The Steppe Maiden



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Created On 2 August 2002
Last Updated On 2 August 2002
Copyright © 2002 Simon E. Phipp


Once, a long while ago, there lived a Hyaloran who was very skilled at raising horses. He was particularly proud of a stallion that was fleet of foot and never tired. However, he found that every morning the stallion stood wet with black sweat and shaking like a leaf, even though the evening before it had been left fit and well groomed. The Hyaloran was puzzled by this and resolved to find out the cause. He hid beside the pasture and waited, but he had taken a jug of koumiss with him and fell asleep before nightfall. He woke up to find the stallion nuzzling him and shaking so much that he feared it would fall down. The next night he tried again, but this time took a flask of beer and fell asleep again. The third night, he took a bowl of clear water and sipped until his thirst was quenched. As night fell, he saw a Steppe Maiden [1] rise up from the long grass and grab the stallion's tail. The horse reared up and ran as fast as it could, but still the Steppe Maiden held on and then jumped upon its back, drinking the sweat as if it were koumiss, beer or mead. Intoxicated, she threw back her head and laughed until dawn came. She left the horse alone and let him return to his master. The Hyaloran thought about this for a long time and covered his stallion's back with black tar and resin and left him by the pasture. When the Steppe Maiden came and jumped upon his back, she found that she could not get down again and had to stay with the horse when it returned to its master. The Hyaloran grabbed the Steppe Maiden and pulled her to the ground, whipping her with his riding whip. "Please don't beat me," said the Steppe Maiden and the man stopped and made her his wife.

This Steppe Maiden always wore a headscarf, no matter what the weather or what she was doing. She asked her husband for three things, not to ask about the headscarf, not to beat her and not to come into the sweat hut when she was bathing alone. He agreed for he loved her. After many years, he forgot what he had agreed and came into the sweat hut when she was bathing alone. She had the headscarf open on her lap and had a hole in the back of her head from which came a poisonous snake. He took up the riding whip and tried to strike the snake, but beat her instead. When she cried out, he stopped and asked her why she was not wearing her headscarf. "Oh, my husband, three things you promised me and three times you have killed me" she said and fell dead to the ground.
 

Notes

1. The Steppe Maidens are a kind of Meadow Nymph. They live on the open Steppe and help keep the grass growing. They are normally very beautiful and very athletic. They love riding the horses of the Steppe and love drinking their sweat. Putting tar or resin on a horse's back is a well known way of catching a Steppe Maiden and she will agree to become a bride if her captor beats her first.
 
 
 

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