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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The Miser

Alexander Afanasyev / Kathleen Cook

There was once a rich merchant called Marko, and no one was more tight-fisted than he. One day he went for a walk and on the way he saw an old man sitting and begging: "Alms for the love of Christ, Christian folk!" Marko the Rich walked past him. At that moment a poor man walking behind him took pity on the beggar and gave him a kopeck. The rich man felt ashamed, so he stopped and said to the poor man: "Hey, fellow. Lend me a kopeck. I want to give the poor soul something, but I've no small change!" The other man gave him a kopeck and asked: "When shall I come to collect my debt?" "Tomorrow!" The next day the poor man went to the rich man to get him kopeck. He went into the big courtyard: "Is Marko the Rich at home?" "He is. What do you want?" asked Marko. "I've come for my kopeck." "Come back later, my man. I really have no small change." The poor man bowed and went off, saying: "I'll come back tomorrow." The next morning he came and the same thing happened. "I've no small coins. Give me change for a hundred-ruble note, if you like, or come again in a fortnight's time." A fortnight later the poor man again went to the rich man, but Marko the Rich saw him coming and said to his wife: "Quick, wife! I'll take my clothes off and lie down under the icons; you cover me with a sheet, sit down and cry like I was dead. When the man comes for his money, tell him I passed away today."
The wife did as her husband bade her: she sat and wept bitterly. The poor man came into the room. "What do you want?" she asked. "The money I lent Marko the Rich," replied the poor man. "Well, my good fellow, Marko the Rich is no more. He has just this moment passed away." "God rest his soul! Allow me to be of service to him for my kopeck, mistress; let me wash down his sinful body." So saying he seized a pot of hot water and began to pour it on Marko the Rich. Marko could hardly bear it and twitched his nose and feet. "Twitch as much as you like, but give me back my kopeck!" said the poor man. He washed him down, dressed him fittingly and said: "Go buy a coffin, widow, and we'll carry him to the church; I'll read the Psalter over him." So they put Marko the Rich in a coffin and carried him to the church, where the poor man read the Psalter over him.
Night fell dark as pitch. Suddenly a window opened and thieves began to climb into the church. The poor man hid behind the altar. The thieves began dividing up their ill-gotten gains until there was nothing left but a gold sabre, which they were all tugging and would not let go. Then the poor man jumped out and shouted: "Why are you quarrelling?
Let whoever cuts off the corpse's head have the sabre!" Marko the Rich jumped up in alarm. The thieves took fright, dropped their booty and fled. "Come on, my man," said Marko, "let us divide up the money." So they shared it out equally; both of them had a big pile. "What about the kopeck?" asked the poor man. "You can see for yourself, brother, I've no small change!" And so it was that Marko the Rich never repaid his debt.