chapter  15
16 Pages

Peasant Gagyi

She didn’t know what that piece of leather was. The woman had no idea where all the wealth had come from.She said: “Here you are, you poor man. I’ll give this to you. Put it on.”The man took it. In his misery he accepted it. The queen turned around and went inside. He started on his way and once outside the gate he stopped to look at the leather. “Wasn’t the queen ashamed to give me this? Couldn’t she have found me some kind of coat, a suba, or anything other than this? She insulted me with this leather.”He took it and smashed it into the mud, hard. The little man the size of three hand-spans jumped out at once. [Listener:] He jumped out?(He did.)He stood up and said: “What do you command? What do you command?”“I command,” he began, but got alarmed for a moment. He went back inside the gate and there he hit the ground with it again.He said: “I command that this castle be surrounded by an ocean, an ocean so large that it couldn’t be crossed any other way but by ship. It should be all around and enclose the castle completely. No one should be able to get in or out,” he said.No sooner had he pronounced the words than the ocean was there. The waves were breaking with such force that had a big log fallen in their way, they would have it carried away. Now what should he do? He couldn’t get out either-since he was inside, he couldn’t get out. He was frightened.He went to the queen and said: “Your Majesty, I can’t get out.”“Why? Are you ill?”“No, I am not ill, but there is such a big sea outside, circling the entire castle, that I cannot get out. Not even by boat, the waves are as huge as in an ocean. One can only cross it by ship-there is no other way.”“How is that possible?” she said. “There is a flower garden around us. The castle is in the middle of the flower garden. Are you dreaming? What are you saying? Go,” she said, “don’t play tricks on me. I don’t need your jokes.” [Listener:] She didn’t believe it?(No.)“Come out,” he said, “ and see for yourself. Please come and look around.” The queen went out. She almost fell over when she saw that the beggar was right. There was an immense sea, with the waves swelling on it, something terrible.“Oh, my God,” she said, “how will my husband get home? How will he come home? How can he cross over? He cannot get here until they build a ship for him.” The young bride was upset-she wept, wringing her hands.“Dear God, how will my husband come home?”“Well, now, how would he come? Don’t be sad, queen. I am here. I am here, in his place. You may be sure that your husband won’t come back. Don’t raise your hopes,”

he said, “that he’ll make it home.” “Go away, you wretched old bum! Don’t you speak this way to a queen!” she said. “Do you think I’d want a man like you? A beggar?”“Look, think about it, the king won’t come home,” he said, “and you cannot live alone-you need someone. Let’s get together. I’ll do what a man has to do in the house and outside, and you’ll have it easier.”The queen grew angry again. “Stop aggravating and distressing me with your words. I have enough grief in my heart, 1 don’t need any nuisance from you. If you entertain such thoughts, go to hell and not to the queen!”The man grew silent for a while; then he said: “But I can’t go away. I have to stayhere.” “Then stay. Stay, but stop talking the way you do. It is not proper to speak to a queen in this manner.”A day or two passed.“Your Majesty, think it over-let’s join together. Your husband won’t come home any more, so in the end you’ll have to take up with me. The king has plenty of clothes, let me dress up and, you’ll see, I’ll turn into a handsome man. I won’t look like a peasant once I am cleaned up.”Again she lashed out at the beggar, ordering him to shut up.But time was passing, the days were going by. There was no sign of the king, so they got together. The man had noticed, however, that the hide had special qualities and sewed it on his body, onto his bare skin. He knew that whatever he commanded would be done on the spot, and realized that this is how the castle, the wealth and everything else had come to be. He sewed it onto his body so the queen wouldn’t know. And he kept at the queen until finally she gave in and joined up with him.She thought: I am waiting for my husband in vain, sooner or later I’ll have to come together with him.They came together.Well, over there, the two kings ran out of food after a time, while they were hunting. They wanted to go home, but the news reached them that there was water everywhere. A huge ocean came to enclose the castle completely. No one could ap­proach it, or get in. It was impossible to get into the castle. There was no ship, and no one could go by boat for waves as big as a house were welling up all over. Oh, was the king distressed! The old king just vanished-he left his son-in-law behind, but the young king remained there to ponder how he could get home. He had left his beautiful young wife at home and now he couldn’t even get near her. His heart was filled with grief and he tormented himself, not knowing what to do. He had no food left. He shot some game, cooked it on a spit and ate it, but he had no bread.He stood against a tree, resting on the butt of his gun. He was grieving and thinking of what he could do to get home.