Folktales, Legends, and Stories


How The Gypsy Outsmarted A Devil

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A devil came to an old woman to get something to eat because he was half dead from hunger. She offered him an egg. But after the devil had swallowed the egg, the old woman told him that it contained an embryo from which a baby boy would be born. The frightened devil ran to a gypsy who was herding pigs out in the meadow and asked him for help.

 “Gladly,” said the gypsy. “just lie down here and relax.”

The devil did as he was told. And the gypsy began banging on the devil’s stomach with a thick wooden spoon. The racket frightened a hidden rabbit that took off wildly across the meadow and into the forest.

The gypsy watched him and said, “See there goes your son. You don’t have to worry anymore that he’ll come back.”

“Good man!” said the devil. “You wouldn’t want to test your strength against mine, would you?”

“Why not?’ said the gypsy. “Let’s see which one of us can squeeze milk out of stones.”

The devil picked up a stone that was lying in the field and squeezed it so tightly in his fist that it crumbled to bits.

When the devil wasn’t looking, the gypsy had secretly put a piece of milk-soaked bread between two stones. “Look!” he shouted as he squeezed, and at once milk came trickling out from between his fingers.

The devil was so frightened by the gypsy’s strength that he ran off and didn’t stop until he came to his mother’s.

“Why are you so frightened, my son?”

“A gypsy proved himself stronger than me!” complained the devil.

“That’s not good,” said his mother. He could hurt you worse. Go back to him once more and challenge him to a competition. If he is truly stronger, give him a bag full of gold coins as a reward. If he loses, well, then you can kill him!”

The devil went back to the gypsy. “Let’s have a competition. If you win, I’ll give you a bag full of gold coins. If I prevail, you will lose your life!”

“That’s fine with me. If you really want to compete, then we’ll compete!” said the gypsy.

First, they decided to see who could carry the most plums. The devil began filling baskets. But the gypsy began uprooting whole trees.

“Why are you doing that?” wondered the devil.

“Why should I bother with each and every plum? said the gypsy. “I’ll take home the plums along with the trees!”

The devil began to worry that he would lose and said that they should see who could carry the most wood instead.

The devil started chopping away and the forest began disappearing under his axe.  The gypsy took a long rope and encircled the entire forest from oak to oak.

“What are you up to now?” asked the puzzled devil.

“I’m not going to put each and every tree on my shoulder. I’ll just circle the whole forest, pull up all the trees, and carry them home!” explained the gypsy.

The devil realized he would lose this time too. So he proposed that they should see who could collect the most water.

The devil carried barrels to the stream and started filling them. The gypsy got some board and began to build a dam across the stream.

“Why are you making a pond?” asked the devil.

I’ll just stop up all the water and collect it that way!” reasoned the gypsy.

The devil became alarmed when he saw what the gypsy was up to. He understood that the gypsy was stronger and that he could not compete with him.

“You win!” cried the devil “here’s your bag of gold coins! Now leave me alone!”

The gypsy slung the bag over his shoulder and set off for home, happy that he had outsmarted a devil.


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.