Volume 2 Issue 17 | August 18, 2007 |


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From the Galpoghor Series:
The Fern Girl

Old woman Baiberikeen, mistress of five cows, went about her work, and lived off the milk of her five cows. Then, one night, the five cows suddenly disappeared from sight- each and every one. For four days together the old woman sought her cows all over Mongolia, but to no avail. On the fifth day, as she made her way towards the east, she came upon Mistress Crow sitting in a tree.

'I have lost my five cows,' she told the crow. 'And now I am on my way to find them. May it be that you, Mistress Crow, have seen them?"

'Carrhh, carrrhh. If I had, I should not tell you,' replied Mistress Crow. 'You drove me away when I was picking at the chaff in your barn, you threw a stick at me and hurt my back. I shall not tell you. Carrrhh, carrhh.'

On went the old woman and presently encountered Master Crow.

'Master Crow,' she began, 'I have lost my cows and have wandered the land looking for them. The skin is almost rubbed from my feet, that far have I come. You have keen eyes and ears; surely you know where my cows are? Pray tell me and I shall reward you well'.

Old Baiberikeen went on her way. She had not gone far when she met Master Eagle, perched proudly on top of a tree.

'Master Eagle,' she began, 'I have lost five cows, walked many, many miles, rubbed all the skin from my feet, but have still not found them. Surely you know where my cows are?"

'I know right enough,' said Master Eagle. 'Go east-wards from here and you will come to a clearing. On the sunny side is a pretty hillock on which stands a tree with roots deep down in the soil and branches reaching low to the ground. Under that tree are your five cows with five new-born calves. Go there and you will find them."

On hearing this, old Mistress Baiberikeen cheered up at once and stepped out boldly. In no time at all she arrived at the clearing and found her cows at the foot of the great tree. And with them were five sturdy calves.

Yet as she tethered each calf to its mother and got ready to drive them home, she spotted beneath the tree a most uncommon fern with lacelike leaves of many colors.

'I fancy I shall pull up that fern, take it home and make it may child,' the old woman murmured.

Thereupon she dug up the fern without harm to roots or leaves, placed it gently under her arm and set of with her cows.

Back home, she carefully wrapped the fern in a blanket and went out to the meadow to milk he cows.

When she had finished milking two of the five cows she heard from her yurta a faint jingle like the sound made by a falling thimble. She jumped up; in her haste to get indoors she overturned the milk pail and spilled all the milk. But she was so excited that she didn't bother about the milk. She rushed towards the yurta. On entering her home, she quickly unwrapped the blanket and gazed upon the fern. But plainly the fern was still a fern and nothing more.

'Eeee-eee,' she cried in her disappointment, 'I should not have been so hasty, upsetting the milk like that.' And she returned to her milking.

When she had done with a third cow, she heard a jingle, like that made by a needle falling, in her yurta. She again tipped over the milk as she rushed to the yurta and looked eagerly inside the blanket. But plainly the fern was still a fern.

'What was that noise then?' she wondered as she returned to her cows. When she had finished milking a forth cow, she heard a jingle like that of scissiors falling in her yurta. Springing up at once she tripped over the pail of milk and ran towards her home. But there was nothing: the fern was still a fern.

Yet then, as she completed her milking, a baby's cry was heard from inside the yurta. Knocking over her pail as she rushed towards the sound, she entered her yurta, pulled back the blanket and there lay the most lovely baby girl dressed in a little lacelike dress of many colors.

Old Baiberikeen was overjoyed. She took the baby in her arms, kissed it all over, ran to the meadow where she squeezed a last drop of milk from her cows and fed it to the child.

Thus they lived as the days grew into months and the months into years. As the maid grew up, so her lovely lace dress grew with he. Soon she was a beautiful young girl with blue-grey eyes, pale lips like chiselled marble, a fair face like the petals of a flower and dark brows like two black sables. Through her dress showed her body, through her body her bones, and through her bones her brain quivering like quicksilver.

One day the son of Hara Haan, a close neighbor of old woman Baiberikeen, happened to pass the yurta. He was playing a game with some sticks: tossing them high into the air , he tried to catch them before they fell to the ground. One stick landed right in the chimney of the old woman's yurta.

'Baiberikeen,' the young man cried, 'throw back my stick please.'

'Take this stick, my child,' whispered old Baiberikeen to her daughter. 'Go and give it to the young man.'

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