a Hungarian folktale retold by Cathy S. Mosley
Late one chill eve a midwife was making her way home along a dark, deserted road. She had wrapped her shawl tight, and hunched her shoulders against the wind, so she only noted what lay before her feet.
Suddenly a large frog hopped in front of her!
cried out! (She had a unholy fear of frogs).
"What are you hopping around my feet for? Are you wanting a midwife?" she snarled, then kicked out at the frog. "Get away from me you hideous creature!!"
Where the creature landed she didn't care, and hurried her way home.
The midwife had just settled beneath her covers when there came a pounding on her door, and she hurriedly grabbed up her shawl. Be it late or early, cold or hot, she would answer a call to help some woman in childbed.
But she had never opened her door to two stranger gentlemen. Tall they were, with spindle legs, and swollen eyes in large heads; all garbed in velvets and silks. She offered a quick prayer and said, "Can I help you?"
"My wife is birthing," the tallest of the two said, "And she's in a bad way. "
"I'll get my basket," the midwife answered, and hurried off to dress and gather her tools. When she returned she asked, as was the custom, "Who is the mother?"
"You promised her help on the road," the husband said, and would say no more.
Then the two men rushed her off to a black carriage and set the horses off at a run.
All through the hard, rocking, ride the poor woman racked her mind for who she might have offered help to, but could not remember meeting any soul upon the road. All she could do was pray for her safety, since she had no doubts that she had entered into something uncanny, and hoped she would see the morning's blessed light. She peeked out from beneath the curtain and saw the side of the mountain opening.
The carriage rushed into the ebony chasm, sped down many a turn, and finally stopped.
"My wife is within," the gentleman said, pointing towards a door.
The midwife hurried into the room, and found the expectant mother laying on the floor. The poor woman's moans filled the room.
"You're in a bad way, Little Mother," the midwife said, kneeling beside the moaning woman; though the midwife noted that the mother was just as spindly-legged and large-headed as her husband. "But have no fear, God willing you will be free of your burden, and blessed...."
"Don't pray to him," the mother groaned.
The midwife shuddered, and asked, "Who then?""To a gyivak," the mother moaned, and began to strain.
The midwife shuddered again with the knowledge she had entered a gyivak's domain; those being a kind of small devil. But she was still a midwife and moved to catch the baby; all the while wondering what type of creature she was about to deliver.
And soon her question was answered, for a spindled-legged babe emerged.
When the mother could speak again she said, "Good Midwife, have no fear you will see home again, but next time speak not a word to whatever creature you see upon the road at night......Let them travel in peace......"
The midwife bundled up the babe, and said nothing. She wished to be gone from this place quickly.
But her wish was not soon granted.
The gentleman returned and said, "Come and choose your payment."
"I need nothing," the frightened woman answered.
"You must be paid," he told her and took her to enormous pantry; the shelves were stocked with grains and sausages, and the corners were filled with gold.
"This becomes ours when the greedy refuse to help the poor," he told her.
Finally the midwife took up an apronfull of gold, and the father hurried her back to the carriage.
Down the mountain the carriage hurled, but with the cock's crow the driver reined the horses in, and ordered the midwife from the carriage. "You are not far from your home," the gentleman told her.
was more than happy to be free and breathed a prayer of thanksgiving. She continued
on her way home, and when she looked into her apron she she the gold was gone.
Degh, Linda. _Folktales of Hungary_. Chicago: The Unversity of Chicago Press. 1965