Multilingual Folk Tale Database


Author: Alexander Afanasyev - 1855

Translated into English
  by Kathleen Cook

Original title (Russian):

Country of origin: Russia


English - aligned

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Alexander Afanasyev / Kathleen Cook

How about a nice story, ladies and gents? A fairy story with lots of weird and wonderful happenings and that rogue to end all rogues, Shabarsha, who never does things by halves, and no mistake! Shabarsha hired himself out, but it was a real bad harvest that year. His master racked his brains about how to drive away care, keep the wolf from the door and get hold of some cash. "Do not worry, master!" Shabarsha said to him. "Just give me the day, and I'll find a way!" And off he went to the mill pond. "I'll catch some fish," he thought, "then sell it and get some money! Bother, I haven't got any twine for the hook... Never mind, I'll make some." He asked the miller for some hemp, sat down on the bank and began to make twine.
While he was working a little boy in a black jacket and red cap jumped out of the water onto the bank. "What are you doing, uncle?" he asked. "Making some twine." "What for?" "I'm going to clean up the pond and pull you devils out of the water." "Oh, no! Wait a moment, I'll go and tell my grandad." The little devil dived into the water, and Shabarsha went on with his work. "Ha, ha," he thought, "I'll play a trick on you, you wicked crew, and make you give me all your gold and silver." And Shabarsha dug a deep hole and placed his cap upside down over it. But the crafty fellow had cut the top off. "Shabarsha! Hey, Shabarsha! Grandad says I must strike a bargain with you. What will you take to leave us in peace?" "Fill this cap here with gold and silver."
The devil boy dived back into the water and then returned. "Grandad says that first you and I must have a wrestling match." "How can a puny stripling like you wrestle with me! You couldn't even take on my middle brother Bruin." "Where is he, this Bruin of yours?" "Over there, resting in that hollow under a bush." "How can I get him to wrestle?" "Just give him a dig in the ribs. He'll get up alright then." The devil boy went to the hollow, found the bear and poked him in the ribs with a stick. Brain reared up on his hind legs and hugged the devil boy so hard that his ribs cracked. He straggled free from the bear's clutches and fled back to the old man in the pond. "Grandad!" he squealed in terror, "Shabarsha's middle brother called Brain wrestled with me and made my ribs crack! What would have happened if I'd wrestled with Shabarsha himself?" "Hmm. Go back and have a race with Shabarsha. See who comes first."
So the boy in the red cap went back to Shabarsha and told him what his grandad had said. "You race against me! Why, even my little
brother Harry Hare would leave you miles behind!" "Where is your brother, Harry Hare?" "Over there, lying in the grass, having a rest. Go up and tickle his ear—he'll race with you alright then." The devil boy ran up to Harry Hare and tickled his ear. Off the hare shot like lightning, leaving the boy far behind. "Stop, stop, Harry Hare. Wait for me. Oh dear, he's gone!" "I was going to race like the wind, grandad," he explained to the water demon. "But I never had a chance, and it wasn't Shabarsha himself, just his young brother!" "Hmm," muttered the old man, frowning darkly. "Go and have a whistling contest with Shabarsha. See who can whistle the loudest."
"Shabarsha! Hey, Shabarsha! Grandad says we must see who can whistle the loudest." "Alright, you whistle first." The devil boy whistled so loudly that Shabarsha could hardly keep on his feet, and the leaves fell off the trees. "Not bad," said Shabarsha, "but not as good as me! When I whistle you'll be knocked off your feet and your eardrums will split. So lie face down on the ground and put your hands over your ears." The devil boy lay face down and covered his ears with his hands. Shabarsha took a heavy stick, brought it down with all his might on the devil boy's neck, and whistled. "Oh, grandad, grandad! Shabarsha gave such a whistle that I saw stars before my eyes. I could hardly get up from the ground, and all the bones in my neck and back felt broken." "Ho, you're not very strong, my lad! Go and get my iron cudgel from the reeds and see which of you can toss it higher."
The devil boy found the cudgel, heaved it onto his shoulder and went to Shabarsha. "Shabarsha, grandad told me to have one more try. Let's see which of us can toss this cudgel highest into the air." "Alright, you toss first and I'll watch." The devil boy tossed the cudgel up, and it flew higher and higher until it was only a tiny dot in the sky. They had to wait an age for it to come down again. Then Shabarsha picked it up. Phew, what a weight! He leaned on it and gazed up at the sky. "Why don't you toss it? What are you waiting for?" asked the devil boy. "I'm waiting for that black cloud to get nearer. I'll throw the cudgel up to it. My brother the blacksmith is up there and he could do with a nice bit of iron like this." "Oh, no, Shabarsha! Don't throw cudgel up to the cloud. Grandad will be angry!" The devil boy snatched the cudgel and dived back to his grandfather.
When his grandfather heard that Shabarsha had almost thrown his cudgel away, he got such a fright that he ordered the money to be fetched from the pond and given to Shabarsha. The devil boy kept pouring money into the cap, but still it was not full. "Shabarsha's got a mighty strange cap, grandad. I keep filling it with gold and silver, but it's still empty. You have only one more chest left now." "Take that up
too quickly. Is he getting the twine ready?" "Yes, grandad!" "Hurry up then." There was nothing for it. The devil boy took his grandfather's last precious chest and poured the coins into Shabarsha's cap, until at last it was full! Ever since that day Shabarsha has lived in clover. I was asked round to drink mead and beer with him, but I did not go. They say the mead was bitter, and the beer cloudy. So what might be the meaning of that, eh?