The Master-Thief.

A very famous and cruel robber, having amassed much wealth, settled down to a quiet and orderly life; but finding his three sons resolved to follow the same profession, he refused to grant them a farthing of his money. The youngest son, concealed in a bundle of fodder, is introduced into the royal stables, and makes off at night with the queen's celebrated steed and his valuable trappings, but is observed and followed. He and his brothers are caught. The father refuses to ransom them; but the queen offers to set them free if the old robber will relate some of the most terrible incidents of his former career.

He relates how he and his comrades were captured by a giant whose abode they had plundered; how the giant ate them one by one; how he himself blinded the giant while pretending to cure his sore eyes, and how he eluded the giant for several days by now clinging to the beams of the roof, now taking refuge among his flock of sheep, from which he selected one daily for his food. At length the giant threw him a ring, which he put on his finger, and which caused him to shout, “Here I am! here I am!” thus betraying his whereabouts. As the ring could not be removed, he cut off his finger, and the spell ceased.—Escaped at length, he comes upon the bodies of three robbers who had been lately hanged. He reaches the hut of a poor woman, whom ghūls had ordered to cook her son for their revels; he takes away one of the dead robbers and gives it to the old woman as a substi­tute for her son, and then occupies the place of the body he had removed, to conceal the trick. The ghūls came, however, and seizing him, were about to devour him, when, lo, a sound as of a loud rushing wind caused them to vanish, and thus he escaped a second great peril.

A remarkably close parallel to this story is found in Campbell's Popular Tales of the West Highlands, vol. i, pp. 145-148, in the Tale of Connal, but the sequence of the incidents is curiously changed: Connal saw, in the upper part of a cave, a fine fair woman, “who was thrusting the flesh stake at a big lump of a baby, and every thrust she would give the spit, the babe would laugh, and she would begin to weep. Connal spoke, and he said: ‘Woman, what ails thee at the child without reason?’ ‘Oh,’ said she, ‘since thou art an able man thyself, kill the baby and set it on this stake, till I roast it for the giant.’ He caught hold of the baby, and he put a plaid that he had on about the babe, and he hid it at the side of the cave. There were a great many dead bodies at the side of the cave, and he set one of them on the stake, and the woman was roasting it. Then was heard under ground trembling and thunder coming, and he would rather that he was out. Here he sprang in the place of the corpse that was at the fire, in the very midst of the bodies. The giant came, and he asked: ‘Was the roast ready?’ He began to eat, and he said: ‘Fiu fau hoagrich! It's no wonder that thy own flesh is tough; it is tough on thy brat.’ When the giant had eaten that one, he went to count the bodies; and the way he had of counting them was, to catch hold of them by the two smalls of the leg, and to toss them past the top of his head; and he counted them backwards and forwards thus three or four times; and as he found Connal somewhat heavier, and that he was soft and fat, he took that slice out of him from the back of his head to his groin. He roasted this at the fire, and he ate it, and then he fell asleep. Connal winked to the woman to put the flesh stake in the fire. She did this, and when the spit grew white after it was red, he thrust the spit through the giant's heart, and the giant was dead.” We have here a distorted ver­sion of the exploit of the Master-Thief of our tale—the blinding of the giant, which, again, is evidently taken from the similar ad­venture of Ulysses with Polyphemus. The man-eating giant, or ghūl, may be compared with world-wide legends of dragons and rākshasas that devoured citizens—preferably beautiful maidens, at the rate of one each week or month;—the oldest extant form being found in a beautiful episode of the Mahābharata, which has been rendered into graceful English verse by Dean Milman, under the title of the Brāhman's Lament.—To return to the Tale of Connal: “Then Connal went and he set the woman on her path homewards, and then he went home him­self. His stepmother sent him and her son to steal the white-faced horse from the king of Italy… A company came out, and they were caught. The binding of the three smalls was laid on them straitly and painfully. ‘Thou big red man,’ said the king, ‘wast thou ever in so hard a case as that?’” Connal then relates his adventures, being promised pardon if he could tell of his having been in a worse plight during his past career.

On the Seventh Morning, the execution of the prince is prevented by the appearance of another old man, who, after the usual questions and replies, relates, as an example of the malice of women, the story of