“God Grant You Good Fortune”
Pamodaj štastia, Lavička
A certain widower had a daughter who loved to visit their neighbors, a widow and her daughter. The two girls enjoyed being together, playing, embroidering, and spinning.
“You are getting on together so well, my dear girls,” the widow used to say. And to the widower’s daughter, “You should tell your father to marry me. We’ll have an easier time making ends meet if we join our households.”
The widower’s daughter returned home and said to her father, “You can marry if you want to.
You can certainly use some help, and I would have a mother. Take the widow for your wife. She’s good to me, and her daughter is like my sister.” This is what she said to convince her father.
“But daughter, people say that the widow is a witch. She won’t be a good mother to you!’
“People talk all kinds of nonsense,” she said. “Don’t believe them!” So after more urging and persuasion, the widower took the widow for his wife.
Not many days passed before the widow began to behave very unkindly toward her new stepdaughter. From morning till evening she had chores for her to do. And she didn’t feed her properly just crusts of bread toasted on the cinders of the fireplace.
But she treated her own daughter like a princess. She fed her with goodies of all kinds. And she dressed her in the finest clothes, while her stepdaughter went around in rags.
The widow’s daughter, who had recently been the stepdaughter’s friend, now showed off in front of her and laughed at her tattered clothes.
The poor stepdaughter’s heart was close to breaking from unhappiness. She often went to sit by a certain well, where she could cry and no one would see how sad she was.
Once her father found her there. “My dear daughter,” he said reproachfully, ”didn’t I tell you that she wouldn’t be a good mother to you?”
“It seems like I’m being punished for not listening to you. I’d like to go off into the world and find some kind of work.”
“Then you should go,” agreed her father.
The stepmother saw her stepdaughter off with little fuss. She gave her no new clothes for her journey, and instead of packing her a proper lunch, she rolled up a few crusts of bread that had been toasted on the cinders.
The poor girl went wherever her feet took her. Eventually she came to a little plank bridge over a stream.
“God grant you good fortune!” the girl said and bowed politely to the little bridge.
“God grant you the same, young lady!” the bridge replied. “And where are you off to?”
“I’m going off into the world to find some kind of work.”
“Would you please turn me over on my side?” the bridge asked. “People have been walking over me for years, but no one ever thinks to turn me over. If you do it for me, I’ll be in your debt.” The girl gladly fulfilled the bridge’s request and continued on her way.
Along the road she met a pitiful little dog. “God grant you good fortune, little dog!” she said in greeting.
“And you, young lady! Where are you off to?”
“I’m going out to look for work,” she said.
“Would you please help me get rid of these fleas that are eating me alive?” asked the little dog. “A lot of people pass by me, but no one takes pity on me. I’ll be forever grateful.” The girl was happy to clean the fleas out of the little dog’s fur, and then she continued on her way.
Next she came to an old pear tree. “God grant you good fortune, pear tree!” she said in greeting.
“And you, young lady! Where are you off to?”
“I’m off to look for work.”
“Oh, my dear girl, before you go, please shake the pears out of my branches! I don’t have the strength to carry all of them anymore, and no one picks them.” The girl shook the tree’s branches and the fruit fell to the ground. The pear tree breathed a sigh of relief after its burden had been made so much lighter.
The girl traveled farther and eventually met a bull grazing in a green pasture.
“God grant you good fortune!’ she called to the bull.
“God grant the same to you, young lady! And where are you off to?”
“Looking for work, looking for work,” she replied.
“Before you go, would you let me out of this pasture? I’ve been grazing here forever, and no one ever comes along to let me out. I’ll help you someday if I can,” said the bull. She let the bull out of the pasture and continued on her way.
She soon stopped by an oven where a fire burned continuously. “God grant you good fortune!” she said to the oven.
“God grant you the same!” replied the oven. “Where are you going?”
“I’m going out to look for work”
“Would you be kind enough to rake out my ashes before you go? People have been walking by me for years, but no one rakes out my ashes. I’ll help you someday if I can!” So the girl took the rake that stood near the oven, cleaned out the ashes, and continued on her journey.
She wandered through a dense forest where she couldn’t find the path. Finally, she came to a small cottage and entered. Inside she found an old woman who looked very much like a witch. “God grant you good fortune, Granny!”
“God grant you the same,” the old woman answered. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m wondering if you would give me a job?”
“Well, since you offer yourself, I will give you a job. The only thing you will have to do is sweep out eleven rooms every day. But you must not look into the twelfth room, if you do, something terrible will happen to you!”
“Just as you say!” the girl agreed. And she started sweeping at once. She swept out all eleven rooms, but passed by the twelfth just as the old woman had ordered.
After some time she couldn’t help wondering what could be in the twelfth room, since the old woman had forbidden her even to peek inside.
One day she got lucky. The witch left to visit her sister. No sooner was she out the door than the girl put down her broom and crept to the door of the forbidden room. To her surprise it wasn’t locked. First, she opened it just a crack, wide enough to peek inside with one eye; in the middle of the room stood three barrels.
“What could be in those barrels?” she wondered. And she pushed the door open a bit farther and slipped inside. The first barrel was full of copper coins, the second was overflowing with silver, and the third was filled to the brim with pure gold. She didn’t hesitate at all but jumped into the barrel of gold and bathed herself in it until her clothes were as radiant as the sun.
She jumped out of the barrel quickly because she feared that the witch would return at any moment. “This is payment for my work!" she said to herself as she admired her reflection in a mirror. Then she ran out of the cottage and rushed away so quickly that she left behind only a cloud of dust.
The witch understood immediately what had happened. The rooms were not swept, the door to the twelfth room was wide open, and gold was sprinkled everywhere on the floor. She seized an iron comb, sat on her broom, and took off after the girl.
