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Prince Bayaya

from Czechoslovak Fairy Tales





THE STORY OF A MAGIC HORSE

While the king of a distant country was off at the wars, his wife, the
queen, gave birth to twin sons. There was great rejoicing throughout
the court and immediately messengers were despatched to the king to
carry him news of the happy event.

Both boys were well and vigorous and shot up like little trees. The
one who was about a moment the older was the hardier of the two. Even
as a toddling child he was forever playing in the courtyard and
struggling to climb on the back of a horse that had been given him
because it was just his own age.

His brother, on the other hand, liked better to play indoors on the
soft carpets. He was always tagging after his mother and never went
outdoors except when he followed the queen into the garden. For this
reason the younger prince became the mother's favorite.

The boys were seven years old before the king returned from the wars.
He looked at his sons with pride and joy and he said to the queen:

"But which is the older and which is the younger?"

The queen, thinking that the king was asking in order to know which
was the heir to the throne, slipped in her favorite as the older. The
king, of course, did not question his wife's word and so, thereafter,
he always spoke of the younger one as his heir.

When the boys had grown into handsome youths, the older one wearied of
life at home and of hearing his brother always spoken of as the future
king. He longed to go out into the world and seek adventures of his
own. One day as he was pouring out his heart to the little horse that
had been his companion from infancy, much to his amazement the horse
spoke to him with a human voice and said:

"Since you are not happy at home, go out into the world. But do not go
without your father's permission. I advise you to take no one with you
and to mount no horse but me. This will bring you good luck."

The prince asked the horse how it happened that he could talk like a
human being.

"Don't ask me about that," the horse said, "for I can't tell you. But
I wish to be your friend and counselor and I will be as long as you
obey me."



The prince promised to do as the horse advised. He went at once to his
father to beg his leave to ride out into the world. At first his
father was unwilling to let him go but his mother gave her permission
at once. By dint of coaxing he finally won his father's consent. Of
course the king wanted the prince to set forth in a manner befitting
his rank with a great company of men and horses. But the prince
insisted that he wished to go unattended.

"Why, my dear father, do I need any such retinue as you suggest? Let
me have some money for the journey and let me ride off alone on my own
little horse. This will give me more freedom and less trouble."

Again he had to argue with his father for some time, but at last he
succeeded in arranging everything to his liking.

The day of parting came. The little horse stood saddled at the castle
gate. The prince bade farewell to his parents and his brother. They
all wept on his neck and at the last moment the queen's heart misgave
her for the deceit she had practised and she made the prince solemnly
promise that he would return home within a year or at least send them
word of his whereabouts.

So the prince mounted his little horse and off they trotted. The horse
went at a surprising pace for an animal that was seventeen years old,
but of course you have guessed before this that he was no ordinary
horse. The years had not touched him at all. His coat was as smooth as
satin and his legs were straight and sound. No matter how far he
traveled he was always as fresh as a fawn.

He carried the prince a great distance until they came in sight of the
towers of a beautiful city. Then the horse left the beaten track and
crossed a field to a big rock.

When they reached the rock, the horse kicked it with his hoof three
times and the rock opened. They rode inside and the prince found
himself in a comfortable stable.

"Now you will leave me here," the horse said, "and go on alone to the
nearby town. You must pretend you are dumb and be careful never to
betray yourself. Present yourself at court and have the king take you
into his service. When you need anything, no matter what it is, come
to the rock, knock three times, and the rock will open to you."

The prince thought to himself: "My horse certainly knows what he's
about, so of course I'll do exactly as he says."

He disguised himself by bandaging one eye and making his face look
pale and sallow. Then he presented himself at court and the king,
pitying his youth and his affliction of dumbness, took him into his
service.

The prince was capable and quick at affairs and it wasn't long before
the king gave over to him the management of the household. His advice
was asked in matters of importance and all day long he hurried about
the castle going from one thing to another. If the king needed a
scribe, there wasn't a cleverer one anywhere than the prince.
Everybody liked him and everybody was soon calling him Bayaya, because
those were the only sounds he made.

The king had three daughters, each more beautiful than the other. The
oldest was called Zdobena, the second Budinka, and the youngest
Slavena.

The prince loved to be with the three girls and as he was supposed to
be dumb and in his disguise was very ugly, the king made no objection
to his spending his days with them. How could the king possibly think
that there was any danger of Bayaya's stealing the heart of one of the
princesses? They liked him, all three of them, and were always taking
him with them wherever they went. He wove garlands for them, spun
golden thread, picked them flowers, and drew them designs of birds
and flowers for their embroidery. He liked them all, but he liked the
youngest one best. Everything he did for her was done a little better
than for the others. The garlands he wove her were richer, the designs
he drew for her were more beautiful. The two older sisters noticed
this and laughed, and when they were alone they teased Slavena.
Slavena, who had a sweet and amiable disposition, accepted their
joking without retort.

