Italian Popular Tales
by Thomas Frederick Crane
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The merchant continued his journey, and found the palace without a doorkeeper, and with no stairway. He began to play the violin, and the fairy and all her twelve damsels appeared and said: "What do you want that you call us?" "Ah! fairy Orlanda, help me!" "What help do you want?" "I have this doll, and the king's son has fallen in love with it, and is ill. What shall I do? If I do not present her to him in a fortnight my head will be cut off." The fairy Orlanda said: "Put this ladder to the wall. Give me the doll. Wait two hours and I will give her back to you again." He waited two hours and then the fairy appeared: "Here is your daughter. She will speak to all, to the king, to the queen, but not to the prince. Farewell." The fairy Orlanda disappeared within, and the merchant departed with his daughter. He took her home to his wife. The doll said: "Mamma, how do you do?" "I am very well, my daughter. Where have you been?" "I have been into the country with papa, and now I have returned." In a fortnight the merchant dressed her elegantly and carried her to the palace. As soon as the king saw her he said to the queen: "My son was right; she is a beautiful girl!" She went into the gallery and spoke with the king and queen, but did not speak to the prince. The mortified prince thought: "She speaks to papa, she speaks to mamma, but not to me! What does it mean? Perhaps she does not speak to me from embarrassment." They were married, but even then she did not speak to him. So the prince was obliged to separate from her, and they lived in two rooms apart. The prince, meanwhile, courted another princess. One morning, while he was breakfasting with his sweetheart, his wife called a servant: "Come here; is the prince at table?" "Yes, Highness." "Wait!" She cut off her two hands and put them in the oven, and there came out a roast, with ten sausages. "Carry these to the prince." "Prince, the princess sends you this." He asked: "How was it made?" The servant replied: "Prince, she cut off her two hands and put them in the oven. She amazed me." "Enough," said the prince, "let us eat them." His sweetheart said: "I can do it, too." So she cut off her hands and put them in the oven; but they were burned and she died. "Oh, what have you done to me! you have killed one for me!" said the prince. After a time he made love to another. The first time he sat at table with her, the princess called another servant: "Servant, where are you going?" "I am going, Majesty, to the prince's table." "Wait!" She cut off her arms, and put them in the oven, and there came out a roast, with two blood-puddings. She said: "Carry it to the prince, at table." "Prince!" "Go away, I don't want to hear any nonsense." "But listen; let me tell you!" "Well, tell away." So the servant told how the princess had cut off her arms (which had grown out again) and put them in the oven, and the roast and puddings had come out. The second sweetheart tried to do the same and died. After a while the prince fell in love with another, and the same thing was repeated. The princess cut off her legs and put them in the oven, and a large roast came out, with two larded hams. The third sweetheart tried to do the same, and died like the others. Then the prince said: "Ah! she has done it to three for me! Unhappy me! I will not make love to any more."

During the night when the princess had gone to bed, the lamp said: "Lady, I want to drink." "Oil-cruet, give the lamp a drink." "Lady, it has hurt me." "Oil-cruet, why did you hurt the lamp? How beautiful is the fairy Orlanda! How beautiful is the fairy Orlanda! How beautiful is the fairy Orlanda!" So she did all night until day. All these things were enchanted: the lamp and the oil-cruet. The prince, who heard it, said one day to a servant: "This evening you must enter the princess' room. You must spend the night under her bed. You must see what she does in the night." The servant did so, and the same thing was repeated with the lamp and the oil-cruet. The servant told the prince, who said: "To-night, I will go." At night he crept under his wife's bed. The same thing was repeated. The lamp said: "Lady, I want to drink!" "Oil-cruet, give the lamp a drink." "Lady, it has hurt me." "Oil-cruet, why have you hurt the lamp? How beautiful is the fairy Orlanda!" The whole night she repeated: "How beautiful is the fairy Orlanda!" The prince responded: "Blessed be the fairy Orlanda!" "Ah!" said the princess, "did it need so much to say a word?" Then they embraced and kissed each other, and remained contented and happy.[6]

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We now pass to an amusing class of stories, in which the hero comes in possession of enchanted objects and loses them, finally regaining them in various ways. There are three versions of this class. In the first, the hero loses the objects by the cunning of a woman, and regains them by means of two kinds of fruits, one of which produces some bodily defect and the other cures it. In the second, the episode of the fruits is wanting, and the owner regains his property either by preventing the princess from cheating him at play or by making her fall in love with him. In the third, a person (usually a landlord) substitutes worthless objects for two enchanted ones, which are recovered by means of a third magic object (usually a stick), which beats until the stolen property is restored.[7] To illustrate the first version, we will give a Sicilian story from Gonzenbach (No. 31), which is entitled:


There was once a king and a queen who had an only daughter, whom they loved very dearly. When she was fifteen years old she became suddenly very sad and would not laugh any more. So the king issued a proclamation that whoever made his daughter laugh, whether he were a prince, peasant, or beggar, should become her husband. Many made the attempt, but none succeeded. Now there was a poor woman who had an only son, who was idle and would not learn any trade; so finally his mother sent him to a farmer to keep his sheep. One day, as he was driving the sheep over the fields, he came to a well, and bent over it to drink. As he did so he saw a handsome ring on the wheel, and as it pleased him, he put it on the ring finger of his right hand. He had scarcely put it on, however, when he began to sneeze violently, and could not stop until he had accidentally removed the ring. Then his sneezing ceased as suddenly as it had begun. "Oh!" thought he, "if the ring has this virtue, I had better try my fortune with it, and see whether it will not make the king's daughter laugh." So he put the ring on his left hand, and no longer had to sneeze. Then he drove the sheep home, took leave of his master, and set out toward the city where the king lived. He was obliged, however, to pass through a dense forest which was so extensive that it grew dark before he left it. He thought: "If the robbers find me here they will take away my ring, and then I should be a ruined man. I would rather climb a tree and spend the night there." So he climbed a tree, tied himself fast with his belt, and soon fell asleep. Before long, thirteen robbers came and sat down under the tree, and talked so loud that the shepherd awoke. The captain of the robbers said: "Let each relate what he has accomplished to-day;" and each exhibited what he had taken. The thirteenth, however, pulled out a tablecloth, a purse, and a whistle, and said: "I have gained to-day the greatest treasures, for these three things I have taken from a monk, and each of them has a particular virtue. If any one spreads out the tablecloth and says: 'My little tablecloth, give me macaroni, or roast meat,' or whatever one will, he will find everything there immediately. Likewise the purse will give all the money one wants; and whoever hears the whistle must dance whether he will or no." The robbers at once put the power of the tablecloth to the test, and then went to sleep, the captain laying the precious articles near himself. When they were all snoring hard the shepherd descended, took the three articles, and crept away.

The next day he came to the city where the king lived, and went straight to the palace. "Announce me to the king," said he to the servants; "I will try to make the king's daughter laugh." The servants tried to dissuade him, but he insisted on being led before the king, who took him into a large room, in which was the king's daughter, sitting on a splendid throne and surrounded by the whole court. "If I am to make the princess laugh," said the shepherd to the king, "you must first do me the kindness to put this ring on the ring-finger of your right hand." The king had scarcely done so when he began to sneeze violently, and could not stop, but ran up and down the room, sneezing all the time. The entire court began to laugh, and the king's daughter could not stay sober, but had to run away laughing. Then the shepherd went up to the king, took off the ring, and said: "Your Majesty, I have made the princess laugh; to me belongs the reward." "What! you worthless shepherd!" cried the king. "You have not only made me the laughing-stock of the whole court, but now you want my daughter for your wife! Quick! take the ring from him, and throw him into prison."

While there the wonderful tablecloth provides him and his companions with plenty to eat, and when it is discovered and taken from him by the king's orders, the purse enables them all to live in comfort. That is also discovered, and nothing is left but the whistle. "Well!" thought the shepherd, "if we can't eat any more, we will at least dance;" and he pulled out his pipe and began to play on it, and all the prisoners began to dance, and the guards with them, and between them all they made a great noise. When the king heard it he came running there with his servants, and had to dance like all the rest, but found breath enough to order the pipe to be taken away from the shepherd, and all became quiet again.

So now the shepherd had nothing left, and remained in prison some time, until he found an old file, and one night filed through the iron bars and escaped. He wandered about all day, and at last came to the same forest where he had formerly been. All at once he saw a large fig-tree bearing the most beautiful fruit,—on one side black figs, on the other, white ones. "That is something I have never seen," thought the shepherd,—"a fig-tree that bears black and white figs at the same time. I must try them." Scarcely had he tasted them when he felt something move on the top of his head, and putting his hand up, found he had two long horns. "Unhappy man!" he cried; "what shall I do?" However, as he was very hungry, he picked some of the white figs and ate them, and immediately one of the horns disappeared, and also the other after he had eaten a few more white figs. "My fortune is made!" he thought. "The king will have to give me all my things back, and his daughter in the bargain."

The shepherd disguised himself and went to the city with two baskets of figs,—one of the black and one of the white kind, the former of which he sold to the king's cook, whom he met in the market place. While the king was at the table the servant put the figs before him, and he was much pleased with them, and gave some to his wife and daughter; the rest he ate himself. Scarcely had they eaten them when they saw with terror the long horns that had grown from their heads. The queen and her daughter began to weep, and the king, in a rage, called the cook and asked him who had sold him the figs. "A peasant in the market," answered the cook. "Go at once and bring him here," cried the king.