She almost caught up with her by the oven, but the oven allowed the girl to pass and then hurled fire at the witch. Her broom was completely burned up, and she barely escaped being burned herself.
The gold covered girl ran and ran, but the witch would not give up the chase. In the pasture where the bull was grazing she nearly caught up with her again. “Just you wait!” she threatened. “I’ll use this iron comb to scrape all of my gold off of you!” The bull allowed the girl to pass, but when the witch arrived, he lowered his horns and charge at her. He chased her before him, and she barely escaped alive.
In the meantime the girl had reached the pear tree. There the witch again threatened to catch up. But the pear tree toppled over on her and smashed her into the ground. By the time the witch had scrambled out from under the tree the girl had run quite far, but not far enough.
“Little dog, help me!’ she called to the shaggy friend whose coat she had cleaned of fleas. The dog bared its fangs and attacked the witch. He jumped on her, bit her, and chased her through the forest.
Finally, the girl reached the little plank bridge and crossed to the other side of the stream. When the witch arrived, she too wanted to cross, but the bridge flipped itself over under her feet, and she splashed into the deepest part of the stream, where she nearly drowned. “You’re luck, you ragamuffin!” the angry witch screamed after the girl. But she could go no farther than the stream, and her threats were useless.
The girl ran to her home, her golden clothes shimmering and her golden hair shining. The rooster who sat on her father’s garden gate crowed happily:
Come and see what’s new!
Our little princess has come home,
Dipped in gold and shining bright.
The girl was afraid of her stepmother and went off to sit by the well where she used to go and cry. But the widow’s daughter saw her there and ran off at once to tell her mother. “Mama your stepdaughter has come home, and she’s covered in gold from head to toe!”
The stepmother went to see for herself if her daughter was telling the truth. She began interrogating her stepdaughter at once. She wanted to know where she had been paid so well for her work.
“Well, you’re not going to sit at home and wait for gold to fall in you lap!’ she said to her own daughter. “You’re going to work too.”
“I will! Why not?” replied her daughter. “But she has to tell me where I’m supposed to go!”
The girl explained everything to her stepsister. Then the stepmother packed up some cakes for her daughter and dressed her in new clothes for her journey-not as she had done for her stepdaughter, whom she sent off with little more than curses. So the widow’s daughter proudly began her journey to this golden place of work.
When she reached the little plank bridge, she did not bow politely. When the bridge asked her to turn it over, she simply snapped, “why should I concern myself with you!’ She also ignored the little dog when he asked her to clean his fur of fleas. And she refused to shake the pear tree that was left to sigh under the weight of ripe fruit. She never even went near the bull. And when the oven asked her to rake out the ashes because it was choking in the smoke, she shrugged her shoulders and walked on.
Finally, she arrived at the cottage where the witch lived. “God grant you good fortune, Granny!’ she said in greeting, because she remembered her stepsister’s advice.
“What are you doing here?” asked the old woman. “I have come to offer you my services!”
“Well, I’ll hire you, if you agree to sweep out eleven rooms but you must not look into the twelfth room. If you do, it will cost you your skin!”
The girl agreed, she swept out the rooms but could scarcely wait for the moment when the witch would go off somewhere to visit someone.
And one day she did just that. The widow’s daughter threw down her broom and ran to the forbidden room. There she jumped into the gold-filled barrel. She bathed in the gold and made sure her clothes and her hair were thoroughly coated. When she was completely covered in gold, she ran out of the cottage and rushed off for home.
The witch again found gold sprinkled on the floor of the twelfth room. She was furious.
She seized the iron comb and put on a pair of iron boots that allowed her to go a mile for every step she took.
Meanwhile, the girl came to the oven, but the oven hurled fire at her and melted half the gold off of her. The bull then blocked her path and poked her with his horns. At that moment the witch caught up with her and used the iron comb to scrape gold from her clothes. The girl barely managed to wriggle out of the witch’s claws. She ran to the pear tree, but the tree also refused to help her and squeezed her tightly in its branches instead. The witch again caught up with her and scraped even more gold from her clothes, which by now were little more than tatters. The girl ran off to the little dog, but instead of helping, he began to bite her. He held onto her leg until the witch arrived. With her iron comb she raked the last of the gold out of the girl’s hair.
With the last of her strength the widow’s daughter managed to slip out of the witch’s hands. She ran to the little plank bridge, but it turned itself over under her feet and dumped her into the stream. “That’s for your unkindness!” it said.
The poor thing eventually climbed out of the water, bruised, scraped, and tattered. She looked like a plucked chicken.
When step-by-step she approached home, the rooster on the garden gate found her very funny and crowed:
Come and see what’s new!
Our little princess has come home,
Scratched and torn and quite a sight!
She was afraid to show herself to her mother, so she went to the well and started bawling, “How can I let anyone see me now?”
Her mother heard her crying and ran to her. “My dear daughter, why don’t you come home? Come on now! Show me your payment!”
But all she saw as a raggedy scarecrow she barely recognized, her hair half torn out, her skin all scratched and bruised, her clothes ripped to shreds.
Before long a wealthy suitor came courting. The widow hid her daughter under a washtub, so she wouldn’t be embarrassed by her ugliness. The suitor asked the widower for his golden daughter’s hand in marriage. And soon after he drove them both in a golden coach to his castle, where he ordered a splendid wedding.
The wicked stepmother was left to live in poverty and unhappiness with her ugly daughter who never did get married.
This story was taken from Slovak Tales for Young and Old by Pavol Dobsinsky in English and Slovak, translated by Lucy Bednar. Published by Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, Inc. Wauconda, Illinois, in 2001.