the fairy, "and to show I'm not ungrateful, I'll grant you your next three wishes, be they what they may." And therewith the fairy was no more to be seen, and the woodman slung his wallet over his shoulder and his bottle at his side, and off he started home.
But the way was long, and the poor man was regularly dazed with the wonderful thing that had befallen him, and when he got home there was nothing in his noddle but the wish to sit down and rest. Maybe, too, 'twas a trick of the fairy's. Who can tell? Anyhow, down he sat by the blazing fire, and as he sat he waxed hungry, though it was a long way off suppertime yet.
"Hasn't thou naught for supper, dame?" said he to his wife.
"Nay, not for a couple of hours yet," said she.
"Ah!" groaned the woodman, "I wish I'd a good link of black pudding here before me."
No sooner had he said the word, when clatter, clatter, rustle, rustle, what should come down the chimney but a link of the finest black pudding the heart of man could wish for.
If the woodman stared, the goodwife stared three times as much. "What's all this?" says she.
Then all the morning's work came back to the woodman, and he told his tale right out, from beginning to end, and as he told it the goodwife glowered and glowered, and when he had made an end of it she burst out, "Thou bee'st but a fool, Jan, thou bee'st but a fool; and I wish the pudding were at thy nose, I do indeed."
And before you could say "Jack Robinson," there the goodman sat, and his nose was the longer for a noble link of black pudding.
He gave a pull, but it stuck, and she gave a pull, but it stuck, and they both pulled till they had nigh pulled the nose off, but it stuck and stuck.
"What's to be done now?" said he.
"'Tisn't so very unsightly," said she, looking hard at him.
Then the woodman saw that if he wished, he must need wish in a hurry; and wish he did, that the black pudding might come off his nose. Well! there it lay in a dish on the table, and if the goodman and goodwife didn't ride in a golden coach, or dress in silk and satin, why, they had at least as fine a black pudding for their supper as the heart of man could desire.
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Revised July 20, 2008