History of Literature







Charles Perrault


"The Tales of Mother Goose"



Illustrated by Gustave Dore



 




The Tales of Mother Goose  (Part II)


 


Translated by A. E. Johnson

Illustrated by Gustave Dore

 


Little Red Riding Hood


Once upon a time there lived in a certain village a little country girl, the prettiest creature who was ever seen. Her mother was excessively fond of her; and her grandmother doted on her still more. This good woman had a little red riding hood made for her. It suited the girl so extremely well that everybody called her Little Red Riding Hood.
One day her mother, having made some cakes, said to her, "Go, my dear, and see how your grandmother is doing, for I hear she has been very ill. Take her a cake, and this little pot of butter."

Little Red Riding Hood set out immediately to go to her grandmother, who lived in another village.

As she was going through the wood, she met with a wolf, who had a very great mind to eat her up, but he dared not, because of some woodcutters working nearby in the forest. He asked her where she was going. The poor child, who did not know that it was dangerous to stay and talk to a wolf, said to him, "I am going to see my grandmother and carry her a cake and a little pot of butter from my mother."

"Does she live far off?" said the wolf

"Oh I say," answered Little Red Riding Hood; "it is beyond that mill you see there, at the first house in the village."

"Well," said the wolf, "and I'll go and see her too. I'll go this way and go you that, and we shall see who will be there first."

The wolf ran as fast as he could, taking the shortest path, and the little girl took a roundabout way, entertaining herself by gathering nuts, running after butterflies, and gathering bouquets of little flowers. It was not long before the wolf arrived at the old woman's house. He knocked at the door: tap, tap.

"Who's there?"

"Your grandchild, Little Red Riding Hood," replied the wolf, counterfeiting her voice; "who has brought you a cake and a little pot of butter sent you by mother."

The good grandmother, who was in bed, because she was somewhat ill, cried out, "Pull the bobbin, and the latch will go up."

The wolf pulled the bobbin, and the door opened, and then he immediately fell upon the good woman and ate her up in a moment, for it been more than three days since he had eaten. He then shut the door and got into the grandmother's bed, expecting Little Red Riding Hood, who came some time afterwards and knocked at the door: tap, tap.

"Who's there?"

Little Red Riding Hood, hearing the big voice of the wolf, was at first afraid; but believing her grandmother had a cold and was hoarse, answered, "It is your grandchild Little Red Riding Hood, who has brought you a cake and a little pot of butter mother sends you."

The wolf cried out to her, softening his voice as much as he could, "Pull the bobbin, and the latch will go up."

Little Red Riding Hood pulled the bobbin, and the door opened.

The wolf, seeing her come in, said to her, hiding himself under the bedclothes, "Put the cake and the little pot of butter upon the stool, and come get into bed with me."

Little Red Riding Hood took off her clothes and got into bed. She was greatly amazed to see how her grandmother looked in her nightclothes, and said to her, "Grandmother, what big arms you have!"

"All the better to hug you with, my dear."

"Grandmother, what big legs you have!"

"All the better to run with, my child."

"Grandmother, what big ears you have!"

"All the better to hear with, my child."

"Grandmother, what big eyes you have!"

"All the better to see with, my child."

"Grandmother, what big teeth you have got!"

"All the better to eat you up with."

And, saying these words, this wicked wolf fell upon Little Red Riding Hood, and ate her all up.

 

Moral:

Children, especially attractive, well bred young ladies,
should never talk to strangers, for if they should do so,
they may well provide dinner for a wolf.
I say "wolf," but there are various kinds of wolves.
There are also those who are charming, quiet, polite,
unassuming, complacent, and sweet,
who pursue young women at home and in the streets.
And unfortunately, it is these gentle wolves who are
the most dangerous ones of all.

 

 



The Fairies






Once upon a time there was a widow who had two daughters. The elder was often mistaken for her mother, so like her was she both in nature and in looks. Both of them were so disagreeable and arrogant that no one could live with them.

The younger girl, who was a true likeness of her father in the gentleness and sweetness of her disposition, was also one of the most beautiful girls imaginable. The mother doted on the elder daughter naturally enough, since she resembled her so closely; and she disliked the younger one just as intensely. She made her eat all her meals in the kitchen and work from morning till night.

One of the poor child's many duties was to go twice a day and draw water from a spring a good half mile away, bringing it back in a large pitcher. One day when she was at the spring an old woman came up and begged for a drink.

"Why, certainly, good mother," said the beautiful girl. Rinsing the pitcher, she drew some water from the cleanest part of the spring and handed it to her, lifting up the pitcher so that she might drink more easily.

