Saturday, 5 September 2015

Myths, Legends, Folk Tales: The Werewolf's Daughter

This folktale comes from Slovakia. It’s a quite popular werewolf tale that can be found in Sabine Baring-Gould’s The Book of Werewolves under the title “Daughter of the Vlkodlak”. In her work, she cites T. T. Hanush’s Zeitschrift fur Deutsche Mythologie, vol. 3 as her source. Like many such old folk tales, this one could be told omitting the werewolf element and it wouldn’t lose much of its meaning, but nevertheless here it is!

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There once was a man who had nine daughters, all of them ready to be wed, but the most beautiful of them all was the youngest. The father was a werewolf and one day he thought to himself: ‘What benefit is there from keeping so many girls?’

Hence, he decided to get rid of all of them. Before leaving for the forest to gather firewood, he ordered that one of his daughters bring him dinner. The eldest one was the one to do it.

‘Why have you brought me my meal so fast?’ asked the lumberjack.

‘To tell the truth, father, I wanted to feed you for fear that you would be angry with us were you to be left hungry!’

‘What a good girl you are! Sit down, while I eat.’

While he was eating, a certain idea came to his mind. He rose and said: ‘Come, daughter, I will show you a trench I dug.’

‘What is the purpose of this trench?’

‘I dug it so we would be buried there when we die, because nobody cares about poor people when they’re already dead.’

The girl went with him and stood at the edge of the deep trench.

‘Listen,’ said the werewolf. ‘You must die and be buried in this trench.’

The girl started begging him to spare her, but in vain. He grabbed her and threw her into the trench; then he took a big stone and tossed it straight on her head, smashing her skull, so the poor thing died. When the deed was done, the werewolf returned to working in the forest.

At sunset, the next daughter came and brought him a meal. He told her about the trench, led her to it and threw her inside, killing her the same way as the first daughter. He did the same with all of his daughters except the last one.

The youngest daughter knew that her father was a werewolf and was very sad that her sisters did not return home. ‘Where could they be at this hour?’ she wondered. ‘Did he keep them for company or so they would help him with his work?’ And so she prepared the meal she was to bring to him and, keeping her guard up, went to the forest.

When she came close to where her father was working, she heard the sound of his axe as he was cutting down trees and she could smell smoke. She saw a great fire and above it two human heads were roasting. She left the fire behind and walked to where the sound of the axe was coming from, which led her to her father.

‘Here, father,’ the girl said. ‘I brought you your meal.’

‘You are a good daughter,’ he replied. ‘While I eat, pile up this wood.’

‘And where are my sisters?’ she asked.

‘Down there in the valley, gathering firewood. Come, I will take you to them.’

The two of them approached the trench and the father said that he had dug it to serve as a grave.

‘Now,’ he added, ‘you must die and be buried in this trench alongside your sisters.’

‘Turn around, father,’ the girl asked. ‘I will undress and then you can kill me, if you want.’

He turned away, just like she asked him to, and then she pushed him will all her force, making him fall face-first into the hole that he had dug out for her.

The girl ran for her life, because the werewolf was unhurt and soon leaped out of the trench. She could hear his howling as it carried through the dark forest paths, but she kept running like the wind. She could hear his steps and laboured breath closer and closer, so she threw a handkerchief behind her. The werewolf caught it and started tearing it to shreds with his fangs and claws. But soon he was again chasing after her, foaming at the mouth, howling grimly and with red eyes that glowed like charring coals. When he was about to catch up to her, she threw her dress for him to devour. He grabbed it and tore it to pieces, then resumed his chase. Afterwards, the girl threw behind her apron, then her underwear, so she ended up naked as a new-born babe. The werewolf was getting closer.

The girl ran out of the forest and into a mowed meadow, where she hid in the smallest stack of hay. Her father charged in after her and, howling, began searching for her, overturning every stack of hay, all the while growling and gritting his teeth. His fangs flashed with anger that the daughter managed to run away. He was drooling from his jaws as he paced around and his body sweltered from the heat. Before he could get to the smallest stack of hay, tiredness overcame him, his strength was waning, so he went back into the forest.

The king, as was his daily custom, was at that time out hunting. His hounds chased prey onto the meadow, which, coincidentally, had been avoided by peasants for three days. Having followed the hounds, the king found the beautiful girl not on top of the hay, but neck-high inside the hay stack. She was then taken, along with the hay, to the palace, where she married the king. The girl agreed to become his wife on condition that no beggar would have entrance to the palace.

However, a few years later, one beggar managed to come inside. Of course, it was none other than the werewolf-father. He crept upstairs to the children’s room, slit the throats of the two children the queen had with her husband, and then planted the knife under the queen’s pillow. In the morning, thinking that it was the queen who murdered their children, the king exiled her from the palace, the two dead princelings hanging around her neck.

But a hermit came to her rescue and brought the two children back to life. The king realised his mistake and made peace with the girl he had found in the hay stack. The werewolf met his end by being thrown off a cliff into the sea.

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