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Robert Elsie
Albanian Literature

Oral Literature  |  Folktales

 

   
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The Silver Tooth

Once upon a time, there was a prince who had three daughters of marriageable age. At that time there was a war between the king and another ruler. The king mustered his army and sent word to the father of the girls to join him and then set off for war. When the prince received the message, he was very sad, went into this manor and spent three days alone in his room in great sorrow.

“Wife of an Albanian” by Otto Magnus von Stackelberg, lithograph 1825.The eldest daughter went in to him and said: “Why are you so sad, dear father?” He replied: “What can I tell you, my child? The king wants to make war on his neighbour and has summoned me to go with him.” The girl responded, saying: “Off with you then, and do not come back! Poor me, I thought you were worried about which man to marry me to.” Having said this, she stormed out of the room and left her father alone

Later on, the second daughter went to see her father and asked him: “Dear father, why are you so sad?” The father replied: “Why do you ask? Your elder sister asked me the same question and when I told her, she rejected me. And now you are coming around, too? Leave me alone. Let my sorrow lead me to an early grave.”

“No, father. I will not reject you. Let us deal with the problem together. I will help you.”

“This is what your sister said, and then she rejected me.”

“No, dear father, I will certainly not be that unkind to you.”

“Then let me tell you what is troubling me. The king has declared war and has summoned me to join him. I don’t know who will take care of you during my absence.”

The maiden responded, crying: “Off with you then, and do not come back! Poor me, I thought that you were depressed because you had not found me a husband.” She then stormed out and left her father alone.

Finally, the youngest daughter, called Theodorula, went in to see her father and said to him: “Dear father, why are you sitting around and feeling so depressed? Will you not tell me the reason?”

“Go away, I was foolish enough to tell your two sisters and they both rejected me.”

“I will certainly not reject you, father.”

“That is exactly what the other two said, and they rejected me.”

“How could I possibly reject you? You are my father and I am your daughter.”

“Alright, I will tell you what is troubling me. The king has declared war and has summoned me to join him. I don’t know what to do with you in my absence.”

When the youngest daughter heard this, she said: “Don’t be sad, dear father. Give me your blessing and three suits. I will go to war for you instead.”

The father had three suits made for her and gave her his blessing. The blessing took the form of a little puppy that went with her. Theodorula took the men’s clothes and the blessing with her and rode off to the town where the king lived. When she got to the king’s palace, there was an old woman at the gate who was talking to the king’s son: “See that young man with the beautiful face who is approaching? That is no man. It is a maiden. I would bet my head on it.” When the king’s son heard this, he looked at Theodorula, was dumbfounded by her beauty and rushed off to see his father. When the maiden appeared before the king, she said: “I am a warrior and have come to fulfil my obligations on behalf of our region and farmhouse.” The king responded: “Tell us your name then so that we can put you on the roll.” The maiden responded: “My name is Theodor.”

When the maiden departed, the prince said to the king: “Dear father, that is not Theodor. That is Theodorula and she has stolen my heart. She is not a man, she is a maiden.” At first the king would not believe him, but when the prince insisted, he said: “I will tell you what to do to get to the bottom of this. I will tell you how you can find out whether or not it is a maiden.” Go with her to the town shop. On one wall, there are swords and pistols, and on the other wall there are rings, necklaces and other jewellery. If it is a girl, she will go over to the wall where the rings are hanging. If she goes over to the wall where the weapons are hanging, it is a man.” But the puppy was in the king’s chamber at the time and heard their conversation. It ran out and told the maiden everything.

The next morning the prince spoke to the maiden: “Listen, Theodor, come along to the shop with me. They are selling weapons.” And so they set off. When the maiden entered the shop, she immediately went over to the wall with the weapons, inspected them and bartered for them with the shopkeeper. The prince then said: “Have a good look around. On the other wall are some beautiful rings and other jewellery.” She replied: “Those are for girls, not for us,” and took no notice of the objects hanging there. They bought two silver-plated pistols and returned home.

The prince went to see his father and told him what had happened. He laughed and said: “Did I not tell you that it was not a maiden?” The prince responded, saying: “But it is a maiden, father. She is called Theodorula and she has broken my heart.” “I tell you,” said the father, “it is a man. But if you do not believe me, try another trick. Go with him to a certain castle that has a staircase with 700 steps and climb up to the top. If it is a maiden, she will lose three drops of blood on the way up. If it is a man, nothing will happen.” But the little puppy heard this conversation, too, and ran off to the maiden and told her.

