Clever Manka: The Story of a Girl Who Knew What to Say
There was once a rich farmer who was as grasping and unscrupulous as he was rich. He was always driving a hard bargain and always getting the better of his poor neighbors. One of these neighbors was a humble shepherd who in return for service was to receive from the farmer a heifer. When the time of payment came the farmer refused to give the shepherd the heifer and the shepherd was forced to lay the matter before the burgomaster.
The burgomaster, who was a young man and as yet not very experienced, listened to both sides and when he had deliberated he said:
"Instead of deciding this case, I will put a riddle to you both and the man who makes the best answer shall have the heifer. Are you agreed?"
The farmer and the shepherd accepted this proposal and the burgomaster said:
"Well then, here is my riddle: What is the swiftest thing in the world? What is the sweetest thing? What is the richest? Think out your answers and bring them to me at this same hour tomorrow."
The farmer went home in a temper.
"What kind of a burgomaster is this young fellow!" he growled. "If he had let me keep the heifer I'd have sent him a bushel of pears. But now I'm in a fair way of losing the heifer for I can't think of any answer to his foolish riddle."
"What is the matter, husband?" his wife asked.
"It's that new burgomaster. The old one would have given me the heifer without any argument, but this young man thinks to decide the case by asking us riddles."
When he told his wife what the riddle was, she cheered him greatly by telling him that she knew the answers at once.
"Why, husband," said she, "our gray mare must be the swiftest thing in the world. You know yourself nothing ever passes us on the road. As for the sweetest, did you ever taste honey any sweeter than ours? And I'm sure there's nothing richer than our chest of golden ducats that we've been laying by these forty years."
The farmer was delighted.
"You're right, wife, you're right! That heifer remains ours!"
The shepherd when he got home was downcast and sad.
The Three Men of Power—Evening, Midnight, and Sunrise
Category: Russia folktales
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