The Folk-Lore Journal/Volume 3/The Forbidden Chamber


By E. Sidney Hartland.

IT is a peculiarity of Fairyland," says Mr. Clouston in a note to his useful edition of The Book of Sindibad, "that there are certain rooms which the fortunate mortal who has entered the enchanted palace is expressly forbidden to enter, or doors which he must on no account open, or cabinets which he must not unlock, if he would continue in his present state of felicity." It is the object of the following pages, and of the tables appended, to gather together some of the stories presenting this prohibition and to attempt a rough classification of them. I divide them into the following types, distinguished in each case by the name of the most characteristic variant, viz.:—

1. Bluebeard.
2. The Dead Hand, with its sub-genus of The Robber Chief.
3. Mary's Child.
4. The Faithless Sister.
5. Marya Morevna.
6. The Teacher and his Scholar, with its sub-genus of Scabby John.
7. The Third Royal Mendicant.

Of these the first four display feminine curiosity and its consequences, while the rest deal with the same vice in the male sex.

The myth of the Forbidden Chamber is one of a large class which finds its central thought in a taboo. The study of folk-tales has not yet made sufficient advances to enable us to trace these myths to a common origin, nor to explain satisfactorily their meaning. It is obvious that the first step in this direction must be a careful collation of the types and variants of each myth. The main object of the present paper is to do this in some imperfect manner for the Forbidden Chamber. I am conscious that any essay in this direction must contain much that may seem tedious; and I cannot hope to escape from this charge, especially in the sections which follow, treating of Bluebeard and The Dead Hand. These two types lend themselves more readily than the others to a close scrutiny, since so many more of their variants have been collected and published in an easily accessible form than those of the remaining types. But the very value of the comparative method lies in the certainty attainable in proportion to the number and variety of the subjects examined. It therefore seemed desirable to make the comparison as ample as the materials at hand would permit, even at the cost of being occasionally wearisome. It is only thus that we can hope to separate that which is essential from that which is merely accessory, and to distinguish natural growth from violent and unnatural grafting. It is only thus that we can expect to arrive at a rational explanation of the origin, evolution, and meaning of what on the surface is so hopelessly confused and irrational as a cluster of myths or folk-tales.


I have placed Bluebeard first in the list because it is under this form that the myth of The Forbidden Chamber is best known to us. It is probably not an early development of the myth: indeed, reasons are not wanting for supposing that it may be one of the latest. But it is perhaps the one most widely scattered in Western Europe. The story as found in English chap-books is not an independent version, but a free translation of that given by Perrault. It may be summed up in the following formula:—A woman married to a monster disobeys in her husband's absence his prohibition to open the door of a certain room. On his return he discovers her disobedience, and is about to put her to death when she is rescued and her husband killed. The details have been so familiar to us from our childhood that I need not waste time over any of them, but will at once pass on to other versions. The nearest I have found in any foreign collection is a Swabian tale related by Meier and entitled "King Bluebeard."[1] It may be worth while to abstract this at some length. It runs thus:—A man who has three sons and two daughters lives in a wood. A splendid carriage drives one day to the door; and a gentleman stepping out asks the man for his younger daughter as wife. The maiden objects; but her brothers overcome her reluctance, and give her a whistle, telling her in case of need to blow on it and they will come to her help. She accordingly marries the stranger, who is called King Bluebeard; and her sister accompanies her to his castle. One day her husband goes away on a journey, leaving her his keys, but forbidding her for her life to open the door to which the little golden key belongs. For the first three days her sister keeps her from disobeying; but on the fourth the temptation is too strong: she opens the door, to find the chamber within full of the corpses of Bluebeard's former wives. The key falls into their blood; nor, however much she rub, can she clean the bloodstains off it. By them her husband on his return discovers her disobedience; and he orders her to prepare for death. Her sister bethinks her of the whistle and blows upon it thrice. Bluebeard growing impatient comes upstairs after his victim. Meantime the sister is watching for her brothers; and a dialogue takes place between the sisters as in Perrault's tale. At last the brothers arrive and burst into the house just as Bluebeard is breaking open the door of his wife's room. They slay him, seize his treasure and destroy the castle. This version is at once seen to be practically identical with that of Perrault; and indeed Grimm expresses the opinion that it is derived from the French.[2] The centre of the story is the wife's disobedience, which in most of the tales of this type varies but slightly in its circumstances. A few differences may, however, be noted. In the Swabian story the heroine's sister plays a part, in endeavouring to dissuade her from opening the Forbidden Chamber, which is not very usual in fairy-tales. Generally the heroine's sisters lead her into mischief, as for example in stories of the Cupid and Psyche group; and in at least one version of the tale we are now considering a sister plays the same unlucky part and slinks away when the disobedience is discovered.[3] But the faithful sister who advises obedience represents the friends who in Perrault's tale by their presence retard the gratification of the heroine's curiosity. In the Tuscan story of "The Three Cauliflowers"[4] little lap-dog appears and protests against the opening of the closet which contains the dead wives; but the heroine's two sisters, who preceded her in the economy of the Mago's household, if not in his affections, having come to grief through disregarding these protests, the heroine is applauded for putting the dog to death to prevent his telling tales of her. In another Tuscan tale[5] the monster distinctly threatens that the bitch, which is the only servant in his castle, will tell him if his wife disobey. The heroine in the Icelandic story of "A Giant Tricked,"[6] seeking for a certain little dog, finds him lying before the door of a room which the giant forbids her to enter; but in this case the dog himself offers no opposition.

The contents of the chamber are usually, as in the typical tale, the monster's previous wives. They are not always dead;[7] sometimes only their heads are found;[8] sometimes bodies whose sex is unrecorded;[9] a prince is occasionally discovered in rather a sad plight;[10] and in one group of tales, where the heroine weds the Devil, the door closes the entrance to hell.[11] In the Greek story of "The Trimmatos,"[12] the wife entering the Forbidden Chamber looks through its window, and for the first time beholds her husband in his true character of a ghoul of monstrous form. But accompanying the dead bodies the heroine occasionally finds the elixir which is capable of restoring them to life.[13] This incident, however; is more common to stories belonging to the next type; nor, when the elixir is found, does the heroine always make use of it. Possibly we may in such cases presume an incompleteness in the version of the story which has come down to us. One instance of this incompleteness is that of "The Three Cauliflowers" cited above, a tale that is marked by other and considerable variations from the type.

In Perrault's tale, which I take as the type, the heroine's disobedience is discovered by a mark of blood upon the key. Sometimes the key is replaced by an egg or a ball[14] which the monster gives the heroine, with injunctions not to put it down, or (where he is identified with the Devil) by a rose he places in her bosom or hair, which is withered by the hot blast from within the door of hell.[15] In these cases the heroine usually escapes detection by carefully putting the test-gift aside before opening the door. In the Portuguese Story of a Turner,[16] the heroine has her reward for venturing to bring her less fortunate sisters back to life in the directions they give for wiping the key quite clean. The same function is performed in one of Campbell's Gaelic stories[17] by a cat who is disenchanted and changed into a woman on drinking some milk given her by the heroine; but here it is the heroine's foot that is soiled with blood. In another story of the same series the cat offers to cleanse her foot for a drop of milk, and afterwards gives instructions to restore her sisters to life by means of the magic club.[18]

Thus it happens in some of the stories that the heroine is not found out at all. This is usually so where she is the youngest of three or more sisters who have been less lucky. When she is found out, the means are not always the same. In the Basque tale of "The Cobbler and his Three Daughters,"[19] for example, the disobedience of the two elder sisters alone is discovered, and this seems to occur rather by their own confession than by any suspicious appearances on the key which they have successively dropped on the ground. In "The Trimmatos" the ghoul has the power of assuming various forms, and he deceives the heroine into admitting her guilt by taking the shape of her nurse. I have already referred to the part played by a little dog in two Tuscan tales, in which it appears as a spy, though in both these cases we are justified in supposing that the magician learns the sorry fact independently of the tell-tale beast.

The next point to be considered is the heroine's deliverance. In the type her deliverance is effected entirely by extraneous aid; and in this important respect the type differs from most of the variants which it has been my fortune to meet with. A few, however, are in accord with Perrault's tale on this point. In the Esthonian tale of "The Wife-Murderer," already referred to,[20] the heroine is warned against her suitor by a gooseherd, who gets leave to accompany her to her husband's castle, and after the catastrophe strikes down the husband as he is about to chop off her head, brings him to justice, and marries her after his death. In one of the Tirolese stories given by Miss Busk,[21] in which the heroine marries the Devil, she sends a note by two carrier-pigeons to her father, praying to be released. The task is undertaken by a former rejected lover, and accomplished with the aid of his three seiTants, the man of keenest sight, the man of keenest hearing, and the man of greatest strength, while the Devil sleeps unconscious even of her disobedience. In another, given by Schneller from the Italian Tirol,[22] a dove comes to her window from her home; by it she sends a message back to her father, who rescues her with the help of the three servants just mentioned, and a fourth, who can glide so softly that his sharp-eared comrade cannot hear him.[23]

In Grimm's tale of Fitcher's Bird,[24] the heroine finds in the Forbidden Chamber her sisters' bodies hacked in pieces, and, having managed to evade the test of her disobedience (the egg stained with blood), puts the scattered fragments together and so brings her sisters back to life. The sorcerer, deceived into a belief of her obedience, promises to marry her. He has now (like persons of flesh and blood who have been entrapped into a similar promise) no more power over her, but must do what she desires. She tricks him into carrying her two sisters home in a basket. Fear of her and belief that she can see him all the way prevent him from discovering what is inside the basket, though he tries several times. On his return she detains him to hold a dialogue with her as she stands disguised in feathers until help arrives, when, the sorcerer and his friends being all in the house, her brothers and kinsmen set fire to it and burn them all. This tale, as regards its termination, holds an intermediate position between those already mentioned in which the heroine is rescued by others, and the far larger class where her own wit is the chief agent in her deliverance. The variants in which the heroine is the youngest of at least three sisters are very numerous; and in these cases the conclusion is somewhat similar to Fitcher's Bird, but without the avenging kinsmen. One mentioned in Grimm's notes gives the captors as three dwarfs; and there the heroine, when she has sent them home with her sisters, dresses up a clout in her clothes, disguises herself by rolling in blood and feathers, and when the dwarfs find out the trick flies home before them, but slamming the door behind her cuts off her heel. In one of Arnason's Icelandic legends, cited before, the heroine escapes disguised with soot and ashes and riding on a poker witch-fashion. She meets the giant, her captor, and his friends, coming to the wedding feast and holds a dialogue with them, but they fail to recognise her. Have we here a relic of an earlier form of the Fitcher's Bird-story, in which the heroine may have been changed into a bird in order to escape? The doves in the two Tirolese tales referred to above point perhaps to this. It is obvious to remark that the story doubtless originated long before the art of writing was invented. Nor can we fail to be reminded of the flight of Odin in eagle guise from Suptung's hall, and of that of Loki in hawk-plumage with Idwyn from the giant Thiazzi. These incidents of course do not belong to the myth we are now considering; but they show the idea of the transformation to have been familiar in a certain stage of civilisation. The conjecture receives confirmation from a North American Indian story detailed later on, where the heroine actually becomes a sheldrake duck.

This mode of escape is, however, an unusual one. The heroine is generally carried home by the ogre in the same way as her sisters, a doll in most cases being made up and placed in her bed to deceive him when he fetches the chest that really contains her. In this way the Devil is deceived in a Mantuan story given by Visentini,[25] and in a Venetian story given by Bernoni.[26] The heroine in Cuelho's Portuguese tale cited above persuades the Moor to take three successive barrels of sugar to her father, which really inclose her two sisters and herself; and she dresses up a straw figure with her own clothes and places it on the watch-tower, thus deceiving the Moor, who believes it to be herself. So in Fitcher's Bird and the variant above referred to the heroine deceives her captor by a skull or a dressed-up clout; and in the Icelandic story a tree-trunk, disguised in her wedding clothes, is left by the poker-riding lady. Schneller, also, refers to a Tirolese tale[27] in which the heroine places a straw figure at the well, as if she were there washing, and the dehided Devil carries her home in the chest.

