Tuesday's Tales - from Hungary

The Wishes – Hungary

Once upon a time, there was a poor man who had a pretty young wife and they were very fond of each other.  For the most part, they were happy, and the only thing they had to complain of was their poverty.  So it happened sometimes that they quarrelled, and one blamed the other for their poverty.  But still they loved each other.

One evening the woman came home earlier than her husband.  Although there was very little, she still thought to make a little soup for her husband, so that he would have something hot for when he came home.  But no sooner had she put the kettle over the fire, than her husband arrived home and took his seat by her side on the bench, where they warmed themselves together by the fire.

“I have some news for you, wife,” he said.

“What is it?”

“As I was coming home from the maize-field in the dark, I saw a black spot on the road.  I couldn’t make it out so I went nearer and you will never guess what it was.”  He stared at her.

She stared back at him. “How can I guess?  I was not there.”

“It was a beautiful golden carriage, with a pretty little woman inside, and four fine black dogs harnessed to it.”

“This is a joke, yes?”

“No, no.  It is perfectly true.  You know how muddy the roads get at this time of year.  The dogs were stuck fast with the carriage and they couldn’t move.  The little woman did not get out of the carriage; I wager she was afraid of soiling her golden dress.  At first, I was about to run away for I believed her to be an evil spirit.  But she called after me and implored me to help her out of the mud.  She promised no harm would come to me, but that she would reward me instead.

“So I thought it would be a good thing for us if she could help us in our poverty.  I pushed the carriage from behind and the dogs were able to drag it out of the mud.  The woman asked me if I was married.  I told her I was.  She asked me if I was rich.  I replied, not at all.  ‘That can be remedied,’ she said. ‘I will fulfil three wishes but it is for your wife to choose.’  And then she was gone, just like that.  She was a fairy, I’m sure of it.”

“Well,” said his wife, shaking her head, “she made a fool of you.”

“We shall see.  You must wish for something, my dear wife.”

With a sigh, and without much thought, she said, “I would like to have some sausage that I can cook over our nice fire.”

She’d barely finished uttering the words when a frying-pan came down the chimney, and in it a sausage so long it was enough to fence in their whole garden.

“This is grand!” they exclaimed together.

“But we must be more clever with our next two wishes,” said the husband.  “Then we will be able to buy two heifers and two horses, and a sucking pig.” Feeling very pleased, he took his tobacco-pouch, filled his pipe, then tried to light it with a hot cinder, but was so awkward about it that he upset the frying-pan with the sausage in it.

“Good heavens!  The sausage!” exclaimed the woman as she tried to snatch it from the fire.  Without thinking, she said, “I wish that sausage would grow on to your nose.”  She exclaimed again, for the sausage was no longer in the fire but dangling from her husband’s nose down to his toes.  “Oh no!” she cried.  “Now see what you have done!”

“What I have done?” said the poor man.  “Thanks to you, the second wish is gone.” Tugging at the sausage, he said, “What can we do with this thing?”

“Can’t we get it off?” said the woman.

“Take it off?  Can’t you see it has grown to my nose?  You can’t take it off.”

“Then we must cut it off,” she said.

“I shan’t permit it.  How could I allow my body to be cut about?  Not for all the treasure on earth.  But there is something we can do, love.  There is yet one wish left; you’d better wish that the sausage goes back to the pan, and then all will be right.”

“But what about the heifers and the horses, and the sucking pig, how will we get those?”

“Well, I can’t walk about with this ornament, and I’m sure you won’t kiss me again with this sausage dangling from my nose.”

But still his wife refused, and their quarrelling went on for a while, until finally the man managed to persuade his wife to wish that the sausage returned to the pan.  And so all three wishes were fulfilled, but they remained as poor as ever.

They did make a hearty meal of the sausage, however, and realised that it was because of their quarrelling that they had no heifers, nor horses, nor sucking pig.  After that, they did not quarrel as much, and got on better.  In time, because of their own industry and thrifty nature, they did acquire heifers and horses, and even a sucking pig.


Again, like the previous story, there is a simplicity, and something almost innocent, about this tale.  And it’s funny as well.  I like that, unlike most other ‘wishing’ tales, at the end of the day, it was their own hard work that got them what they wanted. 

I noticed something about this and the previous Hungarian story – here, it was the woman who got to choose the wishes; in the previous one, the young woman was given the choice as to whether she would accept the prince as her husband … despite the age of these stories, it seems as if women were respected and treated well; like I said before, a refreshing change.