This section is from the book "Myths And Folk-Tales Of The Russians, Western Slavs, And Magyars", by Jeremiah Curtin. Also available from Amazon: Myths and Folk-Tales of the Russians, Western Slavs, and the Magyars.
When he had eaten to his content he took his table and his pack and went on. It was inclining toward evening, and Yanek had to look for a night's lodging. But this made him small trouble; it was warm enough, he laid himself under a tree, put the pack under his head, held the table in his hand, and so fell asleep. Next morning he ate like a king and went on. This time he met a grandfather as he had the day before, and he too asked for food. Yanek commanded the table, and the grandfather ate his fill. "My lad," said he, "here is a bag; give me thy table for it".
"Oh, grandfather," said Yanek, with a laugh, "nothing can come of that".
"This is no laughing matter, my lad; the bag is worth getting, for it has this virtue, - that wherever and whenever thou hast the wish, thou canst call out of it as many castles as may please thee".
Yanek fell to thinking, and then said with a smile, "Let it be so".
The grandfather took the table, Yanek the bag; then they parted. But barely had the grandfather vanished from sight when Yanek opened the pack and commanded: "Three hundred Uhlans to the field!" Scarce had he spoken when three hundred Uhlans were standing in line before him. "Go now to the right on the road; at the ditch a man took my table: take that table and bring it to me".
The Uhlans flashed away, and a man could scarcely have counted ten before Yanek had the table. Then he opened the pack and commanded: "Three hundred Uhlans this way!" and the Uhlans vanished in the pack. Yanek was beside himself with gladness when he took the table, the pack, and the bag, and continued his way.
In the evening he came to the capital town, and there he learned that his brothers had become great lords. He went before the town, tore his clothes purposely, then lay in the dust and rolled several times. He did this so that he might seem out and out ragged and poor. Then he went to his brothers and implored them to take pity on him. They would not even recognize him; but his mother fell on his neck and begged for him. The brothers gave way, and granted him lodging, but in the stable. Yanek was satisfied; he lay on the bed which was given him, - that is, a bundle of straw, - and waited till all were asleep. Then he sprang over the fence to the garden, opened the bag, and commanded: "One castle out of the bag!" and that moment there stood in the garden the most beautiful castle. Then he opened the pack and commanded: "Fifty infantry come out!" and fifty foot-soldiers stood before him.
"Ye," said he to them, "will be all night on guard here in my castle; but when in the morning the cock crows the second time, rouse me".
The warriors saluted and took their places on guard. Yanek took the table which he had secreted, as well as the pack and bag, and went into the castle. There he selected the most beautiful chamber, commanded the table, and supped. After supper he lay down and slept till the guards roused him. He rose, ate, and before any one was awake in the house of his brothers he commanded the warriors into the pack, the castle into the bag, then crawled over the fence, and lay on his straw in the stable. This he did night after night. But it was a wonder to his brothers how he was alive; for though they had two bags of ducats, they never gave him a morsel to eat. Therefore they pressed Yanek to tell them if he had gathered much coin in the castle; they thought he had money, but did not wish to show it before them.
"Simpleton! I was glad to get out of there alive; for that castle belongs to giants," answered Yanek. "But I have something else, and it is better than your gold pieces".
Then he brought the table, struck it three times with his fist, and said: "Food for a king!"
Martin and Mihal stood like apparitions, they could not believe their eyes; but when they began to eat they believed their tongues.
The story of the wonderful table was spread through the town, and soon came to the king. He was eager for the food of the table, and sent his chamberlain to Yanek to borrow the table for three days.
"Agreed," said Yanek; "here it is. But if it is not returned to me at the end of three days I will declare war against the king".