The shepherd had remained near the palace, and as the cook came out, he went up to him with the basket of white figs in his hand. "What miserable figs did you sell me this morning!" cried out the cook to him. "As soon as the king, queen, and princess had eaten your figs, great horns grew on their heads." "Be quiet," said the shepherd; "I have a remedy here, and can soon remove the horns. Take me to the king." He was led before the king, who asked him what kind of figs he had sold. "Be quiet, your Majesty," said the shepherd, "and eat these figs," at the same time giving him a white one; and as soon as the king had eaten it one of the horns disappeared. "Now," said the shepherd, "before I give you any more of my figs you must give me back my whistle; if not, you may keep your horn." The king in his terror gave up the whistle, and the shepherd handed the queen a fig. When one of the queen's horns had disappeared, he said: "Now give me my purse back, or else I will take my figs away." So the king gave him his purse, and the shepherd removed one of the princess' horns. Then he demanded his tablecloth; and when he had received it he gave the king another fig, so that the second horn disappeared. "Now give me my ring," he said; and the king had to give him his ring before he would remove the queen's horn. The only one left now was the princess, and the shepherd said: "Now fulfil your promise and marry me to the princess; otherwise she may keep her horn as long as she lives." So the princess had to marry him, and after the wedding he gave her another fig to eat, so that her last horn also disappeared. They had a merry wedding, and when the old king died the shepherd became king, and so they remained contented and happy, and were like a bundle of roots.[8]

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The second version of this story is represented by but three examples, none of them worth giving at length. In one (Pomiglianesi, p. 110) the princess wins the magic objects (purse, cloak that renders invisible, and horn that blows out soldiers) at play. The loser disguises himself as a priest and confesses the princess when she is ill, and makes her give back the objects she has won or stolen. In a Florentine version (Nov. fior. p. 349), the owner of the objects, a poor shepherd's son, pretends to be the son of the king of Portugal. He plays with the princess and wins, but his true origin is discovered and he is thrown into prison. There he makes use of the magic tablecloth, which he sells to the king for the privilege of passing a night in the princess' room. The same payment is asked for the box that fills itself with money, and the little organ that makes every one dance. The shepherd, of course, becomes the princess' husband and inherits the kingdom when the king dies. In the Sicilian story (Pitre, No. 26) the fairies give Peter the purse, tablecloth, and violin, and he goes to play chess with the daughter of the king of Spain, who is to marry whoever beats her at the game. She cheats and wins, and Peter is thrown into prison. There he uses the tablecloth, and when the princess hears of it, she proposes to play for it. Again she cheats by changing a chessman while Peter is looking away, and the loser is thrown into prison again. They play again for the magic violin, and Peter, who has been warned in prison by other losers of the princess' tricks, keeps a sharp lookout, detects, and defeats her. They are married, and Peter releases all the defeated players from jail, and afterward gets rid of them by means of the violin.[9]

The third version is the most popular one; the following example of it is from Nerucci's collection of Montalese tales (No. 43).


There was once a poor widow with an only son, and whose brother-in-law was a steward. One day she said to her child: "Go to your uncle and ask him to give you something to keep you from starving." The boy went to the farm and asked his uncle to help him a little. "We are dying of hunger, uncle. My mother earns a little by weaving, and I am too small to find anything. Be charitable to us, for we are your relatives." The steward answered: "Why not? You should have come sooner and I would have helped you the sooner. But now I will give you something to support you always, without need of anything more. I will give you this little ass that lays money. You have only to put a cloth under him, and he will fill it for you with handsome coins. But take care! Don't tell it, and don't leave this animal with any one." The youth departed in joy, and after he had travelled a long way, he stopped at an inn to sleep, for his house was distant. He said to the landlord: "Give me a lodging, but look! my ass spends the night with me." "What!" said the landlord, "what are you thinking about! It cannot be." The youth replied: "Yes, it can be, because my ass does not leave my side." They disputed a while, but the landlord finally consented; but he had some suspicions; and when the boy and his beast were shut in the room, he looked through the key-hole, and saw that wonder of an ass that laid money in abundance. "Bless me!" cried the host. "I should be a fool, indeed, if I let this piece of good fortune escape my hands!" He at once looked for another ass of the same color and size, and while the lad was asleep, exchanged them. In the morning the boy paid his bill and departed, but on the way, the ass no longer laid any money. The stupefied child did not know what to think at first, but afterward examining it more closely, it appeared to him that the ass was not his, and straightway he returned to the innkeeper, to complain of his deception. The landlord cried out: "I wonder at your saying such a thing! We are all honest people here, and don't steal anything from anybody. Go away, blockhead, or you will find something to remember a while."

The child, weeping, had to depart with his ass, and he went back to his uncle's farm, and told him what had happened. The uncle said: "If you had not stopped at the innkeeper's, you could not have met with this misfortune. However, I have another present to help you and your mother. But take care! Do not mention it to any one, and take good care of it. Here it is. I give you a tablecloth, and whenever you say: 'Tablecloth, make ready,' after having spread it out, you will see a fine repast at your pleasure." The youth took the tablecloth in delight, thanked his uncle, and departed; but like the fool he was, he stopped again at the same inn. He said to the landlord: "Give me a room and you need not prepare anything to eat. I have all I want with me." The crafty innkeeper suspected that there was something beneath this, and when the lad was in his room, he looked through the key-hole, and saw the tablecloth preparing the supper. The host exclaimed: "What good luck for my inn! I will not let it escape me." He quickly looked for another tablecloth like this one, with the same embroidery and fringe, and while the child was sleeping, he exchanged it for the magic one, so that in the morning the lad did not perceive the knavery. Not until he had reached a forest where he was hungry, did he want to make use of the tablecloth. But it was in vain that he spread it out and cried: "Tablecloth, make ready." The tablecloth was not the same one, and made nothing ready for him. In despair the boy went back to the innkeeper to complain, and the landlord would have thrashed him if he had not run away, and he ran until he reached his uncle's. His uncle, when he saw him in such a plight, said: "Oh! what is the matter?" "Uncle!" said the boy, "the same innkeeper has changed the tablecloth, too, for me." The uncle was on the point of giving the dunce a good thrashing; but afterward, seeing that it was a child, he calmed his anger, and said: "I understand; but I will give you a remedy by which you can get back everything from that thief of a landlord. Here it is! It is a stick. Hide it under your bolster; and if any one comes to rob you of it, say to it, in a low voice: 'Beat, beat!' and it will continue to do so until you say to it, 'Stop.'"

Imagine how joyfully the boy took the stick! It was a handsome polished stick, with a gold handle, and delighted one only to see it. So the boy thanked his uncle for his kindness, and after he had journeyed a while, he came to the same inn. He said: "Landlord, I wish to lodge here to-night." The landlord at once drew his conclusions about the stick, which the boy carried openly in his hands, and at night when the lad appeared to be sound asleep, but really was on the watch, the landlord felt softly under the bolster and drew out the stick. The boy, although it was dark, perceived the theft and said in a low voice: "Beat, beat, beat!" Suddenly blows were rained down without mercy; everything broken to pieces, the chest of drawers, the looking-glass, all the chairs, the glass in the windows; and the landlord, and those that came at the noise, beaten nearly to death. The landlord screamed to split his throat: "Save me, boy, I am dead!" The boy answered: "What! I will not deliver you, if you do not give me back my property,—the ass that lays gold, and the tablecloth that prepares dinner." And if the landlord did not want to die of the blows, he had to consent to the boy's wishes.

When he had his things back, the boy went home to his mother and told her what had happened to him, and then said: "Now, we do not need anything more. I have an ass that lays money, a tablecloth that prepares food at my will, and a stick to defend me from whoever annoys me." So that woman and her son, who, from want had become rich enough to cause every one envy, wished from pride to invite their relatives to a banquet, to make them acquainted with their wealth. On the appointed day the relatives came to the woman's new house; but noon strikes, one o'clock strikes, it is almost two, and in the kitchen the fire is seen extinguished, and there were no provisions anywhere. "Are they playing a joke on us?" said the relatives. "We shall have to depart with dry teeth." At that moment, however, the clock struck two, and the lad, after spreading the cloth on the table, commanded: "Tablecloth, prepare a grand banquet." In short, those people had a fine dinner and many presents in money, and the boy and his mother remained in triumph and joy.[10]

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The next story to which we shall direct our attention is "Puss in Boots," which, in the form known to our children, is of French origin, being one of the tales which Perrault made so popular by his versions. Before Perrault, however, two literary versions of this story existed: one in Straparola and one in the Pentamerone. There are, besides, several popular versions of this story, which are somewhat peculiar. The one that follows is from Sicily (Pitre, No. 88).


There were once three brothers who owned a pear-tree and lived on the pears. One day one of the brothers went to pick these pears, and found that they had been gathered. "Oh! my brothers! what shall we do, for our pears have been picked?" So the eldest went and remained in the garden to guard the pear-tree during the night. He fell asleep, however, and the next morning the second brother came and said: "What have you done, my brother? Have you been sleeping? Do you not see that the pears have been picked? To-night I will stay." That night the second brother remained. The next morning the youngest went there and saw more of the pears picked, and said: "Were you the one that was going to keep a good watch? Go, I will stay here to-night; we shall see whether they can cheat me to my face." At night the youngest brother began to play and dance under the pear-tree; while he was not playing, a fox, believing that the youth had gone to sleep, came out and climbed the tree and picked the rest of the pears. When it was coming down the tree, the youth quickly aimed his gun at it and was about to shoot. The fox said: "Don't shoot me, Don Joseph; for I will have you called Don Joseph Pear, and will make you marry the king's daughter." Don Joseph answered: "And where shall I see you again? What has the king to do with you? With one kick that he would give you, you would never appear before him again." However, Don Joseph Pear from pity let her escape. The fox went away to a forest and caught all sorts of game, squirrels, hares, and quails, and carried them to the king; so that it was a sight. "Sir Majesty, Don Joseph Pear sends me; you must accept this game." The king said: "Listen, little fox, I accept this game; but I have never heard this Don Joseph Pear mentioned." The fox left the game there, and ran away to Don Joseph. "Softly, Don Joseph, I have taken the first step; I have been to the king, and carried him the first game; and he accepted it."