In some cases, however, the episode of the doll is absent. Of these a Tirolese variant given in substantially similar terms by Schneller and Miss Busk[28] approaches most nearly to the terminal type we have just been discussing. In the Gaelic story of "The Widow and her Daughters,"[29] referred to above, the cat who is so useful in cleaning the blood off the heroine's foot counsels her as to restoring her sisters to life, and getting the horse, her captor, to take them and herself successively home. When the horse on returning the third time finds he has been deceived, and rushes back to the heroine's mother's house, the heroine, previously instructed by the omniscient cat, strikes off his head. He is thereby freed from his enchantment, and, being restored to his former condition as a king's son, he marries his deliverer. The other version given by Campbell[30] does not treat the horse so well. When the heroine chops off his head there is an end of him; but she returns to his castle and enjoys his wealth in company with the cat, who turns out to be no cat but a king's daughter. In this tale the heroine herself slays the ogre; nor is it a singular example. In the Basque variant she manages to drop the keys as she gives them back to him, and while he stoops to pick them up she cuts off his head with a sabre she has found in the Forbidden Chamber. In another,[31] Blue Beard has assumed the character of Punchkin. The test of disobedience here is that one of three golden balls given by the ogre to his victim is dropped by accident into a certain cupboard in the Forbidden Chamber and thus becomes defiled. The heroine, before disobeying, puts the balls carefully aside, and so deceives the monster, who accordingly trusts her with the knowledge that he cannot be put to death because his soul is in a certain egg. She persuades him to bring her the egg, and striking it out of his hands, it is broken, and he dies. In a third story,[32] the heroine flies with a king's son, whom she has liberated, and flings in the face of the pursuing ogre the medicine that slays, which, with the medicine that revives, she has stolen from the Forbidden Cupboard.

The flight of the heroine, either alone or in company with a prince whom she rescues from the monster's power, though, as we have seen, not unknown to stories of this type, is not so common as in the next class we shall consider. In the Norse tale of "The Three Sisters who were entrapped into a Mountain,"[33] she dresses up a straw figure in her own clothes, and steals home in the troll's absence. The latter, discovering her fraud, pursues her, and, unable to get back to his cavern before dawn, succumbs to the usual fate of trolls by bursting when the sun rises. In this case, although the fugitive lady is not the direct agent of her gaoler's death, the mythical meaning is doubtless the same. More frequently, however, he is simply foiled, as in the Swabian märchen of "The Hunter and the Miller's Daughters,"[34] where the heroine escapes his search hidden beneath the fodder-sacks in a carrier's cart which she has overtaken on the way; or as in "The Trimmatos,"[35] where she is hidden in a bale of cotton, pierced in vain by the suspicious ghoul's sword. Sometimes he succeeds in flinging after the damsel and her lover a curse which separates them and long retards their happiness.[36] This incident occurs only in one of the stories I have examined. It belongs more properly to the Jasonian cycle; and perhaps is nothing more than a merely accidental confusion of two stories caused by the forgetfulness of a solitary story-teller.[37] Another termination of the flight in which the monster plans deliberate revenge I shall treat more fully hereafter.

Before leaving the type that we have been examining, it may be well just to glance at the mode in which the heroine gets into the evil being's power. In the typical story, as in many of the variants, it is a case of proposal by a stranger, and marriage. Where, as often happens, three or more sisters are taken, the stranger either marries them successively (usually under different disguises), or fetches the younger ones to be companions to the eldest, his wife. In Fitcher's Bird the heroine and her sisters are stolen by a sorcerer who lives in a gloomy wood. Sometimes the maiden is caught in the ogre's garden stealing,[38] or her mother is so caught and gives her daughter (even an unborn daughter) as the price of her own life.[39] Sometimes the maiden's father incurs the vengeance of the monster by cutting down a tree.[40] Sometimes she is bought for money.[41] In one of Grimm's tales already cited three dwarfs mislead the heroine to their cavern: in Asbjörnsen's tale three sisters, successively going out to look for a missing hen, hear a voice in the mountain side, and, approaching, fall through a trapdoor into a troll's subterranean dwelling. Three sisters, in Campbell's story, are caught one after another in their own kailyard by an enchanted grey horse by magical power, and dragged to his dwelling in a hill which opens at the utterance of certain words. Disobedience to parents yields an awful example in one of Miss Busk's Tirolese variants. From Iceland we have a version,[42] the heroine of which is a kind of Cinderella. Her two elder sisters are successively wooed and won by a man who, on the way home, changes into a three-headed giant, and asks his wife whether he shall carry or drag her. In their pride they both choose the former, and are made to sit on one of his heads and thus carried in state to his cave. There, however, their pride has a fall: their husband thrusts them into an underground cellar with their hands tied behind them, and locks them up. The youngest sister, in her turn wooed and taken away, chooses more humbly to be dragged, and is made the giant's housekeeper.

Probably none of these variations in the mode in which the ogre acquires possession of the heroine are important; but their variety lends emphasis to the idea of a combination of cleverness and malignity which go to make up the character of Bluebeard, but which are ultimately defeated by the greater cleverness of the lady. In Perrault's version the lady's cleverness has disappeared, leaving as its only relic the constant excuses and delays wherewith she puts off her husband's vengeance until her brothers are able to rescue her. Few, however, of the variants which I have examined concur in this apparent simplification of the story. Another detail which has dropped out of the typical story, as well as some others, is the gloom of forest and cavern amid which the ogre dwells, and which harmonises fitly with his character. This gloom seems an essential part of the myth lying at the root of the tale: it is the gloom of cloud, of night, of winter, the outward and visible sign and vesture of the fiend who inhabits it.


Another type of the story, which I venture to dub "The Dead Hand" type, seems common amongst the Romance and Sclavonic peoples; but I have not yet met with it in the folk-lore of any Teutonic race. In this type the disobedience consists in failing to eat a portion of human flesh (usually a hand) before the demon's return. When he comes in, he inquires of the captive if she have obeyed, and tests her asseverations by calling to the unlucky limb, which invariably answers him wherever it may have been hidden. The heroine succeeds in deceiving the monster; and, believing in her fidelity, he, in the typical tale (given by Nerucci from the neighbourhood of Pistoja[43]), delivers her his keys, by which she obtains access to his treasures. and to the ointment that heals wounds and brings the dead to life. She finds her sisters, who have been beaten and cast half dead into a dark room. Having healed them, she sends the ogre home with them successively in chests, and subsequently escapes herself in the same way, playing the doll-trick to prevent discovery. In this tale there is no express prohibition to enter the Corpse Chamber; nor is there generally in tales of this type. But it occurs occasionally, as in the Sicilian story of "Ohimé,"[44] and the Greek one of "The Devil and the Fisherman's Daughter."[45] In the latter the heroine finds the Devil's previous wives petrified in the Forbidden Room, and restores them with the Water of Life, which is the last thing we should expect the Devil to keep a stock of. The Devil's non-theological and purely mythic character is, however, abundantly evident throughout this story, the commencement of which shows traces of the epic imagination of ancient Greece. A fisherman draws up in his net a large iron key, which Belzebub, appearing, claims, but directs him to take it, and return on Thursday to the shore, where he will then see a door before him; this he is to open, enter, and seek for the Devil. The man obeys his directions; and the description, unhappily too long to quote, of the entrance of Hell and the personification of Time, who sits within the gateway, are not without power. Belzebub inquires whether he has any daughters, begs for one of them, and loads him with treasure. The fisherman, dazzled with his kindness, sells him his three daughters, one after the other, without any compunction. Ohimé, the ogre of the Sicilian variant, is a mysterious being, who appears to a poor man gathering sticks, in response to a cry of weariness in which he has unwittingly uttered the monster's name. He demands the eldest of the wood-gatherer's three granddaughters to wait upon his wife. The poor man complies with this request, and the girl is taken into the monster's rock-dwelling, where he shows her his treasures, tells her she is mistress there, and will be his wife if she obey him; and, to enforce his claim to obedience, he exhibits the Corpse Chamber and the direful warnings it contains. The Forbidden Chamber, which is here distinct from the Corpse Chamber, and opened by the youngest of the three sisters, after she has (by the advice of her dead mother, on whom she calls) succeeded in causing the giant to believe that she has eaten the horrible food he has left for her, incloses only a murdered prince who is left there with the dagger in his heart. She restores him to life with her master's ointment, and flies with him after she has put Ohimé into a magical sleep.

In these stories the ogre is Pluto, the lord at once of riches and of death, possessing, too, and jealously guarding, the means of revival which he himself never uses. It is reserved for the heroine—the cleverest, brightest, best of all his unfortunate victims—by her beneficent prying to find and bring back to life these dead ones, and lo steal from him his treasures. At this point the tale of "Bluebeard" unites with that of "The Forty Robbers"; for, when the heroine has fled with his hoard and all his captives, the monster cannot rest without revenge. Ohimé, awaking, vows vengeance on his deceiver. A hollow statue is made for him of silver, in which he hides, taking with him instruments of music. He causes it to be offered for hire as a musical statue of St. Nicholas, until the heroine, who is of course wedded to the prince she has rescued, persuades her husband to hire it for her, and to place it in her bedroom. This is what Ohimé desires. He comes out by night from his hiding-place, and, having laid a spell of sleep upon all the inhabitants of the palace except the heroine, proceeds to the kitchen, where he boils a cauldron full of oil, with intent to pitch her into it. In the struggle, however, for that purpose, the spell is broken, and Ohimé himself suffers the punishment he had prepared for her. The same series of events is the sequel to another Sicilian story of "The Dead Hand" type, entitled "The Slave,"[46] and, with some variation, to an Arabic story in Spitta Bey's collection,[47] It also occurs in some tales of the "Bluebeard" type proper;[48] but it is the usual termination to those of a group closely allied to "The Dead Hand" type, in which the heroine marries a stranger, who takes her to his palace in the depths of the forest, where he is covered to be the head of a band of robbers. In three of these stories, told in Italy, the command laid upon the heroine is to be always on the alert to let the robbers in the moment they knock at the door. They keep a mortuary chamber and healing ointment, and at length she finds and heals the king's son, whom they have wounded and left for dead, and flees with him. In a Sicilian variant[49] the direction to be on the alert for the robbers' return is not expressed, though it is to be inferred. They give the maiden, whom they have bought from her mother, the keys of all the chambers but one. She finds the remaining key, opens the door, and falls dead on the threshold. The robbers, coming home, call out to her. Finding she does not reply they conclude, and rightly, that she has opened the Forbidden Chamber. They fetch the next sister, on pretence that the first wants her company, and afterwards, consecutively, all the other sisters on a similar plea. But the youngest (for no apparent reason) is not so unfortunate as her sisters. She opens the chamber safely, and in it finds a king's son still living. As the price of deliverance, she exacts from him a promise of marriage. The robbers, finding her still living when they return, trust her, and confide to her the secret of the healing ointment, of which, though she is inquisitive about it, she makes no use. Afterwards, in their absence, she disguises herself as a ragseller, puts the king's son into a sack stuffed with cotton, and the sack on an ass, and drives it off. She meets the robbers on the way; but they, having tried the sack with a poniard, and found nothing to corroborate their suspicions, let the lovers go. The latter reach the palace, and are in due course married. Then follows the robbers' attempted revenge. They gain access to the palace by corrupting the porter's wife, whom they induce to put an enchanted note, which causes sleep, under the heroine's husband's pillow; and it may be noted, as an indication of the rustic story-teller, that the palace porter is a cobbler, who keeps his stall in the gateway, as in some alley in the streets of an Italian town. In this instance, the hollow statue, or case, which usually secretes the assassin, is wanting, as it is likewise in a Swabian tale, given by Meier,[50] where the robbers endeavour to make their way into the heroine's home by force, but are caught, and brought to justice. In the Swabian tale there is a distinct prohibition to open the Forbidden Chamber, and an egg is given to the heroine, with an injunction not to put it out of her hand. She eludes the test by laying it in a basket before gratifying her curiosity. Having forged a letter from her father, sending for her on account of his illness, she persuades the robber chief to take her home, and carries her sisters' heads secretly with her. Once at home, she denounces the robber chief, and he is tried, condemned, and executed. The judge, anxious to secure the rest of the band, requests her to guide the officers to the robbers' fastness. She loses them in the wood, and is caught by the robbers; but, while they are gathering wood and resin to burn her to death, the chief's mother, taking pity on her, releases her from the tree to which they have bound her. She overtakes a carter, whose waggon is laden with barrel-hoops, but he refuses to help her. She fares no better with a second, who is carrying barrels; but the third hides her beneath the undermost of a load of water-troughs. The robbers pursue, and all but discover her. It is needless to add that, after they are put to death, the story ends with her marriage to the beneficent carter.