Bayaya had been at the court some time when one morning he found the
king sitting sad and gloomy over his breakfast. So by signs he asked
him what was the matter.

The king looked at him and sighed. "Is it possible, my dear boy," he
said, "that you don't know what's the matter? Don't you know the
calamity that threatens us? Don't you know the bitter three days that
are at hand for me?"

Bayaya, alarmed by the seriousness of the king's manner, shook his
head.

"Then I'll tell you," said the king, "although you can be of no help.
Years ago three dragons came flying through the air and alighted on a
great rock near here. The first was nine-headed, the second
eighteen-headed, and the third twenty-seven-headed. At once they laid
waste the country, devouring the cattle and killing the people. Soon
the city was in a state of siege. To keep them away we placed all the
food we had outside the gates and in a short time we ourselves were
starving. In desperation I had an old wise woman called to court and
asked her was there any way to drive these monsters from the land.
Alas for me, there was a way and that way was to promise the awful
creatures my three beautiful daughters when they reached womanhood. At
that time my daughters were only small children and I thought to
myself many things might happen in the years before they grew up. So,
to relieve my stricken land, I promised the dragons my daughters. The
poor queen died at once of grief, but my daughters grew up knowing
nothing of their fate. As soon as I made the monstrous bargain, the
dragons flew away and until yesterday were never again heard of. Last
night, a shepherd, beside himself with terror, brought me the news
that the dragons are again settled in their old rock and are sending
out fearful roars. Tomorrow I must sacrifice to them my oldest child,
the day after tomorrow my second child, and the day after that my
youngest. Then I shall be left a poor lonely old man with nothing."

The king strode up and down and tore his hair in grief.

In great distress Bayaya went to the princesses. He found them dressed
in black and looking ghastly pale. They were sitting in a row and
bewailing their fate most piteously. Bayaya tried to comfort them,
telling them by signs that surely some one would appear to rescue
them. But they paid no heed to him and kept on moaning and weeping.

Grief and confusion spread throughout the city, for every one loved
the royal family. Every house as well as the palace was soon draped in
black and the sound of mourning was heard on every side.

Bayaya hurried secretly out of the city and across the field to the
rock where his magic horse was stabled. He knocked three times, the
rock opened, and he entered.

He stroked the horse's shining mane and kissed his muzzle in greeting.

"My dear horse," he said, "I have come to you for advice. Help me and
I shall be happy forever."

So he told the horse the story of the dragons.

"Oh, I know all about those dragons," the horse answered. "In fact, it
was that you might rescue the princesses that I brought you here in
the first place. Early tomorrow morning come back and I will tell you
what to do."

Bayaya returned to the castle with such joy shining in his face that
if any one had noticed him he would have been severely rebuked. He
spent the day with the princesses trying to comfort and console them,
but in spite of all he could do they felt only more terrified as the
hours went by.

The next day at the first streak of dawn he was at the rock.

The horse greeted him and said: "Lift up the stone under my trough and
take out what you find there."

Bayaya obeyed. He lifted the stone and under the stone he found a
large chest. Inside the chest he found three beautiful suits of
clothing, with caps and plumes to match, a sword, and a horse's
bridle. The first suit was red embroidered in silver and studded with
diamonds, the second was pure white embroidered in gold, and the third
was light blue richly embroidered with silver and studded with
diamonds and pearls.

For all three suits there was but one mighty sword. Its blade was
beautifully inlaid and its scabbard shone with precious stones. The
horse's bridle was also richly jeweled.

"All three suits are for you," the horse said. "For the first day,
put on the red one."

So Bayaya dressed himself in the red suit, buckled on his sword, and
threw the bridle over the horse's head.

"Have no fear," the horse said as they left the rock. "Cut bravely
into the monster, trusting to your sword. And remember, do not
dismount."

At the castle heartbroken farewells were being taken. Zdobena parted
from her father and her sisters, stepped into a carriage, and
accompanied by a great multitude of her weeping subjects was slowly
driven out of town to the Dragon Rock. As they neared the fatal spot
the princess alighted. She took a few steps forward, then sank to the
earth in a faint.