A week later the fox went to the forest, caught the best animals, squirrels, hares, birds, and took them to the king. "Sir Majesty, Don Joseph Pear sends me to you with this game." The king said to the fox: "My daughter, I don't know who this Don Joseph Pear is; I am afraid you have been sent somewhere else! I will tell you what: have this Don Joseph Pear come here, so that I can make his acquaintance." The fox wished to leave the game, and said: "I am not mistaken; my master sent me here; and for a token, he said that he wished the princess for his wife."

The fox returned to Don Joseph Pear, and said to him: "Softly, things are going well; after I have been to the king again, the matter is settled." Don Joseph said: "I will not believe you until I have my wife."

The fox now went to an ogress and said: "Friend, friend, have we not to divide the gold and silver?" "Certainly," said the ogress to the fox; "go and get the measure and we will divide the gold from the silver." The fox went to the king and did not say: "The ogress wants to borrow your measure;" but she said: "Don Joseph Pear wants to borrow, for a short time, your measure to separate the gold from the silver." "What!" said the king, "has this Don Joseph Pear such great riches? Is he then richer than I?" And he gave the fox the measure. When he was alone with his daughter he said to her, in the course of his conversation: "It must be that this Don Joseph Pear is very rich, for he divides the gold and silver." The fox carried the measure to the ogress, who began to measure and heap up gold and silver. When she had finished, the fox went to Don Joseph Pear and dressed him in new clothes, a watch with diamonds, rings, a ring for his betrothed, and everything that was needed for the marriage. "Behold, Don Joseph," said the fox, "I am going before you now; you go to the king and get your bride and then go to the church." Don Joseph went to the king; got his bride, and they went to the church. After they were married, the princess got into the carriage and the bridegroom mounted his horse. The fox made a sign to Don Joseph and said: "I will go before you; you follow me and let the carriages and horses come after."

They started on their way, and came to a sheep-farm which belonged to the ogress. The boy who was tending the sheep, when he saw the fox approach, threw a stone at her, and she began to weep. "Ah!" she said to the boy; "now I will have you killed. Do you see those horsemen? Now I will have you killed!" The youth, terrified, said: "If you will not do anything to me I will not throw any more stones at you." The fox replied: "If you don't want to be killed, when the king passes and asks you whose is this sheep-farm, you must tell him: 'Don Joseph Pear's,' for Don Joseph Pear is his son-in-law, and he will reward you." The cavalcade passed by, and the king asked the boy: "Whose is this sheep-farm?" The boy replied at once: "Don Joseph Pear's." The king gave him some money.

The fox kept about ten paces before Don Joseph, and the latter did nothing but say in a low tone: "Where are you taking me, fox? What lands do I possess that you can make me believed to be rich? Where are we going?" The fox replied: "Softly, Don Joseph, and leave it to me." They went on and on, and the fox saw another farm of cattle, with the herdsman. The same thing happened there as with the shepherd: the stone thrown and the fox's threat. The king passed. "Herdsman, whose is this farm of cattle?" "Don Joseph Pear's." And the king, astonished at his son-in-law's wealth, gave the herdsman a piece of gold.

Don Joseph was pleased on the one hand, but on the other was perplexed and did not know how it was to turn out. When the fox turned around, Joseph said: "Where are you taking me, fox? You are ruining me." The fox kept on as if she had nothing to do with the matter. Then she came to another farm of horses and mares. The boy who was tending them threw a stone at the fox. She frightened him, and he told the king, when the king asked him, that the farm was Don Joseph Pear's.

They kept on and came to a well, and near it the ogress was sitting. The fox began to run and pretended to be in great terror. "Friend, friend, see, they are coming! These horsemen will kill us! Let us hide in the well, shall we not?" "Yes, friend," said the ogress in alarm. "Shall I throw you down first?" said the fox. "Certainly, friend." Then the fox threw the ogress down the well, and then entered the ogress' palace. Don Joseph Pear followed the fox, with his wife, his father-in-law, and all the riders. The fox showed them through all the apartments, displaying the riches, Don Joseph Pear contented at having found his fortune, and the king still more contented because his daughter was so richly settled. There was a festival for a few days, and then the king, well satisfied, returned to his own country and his daughter remained with her husband. One day the fox was looking out of the window, and Don Joseph Pear and his wife were going up to the terrace. Don Joseph Pear took up a little dust from the terrace and threw it at the fox's head. The fox raised her eyes. "What is the meaning of this, after the good I have done you, miserable fellow?" said she to Don Joseph. "Take care or I will speak!" The wife said to her husband: "What is the matter with the fox, to speak thus?" "Nothing," answered her husband. "I threw a little dust at her and she got angry." Don Joseph took up a little more dust and threw it at the fox's head. The fox, in a rage, cried: "Joe, you see I will speak! and I declare that you were the owner of a pear-tree!" Don Joseph was frightened, for the fox told his wife everything; so he took an earthen jar and threw it at the fox's head, and so got rid of her. Thus—the ungrateful fellow that he was—he killed the one who had done him so much kindness; but nevertheless he enjoyed all his wealth with his wife.[11]

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The story we shall next consider is, in some of its versions, legendary in its nature, and might more properly, perhaps, have been treated in chapter IV. Its legendary character, however, is only accidental, and it really belongs to the class of stories discussed in the present chapter. The story in general maybe termed "The Thankful Dead," from the most important episode in it. The hero shows some respect to a corpse (paying the debts it incurred when alive, and so obtaining the right of burial for it), the soul of which becomes the hero's good fairy, and assists him when in danger, and finally brings about his good fortune. Around this nucleus have gathered various episodes, which will be mentioned in the notes. As an example of this story, we give, on account of its rarity, the Istrian version (Ive, Nozze Ive-Lorenzetto, III. p. 19).


There was once a father who had a son. After this son had passed through school, his father said to him: "Son, now that you have finished your studies, you are of an age to travel. I will give you a vessel, in order that you may load it and unload it, buy and sell. Be careful what you do; take care to make gains!" He gave him six thousand scudi to buy merchandise, and the son started on his voyage. On his journey, without having yet purchased anything, he arrived at a town, and on the sea-shore he saw a bier, and noticed that those who passed by left there some a penny, some two; they bestowed alms on the corpse. The traveller went there and asked: "Why do you keep this dead man here? for the dead desires the grave." They replied: "Because he owed a world of debts, and it is the custom here to bury no one until his debts are paid. Until this man's debts are paid by charity we cannot bury him." "What is the use of keeping him here?" he said. "Proclaim that all those whom he owed shall come to me and be paid." Then they issued the proclamation and he paid the debts; and, poor fellow! he did not have a farthing left—not a penny of his capital. So he returned to his father's house. "What news, son? What means your return so soon?" He replied: "On crossing the sea, we encountered pirates; they have robbed me of all my capital!" His father said: "No matter, son; it is enough that they have left you your life. Behold, I will give you more money; but you must not go again in that direction." He gave him another six thousand scudi. The son replied: "Yes, father, don't worry; I will change my course." He departed and began his journey. When he was well out at sea he saw a Turkish vessel. He said to himself: "Now it is better for me to summon them on board than for them to summon us." They came on board. He said to them: "Whence do you come?" They answered: "We come from the Levant." "What is your cargo?" "Nothing but a beautiful girl." "How do you come to have this girl?" "For her beauty; to sell her again. We have stolen her from the Sultan, she is so beautiful!" "Let me see this girl." When he saw her he said: "How much do you want for her?" "We want six thousand scudi!" The money which his father gave him he gave to those corsairs, and took the girl and carried her away to his ship. But he at once had her become a Christian and married her.

He returned to his father's house; he went up, and his father said to him:

"Welcome! O my handsome son. What merchandise of women have you made?" "My father, I bring you a handsome ring, I bring it for your reward; It cost me neither city nor castle, But the most beautiful woman you have ever seen: The daughter of the Sultan, who is in Turkey, Her I bring for my first cargo!"

"Ah, you miserable knave!" cried his father. "Is this the cargo you have brought?" He ill-treated them both, and drove them from the house. Those poor unfortunate ones did not know where to find shelter. They went away, and at a short distance from their town there were some rooms at a villa. They went to live in one of those. He said: "What shall we do here? I do not know how to do anything; I have no profession or business!" She said: "Now I can paint beautiful pictures; I will paint them, and you shall go and sell them!" He said: "Very well!" "But, remember, you must tell no one that I paint them!" "No, no!" he said.

Now let us go to Turkey. The Sultan, meanwhile, had sent out many vessels in search of his daughter. These ships went here and there in quest of her. Now it happened that one of these vessels arrived in the town near where she lived, and many of the sailors went on land. Now one day the husband said to his wife: "Make many pictures, for to-day we shall sell them!" She made them, and said to him that he should not sell them for less than twenty scudi apiece. She made a great many, and he carried them to the public square. Some of the Turks came there; they gave a glance at the paintings, and said to themselves: "Surely, it must be the Sultan's daughter who has painted these." They came nearer, and asked the young man how he sold them. He said they were dear; that he could not let them go for less than twenty scudi. They said: "Very well! we will buy them; but we want some more." He answered: "Come to the house of my wife who makes them!" They went there, and when they saw the Sultan's daughter, they seized her, bound her, and carried her far away to Turkey. This husband, then, unhappy, without wife, without a trade, alone in that house, what could he do?

