The Finest Liar In The World

: The Violet Fairy Book

At the edge of a wood there lived an old man who had only one

son, and one day he called the boy to him and said he wanted some

corn ground, but the youth must be sure never to enter any mill

where the miller was beardless.

The boy took the corn and set out, and before he had gone very

far he saw a large mill in front of him, with a beardless man

standing in the doorway.

'Good g
eeting, beardless one!' cried he.

'Good greeting, sonny,' replied the man.

'Could I grind something here?'

'Yes, certainly! I will finish what I am doing and then you can

grind as long as you like.'

But suddenly the boy remembered what his father had told him, and

bade farewell to the man, and went further down the river, till

he came to another mill, not knowing that as soon as his back was

turned the beardless man had picked up a bag of corn and run

hastily to the same mill before him. When the boy reached the

second mill, and saw a second beardless man sitting there, he did

not stop, and walked on till he came to a third mill. But this

time also the beardless man had been too clever for him, and had

arrived first by another road. When it happened a fourth time

the boy grew cross, and said to himself, 'It is no good going on;

there seems to be a beardless man in every mill'; and he took his

sack from his back, and made up his mind to grind his corn where

he was.

The beardless man finished grinding his own corn, and when he had

done he said to the boy, who was beginning to grind his,

'Suppose, sonny, we make a cake of what you have there.'

Now the boy had been rather uneasy when he recollected his

father's words, but he thought to himself, 'What is done cannot

be undone,' and answered, 'Very well, so let it be.'

Then the beardless one got up, threw the flour into the tub, and

made a hole in the middle, telling the boy to fetch some water

from the river in his two hands, to mix the cake. When the cake

was ready for baking they put it on the fire, and covered it with

hot ashes, till it was cooked through. Then they leaned it up

against the wall, for it was too big to go into a cupboard, and

the beardless one said to the boy:

'Look here, sonny: if we share this cake we shall neither of us

have enough. Let us see who can tell the biggest lie, and the

one who lies the best shall have the whole cake.'

The boy, not knowing what else to do, answered, 'All right; you


So the beardless one began to lie with all his might, and when he

was tired of inventing new lies the boy said to him, 'My good

fellow, if THAT is all you can do it is not much! Listen to me,

and I will tell you a true story.

'In my youth, when I was an old man, we had a quantity of

beehives. Every morning when I got up I counted them over, and

it was quite easy to number the bees, but I never could reckon

the hives properly. One day, as I was counting the bees, I

discovered that my best bee was missing, and without losing a

moment I saddled a cock and went out to look for him. I traced

him as far as the shore, and knew that he had crossed the sea,

and that I must follow. When I had reached the other side I

found a man had harnessed my bee to a plough, and with his help

was sowing millet seed.

' "That is my bee!" I shouted. "Where did you get him from?" '

"Brother," replied the man, "if he is yours, take him." And he

not only gave me back my bee, but a sack of millet seed into the

bargain, because he had made use of my bee. Then I put the bag

on my shoulders, took the saddle from the cock, and placed it on

the back of the bee, which I mounted, leading the cock by a

string, so that he should have a rest. As we were flying home

over the sea one of the strings that held the bag of millet broke

in two, and the sack dropped straight into the ocean. It was

quite lost, of course, and there was no use thinking about it,

and by the time we were safe back again night had come. I then

got down from my bee, and let him loose, that he might get his

supper, gave the cock some hay, and went to sleep myself. But

when I awoke with the sun what a scene met my eyes! During the

night wolves had come and had eaten my bee. And honey lay

ankle-deep in the valley and knee-deep on the hills. Then I

began to consider how I could best collect some, to take home

with me.

'Now it happened that I had with me a small hatchet, and this I

took to the wood, hoping to meet some animal which I could kill,

whose skin I might turn into a bag. As I entered the forest I

saw two roe-deer hopping on one foot, so I slew them with a

single blow, and made three bags from their skins, all of which I

filled with honey and placed on the back of the cock. At length

I reached home, where I was told that my father had just been

born, and that I must go at once to fetch some holy water to

sprinkle him with. As I went I turned over in my mind if there

was no way for me to get back my millet seed, which had dropped

into the sea, and when I arrived at the place with the holy water

I saw the seed had fallen on fruitful soil, and was growing

before my eyes. And more than that, it was even cut by an

invisible hand, and made into a cake.

'So I took the cake as well as the holy water, and was flying

back with them over the sea, when there fell a great rain, and

the sea was swollen, and swept away my millet cake. Ah, how

vexed I was at its loss when I was safe on earth again.

'Suddenly I remembered that my hair was very long. If I stood it

touched the ground, although if I was sitting it only reached my

ears. I seized a knife and cut off a large lock, which I plaited

together, and when night came tied it into a knot, and prepared

to use it for a pillow. But what was I to do for a fire? A

tinder box I had, but no wood. Then it occurred to me that I had

stuck a needle in my clothes, so I took the needle and split it

in pieces, and lit it, then laid myself down by the fire and went

to sleep. But ill-luck still pursued me. While I was sleeping a

spark from the fire lighted on the hair, which was burnt up in a

moment. In despair I threw myself on the ground, and instantly

sank in it as far as my waist. I struggled to get out, but only

fell in further; so I ran to the house, seized a spade, dug

myself out, and took home the holy water. On the way I noticed

that the ripe fields were full of reapers, and suddenly the air

became so frightfully hot that the men dropped down in a faint.

Then I called to them, "Why don't you bring out our mare, which

is as tall as two days, and as broad as half a day, and make a

shade for yourselves?" My father heard what I said and jumped

quickly on the mare, and the reapers worked with a will in the

shadow, while I snatched up a wooden pail to bring them some

water to drink. When I got to the well everything was frozen

hard, so in order to draw some water I had to take off my head

and break the ice with it. As I drew near them, carrying the

water, the reapers all cried out, "Why, what has become of your

head?" I put up my hand and discovered that I really had no head,

and that I must have left it in the well. I ran back to look for

it, but found that meanwhile a fox which was passing by had

pulled my head out of the water, and was tearing at my brains. I

stole cautiously up to him, and gave him such a kick that he

uttered a loud scream, and let fall a parchment on which was

written, "The cake is mine, and the beardless one goes

empty-handed." '

With these words the boy rose, took the cake, and went home,

while the beardless one remained behind to swallow his


[Volksmarchen der Serben.]