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Robert Elsie
Albanian Literature

Oral Literature  |  Folktales

 

   
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The Boy and the Earthly Beauty

Once upon a time there was a very rich man who had a wife and a son. When he was about to die, he gave his son some advice, the most important part of which was never to go to the village where the Earthly Beauty lived. The boy grew up and lived happy and content, not knowing in which village where the Earthly Beauty lived. But in the end, he was overcome by a great desire to visit her, although both his father and his mother had forbidden him to do so. One day, taking a big sack of gold coins with him, he set out to find the village where the Earthly Beauty lived.

On his way, he rested for a while at the house of an old woman who told him right away that the Earthly Beauty lived in the village and that many a young man had come and squandered his fortune just to catch a glimpse of her finger or her hand. When the boy heard this, he too burned with desire to see at least her hand, no matter what it cost him. After asking the old woman to show him the way, he set off for the maiden's palace and asked to see the Earthly Beauty. Since he was quick to show the gold coins he had brought with him, the servants informed the maiden and she gave orders that he be let in. They put the boy in a corner of the room where he could catch just a glimpse of her finger. Then, taking away his gold coins, they threw him out, for the Earthly Beauty never showed herself completely to her admirers; the first time they just got to see her fingers, the second time her hand, and the third time her arm. When the boy got back to the old woman's house, he was so overwhelmed and excited by what he had seen at the maiden's palace that he could not wait to return. He resolved to go back home and fetch more money. He told the old woman what he had experienced and she encouraged him because she, too, was receiving gifts from him. The next day the boy got home, his heart full of desire for the Earthly Beauty. The moment he entered the house, he began looking for money so that he could return to the maiden as quickly as possible. When the poor mother saw that her son had squandered all of his money and been made a fool of by the maiden, she was saddened at first, and then angered. She tried to persuade him to change his mind, but it was all in vain. The boy was not to be swayed. In short, he took even more money than he had taken the first time, and set off once again.

When he got back to the Earthly Beauty, her servants cheated him a second time by showing him the maiden's hand, taking his money and throwing him out again. In a short time, the boy had wasted his whole fortune on the Earthly Beauty without getting any closer to her. Very soon, although he had once been quite rich, he was as poor as a church mouse.

But he refused to give up, and so returned home to search through his father's bedroom and cellar to try to find something of value to take to the maiden. To his surprise, he found a cap that made him invisible the moment he put it on. His mother could no longer see him, although she could hear his voice. He was delighted with the cap, for he believed that with its help he could win over the Earthly Beauty. So without hesitation, he took the cap and set off for the maiden's village. When he arrived at the palace of the Earthly Beauty, he put the cap on and, being invisible, was able to get right into the maiden's bedroom without being seen by her servants. Now he could see the maiden in all her beauty and stared at her in awe all night long until daybreak. Then he spoke to her. She could hear his voice, but could not see him. After the two had talked for some time, he told the Earthly Beauty who he was and, trusting in her love, revealed to her the secret of his cap. She snatched it from him, called her servants and ordered them to chase the boy away.

When the boy realized he had been deceived again, he was very sad indeed, because he had now given up all hope. In his misfortune, he returned home. But he could think of nothing but the maiden, because his heart was so full of desire for her. Again he went into his father's bedroom and poked around looking for something else to take to the Earthly Beauty. Suddenly, he noticed a jug. Picking it up, he had a look at it, turned it around in his hands, and polished it a bit because it was very dusty. Immediately, a band of warriors appeared and addressed him, "What is your command, oh master? We are ready to serve you."

At this, the boy reflected for a moment and said to himself, "Now I'm sure to win over the Earthly Beauty." His heart began to rejoice, his eyes brightened and he set off once again to win the object of his desire.

On his way there, he spent the night at the house of the old woman again and sent her to the palace with a message for the Earthly Beauty that she should receive him. But hardly had the old woman begun to speak when the maiden summoned her servants and had the old woman tossed out. Much distressed, the old woman returned home and told the boy of the ill treatment she had suffered at the palace. He nevertheless persuaded her to go back a second time and tell the maiden that if she did not receive him courteously, things would look bad for her. Because of the boy's urging and the gifts he had always given her, the old woman went back, though she knew very well that the Earthly Beauty would not listen to her. When the maiden saw the old woman coming, she became so furious that she ordered her servants to beat her and throw her out. And the old woman, wailing in sorrow, had to flee from the fists and clubs of the servants.

When the old woman returned and told the boy what had happened, he realized that courtesy would not get him any farther. He took his jug and rubbed it. The warriors immediately appeared and said to him, "What is your command, oh master? We are ready to serve you." The boy dispatched them, all dressed in fine garments, to the palace of the Earthly Beauty to exercise until he called them back. Then he sent the old woman to the maiden once more to tell her that if she did not receive him voluntarily, he would come by force with the warriors she could see in front of her palace. When the maiden heard this and saw the warriors, she became frightened and immediately ordered that the boy be received with full honours. When the boy arrived, the palace dignitaries received him with such kind words that he was quite flattered. After a while he said to the maiden, "Since you have caused me such suffering, I am now going to send you to Tinglimaimun." But the Earthly Beauty knew how to wrap him around her finger and he forgave her. Now that they had made peace with one another, the boy believed that she loved him and revealed to her the fact that all his power came from the jug. When he was not looking, the maiden took the jug from him and rubbed it, and immediately the warriors appeared and demanded, "What is your command, madam? What can we do for you?" The boy jumped up and shouted, "You're my warriors, not hers!" But the warriors replied, "The jug is in the maiden's hands." She then spoke to them, saying, "Seize the youth and take him off to Tinglimaimun." And they seized him and took him away.

