“Who is there? Come out at once!” shouted the poor man, beside himself. Ha! the monster appeared, lank and yellow, almost a skeleton, covered with rags. The poor fellow was afraid, but had the courage to make the sign of the cross and ask: “Who art thou?”
“I? I am Bitter Woe. I am one of the Russian heroes, Woe Bogotir. I pity all weak people. I pity thee, too, and want to help thee along.”
“All right, Bitter Woe; let us walk together arm in arm. I presume there are no other friends for me in this world.”
“Let us ride, good man,” laughed the monster. “I will be thy faithful companion.”
“Thanks, but on what shall we ride?”
“I do not know on what thou shalt ride, but I, I shall ride on thee,” and Woe jumped on the shoulders of the unlucky man. The poor fellow had no strength to throw him off, so he crawled along his way, the long, hard way, with Woe on his shoulders. He could hardly walk, yet Woe was singing, whistling, and switching him all the time.
“Why so sad, master?” Woe would ask, when the poor man sighed. “Listen to me, I want to teach thee a song, my beloved little song:
“I am Woe, the brave,
I am Woe, the bold;
He who lives with me
Has his griefs controlled,
And when money is lacking
I’ll find him gold.
Attention, master, thou hast twenty-five copecks; let us go and buy some wine; let us have a jolly good time.”
The poor man obeyed. They went and spent all in drink. After this the unlucky fellow, with the faithful Woe on his shoulders, came home. His wife was sad, his little children were hungry and in tears, but he, under the influence of Woe and wine, danced and sang.
On the next day Woe began to sigh and said:
“I have a drunken headache. Let us drink more.”
“I have no money,” answered the poor man.
“Hast thou forgotten my little song? Let us trade the harrow, the plow, the sledge, the telega for money, and let us have a good time.”
The poor, weak man had no courage to refuse, and Woe Bogotir became his master and ruler. They went to a kabak and spent everything; drank, sang, and had a good time.
On the next day Woe sighed again and said to the peasant:
“Let us drink; let us have a jolly time; let us sell or trade everything left, even ourselves.”
Then the fellow understood that his ruin was near and decided to deceive the sorrowful Woe, so he said:
“I once heard the old people say that behind the village, near the dark forest, there is buried a treasure, yes, a great treasure, but it is buried under a large, heavy stone, too heavy a stone for one man to move. If we could only remove that stone, thou and I, Woe Bogotir, could have a good time and plenty to drink.”
“Let us hasten!” screamed Woe; “the Bitter Woe is strong enough to do harder things than to move stones.”
They went a roundabout way behind the village and saw the great big stone, such a heavy stone that five or six strong peasants could never begin to move it. But our poor fellow with his faithful Woe Bogotir removed it at once. They looked inside. Under the stone there was a pit, a dark, deep pit. At the bottom of that pit something was twinkling. The peasant said to Woe:
“Thou bold Woe, jump in, throw the gold out to me and I will hold the stone.”
From Folk tales from the Russian, by Verra de Blumenthal.
Chicago, New York, London: Rand, McNally and Company, 1903.