Page:The Grateful Dead.djvu/75

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59
The Poison Maiden.

to ours with considerable frequency. The inclusion of this variant here is justified only by some vague traces indicating that the extraneous parts of the narrative have replaced others which, if preserved, would make it an ordinary representative of The Grateful Dead.

A certain couple had a weak-minded son, who could not learn. Wishing to get rid of him, the father took the boy into a forest and gave him gladly to an old man whom he chanced to meet. From the man the youth received books in foreign tongues, which he learned to read in a day. He then wandered till he came to a city, where lived a princess who was in the power of devils and went to church with them every night. The hero watched in the church for three nights, with three, six, and twelve candles, successively. Thus on the third night he freed the princess and married her, receiving half the kingdom. He then sought the old man, who told him to cut the woman in halves and divide her. The old man halved her himself, when there sprang out a serpent, a toad, and a lizard. After this he gave her back to her husband.

The obscurity of motivation in this tale makes apparent the extensive revision that it has undergone. The introduction is nowhere else found combined, as far as I know, with the stories of our cycle. The characteristics of The Poison Maiden are sufficiently evident in the conclusion; but there seems to be no way to account for the peculiar form of demonic possession, together with the actual division of the woman, except by supposing, with Dutz,[1] that the variant has lost the part concerning the burial of the dead man. If this be true, the story belongs in the category where it is here placed.

The Finnish variant[2] presents difficulties of a somewhat different sort. A merchant's son, to whom it has been foretold that he will marry a three-horned maiden,

  1. P. 19.
  2. See Hippe, pp. 148 f.