Now this old woman was a fairy, who had taken the form of a poor peasant woman to see just how far the girl's good nature would go. "You are so beautiful," she said, when she had finished drinking, "and so polite, that I am determined to bestow a gift upon you. I grant you," the fairy continued, "that with every word you speak, a flower or a precious stone shall fall from your mouth."

When the beautiful girl arrived at home, her mother scolded her for staying so long at the spring.

"I beg your pardon, mother," said the poor child, "for having taken so long," and as she spoke these words, two roses, two pearls, and two large diamonds fell from her mouth.

"What am I seeing?" cried her mother. "I do believe that I saw pearls and diamonds dropping out of your mouth? What have you been doing, my daughter?" (This was the first time she had ever called her her daughter.)

The poor child related what had happened, scattering countless diamonds as she spoke.

"Indeed!" cried her mother. "I must send my own daughter there. Come here, Fanchon. Look what comes out of your sister's mouth whenever she speaks! Wouldn't you like to be able to do the same thing? All you have to do is to go and draw some water at the spring, and when a poor woman asks you for a drink, give it to her very nicely."

"You want to see me going to the spring?" replied the ill-mannered girl.

"I am telling you that you are to go," replied the mother, "and this very instant!"

Very sulkily the girl went out taking with her the best silver flask in the house. No sooner had she reached the spring than she saw a magnificently dressed lady, who came out of the woods towards her and asked for a drink. This was the same fairy who had appeared to her sister, but she was now disguised as a princess in order to see how far this girl's bad manners would go.

"Do you think I have come here just to get you a drink?" she said the rude girl arrogantly. "Do you think I brought a silver flask here just to give madam a drink? Yes, that's just what I think! Have a drink, if you must!"

"You are not very polite," replied the fairy, showing no anger. "Very well! In return for your lack of courtesy I grant that for every word you speak a snake or a toad shall drop out of your mouth."

As soon as her mother saw her returning she cried out, "Well, daughter!"

"Well, mother?" replied the rude girl. As she spoke two vipers and two toads fell from her mouth.

"Heavens!" cried the mother. "What do I see? Her sister is the cause of this. She will pay for it!"

Off she ran to beat her, but the poor child ran off and escaped into the woods nearby. The king's son met her on his way home from hunting, and noticing how beautiful she was, he asked her what she was doing there all alone, and why she was crying.

"Alas, sir, my mother has driven me from home."

As she spoke the king's son saw five or six pearls and as many diamonds fall from her mouth. He begged her to tell him how this came about, and she told him the whole story.

The king's son fell in love with her, and considering that such a gift as had been bestowed upon her was worth more than any dowry that he might receive from someone else, he took her to his father's royal palace, where he married her.

As for her sister, she made herself so hateful that her own mother drove her out of the house. No one would take in the miserable girl, so at last she went into a corner of the woods and died.
 

Moral:

Diamonds and gold coins may
Work some wonders in their way;
But a gentle word is worth
More than all the gems on earth.


Another Moral:

Though -- when otherwise inclined --
It's a trouble to be kind,
Often it will bring you good
When you least believed it could.

 

 

 


Ricky of the Tuft




Once upon a time there was a queen who bore a son so ugly and misshapen that for some time it was doubtful if he would have human form at all. But a fairy who was present at his birth promised that he should have plenty of brains, and added that by virtue of the gift which she had just bestowed upon him he would be able to impart to the person whom he should love best the same degree of intelligence which he possessed himself.

This somewhat consoled the poor queen, who was greatly disappointed at having brought into the world such a hideous brat. And indeed, no sooner did the child begin to speak than his sayings proved to be full of shrewdness, while all that he did was somehow so clever that he charmed everyone.

I forgot to mention that when he was born he had a little tuft of hair upon his head. For this reason he was called Ricky of the Tuft, Ricky being his family name.

Some seven or eight years later the queen of a neighboring kingdom gave birth to twin daughters. The first one to come into the world was more beautiful than the dawn, and the queen was so overjoyed that it was feared her great excitement might do her some harm. The same fairy who had assisted at the birth of Ricky of the Tuft was present, and in order to moderate the transports of the queen she declared that this little princess would have no sense at all, and would be as stupid as she was beautiful. The queen was deeply mortified, and a moment or two later her chagrin became greater still, for the second daughter proved to be extremely ugly.

"Do not be distressed, Madam," said the fairy. "Your daughter shall be recompensed in another way. She shall have so much good sense that her lack of beauty will scarcely be noticed."

"May Heaven grant it!" said the queen. "But is there no means by which the elder, who is so beautiful, can be endowed with some intelligence?"

"In the matter of brains I can do nothing for her, Madam," said the fairy, "but as regards beauty I can do a great deal. As there is nothing I would not do to please you, I will bestow upon her the power of making beautiful any person who shall greatly please her."

