This is a Macedonian-Australian folktale, told by Anna and Rita Vasileva in Melbourne, Victoria in 1976. Gwenda Davey recorded them telling two versions in Macedonian (one telling from each sister) and one in English. The story is a version of ATU 310 (‘Rapunzel’) + ATU 313 (‘The Magic Flight’).
This is not a word-for-word transcription, but is largely based on my transcription of the Vasilevas’ telling in English. I don’t speak Macedonian, so I have not been able to include any details of plot or phraseology from the Vasilevas’ tellings in Macedonian, much as I would like to. I have, however, been able to include some plot details from a Macedonian version translated and published in the book 101 Macedonian Folk Tales by Danica Cvetanovska and Maja Miškovska (Bigoss, Skopje, 2003) where that version sheds light on and enhances the Vasilevas’ version.
The recordings of the Rita and Anna Vasileva are held in the National Library of Australia Oral History and Folklore Collection (Call Number: Oral TRC 2632/8-9 ; 679993 ; nla.oh-2632-0008-0000-m [the Macedonian telling is 9.00 minutes into the recording] and nla.oh-2632-0009-0000-m [Macedonian telling 0.00 minutes into the recording, English telling 3.50 minutes into the recording].)
Anna and Rita Vasileva are singers who led the Macedonian Womens’ Choir of Melbourne. Their music has been has been recorded by Peter Parkhill (NLA Oral History and Folklore Collection) and by the team from ABC Radio National’s ‘Music Deli’. Gwenda Davey’s recording also includes a number of Macedonian childrens’ songs, sung beautifully by the Vasileva sisters, as well as riddles and rhymes, and a number of other folktales, including a version of ATU 480 (‘The Kind and Unkind Girls’), a version of ATU 2044 (‘Pulling Up the Turnip’), some Nasreddin Hodja (Hoca) tales (often associated with Turkish tradition), some about Clever Peter (Nasreddin Hodja’s Macedonian equivalent and his occasional rival), and some animal tales – ‘The Horse and the Wolf’, ‘The Fisherman and the Fox’, ‘The Fox and the Grapes’ and ‘Grandmother Bear and Krushka’.
Tentelina and the Wolves
In a small village there lived a mother who had only one son and no daughters. They had all died. She became pregnant again. Every day she used to go to the well at the edge of the forest for a pail of water. One day, she took a different path coming back from the well, missed her turn and became lost. The path took her deeper into the forest. Carrying the heavy pail of water, she fell into a deep mud hole and couldn’t get out.
A wolf came along and the woman called out to him, “Wolf, wolf, turn around and back towards me so I can take hold of your tail and get out of this mud.”
“What will you give me if I let you take hold of my tail?” asked the wolf.
“I am a poor woman. I have nothing to give. If I did, I would happily give it.”
“Lady, you must give me that which you carry inside you. Promise me that,” said the wolf. “If you give birth to a boy you may keep him for yourself, but if you give birth to a girl she will be mine!”
The woman could think of no other way to get out of the mud to save her life and the life of her unborn baby, so at last she said, “Alright. I’ll give you my baby if it is a girl.”
Then the wolf turned his tail to the woman. She took hold and drew herself out of the mud and went home with her pail of water.
A year went by and the lady had a child, a beautiful little baby girl called Tentelina. Tentelina grew up and soon she was playing with the other children in the village. One day, she went further away from the house and she found herself deep in the forests and the wolf met her. He came up to Tentelina and said, “Tentelina, go to your mother and tell her she must give me that which she promised.” Tentelina hurriedly went home but forgot before she got there.
The next day when Tentelina was playing with the children the wolf met her again and said, “Tentelina, did you give your mother my message?”
“No. I forgot,” said Tentelina.
“Go home now and tell your mother that what she promised she must give me.”
This time Tentelina went straight home and told her mother what befell her. The mother began to worry and she said, “The next time you meet the wolf tell him that you forgot to tell me.”
When the wolf met Tentelina for the third time, he said, “Tentelina, did you tell your mother?”
“Oh no! I forgot again.”
“If you do not tell her this time,” said the wolf, “I will eat you up the next time we meet.”
