Once upon a time, there lived a lad who was so unhappy he could barely speak because he loved the girl who lived next door. He was a handsome, kind lad, if a little silly, but the neighbor girl paid him no attention, for she was busy thinking other thoughts and making her own plans.
One day the lad was walking through the forest when a strange man appeared out of nowhere. The lad noticed the stranger’s ink-black hair and the horns that grew upon his head. He noticed, too, that the man’s feet were not like ordinary feet at all; they looked very much like goats’ hooves.
The lad was no fool. He knew this man must be the devil, but this devil was a friendly sort, so the lad did not run away.
“I know you love the girl next door,” the devil-man said slyly.
“How could you know that?” the lad asked, alarmed.
“I know everything. And I know how to make her love you.”
“You couldn’t!” the lad shouted, overjoyed by the thought. What if this were true? He would do anything in the entire world to make that girl love him.
“I can, and I will, on one condition,” the devil-man said. “You must let me take your father and your mother and your sisters and brothers, and if you do all this, I promise that girl will fall head over heels in love with you in one minute!”
Now no one is sure if the lad believed the devil-man, but everyone knows the answer he gave. He said, “Yes!”
So the devil-man changed the father of that young lad into a beautiful fiddle, and he changed his mother into a long, thin bow, and out of the lad’s sisters, he made long, thin bowstrings, and he changed the two brothers into slightly thicker fiddle strings.
“Now take this and play,” said the devil-man. The lad moved the bow across the fiddle strings, and the moment he did, the birds stopped flying overhead and hovered to listen. The wind stopped blowing so that it too could hear this sound. The trees began to sway to the sound. The forest animals gathered around, and when they heard the music that the lad played, they danced. Soon the forest was awash in the most beautiful music anyone had ever heard. It reached deep inside, plucking at the heartstrings, moving everyone’s souls.
So naturally, when the girl next door heard the lad playing his music that amazing sound she fell instantly in love. Within days the girl agreed to marry her neighbor, and for several years they lived together happily, as happily as anyone ever has. This is because whenever anyone was feeling sad or afraid or angry or unsettled, the young man simply played his fiddle, and the music banished every bit of sadness, fear, anger, and uneasiness. The music made each day more beautiful.
One day as the young man and his wife went walking in the woods, he grew weary of the weight of his fiddle. “I’ll just leave it here a while, under this tree,” he said and propped it against the trunk. He and his wife continued on their walk.
Later, as the sun was beginning to set, they returned to fetch the fiddle, but to their astonishment, it was nowhere in sight.
“I’m sure we left it here,” the young man said worriedly, and he and his wife went down on their knees, digging through leaves and moss, searching for their lost fiddle.
Suddenly, as they were searching, a big black carriage pulled by four black stallions swept into the forest. A hand reached out and picked the couple up and carried them away. No one ever saw them again.
A few years later, a Gypsy boy happened to pass by that tree one day, and he tripped over something under the leaves. His boot plucked one of the fiddle strings and a sound burst from the fiddle. And the birds hovered overhead, and the wind stopped to hear, the trees swayed, and all the forest animals gathered. The boy called to his friends to help him find the source of this sound.
The children dug through moss and leaves and dirt until they found the lost fiddle. They dug some more and found the bow. The boy began to play that fiddle, and when he did, the animals began to dance, the trees swayed in harmony, the birds twittered with joy, and the wind stayed silent to listen. The children realized that they had found the source of joy.
They ran back to their camp, and the boy played for his people.
No one had ever heard such a beautiful sound. And like the forest creatures, like the trees and wind and birds, the people fell under the spell of that music, and forever afterward, they were bound to that sound.
Other people learned to play, and they began to make more fiddles, and even today when the Gypsies play this music, the world stops to listen, and everyone’s heart and soul swells and dances and sings.