As the two princesses grew up their perfections increased, and everywhere the beauty of the elder and the wit of the younger were the subject of common talk.

It is equally true that their defects also increased as they became older. The younger grew uglier every minute, and the elder daily became more stupid. Either she answered nothing at all when spoken to, or replied with some idiotic remark. At the same time she was so awkward that she could not set four china vases on the mantelpiece without breaking one of them, nor drink a glass of water without spilling half of it over her clothes.

Now although the elder girl possessed the great advantage which beauty always confers upon youth, she was nevertheless outshone in almost all company by her younger sister. At first everyone gathered round the beauty to see and admire her, but very soon they were all attracted by the graceful and easy conversation of the clever one. In a very short time the elder girl would be left entirely alone, while everybody clustered round her sister.

The elder princess was not so stupid that she was not aware of this, and she would willingly have surrendered all her beauty for half her sister's cleverness. Sometimes she was ready to die of grief for the queen, though a sensible woman, could not refrain from occasionally reproaching her for her stupidity.

The princess had retired one day to a wood to bemoan her misfortune, when she saw approaching her an ugly little man, of very disagreeable appearance, but clad in magnificent attire.

This was the young prince Ricky of the Tuft. He had fallen in love with her portrait, which was everywhere to be seen, and had left his father's kingdom in order to have the pleasure of seeing and talking to her.

Delighted to meet her thus alone, he approached with every mark of respect and politeness. But while he paid her the usual compliments he noticed that she was plunged in melancholy.

"I cannot understand, madam," he said, "how anyone with your beauty can be so sad as you appear. I can boast of having seen many fair ladies, and I declare that none of them could compare in beauty with you."

"It is very kind of you to say so, sir," answered the princess; and stopped there, at a loss what to say further.

"Beauty," said Ricky, "is of such great advantage that everything else can be disregarded; and I do not see that the possessor of it can have anything much to grieve about."

To this the princess replied, "I would rather be as plain as you are and have some sense, than be as beautiful as I am and at the same time stupid."

"Nothing more clearly displays good sense, madam, than a belief that one is not possessed of it. It follows, therefore, that the more one has, the more one fears it to be wanting."

"I am not sure about that," said the princess; "but I know only too well that I am very stupid, and this is the reason of the misery which is nearly killing me."

"If that is all that troubles you, madam, I can easily put an end to your suffering."

"How will you manage that?" said the princess.

"I am able, madam," said Ricky of the Tuft, "to bestow as much good sense as it is possible to possess on the person whom I love the most. You are that person, and it therefore rests with you to decide whether you will acquire so much intelligence. The only condition is that you shall consent to marry me."

The princess was dumfounded, and remained silent.

"I can see," pursued Ricky, "that this suggestion perplexes you, and I am not surprised. But I will give you a whole year to make up your mind to it."

The princess had so little sense, and at the same time desired it so ardently, that she persuaded herself the end of this year would never come. So she accepted the offer which had been made to her. No sooner had she given her word to Ricky that she would marry him within one year from that very day, than she felt a complete change come over her. She found herself able to say all that she wished with the greatest ease, and to say it in an elegant, finished, and natural manner. She at once engaged Ricky in a brilliant and lengthy conversation, holding her own so well that Ricky feared he had given her a larger share of sense than he had retained for himself.

On her return to the palace amazement reigned throughout the court at such a sudden and extraordinary change. Whereas formerly they had been accustomed to hear her give vent to silly, pert remarks, they now heard her express herself sensibly and very wittily.

The entire court was overjoyed. The only person not too pleased was the younger sister, for now that she had no longer the advantage over the elder in wit, she seemed nothing but a little fright in comparison.

The king himself often took her advice, and several times held his councils in her apartment.

The news of this change spread abroad, and the princes of the neighboring kingdoms made many attempts to captivate her. Almost all asked her in marriage. But she found none with enough sense, and so she listened to all without promising herself to any.

At last came one who was so powerful, so rich, so witty, and so handsome, that she could not help being somewhat attracted by him. Her father noticed this, and told her she could make her own choice of a husband. She had only to declare herself. Now the more sense one has, the more difficult it is to make up one's mind in an affair of this kind. After thanking her father, therefore, she asked for a little time to think it over. In order to ponder quietly what she had better do she went to walk in a wood -- the very one, as it happened, where she had encountered Ricky of the Tuft.

While she walked, deep in thought, she heard beneath her feet a thudding sound, as though many people were running busily to and fro. Listening more attentively she heard voices. "Bring me that boiler," said one; then another, "Put some wood on that fire!"

