Mátyás, who lived from 1443 to 1490, was and is the most beloved of Hungary's kings. Many stories are told about him, including this one.

The Squash and the Colt

King Mátyás awakens early one morning in a village where he has spent the night and when he gets up, takes a walk through the streets. On this walk, he observes a man whistling cheerfully and greets him.

"Good morning, God bless, my friend! Things must be going very well for you, if whistling feels good this early in the morning."

"Well, my lifeís nothing to brag about. I canít say that things are going well for me."

"Well, then, why are you in such a good mood?"

"Well, because this tune Iím whistling will be a good breakfast. At noon Iíll whistle another for lunch, and at night Iíll whistle a third one for dinner."

"Well, what about eating, though: when will you eat?" asks King Mátyás.

"Well, when there is something to eat" he says.

King Mátyás asks him, "Tell me, what do you usually grow in this garden?"

"Well, potatoes, corn, squash, vegetables."

"Listen here, my friend! King Mátyás really loves squash. In the fall, take the nicest squash that grows in your garden and bring it to him in the castle at Buda."

Well, the man spends the whole summer cultivating the squash. As fall draws near, one squash grows quite enormous. He picks it and starts out for Buda, to King Mátyás. Of course, when he reaches the gate, the guards ask him what he wants.

The poor man says, "I brought this squash for King Mátyás."

The guards giggled a lot, and they wanted to shoo him away, but King Mátyás noticed somehow, and ordered them to let him in.

When he gets in, King Mátyás treats him royally, and gives him a thousand forints for the squash; he even got separate pocket money for the road, so that he can take the thousand forints home without spending any.

King Mátyás had the squash put in a place of honor in his receiving room.

When the poor man goes homeward, he soaks up some liquid courage on the way in the roadside taverns. When he gets into town, he takes out the thousand forints and waves it around: hereís what he got from King Mátyás for the squash.

Next door to the poor man lived a well-to-do peasant. When he saw the thousand forints his neighbor got for the squash, he almost had a stroke.

But then the well-off peasant had an idea. He had a beautiful three-year-old colt, finer than any he had seen in a really long time. What would he get for it from King Mátyás, if he paid a thousand forints for a squash!

One morning he took the colt and led it to Buda to King Mátyás.

When he reaches the gate, they ask him what he wants.

"I brought this colt for His Majesty King Mátyás."

They reported this to King Mátyás.

Then King Mátyás made arrangements for the colt to be let out into his horse-pasture, and told them to lead the man into his presence.

Mátyás asked the man where he was from.

When the man stated where he was from, King Mátyás immediately realized he was the neighbor of the man with the squash. He had already determined during his stay in that region that this was a very rich peasant. He arranged for a fine luncheon to be served to him. At the end of the meal, King Mátyás spoke as follows:

"Listen here, my friend! Do you see that squash in the corner there?"

"I see it, your majesty."

"Well, thatís a thousand-forint squash. Take it. I am giving it to you to thank you for your gift of the colt."

The peasant takes the squash, but as soon as he got out of the gate with it, he hurled it to the ground and shattered it, and with a lot of grumbling and cursing, he trotted on home. When he reached home, his first steps took him to the poor manís house, cursing and complaining all the while.

"The devil take you on a sleigh-ride to hell on your birthday, you and that squash of yours too Ė itís what I got for my colt!"

When news of the incident traveled to the village, there were those who felt sorry for the well-to-do peasant, but the majority of people in the district were pleased with how King Mátyás had treated him.

Translated from the Hungarian by Eva M. Thury, copyright 1999. All rights reserved.

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