was once a young man who had journeyed a long way
from home in search of adventure. One day he came to
a strange village on the border of a great wood, but
while yet some distance from the lodges, he happened
to glance upward. In the boughs of a tree just above
his head he saw a light scaffold, and on the scaffold
a maiden sitting at her needlework.
Instead of boldly entering the
village, as he had intended, the youth walked on a
little way, then turned and again passed under the
tree. He did this several times, and each time he
looked up, for the girl was the prettiest that he had
He did not show himself to the
people, but for several days he lingered on the
borders of the wood, and at last he ventured to speak
with the maiden and to ask her to be his wife. She
did not seem to be at all unwilling; however, she
said to him:
"You must be very careful,
for my grandmother does not wish me to marry. She is
a very wicked old woman, and has thus far succeeded
in killing every one of my suitors."
"In that case, we must run
away," the young man replied. "Tonight,
when your grandmother is asleep, pull up some of the
tent-pins and come out. I shall be waiting for
The girl did as he had said, and
that same night they fled together and by morning
were far from the village.
However, the maiden kept looking
over her shoulder as if fearing pursuit, and at last
her lover said to her:
"Why do you continue to
look behind you? They will not have missed you until
daylight, and it is quite certain now that no one can
"Ah," she replied,
"my grandmother has powerful magic! She can
cover a whole day's journey at one step, and I am
convinced that she is on our trail."
"In that case, you shall
see that I too know something of magic,"
returned the young man. Forthwith he threw down one
of his mittens, and lo! their trail was changed to
the trail of a Buffalo. He threw down the other
mitten, and it became the carcass of a Buffalo lying
at the end of the trail.
"She will follow this far
and no farther," he declared; but the maiden
shook her head, and ceased not from time to time to
glance over her shoulder as they hastened onward.
In truth it was not long till
she saw the old woman in the distance, coming on with
great strides and shaking her cane and her gray head
at the runaways.
"Now it is my turn!"
the girl exclaimed, and threw down her comb, which
became a thick forest behind the fleeing ones, so
that the angry old woman was held back by the dense
When she had come out of the
forest at last and was again gaining upon them, the
girl threw her awl over her shoulder and it became a
chain of mountains with high peaks and sharp
precipices, so that the grandmother was kept back
longer than before. Nevertheless, her magic was
strong, and she still struggled on after the lovers.
In the meantime, they had come
to the bank of a river both wide and deep, and here
they stood for a while doubting how they should
cross, for there was neither boat nor ford. However,
there were two Cranes near by, and to these the young
man addressed himself.
"My friends," said he,
"I beg of you to stand on the opposite banks of
this river and stretch your necks across, so that we
may cross in safety! Only do this, and I will give to
each of you a fine ornament for your breast, and long
fringes on your leggings, so that you will hereafter
be called the handsomest of birds!"
The Cranes were willing to
oblige, and they stood thus with their beaks
touching over the stream, so that the lovers crossed
on their long necks in safety.
"Now," exclaimed the
young man," I must ask of you one more favor! If
an old woman should come down to the river and seek
your help, place your heads together once more as if
to allow her to cross, but when she is half way over
you must draw back and let her fall in mid-stream. Do
this, and I promise you that you shall never be in
In a little while the old woman
came down to the river, quite out of breath, and more
angry than before. As soon as she noticed the two
Cranes, she began to scold and order them about.
"Come here, you long-necks,
you ungainly creatures, come and help me over this
river!" she cried.
The two Cranes again stood beak
to beak, but when the wicked grandmother had crossed
half way they pulled in their necks and into the
water she went, screaming out threats and abuse as
she whirled through the air. The current swept her
quickly away and she was drowned, for there is no
magic so strong that it will prevail against true