The Maiden Wiser Than The Tsar
: Hero Tales And Legends Of The Serbians
Long ago there lived an old man, who dwelt in a poor cottage. He
possessed one thing only in the world, and that was a daughter who
was so wise that she could teach even her old father.
One day the man went to the tsar to beg, and the tsar, astonished at
his cultivated speech, asked him whence he came and who had taught
him to converse so well. He told the tsar where he lived, and that
it was his daughter
who had taught him to speak with eloquence.
"And where was your daughter taught?" asked the tsar.
"God and our poverty have made her wise," answered the poor man.
Thereupon the tsar gave him thirty eggs and said: "Take these to your
daughter, and command her in my name to bring forth chickens from
them. If she does this successfully I will give her rich presents,
but if she fails you shall be tortured."
The poor man, weeping, returned to his cottage and told all this to
his daughter. The maiden saw at once that the eggs which the tsar had
sent were boiled, and bade her father rest while she considered what
was to be done. Then while the old man was sleeping the girl filled
a pot with water and boiled some beans.
Next morning she woke her father and begged him to take a plough and
oxen and plough near the road where the tsar would pass. "When you see
him coming," said she, "take a handful of beans, and while you are
sowing them you must shout: 'Go on, my oxen, and may God grant that
the boiled beans may bear fruit!' Then," she went on, "when the tsar
asks you, 'How can you expect boiled beans to bear fruit?' answer him:
'just as from boiled eggs one can produce chicks!'"
The old man did as his daughter told him, and went forth to
plough. When he saw the tsar he took out a handful of beans, and
exclaimed: "Go on, my oxen! And may God grant that the boiled beans may
bear fruit!" Upon hearing these words the tsar stopped his carriage,
and said to the man: "My poor fellow, how can you expect boiled beans
to bear fruit?"
"Just as from boiled eggs one can produce chicks!" answered the
apparently simple old man.
The tsar laughed and passed on, but he had recognized the old man,
and guessed that his daughter had instructed him to say this. He
therefore sent officers to bring the peasant into his presence. When
the old man came, the tsar gave him a bunch of flax, saying: "Take
this, and make out of it all the sails necessary for a ship; if you
do not, you shall lose your life."
The poor man took the flax with great fear, and went home in tears
to tell his daughter of his new task. The wise maiden soothed him,
and said that if he would rest she would contrive some plan. Next
morning she gave her father a small piece of wood, and bade him take
it to the tsar with the demand that from it should be made all the
necessary tools for spinning and weaving, that he should thereby be
enabled to execute his Majesty's order. The old man obeyed, and when
the tsar heard the extraordinary request he was greatly astounded at
the astuteness of the girl, and, not to be outdone, he took a small
glass, saying: "Take this little glass to your daughter, and tell
her she must empty the sea with it, so that dry land shall be where
the ocean now is."
The old man went home heavily to tell this to his daughter. But the
girl again reassured him, and next morning she gave him a pound of
tow, saying: "Take this to the tsar and say, that when with this tow
he dams the sources of all rivers and streams I will dry up the sea."
The Tsar Sends for the Girl
The father went back to the tsar and told him what his daughter had
said, and the tsar, seeing that the girl was wiser than himself,
ordered that she should be brought before him. When she appeared the
tsar asked her: "Can you guess what it is that can be heard at the
greatest distance?" and the girl answered: "Your Majesty, there are two
things: the thunder and the lie can be heard at the greatest distance!"
The astonished tsar grasped his beard, and, turning to his attendants,
exclaimed: "Guess what my beard is worth?" Some said so much, others
again so much; but the maiden observed to the tsar that none of his
courtiers had guessed right. "His Majesty's beard is worth as much as
three summer rains," she said. The tsar, more astonished than ever,
said: "The maiden has guessed rightly!" Then he asked her to become
his wife, for "I love you," said he. The girl had become enamoured
of the tsar, and she bowed low before him and said: "Your glorious
Majesty! Let it be as you wish! But I pray that your Majesty may be
graciously pleased to write with your own hand on a piece of parchment
that should you or any of your courtiers ever be displeased with me,
and in consequence banish me from the palace, I shall be allowed to
take with me any one thing which I like best."
The tsar gladly consented, wrote out this declaration and affixed
Some years passed by happily but there came at last a day when the
tsar was offended with the tsarina and he said angrily: "You shall
be no longer my wife, I command you to leave my palace!"
The tsarina answered dutifully: "O most glorious tsar, I will obey;
permit me to pass but one night in the palace, and to-morrow I will
To this the tsar assented.
That evening, at supper, the tsarina mixed certain herbs in wine and
gave the cup to the tsar, saying: "Drink, O most glorious tsar! And
be of good cheer! I am to go away, but, believe me, I shall be happier
than when I first met you!"
The tsar, having drunk the potion fell asleep. Then the tsarina who
had a coach in readiness, placed the tsar in it and carried him off
to her father's cottage.
When his Majesty awoke next morning and saw that he was in a cottage,
he exclaimed: "Who brought me here?"
"I did," answered the tsarina.
The tsar protested, saying: "How have you dared do so? Did I not tell
you that you are no longer my wife?"
Instead of answering the tsarina produced the parchment containing
the tsar's promise and he could not find a word to say.
Then the tsarina said: "As you see, you promised that should I be
banished from your palace I should be at liberty to take with me that
which I liked best!"
Hearing this, the tsar's love for his spouse returned, he took her
in his arms, and they returned to the palace together.