Multilingual Folk Tale Database


Author: Alexander Afanasyev - 1855

Translated into English
  by Kathleen Cook

Original title (Russian):

Country of origin: Russia


English - aligned

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The Riddle

Alexander Afanasyev / Kathleen Cook

A peasant was sowing in a field by the high road. The king came riding along, stopped and said to the peasant: "May the good Lord put power to your elbow, my man!" "Thank you, kind sir!" (He did not know it was the king.) "And do you reap much gain from this field?" enquired the king. "Some eighty rubles if the harvest be good." "And what do you do with the money?" "I give twenty rubles in taxes, twenty to repay a debt, twenty as a loan, and throw twenty out of the window." "Tell me, my man, what debt are you repaying, to whom are you lending money and why do you throw twenty rabies out of the window?" "Supporting my father is repaying a debt, feeding my son is giving a loan, and keeping my daughter is throwing money out of the window." "Well said!" exclaimed the king, giving him a handful of silver. He announced who he was and ordered the peasant not to tell the same to any man without his countenance. "No matter who asks, tell no one!"
The king came to his capital and called together his nobles and generals. "Solve this riddle," he said. "By the roadside I saw a peasant sowing a field. I asked him how much gain it yielded and what he did with the money. The man replied that he got eighty rabies from a good harvest; he gave twenty in taxes, twenty to repay a debt, twenty as a loan and threw twenty out of the window. Whoever solves this riddle will be richly rewarded and highly honoured." The noblemen and generals racked their brains, but could not find the answer. Then a certain nobleman went to the peasant with whom the king had spoken, offered him a pile of silver rabies and asked him how to solve the king's riddle. The man was greatly tempted by the money, took it and told the nobleman all. The nobleman returned to the king and straightway gave him the answer to his riddle.
The king saw that the peasant had not kept his word and ordered him to be brought to the palace. The man came before the king and confessed right away that it was he who had told the noblemen the answer. "Well, you have only yourself to blame, my man. For such an offence I shall order you to be executed!" "But Your Majesty! I have committed no offence, for it was not without your countenance that I told the nobleman all." So saying the peasant took from his pocket a silver ruble with the king's head upon it and showed it to the king. "Well said!" exclaimed the king. "That is indeed my countenance." He rewarded the peasant richly and sent him home.