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Underwater Magician Who Catches a King

Oh, I get such a kick out of fishing! Today, I looked up from under the well and saw the cup moving on the water. Ha! Somebody has come to the well for a drink, I thought! I swam up under the cup and yanked it away from the hand. Again it reached for the cup. Again I...

King of Snakes with Healing Power

When I came into my palace with my retinue, we were shocked to find a man lying on my bed. He had fallen fast asleep. My soldiers were ready to kill him right away, but he was hardly older than a boy. "Leave him alone," I told my men, and I slid onto my seat. "Wake...

Hans Who Discovers the Underworld

One day, in the dead of winter, I set forth to another village, but I was caught in a blizzard and lost my way. I found shelter behind a thick juniper tree and pulled my sheepskin coat around me. I tried to sleep, and I had just drifted off when I felt a tapping on my...

Hiku Goes to Find His Lost Love

She tried to prevent me from leaving. She begged me. She locked the doors of the house. She wailed and wept. But my mother had warned me not to stay long with the people by the sea. I had already fallen in love with the hula dancing, the drums and songs, the joyful,...

Baba Yaga Waits for a Guest

Ha! Where will you find me? Beyond thrice times three lands, in the thirteenth kingdom, on the other side of the fiery river! You wonder where Koschei the Deathless got his magic steed? I've got mares who fly so fast I can fly round the earth in a single day. A mere...

Koschei the Deathless in Pursuit

Why does he even try? Poor foolish Ivan! He keeps coming back for Marya Morevna. It's easy work for me to get her back from him. Just ask my steed. Ask him how fast he can run to catch them! He'll tell you: "It is possible to sow wheat, to wait till it grows up, to...

Magic Egg

I am an egg that contains a palace, or rather, I am a palace that has been contained in an egg. I am a marvel made into a miniature so that I can travel between worlds. If you were to discover me in the underworld and take me to the upper world, you would find that I...

Goblin Pursuers

The old man ordered us to fly after the fugitives who were escaping the underworld. The young couple were crossing a great plain and we could see them clearly, running hand in hand with a red light flashing around them. Suddenly though, we couldn’t see them. They...

Underworld Maiden

In the house where I live, I serve an old grey-bearded man. I am not allowed to speak. Only the old man can speak, and his grandmother, whose snoring can be heard throughout the countryside. But the rest of us must remain silent. Not even the oxen are allowed to...

Underworld Speaking

A grey-bearded stranger comes and goes from here. He stamps the ground three times with his left foot and I open a secret door. Then he comes down from above and enters my thick darkness. Here, the earth and water, trees and plants, birds and beasts are only pale...

Hans and the Locked Door

One fine summer morning when I was sixteen, I left my parents and set off to make my fortune. I had nothing but the clothes I wore on my back. After I had been walking for some time, I met an old, white-bearded man coming along the footpath. Neither I nor the old man...

Frog Friend in the Underworld

The queen did not wish to stay in the underworld, and who could blame her? It was a dismal place inhabited mostly by dragons, reptiles, and ravens. A fairy in the shape of a lion kept her imprisoned there. She asked me how she might escape, and I didn't know, so I...

Queen Who is Taken to the Underworld

I was bored sitting in that dusty old castle, waiting for my husband to end his wars. Several times I went out on the hunt, riding in a small carriage drawn by two horses. One day when the hunters went after a wild boar, I turned my horses in the opposite direction. I...

King Who Loses His Wife

Perhaps I tried too hard to please my neighbors. I was too kind. I created false expectations, rivalries and the jealousies. The long and the short is, I was always at war. Shortly after I married, I lost a hard battle and we had to retreat behind the walls of my...

King Who Wants to Glimpse Paradise

I always found it difficult to believe what I could not see. One day, in the prime of my youth, I was out hunting when I came upon a fakeer reading the Koran. He was sitting on a little bedstead in front of a cave in a lonely place on the mountain. He had an old,...

Wasp of Gopani-Kufa

I am Zengi-mizi, the wasp. I am not an ordinary wasp with an ordinary sting, for the father of Gopani-Kufa inhabits me. When Gopani-Kufa needs advice, he takes me out of my little rush basket and asks me a question. I fly around him and hum the answer into his ear....

Gopani-Kufa the King

One day when I was hunting, I came upon a strange sight. A python had wrapped himself around an antelope, and the antelope had stabbed the python. He had pinned him to a tree. The python couldn't move, and the antelope couldn't get his horn out of the tree. Each of...

