A Lithuanian tale, this version is taken from the 1938 anthology Wonder Tales from Baltic Wizards by Frances Jenkins Olcott.
In a certain village there was once a Land owner who had a wife. Though married long years, they had no child. Both of them grieved very much over this.
At last, however, the wife had a little son, whom she named Martin. The mother loved the child very much. He grew up to be so strong that no one could overcome him. When he was twenty years old, he felt a great longing to journey through the world, and begged his Father to have a smith make him a strong iron staff. Except for that, he did not want anything.
Then the father drove to town, bought some iron bars and gave them to the smith to make a staff. When it was ready, the strongest man could scarcely lift it. Martin, however, grasped the staff and swung it like a feather to and fro; then, to try it, threw it into the air. As it fell down he caught it, and broke it in two.
Now the Father must go to town to buy iron again and have it forged into a staff. This time it was just such a staff as Martin wanted. When it was ready, Martin, to test its strength, threw it into the air. Falling down, it struck so deep into the earth, that it was a day’s work to dig it out.
Then Martin took leave of everybody, and set out on his travels.
After he had been on the road many days, he met a Smith who carried a huge hammer, and said that he was very strong. Then Martin proposed that they should travel along together. The Smith agreed to the proposal. As they went on together, Martin asked the Smith, how strong he really was.
The Smith said, “When with this hammer I give just three strokes to the biggest tree, that tree has got to fall!”
Martin said, “When you have chopped it, I’ll stop it from falling with my great staff.”
So it was in truth! When they came to a very great and thick tree, the Smith chopped it with three strokes, but Martin, as it fell propped it with his staff, so that it could not touch the ground. By this, both knew that both were strong.
As they wandered on farther together, they met a Tailor, who said that he was not very strong, but he could sew so swiftly that in one day he was able to dress a man from head to foot. That pleased Martin and the Smith, and they said:
“Come with us! We are both strong enough, and will let no misfortune harm you.”
Then he went with them, and the three wandered far and wide. After a long time, they found in a wood a very neat little house. Its owners were dead. There was food aplenty on hand. They agreed to stay there as long as it pleased them. After they had been there a few days, it came into their heads to go hunting, to shoot game. One of them, of course, must stay at home and look after the food. They agreed that the one who knew the most about cooking should stay at home. The Tailor said:
“I understand that matter best, I am used to being in the kitchen with the housewives, and know well how to handle pots and pans.”
“Good!” said the others. “Here you stay then, and boil and bake so that things will be tasty.
The next day, after breakfast, the Smith and Martin each took a gun and went to hunt in the wood. But the Tailor, at home, set about preparing the midday meal, and ran around with his apron tied in front just like a cook. He peeped into every corner, till he had brought together what he neededd for the noon meal. He wished to take great pains and to cook everything tasty, so that the others should praise him.
When the pot stood over the fire and began to bubble, tap! tap! tap! some one knocked on the house door. But the Tailor could not leave the pot to see who it was, and thought:
“If it is a man, he can walk in for the door is open.”
But as the knocking kept on, tap! tap! tap! after a while he stepped out. And see! Outside, before the doorsill, stood a foot-high Mannikin with a fathom-long beard. The Mannikin began to beg the Tailor to let him in the kitchen–he was so tired, so cold that he was perishing! And he seemed so miserable and weak, that he could not step over the doorsill. The Tailor had to carry him in.
Once in the kitchen, he moaned again sadly, and begged the Tailor to lift him on to the little bench, so that he might warm himself at the fire. The Tailor thought him such a poor, miserable thing that he lifted him very carefully on to the bench. When the Mannikin had warmed himself a little, he began to wail again–O! he was hungry!–and beg for a little bit of meat–then he would be all well again!
The Tailor took a piece that was a little done out of the pot, and gave him some of it with the words:
“There take that little bit. When the meat is done, you shall have all you want.”
But Mannikin Long Beard trembled so, that the bit of meat fell out of his hand onto the floor. Then he begged the Tailor to pick the piece up.
The Tailor did so, but just as he bent over to pick up the meat–spang!–the Mannikin jumped from the bench onto the back of his neck, then began–ha! ha!–to pound him and pummel him with his fists. The Tailor screeched and scolded, but it was of no use.
The Mannikin struck and tormented him, till he fell to the floor half dead. And after Mannikin Long Beard had thus tortured and plagued his benefactor, he went away. No one knew where he went, or from whence he came!
When the Tailor had recovered a little, he crept on all fours to bed, and was sick.
Sometime after midday, the others came back from the hunt, and found their comrade very sick and whimpering. The fire on the hearth was out, the meat half cooked, and the soup good for nothing. Then both the hunters had a very poor midday meal, and they could not have eaten it at all, if they had not been so hungry. The Tailor, however, said nothing.
The next day, it was the Smith who had to stay at home and cook, while Martin and the Tailor went to hunt.
While the Smith was cooking, tap! tap! tap! some one knocked again on the housedoor. The Smith had no time to see who it was. But as the knocking kept up, he went out to find who was there. And see! The Mannikin was there again. But the Smith did not know anything about him!
Mannikin Long Beard pretended again, as he had done the day before, and the Smith was as full of pity for him as the Tailor had been. The Smith lifted him on to the bench, gave him a little piece of meat. And when the Mannikin let it fall on purpose, as though he could not hold it in his trembling hand, the Smith bent down to pick it up–and then!