The next day, the prince said to the maiden: “Listen, Theodor, let us go and visit that castle.” When they arrived and reached the foot of the staircase, he said: “You go ahead.” “No,” she replied, “you are the king’s son, you must always go first.” So the prince went up first and she went up after him. When they had almost reached the top, three drops of blood dripped onto the stairs, but the puppy licked them up so that the prince did not see them when he turned around to have a look. When they walked back down the staircase, another three drops of blood dripped onto the stairs, but the puppy licked them up again so that the prince did not see them when he turned around to have a look.

The prince then went back to the king and said: “I saw no blood.” The king laughed again and said: “Did I not tell you it was a man?” But the prince would have none of it. “It is a maiden called Theorodula and she has broken my heart.” “Well, then, try a third time,” responded the king. “Invite her to go swimming with you and then you will see if it is a maiden or not.” But the little puppy heard this conversation, too, and ran off to the maiden and told his mistress.

The maiden then went to see the tailor and said to him: “Make me a garment with two types of buttons on it so that when I undo one button, the other button will do itself up.”

The next day, the tailor brought her the garment and she put it on. The prince arrived early the next morning and said: “Listen, Theodor, why don’t we go swimming?” “Alright,” replied the maiden. They mounted their steeds and rode off to the seashore. When they dismounted, the prince said to her: “Get undressed.” She replied: “You get undressed yourself. I will be right with you.” She undid one button and then the next, but each time she undid one button, another one would do itself up again. When the prince saw that she had started to undress, he took off his clothes and dived into the water. At the same moment, the maiden mounted her horse and was about to set off. The prince, hastening back to the shore, took off his ring and threw it at her. The ring hit the maiden on one of her teeth that broke off, and the remaining part of the tooth turned silvery.

The prince returned to his father and told him what had happened, crying out: “I love her and want to marry her.” The father laughed and replied: “How can I help you if you love her? Go and find her and marry her if you wish.”

The prince hesitated no longer and set off for the town where the maiden lived. On his way, he met a shepherd and said to him: “Listen, shepherd, if you give me your clothes, I will give you mine.” The shepherd replied: “Why do you want to give me your expensive clothes and get my poor rags in return?” The prince responded: “That is of no concern to you.” The shepherd hesitated no longer and gave his clothes to the prince. In return he received the prince’s fine garments.

In the next village, the prince bought a number of spindles and whorls and took them with him to the town where Theodorula lived. When he got close to her house, he called out loudly: “Spindles and whorls for sale!” until the three sisters came out to buy. When he caught sight of the one with the broken tooth, the remaining part of which was silver-coloured, he recognised her. When the maidens asked him: “How much do the spindles cost?” he replied: “I want no money, only a measure of millet.” They filled a measure with millet and poured it into his bag. He, however, pretended to stumble so that the bag fell onto the ground and all the millet spilled out. He then sat down on the ground and began picking up the kernels of millet one by one and putting them back in his bag. The maidens said to him: “We will help you with a broom, because if you gather all the kernels by hand, you will never finish.” “No,” replied the prince, “it is my fate to gather up all the kernels of millet one by one.”

The maiden left him to do as he wished and went back into the house. The prince continued gathering the kernels of millet until it grew dark. When the maidens went to bed, he could see in which room Theodorula was sleeping. Later in the night, he snuck into the house and went to her bed where he threw some magic herbs over her to make her sleep soundly. He then picked her up, threw her over his shoulders and carried her off. When they got back to his palace, the roosters were crowing and the drowsy maiden spoke out: “How beautifully the roosters are crowing, as if they were the king’s own fowl!” The prince replied: “Indeed, the roosters belong to the king and the palace belongs to the king, and his son has brought you here.”

He brought her to his father, married her and is still wed to her to this very day.

 

[Source: Johann Georg von Hahn, Silberzahn, in: Griechische und albanesische Märchen. Gesammelt, übersetzt und erläutert von J. G. v. Hahn, k. k. Consul für das östliche Griechenland [Greek and Albanian Folk Tales. Collected, Translated and Annotated by J. G. v. Hahn, Austro-Hungarian Consul for Eastern Greece]. Leipzig: Engelmann, 1864. pp. 124-129. Translated from the German by Robert Elsie.]

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