Stephen Berer
the Eternal Jew's biographer

The Eternal Jew’s Tale, #100, Hetman Bogdan

Hetman Bogdan; image colorized and modified by the author, obtained from Wikimedia Commons, Peasant with fur cap by Mateusz Romer, in the public domain.
Hetman Bogdan; image colorized and modified by the author, obtained from Wikimedia Commons, Peasant with fur cap by Mateusz Romer, in the public domain.
In this episode Reb Susya draws a portrait of a local hetman.

The Eternal Jew’s Tale
Sixteenth Era, Part 3, 1280 C.E., Lutsk

Reb Susya goes into depth describing life in his native land.
“*This land were made for you and me,* and everyone’s place is well laid out. The Piast clan can wield the sword, and the peasant men can wield the plow, and the furrows spread wide are like to bear, the land and the women awaitin’ seed.
*-* Woody Guthrie must have studied Susya’s works
“But men of the sword and men of the earth, these horse men and ox men, they like the gash and the blood and the rut, and they take what they find and live by their gut, little regardin’ the ends of their work, and little they know a righteous act. So who do they trust when they look around and all they see, peasant and lord are as wicked and wild as wolverines. And where do they turn to record their deeds and sum their accounts and calculate costs, to sell their grains and oversee lands, to manage their peasants and to think for them? Who can read and write and add for them? Only two in the land: the priest and the Jew. Since the priest is bent on yokin’ souls, it leaves but the Jew to manage the rest.
“I knows a hetman who was given lands in payment for his pillagin’ in Lithuane. It includes three hamlets and a village too, and fifty-five peasants belong to his tracts, who are docile and glad in their wattle huts. They works the fields and pays their tithe — grain and wood to him and the church. There’s a mill, a roadhouse, and an iron forge, and famine and plague don’t know the road, and rarely finds their way to his land.
“But who can rent out the roadhouse and mill? And who can compute the taxes due? And who can assess the worth of the grain and the wood and flour and iron implements? Who but a Jew can do all these things? What about you? This ain’t so hard. Can you add and subtract and keep a count of who pays their tax, and keep lists of it all?”
Then his eyes turn on high again and his toothy grin wrinkles his face.
“Oh, that hetman!”
and he slaps his knee.
“Bogdan his name. Big as an ox and as ornery too. And his fightin’ men, wild and unruly. A dangerous lot. He had five captains that served under him. Once, after raidin’ some towns in Volhyn they carried off women, cattle and gold, then hit the bottle and begun to brag, and that very night to his captains he says,
“‘Name what you want. It’ll be yours.’
“‘Give me a sack of ten gulden coins!’
“‘It’ll be yours!’
“Then another crows,
“‘Four yoke of oxen!’
“‘Yours it is!’
“‘I want three peasants.’
“‘And it shall be!’
“‘A mill and its land’
“‘Yours, my friend!’
“And there sits the fifth, sunk in his thought, a Jew he were, and as rough as the rest.
“‘My Jew, what’ll it be for you?’
“‘A roasted goose and a crock of ale.’
“And right then Bogdan orders a man to roast the bird and bring him his drink. But the other captains can’t believe what they heard.
“‘You fool.’ ‘You jackass!’ ‘A stupid request.’ A meal for a night instead of wealth!’
“‘It’s true, my friends, I didn’t ask for much, but at least I’ll get what I asked for!’
And such our hours on the way to Lutsk, him paintin’ the faces of local* folk.
* others say: loco
In the next episode, job hunting blues.
About the Author
I am a writer, educator, artist, and artisan. My poetry is devoted to composing long narrative poems that explore the clash between the real and the ideal, in the lives of historical figures and people I have known. Some of the titles of my books are: The Song uv Elmallahz Kumming A Pilgimmage tu Jerusalem The Pardaes Dokkumen The Atternen Juez Talen You can listen to podcasts of my Eternal Jew posts on my personal blog, Textures and Shadows, which can be found on my website, or directly, at: I live just outside Washington, DC with my bashert, and we have two remarkable sons. Those three light my life.
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