At that moment the ground opened, and she saw below what appeared to be a large kitchen full of cooks and scullions, and all the train of attendants which the preparation of a great banquet involves. A gang of some twenty or thirty spit- turners emerged and took up their positions round a very long table in a path in the wood. They all wore their cook's caps on one side, and with their basting implements in their hands they kept time together as they worked, to the lilt of a melodious song.

The princess was astonished by this spectacle, and asked for whom their work was being done.

"For Prince Ricky of the Tuft, madam," said the foreman of the gang. ''His wedding is tomorrow."

At this the princess was more surprised than ever. In a flash she remembered that it was a year to the very day since she had promised to marry Prince Ricky of the Tuft, and was taken aback by the recollection. The reason she had forgotten was that when she made the promise she was still without sense, and with the acquisition of that intelligence which the prince had bestowed upon her, all memory of her former stupidities had been blotted out.

She had not gone another thirty paces when Ricky of the Tuft appeared before her, gallant and resplendent, like a prince upon his wedding day.

"As you see, madam," he said, "I keep my word to the minute. I do not doubt that you have come to keep yours, and by giving me your hand to make me the happiest of men."

"I will be frank with you," replied the princess. "I have not yet made up my mind on the point, and I am afraid I shall never be able to take the decision you desire."

"You astonish me, madam," said Ricky of the Tuft.

"I can well believe it," said the princess, "and undoubtedly, if I had to deal with a clown, or a man who lacked good sense, I should feel myself very awkwardly situated. 'A princess must keep her word,' he would say, 'and you must marry me because you promised to!' But I am speaking to a man of the world, of the greatest good sense, and I am sure that he will listen to reason. As you are aware, I could not make up my mind to marry you even when I was entirely without sense; how can you expect that today, possessing the intelligence you bestowed on me, which makes me still more difficult to please than formerly, I should take a decision which I could not take then? If you wished so much to marry me, you were very wrong to relieve me of my stupidity, and to let me see more clearly than I did."

"If a man who lacked good sense," replied Ricky of the Tuft, "would be justified, as you have just said, in reproaching you for breaking your word, why do you expect, madam, that I should act differently where the happiness of my whole life is at stake? Is it reasonable that people who have sense should be treated worse than those who have none? Would you maintain that for a moment -- you, who so markedly have sense, and desired so ardently to have it? But, pardon me, let us get to the facts. With the exception of my ugliness, is there anything about me which displeases you? Are you dissatisfied with my breeding, my brains, my disposition, or my manners?"

"In no way," replied the princess. "I like exceedingly all that you have displayed of the qualities you mention."

"In that case," said Ricky of the Tuft, "happiness will be mine, for it lies in your power to make me the most attractive of men."

"How can that be done?" asked the princess.

"It will happen of itself," replied Ricky of the Tuft, "if you love me well enough to wish that it be so. To remove your doubts, madam, let me tell you that the same fairy who on the day of my birth bestowed upon me the power of endowing with intelligence the woman of my choice, gave to you also the power of endowing with beauty the man whom you should love, and on whom you should wish to confer this favor."

"If that is so," said the princess, "I wish with all my heart that you may become the handsomest and most attractive prince in the world, and I give you without reserve the boon which it is mine to bestow."

No sooner had the princess uttered these words than Ricky of the Tuft appeared before her eyes as the handsomest, most graceful and attractive man that she had ever set eyes on.

Some people assert that this was not the work of fairy enchantment, but that love alone brought about the transformation. They say that the princess, as she mused upon her lover's constancy, upon his good sense, and his many admirable qualities of heart and head, grew blind to the deformity of his body and the ugliness of his face; that his humpback seemed no more than was natural in a man who could make the courtliest of bows, and that the dreadful limp which had formerly distressed her now betokened nothing more than a certain diffidence and charming deference of manner. They say further that she found his eyes shine all the brighter for their squint, and that this defect in them was to her but a sign of passionate love; while his great red nose she found naught but martial and heroic.

However that may be, the princess promised to marry him on the spot, provided only that he could obtain the consent of her royal father.

The king knew Ricky of the Tuft to be a prince both wise and witty, and on learning of his daughter's regard for him, he accepted him with pleasure as a son-in-law.

The wedding took place upon the morrow, just as Ricky of the Tuft had foreseen, and in accordance with the arrangements he had long ago put in train.
 

Moral:

Here's a fairy tale for you,
Which is just as good as true.
What we love is always fair,
Clever, deft, and debonair.



Another Moral:

Nature oft, with open arms,
Lavishes a thousand charms;
But it is not these that bring
True love's truest offering.
'Tis some quality that lies
All unseen to other eyes --
Something in the heart or mind.