Every day he walked along the beach, to see if he could find a ship that would take him on board; but he never saw any. One day he saw an old man fishing in a little boat; he cried: "Good old man, how much better off you are than I!" The old man asked: "Why, my dear son?" He said: "Good old man, will you take me to fish with you?" "Yes, my son," said he; "if you wish to come with me in this boat, I will take you!" "Thank heaven!" said he. "Good!" said the old man:

"You with the rod, and I with the boat, Perhaps we shall catch some fish.

I will go and sell the fish, for I am not ashamed, and we will live together!" They ate, and afterward went to sleep; without knowing it, there arose in the night a severe storm, and the wind carried them to Turkey. The Turks, seeing this boat arrive, went on board, seized them, made slaves of them, and took them before the Sultan. He said: "Let one of them make bouquets; let the other plant flowers; put them in the garden!" They placed the old man there as gardener, and the young man to carry flowers to the Sultan's daughter, who with her maids was shut up in a very high tower for punishment. They were very comfortable there. Every day they went into the garden and made friends with the other gardeners. As time went on, the old man made some fine guitars, violins, flutes, clarionets, piccolos—all sorts of instruments he made. The young man played them beautifully when he had time. One day his wife, who was in the tower, hearing his fine songs,—Fair Brow had a voice which surpassed all instruments,—said: "Who is playing, who is singing so beautifully?" They went out on the balcony, and when she saw Fair Brow, she thought at once of having him come up. The Sultan's daughter said to one of those who filled the basket with flowers: "Put that young man in the basket and cover him with flowers!" He put him in, and the maids drew him up. When he was up, he came out of the basket, and beheld his wife. He embraced and kissed her and thought about escaping from there. Then she told her damsels that she wished to depart without any one knowing it. So they loaded a large ship with pearls and precious stones, with rods of gold and jewels; then they let down Fair Brow first, then his wife; finally the damsels. They embarked and departed. When they were out at sea the husband remembered that he had forgotten the old man and left him on shore. Fair Brow said: "My sister, even if I thought I should lose my life, I would turn back, for the word which I have given him is the mother of faith!" So they turned back, and saw the old man, who was still awaiting them in a cave; they took him with them, and put to sea again. When they were near home, the old man said: "Now, my son, it is fitting for us to settle our accounts and divide things!" "Know, good old man," said Fair Brow to him, "that all the wealth that I have belongs half to you and half to me!" "Your wife, too, belongs half to me!" He said: "Good old man, I will leave you three quarters, and I will take one only, but leave me my wife. Do you want me to divide her in two?" Then the old man said: "You must know that I am the soul of him whom you had buried; and you have had all this good fortune because you did that good action, and converted and baptized your wife!" Then he gave him his blessing and disappeared. Fair Brow, when he heard this, as you can imagine, came near dying of joy. When they reached his city, they fired a salute, for Fair Brow had arrived with his wife, the wealthiest gentleman in the world. He sent for his father and told him all that had happened to him. He went to live with them, and as he was old, he died soon, and all his riches went to Fair Brow.[12]

* * * * *

We have already stated in the preface that it was not our design to admit into this work (except for occasional reference) any stories that were literary in their character. For this reason we have not drawn on the treasures of Straparola or Basile, or even on the more popular chap-books, of which there are in Italy, as elsewhere, a great profusion. Of some of the stories contained in the last named class of works there are purely popular versions. As an example of the class, and for purposes of comparison, we give the story of Leombruno, or Lionbruno, one of the oldest and most popular of its kind. The most complete version is the one from the Basilicata, given by Comparetti, No. 41, which is as follows:


There was once a mariner who had a wife and three or four children. He followed the business of a fisherman, and he and his family lived on his fishing. For three or four years there had been a dearth of fish, so that he had not been able to catch even a sardine. Poor mariner! From this misfortune he had been obliged to sell, little by little, all he possessed, to live, and was reduced almost to beggary. One day he was fishing, and as you can imagine, poor fellow! he did not haul in even a shell. He cursed madonnas and saints. All at once a certain person (it was the Enemy) rose in the midst of the sea before his bark. "What is the matter, mariner, that you are so angry?" "What should the matter be? My bad luck. For three or four years I have been ruining myself, body and soul, in this sea with these nets, and I cannot catch even a string to hang myself with." "Listen," said the Enemy. "If you will agree to give me your wife's next child in thirteen years, from now until you deliver it to me I will cause you to catch so much fish that you shall become the richest of men by selling it." Then the mariner understood that this was the Enemy, and said to himself: "My wife has had no children for some years. Will she take it into her head to have another just now when I make this agreement with the Enemy? Oh, come! she is old now; she will have no more." Then turning to the Enemy, he said: "Well, since you wish to make this contract, let us make it. But, remember, you must make me rich." "Don't fear," said the Enemy; "let us make the agreement and then leave the matter to me." "Softly, we must settle another matter first; then we will make the contract." "What is it?" "Listen. Suppose my wife should have no children during these thirteen years?" "Then you will remain rich and give me nothing." "That is what I wanted to know. Now we can make the contract." And they settled everything at once. Then the Enemy disappeared. The mariner began to draw in his nets, and they were full to overflowing of all kinds of fish, and he became richer from day to day. In great joy he said: "I have played a trick on the devil!"—and, poor man! he did not know that it was the devil who had played a trick on him. Now you must know that just when they were making the contract, the mariner's wife, old as she was, expected to become a mother again, and the Enemy knew it. In due time the wife gave birth to a boy so handsome that he seemed a flower. His parents named him Lionbruno. The Enemy suddenly appeared: "Mariner! mariner!" "How can I serve you?" replied the poor man, all trembling. "The promise is due. Lionbruno is mine." "Yes, you are right. But you must obey the contract. Remember that it is in thirteen years. Now only a few months have passed." "That is true," replied the Enemy; "farewell, then, until the end of the thirteen years." Then he vanished. Meanwhile Lionbruno grew every day, and became constantly handsomer, and his parents sent him to school. But time passes, and behold the end of the thirteen years draws near. One day, before the time agreed upon, the Enemy appeared. "Mariner! mariner!" "Oh, poor me!" said the wretched man, who recognized him by his horrid voice. But he had to answer. And what could he do? The contract was clear and the time come. The poor mariner, willingly or unwillingly, was obliged to promise to send the boy the next day alone to the sea. The next day the mother sent her son, when he returned from school, to carry something to eat to his father. The unhappy father had, however, gone far out to sea, so that his son could not find him. The poor boy sat down on the beach, and to pass the time, took pieces of wood and made little crosses of them, and stuck them in the sand around him, so that he was surrounded by them, and held one also in his hand, singing all the time.

Behold, the Enemy comes to take him, and says to him: "What are you doing, boy?" "I am waiting for my father," he replied. The Enemy looked and saw that he could not take him, because he was seated in the midst of all those little crosses, and moreover had one in his hand. He regarded the boy with an ugly look, and cried: "Destroy those crosses, miserable boy!" "No, I will not destroy them." "Destroy them at once, or—or"—and he threatened him and frightened him with his ugly face. Then the poor child destroyed the little crosses around him, but still held one in his hand. "Destroy the other, quick!" cried the Enemy, more enraged than ever. "No, no!" the poor child replied, all in tears; "I will not destroy this little cross." The Enemy threatened him again and terrified him with his rolling eyes, but the child was firm, and then a bright light appeared in the air. The fairy Colina, queen of the fairies, came down, took the good boy by the hair, and delivered him from the Enemy. Then if you had seen what lightnings and thunder! what darts! The Enemy shot fire from his eyes, mouth, nose, ears, everywhere! But with all his flames he remained duped, and the fairy carried the good boy away to her splendid palace. There Lionbruno grew up in the midst of the fairies. Imagine how well off he was there! He lacked nothing. Increasing always in beauty, he became a youth whom you should have seen! Some years passed. One day Lionbruno said to the fairy Colina: "Listen. I want to go and see my mother and father a little. You will not refuse me your permission, will you?" "No, I will not refuse you it," said the fairy. "I will give you twenty days to go and see your family. But do not stay any longer. Remember that I have saved you from the Enemy and have brought you up in the midst of great wealth. Now this wealth we are to enjoy together, for you, Lionbruno, are to be my husband." You can imagine whether the youth wished to say no. He replied at once: "I will do your will in all things." Then the fairy said: "My Lionbruno, take this ruby; all that you ask of it you shall have." He took the ruby. Then all the fairies gave him in turn some token. He took them, and thanked them all. Then he embraced his bride and departed. Lionbruno travelled better than a prince, magnificently dressed, on a superb horse, with guards before him. He arrived at his town, went to the square, and a crowd of people surrounded him out of curiosity. He asked his way to the house of the mariner who was his father. He did not reveal himself to his parents, but asked them for a lodging that night. At midnight Lionbruno changed, by virtue of the ruby, the wretched hovel into a magnificent palace, and the next day he changed himself into the thirteen-year-old Lionbruno and revealed himself to his parents, telling them how the fairy Colina had liberated him from the Enemy, brought him up, and made him her husband. "For this reason, dear father and mother," said he, "I cannot remain with you. I have come to see you, to embrace you, to make you rich; but I can stay with you a few days only, and then I must leave you." His father and mother saw that they could do nothing, and had to be contented. One fine morning Lionbruno, by an order to the ruby, which he wore on his finger, brought together a great mass of riches, and then called his parents and said: "I leave you masters of all this wealth and of this palace. You will no longer need anything. Now give me your blessing, for I wish to go." The poor people began to weep, and said: "Bless you, my son!" They embraced each other in tears, and he departed.

