Page:The Grateful Dead.djvu/66

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
50
The Grateful Dead.

the king proposes that Hans marry his daughter, and to this the hero agrees at his companion's advice, despite the protests of the citizens, who say that the princess has already strangled six bridegrooms. On the wedding night the uncle keeps watch, and slays a dragon which is approaching to kill the young man. After two months the pair set out for home with the uncle. On the way they are saved by the old man from robbers, and get a store of gold. When they arrive at the place where the uncle first appeared, he calls for a fulfilment of their agreement, and saws the bride asunder. Young dragons come out of her; but, when she has been washed and sprinkled with water, she is made whole. The angel thereupon parts with the couple.

For the burial of the dead we have in this tale the interesting substitution of an unsuccessful attempt of the hero to save a man's life by paying his entire inheritance as ransom. That the man dies and is buried shows how the change probably arose, Strangely enough, as in the case of Tobit, an angel appears in the rôle of the grateful dead, and, even more oddly, takes the form of the hero's uncle, who gave him the money with which he set forth on his journey. The recurrence of the angel in this and in one other variant[1] inclines me to the belief that the essential feature of the reward in the original story was that it came from heaven. The remainder of Russian II. has no characteristic unusual in the tales where the woman is actually divided to get rid of the snakes or dragons.

In Russian III[2] the youngest of three brothers rescues a swimming coffin from the sea and takes it on his ship. From the coffin comes a man clothed in a white shirt, who enters the service of his rescuer, and helps him win a beautiful princess as wife. A six-headed dragon has hitherto killed all her bridegrooms on the wedding night,

  1. Simrock IV.
  2. See Hippe, p. 145.