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Today's post is a folktale translation. I have talked about this story before when I discussed gender representation and storytelling. A visitor on my blog asked for a full translation for research purposes, and I am more than happy to help (being a research dork and all). And since I am a little overwhelmed right now, I decided to double it as a FT post.
DISCLAIMER: This translation is my own work, as close in wording to the original as possible. I don't tell the story in quite this version, because some parts just rub me the wrong way. But since this is a translation for folklore research, I left it untweaked. Be warned for adult/disturbing content.
DISCLAIMER II: Hungarian language uses gender-neutral pronouns only. In English, I used "she" for the princess until the actual sex change took place (unless someone was talking about her as a soldier).
Ortutay, Gy. - Kovács, Á. - Dégh, L. (1960) Magyar népmesék. Budapest: Szépirodalmi Könyvkiadó.
László Korpás, Tiszabercel. Story collected in 1935.
(The Hungarian Folktale Type catalog knows 5 versions of this story from Hungary)
A king didn't have sons, only daughters. A king from another country asked him for an army officer from his family, saying if he didn't provide one they would declare war against him. The old king couldn't go himself, since he was old. Out of his three daughters, the eldest volunteered for the soldier's uniform and the rank of lieutenant - she would cut her hair short, and ride on a beautiful horse, with spurs on her boots! She got dressed and mounted.
An iron-nosed witch was trying to get her sheep out of a ditch, but was't strong enough. The disguised lady noticed the witch. The witch greeted the princess, and asked her to help, saying:
"Please come and help me get the sheep out!"
"You can get them out yourself, I was not born to work!"
Said the iron-nosed witch:
"Go back, since you are a woman, no one will accept you where you are going."
The princess went on, thinking. The words of the witch scared her.
"She noticed I was a woman! The army even has doctors, they will have to see me too. Maybe they will even examine me since I am from another country."
She went back home. She said to her family:
"I am not brave, I won't go."
Her sister dressed up in her clothes. She also met the iron-nosed witch. The witch asked for help.
"I won't help!"
"If you don't help me, my son, you won't have luck on your way."
Her sister had told her why she returned. She also returned to her father's house. She, too, told her father that she had lost her courage. Their youngest sister was only twenty-one years old. She said:
"I will go! My heart is not made of willow wood. That soldier's uniform made for you fits me very well. I am braver and better than you are."
She set out. She found the iron-nosed witch. Half of her sheep were still in the ditch, in the water and mud. The witch said:
"Your highness, my lady, please, help me get these few sheep out! I have been struggling with them for more than a week."
The princess said:
"How can I go into that muddy water in this nice uniform?"
The witch said:
"Just take off your clothes, get naked. You are a woman just like I am. We don't have to be ashamed. If God helps us and we get the sheep out, the other ditch has clean water, we can wash ourselves, get dressed, and go to my house."
After they got dressed, they went to the small cottage of the iron-nosed witch. She said to the princess:
"Here is this stick, take it." she pointed to a broom shrub "Hit that bush with this stick. A large hare will jump out of it and run towards my house. Follow it."
The hare did run, and so did the princess, to the witch's house. The witch said:
"I will show you kindness, my son, for this, without hesitation. You shall know I am not a nobody."
The witch yelled at the hare. The hare fell to the ground, rolled, and turned into a beautiful, golden-haired horse.
"You shall ride this one, my son. Come into the room."
She opened the wardrobe and took out a finer and more beautiful soldier's uniform; she dressed the princess in it.
"The horse I am giving you is a táltos [magic horse], it can talk to you. When you get to the other country's king, you will report which kingdom you came from, tell him whose son you are. Do not tell them you are a girl."
She was greeted kindly by the officers of the army. They all thought that other countries had such handsome men. They announced her to the king. The colonel gave her as a lieutenant to a company. In a couple of weeks, they had to go to battle. The leader of the company became ill, so the lieutenant took his place. They got the order that the regiment had to leave the next day, and she was the leader of the first company of the first regiment. She went to the stables to her horse. She was sad, and the horse noticed her sadness.