He arrived at a great city,—like Naples, for example,—and went to lodge at the finest inn. Then he went out to walk and heard a proclamation which declared: "Whatever prince or knight, on horse, with spear in hand, shall pierce and carry away a gold star, shall marry the king's daughter." Imagine how many princes and knights entered the lists! Lionbruno, more for braggadocio than for anything else, said to himself: "I wish to go and carry away the star;" and he commanded the ruby: "My ruby, to-morrow, I wish to carry away the golden star." The princes and knights began to assemble and try their skill. Every one reached the star and touched it with his spear, but there was no talk of their carrying it away. Lionbruno came, and with a master-stroke carried off the star. Then he quickly escaped with his horse to the inn, so that no one should see him. "Who is he?" "Where is the winner?" No one can give any news of him. The king was ill-humored about it, and issued the proclamation again for the next day. But, to cut the matter short, the same thing occurred the next day. Lionbruno duped them a second time. Imagine how angry the king was! He issued a third proclamation. But this time what does the crafty king do? He posts a large number of soldiers at all the places by which one could escape. The princes and knights begin their courses. As usual, no one carries away the star, and Lionbruno carries it off and rides away. But the soldiers, quicker than he, seize him, arrest him, and carry him to the king. "What do you take me for, that, not satisfied with duping me twice, you wish to dupe me a third time?" Thus spoke the king, who was seated on the throne. "Pardon, Majesty. I did not dare to enter your presence." "Then you ought not to have undertaken to carry away the star. Now you have done so, and must become my daughter's husband." Lionbruno, nolens volens, was obliged to marry the princess. The king prepared a magnificent feast for the wedding, and invited all the princes, counts, and barons,—all sorts of persons. When the hall was filled with these gentlemen, Lionbruno, before marrying the princess, said to the king: "Majesty, it is true that your daughter is a very beautiful girl, but I had a bride by whose side your daughter could not stand for beauty, grace, everything." Imagine how the king felt when he heard these words. The poor princess, at this affront in the presence of so many noblemen, became as red as fire. The king, greatly disturbed, said: "Well, if it is so, we wish to see your wife, if she is as beautiful as you say." "Yes, yes!" cried all the noblemen; "we, too, wish to see her; we wish to see her!" Poor Lionbruno was in a tight place. What could he do? He had recourse to the ruby. "Ruby mine, make fairy Colina come here." But this time he was mistaken. The ruby could do everything, but it could not compel the fairy to come, for it was she who had given it its magic power. The summons, however, reached the fairy Colina; but she did not go. "My friend has done a pretty thing!" said she. "Bravo! good! Now I will fix him as he deserves!" She called the lowest of her servants, and made her suddenly appear in the great hall of the king, where all were assembled for the wedding. "How beautiful she is! how beautiful she is!" all said as soon as they saw her. "Is this, then, your first bride?" "What!" answered Lionbruno, "my first bride! This is the lowest of the servants of my first bride." "Gracious!" exclaimed the noblemen; "if this is the lowest of the servants and is so beautiful, imagine what the mistress must be!" "Then," said the king, "if this is not your first bride, I wish you to make her come herself." "Yes, yes, herself!" cried the others, likewise. Poor Lionbruno! He was obliged to have recourse again to the ring. But this time, also, the fairy did not go, but sent instead her next servant. Scarcely had they seen her when they all said: "This one, oh, this one, is really beautiful! This, now, is certainly your first bride, is she not, Lionbruno?" "No, no!" replied Lionbruno; "my first bride is a marvel of beauty. Different from this one! This one is only the second servant." Then the king, in a threatening tone, said to him: "Lionbruno, let us put an end to this! I command you to cause your first wife to come here instantly." The matter was growing serious. Poor Lionbruno had recourse for the third time to the ruby, and said to it: "Ruby mine, if you really wish to help me, now is the moment. You must cause the fairy Colina herself to come here." The summons reached her at once, and this time she went. When all those great lords and the king and his daughter saw that marvel of beauty, they became as so many statues. But the fairy Colina approached Lionbruno, pretended to take his hand, and drew off his ring, saying: "Traitor! you cannot find me until you have worn out seven pairs of iron shoes." Then she vanished. The king, in fury, said to Lionbruno: "I understand. The power of carrying off the star was not yours, but your ruby's. Leave my palace!" He had him seized and well beaten and sent away.

And so poor Lionbruno was left without the fairy Colina and the king's daughter, and departed from the city in great grief. When he had gone a few steps, he heard a great noise. It was a smithy. He entered, and called the blacksmith: "Master, I want seven pairs of iron shoes." "I will make you twelve if you wish, but it seems to me that you must have some agreement with the Eternal to live who knows how many hundred years to wear out all these shoes." "What does that matter to you? It is enough if I pay you. Make me the shoes and hold your tongue." He made them for him at once. Lionbruno paid him, put on one pair, and stuck three in one side of his travelling sack and three in the other, and set out. After walking a long time, he arrived late at night in a forest. All at once three robbers came there. "Good man," said they to Lionbruno, "how did you happen here?" "I am a poor pilgrim," he replied; "it grew dark and I stopped here to rest. And who are you, gentlemen?" "We are travellers." And they all stopped there to rest. The next day Lionbruno arose, took leave of the three robbers, and departed. But he had scarcely gone a few steps when he heard them quarrelling. Now you must know that those robbers had stolen three objects of great value, and were now disputing as to how they should divide them. One of them said: "Fools that we are! We had here that pilgrim, who could have acted as judge and made the division, and we have let him go. Let us call him back." "Yes, yes! let us call him," said the others. They called him, and he came back. "How can I serve you, gentlemen?" said he. "Listen, good man; we have three objects of great value to divide. You must be the judge, and give to each one what belongs to him." "Very well; but what objects are you talking of?" "Here is a pair of boots, a purse, and a cloak. The boots have this virtue, that he who has them on runs faster than the wind. If you say to the purse, 'open and shut,' it at once gives you a hundred ducats. Finally he who puts on the cloak and buttons it up, can see and yet not be seen." "Very good. But to act the judge well, I must first examine these three objects carefully." "Certainly, that is right." Lionbruno put on the boots, tried to run, and went marvellously. "What do you think of these boots?" asked the thieves. "Excellent, indeed," replied Lionbruno, and kept them on. Then he said: "Now let us see the purse." He took it and said: "Purse, open and shut," and at once there came forth a hundred silver ducats. "Now let us see what this cloak is," he said, at last. He put it on and began to button it up. While he was doing so he asked the robbers: "Do you see me now?" They answered: "Yes." He kept on buttoning it and asked again: "Now do you see me?" "Yes." Finally he reached the last button. "Now do you see me?" "No." "If you don't see me now you never will see me again." He threw away the iron shoes and cried: "Now for you, boots!" And away! faster than the wind. When the three robbers saw themselves duped in that way, what a rage they were in! They thrashed each other soundly, and especially the one who had called Lionbruno back; and at last they all found themselves with broken bones.

