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The Horses Head, a Ukrainian fairy-tale

 

In tell you a fable  but I am not able; Id spin you a yarn, but Id fail to darn, Id tell you a romance, but now is not the right happenstance.

So that leaves a fairy tale to tell  though I dont quite know how to spell, I hope I wont fail.

Once upon a time there lived an old man and his wife. The old man had his daughter from a previous marriage and the old woman had a daughter from her former husband.

The girls were allowed to attend get-togethers of the village young men and girls. At such get-togethers young people showed what they could do best  tell stories, cook, embroider, weave or knit.

The old mans daughter did some fine embroideries and knitting, but the old womans daughter did not do anything, just sat there, at the get-togethers, doing nothing. When the girls came back home, the old womans daughter would cast slurs on the other girl.

The old woman began to hate the old mans daughter so much that one day she says to the old man,

Take your daughter away from this house  shes of no use here. She only eats our bread!

The old man tried to persuade his wife that she did much more in the house than the old womans daughter did, but the old woman raged and shouted, Take her away!

The old man sighed but obeyed.

He told the girl to follow him and they left the house. He did not know where to go so he walked to the nearby forest. When they got there, they saw a small wooden hut. There was no one living in it.

The old man says to his daughter,

Now, wait for me here, and Ill go chop some wood.

Before leaving, he tied a piece of wood to the window frame on the outside of the house, and left. Instead of chopping wood, he returned home.

When the wind blew, it banged the piece of wood tied to the window frame, against the wall of the hut, and the girl thought, Oh, its my father who is chopping wood.

She stayed in the house, knitting, and waiting for her father to return.

But when the night came and her father did not return, the girl became worried.

She heard a great noise moving through the forest toward the house. And then she heard a voice that said,

Open the door, girl!

The girl was frightened but the voice was not wicked and she opened the door. She saw a horses head at the threshold. The girl was even more frightened but the head said,

Dont be afraid, girl. Pick me up and bring me into the house.

The girl did as she was told.

Do you have anything to eat?

The girl had some food in the basket that her father had left her.

Yes, I do, the girl said.

Can you share it with me?

And the girl gave the head the food from the basket and ate some too.

Now, the head said, can you make me a bed of straw so that I could lie down?

The girl did as the head asked her to do.

Now, put me down on that straw.

The girl did as the head asked her to do.

Now, climb into my left ear and climb out of the right one.

The girl did as the head asked her to do.

When she climbed in, she saw a nice house, and a barn, and store house full of nice and useful things, and it was all hers. When she climbed out of the right ear, she found herself standing in the yard of that household. And when she looked into the mirror, she saw that she had become a beauty.

She married a nice young man and they lived happily and well.

One day the young woman tells her husband, Its a holiday today. Id like to see my father whom I have not seen for a long time. Will you go with me?

Yes, I will.

And they went to see the young womans father.

Her father did not recognize her at first but when she told him who she was, he was mighty glad.

When they left, the old woman, who became very envious of the way the old mans daughter looked and of her good luck, said,

Now, take my daughter to that place where you took your daughter. I want my daughter also to be beautiful and to have a husband and all those nice things.

The old man took the old womans daughter to that small empty hut in the forest and said, You stay here and see what happens.

And he left.

When the night came, the girl heard a great noise moving through the forest toward the house. And then she heard a voice that said,

Open the door, girl!

But the girl said,

I am not your servant whoever you are. Open it yourself if you want to.

The door opened and the girl saw a horses head at the threshold.

Take me into the house, girl.

Look at you  first you frighten me and now you want me to take you into the house! If youve managed to get here without help, then youll manage to get in if you want to.

The horses head did manage to crawl into the house.

Do you have anything to eat?

She had some food in the basket with her, but she said,

I do, but its not enough for two.

And she ate all the food herself.

Now, the head said, can you make me a bed of straw so that I could lie down?

I told you already  I am not your servant, so do it by yourself!

The head did it and lied down and said,

Now, climb into my left ear and climb out of the right one.

The girl did as she was told to do, but when she climbed in she found herself in a dense forest, so dense and dark she could not see anything around except for the trees next to her.

And then out of the darkness came a huge wolf and carried the girl away.

A day passed, then another day, and more days passed but the old womans daughter never returned.

One day, the old womans pet dog says in a human voice,

The old mans daughter is so nice and beautiful, but no one has seen either hide or hair of the old womans daughter.

The old woman got very angry and beat the dog.

What a silly thing that dog is! the old woman cried out.

More days passed and the dog says once again,

The old mans daughter is so nice and beautiful, but theres no sign of the old womans daughter, hide or hair.

The old woman got even angrier and again beat the dog. Then she says to the old man,

Go to that place where you took my daughter to, and check what has happened to her.

The old man went to the hut in the forest but found no one in, and no trace of the old womans daughter.

 

Art by Oleksandr Melnyk

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