Mother Mansrot

I fell down through the glass mountain, miles into the earth. Why had my father built the glass mountain in the first place? And by what magic did it open up like a trap door and swallow me whole? An old fellow with a long grey beard came to meet me where I landed. He...

Devil with the Red Feather

I'm sorry to say, things didn't go tickety-boo in the graveyard last night. I'd come to take the soul of a hard-hearted farmer who never did any good with his money. When I came whistling in (like the evil wind I am), who did I find at the grave but two scoundrels!...

Tall, Tall Ferryman

I work hard, here at the end of the world. Every day, I do the same thing. I take people on my shoulders and carry them over the lake to the other side. I don't need a ferry boat, because I am a tall, tall man. But I've never been able to enjoy my own life because...

Youngest Dancing Princess

I had a feeling that someone was following me. I could feel his breath on my neck. Then my dress caught on something. “Who’s that?” I cried, turning around. “Who’s holding my dress?” “Don’t be stupid,” hissed my older sister who was going down the steps ahead of me....

Hall of Prisoners

What I contain in my spacious vault has not been seen for a long time. My floors are covered in polished stones and inscribed with symbols that are known only to magicians. Hollow niches are cut into my walls, and they hold glass vases where people’s spirits are...

Gnomes’ Flute

I hang on the wall in a chamber deep underground. I've been watching a man pace back and forth for so long that he has made the surface of the ground quite smooth. Finally he stops and says, "Why do you hang here, flute? No one can be merry here." Indeed. This is the...

Devil at Hell’s Door

No, no! Whatever you do, don't let him in! I bolted the doors of hell and ran as quickly as I could to the highest devil. I said, "There's a fellow outside with a magic knapsack who wants to come in, but don't let him in, because if you do, he'll wish the whole of...

Witch-Maiden Sister

My two sisters and I sat around a table in our underwater palace and raised our shell cups to make a toast. One of my sisters drank to the health of a youth who wasn't the least perturbed when she, in the form of a corpse, had tried to grab him from the grave. The...

Ram Singh

I found the entrance to the old well, and I went down a flight of stairs that descended into darkness. They were broad, white slabs of alabaster, gleaming in the shadows. Even the sound of my bare feet on the stone echoed in that lonely place, and when one of my water...

Prince Loved by the Undine Queen

I spent seven years living under the lake with the ravishing green-haired queen. She wanted to marry me, but I only thought of Abeille. "It is only Abeille I wish to marry," I said repeatedly. "Let me go home. Please." I might as well have been talking to the wind....

Little King Loc Meets a Human Girl

Abeille, the human girl, was carried to me by the gnomes on a litter made of moss and twigs. She had wounded her foot. She was very big, and very beautiful, and I was willing to grant her every wish. What did she want? A pair of shoes, she said. I struck the earth...

Troll’s Daughter

The young man swims down to me in my glass palace at the bottom of the sea. My father, who is a powerful troll, has trapped me here. He has made everybody dependent on him—all the kings in the country are in his debt, and all the creatures of the forest rely on him...

Old Eric

No one dares to fish in Devilmoss Lake! It's my lake! I'll soon be rid of this impertinent human! That's what I thought when I rose up and grabbed him from behind. I dragged him to the bottom, and I was about to stamp him to death when he said, "Oh, could you wait...

Urashimataro

I do not know where I belong anymore. My parents, my children, their children, are dead. I have seen their graves and with my own fingers I have felt their names crumbling away under the moss. Where is my home? Not on the land. Not beneath. I open the jeweled box that...

Sea Turtle

When I was very little, the fisherman saved my life, and put me back in the sea. Now I am large enough to carry him on my back, into my world. Behold, Urashimataro, the palace of the sea god! If you are astonished by the beauty of the glittering walls, wait until you...

Old Toad Under the Castle

The king threw three feathers to the wind to determine which of his three sons will be king. The two older boys ran off to follow the feathers that flew to the east and the west. But the third son, the simpleton, went nowhere. His feather floated down to the ground in...

A Village Storyteller

I love to tell the story of the gnome Rubezahl. He did everything he could to win the affection of a princess, but he could not force her to stay with him. With all his power and magic, the king of the gnomes could not change the heart of a woman. He was left in the...

Lamp

Woe to me if I am found in my secret niche in the underworld! If my oil is poured out, I will be inhabited by a genie who will be forced to grant every worldly whim of the one who possesses the lamp! Needless to say, the evil magicians are looking for me. They have...

Rubezahl’s Princess

In a moment, the ordinary wood had become enchanted, and I was enticed to swim in a sparkling pool. My friends and I stepped into the water, and, while they bobbed on the surface like corks, I sank down into its depths. Before I could become frightened, water nymphs...