 

 


Little Thumb





Once upon a time there lived a woodcutter and his wife; they had seven children, all boys. The eldest was but ten years old, and the youngest only seven. People were astonished that the woodcutter had had so many children in such a short time, but his wife was very fond of children, and never had less than two at a time

They were very poor, and their seven children inconvenienced them greatly, because not one of them was able to earn his own way. They were especially concerned, because the youngest was very sickly. He scarcely ever spoke a word, which they considered to be a sign of stupidity, although it was in truth a mark of good sense. He was very little, and when born no bigger than one's thumb, for which reason they called him Little Thumb.

The poor child bore the blame of everything that went wrong in the house. Guilty or not, he was always held to be at fault. He was, notwithstanding, more cunning and had a far greater share of wisdom than all his brothers put together. And although he spoke little, he listened well.

There came a very bad year, and the famine was so great that these poor people decided to rid themselves of their children. One evening, when the children were all in bed and the woodcutter was sitting with his wife at the fire, he said to her, with his heart ready to burst with grief, "You see plainly that we are not able to keep our children, and I cannot see them starve to death before my face. I am resolved to lose them in the woods tomorrow, which may very easily be done; for, while they are busy in tying up the bundles of wood, we can leave them, without their noticing."




 

"Ah!" cried out his wife; "and can you yourself have the heart to take your children out along with you on purpose to abandon them?"

In vain her husband reminded her of their extreme poverty. She would not consent to it. Yes, she was poor, but she was their mother. However, after having considered what a grief it would be for her to see them perish with hunger, she at last consented, and went to bed in tears.

Little Thumb heard every word that had been spoken; for observing, as he lay in his bed, that they were talking very busily, he got up softly, and hid under his father's stool, in order to hear what they were saying without being seen. He went to bed again, but did not sleep a wink all the rest of the night, thinking about what he had to do. He got up early in the morning, and went to the riverside, where he filled his pockets with small white pebbles, and then returned home.

They all went out, but Little Thumb never told his brothers one syllable of what he knew. They went into a very thick forest, where they could not see one another at ten paces distance. The woodcutter began his work, and the children gathered up the sticks into bundles. Their father and mother, seeing them busy at their work, slipped away from them without being seen, and returned home along a byway through the bushes.

When the children saw they had been left alone, they began to cry as loudly as they could. Little Thumb let them cry, knowing very well how to get home again, for he had dropped the little white pebbles all along the way. Then he said to them, "Don't be afraid, brothers. Father and mother have left us here, but I will lead you home again. Just follow me."

They did so, and he took them home by the very same way they had come into the forest. They dared not go in, but sat down at the door, listening to what their father and mother were saying.




 

The woodcutter and his wife had just arrived home, when the lord of the manor sent them ten crowns, which he had owed them a long while, and which they never expected. This gave them new life, for the poor people were almost famished. The woodcutter sent his wife immediately to the butcher's. As it had been a long while since they had eaten, she bought three times as much meat as would be needed for two people.

When they had eaten, the woman said, "Alas! Where are our poor children now? They would make a good feast of what we have left here; but it was you, William, who decided to abandon them. I told you that we would be sorry for it. What are they now doing in the forest? Alas, dear God, the wolves have perhaps already eaten them up. You are very inhuman to have abandoned your children in this way."

The woodcutter at last lost his patience, for she repeated it more than twenty times, that they would be sorry for it, and that she was right for having said so. He threatened to beat her if she did not hold her tongue. It was not that the woodcutter was less upset than his wife, but that she was nagging him. He, like many others, was of the opinion that wives should say the right thing, but that they should not do so too often.




 

She nearly drowned herself in tears, crying out, "Alas! Where are now my children, my poor children?"

She spoke this so very loud that the children, who were at the gate, began to cry out all together, "Here we are! Here we are!"

She immediately ran to open the door, and said, hugging them, "I am so glad to see you, my dear children; you are very hungry and tired. And my poor Peter, you are horribly dirty; come in and let me clean you."

Now, you must know that Peter was her eldest son, whom she loved above all the rest, because he had red hair, as she herself did.





 

They sat down to supper and ate with a good appetite, which pleased both father and mother. They told them how frightened they had been in the forest, speaking almost always all together. The parents were extremely glad to see their children once more at home, and this joy continued while the ten crowns lasted; but, when the money was all gone, they fell again into their former uneasiness, and decided to abandon them again. This time they resolved to take them much deeper into the forest than before.

Although they tried to talk secretly about it, again they were overheard by Little Thumb, who made plans to get out of this difficulty as well as he had the last time. However, even though he got up very early in the morning to go and pick up some little pebbles, he could not do so, for he found the door securely bolted and locked. Their father gave each of them a piece of bread for their breakfast, and he fancied he might make use of this instead of the pebbles, by throwing it in little bits all along the way; and so he put it into his pocket.