The episode of the three carters seems an amplification of the meeting with the robbers in the Sicilian tale. It is found in several tales under slightly varying forms, and is apparently based on the same idea as that which represents the ogre as unwittingly carrying the heroine home in a chest supposed to contain dirty clothes or food. A variant of the "Bluebeard" type, given by Legrand from Sakellarios' Cyprian collection,[51] relates it in the following way:—The heroine slips out of window to escape her husband, and overtakes a carter, who refuses her aid. She runs and comes up with a camel-driver, whose beast is laden with bales of cotton. He hides her in one of these; and her husband, though he pierces the bale with a red-hot spit, and wounds her foot, fails to find her. The camel-driver takes her to the palace, where she marries the king's son. The heroine of a corresponding Tuscan tale[52] causes herself to be nailed up in a coffin, and thrown into the sea. The coffin comes to port at Paris (that city being on the sea coast), and is taken to the king, who, opening it, finds the heroine inside, and marries her. In another Tuscan story[53] the heroine and her lover escape from the robber chief's castle in a coal-seller's sacks. This tale unites, perhaps, more closely than any other I have met with, the characteristics of the "Bluebeard" and "Robber Chief" types. The ogre, Centomogli, is the head of a band of assassins. The heroine, and her two sisters before her, are forbidden to open a door unlocked by a golden key; and, in her case, a similar prohibition is added in respect of a silver key. She disobeys both. In the latter room she finds the king of Portugal's son. As in the last-mentioned story, a dog had been left with her as a spy: she destroys it, and flees with the prince. Her marriage follows, and, after it, the assassins' attempted revenge.

I will only mention one more story of this group before passing to quite a different presentation of the Forbidden Chamber. This variant is important, because it affords a striking example of the way in which folk-tales, like living organisms, change their forms, approximating now to one type, now to another. The heart of the story in question is the Forbidden Chamber, but the introduction has developed the incident with which the "Dead Hand" stories begin a little further in the direction of "Beauty and the Beast," while the afterpart is connected through the chest episode with Katie Woodencloak, as well as with the myth of the fickle hero,—Jason, Herakles, or whatever else may be his name. For this reason, and for its native picturesqueness, I may be pardoned for giving it somewhat more at length than the previous instances I have referred to.

A certain king one day hunting pursues a hart, which enters a wood; and pressing hard after the noble beast, he finds himself at last in a garden, where he loses it. He opens a door and enters another garden in which the trees are of gold and the herbs of diamonds. Tempted by the beauty of a rose he plucks it, when a cord instantly leaps out and enwinding him holds him fast. He hears a noise, the earth trembles, and an enraged dragon stands before him, who sniffs him, and smelling royal blood spares him on condition of his giving him one of his three daughters to wife. The youngest consents, and the dragon, having wedded her, takes her to his palace, which is described with many details of great splendour,—"but there was always heard in that castle a distant, hollow groaning." He gives her the keys, forbidding her only to open one room. Once when the dragon has left her for three months, the heroine, hearing the groaning and tracing it to the Forbidden Chamber, is overcome by curiosity and opens the door. She finds within a deep chasm and a youth at the bottom, wounded and thrown there by the dragon. She releases him, heals his wounds, and instructs him on leaving to get a golden chest made, opening only from the inside, and to contrive that it shall be sold to her. She proposes to enter this before the dragon's return, anticipating that he will then believe he has lost her and will sell everything belonging to her, that he may have nothing to remind him of her; and she directs the youth (who it need hardly be said is a prince) to send and buy the chest back again in due time, warning him not to allow his mother to kiss him, otherwise he will forget her to whom he owes his deliverance. The prince, returning home, orders the chest: but in the night, while he sleeps, his mother comes and kisses him. The inevitable result follows: he forgets the heroine and all that relates to her. Consequently, when the goldsmith brings him the chest he repudiates the order; and the goldsmith causes the chest to be sold publicly. The heroine buys it and carries out her intention of entering it. As she had foreseen, the dragon, believing himself deserted, sells his wife's goods; and the chest is ultimately bought by the prince and placed in his room. In his absence the heroine steals his food twice; on the third occasion he watches and catches her. It all flashes back upon his memory now, and his love and gratitude revive. He keeps the heroine in concealment for a time; but compelled to go to the wars he gives strict orders to his mother not to move the chest, and also to place food everyday in his room. Previous to this he has been betrothed to his cousin, whose mother, hearing of his strange orders, becomes suspicious and begs the loan of the chest. She obtains it, and commands it to be cast into the fire. But the heroine from within overhears this direction, and flies out in the form of a bird. The prince's aunt sends back the chest, and it is replaced. The prince, however, on his return finds it open, and falls into great distress. One day, as he sits at his window mourning his loss, a rushing of wings and a strange light fill the room; the heroine, in the form of a bird, flies in, and to his joy resumes her proper form. He marries her, and declares war upon his aunt, whom he conquers and beheads.[54]


Turning away for the present from Bluebeard and his ghastly mortuary, let us look at another story of the Forbidden Chamber. We shall find its type in Grimm's tale of "Mary's Child." Here the Virgin appears to a woodman in the forest and offers to take his only daughter, for whom he can scarcely find food. The offer is accepted, and the child is taken to heaven, where she grows up under the care of her august benefactress. One day the Virgin hands her her keys, thirteen in number, and, saying she is going away on a journey, gives the heroine leave to open all the doors but one. The luckless girl opens the forbidden door, and sees within "the Trinity sitting in fire and sheen." She presumes to touch the sheen with her finger, which ib gilded with the touch. The Virgin Mary returning takes the keys and inquires whether the heroine has disobeyed her. Denying it, she is expelled from heaven and stricken dumb. In the midst of a wilderness from which she cannot escape, she is found by a king while hunting. He takes her home, weds her, and in due course she gives birth to a child. Her benefactress now reappears in the silence of the night, and offers to restore the heroine's speech if she will at length confess. On her refusal, the Virgin disappears, taking the child with her. The people murmur that the heroine is an ogress and has eaten her child. On the birth of a second child the Virgin repeats her offer, with the like sequel. When a third child is born the heroine is taken up to heaven, where she is shown her two former children growing up as she herself had done with the angels, and she is told they will be restored to her if she will now admit her guilt. Again she refuses, and the third child is taken away. The people clamour so loudly that the king gives the heroine up to justice, and she is condemned to be burnt. The fire is lighted, but at the stake she cries out to the Virgin, confessing her guilt. Rain at once falls, putting the fire out; and her forgiving patroness reappears to vindicate her, bringing back her children. [55]

In this pretty story the deceitful and remorseless monster, whose wiles have entrapped and whose cunning all but destroys the heroine, is replaced by a goddess of a character entirely beneficent. The punishment she inflicts, not so much for the abuse of her confidence as for the sin of denial, though severe, is not unmerited; and the heroine is forgiven the moment her obstinacy is overcome, her guilt admitted. An analogous Lithuanian tale[56] follows Grimm's very closely. The Virgin, however, there in the form of an old woman, rescues the heroine from her father, who, in despair at his wife's bringing forth nothing but daughters, is about to fling the latest-born into a lake. The awful sight in the Forbidden Chamber is the Lord Jesus hanging on the cross; and the heroine betrays herself by touching with her finger the blood flowing from his wounds and smearing it on her lips. A variant of Mary's Child given by Grimm in his notes[57] is not quite so close to the type. A poor man, who can scarcely feed his children, meets in the forest a beautiful maiden, clad in black, driving a black carriage drawn by black horses. This weird personage offers him a sack of money in exchange for that which is hidden in his house—namely, his unborn daughter. He accepts the offer, and at the age of twelve his daughter is fetched away by the maiden to a black castle. All is splendid within, but the heroine is forbidden to enter one chamber. After resisting the temptation for four years her curiosity prevails. Within the chamber there is no more terrible sight than four swarthy maidens engaged in reading. Her foster-mother comes out and gives her the choice of losing, by way of punishment, whatever she prefers. The heroine chooses to lose her speech, and the Black Maiden striking her on the mouth expels her from the castle. The rest follows the principal story, except that the heroine's mother-in-law, and not the Black Maiden herself, makes away with the children, which she does by flinging them into the water and sprinkling her daughter-in-law with blood, so as to throw upon her the imputation which brought Mary's Child, as we have seen, and ultimately the heroine of the variant we are now considering, to the stake. She also, however, is saved from death by the appearance of her foster-mother in the black carriage to restore her speech and enable her to explain the circumstantial evidence which looks so bad. The three other maidens bring back her children, whom they have rescued from the water; and the wicked mother-in-law is punished by a cruel death.

There are two other stories of this type which deserve notice for the difference of the dénouement. The heroine is preserved from disgrace in the one, and both disgrace and death in the other, not by confession but by persistence in denial in spite of all temptations to admit her guilt. Her protectress in one of these stories (a Bohemian tale),[58] is her godmother, who has appeared in the shape of an old woman to her poverty-stricken father, and accepted the office of sponsor when all else had refused. In the Forbidden Chamber she finds a bier and a skeleton nodding its head at her in grim mockery, while all around the room is hung with deadly black. In this version too, the heroine, denying her disobedience, is stricken with dumbness and turned out into a dark wood. A prince, who has thrice dreamt that he has shot a beautiful hind, going to hunt, finds in the abandoned maiden a fairer prey than he had dreamt of. Her marriage and the births and disappearance of her three children follow; and she is at last rescued from the stake (to which she had been condemned as the punishment of witchcraft) by her godmother's advent in a golden chariot. This mysterious lady brings back the children and declares that the heroine's constancy has delivered her from an enchantment. The other story comes from Pisa.[59] In it the heroine is bought for money from her father by a lady who meets him in a wood. The heroine sees in the Forbidden Chamber only her mistress bathing, with two maidens near her reading a book. Her two sisters, whom her mistress had previously bought from her father, had been rash enough when taxed with their disobedience, at once to admit, and to repeat what they had been privileged to behold; and they had consequently suffered summary death at the hands of their outraged lady. Not so the heroine. Questioned as to what she has seen, she says "Nothing!" and stoutly persists in that denial. When driven out again from the lady's palace into the wood, she is found by a prince and married. After her second child has disappeared the prince resolves to put her away as insane and marry another. The clearer Italian sky has got rid of the shadows of witchcraft and ogrehood that overhang the German and Sclavonic tales. But the heroine is saved even from the milder suffering involved in repudiation and the imputation of madness, by the appearance of her former mistress. After having at this trying moment attempted and failed to extract an admission, she declares the heroine's innocence, restores her children, and adds that her persistence has redeemed her from a spell.


