Thursday, July 4, 2013

187/1 Clever John and Crazy Jane

Eso’s Chronicles 187/ 1 
Clever John and Crazy Jane 187/1
© Eso A.B.

This is an old Latvian story retold. For the original see 3.A.327.B.460. A.K. Bramanis Rīgas apg. LP,V,36 (3,1): “A Journey to the Nether Sun”. Herewith retold:

Seven Crickets and Seven Horses
Once upon a time there lived seven brothers. Of the seven, the youngest was the smartest and most clever. This is why his brothers called him Clever John. Even at a very young age, Clever John had enough authority to call his brothers together and tell them:
“Bros, because I am younger than any of you, we are in luck. You see, I had a dream last night. It led me to an inn, where the innkeeper is the mother of seven wild daughters. The daughters, are called bacchantes. Well, these bacchantes have dowries stuffed to the rim with gold and other goodies. They are also said to be good weavers. These daughters of the Sun have been promised us as brides. The trouble is, we cannot marry them until I grow up. If anyone marries them now, their dowries will turn to dust. Bros, you must wait until I grow up before you marry.”
A brother then asked: “Why must we wait until you grow up, bro?”
“My guide in the dream was none other than the mother of the bacchantes. She said that her daughters were under my spell and that they dreamt of marrying me every night,” answered Clever John.
The brothers, all poor country boys, agreed to wait. It meant a wait of about ten years. Some of them believed the wait could be quite pleasant: they lived in a village where there were many young women and not enough young men for all of them. There was no law against boys and girls petting to pass the time.
Time went fast, and it was not long before Clever John was a young man. He then called his brothers together again and said:
“Bros, the Summer Solstice, will be upon us the day after the day after tomorrow. This is the day when the mother of our seven brides has her birthday and will throw a great bash at her Waysiders’ Inn. Last night, I had a dream in which she sent me an invitation. Listen, what she writes:
“Greetings, Clever John! You are the handsomest goatherd in all of Latviaand my daughters are aching to meet you. If you come, you will get to pet all of them before you die.”
“Ha, ha!” Clever John laughed. “Of course, I do not wish to die. Besides, one of those bacchantes will be enough for me, which leaves one over for each one of you, bros. Therefore, let us get on our horses and ride to the Waysiders’ Inn. When the bacchantes ask you your names, give them my name: ‘Clever John’. They are sure to swoon the moment they hear who you are.
“Now let us saddle our horses and off we ride.”
“Nice idea, Clever John,” answered the brothers, “but where will we find seven horses. We don’t even have one.”
“No problem,” answered Clever John. “Go catch me seven crickets and I will fix it.”
The brothers looked at each other as if to say “Just listen to this, bro”. On the other hand, Clever John had done many clever things, and perhaps this was going to be another one of them. So, the brothers caught seven crickets, put them in a sack, and brought them to Clever John.
Clever John looked into the sack, counted seven crickets, then invited his brothers to follow him to the sea. At the sea shore, Clever John opened the sack and shook the crickets into the water where the waves were as thin as a leaf on one’s palm. The crickets splashed in the water for a while, but grew tired and went limp. It seemed they were about to die.
One of the brothers, not wishing to think himself stupid, was about to start laughing. He believed that Clever John was pulling off another joke on them. However, unexpectedly, the crickets started to shrink until they became small as small shrimp. After shrinking, they blew themselves into large bubbles. Inside each bubble was a horse. Soon from of each stepped out a fully saddled horse.
“Did I not say wonders will happen?” asked Clever John as he puffed out his chest.
2 The First Leg of the Journey
Clever John puffed himself up in vain. By the time he looked around him, his brothers had mounted their horses and were at a full gallop over the dunes to the Waysiders’ Inn. Clever John was left with the seventh horse. He jumped into the saddle but now it was his turn to feel foolish. Nothing happened. He realized that he was left with the last horse out of the last bubble, the nag. Reality is such that one has to accept it.
Clever John could ride only at a slow pace. This is why when the evening came, he still had not caught up with his brothers. Not surprisingly, they were at the inn, and did not wait for their clever brother to arrive before begin to celebrate. “We have waited for Clever John often enough,” they agreed and sang: “Baccha! Baccha! Baccha!” and everyone had a bacchante on his knee.
