Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Fairy Tale of the Lithuanian Hedgehog and the Gentleman’s Daughter
Here is another intriguing version of the fairy tale Hans My Hedgehog, this time from Lithuania. At first glance the differences between the Grimm's version and this story may seem slight. But I think they are significant. For further reference please also hit the link Reading Hans My Hedgehog.
(Click on picture to enlarge.)
Once a long, long time ago, there lived a farmer and his wife. They had six acres of land but no children. It was their habit to kneel devoutly every evening and place their heads in a wooden barrel. Their tears flowed liked rivers while they prayed fervently to Dear God to give them a son. But God did not hear their prayers. One evening as hot tears rolled down their faces into the wooden vessel, they asked God to at least give them a child like a little hedgehog. And what happened! The next morning a little hedgehog lay in the wooden barrel. He started talking just like a little boy and began running back and forth in the kitchen.
Now the husband had one small piglet, one grown pig and a rooster. The hedgehog said to his father: “Go into the forest and find the strongest oak standing in the most beautiful spot! The farmer did what he was told. He went into the forest, selected the strongest oak and when he came home he said to the hedgehog: “I have made my selection.”
“Good! Then give me the small piglet and the grown pig and take me into the forest!” The father guided him to the oak and left him there. The hedgehog now lived in the forest eleven years. In the first year the grown pig had seven young sows and one boar. But the pigs multiplied every year bearing ten sows and one boar. That was quite a number after eleven years! Once, the father visited his son in the forest. The hedgehog said to his father: “Father drive these thirteen pigs home! Slaughter one and sell the others. You will get a pretty penny.” In the meantime, the pigs had become as large as oxen from their rich feed in the forest. “With the money buy wheat and feed your rooster well!” The father did as he was told.
As the hedgehog was living with his herd of pigs in the forest, a gentlemen rode by. He had become lost and rode directly into the herd of pigs. The pigs jumped and squealed around him, tore the reins from the rider’s hands and blocked the man’s escape. As wild pigs do not understand mirth or humor, the man believed he was staring into death’s open jaws. But suddenly the hedgehog appeared and said to the man: “Promise me your daughter! If you do, you will escape with your life and find your way out of the forest!”
The man mulled it over. In the end he preferred to live. He promised his daughter to the hedgehog and placed himself in the creature’s service. The hedgehog chased away the pigs and the man rode home. When he arrived he told his household what had happened. He said “Dear daughter. I would not have been able to save my life if I hadn’t promised you to the hedgehog!” The daughter began to cry. The father replied: “Do not cry. The hedgehog will not be able to prick you here with his needles! We will dig a deep furrow round our castle, fill it with water, encircle it with a fence and then the hedgehog will not be able to break through.”
Another gentleman soon came riding into the woods. He also got lost in the forest and had to promise his daughter to the hedgehog. A third gentleman came riding and he, too, fell in among the swine and had to promise the hedgehog his daughter. The man rode home and told his household everything, just as it had happened. He said: “Dear daughter, I wouldn’t have been able to save myself from dying if I hadn’t promised you to the hedgehog!” And the daughter replied: “As soon as he rides by, I shall marry him!”
Soon the father of the hedgehog came to visit him in the forest and the hedgehog said: “Father, let us drive all the pigs home now!” And he drove the entire herd of wild pigs home, as if they were tame and the six acres of land became completely filled with pigs. Then the hedgehog said: “Father, sell the pigs. You will get a pretty penny for them and then build a new house! I will ride out to my maid!”
The farmer had fed his rooster with wheat for several years now and it had become as large as a horse. The hedgehog mounted the rooster and rode out to his maid. When he arrived he found the entire courtyard under water. The rooster flew through the air, above the water and arrived below the window of the maid. The bird flapped his wings and cried: “Ki-ki-ker-ri-ki!” The father and his daughter peered through the window and said: “The hedgehog is here!”
Now the hedgehog entered the house and said: “Where is your daughter?” I have come to lead her home!” When the daughter saw the hedgehog, she began to cry and wanted to bury herself in the ground. But the father said “Hedgehog, take whatever you desire from me. Only leave me my daughter!” And so, they negotiated for some time but in the end he gave the hedgehog a coach, a pair of horses and a wagon full of money. Furthermore, the father gave the hedgehog a servant to drive the wagon and now the hedgehog rode on his rooster to the second man. The same thing happened. The man also gave the hedgehog a lot of money. The hedgehog released the second maid from the promise. The man relinquished his money and the hedgehog rode off to the third gentleman.
He rode below the window, the rooster flapped its wings and cried. Now they could see that the hedgehog had arrived. The hedgehog entered the house. But the daughter was not afraid of him. She said: “Father, if you have promised me in marriage, I will marry the hedgehog.” The girl’s mother said to her daughter: “When you are married and go to bed, he will take off his hedgehog skin and place it on a chair. Then he will become a handsome youth.” But before you go to bed, tell your maid servant she must heat water. Then go out immediately, take the skin and place it in the boiling water! Then return and lie down next to him!
The mother immediately got into the carriage with the money and rode off. And the hedgehog rode on his rooster. The parents were happy that their hedgehog son had such a beautiful wife, horses, a carriage and a lot of money. It did not take long for the wedding celebration to be held. The hedgehog brought his maid home.
When they entered the bedchamber to go to sleep, he took off his skin and placed it on the chair. The daughter pretended she wanted to go to sleep. Took the skin and placed it in boiling water and boiled it. In the morning when he got up, he wanted to take the skin from the chair immediately. But it had vanished. What could the poor fellow do? He had to remain in human form. Now that he had become a man, how they celebrated the wedding feast! And I was also there and celebrated the happy event with all the others!