In all the foregoing tales the heroine, though guilty of curiosity and often deceit, is not treacherous, or if she is we readily pardon it, seeing the evil that has been practised upon her. In another group prevalent in the East she and the ogre have changed places. She is the faithless sister or mother whose curiosity leads to the discovery and release of the hero's mortal enemy, with whom she forms an intrigue and plots the hero's death. In the typical story, published in Roumanian Fairy Tales and Legends,[60] two children, a boy and girl, are by the contrivance of their stepmother abandoned in a wood. The boy receives a cub each from a fox, a wolf, and a bear, in return for sparing their lives; and with his sister he takes possession of a certain palace. Opening a door in the palace he finds within a giant bound with three chains, who cries out for water. He bangs-to the door, which he afterwards forbids his sister to open. In his absence, however, she disobeys and satisfies the giant's thirst. The effect of the water is to release the monster from his bonds. The treacherous heroine plots with him to persuade her brother to leave his three animals at home the next time he goes hunting; and on his leaving them the giant locks them up in the Forbidden Chamber and pursues the hero. He has almost fordone him when his beasts, hearing his voice singing a magic song that summons them to his aid, dash out of the chamber, rescue their master, and devour his persecutor.

Other versions of the story amplify it much, some bringing the heroine's treachery into even higher relief. In one[61] a brother is warned against his sister, and counselled to put her to death. Rather than do this he takes her to live with him in the desert, where ho overcomes and puts to death a band of brigands, takes possession of their treasure, and brings his sister to dwell in their cave. She hears a voice, and opening a room in the cavern finds one of the brigands, a negro, not dead. The faithless girl heals his wounds, becomes his paramour, and by his advice sends her brother for the grapes of Paradise, and afterwards for the Water of Life to cure her feigned illness. When he returns successful the negro cuts off his head and hews him in pieces, which he puts in a sack, loads an ass with it, and drives the animal away. Two faithful lion cubs, however, bring the ass to the hero's wife, a princess whom he has in the meantime healed and married; and she with the Water of Life restores him. This is an Arab story. Some Sclavonic tales present nearly the same scries of incidents, without the Forbidden Chamber. The faithless sister's paramour is a revived brigand who presents himself in some other way; and the faithful animals are enchanted men.[62] Another tale, also Sclavonic,[63] presents the perfidious heroine as the hero's mother. It elaborates the incidents at greater length; but its chief point of interest is its approximation of the central scene to that of the type we shall next consider. The palace of which the hero and his mother take possession has been a habitation of dragons, all of which the hero at first supposes himself to have killed. There is, however, one left, bound in a certain room by three iron rings to the wall. This room the hero warns his mother not to open. She disobeys, and the dragon asks for wine from a certain vat in the cellar. She brings it to him thrice, and his bonds fall off.


We have now done for the present with female curiosity and disobedience. The remaining types disclose the same faults in the other sex. The first group may be called by the name of the typical story of Marya Morevna, the daughter of the Sea. This is given by Ralston[64] from Afanasief; and its outline is as follows. In accordance with his dying parents' commands. Prince Ivan gives his three sisters in marriage to the first comers,—the eldest to a Falcon, who comes in thunder and changes into a brave youth, the second to an Eagle, and the youngest to a Raven, both of whom conduct their wooing on the same principles as the Falcon. After a year the prince sets out in search of his sisters. He finds a whole army lying dead on the plain, and learns that it has been destroyed by a certain Princess Marya Morevna. He meets with this redoubtable Amazon, and finds favour in her eyes. She marries him, but cannot settle down to domestic life. On the contrary, she sets out to war again, leaving him at home, and with instructions not to enter a certain closet. He promptly disobeys her, as was to be expected. Within hangs Koshchei the Deathless, bound by twelve chains. Koshchei asks for water, and the hero gives him successively three bucketfuls; whereupon he bursts his chains and flies away, carrying off the Princess Marya Morevna. The hero starts in pursuit, and comes to one after another of the palaces of his three sisters and their husbands, who vainly try to dissuade him. Though he will not listen to them, he leaves them magical tokens, his silver spoon, fork, and snuff-box. At length he finds his wife and runs off with her. But Koshchei overtakes the fugitives, and takes back the Princess, sparing Prince Ivan, however, for his kindness in giving him water. This occurs a second and a third time. The fourth time Koshchei kills him, chops him up, and puts the pieces into a barrel, which he flings into the sea. The hero's brothers-in-law, discovering by the aspect of his tokens that he is dead, fly to his aid, and, having procured the Water of Death and the Water of Life, revive him. He returns to his wife, whom he persuades to inquire of Koshchei whence he had got so good a steed. He tells her he got it from the Baba Yaga in return for watching her mares for three days without losing one. The heroine repeats this to Prince Ivan, and steals for him Koshchei's handkerchief, whose waving causes a bridge to spring up over the fiery river that has to be crossed. The prince sets out and crosses in safety the fiery river. Being hungry by the way, he threatens to eat, first, a chicken of a strange bird, then a bit of honeycomb, and lastly a lion-cub, but spares them,—the bird, the bees, and the lioness promising to reward him. With their assistance he watches the Baba Yaga's mares, and by a bee's directions steals a certain sorry-looking colt and rides off on it. The Baba Yaga, pursuing, is deceived by the hero, and precipitated into the fiery river. Prince Ivan steals the heroine. Koshchei pursues, but the hero with the help of a kick from his steed puts an end to him.

In this type the simple story of Bluebeard has assumed epic proportions; but so far as I know it is a type entirely peculiar to the Sclavonic race, and the variations are consequently not very great. Koshchei the Deathless is the Sclavonic Punchkin; nor do I quite understand how in the tale just cited he comes to so ordinary an end. Steelpasha,[65] who is Koshchei's analogue among the Southern Slaves, is unconquerable until the heroine has wormed out the secret of his life from him. Some remnant of the Delilah episode is, however, left in the typical story and in some others of the group, since it is necessary to ascertain from Koshchei himself where he got his swift steed. In others the hero learns this secret from a fox he has forborne to shoot,[66] from one of his brothers-in-law,[67] or even from his own steed,[68] who, and the witch's sorry colt, are in this case both the enchanted brothers of the heroine.

In the tale of Steelpasha the hero is the youngest of three sons, and the only one of the three who is willing to perform his dead father's commands as to the marriage of his sisters. After their marriages the brothers set out to seek them, and the youngest surpasses his brothers in the feats he performs, ultimately saving a king's daughter from death while she sleeps by killing a snake which is about to devour her. For this, when he chooses to confess, he is rewarded with her hand. The elder brothers then drop out of the story. The brothers-in-law will of course be recognized as the Animal Brothers-in-law of Von Hahn's classification, where their functions appear to be confounded with those of the Grateful Beasts. It is true that this is frequently the case; but these Sclavonic Forbidden Chamber stories seem to present a further evolution. The office of the hero's mysterious kinsmen here is to restore him to life, to give him good counsel, and even to fight the ravisher; but the Grateful Beasts themselves are brought in to perform the tasks which are the condition of his success. It may be noted, however, that, while their functions are thus differentiated, the Brothers-in-law and the Grateful Beasts do not usually both appear in the same story. The latter are absent from Steelpasha and the parallel Bohemian story of Sunking, Moonking and Windking,[69] as the former are from another sub-genus of this group.

The stories of this sub-genus substitute the Swan Maiden myth for that of the Animal Brothers-in-law as the motive of the hero's original wandering. A vila in the shape of a large bird robs a pear-tree by night.[70] The hero's two elder brothers watch in vain for the thief: to the hero alone she reveals herself—a maiden with shining hair. His mother cuts off the hair and the maiden disappears, cursing him not to rest ere he find her again. He sets out to seek her, and is directed to a fountain where she comes to bathe on Thursdays and Fridays. The old man who gives this information puts the hero into a magical sleep; but the vila awakens him, carries him off, and marries him. A variant narrated by Wenzig is somewhat more Oriental in some of its features.[71] A widow's son takes service with a monster-magician of kindly nature, who dwells in a forest. As a reward for fidelity the magician gives him gold and a dove, who is in fact an enchanted maiden capable of being restored to human form by plucking forth three golden feathers wherewith she is adorned. The magician directs him to hide these feathers where none shall know. The hero takes the dove-maiden home, weds her, and, like Aladdin, builds a palace, hiding in its walls, in a place only known to his mother, the three precious feathers. In his absence his mother decks the heroine with these feathers, with the effect of renewing her enchantment, and she flies away. Her husband has recourse to the magician, who takes pity on him and transports him to the heroine's palace, warning him not to set free her enemy. He finds her there and renews his union with her. It is, however, imperfect; for she has to pass some hours of every day as a dove. One day, while she is undergoing this necessity, the hero opens the Forbidden Chamber, and finds within a dragon with three heads each hung on a hook. Three glasses of the Water of Life give the dragon power to burst forth and carry off the heroine in her dove-form. The steed on which the hero pursues is his wife's brother, who also is enchanted. He is enabled to steal her (still as a dove) twice from the dragon; but the latter twice recovers her. By his horse's advice he then procures, through the help of a raven, the Water of Growth and the Water of Life. But a better steed must be obtained to achieve the adventure; and this is no less than another brother of the heroine held captive by a monster named Yezibaba on the other side, not of a fiery river, but of the Red Sea. Here the heroine's brothers take the place of the Animal Brothers-in-law, and the Grateful Beasts appear to assist the hero in obtaining the second enchanted horse.


But that which gives the greatest interest to the foregoing tale is that it forms a link between the Marya Morevna type and another we may call The Teacher and his Scholar type. This relates to the adventures of a youth who falls under the power of a magician whom he learns to excel in cunning and ultimately to outwit, or whom he robs of a magical steed. Two stories, not falling categorically under either of these alternatives, but apparently in process of development each to one of them, are given in Arnason's collection of Icelandic legends. In the one[72] a king's son, a prodigal, who has sold his kingdom for a horse laden with gold and silver, rides forth in search of adventures. With his treasure he pays the debt of a dead man—by that sacrifice gaining him rest—and then comes to the dwelling of seven giants during their absence. Setting their house in order, he wins their protection, and is allowed to remain as their servant. The big giant gives him all the keys except one. By a trick he gets possession of this key, takes a mould of it in dough, and forges a duplicate, with which he opens the Forbidden Chamber. He there finds a princess hung up by the hair for refusing to marry the big giant, who had stolen her from her home. In the end he gets as his wages the contents of the Forbidden Chamber, namely, the maiden, and with her leaves the giants, when they pursue the hero and heroine, overcome, and kill them. At the seaside the hero finds a ship sent by the heroine's father. They go aboard; but the captain, that he may obtain the heroine's hand as her deliverer, puts the hero into an oarless, rudderless boat, and cuts him adrift. The dead man whose debt the hero has paid conducts the boat to shore, and instructs him to take service as groom with the princess's father. The heroine of course recognises and marries him, and the sea-captain is put to death. The other story[73] is also of a king's son who falls into a giant's power. The giant shews him all his stores, except what are in the kitchen. In the giant's absence he opens the kitchen and finds therein an enormous dog, who says to him, "Choose me, Hringr, king's son!" In obedience to this advice the hero chooses and gets the dog as his reward for his service. By the dog's counsel he makes his way to a king's court, and asks for permission to spend the winter there. The jealousy of the king's minister sends him to perform a number of feats, including thefts like those of Jack, the Beanstalk hero; and the guerdon of these is the king's daughter. The dog, by whose aid he achieves these adventures, saves his life from the envious minister, and recovers his own pristine form as a prince who had been bewitched.