Only the innkeeper, the mother, did not seem happy. Indeed, she locked herself into her office and stayed away from her own birthday party.
By the time Clever John reached the Waysiders Inn, it was time for Midsummer’s morning and Sun rise. However, the Sun was not happy with the way the Latvians had greeted her on her birthday. Unlike other years, no people had climbed trees or come to greet her on the hilltops. She threw a peak into the windows of the Waysiders’ Innand discovered that everyone had had so much fun that almost everyone was asleep. Her face turned black like that of the “Mother of the Devil”.
The morning sky turned dark blue, and a low and rumbling peal of thunder was heard.
3 Crazy Jane Meets Clever John
When Clever John opened the door to the inn, he saw that what had taken place was not a birthday party, but an uncouth wedding. Because everyone’s face was streaked black, he could tell that they all had been to ‘sooty sauna’. Everyone lay where they had fallen, some were still embracing. John counted all six of his brothers; all were with one of the innkeeper’s daughters.
Then Clever John saw in a far corner of the dining hall Crazy Jane. His brothers, believing her a less pretty bacchante than the others, had left her for their youngest brother. She was the only one with a clean face.
As Clever John had opened the door, the Sun, too, cast a shaft of light into the room and fell on Jane’s face, upon which Crazy Jane saw Clever John. In an instant, she knew she had not waited in vain.
As for Clever John, he was no dummy. “There is nothing I have lost,” he told himself. “The more this Jane is lanky, the more she will bend.”
Crazy Jane invited Clever John to come inside. She fried him bacon and eggs, and served it with home fries. Then she sat down across the table from Clever John and asked: “What took you so long, Clever John?”
“My brothers played a joke on me,” replied Clever John.
“Yes, my mother told me,” answered Crazy Jane. “She’s unhappy with what happened, but told me to wait up for you. Would you like to take revenge on your brothers?”
“I will be much obliged,” answered Clever John as he sprinkled more caraway seeds on the home fries. “I am much taken with you. Let us play at husband and wife. I, too, am the owner of an inn. I have many horses.”
Just then Clever John’s brothers and their brides began to stretch and awaken. You could tell from their bravado that they were familiars all night long. They were as uncouth as uncouth could be. The brothers put on their hats and went to the stall to take care of their horses. They hardly gave Crazy Jane or Clever John a look.
After her look into the room, the Sun withdrew behind the thunder clouds. Tears poured down her face like rain. After telling her sisters to wash the soot of their faces, Crazy Jane invited Clever John to her room to rest.
After he was in bed, she was not too shy to lie down beside him and whisper a secret or two into his ear. She gave Clever John a warning. It was about how she and her mother planned to give the six brothers their reward for not tending the Johns Eve fires and teaching her daughters about sooty sauna.
Clever John thanked Jane for the secret information and went to sleep.
When Clever John awakened, Crazy Jane had prepared a surprise for him. On the bedside table, Jane had set a clean and colorful scarf. On top of the scarf was a gold ring or brooch, and next to the bed was a pair of new riding boots. Crazy Jane told Clever John that she had stolen the boots from the Devil. And then, as if to prove that she was in fact a little crazy, she told John to put the boots on the legs of his nag.
“With those boots, your horse will carry us without ever tiring,” Crazy Jane told John. “If you are ever in trouble and rub the brooch, magic will happen.”
Clever John put the neckerchief around his neck and secured it by putting its ends through the gold loop. Clever John then went to put on the Devil’s boots on his horse. On his way to the stall, Clever John met his brothers. They were coming back to the inn.
“Hey, Clever John, where are you going with those boots? Are you going to put them on that nag of yours?” The brothers asked and broke out laughing. “Ha, ha, ha!”
Another brother hm-med and asked: “Did you ask Crazy Jane how many men stretched her before she got so lanky?”
Clever John winced, then let them have it: “You dum arse horseflies,” he yelled as he turned on his brothers. “What would you do without me? Do you have any idea what awaits you tonight?”
The brothers gathered around Clever John pretending to be curious, but were still laughing: “What’s this? What can happen to us? Our brides are like honey covered strawberries. Are you jealous or something?”
Chinese concentration camps for Tibetans:

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