The Three Expeditions—p. 154 ff.

It is a very usual occurrence in folk-tales, as well as in tales of more elaborate construction, for the hero, after becoming the king's chief favourite, to be the mark for the shafts of envy and malice. Plots are laid in order to bring about his destruction, and, commonly through the suggestions of his enviers, the king is induced to despatch him on most perilous adventures—almost invariably three in succession, as in our little romance. Some­times it is the hero's brothers who are envious of his good fortune and thus seek to cause his death; sometimes a courtier whom he has supplanted in the king's favour and patronage. We have examples of both kinds of enviers in Geldart's Folk-Lore of Modern Greece, an entertaining collection, as well as useful to such as are interested in the study of popular fictions. Thus, in the tale of “Constantes and the Dragon,” the hero's elder brother is jealous of his favour with the king, and it is at his suggestion that Constantes is sent to procure for the king (1) the Dragon's diamond ring; (2) the Dragon's horse and bell; (3) the very Dragon himself. And in the tale of “Little John, the Widow's Son,” the hero, thus styled, becomes the king's hunter, and one day kills (1) a wild beast, whose skin was all covered with precious gems. The king shows this treasure to his courtiers, who declare they have seen nothing like it under heaven. The vazír, however, says the skin is all very well, but if the king had the bones of elephants to build a church with, all the kings of the earth would come to admire it, and the skin as well. So the young hero is despatched to procure (2) a sufficient quantity of elephants' bones to build a church with, and returns successful. He is then sent, at the suggestion of the vazír, to bring the Dragon's daughter to the king, in which, of course, he also succeeds, and thus the vazír's malice comes all to naught.

We have three examples from Sweden in Thorpe's Yule-Tide Stories. In No. 1 of “The Boy that stole the Giant's Treasures” a peasant dies and leaves his small property to his three sons. The two elder (as in the story of the merchant of Nishapúr in the Chehar Darvesh, referred to, page 495) take all that was valuable, leaving the youngest an old split kneading-trough for his share. The lads all enter the service of a king—the youngest helps in the royal kitchen and is liked by everybody. His two elder brothers are envious of him and induce the king to send him (1) for the Troll's seven silver ducks; (2) his gold and silver bed-quilt; and (3) his golden harp.* —In No. 11 three brothers set out in quest of their fortune, and the two elder obtain employment as helpers in the royal stables, while the youngest is taken as page to the king's young son. His brothers are sorely nettled at his preferment, and consult how they might compass his disgrace. They tell the king of a wonderful golden lantern that shed light over both land and water, and add that it ill beseemed a king to lack so precious a treasure. The king asks, excitedly, where this lamp is to be found and who could procure it for him. The brothers reply: “No one can do that, unless it be our brother Pinkel. He knows best where the lantern is to be found.” So the king despatches Pinkel to get him the golden lantern, promising to make him the chief person at court should he bring it. Pinkel goes off and returns in safety with the (1) lantern; and the king made him the chief person at court, as he had promised. The brothers, hearing of his success, become more envious than before, and at their suggestion the king sends him to procure (2) the beautiful goat that had horns of the purest gold, from which little gold bells were suspended, which gave forth a pleasing sound whenever the animal moved; and next (3) the Troll-crone's fur cloak, that shone like the brightest gold, and was worked with golden threads in every seam; after which the king gave him his daughter in marriage, and he thus became heir to the kingdom, but his brothers continued to be helpers in the royal stable as long as they lived.—In No. 111 two poor lads roam about the country in search of a livelihood. At length the younger is received by the king among his pages, but the elder goes about begging as before: through the influence of his brother, however, he is shortly taken into the king's service as a stable-boy. The elder brother is continually thinking of how he might get the younger disgraced. One day when the king visits his stables he praises a favourite horse, upon which the stable-lad tells him that he knows of a golden horse that excels all horses in the world, but only his brother could procure it. In brief, the hero procures for the king (1) the golden horse; (2) the moon lantern; and (3) a princess who had been enchanted.

In No. 8 of M. Legrand's Contes Populaires Grecs (Paris, 1881) the hero, at the suggestion of the Beardless Man, is sent by the king (1) for the ivory chamber; (2) for the nightingale and wall swallow; and (3) for the belle of the world.—And in M. Renè Basset's Contes Populaires Berbères (Paris, 1887), No. 27, the hero is despatched by the king, at the instigation of his enemies, to procure (1) the coral tree; (2) the palm tree of the wild beasts; (3) the woman with silver attire; and, of course, returns success­ful from each perilous expedition. M. Renè Basset in his Notes, pp. 163-166, refers to several parallels or analogues from Brittany, Lorraine, the West Highlands of Scotland, etc.

A story from Salsette, entitled “Karne da Pequeno João,” by Geo. Fr. D'Penha, in the Indian Antiquary, 1888, p. 327 ff., is full of interest to folk-lorists, apart from its connection with the “envious brothers” cycle: Three brothers, of whom Little John, the youngest, is as usual the only clever one, set out to seek their fortunes. They rest for the night in the abode of an ogre, who resolves to kill them while they are asleep and eat all three for breakfast. The ogre has three daughters, and he puts white caps on them and red caps on the youths. The two elder brothers are soon fast asleep, not so Little John. He suspects mischief is brewing, and changes caps with the ogre's daughters, who are consequently killed by their father in mistake for the three lads. Little John rouses his two brothers and they cross the river, which the ogre cannot do, being unable to swim. In the morning the ogre sees them, and cries out that he will make John pay for it yet! They take service with a king: John is made a shepherd, the others are given places of trust. John puts on one of the caps (he had taken all of them with him) on his head and begins to play on his pipe, whereupon all the sheep begin to caper and dance. The princess sees this, and gets the cap from him, and so on till she has got the sixth, on the pro­mise of her love. The king, at the instigation of the princess, pays John better wages, and his brothers are envious of his good fortune. Soon after this the king falls ill, and the two elder brothers suggest to him that John should be sent to fetch (1) the ogre's parrot. John manages to carry off the bird, and the ogre cries after him that he'll make him pay for it yet! But John says he'll come again. In short, John afterwards procures (2) the ogre's mare; (3) his diamond ring; (4) his sword; (5) his blanket; and (6) the ogre himself. After each expedition John is promoted to a still higher station till he is made vazír and finally marries the princess. He does not punish his brothers, the good young man, but raises them to high offices of state.

In many instances, as in the case of Farrukhrúz, the hero is assisted by fairies or other superhuman beings, but with the means by which the seemingly impossible tasks are accomplished we have no present concern and so I have passed them over. The third and last expedition of Farrukhrúz, suggested by the envious vazírs of the king of Yaman—who was, like the monarchs of Eastern fictions generally, a credulous blockhead—by which they made sure to cause the death of the favourite, but which ended so disastrously for themselves—thus illustrating the saying that “he who digs a pit for another,” and so forth: the proverb is somewhat musty—namely,