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"Les trois jobs" (The Three Jobs), #51 Swapping Stories
Enola Matthews, Jennings, Jefferson Davis Parish, Louisiana

Collected by Annette Huval on April 2, 1993. An English translation of this story follows.


Les trois jobs

Il y avait un homme qu'avait une jolie fille. (C'est toujours dans les filles. Ça m'a revenu dans la tête.) Il a demandé à le vieux homme pour marier sa fille. Ça fait il a dit, "Avant tu maries ma fille," il dit, "J'ai trois jobs pour toi faire. Et si tu fais ces trois jobs là," il dit, "Je vas te la donner."

Il dit, "Qui c'est?"

Il dit, "Je veux que tu prends un bassin qui était plein de trous. Et je veux que tu vas à la rivière et - à peu près, lui il disait deux arpents, that must have been éyoù il restait - aller chercher l'eau avec ce bassin qui coule et remplir le carçon."

Et chaque fois il attrapait l'eau, ça tombait.

La fille a été le rejoindre. Elle avait une baguette. Et elle a dit à l'homme, elle dit, "Cogne trois coups par terre et trois coups sur la rivière et dit à la rivière qu'elle va remplir le baril, le carçon."

Ça fait il a cogné trois coups par terre et il a cogné trois coups sur la rivière. Il dit, "Va et remplis le baril là plein d'eau."

Il a été, il dit, "Well, j'ai fini mon job cil-là là."

"O," il dit, "Tu l'as rempli d'eau."


"Bien," il dit. "L'autre, ça je veux que tu fais, et il dit, "Je veux que tu vas séparer l'eau et la rivière." Il dit, "Je veux que tu sèches la rivière pour moi passer."

La fille a entendu, elle a fait le tour. Elle a dit, "Va cogner ma baguette par terre. Trois coups par terre et trois coups sur le côte de la rivière et dit à l'eau de sortir, que l'eau s'en va." Puis il a été, il a fait ça. Il a ouvert la rivière. La terre était sec. Il a été. Il dit, "Asteur je crois mon job est fini."

Ça fait il a été. O, la rivière était sec.

"Là," il dit, "Le job je veux que tu fais." Il y avait un arbre en glace. C'était tout de la glace. C'était haut. Il dit, "Je veux que tu vas attraper les deux oeufs en or qui est en haut." La fille a fait le tour. Elle a été le rejoindre. Elle dit, "Qui tu fais?"

Il lui a dit, il dit, "Ton père veux je vas monter dans cet arbre là, attraper ces trois oeufs d'or (golden egg) qu'est là-bas en haut et je peux pas grimper ça," il dit. "J'essaie et je glisse, chaque fois j'essaie et je glisse."

"O mais," elle dit, "C'est pas rien." Elle dit, "Souffle trois fois sur moi." Et elle dit, "Je vas tomber. Je vas mourir." Là, elle dit, "Prends tous mes ossailles." Et puis elle dit, "Tu les colles. Ça va coller. Ça va faire ton échelle pour toi monter." Là, elle dit, "Quand tu vas revenir, tu vas ramener mes ossailles et tu vas me les remettre. Et souffle trois fois sur moi, je vas revenir."

So il a fait ça. Il a monté en haut. Il a attrapé les oeufs et il a revenu. Là il a attrapé les ossailles et puis il a remis. Mais il a oublié le petit doigt en haut. L'ossaille du petit doigt.

Ça fait, là il s'a mis à brailler mais elle a parlé. Elle dit, "Je suis all right." Elle dit, "T'as quitté l'ossaille de mon petit doigt en haut dans la tête. Faudra tu retournes."

Ça fait, faut il reprend ses ossailles de la fille encore et il a grimpé pour aller chercher le petit finger qu'avait resté. Ça se fait, il est revenu. Il a mis les ossailles et il a soufflé trois fois sur elle et elle a revenu.

Ça fait, sa mère lui a demandé, elle dit, "Mais qui t'as fait aussi longtemps? Eyoù tu sors?"

"O," elle dit, "J'ai été marché regarder les fleurs farouches dans la savane."