At that moment the people saw galloping toward them a knight with a
red and white plume. In a voice of authority he ordered them to stand
back and leave him to deal alone with the dragon. They were glad
enough to lead the princess away and they all went to a hill near by
from which they could watch the combat at a safe distance.

Now there was a deep rumbling noise, the earth shook, and the Dragon
Rock opened. A nine-headed monster crawled out. He spat fire and
poison from all his nine mouths and cast about his nine heads, this
way and that, looking for his promised prey. When he saw the knight he
let out a horrible roar.

Bayaya rode straight at him and with one blow of his sword cut off
three of his heads. The dragon writhed and enveloped Bayaya in flames
and poisonous fumes. But the prince, undaunted, struck at him again
and again until he had cut off all nine heads. The life that still
remained in the loathsome body, the horse finished with his hoofs.

When the dragon had perished the prince turned and galloped back the
way he had come.

Zdobena looked after him, wishing she might follow him to thank him
for her deliverance. But she remembered her poor father sunk in grief
at the castle and she felt it was her duty to hurry back to him as
quickly as she could.

It would be impossible to describe in words the king's joy when
Zdobena appeared before him safe and uninjured. Her sisters embraced
her and wondered for the first time whether a deliverer would rise up
for them as well.

Bayaya capered happily about and assured them by signs that he was
certain they, too, would be saved. Although the prospect of the morrow
still terrified them, yet hope had come to them and once or twice
Bayaya succeeded in making them laugh.

The next day Budinka was led out. As on the day before, the unknown
knight appeared, this time wearing a white plume. He attacked the
eighteen-headed dragon and, after valiant conflict, despatched him.
Then before any one could reach him, he turned and rode away.

The princess returned to the castle, grieving that she had not been
able to speak to the knight and express her gratitude.

"You, my sisters," Slavena said, "were backward not to speak to him
before he rode off. Tomorrow if he delivers me I shall kneel before
him and not get up until he consents to return with me to the castle."

Just then Bayaya began laughing and chuckling and Slavena asked him
sharply what was the matter. He capered about and made her understand
that he, too, wanted to see the knight.

On the third day Slavena was taken out to the Dragon Rock. This time
the king also went. The heart of the poor girl quaked with terror when
she thought that if the unknown knight failed to appear she would be
handed over to the horrible monster.

A joyous shout from the people told her that the knight was coming.
Then she saw him, a gallant figure in blue with a blue and white plume
floating in the wind. As he had killed the first dragon, and the
second dragon, so he killed the third although the struggle was longer
and the little horse had much to do to stand up against the poisonous
fumes.

Instantly the dragon was slain, Slavena and the king rushed up to the
knight and begged him to return with them to the castle. He scarcely
knew how to refuse, especially when Slavena, kneeling before him,
grasped the edge of his tunic and looked up at him so bewitchingly
that his heart melted and he was ready to do anything she asked.

But the little horse took matters into his own hands, reared up
suddenly, and galloped off before the knight had time to dismount.

So Slavena, too, was unable to bring the knight back to the castle.
The king and all the court were greatly disappointed but their
disappointment was swallowed up in their joy that the princesses had
been so miraculously saved.

Shortly after this another disaster threatened the king. A neighboring
king of great power declared war against him. The king sent far and
wide and summoned together all the nobles of the land. They came, and
the king when he had laid before them his cause promised them the
hands of his three beautiful daughters in return for their support.
This was indeed an inducement and every young noble present swore his
allegiance and hurried home to gather his forces.

Troops poured in from all sides and soon the king was ready to set
forth.

He handed over the affairs of the castle to Bayaya and also intrusted
to him the safety of the three princesses. Bayaya did his duty
faithfully, looking after the castle and planning diversions for the
princesses to keep them happy and cheerful.

Then one day he complained of feeling sick, but instead of consulting
the court physician, he said he would go himself to the fields and
hunt some herbs. The princesses laughed at his whim but let him go.

He hurried to the rock where his horse was stabled, knocked three
times, and entered.

"You have come in good time," the horse said. "The king's forces are
weakening and tomorrow will decide the battle. Put on the white suit,
take your sword, and let us be off."

Bayaya kissed his brave little horse and put on his white suit.

That night the king was awake planning the morrow's battle and
sending swift messengers to his daughters instructing them what to do
in case the day went against him.

The next morning as the battle joined an unknown knight suddenly
appeared among the king's forces. He was all in white. He rode a
little horse and he wielded a mighty sword.

He struck right and left among the enemy and he caused such havoc that
the king's forces were instantly heartened. Gathering around the white
knight they fought so valiantly that soon the enemy broke and
scattered and the king won a mighty victory.