Having arrived in this distant foreign land with no food and no friends, the boy wandered about in the wilderness looking for something to eat. Finally, he found a bunch of red grapes, and hungry as he was, he began to eat them. But to his horror and amazement, for every grape he ate, a horn grew out of his face. The boy was most distressed by his misfortune. However, because he was still hungry, he wandered around in search of something else to eat. At last, he found some white grapes. After he had eaten the first grape, a horn fell off. Indeed for every grape he ate, one of the horns fell off. Realizing that for every red grape a horn grew on his face, and for every white grape one fell off, the boy was very happy because he remembered the Earthly Beauty and realized he could take advantage of this lucky coincidence. With the red grapes, he would make horns grow on the maiden's face, and then with the white grapes he would heal her again. This way, she would be his.

He quickly filled two baskets with grapes, one with red and the other with white, and set off swiftly to return to the land of the Earthly Beauty. After travelling for a long, long time, he came to an ocean where he had to wait for a ship. Sometime later he spotted a ship on the horizon, and as he had no handkerchief, he took off his trousers and waved them in the wind as a sign for the ship to come and pick him up. The ship approached, took the poor boy in rags on board and brought him back to his own country. He planned to sell the red grapes as soon as he arrived and at last his feet brought him right to the palace of the Earthly Beauty. There were no other grapes for sale as the season was over, so the boy's grapes attracted the attention of the people in the palace. When the Earthly Beauty caught sight of the grapes, she decided she had to have them, and ordered her maid to fetch them for her. The unfortunate maid could not resist eating a grape herself and immediately a horn grew out of her face. She did not know where it had come from and hid in shame in her room. When the maiden demanded her grapes, the maid asked another servant to take them to her. The Earthly Beauty seized the grapes and ate them all with great pleasure. Immediately, her face was covered with horns. She was so horrified at this that she almost lost her mind. A few days later, since the horns would not go away, she sent for her physicians. She received the physicians on the condition that they would be beheaded if they did not heal her. The physicians went to treat the maid first, because they both had the same illness.

The boy knew now that his day had come and that he would be called on to heal the maiden. He wanted to make the Earthly Beauty more desperate than ever, so went away for a few days to prolong her illness and increase her grief. Then he adorned himself with fine garments, went to the palace of the Earthly Beauty where he announced that he was a physician, and promised to heal her. They warned him that he would be beheaded if he was not successful, and to this he agreed. He entered the palace and was sent first to the maid. He had brought the white grapes with him, but had squeezed them into a paste so that no one could see what they were. He began by asking the maid what she had and had not done and about her illness. "Be careful," he said, "if you don't tell me the truth, you will not be cured." The maid told him everything and about the grapes she had eaten. He then gave her the medicine made of white grapes he had with him, and the horn fell off. The maid was cured.

When the Earthly Beauty heard this, she summoned the physician right away and could hardly wait to see him. He entered her chamber and again began by asking questions, as he had done with the maid, saying that he would only cure her if she told him the whole truth. She told him of all her deeds, and when she talked about the gold coins which she had repeatedly taken from the boy, he said to her, "Give me the money." She also showed him the cap which she had stolen from the boy, but pretended to have forgotten the jug. The physician said to her, "There is something you have not told me yet." Finally she brought out the jug which, like the cap and money, she had taken from the boy. Thereupon, he gave her the medicine and she was immediately cured. When the boy rubbed the jug, the warriors appeared and asked, "What are your wishes, my lord? You are our master." The boy then turned to the Earthly Beauty, saying, "Now I have you in my power. I am the one you caused to suffer. You sent me to Tinglimaimun, but now it is my turn. I am going to marry you and take you home with me." He commanded the warriors to seize her and take her back to his village, together with her palace and everything she owned. When the mother saw her son with the Earthly Beauty, the palace and all the treasures, she was overjoyed. And so they all lived together happily ever after.

 

[Source: Albanikê melissa (Bêlietta sskiypêtare). Syggramma albano-hellênikon periechon meros historias 'Dôra Istrias - hê Albanikê fylê', Albano-Hellênikas Paroimias kai Ainigmata, Albanika kyria onomata, Asmata kai Paramythia Albanika, kai Albano-Hellênikon leksilogion meta parabolês Albanikôn lekseôn pros archaias hellênikas. Syntachthen hypo E. Mêtku (Typ. Xenofôntos N. Saltê, Alexandria 1878), reprinted in Folklor shqiptar 1, Proza popullore (Tirana 1963). Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie.]

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