The Six Toothless Men and A Squinteyed One

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

In the village of Shortlegs, at the foot of Mount Hammer, not far from Lake Spoon, there lived six Toothless Men and a Squinteyed one.

The six Toothless Men did not get on with the Squinteye.

One day they were crossing a meadow, and seeing Squinteye’s bull, fell on hi and killed him.

When his bull failed to return that night Squinteye went to look for him. He looked and he looked and he found him lying the field, dead. He skinned the bull, put the skin in a cart and brought it home.

On the next day his wife and he drove toa fair. There he helped his wife get into the bull’s skin and told her what she was to do.

As soon as enough people had gathered nearby, Squinteye sprang up on to his cart.

“Watch this, good folk! ” cried he. “When the wife is inside, my bull sings and dances; when she is outside, he is still. Come, all hurry and pay up! It’s a bargain if there ever was one.!

The peple came running and stood round Squinteye.

“Come, little bull, dance for me! ” said Squinteye.

The bull began to dance.

“Come, little bull, tell me what you had to eat today,” said Squinteye.

“Stra-a-aw! …” the bull brought out.

A murmur passed over the crowd

“A marvel, a true marvel! ” the people cried.

A merchant now pushed his way to the cart. He did not stop to bargain but paid out a thousand gold pieces for the talking bull.

“What did you mean by saying that when the wife was inside, your bull sang and danced, and when she was outside, he kept still?” asked he of Squinteye.

“That’s simple,” Squinteye replied. “You’ll see for yourself in a moment.” And he bad his wife climb out of the bull’s skin.

“There you are! ” said he. “When the wife is outside, the bull can do nothing.”

The merchant saw that he had been tricked, but as there was no help for it, off he went without another word.

The six Toothless Men heard of Squinteye’s good fortune and came to see him.

“We have heard that you are so rich now that you rake in your gold with a shovel,” said they. “Tell us how you managed to bring this about.”

Squinteye scratched the back of his head.

“You killed my bull in order to harm me, but good has come of it instead. For I skinned the bull and sold the skin at the fair for a thousand gold pieces.”

The six Toothless Men went home, killed and skinned all of their bulls and on the next day took the skins to market.

Hearing the price they asked, a thousand gold pieces for a skin, the people there began laughing and mocking at them.

“You must be off your heads! ” cried they. “Has anyone ever seen the like of this-to ask a thousand gold pieces for a bull’s skin and one full of holes at that! “

“Drive them out of here! They have come to make fun of us! ” cried the tradesmen.

At this the six Toothless Men rolled up the skins and ran for their lives, and they were glad to get home safe and sound. They saw that Squinteye had tricked them and decided to revenge themselves on him.

They made a sack of leather, caught Squinteye, thrust him into it, and, tying the sack, dragged it to the river.

Said the oldest of the six when they were on the bridge:

“Wait, let’s rest for a bit and have a little something to eat first. We can drown Squinteye later.”

So they left the sack on the bridge and themselves went to a tavern.

Lef to himself, Squinteye began folling and kicking about in the sack and shouting with all his might:

“Let me out and there’s something I’ll show you! Let me out and there’s something I’ll show you! “

An old shepherd, heard his cries, and, taking pity on him, untied the sack.

“Now show me what you promised,” said he.

“Have patience, good shepherd, I will soon enough,” Squinteye replied.

With these words he rooted out an old tree-stump, thrist it in the sack together with a large stone and tied the sack. After that he and the shepherd hid under teh bridge and lay waiting there.

The six Toothless Men soon returned, and, seizing the sack, flung it in the river.

“Take that, you trckster! ” cried they. “Take that and get what you earned! “

And Squinteye, who was alive and well, jumped out from under the bridge, ran to where the shepherds flock was grazing and began tending it.

At sight of him the six Toothless Men opened their mouths in amazement.

“Where have yo ucome from?” asked they. “Why, we threw you in the river not a miute ago.”

“I really can’t tell myself now where it is I have been -up in the sky or in the Garden of Eden,” Squinteye replied. “I saw such beauty on the river bottom as words cannot describe! But I liked the sheep best of all, that’s why I’ve brought them with me.”

“Is there at least one sheep left there?” the six Toothless Men asked.

“As to that,” said Squinteye and waved his hand, “I didn’t take even a tenth of them! Here, I’ll show you if you don’t believe me.”

And the six Toothless Men following him, he drove the flock of sheep on to the bridge.

“See how many sheep are still down below!” said he, pointing at the reflection in the water.

“Yes, yes! ” the Toothless Men cried.

The first to throw himself in the water was the oldest of them.

His friends heard him gurgling and gasping and thought that he was calling the sheep.

“He’ll get the fattest ones for himself! ” cried they much perturbed, and jumped into the water like so many frogs.

For a full hour they floundered about in the river and nearly droned before managing to climb out on the bank.

And from that time on the six Toothless Men left Squinteye in peace.

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