"Why are you so sad?"
"Unless it is cancelled, we are going to battle tomorrow."
It did get cancelled, but the soldier had to appear in front of the king. The king came out onto the porch with his family. The foreign lieutenant was the leader standing up front. The king's daughter took a liking to her. The king was sad for his soldiers, and on account of his daughter's request he turned them back, because his daughter loved the lieutenant.
"Give me to him, mother, father, invite him and I'll wed him, if he'll have me, because that matters."
They invited the foreign lieutenant. She couldn't get out of the wedding, so the two girls were wed. On the night of the wedding, around midnight, her wife called her to the bedroom:
"Let's lie down, my love."
They embraced, but the lieutenant couldn't do anything, since she was a girl too. Her wife hated her for it. At dawn she told her mother and father:
"Get rid of him, father, tie him to the tail of a steed, I hate him more than I loved him before."
"Let's wait, my daughter, see what God has in store for us. He is going to war the day after tomorrow. I treasure him as a son-in-law, and maybe he'll die in the war. Just for you, I won't have him murdered on purpose."
They saddled her horse the next day. She went to the stables all sad. Asked the horse:
"What's wrong, my dear master?"
"No one can help me now. You are saddled because we are going to battle. We will be up front, we will be the first to die."
The horse told her to hold on, and make sure she didn't fall off.
"I won't fall of a horse" she said "I learned how to ride."
They started out. They were on a hill, and there they found a standing crucifix. The horse saw the enemy first. It whinnied angrily, and the lieutenant was startled. They launched into a gallop, the rider grabbed onto the crucifix, the crucifix broke out of its foundation, and she held on to it fast. They were close to the enemy now. The enemy saw the gorgeous horse the first lieutenant was riding, and the face of the Lord Jesus on the crucifix. They pointed at it and rejoiced, saying the Lord had come in His grace. They put their weapons down, and the war was over. They made a truce.
The lieutenant returned to the king's house. Her wife saw her coming. She told her father:
"There he comes, the one we hoped would die."
The king said:
"I won't have him killed, he is the one that got us the truce and ended the war. I'll give him another order instead."
She was ordered to see the king.
"You are a decent man, my son, to bring peace with such a formidable foe. I have an order for you. You shall go to the Sun, and ask it why it rises so happy, and sets so sad."
She got to the Sun when it was rising. The Sun said:
"I rest at night, and I forget all I saw the day before. When I wake, I have no anger, I wake cheerfully. But once I make it into the sky, I hear the blasphemies and the swearing, and I set sad because of it."
The lieutenant returned home with the answer. When she rode through the gates, her wife saw her.
"He is home again, father, do something about it! I can't get married again like this."
Said the king:
"I'll talk to him. What did the Sun say, my son?"
"The Sun said it rises so happy because at night it sees no disturbance, but when it is up in the sky it hears all the blasphemy. That's why it sets so sad."
The king understood that it was the truth and it was so.
"I will not get rid of him! Son, listen to me. The King of Russia owes me a heavy shipload of treasure. I have sent 99 officers to ask for the debt. He killed them all, did not let a single one go home."
"I will go if I must. I will listen to my father-in-law. I know he sends me to get rid of me. Ninety-nine officers have died, I'll make one hundred."
She went into the stables, very sad. The horse asked why she was so sad.
"I got an order from my father-in-law. He will keep sending us on errands until he is rid of me. We have to go to Russia. We have to get a shipload of treasure that is owed to the king. We are truly lost now."
The horse told her not to worry.
"God will help us, we shall bring home the treasure."
They set out, only the two of them on a galley, on the water. On the third night they anchored by a forest. The horse told its master:
"Go into this forest, my dear master, don't be afraid. You will meet a man. Hire this man to work for us. You will find a second one, hire that too. And the third one. This galley is too large, we can't manage it on our own."
