The Blind Maiden, originally titled “Merchants Daughter and The Maidservant,” is a dark story from a collection of Russian fairy tales published in 1866. The Russian stories were gathered by Aleksandr Afanas’ev, who was considered the Russian counterpart of the Grimm Brothers. Afanas’ev was a lawyer by education and his collection of folklore was instrumental in introducing Russian popular tales to world literature.
Ancient fairy tales were often used as cautionary stories for adults and children. The duality of good and evil was given life and posed a moral problem which required a solution. Evil characters were balanced with good figures that acted virtuously. Some experts believe that teaching fear through fairy tales is a proven method of improving judgement and critical thinking skills. Fear is a natural aid to survival, and shapes psychological and sociological structures.
The Blind Maiden
(Russian Fairy Tale)
There was once a very wealthy merchant who had a marvelously beautiful daughter. This merchant carried goods to various provinces, and one day he came to a certain kingdom and brought precious cloths to the king as a gift. The king said to him, “Why can I not find a bride for myself?” The merchant answered, “I have a beautiful daughter, and she is so clever that no matter what a man is thinking, she can guess it.”
The king immediately wrote a letter and called his guards. “Go to that merchant’s house,” he told them, “and deliver this letter to the merchant’s daughter.” The letter said, “Make ready to get married.” The merchant’s daughter took the letter, burst into tears, and prepared to go, taking her maidservant: and no one could distinguish this maid from the merchant’s daughter, they were so like each other.
They dressed in dresses that were alike and went to the king for marriage. The maid was full of spite, and said, “Let us take a walk on the island.” They went to the island: there the maidservant gave the merchant’s daughter sleeping potions, cut out her eyes, and put them in her pocket. Then she came to the guards and said, “Gentlemen of the guard, my maidservant has gone to sea.” They answered, “We need only you; we have no use for that peasant girl.”
They went to the king; he married the maid at once, and they began to live together. The king thought to himself, “The merchant must have cheated me; she cannot be the merchant’s daughter. Why is she so ignorant? She does not know how to do anything.”
Meanwhile the merchant’s daughter recovered from the illness that her maid had brought upon her. She could not see, she could only hear and she heard an old man tending cattle. She said to him, “Where are you, grandfather?” He answered, “I live in a little hut.” She replied, “Please take me to your hut.” The old man took her in. She sent the old man to a shop, saying, “Get velvet and silk on credit.” The old man went; none of the wealthy merchants would give him goods on credit, but a poor shopkeeper gave him some.
He brought the velvet and silk to the blind maiden and she began to sew a royal crown. She embroidered such a beautiful crown that it was a pleasure to behold it. The blind maiden said, “Go and take this to the king, and for payment accept only an eye. And fear not, no matter what they do to you.”
The old man went to the palace with the crown. Everyone admired it and wanted to buy it from him, but the old man asked for and eye in payment. The king came out and began to bargain for it, but the old man still asked for an eye. No matter what the king said, the old man held his ground. Then the king cried to his guards, “Go and cut out and eye of a captive soldier.” Just then his wife, the queen, rushed out, took an eye from her pocket, and gave it to the king. The king gave the eye to the old man, who took it, left the palace and returned to his hut.
The blind maiden asked him, “Did you get my eye, little grandfather?” He said: “I did.” She took it from him, went outside at twilight, spat upon it, put it into its socket, and was able to see once more. Then again she sent the old man to the shops, giving him money, and asked him to pay what he owed for the silk and velvet and to bring more velvet and gold thread.
He got what he needed from the poor shop keeper and brought these things to the merchant’s daughter. She sat down to sew another crown, finished it, and sent the old man to the same king. “Do not take anything but an eye.” she told him.
The old man came to the palace. There everyone was amazed, for although the first crown was beautiful, the second was even lovelier. The king said, “I will buy it from you at any price.” The old man said, “Give me an eye.” The king at once ordered a guard to cut an eye of a prisoner; but his wife again gave him an eye.
He came to his hut and gave the eye to the blind maiden. She again went outside at twilight, spat on the eye, put it in its socket, and could see with both eyes. She lay down to sleep in the hut, and upon awakening she suddenly found herself in a glass house and began to live in magnificent style.
The king went to see this marvel, wondering who had built such a fine house. The merchant’s daughter was delighted and received him hospitably. He feasted and upon leaving asked the maiden to come see him. He returned to the palace and described the maiden to his wife. The queen guessed who it was and thought to herself, “It must be the same maiden whose eyes I cut out.”
The king went to visit the maiden, and the queen was full of spite. The king came, feasted, and invited her to his palace. She began to make ready and said to the old man, “Farewell! Here is a chest of money; you will never reach its bottom. You will go to sleep in this glass house, but you will awaken in your old hut. Now I am going to make a visit. I shall not be alive tomorrow; I shall be killed and cut into little pieces. Arise in the morning, make a coffin, gather my remains, and bury them.”
Soon the guards came, seated her in a carriage and drove away. When they brought her to the palace, the queen said to the guards, “Cut her to little pieces at once, take out her heart, and bring it to me.” The guards talked to the merchant’s daughter glibly, but she knew what they wanted to do and said to them, “Cut me up quickly.” They cut her in pieces, took her heart, buried her in the ground, and returned to the palace. The queen took the heart, rolled it up into an egg, and put it in her pocket.
The old man went to sleep in a glass house and awoke in a hut and burst into tears. He wept and wept, then he set about his appointed task. He made a coffin and went to see the maiden; he found her in the earth, dug her up, gathered all the pieces, put them in a coffin, and buried them in his own land.
The king did not know all this, so he went again to visit the merchant’s daughter. When he arrived at the palace, there was no house, no maiden; but at the spot where she was buried a garden had grown. He beheld a boy in the garden – and what a handsome boy he was! “Surely some lord went for a drive and lost him here,” he thought. He took the boy to his palace and said to the queen, “Mind you, little mother, do not maltreat him.” Meanwhile the boy began to cry and there was no way of appeasing him: no matter what they gave him, he kept on crying. Then the queen took from her pocket the egg she had made from the maiden’s heart and gave it to the boy. He ceased crying and began to skip around the rooms.
The boy ran to the yard and the king ran after him; the boy ran into the street and the king ran into the street; the boy ran to the field and the king ran to the field; the boy ran to the garden and the king ran to the garden. There the king saw the maiden and was overjoyed. She said to him, “I am your bride, the merchant’s daughter, and your queen is my maidservant.”
They went to the palace. The queen fell at her feet. “Forgive me,” she said. “You have never forgiven me,” said the merchant’s daughter. “Once you cut out my eyes, and then you ordered me cut into little pieces.” The king said, “Guards, cut out her eyes and let her be dragged by a horse over the field.” The maidservant’s eyes were cut out, she was tied to a horse, and dragged to her death over the open field. And the king began to live happily with the young queen and to prosper. The king always delighted in her and dressed her in gold.
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