Their father and mother took them into the thickest and most obscure part of the forest, then, slipping away by an obscure path, they left them there. Little Thumb was not concerned, for he thought he could easily find the way again by means of his bread, which he had scattered along the way; but he was very much surprised when he could not find so much as one crumb. The birds had come and had eaten every bit of it up. They were now in great distress, for the farther they went the more lost and bewildered they became.




 

Night now came on, and there arose a terrible high wind, which made them dreadfully afraid. They fancied they heard on every side of them the howling of wolves coming to eat them up. They scarcely dared to speak or turn their heads. After this, it rained very hard, which drenched them to the skin; their feet slipped at every step they took, and they fell into the mire, getting them muddy all over. Their hands were numb with cold.

Little Thumb climbed to the top of a tree, to see if he could discover anything. Turning his head in every direction, he saw at last a glimmering light, like that of a candle, but a long way from the forest. He came down, but from the ground, he could no longer see it no more, which concerned him greatly. However, after walking for some time with his brothers in the direction where he had seen the light, he perceived it again as he came out of the woods.

They came at last to the house where this candle was, but not without many fearful moments, for every time they walked down into a hollow they lost sight of it. They knocked at the door, and a good woman opened it. She asked them what they wanted.




 

Little Thumb told her they were poor children who had been lost in the forest, and begged her, for God's sake, to give them lodging.

The woman, seeing that they were good looking children, began to weep, and said to them, "Alas, poor babies, where are you from? Do you know that this house belongs to a cruel ogre who eats up little children?"

"Ah! dear madam," answered Little Thumb (who, as well as his brothers, was trembling all over), "what shall we do? If you refuse to let us sleep here then the wolves of the forest surely will devour us tonight. We would prefer the gentleman to eat us, but perhaps he would take pity upon us, especially if you would beg him to."

The ogre's wife, who believed she could hide them from her husband until morning, let them come in, and had them to warm themselves at a very good fire. There was a whole sheep on the spit, roasting for the ogre's supper.




 

After they warmed up a little, they heard three or four great raps at the door. This was the ogre, who was come home. Hearing him, she hid them under the bed and opened the door. The ogre immediately asked if supper was ready and the wine drawn, and then sat down at the table. The sheep was still raw and bloody, but he preferred it that way. He sniffed about to the right and left, saying, "I smell fresh meat."

His wife said, "You can smell the calf which I have just now killed and flayed."

"I smell fresh meat, I tell you once more," replied the ogre, looking crossly at his wife, "and there is something here which I do not understand."

As he spoke these words he got up from the table and went directly to the bed. "Ah, hah!" he said. "I see then how you would cheat me, you cursed woman; I don't know why I don't eat you as well. It is fortunate for you that you are tough old carrion. But here is good game, which has luckily arrived just in time to serve to three ogre friends who are coming here to visit in a day or two."

With that he dragged them out from under the bed, one by one. The poor children fell upon their knees, and begged his pardon; but they were dealing with one of the cruelest ogres in the world. Far from having any pity on them, he had already devoured them with his eyes. He told his wife that they would be delicate eating with good savory sauce. He then took a large knife, and, approaching the poor children, sharpened it on a large whetstone which he held in his left hand.

He had already taken hold of one of them when his wife said to him, "Why do it now? Is it not tomorrow soon enough?"

"Hold your chatter," said the ogre; "they will be more tender, if I kill them now."




 

"But you have so much meat already," replied his wife. "You have no need for more. Here are a calf, two sheep, and half a hog."

"That is true," said the ogre. "Feed them so they don't get too thin, and put them to bed."

The good woman was overjoyed at this, and offered them a good supper, but they were so afraid that they could not eat a bit. As for the ogre, he sat down to drink, being highly pleased that now had something special to treat his friends. He drank a dozen glasses more than ordinary, which went to his head and made him sleepy.

The ogre had seven little daughters. These young ogresses all had very fine complexions, because they ate fresh meat like their father; but they had little gray eyes, quite round, hooked noses, and very long sharp teeth, well spaced from each other. As yet they were not overly mischievous, but they showed great promise for it, for they had already bitten little children in order to suck their blood.

They had been put to bed early, all seven in a large bed, and each of them wearing a crown of gold on her head. The ogre's wife gave the seven little boys a bed just as large and in the same room, then she went to bed to her husband.

Little Thumb, who had observed that the ogre's daughters had crowns of gold upon their heads, and was afraid lest the ogre should change his mind about not killing them, got up about midnight, and, taking his brothers' caps and his own, went very softly and put them on the heads of the seven little ogresses, after having taken off their crowns of gold, which he put on his own head and his brothers', that the ogre might take them for his daughters, and his daughters for the little boys whom he wanted to kill.