In both these tales the marvellous animal, or the princess, is given by the giants to the hero as the reward of service, just as in Wenzig's Sclavonic story the monster-magician pays the hero with the dove-maiden. More usually however he steals them, an incident of which we see either a germ or a recollection in the pursuit by the seven giants in the former of the two Icelandic tales. I find the type of one of the groups of stories we are now discussing in a Greek tradition given by Von Hahn, entitled The Teacher and his Scholar.[74] A disguised demon promises children to a childless king on condition of his repaying him with the eldest. The demon gives him an apple, of which the king eats one half and the queen the other. The latter bears three sons. The king tries to foil the demon by building a tower of glass in which he keeps his children; but one day they escape, and the hero is pounced upon by the demon and carried down to his underground palace. This palace contains forty rooms, of which the ogre hands the hero the keys of thirty-nine. He also gives him a book to learn from. The hero gets possession of the fortieth key and opens the Forbidden Chamber. There he finds a fair maiden hanging by her hair, and takes her down. She instructs him to feign inability to learn his lesson when his master next gives him the book; and, lest the demon should find them out, she directs the hero to restore her to her uncomfortable situation and replace the key. He follows her advice; and the demon, like any other master not under wholesome awe of a schoolboard, beats him for his stupidity. The heroine next counsels him to learn the whole book as fast as he can, always however feigning inability, and bids him when he has finished his task to come and fetch her. He complies, and in accordance with the directions in the book he takes certain magical articles, aikd, ungallantly changing the heroine into a mare, rides off on her. The ogre pursues, but is impeded by the stolen goods, which are thrown behind, one by one, by the hero, and the fugitives escape. The hero brings the heroine back to human shape; and, having plighted troth, they part. He goes to lodge with an old woman, and makes money by transforming himself successively into various objects, which she sells, always retaining something pertaining to these objects, otherwise he will be unable to resume his proper form. Finally he changes into a pomegranate, which his father plucks, but the demon by a trick nearly succeeds in getting possession of it; it falls in pieces, and the seeds are scattered. The demon as rapidly changes into a hen and chickens; whereupon the hero becomes a fox which kills the hen and chickens, but loses his eyes, for the hen has eaten two of the seeds. He returns to his own shape, and sets out to find the heroine, who is a king's daughter. Her father has built a hospital in gratitude for her deliverance. There the hero meets her, and she recognises him by a ring she had put on his finger when they plighted their troth. She leads him to bathe in a certain brook and his sight is restored.

This story calls to mind that of the Second Royal Mendicant in the Arabian Nights[75] in which a similar combat takes place between an 'Efreet and a king's daughter learned in magic for the restoration of the Mendicant to human form from that of an ape. The beginning of the tale as it stands is of course totally different from that of the foregoing, but there are not wanting indications that it has obtained its present literary shape by the grafting of the story of the Ape-man on some variant of The Teacher and his Scholar. The 'Efreet and the King's Daughter are no strangers to one another; their greeting refers to some incident or chain of incidents outside the history of the Mendicant, and certainly not incompatible with the type we are now considering, though not included in any variant I am acquainted with. It is not impossible that further research among eastern folk-tales may recover the version which has been thus wrought up, or one near akin to it.

Meantime, the variant bearing the strongest likeness to the typical story is that of Mohammed the Prudent given by Spitta Bey in his Contes Arabes Modernes.[76] There a Moghrebbin, who is also a magician, gives a childless king two bonbons, one for his wife and the other for himself, on the bargain that the king will yield in return his first son. In due time the Moghrebbin fetches the boy to his underground palace, and gives him a book to read, of which he cannot decipher a single word. The magician accords him thirty days to learn it by heart, threatening that in default he will cut off the hero's head. Failing to decipher the mystic volume the latter wanders on the last day but one of the allotted period into the garden, where he finds a maiden hung up by the hair. She tells him that she has been thus punished by the Moghrebbin for succeeding in learning the book. She reveals the secrets to him, warning him to feign ignorance. Ultimately the hero and heroine flee on two horses, which they have obtained by reading the last three leaves of the volume. The hero's mother performs the part of the old woman in the former story; and his final transformation is into a poniard which stabs to death the magician while seeking in the form of a cock to devour all the seeds of a pomegranate—the hero's last previous shape. Here the Forbidden Chamber appears as a garden, and the prohibition to enter it is only to be inferred from the secrecy of the hero's visits and the fact that the contents enable him to outwit his master. In other versions, however, a nearer approach is made to the Bluebeard type. A variant recorded by Von Hahn[77] makes the hero the youngest of three disobedient sons of a poor woman, who, gathering sticks in a wood, meets an ogre and complains of her undutiful children. The ogre offering to take one, she gives them up to him successively, to be brought up to a handicraft. The ogre's den contains a Forbidden Chamber full of murdered men; and the test of disobedience is an apple which is dropped and covered with blood. The hero alone obeys the prohibition; but one day, performing the service (so common in stories from the Mediterranean countries) of ridding his master of vermin, he discovers a little keybound on the top of the ogre's head. It gives him access to the chamber where the princess is. She warns him to behave as if he were stupid; and he carries out her instructions until the ogre at last, losing patience, turns him out-of-doors. Returning home he persuades his mother to sell him in the form of a horse. Pursued by the demon he changes into all sorts of animals and at last into a flower in a princess' hand. The ogre tries in every way to obtain the flower; but the princess tells him, "Though your heart burst in pieces, you shall not get the flower from me." As he hears this the ogre bursts in pieces, and the hero restored to humanity marries the heroine. The bursting in pieces of the ogre reminds us of the Troll in the northern tale;[78] and there may indeed be some connection of thought between that and the bursting and scattering of one of the combatants, which seems a necessary feature of the conflict between the master and his too clever scholar in the present type. Though, if so, it is not easy to trace, and I must leave the task to more accomplished mythologists.

An Italian variant, similar in its general course to the three stories given above, differs in its commencement.[79] A boy goes out with his father's ass, and causes a princess who sees him to laugh. He is bold enough to make her an offer of marriage; but the only answer he can get from her is—"If thou do a miracle fairer than this I will marry thee." Determined to win her, he goes to study under a magician, and soon outdoes his master in learning. The wizard trusts him with the keys of twenty-four chambers, forbidding him to open two of them. In these chambers he finds a young prince and another daughter of the king. The latter of course gives him the usual instructions how to behave towards the magician, from whom he at length escapes. The transformation and sale tricks follow, until the hero is captured by the wizard, from whom he can only escape by touching water. He accomplishes this by turning into a fish, and afterwards performs the required miracle by becoming a ring on the princess's finger. His further changes are those into a grain of millet and into a fox that devours the magician while in the form of a hen seeking for the millet.

There is a closely related group of variants differing chiefly in their conclusion from the tales of this type just analysed. In this group the ogre is finally defeated by the hero's flight, and the remainder of the story is occupied by a totally different series of adventures which hang to what I may term the trunk of the story by the transformation in the hero's personal appearance consequent on his disobedience. M. Sébillot's tale of Scabby John[80] may be cited as the type of this sub-genus. A stranger is taken as the boy's godfather, who returns at the end of a year and a day to fetch his precocious godson to his castle. There the hero's business is to feed two horses and to starve and beat a certain mule. He is entrusted with a hundred keys opening as many rooms in the castle; but he is forbidden to enter the hundredth chamber. For a while he obeys; but after his godfather's second departure he is overcome with curiosity and ventures to use the hundredth key. In the room he finds dead bodies and magical books. Going afterwards to attend to the animals the mule speaks to him, accusing him of disobedience, and advising him, now that he has gone so far, to bind up a certain bell, to plunge into a certain fountain, and to mount the mule herself and flee, taking with him some magical articles which she enumerates. The fountain turns his hair to gold. His godfather pursues the fugitives, but is impeded in the usual manner by the stolen talismans flung behind by the hero, who at length reaches the Holy Land, where his godfather (who turns out to be the Devil) cannot enter. Following the mule's directions he covers his shining hair and engages himself as under-gardener to the king, the mule in the meantime disappearing. The gardener becomes jealous of him and falsely accuses him twice to the king. The hero calls in the aid of the mule by means of a magical wand she has given him, and with her help he foils the gardener, who is at length dismissed and the hero installed in his place. Secretly by night the hero wears at different times three glorious dresses given him by his faithful mule; but the youngest of the kings three daughters discovers him. On the princesses' choosing husbands she chooses the gardener, much to her father's displeasure; and the lovers are wedded and banished from the palace. The hero, however, finds his opportunity when his father-in-law goes to war. Given contemptuously an old hack and a rusty sword, he mounts his mule, hurries after the army, and, thrice defeating the enemy, he single-handed compels peace. Upon certain terms which will enable him afterwards to prove his case he temporarily yields the spoils and glory to his brothers-in-law, the husbands of his wife's sisters, who insult him and wound him in the leg. On his recovery he holds a feast, where he discloses himself in all his proper splendour, claims and proves to be the real victor, and puts his brothers-in-law to open shame.

A Greek variant narrated by Von Hahn[81] approaches more closely in its opening to the true Teacher and his Scholar type. The hero and a colt are born in consequence of his father and mother having eaten an apple given them by an ogre and fed a mare with the rind. The monster has previously bargained for the issue, and he fetches the hero accordingly to his fastness. In this castle the rooms are forty-one in number; and the hero finds the key of the forty-first room and enters it while his master sleeps. Inside are two puddles: one of silver and the other of gold; and his curiosity is discovered by his having dipped his finger in the latter. The ogre in his rage dips the boy entirely into the puddle, and he emerges all gilded. The hero afterwards flies on his horse; and his former master, unable to overtake him, counsels him to shake the bones out of an old man whom he will meet, and dress himself in his skin. He follows this advice, and takes service with a king who is the father of three daughters. The youngest, of course, catches a glimpse of his real nature, and chooses him as her husband. He procures a remedy for the king, who is smitten with blindness; and afterwards in war defeats the enemy, with a conclusion similar in general terms to that of the previous story.

The mongrel inhabitants of Zanzibar[82] tell a story of a boy whose birth was the result of a bargain similar to that in the foregoing variant. The demon, whose medicine proves so powerful, takes one of the offspring; and on reaching home hands him all his keys, bidding him open whatever he liked. The hero enters the room containing the molten gold, and conceals his discoloured finger beneath a rag. He afterwards opens a series of six rooms and finds the bones of various animals, and, lastly, skulls of men. In the seventh chamber is a living horse, by whose advice he precipitates the demon into a cauldron of hot ghee. The horse swallows the contents of the treasure-chamber, and the hero flees upon his back, while the demon is eaten by his own companions out of the cauldron. The remainder of the narrative is tame; though, of course, it ends with the hero's marriage to a sultan's daughter.

