Long ago in Ceskoslovensko, there lived a wealthy farmer who was always getting the best of his poor neighbors. One of these neighbors was a very poor shepherd, whose only delight in the world was his very clever and very beautiful daughter, Manka.
Now, the shepherd had done some work for the farmer, who had promised him a calf in return. However, the rich farmer would not give the shepherd the calf.
So the shepherd went before the mayor of the town with his problem. The mayor, who was new at the job, said to the shepherd, "I will ask both you and the farmer a riddle. Whoever answers correctly gets the calf."
The mayor first turned to the farmer. "This is my riddle," he said. "What is the fastest thing in the world? What is the sweetest thing? And what is the richest thing?"
The rich farmer, who was a very proud man, smiled, for he thought he knew the correct answers. "The fastest thing is my gray mare, for nothing can pass her. My honey is the sweetest thing I've ever tasted. And the chest of gold coins that I've been saving has to be the richest."
As the farmer spoke, clever Manka told her father, the shepherd, how to respond. When it was the shepherd's turn, he said, "The fastest thing is thought, for it can run any distance in no time at all. The sweetest thing is sleep, when one is sad and tired. And the richest thing is the ground, for out of it come all the riches of the world."
"What fine answers," the mayor said to the shepherd. "The shepherd gets the calf!"
After the farmer had trudged away, disappointed that he had lost his calf, the mayor turned to the shepherd. "Tell me, you shepherd, how did you know the answers?"
The shepherd confessed that it was his clever and beautiful daughter, Manka, who had known the answers.
The mayor turned to Manka and said, "I think I would like to marry you. Please come see me tomorrow. But come neither at day nor at night, neither riding nor walking, and neither clothed nor unclothed."
So the next day Manka went to the mayor at dawn, when the night was done and the day hadn't yet come. She wrapped herself in a fishnet and came with one leg on a goat's back and one leg on the road. The mayor smiled at Manka's cleverness. It wasn't day or night, a fishnet is not clothing, and she neither rode nor walked. Pleased that she was so clever, the mayor married Manka that very day.
Now the mayor and Manka had been married for a short time when the mayor said, "Manka, you cannot use your cleverness to meddle with any of the cases I must judge. If you ever give advice to someone who comes to me, I'll put you out of my house and send you home to your father."
Manka did as she was asked for quite some time.
Read about Manka's life with the mayor on the next page.