Strakalas and Makalas

A Lithuanian fairy tale, this version is from Tales of The Amber Sea, compiled and translated by Irina Zheleznova in 1974.

Strakalas and Makalas were neighbours. They got on well together and were friends from their earliest years. If one of them killed a pig or celebrated a christening he never forgot to invite the other. It was with good reason that the villagers said that if Strakalas were made king, Makalas would be sure to share his throne.

But what was bad was that the two friends were as stubborn as mules and rare braggarts to boot! Should Strakalas, without stopping to think, remark that in America cows had wings and flew like birds he’d never go back on it, no matter what you did, but keep repeating it till doomsday. And should Makalas declare that in Turkey drills and hammers grew in the fields he’d insist it was so even if you threatened to kill him for it.

One day Strakalas and Makalas set off for the forest to chop some firewood.

They went a little way and Makalas said:

“I see you have a new axe, neighbour.”

“That’s so! ” Strakalas replied. “And the like of it has never been seen here before. Not only will it cut bread but split stones as well.”

“Catch me believing that! ” said Makalas. “And, anyway, there’s no better axe mine. Old as it is, no other even if it’s brand-new can compare with it. Just pass a whetstone over-it once and you can shave with it! “

“Well, I don’t need a whetstone or anything else to sharpen my axe. All I need do is blow on it once and then again, and it’s ready for use! ” Strakalas returned.

“One touch of my axe is enough to bring down a tree! “bragged Makalas.

“It’s no match for mine, all the same,” Strakalas said, holding his ground. “Why, only yesterday I came out to chop some trees for firewood, I raised my axe, and crash! – a birch split in two.”

Lauding their axes in this way, the two friends came up to a farm with young apple-trees growing just beside the road. Without himself noticing it, Makalas flourished his axe and brought down one of the trees.

“See? What did I tell you! ” he cried. “All I did was raise my axe and down came the tree.”

At this, Strakalas, too, waved his axe and brought down two apple-trees.

“There you are-two trees felled at a stroke! ” said he.

But now the owner of the orchard and his sons came running out of the house. They took away their axes from Strakalas and Makalas and beat them to within an inch of their lives.

Autumn came. Strakalas and Makalas cleaned their guns and went hunting. They had only just set out when Strakalas said:

“Let’s go after a bear, neighbour! We could kill one easily.”

“One? Humph! We could kill five! ” Makalas returned. “I remember in my young years I had only to go out for an hour to come back with a dozen rabbits.”

“Well, when I was young,” Strakalas put in, not to be outdone, “I’d shoot so many rabbits every time I went hunting that I had to hire a cart to bring them all home.”

“Two carts were never enough for all the game I used to bring down,” Makalas came back, piling it on. “I’d take only the fattest of the lot and leave the rest, anything from two to three hundred rabbits or birds or whatever, to the crows.”

“I once killed fourteen ducks in a swamp with one grain of small shot! “Strakalas declared.

“Is that all?” Makalas rejoined, not in the least put out. “Do you know what happened to me once? I ran out of all my small shot, so I used a horseshoe nail instead, fired my gun once, and -presto! -killed two rabbits on the spot and nailed a fox’s tail to a tree at the same time.”

“That’s nothing! ” said Strakalas, waving him’ disdainfully away. “Just last year I loaded my gun with pepper, bay leaves and salt and downed seven ducks at a single shot, and, what’s more, all of them were already plucked, salted and peppered.”

“Such things more befit a cook than a hunter, let me tell you, neighbour,” said Makalas. “What a true hunter needs first and foremost is a keen eye. Now, I could hit a hat on a man’s head from a mile away.”

“Since you mention it, I could do that with my eyes shut. If you are as good a shot as you say, let’s see you hit a button.” “What’s a button! ” said Makalas. “I wouldn’t miss
a fly at that distance.”

Boasting loudly, the two came up to a farmhouse. In the front yard, pillows and clothing had been hung on a line for airing.

Strakalas pulled down his gun, took careful aim and hit a sheepskin.

“See that?” he cried.

Makalas followed suit. His bullet passed through a pillow.

“I said I could hit a fly! “he shouted.

Hearing the shots, the farmer and his friends came running. Seeing what Strakalas and Makalas had done, they snatched up one a log, another, a stick, and went after them. Catching them, they took away their guns and, in addition, thrashed them to within an inch of their lives.

Summer came, and Makalas went out into the field to cut the rye. He was hard at it when Strakalas appeared as if out of thin air.

“What’s your hurry, neighbour?” asked he. “Let the rye dry. Your bread will be all the softer for it.”

“There’s no time to be lost,” Makalas told him. “It’s going to rain. The clouds are gathering.”

“Clouds? Where are they? There’s not a sign of rain,” Strakalas said.

“The crows are cawing and that’s a sure sign of it, I can feel it coming,” Makalas returned.

“You’re way off, neighbour! I haven’t seen my rooster taking a dust bath yet and that means the rain is still far away.”

“Pooh! You and your rooster! ” Makalas said, adding doggedly, “It’s going to rain tonight, I tell you! I feel it in my bones.”

“Bones nothing! I have a good nose for such things. I sniffed the air this morning and I know we’ll have fine weather for another three days.”

“Oh, stuff! I don’t have to sniff the air to know it’s going to rain.”

They kept it up till evening, and Makalas’s rye was left in the field.

On the next day it was Strakalas who insisted it would rain in the afternoon and Makalas who said it would not.

They went on arguing like that for several days till all of a sudden down came the rain! It poured steadily for three days but as soon as it stopped the two friends began arguing about the weather again. They were still at it when the rain came down anew. By that time their rye had put forth shoots and both were left without bread.

In the spring Strakalas’s hayloft was hit by lightning and caught fire. The fire spread to Makalas’s storeroom. Their neighbours rushed to help them and would have put out the fire had not the two friends begun arguing again, Makalas maintaining that a fire started by lightning was best quenched with sour milk and Strakalas, that sour milk was as nothing compared to sand. While they were at it their houses and everything else they had burnt down to the ground.

Strkalas and Makalas were left without a roof over their heads. They each made themselves a large sack and went begging for alms.

And to this day that is how the two braggarts make their living.

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