The commencement of the last two variants is completely parallel with that of The Teacher and his Scholar, and recalls that of The King of the Fishes,[83] a Breton tale belonging to the Perseus group. In tales of this type a large fish caught by a fisherman and given to his childless wife, or to a childless queen, results in the birth of three boys, three colts, and three puppies. The eldest boy growing up, sallies forth into the world, kills a dragon, and marries a princess. The next day he goes, in direct defiance of his bride's prohibition, to a magician's house, or to hunt in a certain wood, where he is captured and spellbound. The second son sets out to seek his brother, and is received by the princess as her husband,—so like is he to the first. He shares his brother's fate, from which they are both at last rescued by the greater cunning of the youngest. Some of these stories hold out a hand of such apparent kinship to the Forbidden Chamber myth that it requires some care to avoid linking them together. But closer analysis shows their affinities to belong rather to a different class; and the mention of them here will serve to illustrate further the ease with which one folktale seems to glide off into another, just as in the physical world every genus of animals or plants fades through its several species (and they, in their turn, through their individual members) into the genera that on every side surround it. The hero's miraculous birth is not, however, an inseparable feature of the type we are considering. In the Roumanian story of The Hermit's Foundling with the Golden Hair[84] the boy appears as a king's daughter's bastard brought up by a hermit; and in a Norse variant[85] he is simply a widow's son seeking employment. In the latter story there are four forbidden rooms, wherein the ogre foolishly stores up the magical articles which are to impede his pursuit of his disobedient servant and end in his death. Beside these the hero finds a large black horse with a trough of burning embers at his head and a basket of hay at his tail, and compassionately reverses them. The horse then speaks, telling him to wash in one of the rooms in a kettle which boils without any fire under it, and to fetch from another room a suit of armour, sword, and saddle. The boy had already tried the virtue of the kettle by dipping in it his finger, which he had drawn out gilded, thereby causing the detection of his curiosity and its punishment by his master. Bathing in it now he finds himself not only endowed with splendour, but also with strength to bear the armour. The Roumanian tale transforms the ogre into three fairies, whose service the hero enters after his foster-father the hermit's death. These fairies go away, leaving him the customary prohibition, which he of course disobeys, and discovers in the room an empty bath and a chest containing three bundles of clothes. On a second absence the fairies charge him to sound a horn three times if he hear any noise in the Forbidden Chamber. But his magical horse, the hermit's posthumous gift, directs him instead to enter the room and plunge into the bath. This bath fills only once in a century; and the noise of its filling is the signal for which the hero was to wait. The bath turns his hair to gold; he steals the clothes from the chest and rides off, with his masters in full pursuit, I need not follow his adventures farther, as they scarcely differ from the later incidents of the two stories already analysed.


There is another story in which the fatal curiosity of Bluebeard's wife plays an important part. I mean that of The Third Royal Mendicant in The Arabian Nights[86] It is too well known to require any recapitulation of incidents; and the variants with which I am acquainted follow it so closely that they will not detain us long. The story as a whole, in its motive and details, is of a very different character from that of most of the types we have previously considered: perhaps the nearest approach to it is that of Marya Morevna. The horse discovered within the forbidden chamber may remind us of The Teacher and his Scholar, and Scabby John. But there, except for the Forbidden Chamber itself, the resemblance ceases. The hero is ruled by fate from end to end of his story; and it is not simply curiosity which overcomes him and severs him from the life he had found so agreeable. This may be due to the Mohammedan colouring in which the tale appears in The Thousand and One Nights. The same predestination reappears, however, in a version given by Signor Nerucci,[87] as told at Montale, in Tuscany. I confess that all Signor Nerucci's tales display a fulness of detail, and an artistic polish which convey a certain suspicion to my mind. But they are received as genuine in Italy, and the story referred to is, in particular, stamped with the acceptance of Signor Comparetti by his admission of it into his collection. Its identity (I cannot call it similarity) with the Arabian story is most striking; for, with the omission of the lodestone-rock, and a few unimportant variations, it follows the exact course of The Third Royal Mendicant. We may make what allowance we will for literary adornment by the collector; nothing short of absolute disbelief in the genuineness of his stories as folk-tales will get rid of this remarkable unity; and this short and easy method seems closed to us. The tale may, of course, have been, and probably was, imported into the neighbourhood of Pistoja from some of the Moorish conquerors of southern Italy; but, if so, it is somewhat strange that Pitré should not have found it surviving in Sicily. In any case its form, as well as its spirit, is so thoroughly oriental that it is impossible to believe it has been domesticated in Europe for a very long period.

The fatalism of The Third Koyal Mendicant, though not so prominent in the Italian version, is still present; but in the nearest analogue to these two tales which I know it is emphatically repudiated and put down to the tempting of Satan,—and this though the story as it reaches us is in a distinctly Islamic guise. It occurs in The Seven Vazīrs—a work which forms part of some texts of The Thousand and One Nights—and is known as The Forbidden Doors.[88] The hero is a prodigal who becomes a porter plying for hire. He is engaged as servant to ten old men who live together, and who correspond to the old sheykh and ten young men of the better-known version. They die one by one; and, as the last one is dying, the hero's curiosity overcomes him and he conjures him to disclose the reason of their lamentations. The -dying man replies, forbidding him to open a certain locked door—a prohibition he, of course, disregards. A black eagle takes him up and conveys him to the Land of Women, where he weds the queen, who again charges him not to open a particular door. After seven months he disobeys, and is borne back by the same black eagle to the spot where it had first seized him, whence he finds his way once more to the palace of his former masters.

Here, it will be observed, the Forbidden Chamber is duplicated. The hero both reaches and quits the Houri Paradise by disobedience to the prohibition. There can be little doubt that in the earlier form of this story there is but one forbidden door—namely, the one whereby the hero quits the Paradise, and that the other is a reflection of this. On the other hand, the absence of the harem is, probably, a note of antiquity. The story in this form approaches a very wide-spread tale, which is found even beyond the limits of the Aryan and Semitic races. In the Hitopadesa[89]- a king's son goes to seek a maiden, who lies on a couch in the sea, under a tree. She catches sight of him and disappears; but he leaps into the sea, arrives at the golden city in which she dwells, and weds her. She forbids him to touch a picture of a certain vidyâdharâ or fairy. He disobeys, and the pictured figure resents his insolence with a kick so violent as to fling him back to his own country. Another version is in still closer contact with the tales previously cited. The hero is conveyed by a gigantic bird to the Golden City, and there wedded by the queen, who gives him strict charge not to ascend to the middle terrace of the palace. Disregarding this charge, he is kicked by a steed with a jewelled saddle, which he essays to mount, into a lake, and, rising to the surface, he finds himself standing in the midst of a garden-pond in his native city.[90] Note that in all these stories the hero's disobedience has the effect of transporting him back to his native place; or, as in the Arabian tale, to his starting-point.

Another group of variants goes somewhat further, and introduces that mysterious lapse of time which visitors to Fairyland experience. A loutish youth in an Esthonian tale[91] is beloved by a mermaid and taken to the subaqueous dwelling where she reigns as queen. He is forbidden to call her Mermaid. Every Thursday she disappears, passing the day in a locked chamber until the third cock-crow in the evening. After living happily with her for some time, he is overcome with curiosity and jealousy, and peeps in through the window-curtains. The room has no floor; but where the floor should be is water, in which the mermaid is swimming—woman to the waist, and fish below. The following day she appears to him in mourning, and, reproaching him, bids him farewell. With a thunder-clap he becomes unconscious, to find himself next lying on the beach where he had first met his love. Rising, he goes into the village to find that his parents have been dead for thirty years, and evenhi s brothers are no more. He has become an old man, and is dependent on charity. One day he ventures to tell his story. That night he disappears; and, after some time, the waves cast up his dead body on the shore. The mermaid of this story is, like the dove-maiden in the Sclavonic tale cited before, one of a well-known class, possessed of a double nature, and condemned to spend a portion of their time in the lower form, secluded from those whom they most love. The godmother, also, in the Mary's Child type, betrays in the same characteristic a trace of her mythological descent.

Of a different character is the heroine of a legend of the County Clare.[92] The Queen of the Country of Perpetual Youth, she persuades Ossian to accompany her to her own land and to share her throne. But a broad flat stone in one part of the palace garden is pointed out to him on which he may not stand under penalty of the heaviest misfortune. One day he disobeys and finds himself in full view of his native land, which he had forgotten since he had been in the Country of Perpetual Youth. He sees it oppressed, and begs permission to return. The queen, finding all dissuasion vain, permits him to return for a single day, and gives him a jet-black steed. From this steed he is not to dismount, nor is he on any account to let the bridle go. Forgetting so simple a direction he quits his seat to assist a peasant. The spell is thus broken: the three times thrice seven years he has dwelt in the Country of Perpetual Youth fall upon him when his feet touch earth again. He becomes an old man, feeble and helpless, and the horse that should have borne him back to happiness disappears.

This is the weird story of Olger the Dane, which in one form or another is so popular all over the west of Europe; but to follow it would lead me too far from my present subject. Keeping within the limits I have prescribed for myself, I will just mention one other version of the tale last cited. It is an Algonquin legend, bearing a strange, I had almost said a suspicious, likeness to our Aryan myths.[93] We are told that a man, coming to a lonely lake in the mountains, found maidens bathing; he picked up their clothes and ran away. They pursued him, and on one of them coming up he caught and wedded her. Subsequently he procured in a similar way one of his wife's sisters, and wedded her also. The two wives desert him. Lying down together at night, they wish for stars for husbands, and when they awake they find themselves in another world, each wedded to the star she had chosen, who appears in the form of a man. Their new husbands forbid them to lift a certain large flat stone; true to their instincts, they disobey, and find beneath a hole, through which they look down to the earth, and are seized with a desire to return to it. On their husbands' return they deny their disobedience; but, being found out, they obtain leave to return, and are wafted thither during the night. These two women, who are described as water fairies, are doubtless equivalents of the Swan-Maidens of the eastern hemisphere. Except in the mode of capture, however, the true Swan-Maiden story has little in connection with this tale, which may yet serve to remind us that some of the Swan-Maiden variants belong to the Forbidden Chamber class. The best known of these is perhaps that of Hasan of El Basrah.[94] Here the hero dwells for a time in a palace with seven maidens, who treat him as their brother. They at length leave him for two months, giving him the keys of their rooms, but begging him not to open a certain door. He disregards their injunction, and finds within (among other things) a pool of water, to which ten birds come, and, pulling off their feather dresses, descend to bathe in the pool as women. He falls in love with one of them, and on the return of the maidens who dwell there he confesses to one of them what he has done. She informs him who the supernatural women are, and instructs him to watch when they come again and seize the feather dress of the one whom he desires to wed, and he will then obtain power over her. He thus gains her; but his marriage with her ends in her recovery of the feather dress and flight, an incident that starts him on a new series of adventures for the purpose of regaining her. We found a version of this new series in a story of the Marya Morevna type. In the present case, however, there is no further reference to the Forbidden Chamber, and we therefore need not pursue the tale further. This is not the only Arabian tale in which the Swan-Maiden is discovered by opening a forbidden door[95]; but without stopping to examine others I will content myself with mentioning one of Von Hahn's Greek stories, where a similar event occurs.[96] It is a variant of Hasan of El Basrah. The hero, wandering on a mountain, finds a trapdoor, which by his great strength he succeeds in pulling up, and he descends into the cavern beneath for a whole day. Arrived at the bottom, he sees and enters a palace, and finds within an old man bound with chains. Having released him, the old man gives him the keys of thirty-nine out of the forty rooms in the palace. After a while the hero asks for the key of the fortieth room, and in spite of the elder's warning he insists on having it. In accordance with the old man's instructions he enters the room and finds a lake, wherein three maidens come to bathe. He hides and waits until the two elder have bathed and the youngest strips herself and plunges. He then seizes her clothes, in which her strength lies, and forces her to follow him back into the palace. The old man gives him a flying steed and a golden wand, and with these he sets out for home with the maiden, who of coarse ultimately obtains her clothes again. Then follow the remaining incidents of search and reconquest.