Lionbruno, after having cheated the robbers thus, continued his way joyfully. After a long journey, he arrived in the midst of a forest. He saw at a distance a slight smoke, and among frightful rocks, a little old hovel all surrounded by dense wild shrubs, with a little door entirely covered with ivy, so that it could scarcely be seen. Lionbruno approached the door and knocked softly. "Who is knocking?" asked from within an old woman's voice. "I am a poor Christian," replied Lionbruno; "night has overtaken me here, and I am seeking a lodging, if it can be had." The door opened and Lionbruno entered. "Oh, poor youth! How have you been tempted to come and ruin yourself in this remote place?" demanded, in great wonder, the old woman, who was within, and who was Borea.[13] (Do you know who Borea is? No less a person than the mother of the winds.) "Oh, dear little old lady, my aunt," replied Lionbruno, "I am lost in this great forest, for I have been travelling a long time to find my dear bride, the fairy Colina, and I have not yet been able to find any trace of her." "My son, you have made a great mistake! What shall we do now that my sons are coming home? Perhaps, God help you! they will want to eat you." "Oh, wretched me!" cried Lionbruno, then, all trembling; "who, my aunt, are these sons of yours who so devour Christians?" "My son," replied Borea, "you do not know where you are. Do you not know that this house in the midst of these precipices is the house of the winds? And I, you do not recognize me; I, my son, am Borea, the mother of all the winds." "What shall I do now? Oh, my dear aunt, help me; do not let your sons eat me up!" The old woman finally concealed him in a chest, telling him not to make the slightest noise when her sons returned. Soon a loud noise was heard at a distance: it was the winds returning home. The nearer they approached the louder the noise grew, and a sound of branches and trees broken off was heard. At last the winds arrived, pushed open the door, and entered. "Good evening, mamma." "Welcome, my sons!" replied their mother, all smiling. And so one after the other all the winds entered, and the last to enter was Sirocco, for you must know that Sirocco is the youngest of Borea's sons. Scarcely had they entered when they began to say: "What smell of human flesh is here? Here Christians, Christians!" "Oh, bad luck to you! what fools you are! Where is there any smell of human flesh here? Who do you think would risk their lives by coming here?" But her sons would not be convinced, especially that obstinate Sirocco. Lionbruno commended his soul to God, for he saw death at his heels. But finally Borea succeeded in convincing her sons. "Oh, mamma, what is there to eat to-night? We have travelled so far, and are so hungry!" "Here, my sons," the mother answered, "come here; for a nice polenta is cooking for you. I will finish cooking it soon, and put it at once on the table." The next day Borea said to her sons: "My sons, when you came you said you smelled human flesh. Tell me, should you really see a man now, what would you do to him?" "Now, we would not do anything to him. Last night, we should have torn him in pieces." "But you would not do anything to him, truly?" "Truly." "Well, if you will give me your promise by St. John not to harm him, I will show you a live man." "Oh! just see! A man here! Yes, yes, mamma, show him to us at once. We swear by St. John! we will not touch a hair of his head." Then their mother opened the chest and made Lionbruno come forth. If you had heard the winds then! They puffed and blowed around him and asked him, first of all, how he had come to that place, where no living soul had ever penetrated. Lionbruno said: "Would to heaven that my journey ended here! I must go to the palace of the fairy Colina; perhaps one of you can tell me where it is?" Then Borea asked her sons one by one and each replied that he knew nothing of it. Finally she questioned her youngest son: "And you, Sirocco, do you not know anything about it?" "I? Should I not know something about it? Am I perchance like my brothers who never can find a hiding-place? The fairy Colina is love-sick. She says that her lover has betrayed her, and continually weeps, and is so reduced by her grief that she can live but little longer. And I deserve to be hanged, for I have seen her in this condition, and yet I have annoyed her so that I have driven her to despair. I amused myself by making a noise about her palace, and more than once I burst open windows and turned things upside down, even the bed she was resting on." "Oh, my dear Sirocco!" said Lionbruno; "my good Sirocco, you must aid me! Since you have given me news of her, you must also do me the favor to show me the way to my bride's palace. I, dear Sirocco, am the betrothed of the fairy Colina, and it is not true that I have betrayed her; on the contrary, if I do not find her, I shall die of grief." "My son," said Sirocco, "listen; for my part I would take you there with all my heart. But I should have to carry you about my neck. And the trouble is I cannot do so, for I am wind, I am air, and you would slip off. Were you like me the matter would go very well." "Don't worry about that," said Lionbruno, "show me the way, and I will not lag behind." "He is crazy," said Sirocco to himself; then he said to Lionbruno: "Very well, since you feel so strong, to-morrow we will make the trial. Meanwhile let us go to bed, for it is late, and to-morrow, God willing, we will rise early!" And all went to sleep. In the morning early Sirocco arose and cried: "Lionbruno! Lionbruno! get up quickly!" And Lionbruno put on his boots in a hurry, seized his purse, fixed his cloak carefully, and left the house with Sirocco. "There," said Sirocco, "is the way we must take. Be careful! Don't let me out of your sight, and leave the rest to me. If a few hours after sunset to-night I don't make you find your beauty, you may call me an ass." They started. They ran like the wind. Every little while Sirocco called out: "Lionbruno!" and he, who was ahead, answered at once: "Oh! don't think I am going to lag behind!" and with these questions and answers they finally reached the palace of the fairy Colina about two hours after sunset. "Here we are," said Sirocco. "Here is your fair one's balcony! See how I am going to blow open the window for you. Attention, now! As soon as it is opened you give a jump and spring in." And so he did. Before the servants could run and shut the balcony window, Lionbruno was already under the fairy Colina's bed. Afterwards one of the maids said to the fairy: "My mistress, how do you feel now? Do you not feel a little better?" "Better? I am half dead. That cursed wind has nearly killed me." "But, mistress, will you not take something this evening? A little coffee, or chocolate, or broth?" "I wish nothing at all." "Take something, if you don't, you will not rest to-night, you have eaten nothing for three or four days. Really, you must take something." And the servant said so much that to get rid of her importunity the fairy said: "Well, bring something; if I want it, I will take it." The servant brought a little coffee, and left it by the side of the bed. Lionbruno, in his cloak so that no one could see him, came from under the bed and drank the coffee himself. The servant, believing her mistress had drunk it, brought the chocolate too, and Lionbruno drank that as before. Then the servant brought the fairy some broth and a pigeon. "Mistress," said she, "since, thank God, you have taken the coffee and the chocolate, take this broth and a bit of pigeon, and so you will gain strength and be better to-morrow." The mistress on hearing all this believed that the servants were making fun of her. "Oh, stupid blockheads! What are you saying? Are not the cups still here with the coffee and the chocolate? I have touched nothing." The servants thought that their mistress was out of her mind. Then Lionbruno took off his cloak, came out from under the bed, and said: "My bride, do you know me?" "Lionbruno mine, is it you?" and she rose from the bed and embraced him. "Then it is not true, my Lionbruno, that you have forgotten me?" "If I had forgotten you I should not have suffered so much to find you. But do you still love me?" "My Lionbruno, if I had not always loved you, you would not have found me at the point of death. And now you see I am cured only because I have seen you."

Then they ate and drank together, and summoned the servants and made a great festival. The next day they arranged everything for the wedding and were married with great splendor and joy. In the evening they gave a grand ball and a fine banquet, which you should have seen![14]

* * * * *

The above story is extremely popular, and has long circulated among the people as an independent work in the shape of a chap-book. We have, however, given the form which is handed down by oral tradition, purposely avoiding the use of any literary materials. Many similar tales might be added to this chapter, but the most important and best known have been given. To give those tales which cannot be described as fairy tales and which are usually found in the shape of chap-books in prose and poetry would fall without the scope of the present volume, and would belong more appropriately to a work on Italian popular literature.[15]



The geographical situation of Italy and its commercial connections during the Middle Ages would lead us to expect a large foreign element in its popular tales. This foreign element, it is hardly necessary to say, is almost exclusively Oriental, and was introduced either by direct communication with the East, or indirectly from France, which received it from Spain, whither it was brought by the Saracens. Although this Oriental element is now perfectly popular, it is, as far as its origin is concerned, purely literary. That is to say, the stories we are about to examine are to be found in the great Oriental collections of tales which were early translated into all the languages of Europe, and either passed directly from these translations into circulation among the people, or became familiar to them from the novelists who made such frequent use of this element.[1] A few stories may have been taken from the French fabliaux or from the French translations of the Disciplina Clericalis, as we shall afterwards see.[2] The Pentamerone, and especially Straparola's tales, may finally be mentioned as the source from which many Oriental stories have flowed into popular circulation.[3] In this chapter it is proposed to notice briefly only those stories the Oriental origin of which is undoubted, and which may be found in the great collections above mentioned and in some others less known. For convenience, some stories of this class have been referred to chapter VI.

The first of this class which we shall mention is well known from the version in Lafontaine (IX. 1), Le Depositaire infidele. The only Italian version we have found is Pitre, No. 194, which is as follows:


A peasant one day, conversing in the farmhouse with his master and others, happened, while speaking of sheep and cheese, to say that he had had a present of a little cheese, but the mice had eaten it all up. Then the master, who was rich, proud, and fat, called him a fool, and said that it was not possible that the mice could have eaten the cheese, and all present said the master was right and the peasant wrong. What more could the poor man say? Talk makes talk. After a while the master said that having taken the precaution to rub with oil his ploughshares to keep them from rusting, the mice had eaten off all the points. Then the friend of the cheese broke forth: "But, master, how can it be that the mice cannot eat my cheese, if they can eat the points of your ploughshares?" But the master and all the others began to cry out: "Be silent, you fool! Be silent, you fool! the master is right!"[4]

* * * * *

The above story really belongs to the class of fables of which there are but few of Oriental origin in the Italian collections.[5] The following version of one of the most famous of the Eastern apologues is from Monferrato (Comparetti, No. 67). It is called:


There was once a man who went into the forest to gather wood, and saw a snake crushed under a large stone. He raised the stone a little with the handle of his axe and the snake crawled out. When it was at liberty it said to the man: "I am going to eat you." The man answered: "Softly; first let us hear the judgment of some one, and if I am condemned, then you shall eat me." The first one they met was a horse as thin as a stick, tied to an oak-tree. He had eaten the leaves as far as he could reach, for he was famished. The snake said to him: "Is it right for me to eat this man who has saved my life?" The nag answered: "More than right. Just look at me! I was one of the finest horses. I have carried my master so many years, and what have I gained? Now that I am so badly off that I can no longer work they have tied me to this oak, and after I have eaten these few leaves I shall die of hunger. Eat the man, then; for he who does good is ill rewarded, and he who does evil must be well rewarded. Eat him, for you will be doing a good day's work." They afterwards happened to find a mulberry-tree, all holes, for it was eaten by old age; and the snake asked it if it was right to eat the man who had saved its life. "Yes," the tree answered at once, "for I have given my master so many leaves that he has raised from them the finest silk-worms in the world; now that I can no longer stand upright, he has said that he is going to throw me into the fire. Eat him, then, for you will do well." Afterwards they met the fox. The man took her aside and begged her to pronounce in his favor. The fox said: "The better to render judgment I must see just how the matter has happened." They all returned to the spot and arranged matters as they were at first; but as soon as the man saw the snake under the stone he cried out: "Where you are, there I will leave you." And there the snake remained. The fox wished in payment a bag of hens, and the man promised them to her for the next morning. The fox went there in the morning, and when the man saw her he put some dogs in the bag, and told the fox not to eat the hens close by, for fear the mistress of the house would hear it. So the fox did not open the bag until she had reached a distant valley; then the dogs came out and ate her; and so it is in the world; for who does good is ill rewarded and who does evil is well rewarded.[6]

* * * * *

It would be surprising if we did not find the fascinating stories of the Thousand and One Nights naturalized among the people. It is, of course, impossible to tell whether they were communicated to the people directly from a literary source, or whether the separate stories came to Italy from the Orient by way of oral transmission.[7] These stories have circulated among the people long enough to be treated as their own property and changed to suit their taste. Incidents from other stories have been added and the original story remodelled until it is hardly recognizable. The story of "Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp," for instance, is found from Sicily to Lombardy; but in no one version are all the features of the original story preserved. In one of the Sicilian versions (Messina) Aladdin does not lose his lamp; in another (Palermo), after Aladdin has lost his lamp he goes in search of it, and on his journey settles the quarrel of an ant, an eagle, and a lion, who give him the power to transform himself into any one of them. He finally discovers the magician, who has his life elsewhere than in his own body, and who is killed after the usual complicated process. In the Roman version the point of the unfinished window in Aladdin's palace is missed, the magician requires to be killed, as in the version from Palermo, and there are some additional incidents not in the Oriental original. In the Mantuan story, instead of a lamp we have a rusty ring, which the youngest brother finds inside of a dead cock bequeathed to three brothers by their father. After the ring has fallen into the possession of the magician and the palace has disappeared, the hero goes in search of his wife and ring. On his way he is assisted by the "King of the Fishes" and the "King of the Birds." The eagle carries a letter to the captive princess, who obtains the ring from the magician, rubs it on a stone, and when it asks what she wishes, answers: "I wish this palace to return where it first was and the magician to be drowned in the sea."[8]

