Grandfather's Eyes: The Story of Three Wicked Yezinkas
Once upon a time there was a poor boy whom everybody called Yanechek. His father and mother were dead and he was forced to start out alone in the world to make a living. For a long time he could find nothing to do. He wandered on and on and at last he came to a little house that stood by itself near the edge of the woods. An old man sat on the doorstep and Yanechek could see that he was blind, for there were empty holes where his eyes used to be.
Some goats that were penned in a shed near the house began bleating and the old man said:
“You poor things, you want to go to pasture, don’t you? But I can’t see to drive you and I have no one else to send.”
“Send me, grandfather,” Yanechek said. “Take me as your goatherd and let me work for you.”
“Who are you?” the old man asked.
Yanechek told him who he was and the old man agreed to take him.
“And now,” he said, “drive the goats to pasture. But one thing, Yanechek: don’t take them to the hill over there in the woods or the Yezinkas may get you! That’s where they caught me!”
Now Yanechek knew that the Yezinkas were wicked witches who lived in a cave in the woods and went about in the guise of beautiful young women. If they met you they would greet you modestly and say something like “God bless you!” to make you think they were good and kind and then, once they had you in their power, they would put you to sleep and gouge out your eyes! Oh, yes, Yanechek knew about the Yezinkas.
“Never fear, grandfather, the Yezinkas won’t get me!”
The first day and the second day Yanechek kept the goats near home. But the third day he said to himself: “I think I’ll try the hill in the woods. There’s better grass there and I’m not afraid of the Yezinkas.”
Before he started out he cut three long slender switches from a blackberry bramble, wound them into small coils, and hid them in the crown of his hat. Then he drove the goats through the woods where they nibbled at leaves and branches, beside a deep river where they paused to drink, and up the grassy slopes of the hill.