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Jagor

1

(This is a literal translation, with minimal changes, from the Croatian text.)

  There was a child by the name of Jagor, a weak child left with an evil and wicked step-mother. The merciless step-mother, like an evil, cold year, tortures the child with cold and hunger, and his father she poisoned with herbs of all kinds, so he too cares not for his son.
     Jagor endured for a while, endured, but being a child that young, one day his little heart filled with sorrow. The poor child goes to the barn, lies face down into the straw and cries bitterly. "What will I do, where will I go, poor me?" At that moment he hears something sneaking through the straw, like a mouse. It came to his ear and whispered: "Don't cry, child Jagor. Don't worry about anything. There are three of us here, we'll be good to you!"
     Jagor lifts his head, and looks around the barn. But, in the barn, just like before, there was just a small 'bušakinja' cow and a brownish goat, tied to the manger, that Jagor's mother fed and cared for. And no one else was there.
- "Did you talk to me?" Jagor asks the cow.
- "No," answers the cow.
- "And did you?" he asks the brown goat.
- "I did not either," answers the goat.
- "Then who did, and why does he say that there's three of you, when you two are alone here?"
- "That was Bagan talking to you, - he's the third one with us in the barn, and older than us," answers the cow.
- "And where did he go?" asks Jagor.
- "There in the bundle of straw."
- "Where in the barn is that bundle of straw?" asks Jagor again.
- "There, the bundle, in the right corner of the barn, braided in the straw wreath under the window," answers the cow.
- "And since when is he there?" wonders the child.
- "Since 50 years ago."
- "And who placed him there?"
- "Your grandfather, when he braided it and raised this barn," says the cow.
- "And why did he braid a bundle of straw into a wreath?"
- "To entice Bagan. And since Bagan got there, he protects treasure in your barn, and all the good in the barn and the hut, and what ever happens in your estate, doesn't happen without him."
     When the cow said this, Jagor looks around the barn and becomes somehow glad in his heart, for his grandfather, and for Bagan and for the bundle of straw in the wreath.
     And the cow speaks more:
- "If you will listen to me, you make a manger, no longer than a palm wide, and a thumb high. Set it up, so no one knows, under our manger. And when, for dinner, you put forage for us, you throw a fist of it in Bagan's manger too, and when you arrange straw for us to sleep on, you arrange some for him too. Do so, and don't fear of anything."
     Jagor listened to the cow, made and placed the manger, placed forage for Bagan there, and straw for his bed. From that day on, in that barn the child had food and safety. He spent nights there, he hid there. And the cow, goat, and Bagan, what they said, they kept (to themselves). If at night, the wind was blowing hard, Bagan placed straw in the cracks, so the child would be warm in the barn; and when the step-mother came in the morning, to milk the cow and the goat, they didn't give all their milk, but just half, and kept the other half for Jagor.
     Jagor started growing, like a tree in a forest. Everyone wondered, how does the child with such a stepmother grow like that. And the stepmother fumes and eats herself from the inside, for she sees that she can't hurt the child. She thinks and thinks for many days and many nights and finally she thought of something. So when one day her husband got ready to go to mow, she told him: "Don't carry your lunch with you, my hero. I will send it to you at noon with the child."
     The husband listens, takes a scythe, and goes to the field. When noon came, the woman cooked a stew pot, baked bread, placed it all in a basket, and told Jagor: "Here's the basket, take the lunch to your father."
     Jagor goes, and the stepmother went to the porch, to watch him go.
     She knew what would happen to him, and who would prey on him in the midday's heat.
     Heat is hitting from the sky, grass hides under itself, and all the living fled, into the bushes, or into the thorn, just to hide from the sun. Jagor alone goes on the trail across the meadows - not a bit of shade anywhere, and the air is dancing in front of his eyes like golden water.
     When Jagor came in the field, Grandma Poludnica crouched by the fence over her lair. Her name is Grandma Poludnica, for only in the middle of the day does she get out of the lair, to enjoy the summer heat like a snake, and preys, wondering whom to hit with the nettles.