Unlooked-for Prince

There was no family in the whole kingdom happier than ours, or so it seemed. Then one day I met a little old man as he was hunting in a lonely part of the woods. “How are you, my unlooked-for Prince?” he said. “You have kept us waiting a good long time!” “And who are...

Upper World King

I set off with the wish to visit the furthest corners of my kingdom. It is a vast country with high, stony mountains and sandy deserts. It was not easy going, and all the paths looked the same. I was about to die of thirst when I came upon a little well that looked...

Mohammed with the Magic Finger

Ever since I was born, I have had this magic finger. Whenever I stick it into the air, I can see everything that is happening, as far as two days away. I think I must have had the gift from my father. He's a very rich man who keeps large herds of camels, goats, sheep,...

Prince of Gnomes

I have gone down into my underground palace to look into my three great mirrors. They are known as the Cabinets of the Years, and they reflect the past, the present, and the future. My question is: Did she ever love me? Does she love me now? Will she love me in the...

Wounded Giant

We come up to the surface of the earth for our wedding games and dances, but then we go down again for our feasts. How do we return to the world below? Well, at midnight, one of the giants will pull up a plant by its roots, and then all the giants and giantesses will...

Spinning Nun

When my mother died, she gave me an apple that would enable a woman to have a child. I kept it for a long time. Then, when the aging queen realized that she might never have an heir, I gave her the apple. After, I returned to the convent where I live. It is located...

Old Woodcutter

I’m an old man and my beard is long and white but I still have the strength to chop Yule logs. So far, the work has kept me outside the Hall of the Dead. One night a young man came by. He was holding an ham and heading into the Hall. He greeted me and I asked him...

Buried Maiden

My brother and I hosted a stranger who came to our door one night. We offered him food and an evening’s rest. He came to my room in the middle of the night and demanded my hand in marriage. I refused, and that is when I learned that he was an evil magician. He lay a...

Old Woman of the Lake

One day, a young woman came to the river's edge, holding a baby. She was crying, and I was moved to appear to her from out of the place where the river meets the lake. I asked her why she was crying, and she said that her husband and mother-in-law wanted her to drown...

Metal-Haired Princess

He found the three of us doing what we do every day. We comb our hair. Mine is golden, and every strand that falls to the floor rings out like a pure metal. No one had ever heard the ring of my hair until the handsome youth came into my copper room. I told him that...

Good Magician

One doesn't often meet a man weeping in the underworld. When I asked him why he was weeping, he said he wanted to return to earth. I told him that I would carry him back to the surface on my own back if he would protect my children at night. I explained that a...

The Wooden Wife

I came back to life because my husband would not be comforted after my death. He made a life-sized doll in my image, and every night when he came home, he talked to her. So wood turned to flesh, but I warned him not to touch me until we had returned to our people. If...

Bereft Chief

I followed the path that the old ones spoke about, and it led me to the Land of Souls. I came to the hut of an old man clothed in skins. He told me to rest. How could I rest? I had to find the soul of my wife. Why did she die just before our wedding feast? Where did...

Shadows in the Land of Souls

If you are passing through the Land of Souls, then you will have laid your body down. As you fly along you will find that the earth has become sweeter. The flowers will nod to you, the animals will rub their noses against you, the birds will circle around you, and the...

Chief’s Dead Wife

I knew that he would follow me into the Land of Souls. He wouldn't be willing to let me die so quickly. I looked out for him after I crossed over. And there he was, riding on the great lake in his own stone canoe. How he had been able to leave his body behind, I did...

Mother Holle

She's becoming homesick, sweet girl, though the conditions up there on the surface are no better than the ones down here. Everything in time. She has served me well, and I have enjoyed her company. I take her hand and I lead her to a large, open door. She stands on...

Devil’s Grandmother

A young fellow came to the door. He smelled like a living man, but he didn't have the smell of fear on him. No fear at all. I asked him what sort of business he had with us. He said he wanted three golden hairs from the devil's head, or else he'd lose his wife....

Hopeful Ferryman

When did I begin to ferry the dead over the wide river? I cannot remember. It was such a long time ago. Back and forth, back and forth.... It is all I know, except for a growing longing to be free, which is making my job a hellish suffering. Today, I ferried a young...

Overtaken Queen

I was playing with my two-year-old son on the boat deck while my husband and the crew napped below. We were having a lovely afternoon when I noticed something black coming toward us from the sea. As it approached, I saw that the figure was a fearfully ugly witch...