folktales included here cover a variety of folklore
genres - some belong to the "and so they lived happily
ever after" type of story, in which a hero and his magical
helper are able to overcome all kinds of supernatural obstacles.
But in addition to these hero tales, this section also contains
several stories about fools and foolishness - like the big
bumbling good-hearted giant named Hans who never quite figures
out how things work, or the man and the woman who want to
raise their calf Peter as if he were their little boy, or
the man who tried to imitate the magical powers of the trolls
(the man's three daughters just happen to be married to trolls,
a situation which the story just seems to take for granted!).
If you like humorous stories in addition to fantastic wonder
tales, this would probably be a good unit for you to choose
'What a wicked little girl you are!' said he; 'but
you shall be none the better of this. I shall give you three
wishes, and choose them for you. First, I shall say, "Ugly
are you, but you shall become so ugly that there will not
be an uglier one on earth." Next I shall wish that
every time you open your mouth a big toad may fall out of
it, and your voice shall be like the roaring of a bull.
In the third place I shall wish for you a violent death.'
The first thing the wizard now did was to lead the
horse away to a smith to get a red-hot nail driven into
its mouth, because after that it could not change its shape
again. When the horse saw this it changed itself to a dove,
and flew up into the air. The wizard at once changed himself
into a hawk, and flew up after it. The dove now turned into
a gold ring, and fell into a girl's lap. The hawk now turned
into a man, and offered the girl a great sum of money for
the gold ring ...
When this was done the troll again said some words
to him, and at these he turned into a fish, and sprang into
the river. He swam up and he swam down, and thought it was
pleasant to let himself drive with the stream. In this way
he came right out into the sea, and swam further and further
out. At last he came to a glass palace, which stood at the
bottom of the sea. He could see into all the rooms and halls,
where everything was very grand; all the furniture was of
white ivory, inlaid with gold and pearl. ...
Most of the Tales
from Estonia are longer fairy-tales, more intricate,
in which different types of stories have been woven together.
For example, "The Child Who Came From An Egg" starts
out as the story of a king and queen who cannot have a child
and who end up producing children in a weird and magical way...
but then the mother dies, and a Cinderella-type starts to
unfold. Or in "The Dragon from the North," the hero
has to steal a magic object in order to defeat the dragon...
but just when you think his quest is over, the story starts
up again when a character from the beginning of the story
comes back to haunt the hero. This is one way of displaying
artistry and a kind of originality in the composition of traditional
stories: it takes real skill to find the linking points where
one type of story can be stitched together with another type,
creating longer and longer tales using already familiar story
The dragon from the North had a body like an ox, and
legs like a frog, two short fore-legs, and two long ones
behind, and besides that it had a tail like a serpent, ten
fathoms in length. When it moved it jumped like a frog,
and with every spring it covered half a mile of ground.
Fortunately its habit, was to remain for several years in
the same place, and not to move on till the whole neighbourhood
was eaten up. ...
Oh! what a noise and a whirr rose afresh among the
serpents. Thousands of heads were reared, and tongues were
stretched out to sting the intruder to death, but happily
for him their bodies were so closely entwined one in the
other that they could not disentangle themselves quickly.
Like lightning he seized a bit of bread, dipped it in the
bowl, and put it in his mouth, then dashed away as if fire
was pursuing him. On he flew as if a whole army of foes
were at his heels, and he seemed to hear the noise of their
approach growing nearer and nearer. ...
... absolute stillness reigned everywhere. Not a rustle
or a sound could be heard. Here and there he noticed a bird
sitting on a branch, with head erect and swelling throat,
but his ear caught nothing. The dogs opened their mouths
as if to bark, the toiling oxen seemed about to bellow,
but neither bark nor bellow reached the prince. The water
flowed noiselessly over the pebbles, the wind bowed the
tops of the trees, flies and chafers darted about, without
breaking the silence. ...