The knight himself was slightly wounded on the foot. When the king saw
this he jumped down from his horse, tore off a piece of his own cape,
and bound up the wound. He begged the knight to dismount and come with
him to a tent. But the knight, thanking him, refused, spurred his
horse, and was gone.

The king nearly wept with disappointment that the unknown knight to
whom he was under one more obligation had again ridden off without so
much as leaving his name.

With great rejoicing the king's forces marched home carrying vast
stores of booty.

"Well, steward," said the king to Bayaya, "how have the affairs of
the household gone in my absence?"

Bayaya nodded that everything had gone well, but the princesses
laughed at him and Slavena said:

"I must enter complaint against your steward, for he was disobedient.
He said he was sick but he would not consult the court physician. He
said he wanted to go himself and get some herbs. He went and he was
gone two whole days and when he came back he was sicker than before."

The king looked at Bayaya to see if he was still sick. Bayaya shook
his head and capered about to show the king that he was all right.

When the princesses heard that the unknown knight had again appeared
and saved the day they were unwilling to become at once the brides of
any of the nobles, for they thought the knight might perhaps come
demanding one of them.

Again the king was in a quandary. All the various nobles had helped
him valiantly and the question now arose to what three of them would
the princesses be awarded. After much thought the king hit upon a plan
which he hoped would decide the matter to the satisfaction of them
all. He called a meeting of the nobles and said:

"My dear comrades in arms, you remember that I promised the hands of
my daughters to those of you who would support me in battle. All of
you gave me valiant support. Each of you deserves the hand of one of
my daughters. But, alas, I have only three daughters. To decide
therefore which three of you my daughters shall marry I make this
suggestion: let all of you stand in the garden in a row and let each
of my daughters throw down a golden apple from a balcony. Then each
princess must wed the man to whom her apple rolls. My lords, do you
all agree to this?"

The nobles all agreed and the king sent for his daughters. The
princesses, still thinking of the unknown knight, were not
enthusiastic over this arrangement, but not to shame their father
they, too, agreed.

So each of the girls, dressed in her loveliest, took a golden apple in
her hand and went up to a balcony.

Below in the garden the nobles stood in a row. Bayaya, as though he
were a spectator, took his place at the end of the line.

First Zdobena threw down her apple. It rolled straight to the feet of
Bayaya but he turned quickly aside and it rolled on to a handsome
youth who snatched it up with joy and stepped from the line.

Then Budinka threw her apple. It, too, rolled to Bayaya but he
cleverly kicked it on so that it seemed to roll straight to the feet
of a valiant lord who picked it up and then looked with happy eyes at
his lovely bride.

Last Slavena threw her apple. This time Bayaya did not step aside but
when the apple rolled to him he stooped and picked it up. Then he ran
to the balcony, knelt before the princess, and kissed her hand.

Slavena snatched away her hand and ran to her chamber, where she wept
bitterly to think she would have to marry Bayaya instead of the
unknown knight.

The king was much disappointed and the nobles murmured. But what was
done was done, and could not be undone.

That night there was a great feast but Slavena remained in her chamber
refusing to appear among the guests.

It was moonlight and from the rock in the field the little horse
carried his master for the last time. When they reached the castle
Bayaya dismounted. Then he kissed his faithful friend farewell, and
the little horse vanished.

Slavena still sat in her chamber, sad and unhappy. When a maidservant
opened the door and said that Bayaya wished to speak to her, the
princess hid her face in the pillows.

Presently some one took her by the hand and when she raised her head
she saw standing before her the beautiful knight of her dreams.

"Are you angry with your bridegroom that you hide from him?" he asked.

"Why do you ask me that?" Slavena whispered. "You are not my
bridegroom. Bayaya is my bridegroom."

"I am Bayaya. I am the dumb youth who wove you garlands. I am the
knight who saved you and your sisters from death and who helped your
father in battle. See, here is the piece of your father's cape with
which he bound up my wounded foot."

That this was so was joy indeed to Slavena. She led the white knight
into the banquet hall and presented him to the king as her bridegroom.
When all had been explained, the king rejoiced, the guests marveled,
and Zdobena and Budinka looked sideways at each other with little
gasps of envy.

After the wedding Bayaya rode away with Slavena to visit his parents.
When he reached his native town the first news he got was of the death
of his brother. He hurried to the castle to comfort his parents. They
were overjoyed at his return, for they had long ago given him up for
dead.

After a time Bayaya succeeded to the kingdom. He lived long and
prospered and he enjoyed unclouded happiness with his wife.





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