The girl went home and told her mother what the wolf had said, and the mother saw that there was no way out of it. She hugged her daughter for a long time, kissed her and gave her an apple. Then she said, “Next time you see the wolf, tell him to take what I have promised to give him.”
Tentelina went back into the woods and was met by the wolf once more. “Did you ask your mother what I told you?”
“Yes,” said Tentelina.
And the wolf took little Tentelina away before she could realise what was happening. He took her deep into the forests. Deep and deeper and deeper they went until they reached a very, very tall tree. This was where Tentelina was to spend the rest of her time.
After a while, Tentelina’s brother became very worried and he asked his mother, “Where is my sister, mother?” His mother didn’t know what to say, but after many questions from her son she resolved to tell him. The brother was very, very angry and said, “I’m going out to find my sister.”
He walked for days and days, deep and deeper and deeper into the forest, until he reached a spring. Near the spring was a little cottage where a little old woman lived. She came out and said, “I know what you’re looking for. You’re looking for the girl who lives in that very tall tree. The wolf keeps her there. When he wants to go up to the tree he says, ‘Tentelina, let down your long hair so that I may climb up.’ And that’s how the wolf climbs up. She has been there for a while. I can take you there and help you both escape from the wolf.”
The brother thanked the little old lady and together they set out for the tall tree. They came to it and Kostadin called out, “Tentelina, let down your long hair.” And Tentelina, without realising it was her brother, let down her long hair and her brother climbed up. When she saw him she was so excited, so happy to see him, they kissed each other, they hugged each other, but she was very worried because she knew that the wolf would come back. “I cannot get down without the wolf knowing where I have gone. Even the spoons talk, and they will tell the wolf.”
The brother said, “Don’t worry, Tentelina. I have come with someone who can help us.” And he called down to the old lady, “Granny, can you help us? How can we stop the spoons talking and telling the wolf where Tentelina has gone?”
“I’ll teach you,” said the old lady. “Knead some hard dough and stuff it into the spoons. That will keep them from telling the wolf.” So Tentelina stuffed the spoons, all except the one that she did not know was hidden in the wolf’s paw. Then they climbed down the long tree.
Just before they were about to go off, the little lady came out of her little cottage and said, “Here is a cake of soap, a cake of clay, and a comb. When the wolves come closer, throw the comb and a thick forest will appear. If they come close again, throw the clay and high mountains will appear. If they come close a third time throw the soap and a big river will appear, full of soap, and it will make it very hard for them to catch up.” The brother and Tentelina thanked the little lady very much and began to hurry off.
Meanwhile, the wolves came back to the tree. The wolf had invited his wolf friends to come to his house and have a special feast. Together they would eat Tentelina. The big wolf cried out, “Tentelina, let down your long hair.” But no Tentelina – the hair would not come down. “Tentelina! Let down your long hair.” But Tentelina was not there. The wolf grew angry. “She must have gone. What has happened?”
The spoon in his paw said in a tiny voice, “Tentelina’s brother took her.”
Then the little lady came out of her cottage and said, “Ha ha ha! You will never find Tentelina. Her brother came and took her far away. You will never catch her again.”
The wolves grew angry and started to run after Tentelina and her brother. They came very close and the brother threw the comb behind him and a thick forest appeared, full of thorn bushes and blackberries. While the wolves were trying to get through the forest, Tentelina and her brother had run much further away this time.
But the wolves came closer again and the brother threw behind him the clay. A great mountain range grew up where it landed. The wolves took a long time to get over the mountains, by which time Tentelina and her brother had nearly reached their old village.
But the wolves had got over the mountains and had almost caught up with Tentelina and her brother a third time when the brother threw behind him the soap, and before you could think twice a big river appeared, full of soap, very thick. The wolves had such a hard time to swim through the river, it was so slippery and they couldn’t get out.
By this time Tentelina and her brother had arrived safely back to their mother’s arms. Their mother was so happy to see her children again that she threw a great big feast and invited all the villagers. They had wonderful food – cakes, lemonades. I got some lemonade too, but my moustache was so long that it all flowed down my whiskers and none got into my mouth.
I had such a wonderful time that I forgot to tell you what happened to the big bad wolf. Well, the other wolves got so angry with him, they thought that he had tricked them. So they all got together round him and tore him to pieces and had their own feast.