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Katharine Pyle.
“Jean Malin and The Bull-Man.”

A Louisiana Tale

There was once a little boy who was all alone in the world; he had no father or mother, and no home; and no one to care for him. That made him very sad.

One day he sat by the roadside, and he was so sad that he began to weep. Presently a fine coach came rolling along, and in it sat a beautiful, grand lady. She leaned back against the cushions and looked about, first on this side and then on that, and enjoyed herself.

When she saw the little boy she made the coachman stop.

“Come here, little boy,” she called in a gentle voice.

The child lifted his head, and then he rose and came over to her.

“What is your name?” asked the lady.

“Jean Malin,” the child answered.

“Why are you weeping, Jean? Has some one been unkind to you?”

“No; I am weeping because I have no one to be either unkind or kind to me. I am all alone in the world, and I have no home.”

When the lady heard that she felt very sorry for him. “Come; sit here in the coach beside me,” she said, “and I will take you home with me. My home shall be your home, and I will keep you with me always if you are a good boy and do as I tell you.”

Jean Malin climbed into the coach, and the lady took him home with her. She talked to him and questioned him on the way, and she soon found that he was a clever boy and very polite in his manners.

When they arrived at the lady’s house she gave him a pretty little suit of clothes and bade him wash and dress himself, and then he came in and waited on her at supper.

After that he lived there, and the lady became very fond of him. As for Jean Malin, he soon loved his mistress so dearly that if she had been his own mother he could not have loved her better. Everything she said and did seemed to him exactly right.

The lady had a lover who was a great, handsome man with a fine deep voice. This gentleman often came to the house to take meals with the lady, and he always spoke to Jean Malin very pleasantly; but Jean could not abide him. He used to run and hide whenever this man came to the house. The lady scolded him for it, but he could not help it.

The gentleman’s name was Mr. Bulbul.

“I do not know what is the matter with you,” said the lady to Jean Malin. “Why is it you do not like Mr. Bulbul? He is very kind to you.”

“I do not know, but I wish I might never see him again,” answered Jean.

“That is very wrong of you. Perhaps sometime I may marry Mr. Bulbul. Then he will be your master. What will you do then?”

“Perhaps I will run away.”

That angered the lady. “And perhaps I will send you away if you do not behave better and learn to like him.”

Now not far from the lady’s house there was a pasture, and in this pasture there was a bull, — a fine, handsome animal. Jean Malin often saw it there.

After a while Jean began to notice a curious thing. Whenever Mr. Bulbul came to the house, which was almost every day, the bull disappeared from the pasture, and whenever the bull was in the pasture there was nothing to be seen of the gentleman.

“That is a curious thing,” said Jean to himself. “I will watch and find out what this means. I am sure something is wrong.”

So one day Jean went out and hid himself behind some rocks at the edge of the pasture. The bull was grazing with his head down and did not see him. After a while the bull raised his head and looked all about him to see if there were any one around. He did not see Jean, because the little boy was behind the rocks, so the animal thought itself alone. Then it dropped on its knees and cried, “Beau Madjam, fat Madjam, djam, djam, djara, djara!”

At once the bull became a man, and the man was the very Mr. Bulbul who came to visit Jean’s mistress.

The boy was so frightened he shivered all over as though he were cold.

Mr. Bulbul walked away in the direction of the lady’s house, and after he had gone Jean Malin ran home by another way. He crept into the house and heard the lady calling to him, but he would not go to her or show himself. She did not know what had become of him.

The next day Mr. Bulbul came again to the lady’s house. He came very early for he was to have breakfast with her. The lady called Jean Malin to come and wait on them. He did not want to come, but he was obliged to. He was so frightened that he darted about the room, first on one side and then on the other, and did not understand what was said to him. When the lady asked for water he gave her the toast rack, and when she asked for toast he brought her a towel. It really was very provoking.

After Mr. Bulbul had gone the lady called Jean Malin to her. “I am very angry,” said she. “You have acted very stupidly this morning. If you cannot do better and behave in a sensible manner, I will have to send you away.”

When she said this Jean Malin felt very much hurt. He could hardly refrain from weeping.

“Mistress, I will tell you why I acted so. I was afraid, and if you knew what I know, you would be afraid, too, and you would never let that big man come into your house again.”

“What is it that you know and I do not know?” asked the lady.

But Jean Malin would not tell her.

“Very well,” said his mistress; “if you will not tell me willingly I will have you beaten. I will have you beaten until you do tell, so you had better speak now before they begin.”

Jean Malin began to cry. “I did not want to tell you,” said he, “but if I must I must. Dear Mistress, Mr. Bulbul is not a man at all, but that bull that you sometimes see over in the pasture. He uses magic to make himself look like a man so as to come to see you, and then he goes right out and becomes a bull again and eats grass.”

The lady began to laugh. “You are either crazy or dreaming,” said she. “Or, more likely still, you are telling me an untruth so as to excuse yourself and make trouble between him and me.”

But Jean Malin insisted that what he told her was true. “I have seen it, and I know it,” said he. “Moreover I will prove it to you. I do not know how, but I am sure I can prove it.”

“Very well,” said the lady, “if you prove it I will forgive you and treat you as my own son, but if you do not I will have you beaten and sent out of the house as a mischief maker.”

After that Jean went away by himself and thought and thought. He tried to remember the exact words the bull had said when he turned himself into a man, but he could not be sure about them. So the next day he went out and hid himself behind the rocks again, taking care, as before, that the bull should not see him. The bull’s head was down, and it was eating grass.

