Eastern Europe

Up the hill I went, and gazed round.
Hoping golden maids to see;
Trooping lovely maidens came, who
Round the hill danced merrily.

All the sweetest ditties singing,
Sweetest ditties that might be;
Bearing fragrant apple-blossoms,
These fair maidens came to me.
Lettish Song.
   Europe is inhabited on the east and north-east, from the Frozen Ocean to the Adriatic, by two extensive races named the Finns and the Slaves. The former dwell round the northern edge of Scandinavia by the Icy Ocean, and on the east and south-east of the Baltic. The Majjars, or the dominant portion of the people of Hungary, are also of Finnish origin. The Slaves who are akin to the Gotho-German race are also widely spread. This stem numbers among its branches the Russians, Poles, Bohemians, Servians, and the nations dwelling north-east of the Adriatic. Our knowledge of the popular mythology of both races is very limited.


Bee! thou little mundane bird!
Fly away to where I bid thee;
O'er the moon, beneath the sun,
Behind the lofty heaven's stars,
Close by the Wain's axle--fly
To the great Creator's court.
Finnish Rune.
   Of the mythology of the Finnish race, the first possibly that appeared in Europe, and. one of the most widely spread in the world, our knowledge, as we have just stated, is very slight. It appears, however, either to have influenced that of the Gothic race, or to have been affected by it.
   The Finlanders, Laplanders, and other nations of this race, who are neighbours of the Scandinavians and Germans, believe, like them, in Dwarfs and Kobolds. The former they describe as having a magnificent region under the ground, to which mortals are sometimes admitted and are there sumptuously entertained, getting plenty of tobacco and brandy, and other things esteemed by them delicious.
   It is an article of faith with the Finns that there dwell under the altar in every church little misshapen beings which they call Kirkonwaki, i.e., Church-folk. When the wives of these little people have a difficult labour they are relieved if a Christian woman visits them and lays her hand upon them. Such service is always rewarded by a gift of gold and silver.1
   The Kobold of Finland is called Para (from the Swedish Bjära); he steals the milk from other people's cows, carries and coagulates it in his stomach, and then disgorges it into the churn of his mistress. There is a species of mushroom, which if it be fried with tar, salt and sulphur, and then beaten with a rod, the woman who owns the Kobold will quickly appear, and entreat to spare him.
   The Alp, or nightmare, is called Painajainen, i.e., Presser. It resembles a white maid, and its brightness illumines the whole room. It causes people to scream out wofully; it also hurts young children, and' makes them squint. The remedy against it is steel or a broom placed under the pillow. The House-spirit named Touttu (the Swedish Tomtegubbe) is also common in Finland.2 The Esthonians believe that the Neck has fish's teeth.
   An Esthonian legend relates that one time a girl was stopt by a pretty boy that had on him a handsome peasant's belt and forced to scratch his head a little. She did so, and while she was so engaged she was, without her knowledge, fastened to him by his belt, but the rubbing of her hand set him to sleep. Meanwhile a woman passed by, who came up and asked the girl what she was doing there. She told her the whole matter, and as she was speaking she freed herself from the belt. The boy, however, slept sounder than ever and his mouth was wide open. The woman who had come nearer cried at once, Ha! that's a Näkki (Neck,) see his fish's teeth! The Neck instantly vanished.3
   The following Esthonian legend, though the Devil is the subject, strongly resembles some of those of France and Great Britain:
   A man who had charge of the granary of a farm-house was sitting one day moulding buttons in lead. The Devil came by, saluted him, and said, "What are you doing there?" "I am moulding eyes." "Eyes! could you make me new ones?" "To be sure I could; but I have none by me at present." "Will you then do it another time?" "That will I." "When shall I come again?" "Whenever you please." Next day the Devil came to get his new eyes. "Will you have them large or small?" said the man. "Very large." The man then put a large quantity of lead down to melt, and said, "I cannot make them for you, unless you first let me tie you fast." He then made him lie on his back on a bench and tied him down with good strong thick ropes. When the Devil was thus fast bound he asked the man what his name was. "My name is Myself (Issi)," replied he. "That's a good name, I know none better." The lead was now melted; the Devil opened his eyes as wide as he could, expecting to get the new ones. "Now, I'm going to pour it out," said the. man, and he poured the melting lead into the eyes of the Devil, who jumped up with the bench on his back, and ran away. As he passed by some people who were ploughing, they asked him "Who did that to you?" "Myself did it (Issi teggi)," replied the Devil. The people laughed and said, "If you did it yourself; keep it yourself." The Devil died of his new eyes, and since then no one has seen the Devil any more.4
   The Hungarians or Madyars (Magyars) as they call them-selves, are, as we have seen, a portion of the Finnish race, Two collections of their popular tales have been published of late years. The editor of one of them which we have read,5 assures us that he took them from the lips of an old Hungarian soldier, who knew no language but his own, We therefore cannot but regard the tales as genuine, though the mode and tone in which they are narrated by the editor are not always the best. They contain no traits of popular mythology,--a circumstance not a little remarkable, rather resembling the French and Italian Fairy tales. Several of them, however, are very pleasing. We regret that we have not seen the other collection, which is apparently of greater value.6