 

All of this happened according to his plan for, the ogre awakened about midnight and, regretting that he had put off until morning that which he might have done tonight, he hastily got out of bed and picked up his large knife. "Let us see," he said, "how our little rogues are doing! We'll not make that mistake a second time!"

He then went, groping all the way, into his daughters' room. He came to the bed where the little boys lay. They were all fast asleep except Little Thumb, who was terribly afraid when he felt the ogre feeling about his head, as he had done about his brothers'. Feeling the golden crowns, the ogre said, "That would have been a terrible mistake. Truly, I did drink too much last night."

Then he went to the bed where the girls lay. Finding the boys' caps on them, he said, "Ah, hah, my merry lads, here you are. Let us get to work." So saying, and without further ado, he cut all seven of his daughters' throats. Well pleased with what he had done, he went to bed again to his wife.

As soon as Little Thumb heard the ogre snore, he wakened his brothers and told them to put on their clothes immediately and to follow him. They stole softly down into the garden, and climbed over the wall. They kept running nearly the whole night, trembling all the while, and not knowing which way they were going.

The ogre, when he awoke, said to his wife, "Go upstairs and dress those young rascals who came here last night."

The ogress was very much surprised at this goodness of her husband, not dreaming how he intended that she should dress them, thinking that he had ordered her to go and put their clothes on them, she went up, and was horribly astonished when she saw her seven daughters with their throats cut and lying in their own blood.

She fainted away, for this is the first expedient almost all women find in such cases. The ogre, fearing his wife would be too long in doing what he had ordered, went up himself to help her. He was no less amazed than his wife at this frightful spectacle.

"What have I done?" he cried. "Those wretches shall soon pay for this!" He threw a pitcher of water on his wife's face, and, having brought her to herself, cried, "Bring me my seven-league boots at once, so that I can catch them."

He went out, and ran this way and that over a vast amount of ground. At last he came to the very road where the poor children were, and not more than a hundred paces from their father's house. They saw the ogre coming, who was stepping from mountain to mountain, and crossing over rivers as easily as if they were little streams. Little Thumb hid himself and his brothers in a nearby hollow rock, all the while keeping watch on the ogre.

The ogre was very tired from his long and fruitless journey (for seven-league boots are very tiring to wear), and decided to take a rest. By chance he sat on the rock where the little boys had hid themselves. He was so tired that he fell asleep, and began to snore so frightfully that the poor children were no less afraid of him than when he had held up his large knife and was about to cut their throats. However, Little Thumb was not as frightened as his brothers were, and told them that they immediately should run away towards home while the ogre was asleep so soundly, and that they should not worry about him. They took his advice, and soon reached home. Little Thumb came up to the ogre, pulled off his boots gently and put them on his own feet. The boots were very long and large, but because they were enchanted, they became big or little to fit the person who was wearing them. So they fit his feet and legs as well as if they had been custom made for him. He immediately went to the ogre's house, where he saw his wife crying bitterly for the loss of her murdered daughters.

"Your husband," said Little Thumb, "is in very great danger. He has been captured by a gang of thieves, who have sworn to kill him if he does not give them all his gold and silver. At the very moment they were holding their daggers to his throat he saw me, and begged me to come and tell you the condition he is in. You should give me everything he has of value, without keeping back anything at all, for otherwise they will kill him without mercy. Because his case is so very urgent, he lent me his boots (you see I have them on), that I might make the more haste and to show you that he himself has sent me to you."

The good woman, being sadly frightened, gave him all she had, for although this ogre ate up little children, he was a good husband. Thus Little Thumb got all the ogre' s money. He returned with it to his father's house, where he was received with great joy.

There are many people who do not agree with this last detail. They claim that Little Thumb never robbed the ogre at all, that he only made off with the seven-league boots, and that with a good conscience, because the ogre's only use of them was to pursue little children. These folks affirm that they are quite sure of this, because they have often drunk and eaten at the woodcutter's house.




 

These people claim that after taking off the ogre's boots, Little Thumb went to court, where he learned that there was much concern about the outcome of a certain battle and the condition of a certain army, which was two hundred leagues off. They say that he went to the king, and told him that, if he desired it, he would bring him news from the army before night. The king promised him a great sum of money if he could do so. Little Thumb was as good as his word, and returned that very same night with the news. This first feat brought him great fame, and he could then name his own price. Not only did the king pay him very well for carrying his orders to the army, but the ladies of the court paid him handsomely to bring them information about their lovers. Occasionally wives gave him letters for their husbands, but they paid so poorly, that he did not even bother to keep track of the money he made in this branch of his business.