Seeing no one, the creature dropped on its knees and bellowed, “Beau Madjam!”

Soon, however, it raised its head and looked all about it. Seeing no one, the creature dropped on its knees and bellowed, “Beau Madjam, fat Madjam, djam, djam, djara, djara!” At once the bull became a man and walked away in the direction of the lady’s house.

Jean Malin followed, being careful to keep out of sight, and as he went he kept saying over and over to himself, “Beau Madjam, fat Madjam, djam, djam, djara, djara, Beau Madjam, fat Madjam, djam, djam, djara, djara!” He said it over and over, so that he should not forget any least word of it.

When Jean Malin reached home Mr. Bulbul was in the salon with his mistress; Jean could hear them talking together there; his mistress’s voice very fine and clear and then Mr. Bulbul’s big, deep voice.

Jean Malin took a tray of cakes and wine and carried it into the salon just as though his mistress had ordered him to do so. The lady was surprised to see him coming with the tray, but she said, “That is right, Jean. Offer the cake and wine to Mr. Bulbul.”

Jean Malin went over to Mr. Bulbul, close in front of him, and then he said in a low voice, as though to himself, “Beau Madjam, fat Madjam, djam, djam, djara, djara!”

Such a noise you never heard. The fine Mr. Bulbul bellowed aloud and jumped up, smashing his chair and knocking the tray with all the plates and glasses and everything out of Jean Malin’s hands. The lady shrieked and almost fainted. Then, right there before her, Mr. Bulbul’s head grew long and hairy, horns sprouted from his forehead, his arms turned into legs, and his hands and feet into hoofs, and he became a bull and all his clothes fell off him, — his trousers and coat and vest and eyeglasses and collar and everything. He galloped across the salon in a fright, his hoofs clattering on the floor, and burst out through the glass door so fast that he carried it away on his horns and back into the pasture with him.

Then the lady knew that everything Jean Malin had told her was true, and she could not thank him enough.

“Now you shall indeed be to me as a son,” said she, “and you shall live here always and never leave me.”

Jean Malin was very happy when the lady said that to him. Nevertheless, when he thought of Mr. Bulbul, he could not feel easy in his mind. He was sure the bull would try to revenge itself on him in some way or other. He kept away from the pasture, and wherever he went he was always looking around to see whether the bull were anywhere in sight.

At last he grew so afraid that he determined to go and talk to a black man he knew who dealt in magic. He found the man sitting at the door of his hut, making magic with a horsehair and a snakeskin, and some ground-up glass. Jean Malin, told him everything that had happened, about the bull, and how it had changed itself into a man and had come to visit the lady, and about the magic words, and how he had forced the man to turn back into a bull again. “And now,” said he, “I am afraid, for I think he means harm to me.”

“You do well to be afraid,” said the black man. “Bulbul will certainly try to do you harm. He knows much magic, but my magic is stronger than his magic, and I will help you. Get me three owl’s eggs and a cup of black goat’s milk and bring them here.”

Jean Malin went away and got the three owl’s eggs and the cup of black goat’s milk, though they were things not easy to find, and then he brought them to the black man.

The black man took them from him and rolled the owl’s eggs in the milk and made magic over them. Then he gave them back to the boy. “Keep these by you all the time,” said he. “Then if the bull comes after you do thus and so, and this and the other, and you will have no more trouble with him.”

Jean Malin thanked the black man and gave him a piece of silver, and went away with the eggs tied up in his handkerchief.

It was a good thing he had them. He had not gone more than halfway home, and was just coming out from a wood, when he heard a big noise, and the bull burst out of a thicket and came charging down on him.

But quick as a flash Jean Malin put the eggs in his mouth and climbed up a tree, and the eggs were not broken.

The bull galloped up and struck the tree with its horns. “You think you are safe, but I will soon have you down,” it cried.

It dropped down on its knees and muttered magic, but Jean could not hear what it said. Then the bull changed into a man with an ax in his hands and began to chop down the tree. Gip, gop! Gip, gop! The chips flew and the branches trembled.

Jean tried to remember the words that would turn the man back into a bull again, but he was so frightened he could not think of them. What he did remember, though, were the eggs the black man had given him. He took one out of his mouth and dropped it down on the bull-man’s right shoulder, and at once his right arm fell off, and the ax dropped to the ground. This did not trouble the bull-man, however. He caught up the ax in his left hand and chopped away, Gip, gop! Gip, gop! The chips flew faster than ever.

Then Jean Malin dropped the second egg down on the man’s left shoulder, and his left arm fell off. Now he had no arms, but he caught up the ax in his mouth and went on chopping, Gip, gop! Gip, gop! The whole tree shook and trembled.

Then Jean Malin dropped the third and last egg down on the man’s head, and at once his head fell off.

That ended the man’s magic; he could do nothing more, and had to turn into a bull again. He bellowed like anything, but he could not help it, for the black man’s magic was stronger than his magic. Away he galloped, with his tail in the air, and that was the last Jean Malin ever saw of him. What became of him nobody ever knew, but he must have gone far, far away.

But Jean Malin climbed down from the tree and went on home, and after that he lived very happily in the lady’s house and was like a son to her, just as she had promised him.

Prepared by


Pyle, Katharine. “Jean Malin and The Bull-Man.” Tales of Folk and Fairies. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1920. 22-34. Internet Archive. 7 December 2007. Web. 5 November 2013. <https:// archive.org/ details/ tales folkand fai00pyle goog>.

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