Whatsoe'er at eve had raised the workmen,
Did the Vila raze ere dawn of morning.
Bowring, Servian Popular Poetry.
   A demon, in the attire of a mourning widow, used, in the Eastern Russia, to go through the fields at noon in harvest-time, and break the legs and arms of the workmen, who failed, when they saw her, to fall on their faces. There was a remedy, however, against this. Trees, long venerated, grew in the adjacent wood, the bark of which being laid on the wound, removed the pain and healed it.7
   The Vends believe in a similar being; but a Vend knows that when be converses with her for an hour together about flax and the preparation of it, if he always contradicts her, or says the paternoster backwards without stopping, he is secure.8
   The Russians also believe in a species of water and wood-maids, called Rusalki. They are of a beautiful form, with long green hair; they swing and balance themselves on the branches of trees--bathe in lakes and rivers--play on the surface of the water--and wring their locks on the green meads at the water's-edge. It is chiefly at Whitsuntide that they appear, and the people then singing and dancing, weave garlands for them, which they cast into the stream.9

   The following is the Polish form of a legend which we have already met with in several places:10
   There came to a nobleman an unknown man, who called himself Iskrzycki (spark or firestone), and offered to engage in his service. The contract was drawn up and signed, when the master perceived that Iskrzycki had horse's hoofs, and he accordingly wanted to break off the agreement; but the servant stood on his right, and declared that he would enter on his duties, even against his master's will. From this time forwards he took up his abode invisibly in the stove, and performed all the tasks set him. People gradually grew accustomed to him, but at last the lady prevailed on her lord to remove, and he hired another estate. His people left the castle, and they had already gone the greater part of the way, when on a bad part of the road the carriage was near turning over, and the lady gave a loud cry of terror. Immediately a voice answered from behind the carriage--"Never fear! Iskrzycki is with you!" The lord and his lady now saw that there was no way of getting rid of him, so they went back to the old house, and lived there on good terms with their servant till the term of the engagement had arrived.
   The Servian ballads, that have lately appeared11 have made us acquainted with an interesting species of beings called Vilas. These are represented as mountain-nymphs, young and beautiful, clad in white, with long flying hair. Their voice is said to resemble that of the woodpecker. They shoot, according to popular belief, deadly arrows at men, and sometimes carry off children, whom their mothers in their anger have consigned to them or the devil: yet the general character of the Vilas is to injure none but those who intrude upon their kolos, or roundels.
   The Vilas sometimes appear gaily dancing their kolos beneath the branches of the Vishnia or Vistula cherry; sometimes a Vila is introduced comforting the sorrows of an enarnoured deer; at other times collecting storms in the heavens;12 now foretelling to a hero his impending death;13 now ruthlessly casting down each night the walls of a rising fortress, till a young and lovely female is immured within them.14 She usually rides a seven-year old hart, with a bridle made of snakes.
   The following are specimens of these Servian ballads:


Cherry! dearest Cherry!
Higher lift thy branches,
Under which the Vilas
Dance their magic roundels.
Them before Radisha
Dew from flowers, lashes,
Leadeth on two Vilas,
To the third he sayeth--
"Be thou mine, O Vila!
Thou shalt, with my mother,
In the cool shade seat thee;
Soft silk deftly spinning
From the golden distaff."15

