Friday, March 26, 2010

© Eso Antons Benjamins, aka Jaņdžs
94 A Story of Clever John and Crazy Jane (3)

An old Latvian story retold. For the original see
3.A.327.B.460. A.K. Bramanis Rīgas apg. LP,V,36 (3,1).

The Third Leg of the Journey. After Clever John had visited with all whom he had promised to help, he rode straight for the court of KingOverAll. It was the seventh day since Johns Eve, since Clever Johns was on his own.

KingOverAll himself comes to meet Clever John. The King’s chin has a sporty goatee, but surprise! Surprise! He wears no boots. One can see that his toenails have not been cut for a long time. Only a very rich man can afford to live, thus, as he wishes, paying no mind to public opinion.

“What can I do for you, Clever John?” asks KingOverAll.

“I have come to ask you for your daughter’s hand, KingOverAll,” answered Clever John.

“Well,” answered KingOverAll, “if you are the real Clever John of whom I have heard so much, then before I give you my daughter, I would like you to bring me a wagon full of gold. If you bring it to me, the Princess Complete Satisfaction will be yours.”

Clever John thanks KingOverAll and goes to think it over. The King’s request is no ordinary one and certainly not easily realized. Where can one find a pile of gold on such a short notice? After all, Clever John does not wish to spend all his life just scouring and scraping for gold; life is short as it is.

As he seeks the answer, Clever John turns toward the north, the south, the east, and the west, but no answer comes to him. At last, nearly desperate, Clever John begins to rub the gold ring that Crazy Jane had given him after their nap together. The answer comes to mind almost instantly. The advice tells him in so many whispered words to “Go to the seashore and call for the raven. When it arrives, climb with your horse and all on his back. The raven will take you to the pile of gold. It knows where it is. It has been tied to it like many a time before.”

Clever John wastes no time and calls for the raven. No sooner called than the raven arrives.

“Why are you looking so sad, Clever John?” asks the raven.

“Well, raven of all ravens, I must find a wagonload of gold right away.”

“That is no problem at all,” answers the raven. “You and your horse, you just climb on my back and I will take you there.”

Clever John is surprised how easy it has been so far and gets a little worried about being taken in by it all. He nervously twists between his fingers his neck scarf. As if out of nowhere arrives Crazy Jane. She is sitting as if on a cloud of dreams, while Clever John explains to her his worries. Crazy Jane listens to John’s story, then leans into his ear and whispers the answer:

“When you are up in the air, the first question that the raven will ask you is ‘How large is the sea?’ You answer him: ‘As large as a large lake.’

“The second question the raven will ask you is ‘How large is the lake?’ You answer him: ‘As large as the largest puddle.’

“The third question the raven will ask you is ‘How large is the puddle?’ You answer him: ‘As large as the eye of a dead horse.’

“May your dreams true, Clever John,” said Crazy Jane and disappeared into the cloud she had come in.

Clever John, still on horseback, climbs on the back of the raven. The raven lifts itself and its load up into the air. It flew high, and then higher, and then higher again. Clever John feels the cold and takes from the saddle bag the black bear coat and puts it around his shoulders.

After flying yet higher, the raven croaks: “Clever John, how large is the sea below us?”

“It’s as large as the largest lake,” answers John.

“Kra, kra,” croaks the raven and flies yet higher again. After a while it asks: “Clever John, how large is the sea now?”

“It is as large as the largest puddle,” answers John.

“Kra, kra,” croaks the raven and flies yet again higher. The mustache of Clever John freezes solid. His horse shakes until it shakes no more.

After a while the raven asks: “Clever John, how large is the sea now?”

“It is as large as the eye of a dead horse,” answers Clever John with lips nearly frozen stiff.

“We’re as good as there,” croaks back the raven, and having said it, it shakes Clever John with the horse of its back. Clever John falls out of the saddle, and horse and Clever John fall to earth their separate ways.

Clever John happens not to fall into the sea, but into the dunes along its shores. Sand flies in all directions. And… and under the dunes there lay a pile of gold the size no one had ever before seen. Apparently some pirates had buried it there while they went and pirated for more.

Clever John does not remember for how long he lay in the dune, but it surely was no sooner than the eight day, when he awakened.

He soon realized that it was a question of what to do next? His horse had frozen to death and was dead. As Clever John thought things over, the big fish that was for ever tied to the shore came to his help.

With one flip of its tail, it sent Clever John and the entire dune and the pile of gold under it right up to the gate of KingOverAll’s castle. For a moment Clever John thought that he had drunk too much Johns Grass tea the night he spent sleeping in the haystack.

Nevertheless, for all the good luck that was coming his way Clever John knew that he had yet another problem: How to bring all that gold to KingOverAll. He had neither a horse nor a wagon.

No sooner is trouble mentioned than a solution was at hand. Out of Johns cloud of dreams appears Crazy Jane again. Along with her comes also the Mother of the Devil. The mother’s hair is all over her face and stands in the air. In her hands she holds the reigns of a horse that appears to have survived the fall from the sky remarkably intact.

Crazy Jane and the Mother of the Devil help Clever John lift the pile of gold into the wagon. Crazy Jane whispers into John’s ear yet another piece of good advice: “Don’t be in a hurry. Walk slowly, be dignified. The Princess will not disappear or run away. The word of KingOverAll is his word of honor. He makes no oaths, but he is true to his word.—or he dies. You will surely get to sleep with Princess Complete Satisfaction.”

(Next blog: the fourth and last part of Clever John’s journey.)

Asterisk & Notes of Interest:
On the theme of “more-equal-than-others”, see Orwell's "Animal Farm" .
A recommended read: “The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism” by Emmanuel Goldstein (A book within a book from George Orwell's "1984").  
Of great interest to me is this  and like articles. It presents some of my reasons for supporting the growing of Johns Grass in Latvia.
An interesting read from 1936.  

These blogs tend to be a continuum of an idea or thought, which is why—if you are interested in what you read—you are encouraged to consider reading the previous blog and the blog hereafter.
Partial entries of my blogs may be found at LatviansOnline + Forum Home + Open Forum –ONLATVIANPOPULISM vs LATVIJASLABEJIE. If you copy this blog for your files, or copy to forward, or otherwise mention its content, please credit the author and  

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