By way of conclusion I will just gather up a few tales both within and beyond the great realm of Aryo-Semitic tradition, which seem to be related to the myth of the Forbidden Chamber. And, first, let us see how it is brought into connection with some other of the more celebrated Aryan stories. The King of the Fishes has already been mentioned as the type of a group linking it to the classical Perseus. But it has even a nearer affinity to the still more beautiful tale of Cupid and Psyche. According to a Roumanian story[97] an emperor who has three daughters goes to war, leaving them the keys of all the chambers in his house, but forbidding them to enter a certain chamber. They disobey, and find nothing in the room but a large book lying on a table. The two elder daughters open the book successively, and read that they are to marry emperor's sons. The third daughter, the heroine, refuses to enter for a time, but is at length persuaded. She reads in the book that she is to be married to a swine, and she falls into despondency in consequence. On her father's return he charges his daughters with disobedience. The prophecies of the book are subsequently fulfilled. Here, the Forbidden Chamber is the keeper of the oracle consigning Psyche to the embraces of a monster. The evil influence of her sisters, however, ceases with the persuasion to disobey their father, and in the after-part of the narrative their counsels, which lead Psyche to so much mischief, are replaced by those of a witch. But in a Milanese story given by Imbriani[98] it is her sisters who persuade the heroine to break her mysterious husband's taboo, and indeed provide her with the materials for striking the prohibited light. Acting in accordance with their exhortations she finds that the monster she has married is a fair youth at night, and round his neck is a cord to which a key is attached. She takes this key, and seeks the door which it fits. Having found the door she opens it. Inside are many ladies working, as they tell her in rhyme, for the king's son. For this disobedience she can live no longer with her husband, but he is in the sequel disenchanted and relieved of his monster-form in consequence of her devotion. A more curious and pathetic form of the tale is found in Spain under the title of "The Black Hand."[99] Here a poor man, endeavouring to uproot a large cabbage, incurs a giant's wrath, and to save his own life he is compelled to bring the eldest of his three daughters to be the giant's wife. The giant takes her down into his underground palace, puts a ring on her finger, and hands her his keys, forbidding her to enter a certain chamber. She disobeys. Within is a well full of dead bodies, torn to pieces and covered with blood, into which the ring falls from her finger, and, though she recovers it, it cannot afterwards be cleansed. She is killed, and flung into the well; and the like fate happens to the next daughter, who is obtained on the usual pretext. But the third daughter escapes detection by removing the ring beforehand. After visiting the chamber repeatedly she discovers a little door ajar within it. Entering this further room she finds lying on a magnificent bed a comely youth whose breast is a river; and in this river many washer-women are washing skeins of wool. She daily comes to gaze on his beauty, and one day she sees a skein elude one of the washerwomen and float away unnoticed on the stream. Frightened, she cries out. At the same moment the palace trembles, the river and the washer-women disappear. The youth awaking reveals himself as the giant who has been enchanted. He tells her that her prudence would have released him from the spell the very next day, and they would have been happy, but that her cry has undone him, and compelled him either to kill her or to return to his enchantment—to be released God knows when. He refuses to slay her. He takes her to the well, joins the pieces of the dead bodies together, and, anointing them with some unguent, restores them to life. Taking them all to the surface of the earth, he disappears, and the heroine, often though she seeks, is never able to meet with the unselfish giant again.

I have already referred to the legends of Ossian and Olger the Dane, which should perhaps have found their place more fitly here. A Bohemian story[100] relates that the hero, carried off to Hell, is condemned by Lucifer to punishment, whence he is only freed at the intercession of Lucifer's daughter, whom instead he is compelled to marry. His new father-in-law gives the young couple a palace, but forbids the hero to touch a certain tree in the garden. The hero learns from his wife that on the top of that tree is a golden apple which one has only to throw behind him and wish, to be at once in any place he may desire. He accordingly plucks it, and thus escapes to his home. There seems to be an echo in this of the story in the Hitopadesa, but how strangely, grotesquely mingled with recollections of the Garden of Eden!

Can we, before quitting the Forbidden Chamber, find any clue to its origin? Can we trace the growth of the myth through any of its earlier stages? May we catch glimpses of its development from rudimentary forms? With very great diffidence I venture to suggest that there are a few tales scattered up and down the folk-lore of widely-severed countries that seem to exhibit the traces we are seeking. Take, for example, the Swabian tale of The Robber and the Miller's twelve Daughters.[101] Here a robber and magician, who requires the blood of twelve maidens for his witchcraft, or (according to another version) who has had a quarrel with a miller and desires to avenge himself upon his daughters, induces a miller to let him have his twelve daughters one after the other. When at last he gets the twelfth he takes her into the forest and sets himself down under a very high fir to twist a willow-rope, compelling her the while to relieve him of those "familiar beasts to man" doubtless only too well known to the peasants who tell the story. She feels a drop of blood fall from the tree upon her hand, and, looking up, she sees her eleven sisters hanging from the branches. She screams with horror, and the villain bids her say her prayers and prepare for death. She screams thrice—to Jesus, to the Virgin, and to her brother, when a huntsman, who turns out to be her brother, comes up with countless dogs, seizes the robber, sets free his sister, and hands the robber over to the executioner. In this narrative it does not need much imagination to see a half-developed version of Bluebeard,—such an one as might be current among a people less used to houses than to the open forest. How or why the evolution should have stopped and the story should have been handed down to us in this form, I confess I do not know; but we have already seen that the Swabians possess other variants, and the evolutionary tendency is, among folk-tales as among other organic products, toward infinite diversity. Let me go a step further and ask whether the Karen story of the man possessed with a Na or Evil spirit,[102] is not the same tale in even a more primitive form. This man, when the younger of his two daughters follows him one day to the fields, is seized at the foot of a tree by an evil spirit, and under its bewitching power he devours her. He then returns home, and pretending that his younger daughter is unhappy alone he gets his wife to send the elder one to her. On arriving at the tree he eats her also. On the same pretence he fetches his wife and leaves her beneath the tree, while he goes to seek an impaling stick. Meantime a lizard in the tree warns the woman that her husband will eat her, and points out to her her children's skulls in confirmation of his statement. When the husband returns he cannot find her; for the friendly lizard has drawn her up by his tail to the top of the tree; and for want of better food to satiate his morbid appetite he begins to eat himself. When he has thus rendered himself helpless the lizard lets his wife down again and she escapes.

A few months ago Mr. Coote gave an abstract in the Folk Lore Journal[103] of some modern Greek tales collected by M. Kamponrales. One of these would seem (if we may safely judge by the outline) to be an intermediate link between the two foregoing stories and the Dead Hand type. The Thrice-Accursed (namely, Belzebub) marries a princess who is too proud to accept any one else, and takes her to his mountain abode. There he shows her a woman hanging up, just as the miller's youngest daughter sees her sisters hanging. This was her husband's former wife, to whom he had given a human heart to eat, and on her failing to eat it had killed her. He then goes to hunt, having, as Mr. Coote puts it, tried his new wife with a similar dainty, with the usual result. He subsequently marries her two sisters successively; but the youngest outwits him, and with the aid of strangers escapes from his mountain abode. The Breton story of Redbeard[104] (which betrays in its title that it is connected in the minds of the people with that of Bluebeard) can scarcely be aught else than a similar link; for here, too, everything is present but the Forbidden Chamber. The heroine marries a widower who has had seven wives, lives ten years in harmony with him, and has children. Suddenly and without cause he resolves to kill her. She sends a dog with a note in his ear to her brothers, and contrives to delay until a military troop rescue her and kill Redbeard. She afterwards marries one of her deliverers.

Let us turn now for a moment to the Western World, and examine the Algonquin account of How one of the Partridge's wives became a Sheldrake Duck.[105] A hunter living in the woods keeps an elf in a box, which he keeps closed lest an evil spirit get him. One day he sees a water fairy and tries to catch her, but fails. She is however compelled to return to him and become his wife. Her curiosity is aroused by the disappearance of food; and, watching at night, she sees her husband feeding the elf, and washing and combing him. The next day she finds the key of the box, and takes the elf out; but while she is combing him the evil spirit snatches him away from her. She finds her hands turned red from contact with the elf, and cannot wash the stain off. Her husband returns without any game, sees the red stain on her hands, and thus discovers what has happened. "He seized his bow to beat her; when she saw him seize his bow to beat her she ran down to the river and jumped in, to escape death at his hands, though it should be by drowning. But as she fell into the water she became a sheldrake duck. And to this day the marks of the red stain are to be seen on her feet and feathers." I may remark in passing that we might be disposed to exclaim with Antonio, "The latter end of his commonwealth forgets the beginning," when we find a water fairy thus in danger of drowning and transformed for safety into a duck, if we had not the Swan-Maiden myth of the Old World to interpret the inconsistency. But what I want to call attention to is that this narrative, while preserving most of the essential features of the full-grown Aryan Bluebeard story, has yet two remarkable differences. In Europe the husband keeps the corpses of his victims in a secret chamber to conceal his guilt. It is understood that once that chamber door is thrown open by one who is permitted to betray what is within the guilty being's life is not worth a day's purchase, for offended society will vindicate itself upon him either by lynch-law or the ordinary course of justice. It is thus necessary for him to keep the chamber door locked against all intruders. The Algonquin tale replaces this gruesome mystery by the elf in the box. On the preservation of this elf the hunter's luck depends; and when he has been robbed of it through his wife's indiscretion his success in the chase is gone. He returns home for the explanation, and finds it in the guilty stains upon his wife's hands. Manifestly the elf is his fetish, and in the cage containing it we have a more primitive form of the Forbidden Chamber. The incident in this shape is specially characteristic of savage life. As with advancing civilisation the reasoning which has moulded it thus becomes obsolete we may expect that the incident itself will undergo a change into a form more appropriate to the higher stages of culture, or at least more easily understood. This is consonant to all that we know of the tendency of tradition to modify itself in accordance with the environment of the people in whose mind it is embedded; and this is what has actually happened. Luck-worship is doubtless in many phases still familiar to the most civilised nations, but the downright fetishism of the Indian hunter has passed away and been forgotten. Europe however is not so far removed from the barbarous feudalism which a living Bluebeard might conceivably adorn as to make a tyrannical husband who had murderous secrets from his wife and who avenged her curiosity in blood seem an absolute impossibility to peasants not yet wholly escaped from the oppression of a military aristocracy. Hence the transformation of the caged elf to the corpse-chamber. This is the first difference I have referred to; and it involves the other, namely, the introduction of the express prohibition. In the Algonquin tale the prohibition is at, most an implied one, and perhaps this is all that is necessary to a savage mind; for it would go without saying that the utmost care must be taken of so important a part of an Indian ménage as the fetish, and the violation of a rale so well comprehended would of course entail serious consequences. Oddly enough a Sicilian tale presents us with a somewhat similar incident.[106] A king who has three daughters offers his eldest daughter as wife to any one who can guess what beast's hide a certain skin is. At last a robber, who lives in a desert place alone and possesses a magical head, consults the head and by its aid guesses the riddle and obtains the prize. He takes her home and compels her to work hard. One day he goes away, charging the magical head to listen to what his wife says of him. As soon as he is gone she exclaims on him and abuses him. The head reports this to the robber on his return, and he puts her to death, throwing her body into a chamber where were the corpses of many other maidens who had met their fate in the same way. Then he goes to the king and by means of the usual pretence obtains his second daughter, who comes to a similar end. He then fetches the third daughter. She professes great admiration for the robber's house, carefully abstains from asking for her sisters, but does the work required of her cheerfully, and in her husband's absence she prays and invokes blessings on him. This is duly reported to him by the magical head on his return. He is pleased with her, and by way of reward shows her her dead sisters in the secret chamber. She bides her time, and during another absence she comes to his room, and, finding the magical head hanging in a basket, she flatters it and persuades it to come down, a course which the sheldrake duck had vainly attempted with the hunter's elf. The magical head follows the heroine into the kitchen, and there, like the sheldrake duck, she combs it. Suddenly she lifts it by the cue, and, flinging it into the oven, destroys it. The robber's life is bound up with the life of his talisman, and he dies too. Above the window where the basket hung she finds a jar of ointment, and, taking it, anoints the bodies in the chamber, thus bringing them all to life again, and they divide the robber's treasure. In this variant the union of the ogre with the magical head is much closer than that of the hunter with his elf, for his actual life and not merely his luck depends upon it. We have already had occasion to notice examples of the myth now under consideration approaching that of Puchkin. In the idea embodied in stories belonging to the Punchkin group we recognise, as Mr. Clodd has already suggested in the Folk-Lore Journal, the relic of a more primitive belief; and it may very well be that this belief, at all events put in so striking a form, would appeal more strongly to the uncultured or the half cultured imagination, and so would survive longer the departure from the mental condition that gave birth to it, than the worship of a fetish. If I am right in thinking this the Sicilian tale marks a stage of thought beyond that of the Algonquin, though we find the forbidden chamber still (if I may use such a metaphor) in an embryonic condition, but in a condition from which its advance to the fullblown life of the stories examined at the commencement of this paper is both easy and certain. The cluster of variants I have called that of the Dead Hand may probably disclose the next step in its evolution.