Spang!–Mannikin Long Beard leaped on the back of his neck. The Smith tried in every way to tear him off his back, but it was of no use! Mannikin Long Beard struck, squeezed, pinched, and tortured him, till all strength left the Smith and he tumbled down nearly dead. Mannikin Long Beard stopped.
The Smith was so badly hurt, that for a long time he lay on the floor. Then he came to himself enough to crawl on all fours to bed.
When the two others came home, they found him lying in bed, and nothing ready. For right in the middle of the cooking had the misfortune befallen the Smith. But though the Smith said iiothin,, the Tailor knew right well what had happened. And to the Smith, it was clear why the Tailor had been sick the day before.
When Martin found the Smith in such a bad state, he cared for him, and by evening he was much better.
On the third day, it was Martin who had to stay at home and do the cooking. And just when the food was set over the fire and had begun to cook, came Mannikin Long Beard to the house and knocked–tap! tap! tap!
Martin, however, took his time, and let him knock a very long while. Then when Martin was tired of hearing the knock! knock! knock! he went out to see who was there. And he was not surprised to find Mannikin Long Beard before the doorsill. He spoke roughly to him:
“What kind of a thing are you? Where do you come from? Now I see well, who hurt my comrades yesterday and the day before.”
When Mannikin Long Beard heard that, he began to tremble all over his body, so that his very long beard waggled. He howled and moaned so a stone would have had pity, saying:
“I know nothing about it! I am forsaken of all the world, despised and laughed at. I don’t dare to show myself among people. I have come here quite by chance, and have lost my way. Oh, pity me! Let me in the kitchen so I can warm myself a bit! Yes! I am so cold-so very cold!”
When Martin saw him trembling, and howling, and heard his bitter pleading, he thought:
“The creature is really miserable!” So full of pity he said to him, “There! there! come into the kitchen.”
But Mannikin Long Beard said, “Oh! I am tired, and so weak, that I cannot step over the doorsill! Be good enough to carry me in.”
“That is it, is it, you howling creature? Come in if you want to; and if you don’t, why, stay where you are!”
As Martin said that, he went into the kitchen, poked the fire under the pot, the fire had nearly gone out, and began to skim the scum off the soup. Then Mannikin Long Beard, standing before the house, began to wail sadly, and to howl, and to plead that Martin would lift him up on the bench by the chimney, so that he might warm himself by the fire.
Martin seized him by the beard, and lifted him onto the bench. Then he warmed himself by the fire, and began to flatter Martin, to speak friendly to him, and kiss his hands. But Martin was suspicious of all this. And when Mannikin Long Beard talked too much and crept into the chimney, he seized him by the beard, lifted him in the air, and set him down down hard on the bench, saying:
“If you crawl into the chimney again, I will fling you like dirt out of the window.”
For a little while there was peace. Then Mannikin Long Beard began to beg Martin for just one little bite of meat–if he did not have it, then he should die of hunger! Martin threatened him with the skimmer in his hand, and said:
“Do you see this ladle? Wait till the meat is done, then you shall have some.”
But Mannikin Long Beard kept on whimpering–indeed Martin might give him just a bite of bread, he was so faint! Martin took, meanwhile, a piece of meat from the pot, tried it to see if it was tender, cut off a bit and put it in the Mannikin’s hand.
Then the Mannikin, on purpose, let the meat fall out of his hand to the floor, making his hands tremble as if still benumbed by the cold.
Martin was very angry and said, “Come now, you good-for-nothing! Am I your servant?”
He stamped with his boot on the floor hard enough almost to overthrow the stove, grasped the Mannikin’s beard, and shook him.
Then Martin stooped to pick up the piece of meat from the floor, but without taking his eye off Mannikin Long Beard. Spang!–The Mannikin would have leaped on his neck, but before he could land on his back, Martin caught him by the beard.
Then there was the biggest tussle you ever saw! Twist! Turn! Wrestle! Martin had to use his great strength to reach for his staff. Then–whack! crack! bang!–he gave the Mannikin the worst drubbing! He beat him till at last the Mannikin had to beg Martin to stop.
Martin took up an axe in his right hand, held Mannikin Long Beard in the left, carried him out, and–whack! bang! whack!–he chopped a cleft in a big tree-stump. In the cleft, he squeezed Mannikin Long Beard’s beard, and left him there hanging to the stump.
After this work, Martin prepared the midday meal, then sat down to rest, for the struggle with Mannikin Long Beard had tired him. Yet he rejoiced that he had overcome him, and that now he would be able to show the little monster to the others.
Meanwhile the Smith and the Tailor had told each other about Mannikin Long Beard, and how badly it had gone with each of them. They were curious to know how it had gone with Martin. When they came from the hunt, said Martin to them:
“Ha! ha! Come on and eat till you are filled! Then I will show you the bird that made you both sick. A pair of clever men you are to let such a miserable creature overcome you!–Ha! Ha!”
Now they all sat down to the table, and ate till noon. Martin had cooked so well, that the Smith and Tailor kept praising him. After the meal, Martin said:
“Let us go and find Mannikin Long Beard. I have put him in a good prison, and paid him back. You shall see whether he is your fellow or not.”
But what had happened?
When they reached the tree-stump, Mannikin Long Beard was not there! He had pulled so hard that he had pulled his beard out by the roots. He was gone, and had left his long beard in the stump.