St. Sava Teaches
translated by Serb World U.S.A.
September/October 1998, vol. XV, no. 1
Illustration by B. Malczewski.
This particular folk tale was translated from a book entitled Najlepse
srpske narodne pripovetke iz zbirke Vuka St. Karadzica (The Finest Serbian
Folk Tales from the collection of Vuk Stefanovic Karadzic). The paperback
was published in Belgrade in 1922 by the booksellers Toma Jovanovic and
—from the Olga M. Pincock Collection
One day St. Sava was walking through the mountains
when, by chance, he met up with the Devil. As soon as the Devil spotted
the famous St. Sava, he was afraid and wanted to run the other way, but,
sadly, it was too late—St. Sava had already begun to speak to him. That’s
how the Devil and St. Sava met.
St. Sava greeted the Devil as he would anyone, “Pomozi Bog!”(May God be of good help to you!)
The Devil would have no part of it. “I can’t stand to hear that from you,” replied the Devil.
“Oh, it is you,” said St. Sava. “How are you?”
“What do you care how I am?” snapped the Devil.
“Well, then, where are you going?” St. Sava asked.
“That’s none of your business.”
“All right. What are you doing here?” St. Sava tried once more.
“I would like to farm if only I had a little land and a partner.”
The kind St. Sava said to the Devil, “Listen, my pobratim(blood brother), if you really want to farm, here I am. I am ready to be your partner, but let us agree, first of all, how and what we shall grow and who will do the planting.”
“All right. Even if I hate working with you, I promise not take advantage of you. But I do want to make an agreement so we can begin our work.”
Then they agreed to plant onions.
When the onions began to grow, the Devil would come by to look at the big, healthy plants. He did not seem to notice anything beneath the ground and only admired the deep green leaves sprouting from the earth.
When the onions were nearly full grown, St. Sava called the Devil over and said to him, “So, my partner, half is mine, and half is yours. You choose the half you want.”
Eyeing the lovely onion plants, the Devil proposed, “I will take the part that grows above the ground, and you can have the part that is under the ground.” He was a little surprised when St. Sava happily agreed. “That priest is easily fooled,” thought the Devil.
While the onions were maturing, the Devil often came to oversee the crop, and he rubbed his hands with glee at the prospect of a bountiful crop.
When, at the end of summer, the lovely onion plants bent over and began to dry, the Devil began to worry. He was even more worried when his plants withered and St. Sava harvested the beautiful, large, round onions from under the ground.
The Devil soon knew that he had been the fool and was very disappointed. He vowed to get even with the young priest and decided to make another agreement with St. Sava. This time the Devil wanted to plant cabbage, but in order not to be fooled again, he said: “This year I want the half of the crop that is under the ground, and you can take the part that is above the ground.” St. Sava quietly agreed.
Cabbage, my friend, they planted. The cabbage grew taller and taller with beautiful, strong, green leaves. Then, in the very center, the small heads began to form.
Seeing this, the Devil thought: “If there is this much of the gorgeous plant above the earth, just imagine how much there must be beneath the soil!” He was very happy.
When autumn came, St. Sava came to cut the cabbage. He harvested all the plants but did not touch anything beneath the soil.
Soon the Devil came along to celebrate what he thought would be a glorious harvest. With him the Devil brought musicians to play the gajde(bagpipes) and svirale(flutes). And play they did. Others were singing, and all hell broke loose at the Devil’s party.
Then, with great excitement, the Devil pulled the first cabbage root from the ground. He looked once and then looked again. He could not believe his eyes. Instead of a beautiful plant, there were just skinny roots and a clump of dirt. He had been fooled again!
Unable to bear his suffering, he begged St. Sava to make another agreement. St. Sava and the Devil agreed to plant potatoes. This time the Devil wanted everything above the ground and gave St. Sava all that was under the ground. Once more St. Sava agreed.
They planted potatoes, and when the plants sprouted, they grew tall, bloomed, and went to seed. Seeing this, the Devil began to chuckle and chide St. Sava. “Hah, my priest, do you see my fine plants? What a wonderful harvest I will have this year!”
But, when the cool days of fall came again, the seeds dropped and blew away, and the plants dried up. The Devil’s half of the crop disappeared into thin air while the good St. Sava dug up the healthy brown potatoes below.
When the Devil saw that St. Sava had once more got the best of him, he nearly exploded he was so angry. He cursed the plants. He cursed the earth. He cursed St. Sava, and he even cursed himself for having anything to do with the priest.
When the Devil finally calmed down, he once more pleaded with St. Sava to make yet another agreement with him. This time they decided to plant wheat. They agreed that everything above the ground would belong to St. Sava and everything under the ground would be the Devil’s.
When the wheat was growing and forming ears, the Devil came by every day to look at his crop. Beaming, he said, “Amazing! From a small grain such a huge stalk grows! I know my half will make me rich.”
When autumn came, St. Sava was once more summoned by the Devil. This time St. Sava harvested the golden grain and, just as they had agreed, left the dry stalks, the stubble, and the shallow roots below ground for the Devil, his partner.
When the Devil began to dig up the wheat, he realized he had again been fooled. This time he began to cry.
Only after a long time was the Devil able to pull himself together. When he could once more speak, he said, “So, priest, now I want to grow a vineyard with you no matter what. But, remember, if you trick me this time, we will never be partners again.”
A vineyard they planted. It grew for three years, and the third year the vines were finally ready to bear fruit. The grapes were very beautiful indeed. As they had so many times before, the Devil and St. Sava met once more in order to decide how to divide the crop.
“Now, partner,” asked St. Sava, “what do you want from the grapes? The juice or the mash?”
“Ho, ho! I want the mash. You can have the worthless juice!”
When the grapes were ripe, St. Sava harvested them, crushed the grapes, and strained the juice. He put the juice into barrels to ferment so he would later have wine. The Devil was left with the mash.
“Now you will see, my brother,” the Devil said as he poured water into the mash. Then he made a large copper kettle and began to cook the mash. Soon he had a still, and rakija(whisky) came out of the end of the tube.
St. Sava had never seen this before and was very curious. He came over to the Devil and asked, “What is that you are making, my partner?”
"My pobratim(blood brother), I am making rakija,” said the Devil.
“Give me some and let me see if it is any good, partner,” said the puzzled saint.
The Devil poured him a cup of whisky. St. Sava downed that cup, then another, and, finally, a third. Then poor, drunk St. Sava began to pray and cross himself.
The Devil, seeing he finally got the best of St. Sava, ran away, saying: “Ah, hah! Rakija,my partner, is medicine for the old but a demon for the young!”
Then the Devil disappeared. They say the Devil learned his lesson and that, ever since that day, he has never appeared anywhere where he heard there was a priest.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the express written permission of SERB WORLD U.S.A. Copyright 1998 by SERB WORLD U.S.A.
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