Of almost equal popularity is the story of the "Forty Thieves," who are, however, in the Italian versions, reduced to thirteen, twelve, or six in number. The versions in Pitre (No. 23 and variants) contain but one incident of the original story, where the robbers are detected in the oil-jars, and killed by pouring boiling oil over them. In one of Pitre's versions the robbers are hidden in sacks of charcoal, and the cunning daughter pierces the bags with a red-hot spit. In another, they are hidden in oil-skins, and sold to the abbess of a certain convent for oil. One of the nuns has some suspicion of the trick, and invites her companions to tap the skins with red-hot irons. Another Sicilian version (Gonz. No. 79, "The Story of the Twelve Robbers") contains the first part of the Arabian tale, the robbers' cave which opens and closes by the words, "Open, door!" and "Shut, door!" The story ends with the death of one of the brothers, who entered the cave and was killed by one of the robbers who had remained. It is only in the version from Mantua (Visentini, No. 7, "The Cunning Maid") that we find the story complete; boiling water is used instead of oil in killing the thieves, and the servant girl afterwards kills the captain, who had escaped before. The story of the "Third Calendar" is told in detail in Comparetti (No. 65, "The Son of the King of France") and the "Two Envious Sisters" furnishes details for a number of distinct stories.[9] The story of "The Hunchback" is found in Pitre and Straparola, and as it is also the subject of an Old-French fabliau, it may have been borrowed from the French, or, what is more likely, both French and Italians took it from a common source.[10] The fable of "The Ass, the Ox, and the Peasant," which the Vizier relates to prevent his daughter becoming the Sultan's wife, is found in Pitre (No. 282) under the title of "The Curious Wife," and is also in Straparola.[11] The beautiful story of "Prince Ahmed and the fairy Peribanu" is found in Nerucci, No. 40, "The Three Presents, or the Story of the Carpets." The three presents are the magic telescope that sees any distance, the carpet that carries one through the air, and the magic grapes that bring to life. The Italian version follows closely the Oriental original. The same may be said of another story in the same collection, No. 48, "The Traveller from Turin," which is nothing but Sindbad's "Fourth Voyage."[12] The last story taken from the Arabian Nights which we shall mention is that of "The Second Royal Mendicant," found in Comparetti (No. 63, "My Happiness") from the Basilicata, and in the collection of Mantuan stories. The latter (No. 8) is entitled: "There is no longer any Devil." The magician is the devil, and the story concludes, after the transformations in which the peasant's son kills the devil in the shape of a hen, with the words: "And this is the reason why there is no longer any devil."[13]

The first collection of Oriental tales known in Europe as a collection was the Disciplina Clericalis, that is, Instruction or Teaching for Clerks or Clergymen. It was the work of a converted Spanish Jew, Petrus Alphonsi, and was composed before 1106, the date of the baptism of the author, the time and place of whose death are not known. The Disciplina Clericalis was early translated into French prose and poetry, and was the storehouse from which all subsequent story-tellers drew abundant material.[14] Precisely how the Disciplina Clericalis became known in Italy we cannot tell; but the separate stories must have become popular and diffused by word of mouth at a very early date. One of the stories of this collection is found in Italian literature as early as the Cento Novelle Antiche.[15] Four of the stories in the Disciplina Clericalis are found in Pitre and other collections of popular tales, and although belonging, with one exception, to the class of jests, they are mentioned here for the sake of completeness.

In one of the stories of the Disciplina Clericalis, two citizens of a certain town and a countryman were making the pilgrimage to Mecca together, and on the way ran so short of food that they had only flour enough left to make one small loaf. The two citizens in order to cheat the countryman out of his share devised the following scheme: While the bread was baking they proposed that all three should sleep, and whoever should have the most remarkable dream should have the whole loaf. While the citizens were asleep, the countryman, who had divined their plan, stole the half-cooked bread from the fire, ate it, and then threw himself down again. One of the other two pretended to wake up in a fright, and told his companion that he had dreamed that two angels had led him through the gates of heaven into the presence of God. The other declared that he had been led by two angels into the nether-world. The countryman heard all this and still pretended to sleep. When his companions aroused him he asked in amazement: "Who are those calling me?" They answered: "We are your companions." "What," said he, "have you got back already?" "Where have we been to in order to return?" The countryman replied: "It seemed to me that two angels led one of you to heaven, and afterwards two others conducted the other to hell. From this I imagined that neither of you would return, so I got up and ate the bread."[16]

The same story is told in Pitre (No. 173) of a monk who was an itinerant preacher, and who was accompanied on his journey by a very cunning lay brother. One day the monk received a present of some fish which he wished to eat himself alone, and therefore proposed to the brother that the one of them who dreamed the best dream should have all the fish. The dreams and the conclusion are the same as in the original.[17]

The next story is well known from the use made of it by Cervantes in Don Quixote (Part I., chap. xx.) where Sancho relates it to beguile the hours of the memorable night when the noise of the fulling-mill so terrified the doughty knight and his squire. The version in the Disciplina Clericalis is as follows: A certain king had a story-teller who told him five stories every night. It happened once that the king, oppressed by cares of state, was unable to sleep, and asked for more than the usual number of stories. The story-teller related three short ones. The king wished for more still, and when the story-teller demurred, said: "You have told me several very short ones. I want something long, and then you may go to sleep." The story-teller yielded, and began thus: "Once upon a time there was a certain countryman who went to market and bought two thousand sheep. On his way home a great inundation took place, so that he was unable to cross a certain river by the ford or bridge. After anxiously seeking some means of getting across with his flock, he found at length a little boat in which he could convey two sheep over." After the story-teller had got thus far he went to sleep. The king roused him and ordered him to finish the story he had begun. The story-teller answered: "The flood is great, the boat small, and the flock innumerable; let the aforesaid countryman get his sheep over, and I will finish the story I have begun."[18]

The version in Pitre (No. 138) lacks all connection and is poor, but we give it here, as it is very brief.


Once upon a time there was a prince who studied and racked his brains so much that he learned magic and the art of finding hidden treasures. One day he discovered a treasure in a bank, let us say the bank of Ddisisa: "Oh, he says, now I am going to get it out." But to get it out it was necessary that ten million million ants should cross one by one the river Gianquadara (let us suppose it was that one) in a bark made of the half shell of a nut. The prince puts the bark in the river and begins to make the ants pass over. One, two, three,——and he is still doing it.

Here the person who is telling the story pauses and says: "We will finish this story when the ants have finished passing over."[19]

* * * * *

The version from Milan is still shorter:


Once upon a time there was a shepherd who went to feed his sheep in the fields, and he had to cross a stream, and he took the sheep up one by one to carry them over....

What then? Go on!

When the sheep are over, I will finish the story.[20]

* * * * *

In chapter V. we shall meet two popular figures in Sicilian tales, whose jokes are repeated elsewhere as detached stories. One of these persons is Firrazzanu, the practical joker and knave, who is cunning enough to make others bear the penalty of his own boldness. In the story in Pitre (No. 156, var. 2) Firrazzanu's master wants a tailor for some work, and Firrazzanu tells him he knows of one who is good, but subject to fits, which always make their approach known by a twitching of the mouth, and the only remedy for them is a sound beating. Of course, when the unlucky tailor begins to cut his cloth, he twists his mouth, and receives, to his amazement, a sudden beating.

In this version there is no reason given why Firrazzanu should play such a joke on the innocent tailor. In the original, however, a motive is given for the trick.[21]

The last story we shall mention from the Disciplina Clericalis is the one known in Pitre (No. 197) as:


A man once left his country to go to foreign parts, and there entered the service of an abbot. After he had spent some time in faithful service, he desired to see his wife and native land. He said to the abbot: "Sir, I have served you thus long, but now I wish to return to my country." "Yes, my son," said the abbot, "but before departing I must give you the three hundred ounces[C] that I have put together for you. Will you be satisfied with three admonitions, or with the three hundred ounces?" The servant answered: "I will be satisfied with the three admonitions." "Then listen: First: When you change the old road for the new, you will find troubles which you have not looked for. Second: See much and say little. Third: Think over a thing before you do it, for a thing deliberated is very fine.[22] Take this loaf of bread and break it when you are truly happy."

[Footnote C: The ounce is equivalent to nearly thirteen francs (12.75).]

The good man departed, and on his journey met other travellers. These said to him: "We are going to take the by-way. Will you come with us?" But he remembering the three admonitions of his master answered: "No, my friends, I will keep on this road." When he had gone half way, bang! bang! he heard some shots. "What was that, my sons?" The robbers had killed his companions. "I have gained the first hundred ounces!" he said, and continued his journey. On his way he arrived at an inn as hungry as a dog and called for something to eat. A large dish of meat was brought which seemed to say: "Eat me, eat me!" He stuck his fork in it and turned it over, and was frightened out of his wits, for it was human flesh! He wanted to ask the meaning of such food and give the innkeeper a lecture, but just then he thought: "See much and say little;" so he remained silent. The innkeeper came, he settled his bill, and took leave. But the innkeeper stopped him and said: "Bravo, bravo! you have saved your life. All those who have questioned me about my food have been soundly beaten, killed, and nicely cooked." "I have gained the second hundred ounces," said the good man, who did not think his skin was safe until then.

