Kristin Lisenby Kristin Lisenby
6 minute read

The Vila's Spring

Once upon a time, many moons ago, two brothers mourned the loss of their father. They both wept and grieved for several weeks, but when it came time to divvy up the family fortune, the eldest brother’s mood turned sour.

He insisted that as the eldest, it was his birthright to inherit the family estate. No matter that their father’s dying wish was that everything be split between the two, the eldest son would not acquiesce. The younger brother, still mourning their father’s absence, did not wish to fight with his only sibling. So when his brother took the house, land, and stables, leaving him just three gold coins and a horse, he didn’t argue.

But from that day onward, the eldest brother’s attitude only worsened. One day, the younger man saw his sibling on the road and greeted him with an afternoon blessing. The man spat in response.

“Save your blessings for yourself!” said the older man. “True power does not live in the heavens but deep within the recesses of hell. You would know that if you had more than three coins to your name.”

Now, the younger man was poor but also generous and kind like his late father, so this statement concerned him. “Brother, surely you do not believe that, for good will always overcome evil.”

“Then, how about a wager?” said the older man. “We’ll ask the next person traveling down this road, and they will decide for us.”

The younger brother agreed. Shortly after, a monk approached. Of course, the monk was not truly a monk, but a demon disguised as such. The false monk agreed with the older man that evil would always prevail, and so, the younger man paid his brother a gold coin.

“Have you changed your mind?” said the older man as he gleefully added the coin to his pouch.

“No,” he said. “I know that there is more power in the heavens than anything born from hell.”

The older man laughed, but he found nothing funny about someone disagreeing with him. He asked his brother to prove his faith with a second wager.

The younger brother nodded, and when a farmer approached a few moments later, he sided with the monk that evil would always prevail. Of course, the farmer was not a human, but a demon disguised as such. Regardless, the younger man had lost the bet, so he paid his brother a gold coin.

The older man knew that his brother only had one coin left and wasted no time repeating the same wager as before. Except for this time, when the poor man handed over his last gold coin, the older brother plucked out his sibling’s eyes and added them to his pouch.

“If you still tout the power of the heavens, ask your savior for help,” he said. Then, the older man dragged his blind brother away from the roadside and threw him into the bushes before mounting his horse and riding away.

The younger man, now alone, remained in the shade for several hours. He prayed to his gods for aid, and soon, someone began singing.

At first, he heard one voice, but then a second joined in, and a third. When the song ended, he heard a large splash, then laughter.

The man could not see anyone, but he knew it was the Vily. As the nymphs swam and bathed in the crisp mountain spring, they discussed the plight of the princess. For you see, she had fallen ill with leprosy, and the doctors offered no cure. But, as one Vila discussed, if she only knew to bathe in these waters, she would be cured within minutes.

When the Vily finished bathing in the spring, they wandered back into the trees. Once their voices faded, the man crawled out from beneath the bushes and washed his face in the magical spring. Instantly, his eyesight was restored. Before returning to his horse, he thanked his gods, the Vily, and then took a canteen from his waistbelt and filled it with the water from the spring.

The man went straight to the castle and announced he was there to cure the princess. The king likely thought him a fool, but he was desperate to save his only child. So when the man instructed the royal maids to run the princess a bath and scrub her clean with this sacred water in the spring, they did as they were told.

And wouldn’t you know, after her bath, the princess’s health was restored. Miraculously, there was not a mark on her body.

The man became a hero and the talk of the town. People wondered if he were a healer, magician, or god. And when his brother heard news of the princess and the man who’d saved her with a canteen of enchanted water, he was outraged.

The older brother could not stand the thought of his sibling being showered in riches – or worse, becoming a prince, so he decided to retrace his brother’s footsteps. But instead of crawling into the brambles and bushes where he’d left his brother to rot, he sat beneath a fir tree. Then, he gauged out his eyes and threatened his gods with retaliation if he did not receive his blessings.

As if on cue, he heard a voice. Then a second, and a third.

It was the Vily again, but they were not playful or singing light-hearted tunes; they were angry.

They’d heard news of the princess and her miraculous recovery and understood they’d been spied upon.

It didn’t take long for a Vila to spot the man sitting beneath the fir tree. It didn’t matter that he was blind or wealthy, the Vily would stop at nothing to protect their privacy.

The nymphs wasted no time tearing the man to shreds. They laughed when he threatened them with demons and hellfire because they could see the deep scars upon his soul.

They buried his pieces beneath the fir tree as an offering to the land, but also as a blessing for his spirit. The man would be reborn again, but not until his debt was paid and he finally understood one very important lesson – good will always prevail.


This retelling was adapted from and inspired by the Slavic folktale as told by Parker Filmore.

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