She got all three servants hired. One of them was a woman, and she said:
"Let's all go up into the forest."
They found a beautiful house, the home of a hermit. The hermit wasn't home. They broke into the house, burned his food and furniture, tore up his books. They left him with nothing. They returned tot he ship and sailed on. The hermit, when he got home, cried.
"I don't have anything! What shall I do?"
Crying, he summoned all his knowledge. He cursed the ones that did this to him - and God listened to his words.
"If the culprits were women, make them into men, but if they were men, make them into women!"
The lieutenant was traveling with his friends. She suddenly noticed the horse was peeing. It used to pee like a mare before, and now it was peeing under his belly like a stallion. There was one woman among the servants before, and two men, one greedy, and the other very fast. They whispered among themselves.
"We used to be men, and now we are women."
The lieutenant stepped aside to pee, and he didn't have to crouch down either. He had a wand [literally: "beckoning stick"]. He was happy. He thought of his beautiful wife.
"If I get home alive, she will love me. I think this is what she was missing before."
The wise man [formerly the woman] said:
"We are almost there. My lord, they will greet us very nicely there. They will offer us seats at their table, give us all kinds of delicious food. But we should not eat, nor drink, until they load the money into the ship."
So they did.
"We won't eat, we won't drink, we are here to collect a debt. We'll take it without interest."
There was treasure uncounted, twelve cartloads of it, gold and silver.
"I want to see all these delivered! Do it right away. I brought just the ship that can carry this much treasure."
There was no excuse, they loaded up the treasure. The wise man told the lieutenant:
"They won't let us go without a feast. I know everything, I'll sit across the table from you. The old king will offer you all the wine, want to toast. Do not drink any wine until I nod to you."
The wise man waited until all the king's men were out of the hall, then nodded to the lieutenant. Then they clinked glasses with the king, and toasted.
"Bottoms up, brother!"
The king drank his cup, fell over, and died. The runner picked up the lieutenant, ran like the wind to the ship with him. They raised the anchor and set out with great speed. The river branched into three paths, and the wise man said:
"We should got his way. They are chasing us with soldiers and planes because the king is dead. If we don't hide, our life is over!"
The branch of the river flowed under great big trees. They anchored under the canopies, and as the planes passed by above, they couldn't see them.
"We checked all three branches of the river, and found no sign of them. They must have sunk with the heavy ship. We would have found them otherwise."
They reached the place where the helpers had been hired.
"Go in peace. We are home now. You just follow the current, the ship works fine, you will be home in twenty-four hours."
They made it home. They anchored. He went up to the palace to give a report to his father-in-law.
"Thank God, we are home. Please give the order, father, to send guards to the ship; there are no guards there now, someone might steal the treasures."
His wife heard his voice and ran into the room. Said the lieutenant:
"Father, your daughter is my wife, I wish to go take a walk with her."
"It is your right, son. She was happy to marry you. It is between you two, I will not take sides. I trust that you will not harm her."
He embraced his wife, but she kicked and struggled, didn't want to go. Said the king:
"Take her away, my son!"
He took her down to the gardens. Like in all royal gardens, were were benches everywhere to sit. He managed to sit his wife down onto a grass-covered mound.
"My soul, I love you" the lieutenant said to his wife.
"Don't push me!"
She got quiet. After a little rest, they played [had sex] five times. The wife was so happy, she even took her husband's tongue into her mouth. They rested, and then came back inside. The wife was practically floating above the ground as she clung to her husband.
"My love, why did you not do that sooner? I love you so much, I'll even make the bed for the both of us. You'll see how happy my mother and father will be. We'll have a great celebration! They'll invite all their friends."
Said the great prince [the former lieutenant]:
"It is a great thing indeed! For such hate to turn into such love."
Said the king:
"I hope the love will last till death."
Everyone wished them great luck and good health.
I have been there, but I could not get close enough to them. Otherwise I would have more to tell. They still live happily, if they have not died yet.