Saturday, 30 March 2013

The Maiden who Outsmarted the Tzar, translated by Jelena Curcic

Read by Harry Oram

Once upon a time there lived a poor man in a cave. He had nothing save an only daughter, who was very wise and who went everywhere to earn a living for them with her words. She also taught her father how to speak well when asking for charity. One day, the poor man went to the Tzar's palace to ask for charity. Hearing him speak, the Tzar enquired where the man was from and where he had learnt to speak so well. The man told him where he was from and that it was his daughter who taught him wise words.

"And who taught your daughter?" the Tzar asked.

"God himself taught her, and our poverty," the man replied.

The Tzar then gave the man thirty eggs and said:

"Take this to your daughter and tell her to have the chicks hatched from these eggs; I shall reward
her handsomely for it. Should she fail to complete this task, however, you shall be faced with a
great ordeal."

The man took the eggs and went back to his cave in tears. He recounted everything the Tzar had  said to his daughter. At a glance, the daughter realised the eggs were all boiled; she took them nonetheless and told her father not to worry, but to go and sleep, and she would have everything sorted out. Her father did as she asked and went to sleep. His daughter then put a big cauldron of water on the fire, and boiled some broad beans in it. In the morning, she said to her father:

"Go to the field with ploughshare and oxen, and plough the land by the road where the Tzar passes. When you see the Tzar coming, take these broad beans and shout:
'Now, oxen, with God's help, these boiled broad beans will grow!'' When the Tzar asks how could boiled broad beans grow, you should tell him: ''Just as chicks can hatch from boiled eggs.'''

The man listened to his daughter's instructions and went to plough the field by the side of the Tzar's road. Not long after, the Tzar appeared in the distance, and the man began shouting:

"Now, oxen, with God's help, these boiled broad beans will grow!"

Hearing this, the Tzar halted his carriage and asked:

"Poor man, how can boiled broad beans grow?"

And the man replied:

'Honourable Tzar, they can grow; just as chicks can hatch from boiled eggs.'

The Tzar at once understood that it was the man's wise daughter who taught him to say this. So he had the man brought to him; then gave him linseed yarn and said:

"Take this to your daughter and tell her to make out of it the sails, and ropes and everything else required for a ship; should she fail to complete this task, you shall be executed."

The man was overcome with terror at hearing these words and he took the yarn back home to his daughter, sobbing all the way. When he told his daughter about the Tzar's latest request, she sent him to sleep again and promised she would have everything sorted out by the morning.

The next morning, she woke her father up holding a small piece of wood in her hands and she said: "Take this piece of wood to the Tzar and ask him to have a loom, spindle, distaff and all other tools
needed for weaving made from it, and I'll have the ship's sails and ropes done in no time."

The man followed his daughter's advice and went to pass her message to the Tzar. The Tzar was astonished to hear this and began pondering what next to ask of this clever maiden. He then grabbed a tiny little cup and passed it to the father, saying:

"Take this cup to your daughter and tell her to take out all the water from the sea with it, so that it becomes a field."

The man took the cup back to his daughter, crying. Having heard the Tzar's latest request, the daughter advised her father to go and rest and she would have everything sorted out over night. In the morning, she woke her father and gave him an ounce of mortar, saying:

"Take this to the Tzar and ask him to seal all the springs and all the lakes with it; and I shall have the sea emptied with the cup and turned into a field."

The man did as she asked. When the Tzar saw that this maiden was far smarter than him, he had her summoned. Her father brought the maiden to the Tzar and the Tzar asked:

"Now tell me, maiden, what sound travels the farthest?"

The maiden replied:

"Honourable Tzar, the sound that travels the farthest is that of thunder and that of a lie."

The Tzar then held his beard and asked his attendants:

"Guess how much my beard is worth?"

Some said this much, other said that much, and the maiden said:

"You are all wrong. The Tzar's beard is worth three Summer rains."

The Tzar was surprised with this answer and said:

"The maiden has got it right."

Then the Tzar asked the maiden to marry him, saying that it had to be that way (she didn't really have a choice). The maiden curtsied and said: 

"Honourable Tzar! Your wish is my command. I just ask you to write on a piece of paper, with your own hand, that should you ever feel angered by me and decide to send me away, I shall be allowed to take with me my most precious possession."

The Tzar agreed to this and signed the paper.

When some time had passed, one day the Tzar got angry with his wife and said to her:

"I don't want you to be my wife any longer; leave my palace and go wherever you wish."
His wife replied: 

"Honourable Tzar, I shall abide by your words; just please let me stay the night in the palace and I shall be gone in the morning."

The Tzar allowed her to stay the night in the palace. At dinner, she secretly mixed rakija and some herbs into his wine and, proffering the cup to him, said:

"Drink, my Tzar, and rejoice; for tomorrow we shall be parted, and trust my words: I shall be happier than when we first met."

The Tzar drank and fell asleep. The Tzaritza put him in a carriage and took him to a cave. When the Tzar woke in the morning and found himself in a cave, he shouted: 

"What on earth is this? Who brought me here?"

And the Tzaritza replied:

"I brought you here."

"Why did you do this to me?" the Tzar asked. "Haven't I told you that you are no longer my wife?"

The Tzaritza then took the paper out and showed it to the Tzar, saying:

"It is true, my Honourable Tzar, that you said I was no longer your wife; but look at this piece of paper: where you signed that I could take with me whatever I loved most in your home."

Hearing this, the Tzar kissed the Tzaritza and together they returned to the palace.

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