Page:The Grateful Dead.djvu/63

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
47
The Poison Maiden.

Apocrypha,[1] and that its influence on details of the narrative may be looked for almost anywhere in Christendom.

In the Armenian story from Transcaucasia[2] a man finds a corpse hanging in a tree and being beaten by his late creditors. The man pays the debt and buries the body. Some years later he becomes poor. A rich man offers him in marriage his daughter, with whom five bridegrooms have already met death on the wedding night. While thinking over the proposition, he is approached by a man who offers to become his servant for half of his future possessions, and counsels him to marry the woman. On the night of the marriage the servant stands with a sword in the chamber, cuts off the head of a serpent that comes from the bride's mouth, and pulls out its body. Later he asks for his share of his master's gains. When he is about to split the woman through the middle, a second snake glides from her mouth. The servant then says that he is the ghost of the corpse long ago rescued, and disappears. Here the story appears in a very normal form, except that the hero is not taking a journey at the time of his kind deed, and that he waits several years for his reward. Moreover, the second snake appears to be due to reduplication.

In Gypsy a youth gives his last twelve piasters for the release of a corpse, which is being maltreated by Jews. The ghost of the dead man follows him and promises to get him a bride if he will share her with him. The youth consents and marries a woman whose five bridegrooms have died on the wedding night. The companion keeps watch in the chamber and cuts off the head of a dragon that comes from the bride's mouth.

  1. For example, it appears in Schischmánoff's Ligendes religieuses bulgares, 1896, pp. 194-201, side by side with our Bulgarian tale.
  2. I summarise from Köhler's reprint in Germania, iii. pp. 202 ff.