Two Polish Folk Tales
Folk tales are as much a part of our Polish Fatherland as are its people, our ancestors. This week, I present to you two folk tales that, although truly Polish in nature, reflect the Polish immigrant’s view of America. The two tales are: “The Fabulous Journey” by Amelia Kalwara and “Mountain Brothers” by Joseph Strozik. Read and enjoy . . . .
“The Fabulous Journey”
Poor little Jas was an unhappy boy of eight. He was abused and mistreated. He could remember when it had been different, but that was long ago, when his own dear mother was alive. His mother had died, the good Lord had taken her to heaven.
Now all Jas knew was unhappiness. His stepmother gave him only harsh words and tasks to do that kept him busy from early morning until late at night. Crusts of bread and thin broth were all he had to eat, with once in a long, long time a bowl of cabbage soup. Jas always ate every bit of what his stepmother gave him, because he was always hungry.
Jas often thought how strange it was his own father had changed so. Once he had been kind and good, but now he never even noticed Jas was alive. But Jas never complained. He was too much of a little man to do that.
Finally, Jas decided the only thing to do was to run away. His father would never know, and his stepmother would be glad to have him out of the way.
Every day Jas saved a piece of the crust his stepmother gave him for dinner. He hid the pieces in a secret corner of the barn.
Finally there was quite a pile of the crusts, and Jas decided the time had come to leave. He put the dried crusts carefully inside his shirt and waited for night to fall.
When night came and the moon was up, Jas stole out of the house. For a long time he walked. Then he began to be tired and looked around for a place to rest. A huge, barnlike building loomed up before him. At first he could see no door or any other opening. He kept looking, and then he discovered a door. Cautiously Jas pried the door open and peered inside.
As Jas peered, he suddenly thought he heard a noise. Full of fear, he darted inside the barn. In the corner stood an enormous barrel. Jas gave one jump, and not an instant too soon, either, for the noise was getting louder and coming closer. Now it was right behind him.
Safe inside the barrel, Jas began to wonder where he was. He started feeling around inside the barrel with his hand. Then he came to an opening, where a stave had been cut through. In the opening Jas could feel something soft. He felt it carefully. It came to him that this soft object was none other than a wolf’s tail. Jas grasped the tail firmly.
And now the great adventure of the boy’s life began. At once the wolf started running, the barrel and Jas inside it in tow. Bumpity, bump, it rolled, bumpity, bump. Then after a long while, Crash, bang! With a thundering noise the barrel landed right smack against a gigantic tree.
The staves flew in a thousand directions, but by some miracle Jas was not hit by a single one. Dusting himself off, the lad got up and looked around. There was the tree that had ruined his little home. Tacked to the tree was a sign.
Jas went up to the tree and peered at the sign. It was a big sign and the letters written on it were large. Jas began reading them. The letters made just one word. Jas read it. It was the wonder word: AMERYKA!!
* * * * * * * *
There was a young mountaineer by the name of Jasiek Kania who left his homeland in the High Tatras and came to America. He was sturdy and strong and he hoped to get his hands on some of the gold he had heard was lying about in the streets.
Jasiek found no gold, nor even any steady work, only odd jobs such as dishwashing, working as a hired man on farms, or lumbering. A dismal existence, and Jasiek often longed for home.
Then one summer the lad got a job with a travelling circus. He fitted well into the roustabout life, and the circus bullies soon learned to respect him, as he could out-wrestle them all. Life settled down rather pleasantly now.
But not for long. Soon the manager came to Jasiek and said he had spotted him for an act in the ring. He was to wrestle a gigantic brown bear. It was a chance many a young fellow would have snapped at, but not Jasiek. No, he said, he was satisfied as he was.
“Then we are through,” was the manager’s ultimatum. And so Jasiek gave in and agreed to face the bear.
It was a fine summer afternoon. The benches were crowded. Jasiek and the bear entered the ring from opposite sides, as the band played a flourish. Then the music stopped. There was a terrible stillness.
Jasiek had never been afraid in his life, but now he was, and his heart almost stopped beating. He prayed as never before. Then the bear put out one paw. This is the end, thought Jasiek. The bear put out his other paw. Poor Jasiek. Now the great arms of the brown monster closed in a circle about the lad’s body. He thought he was dead.
But then a soft whisper sounded in Jasiek’s ear. “Ziomku, ziomku,” the whisper sounded. “Have no fear. I too am a mountaineer. We are brothers. I will not harm you.”
Life surged back into Jasiek’s body and he threw his arms about the forest giant. They wrestled like good fellows, rolling, and careening back and forth all over the ring in such an act as had never been seen. The tent trembled with the applause. Jasiek was a success. Not only on that one day, but for many days and even years to come.
. . . . SEE YOU SOON, GOD BE WILLING . . .