It was morning by the time Lily woke up. She was hungry and afraid. What was she to do? Where should she go? She heard a growling behind her, branches crackling, bushes rustling. She became very scared, thinking that wild animals were coming to tear her apart! Indeed, seven or eight bears stood before her. The first one had white fur and a beautiful golden crown on his head. He stopped before Lily and said:
“Don’t tremble so, little girl, we won’t hurt you. Come sit on my back and come with us. We’ve come for you.”
Lily was afraid, but then the second bear also spoke: “You’ll have it better than with your stepmother.” So Lily got up on the white bear’s back, took hold of his fur and they started out, going through the thick woods, until they reached a cave in the rock. They went into the cave, and, lo and behold, everything was as bright and shiny as in a crystal palace. A long table was set and heaped with all kinds of goodies.
All the bears sat down at the table, the white bear with the crown at the head, with Lily next to him. A little door opened, and in came four monkeys and, like waiters, they carried around the food, poured the wine. As they were eating, in came six small bears, one with a drum, another with a cymbal, jingling bells, and they began to make music and dance. Lily had such a good time she forgot all her sorrow, but because she was very tired, she soon became drowsy.
The next day, when she finally woke up, she found herself in a gorgeous golden bed, with a beautiful dress lying right next to it. As soon as she got up, a pretty little parrot started to call out: “Lily woke up! Quick, bring her breakfast!” The monkeys came, one brought breakfast on a tray, another brought water in a silver washbasin. Lily was finished in a minute and went out to the woods to pick strawberries, raspberries and flowers.
She lived like this for a year among the bears; she was so very happy and only grieved for her father. She had turned into a beautiful big girl, when one day the bears came home very sad. Lily asked them what the trouble was. The bear with the crown said: “Lily, do you want to become bear queen?”
Lily became scared. So the bear asked her again: “Do you want to become my wife, or do you want to go home to your stepmother?”
Lily began to cry: “Don’t send me away, I love you all so much, but I can’t become your wife because you are a bear.”
All the bears began to cry, and so did the monkeys, and the parrot cried as he called out: “O, o, Lily is going away, she’s leaving us!”
Then the crowned bear said: “Lily, sit on my back, I’ll take you home, because your father arrived home and is grieving very much for you. Your wicked stepmother told him you had died.”
Lily got up on his back, with the parrot on her shoulder. As they entered, there was a great party going on, to celebrate that the count had returned from the war. Everybody was happy except the count. All the bears went into the dining room, but they had left Lily outside. The crowned bear said: “We have brought a gift for the count and the countess too.” Then he turned to the parrot: “Go ahead!”
The parrot jumped, and gave a great tap with his beak on the countess’s eyes, at which both her eyes popped out. Then the parrot took her two cross-eyed eyes out of its mouth. The monkey tore the beautiful black hair from her head, under which was her tousled hair. At this, the witch wanted to run away, but two bears grabbed her, shook her and threw her up in the air so she turned a somersault. So then there was the tiger again, which the count had wanted to shoot, but the countess started to cry: “Have them killed, because they made me a laughingstock and made me ugly.” (In Hungarian, the word for ‘made me a laughingstock’ is ‘made me ugly’ – it’s a play on words. Trans.)
The count was so amazed he couldn’t say a word. When he came to himself, he ordered the servants to kill every bear, but the parrot first. Then the bear king said: “Stop, first let the count’s present come in!”
At this, Lily ran in, fell on her father’s bosom, and hugged and kissed him. The countess and the tiger wanted to disappear, but the bears were guarding them.
Lily told her father everything and so did the bears, how the old witch had turned into a tiger so that the count would shoot her daughter. Then the count ordered the tiger and the girl to be tied together and thrown into a bottomless well.
The bears very sadly said good-bye. The count asked them to stay, but they wanted to go. The parrot started to cry: “My little Lily, don’t leave me!” Lily asked them to leave the parrot to her. The bears agreed.
Then Lily, seeing how sad the bears were as they were leaving, kissed the crowned bear all over. At that, the bear shook himself, his white fur coat fell from him, and there stood a gorgeous prince with a crown on his head. As he had shed his fur coat, so the other bears shook themselves too, and all turned into great lords and soldiers. The monkeys turned into princesses, only the parrot remained a bird. There was great joy, and the bears thanked Lily for having saved them. Then the prince asked: “Well, little Lily, do you want to be bear queen?”
Of course she wanted to, now! They held such a wedding that the music resounded as far as the seven seas. Then they took Lily back to the rock cave, but there was no trace of the cave any more; instead, there was a gorgeous palace in its place.
That’s how it was. It was a fairytale.
Veress Vilmosné, malomvizi Malom Aranka was born in Kolozsvár, one of four children of malomvizi Malom Zsigmond, a surveying engineer. She was married to Veress Vilmos, a mathematics professor at the commercial academy. Her children began calling her "Kicsimama", and this fairy tale is one of 14 she wrote for her grandchildren. They were collected under the title "Kicsimama meséi".