A Fairy Tale from Latvia: The Old Hag is Coming:
Five Days of Fairy Tales: Day 2
Once a harp player met the devil on one of his sojourns. The devil asked him: “Where are you going?” –
“I myself do not know,” was the reply. “They chased me away because my fingers became stiff!”
And so they walked together. They walked and walked until they met a bear. The bear asked: “Where are you two going?”
“We don’t know ourselves,” was the reply. We were chased away!”
“Dear brothers! Let us walk a while together. We all have the same fate. The other bears have also chased me away!”
They walked and walked and then they decided to build a house. So good, they built a house and drank a beer and then an entire barrel of beer. Suddenly they noticed that the beer in the barrel was receding. Now what? They decided to guard the barrel. The bear took over the first watch and crouched next to the barrel. Yes, it was only a matter of minutes before he saw an old woman approaching with a broad hatchet in her hand.
Now the bear broke off a tree and flung it at the old woman. But unfortunately only branches hit her: the old woman shook herself a bit and then raised the hatchet and struck the bear in its back. She hit him so miserably that the poor animal could only return home with the greatest effort. The next evening the devil stood watch. Again the old woman took aim. The devil threw stones into the woman’s face rather haphazardly. But the old woman aimed her hatchet at the devil, and he, too, only escaped under enormous effort.
Now the harp player went out in the middle of the night to guard the barrel. He sat down next to the barrel and played his harp. The old woman came and slithered up close to the player and listened intently with both ears, but the harp player continued playing. Finally the old woman was so pleased with the music that the hatchet fell from her hand. The harp player quickly seized the hatchet, took aim at the old woman and quickly chopped into the woman’s back. Then he buried her under the threshold of a house and lay down to sleep. When he awoke in the morning, he saw the blood of the old woman running into the house, and a young maid sat before it. The maiden spoke: “Why are you approaching? Don’t you know that an enormous robber lives here? But if you can raise this ball and this sword, you will be able to overcome the robbers.”
The harp player pulled and pulled, but could not lift up the ball or sword. “Don’t worry!” the maid said. “Here in the corner is a potion to give you strength. Take a sip!” The harp player drank and now he could lift the ball like a marble and the sword in his hands wasn’t much heavier than a shingle wood chip. He immediately lifted up the ball and flung it against the house door: the door now collapsed. Then he took the sword, killed the robber and led the maid back to the devil and bear, who was looking out the window and called out: “Friend, the old woman is coming, the old woman is coming!” Both the devil and bear thought to themselves: “That terrible old woman, now she is coming to kill us both!” And they fled immediately. But the harp player lived alone in the house with his young bride.