Macedonian Folk Fairy Tales: The girl who collected the bones of the deer

From generation to generation – the word as the most powerful weapon

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Macedonian literature is rich in folk tales; these were told, filmed and conveyed from generation to generation. Among all the tales, there are also Macedonian folk fairy tales. According to the sayings of the Macedonian author Tanas Vrazhinovski, the Macedonian folk fairy tales were first collected in the 19th century. Each of them is a cultural heritage and has been studied and analyzed from a literary-cultural aspect.

All fairy tales are composed of different characters – real and fantastic, then magical and / or fantastic materials, items and places. The theme in the folk fairy tales includes many social topics, and usually, the most represented are the class differences and family relationships. Very often, these stories talk about the patriarchal relationship in a traditional Macedonian family and the position of the poor compared to the rich. This is accompanied by the theme of marriage between the rich and the poor, as well as prohibited or impossible marriages.

Often, these stories have an element of fear and frightening phenomena, disgust and the effect of the bizarre. An example for this is the next captivating folk fairy tale, recorded in 1967.

The girl who collected the bones of the deer

A married couple had two children; a son and a daughter. The husband would often go to hunt. One day, he returned at home with two partridges caught. His wife should’ve cooked the birds, but later when the husband has left the house again, the cats ate them, so the wife didn’t know what to tell her husband. Before he returned, she cut off her breasts and brew them for lunch. When he returned, they began to eat and the husband said that the lunch is tasty, but also that the meat didn’t taste as partridge. After a long interrogation, the woman confessed.

Her husband told her that he has enjoyed the human flesh and gave a suggestion to slaughter and cook their children. The woman, all terrified and worried, told this to the children and told them to run away; she gave her children a comb, and a soap.

The mother told the children to throw these two objects behind them, in the same moment when they get caught in a big trouble. The comb would make a gigantic mountain and no one could catch them, and the soap would make a big water wave that would help them to escape far away.

When their father came home, he asked for the children and after he heard the truth, he went to look for them. Eventually, he got close to the path. The children did what their mother told them to do.

After the girl and the boy ran away, the brother got thirsty and wanted to drink water from a horse footstep filled with water, but his sister told him that he would turn into a horse if he does that. Later, the boy couldn’t restrain from drinking water, so he drank from a deer’s footstep in the soil, which, once again was filled with water. Just as his sister told him, the boy turned into a deer. 

They both lived in the forest; the sister would stay all day long on a tree, and the brother would bring her food from the woods and leave it under the tree. 

One day, the king went hunting in the woods. There, he saw the girl that looked like a fairy and fell in love with her. The king tried to persuade her to get off the tree, but she refused.

His servants tried to cut down the tree, but after each stroke with the saw, the brother-deer would lick the tree and its trunk would get thicker. One night, the king’s servants made a trap and killed the deer.

The king took the girl home and told his servants to cook the deer’s meat. All of them enjoyed the dinner, but the girl just collected the bones and didn’t say a word. When the king asked her why is she so silent, she explained him the whole journey and what happened with her brother. 

After this, she kept the bones of her brother, and got married with the king. Unconditional love and sacrifice sometimes have price.

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