Georgia: The Three Precepts

This story is part of the Georgian Folktales unit. Story source: Georgian Folk Tales, by Marjory Wardrop (1894).

The Three Precepts

THERE was, there was, there was, there was, and nothing there was. In a certain country, a certain realm, a certain region, a certain village, there was an orphan so poor, so poor, that ‘tween heaven and earth nought could be found that was his. Being in such a plight today, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, this week, next week, this month, next month, sad and thoughtful he became; he thought, he thought, he thought, and at last made up his mind: 'I will arise and try my luck,' quoth he.

He rose betimes in the morning, called on the name of God, turned himself to the right hand, and set forth from the house.

He went, he went, he went, beyond the sky, across the earth, across the forest, across the field, across the plain, over the mountains, he went as far as he could, and when he looked he saw a man of graceful mien coming towards him. The youth quickened his step and they met.

'I wish thee victory, good youth!' said the stranger; 'whither goest thou?'

'May God send thee victory, my master,' answered the young man; 'I go to seek a livelihood.'

'Be my servant for three years, and I shall teach thee three things that will afterwards be helpful,' said this clever man to the youth. The youth agreed and went away with him.

At the end of a year's service, the clever man said to the youth: 'Whatever thou seest outside thy yard, throw it into the yard.'

When the second year had passed, he again spoke to the youth and said: 'Lend nothing to anybody unless thou art much pressed to do so.'

The third year came to an end, and it was time for the young man to depart; the clever man called him and said: 'Tell not thy secret to a woman.'

Then he bade him farewell, blessed him, and sent him home. The youth set out: he went, he went, he went by day, he went by night, over land, over water, and when he reached home he began to establish himself; he made a fence round his yard and, as he had been instructed, threw into the yard all he found outside the yard.

One morning he went out and found on the road a red snake; he remembered the instruction of the clever man and threw the snake into the yard. A week later, the young man noticed that on the place where he had thrown the snake, it had laid a multitude of precious stones. It is no wonder that the youth was greatly pleased at this. He gathered up the snake and the precious stones in the skirt of his garment, and put the snake in a nest in his own house. Every day the snake laid him a precious stone.

The youth became wealthy: he built himself a fine house, took a wife, and lived like a lord. Still the snake went on laying precious stones; the youth became richer and richer, and gave himself up to gladness.

One day his wife said to him: 'Young man! Who has made thee so fabulously rich, for thou wast formerly poorer than any one on earth.'

'Who? God gave me wealth,' said the husband, following the clever man's advice, not revealing his secret.

But the woman gave him no peace; day and night she always asked the same thing: 'How didst thou become wealthy Thou must tell me, thou must.'

The youth had no way of escape; she wearied him out, and at last made him tell her all about the snake. Since there was nothing else to be done, the young man took his wife and showed her the snake that laid precious stones.

After this, it happened that the snake ceased to lay precious stones; the young man's wealth began to diminish, and nothing was added to it.

When he was in this state, a certain man came and asked him for the loan of a knife. Of course, being utterly cast down with grief and sorrow, he remembered not the words the clever man had spoken to him, and lent the knife. May it happen to thine enemy as it happened to him! It happened that this wretched man was a thief. When he had got the knife, he went and broke into a house to steal; there he thrust the knife into the belly of a sleeping man, slew him, and left the knife in the dead man's body, and then pillaged the house.

Afterwards an enquiry was made into the matter. They found the knife in the man who had been killed and robbed, and it turned out to be the knife of the young man. Of course he was taken and bound, all his goods were seized, and he was treated as a thief ought to be treated. Thus did it happen to the wretched youth who disobeyed the instructions of the clever man.

Yestereve I was there,
This evening I am here. . . .
Three apples, three pomegranates,
May God send thee,
Ripe in thy hands.
The tale, the tale is ended. . . .
Thou hast eaten maize-bread with ashes,
Thou hast drunk bad, stale wine,
And eaten a rotten walnut.

(1100 words)

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