When he reached his own country he remembered his house, saw the door ajar and slipped in. He looked about and saw no one, only in the middle of the room was a table, well set with two glasses, two forks, two seats, service for two. "How is this?" he said: "I left my wife alone and here I find things arranged for two. There is some trouble." So he hid himself under the bed to see what went on. A moment after he saw his wife enter, who had gone out a short time before for a pitcher of water. A little after he saw a sprucely dressed young priest come in and seat himself at the table. "Ah, is that he?" and he was on the point of coming forth and giving him a sound beating; but there came to his mind the final admonition of the abbot: "Think over a thing before you do it, for a thing deliberated is very fine;" and he refrained. He saw them both sit down at the table, but before eating his wife turned to the young priest and said: "My son, let us say our accustomed Paternoster for your father." When he heard this he came from under the bed crying and laughing for joy, and embraced and kissed them both so that it was affecting to see him. Then he remembered the loaf his master had given him and told him to eat in his happiness; he broke the loaf and there fell on the table all the three hundred ounces, which the master had secretly put in the loaf.[23]

* * * * *

We now turn to some stories taken from a collection more famous in some respects than those previously mentioned, The Seven Wise Masters, which enjoyed during the Middle Ages a popularity second only to that of the Bible. Of this collection there are several Italian translations reaching back to the fourteenth century.[24] From one of these, or possibly from oral tradition, the stories about to be mentioned passed into the popular tales of Italy. The first story we shall cite is interesting because popular tradition has connected it with Pier delle Vigne, the famous chancellor of the Emperor Frederick the Second. The Venetian version (Bernoni, Trad. pop. venez. Punt. I. p. 11) is in substance as follows:


A king, averse to marriage, commanded his steward to remain single. The latter, however, one day saw a beautiful girl named Vigna, and married her secretly. Although he kept her closely confined in her chamber, the king became suspicious and sent the steward off on an embassy. After his departure the king entered the apartment occupied by him, and saw his officer's wife sleeping. He did not disturb her, but, in leaving the room, dropped one of his gloves accidentally on the bed. When the husband returned he found it, but kept a discreet silence, ceasing, however, all demonstrations of affection, believing his wife had been faithless. The king, anxious to see again the beautiful woman, made a feast and ordered the steward to bring his wife. He denied in vain that he had one, but brought her at last, and while every one else was talking gayly at the feast she was silent. The king observed it and asked her the cause of her silence; and she answered with a pun on her name: "Vineyard I was and Vineyard I am, I was loved and no longer am: I know not for what reason the Vineyard has lost its season." Her husband, who heard this, replied: "Vineyard thou wast and Vineyard thou art, loved thou wast and no longer art: the Vineyard has lost its season for the lion's claw." The king, who understood what he meant, answered: "I entered the Vineyard, I touched the leaves, but I swear by my crown that I have not tasted the fruit." Then the steward understood that his wife was innocent, and the two made peace and always after lived happy and contented.[25]

* * * * *

This story is found only in the Greek and Hebrew versions of The Seven Wise Masters, and in the Arabic Seven Viziers. It did not pass into any of the Occidental versions, although it was known to Boccaccio, who based on it the fifth novel of the first day of the Decameron. Either, then, the story is a late adaptation of the Oriental tale, which is unlikely, or it comes from some now lost, but once popular Italian version of the Oriental form of The Seven Wise Masters.[26]

The three following stories are found only in the Western, or European versions of the collection. The first, technically called "Vaticinium" or "The Prophecy," relates that a son who understood the language of birds heard the prediction that his father and mother should come to such want that they would not have bread to eat; but that he, the son, should rise so high that his father should offer him water to wash his hands with. The father, enraged at this prediction, threw his son into the sea. He was rescued, and after many adventures, married the daughter of the king of Sicily. One day, while riding through Messina, he saw his father and mother, meanly dressed, sitting at the door of an inn. He alighted from his horse, entered their house, and asked for food. After his father and mother had brought him water to wash his hands he revealed himself to them and forgave his father for his cruelty.

The only Italian version, and disfigured by some extraneous details, is in the Mantuan tales (Visentini, No. 50): "Fortune aid me." Here the son does not hear the prophecy from the birds, but an angel tells a king, who has long desired a son, that he shall have one whom he shall one day serve. When the child was ten years old the king was so vexed by the prediction that he exposed his son in a wood. The child was found by a magician, who brought him up, and from whom he afterwards escaped. He went to the court of the king, his father, and won the hand of the princess (his own sister) by leaping his horse over a broad ditch. At the marriage banquet the king handed his son a glass of wine, and the latter recognized him and exclaimed: "Behold, the father serves the son." The marriage was of course given up and the previous aversion of the sister explained.[27]

Closely connected with the original story in The Seven Wise Masters is the class of stories where the hero is acquainted with the language of animals, and attains by means of it some high position (generally becoming pope) after he has been driven from home by his father. The following version is from Monferrato (Comparetti, No. 56) and is entitled:


A father once had a son who spent ten years in school. At the end of that time, the teacher wrote the father to take away his son because he could not teach him anything more. The father took the boy home and gave a grand banquet in his honor, to which he invited the most noble gentlemen of the country. After many speeches by those gentlemen, one of the guests said to the host's son: "Just tell us some fine thing that you have learned." "I have learned the language of dogs, of frogs, and of birds." There was universal laughter on hearing this, and all went away ridiculing the pride of the father and the foolishness of the son. The former was so ashamed at his son's answer and so angry at him that he gave him up to two servants, with orders to take him into a wood and kill him and to bring back his heart. The two servants did not dare to obey this command, and instead of the lad they killed a dog, and carried its heart to their master. The youth fled from the country and came to a castle a long way off, where lived the treasurer of the prince, who had immense treasures. There he asked for and obtained a lodging, but scarcely had he entered the house when a multitude of dogs collected about the castle. The treasurer asked the young man why so many dogs had come, and as the latter understood their language he answered that it meant that a hundred assassins would attack the castle that very evening, and that the treasurer should take his precautions. The castellan made two hundred soldiers place themselves in ambush about the castle and at night they arrested the assassins. The treasurer was so grateful to the youth that he wished to give him his daughter, but he replied that he could not remain now, but that he would return within a year and three days. After he left that castle he arrived at a city where the king's daughter was very ill because the frogs which were in a fountain near the palace gave her no rest with their croaking. The lad perceived that the frogs croaked because the princess had thrown a cross into the fountain, and as soon as it was removed the girl recovered. The king, too, wished the lad to marry her, but he again said that he would return within a year and three days. After leaving the king he set out for Rome, and on the way met three young men, who became his companions. One day it was very warm and all three lay down to sleep under an oak. Immediately a great flock of birds flew into the oak and awakened the pilgrims by their loud singing. One of them asked: "Why are these birds singing so joyfully?" The youth answered: "They are rejoicing with the new Pope, who is to be one of us."

And suddenly a dove alighted on his head, and in truth shortly after he was made Pope. Then he sent for his father, the treasurer, and the king. All presented themselves trembling, for they knew that they had committed some sin. But the Pope made them all relate their deeds, and then turned to his father and said: "I am the son whom you sent to be killed because I said I understood the language of birds, of dogs, and of frogs. You have treated me thus, and on the other hand a treasurer and a king have been very grateful for this knowledge of mine." The father, repenting his fault, wept bitterly, and his son pardoned him and kept him with him while he lived.[28]

* * * * *

The next story is doubly interesting because it is found not only in the mediaeval collection last mentioned, but also in Greek literature, being told of Rampsinitus, King of Egypt, by Herodotus (II. 121), and by Pausanias of the two architects Agamedes and Trophonius who robbed the treasury of Hyrieus.[29] There are four versions in Italian: two from Sicily (Pitre, Nos. 159, 160), one from Bologna (Coronedi-Berti, No. 2), and one from Monferrato (Comparetti, No. 13). In one of the Sicilian versions (Pitre, No. 159), and in the other two from Bologna and Monferrato, the thieves are two friends. In the other Sicilian version they are a father and son. We give a translation of the last named version, which is called:


There was once a mason who had a wife and son. One day the king sent for the mason to build a country-house in which to put his money, for he was very rich and had no place to keep it. The mason set to work with his son. In one corner they put in a stone that could be taken out and put back, large enough for a man to enter. When the house was finished the king paid them and they went home. The king then had his money carted to the house and put guards around it. After a few days he saw that no one went there and took away the guard. Let us leave the king, who took away the guard, and return to the mason. When his money was gone he said to his son: "Shall we go to the country-house?" They took a sack and went there. When they arrived at the house they took out the stone and the father entered and filled the bag with gold. When he came out he put the stone back as it was before and they departed. The next day the king rode out to his house and saw that his pile of gold had diminished. He said to his servants: "Who has been taking the money?" The servants answered: "It is not possible, your Majesty; for who comes here; where could they get in? It may be that the house has settled, being newly built." So they took and repaired it. After a while the mason said again to his son: "Let us go back there." They took the accustomed sack and went there; arriving as usual they took out the stone and the father entered, filled the sack, and they departed. The same night they made another trip, filled the same sack again, and went away. The next day the king visited the house with his soldiers and councillors. When he entered he went to see the money and it was very greatly diminished; he turned to his councillors and said: "Some one comes here and takes the money." The councillors said: "But, your Majesty, while you are saying so, one thing can be done; take a few tubs, fill them with melted pitch, and place them around the walls on the inside, whoever enters will fall in them, and the thief is found."

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