The chamberlain bowed, took the table, and told the king, with a smile, that Yanek would declare war against him unless the table was returned. The table pleased the king beyond measure, but still more the food; therefore he meditated how to deceive Yanek. He summoned all the joiners, carvers, and turners in the town, and ordered them to make exactly such a table as Yanek's. They went to work, and before the third day had passed there were two tables, and the king himself could not tell which was the right one. Soon he made sure of it, and then he sent the counterfeit table by the chamberlain to Yanek.
Yanek struck the table three times with his fist and ordered: "Food for a king!" The table trembled, but nothing more. "Food for a king!" shouted Yanek, full of anger; but he soon discovered that the king had deceived him, and he pounded the table till he pounded it to pieces.
"Take this and carry it to the king," said he to the chamberlain, "and tell him that I 'll smash down his castle to-morrow as I have broken this table!"
The chamberlain collected the fragments, took them to the king, and told him what Yanek had said. The king only smiled haughtily, and thought that he had finished with Yanek. In the night, however, he had wonderful dreams, and early next morning he ordered his army to be placed before the castle and be ready for battle.
Now Yanek came with his pack, counted the royal troops, and still once more asked the king to return his table; but the king only laughed. Then Yanek opened the pack and commanded: "A thousand times a thousand infantry out; a thousand times a thousand cavalry out." From the pack there was the rush of an avalanche. Soon the whole country in front of the castle was filled with the finest of armies. The king and his troops were as if before a vision; but when Yanek raised his hand as a signal for attack, the king raised a white flag and went to Yanek.
"Thou seest," said the king, almost imploringly, "I was mistaken; but I wish to correct my mistake. I will return the table, and besides I will give thee my daughter in marriage".
"Then peace," said Yanek. "But first bring thy princess; let me see her".
The princess soon came with her ladies, raised her veil, and stood before Yanek.
"The wedding will be to-day!" ordered Yanek, and kissed the princess on the forehead. She was not angry; nay, it may be said she was glad. Then Yanek commanded: "A thousand times a thousand infantry in; a thousand times a thousand cavalry in," and closed the pack.
The royal army withdrew to the fortress, and now quick preparations were made for the marriage. At midday Yanek and the princess belonged to each other. Then they feasted, and the table gave meat and drink till the evening.
When all were in bed Yanek went out to the king's garden with his bag, opened it, and commanded: "Let the most beautiful castle that can be in the world come out of this bag!" And that was such a castle that Yanek himself was astonished.
Then he went to the old castle to the king, who had already prepared chambers to which he wished to conduct him and the princess; but Yanek answered that he had his own household, and the king had such faith in him that he believed. Yanek conducted his bride to the new castle, and she could not admire its splendor sufficiently.
In the morning people hurried to the king and told him that there was a new castle in the garden. The sun was just rising, and casting its rays on the castle, the castle was blazing with gold, silver, and precious stones. The king now respected Yanek still more, and gave him all that he could, even his kingdom.
So Yanek became king, and a great king who could give battle to the whole world. On the boundaries he put castles everywhere out of the bag, and from the pack he garrisoned them with troops. The table gave him the best of food; what more could he want?
He reigned long, and was a real father to his subjects. As a punishment to his brothers he did not let them come near him; but his mother he cared for so well that she reached a great age. In the most beautiful chamber of the castle, on a golden throne, were the pack and the bag, and near them the table.
When King Yanek died he was mourned by all; he left his children the mightiest kingdom on earth. His eldest son succeeded him; but accustomed to splendor and luxury, he did not govern the kingdom so well as his father. After his death it was still worse. The succeeding kings were ashamed of their peasant stock; and so that no man might discover the real foundation of their power and turn them into ridicule, they took the table, the pack, and the bag, and cast them into a dark, damp cellar.
And will ye ask what became of such a mighty kingdom? The table rotted, the bag rotted, the mice gnawed the pack; and then it was all over with that kingdom.
In after times, when he was in straits, the king ran to the cellar, struck on the table, looked for the pack and the bag. But the table fell to pieces at the first blow, of the pack there remained but a few little straps, and of the bag a few threads.