Ça fait, il a venu apporter les oeufs à son maître. Et il dit, "J'ai été les attraper et je les ai apportés." Ça fait, le maître a jamais pu comprendre comment que le garçon faisait. "Bien," il dit, "tiens prends-là. Je te la donne." Il lui a donné sa fille.

The Three Jobs

There was a man who had a pretty daughter. (The girls are always pretty in these tales; I remember that.) [A man] asked the old man if he could marry his daughter. Then [the old man] said, "Before you marry my daughter," he says, "I have three jobs for you to do. And if you do these three jobs," he says, "I am going to give her to you."

He asks, "What are they?"

[The old man] says, "I want you to take a bucket that is full of holes. And I want you to go to the river and--about two arpents away, that must have been, from where he lived--to go for water with that leaky bucket and fill the cistern."

And every time he got the water, it leaked out.

The girl went to meet him. She had a wand. And she said to the man, she said, "Strike the ground three times and the river three times and tell the river to go fill the barrel, the cistern."

So he struck the ground three times and he struck the river three times. He says, "Go and fill that barrel full of water."

He went. He says, "Well, I finished that job."

"Oh," [the old man] says, "you've filled it with water."


"Good," he says. "The next thing that I want you to do," he says, "I want you to go and take the water out of the river." He says, "I want you to dry up the river so I can cross it."

The girl heard this, she went there. She said, "Go strike my wand on the ground. Three strokes on the ground and three strokes on the river bank, and tell the water to go out. Have the water go away." Then he did that, he did that. He drained the river. The river bed was dry. He went. He says, "Now I believe my job is done."

And it was. Oh, the river was dry.

"There," [the father] says. "The job I want you to do." There was an ice tree. It was made completely of ice. It was tall. He says, "I want you to get the two golden eggs that are up at the top."

The girl went over there. She met the man. She says, "What are you doing?"

He told her; he says, "Your father wants me to go climb that tree, get the three golden eggs that are up there on top--and I can't climb that," he says. "I try and I slide down; each time I try and I slide down."

"Oh," she says, "that's nothing." She says, "Breathe on me three times." And she says, "I'm going to fall down. I'm going to die." Then she says, "Take all my bones." And then she says, "You stick them together." They will stick together. They will make a ladder for you to climb on." Then, she says, "When you come back, gather up my little bones and put them back in me. And breathe three times on me; I will revive."

So he did that. He climbed up high. He got the eggs and he came back. Then he got the bones and then he put them back. But he forgot the little finger, he left it on top. The bone of the little finger.

So he began to cry, but then she spoke. She says, "I am all right." She says, "You've left the bone of my little finger up there at the top of the tree. You must go back."

So he took the girl's bones back and he climbed up to go look for the little finger that remained. So then he came back. He put the bones down and he breathed three times on her and she revived.

Then her mother asked her, she says, "Well, what have you been doing for such a long time? Where have you been?"

"Oh," she says, "I have been out walking to look at the wildflowers on the prairie."

So he came to bring the eggs to his master. And he says, "I went to get them and brought them here." So the master couldn't understand how the boy had done that. "Well," he says, "come take her. I give her to you." He gave his daughter to him.

This is one of the few European-derived magic tales that is enormously popular in African-American culture, often emphasizing the evil of the girl's father, who is identified as the devil. European-American versions sometimes feature the father as a devil, but often identify him as a king, especially as King Marrock, a name derived from Irish tradition. In most American versions, as told by both blacks and whites, the most common tasks set by the villain father are all ordinary farm jobs, but magnified to an enormous scale: cleaning huge stables, chopping down an entire forest, sorting hundreds of pounds of seeds, gathering feathers from flying birds, and draining a well with a leaky bucket. Only the last of these--the leaky bucket task--appears in Mme. Matthews's version. The other two labors are filled with imagery more characteristic of French and other European fairy tales: climbing a glass mountain, mounting a ladder of bones, and securing three eggs from the top of a glass tower--motifs found in French, French-Canadian, and French-Caribbean tales. The girl's sacrifice of her body and magical revival with a missing finger, relatively rare in English-speaking American tradition, is found fairly often in French-American versions.

For more information about this and related tales, refer to the book Swapping Stories: Folktales from Louisiana, published by University Press of Mississippi.

About the Transcriptions


National Endowment for the Arts.

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