Deer And Vila

A young deer track'd his way through the lone forest
One lonely day--another came in sadness--
And the third dawn'd, and brought him sighs and sorrow;
Then he address'd him to the forest Vila:
"Young deer" she said, "thou wild one of the forest!
Now tell me what great sorrow has oppress'd thee;
Why wanderest thou thus in the forest lonely:
Lonely one day--another day in sadness--
And the third day with sighs and anguish groaning?"
And thus the young deer to the Vila answered:
"O thou sweet sister! Vila of the forest!
Me has indeed a heavy grief befallen;
For I once had a fawn, mine own beloved,
And one sad day she sought the running water;
She enter'd it, but came not back to bless me.
Then, tell me, has she lost her way and. wander'd?
Was she pursued and captured by the huntsman?
Or has she left me?--has she wholly left me--
Loving some other deer--and I forgotten?
Oh, if she has but lost her way, and wanders,
Teach her to find it--bring her back to love me!
Oh, if she has been captured by the huntsman,
Then may a fate as sad as mine await him!
But if she has forsaken me--if, faithless,
She loves another deer and I forgotten--
Then may the huntsman speedily o' ertake her."16
   We have already observed how almost all nations compare female beauty to that of the beings of their legendary creed. With the Servians the object of comparison is the lovely Vila. "She is fairer than the mountain-Vila," is the highest praise of woman's beauty. In the ballad of The Sister of the Kapitan Leka, it is said of the heroine Rossandra, that in no country, either Turkey, or the land of the Kauran, or Jewrs, was her fellow to be found. No white Bula (Mohammedan), no Vlachin (Greek), no slender Latiness (Roman Catholic), could compare with her,
And who on the hills hath seen the Vila--
E'en the Vila, brother, must to her yield.
   The swiftness of the Vila also affords a subject of comparison: a fleet horse is said to be "Vilaish" or "swift as a Vita."

   The Morlacchi of Dalmatia, as Sir Gardner Wilkinson informs us,17 believe also in the Vila. They describe her as a handsome female, who accompanies the, man who is her favourite everywhere he goes, and causes all his undertakings to prosper. One thus favoured is termed Vilénik. Another of their objects of belief is the Maçieh, who appears in the form of a boy, with a cap on his head, and is always laughing. Any one to whom he appears gets the power of commanding him. If ordered to bring money, he usually steals it from one of the neighbours, and if taxed with his dishonesty, he goes to the sea and comes back dripping and with money.


1. Mnemosyne, Abo 1821, ap. Giimm, Deut. Mythol. p. 426.
2. Ruhs, Finlund und seine Bewohner.
3 Grimm, Deut. Mythol. p. 459.
4. Grimm, Deut. Mythol. p. 979. This is the fourth place where we have met this story. Could they have all come from the Odyssey, the hero of which tells the Cyclops, whom he blinds, that his name is Nobody?
5. Gaal, Märchen der Magyaren. Wien, 1822.
6. Mailath, Magyarische Sagen Mährchen, etc., 2 vols, 8vo. Stutg. 1837.
7. Delrio, Lib. ii. Sect. 2. Boxhorn Resp. Moscov. Para I.
8. Grimm, Deut. Mythol. p. 447.
9. Mone, vol. i. p. 144.    Grimm, Deut. Mythol. p. 460.
10. Grimm, ut sup. p. 480.
11. Published by Wuk and translated by Talvi and others into German, by Bowring into English.
12. Bowring, p. 175. Sabejam oblake, Cloud-gatherer, is an epithet of the Vila, answering to the Grecian Zeus.
13. Death of Kralwich Mèrko. Bowring, p. 97.
14. The building of Skadra. Ibid. p. 64.
15. We have made this translation from a German version in the Wiener Jahrbucher, vol. xxx. which is evidently more faithful than Bowring's.
16. Bowring, This version differs considerably from the German one of Talvi. We feel quite convinced that the English translator has mistaken the sense.
17. Dalmatia and Montenegro, etc.