"The Haunted Well,"
a Macedonian Folktale,
retold by Cathy S. Mosley
Nine brothers, brothers of little luck, were called by their King to travel far - to fight against the Franks.
"Give us your blessing, Mother," begged the eldest.
"A blessing to eight of you I shall give," their Mother said, "But to my youngest, to my favorite John, I can only give my best horse and bid him farewell." So she kissed each of her sons and sent them on their road.
Forty days they rode, with little to eat and less to drink, until they came to a little well. At first they rejoiced, but soon they found that the bucket had dropped down, and they drew lots to see who would be lowered down.
The task came to John, and they tied him around the waist with a good rope and eased him down.
Soon his voice echoed up, "Pull me up!! Pull me up!! There is no water here! Only a fearsome spirit!!!!"
"We are drawing!!" cried the brothers, "We are drawing, but we can not move you!!!!"
"Have the Black One, my fine stead, aid you!!!!" cried the youngest.
And when the Black One heard he reared and let out a war cry, but he let the brothers tie a rope to his saddle.
When the arms of the youngest was seen the mountains gleamed.
When his sword was free the sea gleamed.
When John was freed of the well they all saw that the spirit had come with him; the great coils of the spirit serpent wrapped around his body.
Together the eight hacked at the serpent, but one cut the rope.
Down went John and the serpent.
Down into the dark well.
"Leave me," cried John, "Go home!!!!"
"We can't!!" the eight cried back.
"Go!! Tell Mother that I am married. That the tombstone is my Mother-In-Law, and the Black Earth my Wife!!! And the grass, bright and green, are my marry brothers and sisters-in-law!!!!"
Abbott, G. F.. _Macedonian Folklore_. Chicago: Argonaut, Inc.. 1969.
Yolen, Jane and Shulamith Oppenheim. _The Fish Prince and Other Stories: Mermen Folk Tales_. New York: Interlink Publishing Company. 2001.
["The Haunted Well," is actually a ballad. _Macedonian Folklore_, pp. 255-256.]
"Four and Five, nine brothers,
Eighteen cousins, lads of little luck:
A message came to them from the Kind, bidding them
To go forth and fight in the far-off land of the Franks:
"Thy blessing, mother, that we may go forth!"
"May ye go forth nine brothers and come back eight;
May John the youngest never return!"
They set forth, and they crossed the vast plain,
They lived forty days without bread,
Forty-five more without water,
And then they found a dear little fount; but 'twas a spirit-haunted well:
Twas thirty fathoms in depth; in breadth twenty.
"Halt, dear brothers, and let us cast lots,
He on whom the lot shall fall, let him go in."
The lot falls on John, the youngest.
"Draw, dear brothers, draw me out,
Here is no water, but only a Spirit."
"We are drawing, John, we are drawing; bu the stirrest not."
"The serpent has wound itself round my body, the Spirit is holding me.
Come set the Black One also to help you."
When the Black One heard, he neighed loud,
He reared on his haunches to draw him out.
When he drew out his arms, the mountains gleamed.
He draw a out his sword also, and the sea gleamed.
They drew out John together with the Spirit,
They lifted their knives to cut it asunder,
But instead of cutting the Spirit they cut the rope,
And John falls in together with the Spirit:
"Leave me, brothers, leave me and go home,
Do not tell my dear mother that I am dead,
Tell her, brothers, that I am married,
That I have taken the tombstone for a mother-in-law,
Black Earth for a wife,
And the fine grass-blades all for brothers and sisters-in-law."