We thus appear to see the story developing from the slaughter of his wife and children by a capricious or cannibal husband, to a marriage and murder for previously incurred vengeance, or for purposes of witchcraft, and thence to a murder by a husband for disobedience express or implied. At this point the fatal curiosity comes upon the scene as one mode of accounting for the disobedience; and when once this element is introduced it proves a most potent influence, and the story branches off and blossoms in all directions.

  1. Deutsche Volksmärchen aus Schwaben, Story No. 38, p, 134.
  2. Kinder- und Haus- märchen, vol. iii. p. 74. He also states that it admittedly represents a folk-song of Ulrich and Anne, where, however, there is no mention of the blue beard. In Grimm's first edition appeared a tale which he had collected, but being in doubt whether it also did not owe its origin to the French he afterwards omitted it. It differed from Perrault's version only in two particulars. Sister Anne was not introduced; and the heroine laid the key in hay, in accordance with an old superstition that hay will take out bloodstains. I cite Grimm's notes from the 3rd edition (in three vols.), Gottingen, 1856; the stories from the 7th edition, Berlin, 1880.
  3. Kreutzwald, Ehstnische Märchen, Story No. 20, p. 273.
  4. Tuscan Fairy Tales, p. 63.
  5. Imbriani, La Novellaja Fiorentina, Story No. 23, p. 290.
  6. Powell and Magnusson, Icelandic Legends, 2nd series, p. 498.
  7. Ibid.; Imbriani, op cit. Story No. 1, p. 7; Webster, Basque Legends, p. 173.
  8. Kreutzwald, Ehstniche Märchen, loc. cit.
  9. Grimm, op. cit. Story No. 46, p. 177; Webster, loc. cit.; Folk-Lore Record, vol. iv. p. 152.
  10. Schmidt, Griechsche Märchen, &c. M. No. 12, p. 93; Imbriani, loc. cit.; Webster, loc. cit.
  11. Schneller, Märchen, &c. aus Wälschtirol, Story No. 31, p. 86; Story No. 32, p. 88, p. 187; Busk, Household Stories from the Land of Hofer, p. 278; Bernoni, Fiabe Popolari Veneziane, Story No. 3, p. 16; Visentini, Fiabe Mantovane, p. 181.
  12. Legrand, Contes Populaires Grecs, p. 115.
  13. Tuscan Fairy Tales, loc. cit.; Folk-Lore Record, vol. iv. p. 152; Asbjörnsen and Moe, given by Thorpe, Yule Tide Stories, p. 288.
  14. Imbriani, op. cit. Story No. 1, p. 7; Grimm, loc. cit.
  15. Bernoni, Busk, Schneller, Visentini, loc. cit. In Imbriani, op. cit. p. 290, a nosegay is given, though the monster is not identified with the Devil, but the heroine escapes before he has a chance to test her disobedience.
  16. Folk-Lore Record, loc. cit.
  17. Tales of the West Highlands, vol. ii. p. 274, a variant of Story No. 41.
  18. Tales of the West Highlands, Story No. 41, p. 265.
  19. Webster, loc. cit.
  20. Kreutzwald, loc. cit.
  21. Household Stories from the Land of Hofer, loc. cit.
  22. Schneller, loc. cit.
  23. Pitré (Fiabe Novelle e Racconti Popolari Siciliani, vol. i. Story No. 21, p. 191) gives an allied story in which the bridegroom compels his bride to take a number of dead bodies, one by one, out of a certain room and arrange them erect. Worn out by this labour, she bethinks her of a magic gift bestowed on her by her aunt. She opens the vessel containing it and utters her wish to return home. A dove flies out and bids her write to her father. The dove carries the letter. She is rescued by a seventh son. The husband afterwards makes the attempt at revenge, discussed later on under the Dead Hand type. In a variant the messenger is a swallow, and the monster is a dragon with a long tail, out of whose folds the heroine is delivered. This is analogous to the sleeping Devil of the text.
  24. Grimm. Story already cited.
  25. Fiabe Mantorane, loc. cit.
  26. Fiabe Popolari Veneziane, loc. cit.
  27. Op. cit. p. 187.
  28. Schneller, op. cit. Story No. 32, p. 88. Busk, op. cit. p. 290.
  29. Tales of the West Highlands, vol. ii. Story No. 41, p. 265.
  30. Ibid. p. 274.
  31. Imbriani, op. cit. Story No. 1, p. 7.
  32. Archivio, vol. iii. p. .368.
  33. Thorpe, loc. cit.
  34. Birlinger, Volksthümliches aus Schwaben, vol. i. No. 593, p. 369.
  35. Legrand, loc. cit.
  36. Finamore, Tradizioni Popolari Abeuzzesi, vol. i. Story No. 12, p. 55.
  37. This can only be determined by a fuller comparison. Other stories of this type point to a connection with the Jason stories—for example, that of Petrosina cited above from the Archivio, where the heroine has to let down her hair for the monster to ascend by into his castle.
  38. Imbriani, loc. cit.
  39. Archivio, Finamore, loc. cit.
  40. Folk-Lore Record, loc. cit.
  41. Webster, loc. cit.
  42. Powell and Magnusson, loc. cit.
  43. Nerucci, Sessanta Novelle Populari Montalesi, Story No. 49, p. 400.
  44. L. Gonzenbach, Sicilianische Märchen, Story No. 23, voL i. p. 139.
  45. B. Schmidt, Griechische Märchen, Sagen, und Volkslieder, Märchen No. 24, p. 122.
  46. Pitré, Bibliotheca, vol. iv. Story No. 19, p. 175. "A Slave" is explained by M. Mattia Di Martino, another Sicilian folk-lore student, to mean a dark or black-haired man—"uomo di pel bruno."—Archivio, vol, iv. p. 98.
  47. G. Spitta Bey, Contes Arabes Modernes, Story No. 5, p. 61.
  48. Tuscan Fairy Tales, Story No. 7, p. 63. Imbriani, op, cit. Story No. 23, p. 290. Legrand, op. cit. p. 115.
  49. Pitré, vol. iv. Story No. 21, p. 201.
  50. Meier, Deutsche Volksmärchen aus Schwaben, Story No. 63, p. 224.
  51. Legrand, loc. cit.
  52. Tuscan Fairy Tales, loc. cit.
  53. Imbriani, op. cit. No. 23, p. 290.
  54. Schmidt, Griechische Märchen, Sagen, und Volkslieder. Märchen No, 12, p. 93.
  55. Grimm, Kinder- und Hausmärchen, Story No. 3, p. 7.
  56. Leskien & Brugman, Litanische Volkslieder und Märchen, M. No. 44 (German version), p. 498.
  57. Vol. iii. p. 7.
  58. Waldau, Böhmisches Märchen, p. 600.
  59. Comparetti, Novelline Popolari Ifaliane, vol. i. Story No. 38, p. 156.
  60. P. 81.
  61. Spitta Bey, Contes Arabes Modernes, No. 10, p. 123.
  62. Milenowsky, Volksmärchen aus Böhmen, p. 87. Waldau, Böhmisches Märchenbuch, p. 468. (These two appear to be the same story.)
  63. Wenzig, Westslawlacher Märchenschatz, p. 144.
  64. Russian Folk-Tales, p. 85.
  65. Krausz, Sagen und Märchcn der Südslaven, No. 34, p. 143.
  66. Ibid, No. 88, p. 97.
  67. Waldau, p. 448.
  68. Wenzig, p. 09.
  69. Waldau, loc. cit.
  70. Krausz, Sagen und Märchen der Südslaven, Story No. 88, p. 397. See also Story No. 81, p. 352.
  71. Westslanischer Märchenschatz, p. 69.
  72. Powell and Magnusson's translation, 2nd series, p. 527.
  73. Ibid. p. 329.
  74. Griechische und Albanesische Märchen, No. 68, vol. ii. p. 33.
  75. Lane's One Thousand and One Nights, vol. i. p. 154, edit, 1878.
  76. P. 1. An Athenian tale mentioned by Mr. Coote as collected by M. Kampourales, and entitled "The Black Man," seems to belong to this group, but is not given in sufficient detail to enable me to judge.—Folk-Lore Journal, vol. ii. p. 239, August 1884.
  77. Op. cit. vol. ii. p. 286.
  78. Thorpe, op. cit, loc. cit.
  79. De Gubernatis, Le Novelline di Santo Stephano, Story No. 26, p. 51.
  80. Contes Populaires de la Haute Bretagne, vol. iii. Story No. 9, p. 74.
  81. Op. cit. vol. ii. p. 197.
  82. Steere's Swahili Tales, p. 381.
  83. Sébillot, Contes Populaires, vol. i. Story No, 18, p. 124.
  84. Roumanian Fairy Tales and Legends, p. 27.
  85. Thorpe, op. cit. p. 293.
  86. Lane, One Thousand and One Nights, vol. i. p. 160.
  87. Sessanta Novelle Popolari Montalesi, Story No. 9, p. 7.3. Comparetti, Novelline Popolari Italians, vol. i. Story No. 65, p. 280.
  88. The Book of Sindihad, &c. edited by W. A. Clouston, p. 170.
  89. Clouston, op. cit. p. 309. Hitopatésa tradiut du Sanscrit, par Edouard Lancercau, Book ii, Story No. 6. p. 127.
  90. Clouston, op. cit. p. 308. There are numerous variants of this tale in the Kathâ Sarit Ságara, and elsewhere. I hope to return to this subject at an early date.
  91. Krevitzwahl, op. cit. Story No. 16, p. 212.
  92. Choice Notes (Folk-Lore), p. 94.
  93. C. G. Leland, The Algonquin Legends of New England, p. 140.
  94. Lane's One Thousand and One Nights, vol. iii, p. 352.
  95. This form of the Swan-Maiden story seems a special characteristic of Arabic folk-lore. See Lane, op. cit. vol. iii. p. 479; Dr. Steere's Swahili Tales, p. 355.
  96. Von Hahn, Griechische und Albanesische Märchcn, vol. ii. p. 207. The heroine is called a swan-maid in the title; but her clothes are not expressly mentioned as a swan-plumage.
  97. Mite Kremnitz, Rumänische Märchen, Story No. 5, p. 48.
  98. Imbriani, op. cit. p. 327.
  99. Biblioteca de las Tradiciones Poulares Espanolas, vol. ii. p. 25.
  100. Waldau, Böhmisches Märchenbuch, p. 567.
  101. Birlinger, op. cit. vol. i. p. 368.
  102. Macmahon, The Karens of the Golden Chersonese, p. 151.
  103. Vol. ii. p. 238, August 1884. Mr. Coote calls attention to the curious fact that the Italian variants of Bluebeard all represent the heroine's escape to be brought about by her own subtilty.
  104. Sébillot, Litterature ovale de la Haute Bretagne, p. 41.
  105. Leland, op. cit. p. 300.
  106. Gonzenbach, Sicilianische Märchen, Story No. 22, vol. i. p. 135.