     Noticed, oh, Grandma noticed Jagor, quickly she collected a bunch of nettles, ran after him, and you can't hear her step, nor can you see her shadow, she caught him on the trail, during the hottest sun, and hit him with the nettles on the back of his head. As she hit him, the child just saw the dark, he fell on the road and doesn't know of himself anymore. Grandma takes the pot: takes one sip, all the soup she eats; takes bread: swallows once, and all the bread she eats. Then she throws Jagor over her shoulder, like a sack, and drags him to her lair.
     The stepmother saw everything from the porch, rubbed her hands, and said: "Good. He won't be back any more." - And Grandma Poludnica, as she pulled Jagor under the ground, dragged him through the dark corridor, until they came to the place where an awful glow and heat came from somewhere. Grandma stops, hoots at Jagor, and he snaps out of his sleep.
     Grandma takes the child's hand and leads him forward, and they quickly come to a place underground, like a huge field, and over it there's a ceiling made of the baked clay, looking like a big umbrella. Around the field, there were ovens: six red ones, in which the red flame roars, six yellow ones, in which the yellow flame roars. The field is all flat, hard, from the stomping of the servants running over it to man the ovens. In red ovens they roast bucks, in yellow ones they bake bread: all for Grandma Poludnica's one meal.
     In that heat no one alive could take a single breath, for their throat would burn - but the Grandma had hooted at Jagor, so this heat could not harm him. -"Uhh," - Jagor said, when he saw this wonder.
- "Don't be afraid!" answered Grandma Poludnica.
- "I am not afraid, I am awed, how big this all is. This one oven is bigger than my cabin and the barn together."
     Grandma Poludnica laughed, her nose went down, her chin lifted up to her nose, and her mouth pressed deeper in her face.
     She takes the child across the field and through another hole, and they came to this place underground, which was like an awfully big corral with a ceiling of red ground over it. In the corral, sheep were crowded, all of red wool, and each was as big as the biggest bull.
- "Uhh," Jagor said, when he saw all the sheep.
- "Don't be afraid." - Grandma Poludnica tells him.
- "I'm not afraid. I am awed, how big these sheep are. This one sheep is bigger than my cow and goat together."
     Laughs grandma Poludnica and makes herself even uglier. She takes the child through the corral and lets the sheep out. The sheep ran into the third hole, which was a tunnel that ran underground, rising sharply, and Grandma with the child followed them. They went through the tunnel for a long time, and they came out of another entrance of the lair. They came atop some limestone area, on a huge field. On two sides of the field, cliffs were rising, and on the other two sides iron plates, so there is no entrance or exit from that field but through Grandma Poludnica's tunnel.
     The field lies flat, completely enclosed, and there are some sort of plants all over it, mighty and huge, each leaf is like three big fields connected, and each shines like copper in the sun. The sun burns stones and the ground, with heat in the basin, a living soul could not breathe, without burning his own throat. Yet, the child doesn't even feel this heat, but, from the amazement, just said:
- "Uhh!"
- "Don't be scared," - tells him grandma Poludnica.
- "I'm not scared, I'm awed, how big this all is; that one leaf is bigger than my field and garden."
     Grandma Poludnica laughs again and makes herself so ugly, there was never someone like that under the sun.
- "I like you, boy," - Grandma said. "I need a shepherd, so you will be my shepherd. Sit here, guard the flock. And be careful, how will you serve me, for if there are any damages, evil things will happen to you."
     So said the Grandma, and disappeared in her lair. And the child was left alone in that mighty basin, surrounded by iron and stone. Those huge sheep spread all over the field. They bent their heads to eat those plants, and as they nibble on each huge leaf, that glitters with copper, so the flames sparkle around their heads.
     The child sat on the stone under that huge wall of iron, and looked at all that ugliness. All he has seen so far settled his little soul, he can't even cry. Only one single thought keeps spinning in his head; how small and cuddly are all the good things of his, all that his step-mother took away from him, and how big and awful this evil is, that she invented for him.