After serving as a messenger for some time and thus acquiring great wealth, he went home to his father, where he was received with inexpressible joy. He made the whole family very comfortable, bought positions for his father and brothers, all the while handsomely looking after himself as well.
 

Moral:

It is no affliction to have many children, if they all are good looking,
courteous, and strong, but if one is sickly or slow-witted,
he will be scorned, ridiculed, and despised.
However, it is often the little urchin who brings good fortune to the entire family.

 


Griselda


At the foot of the mountains where the Po escapes from its bed of reeds to the neighboring plain, there once lived a youthful and gallant prince, the favorite of the whole countryside. Combining in himself all the gifts of body and spirit, he was strong, clever, skillful in war, and displayed great enthusiasm for the arts. He loved fighting and victory, too, along with all mighty endeavors and deeds of glory -- everything which makes one's name live in history. But more than all these, his greatest pleasure lay in the happiness of his people.

This splendid disposition was obscured, however, by a somber cloud, a melancholy mood which caused the prince to feel, in the depths of his heart, that all women were faithless and deceivers. Even in a woman of the highest distinction he saw only the heart of a hypocrite, elated with pride. To him she was a cruel enemy whose unbroken ambition was to gain the mastery over whatever unhappy man might surrender to her.

Each day the prince gave his morning to his royal business. He ruled wisely, doing everything he felt best for his people -- the frail orphan, the oppressed widow, protecting the rights of all. The remainder of the day was devoted to the chase, either the stag or the bear. These, in spite of their ferocity, frightened him less than the charming women whom he shunned daily.

His subjects, nevertheless, kept urging him to provide them with an heir to the throne, someone who would rule them with the same affection that the prince had always shown.

In reply to their urgings, the prince said, "This zeal with which you urge me to marry pleases me greatly. I am deeply touched. But I am convinced," he added, "that happiness can be found in a marriage only when one of the two partners is dominant over the other. If, therefore, you wish to see me wed, find me a young beauty without pride or vanity, obedient, with tried and proved patience and, above all, without a domineering will of her own. Once you have found her, I will marry!"

The prince, having finished these comments, flung himself on his horse and galloped off to join his hounds. Over field and meadow he flew, to find his fellow huntsmen waiting for him, ready and alert. Therefore, he ordered the chase to begin at once and urged the dogs after the stag. The blare of the horns, the thunder of the horses' hooves, and the baying of the hounds filled the forest with tumult so that the echoes were repeated endlessly, growing louder and louder in the hollows of the woods.

By chance, or perhaps by destiny, the prince turned one day into a winding road where none of the huntsmen followed him. The further he went, the more widely he became separated from them, until finally he reached a point where he no longer heard either the hounds or the horns of the huntsmen.

The place where his strange adventure had led him, with its clear streams and shadowy trees, filled the prince with awe. The simple and unspoiled nature about him was so beautiful and pure that a thousand times he blessed his wanderings from the well-known paths.

Filled with the reveries which pervaded the woods, fields and streams, his heart and his eyes were suddenly confronted by a most delightful object, the sweetest and kindliest ever seen under heaven. It was a young shepherdess.

She would, indeed, have tamed the most savage heart. Her complexion was like a lily whose fresh whiteness had always been shielded from the sun. Her lips were most engaging. Her eyes, softened by dark lashes, were bluer than the sky and even more bright.

The prince, transported with delight, slipped back quietly into the wood where he might gaze unseen on the beauty by which his heart was possessed. The noise which he made, however, caused the girl to glance in his direction. The moment she saw him she blushed deeply and this, in turn, added to her beauty. Under this innocent veil of modesty the prince discovered a simplicity, a sweetness and a sincerity which he did not believe possible in any woman. He drew nearer to her, and even more timid and confused than she, he explained in a trembling voice that he had lost all trace of the other huntsmen and asked her if perchance the chase had passed through that part of the wood.

"No one has been seen in this solitary place except you," she said, "but do not be disturbed. I will put you on the right road again."

"For this extraordinary good fortune," said the prince, "I cannot be thankful enough to heaven. For a long time I have been accustomed to visit such places as these, but until today I have not realized how precious they might be to me."

As the maiden saw the prince kneel on the edge of the stream to quench his thirst, she called to him to wait, and hurrying to her little cottage, she returned with a cup which she graciously handed him. All the precious goblets of crystal, agate and gold, sparkling and artfully designed, never had for him, in their silly uselessness, half the beauty of this clay cup which the shepherdess had just given him.

To find an easy road whereby the prince might return to his palace, together they journeyed through the woods, over steep rocks and across torrents, and as he followed along this unfamiliar route, the prince observed all the landmarks carefully. He was dreaming already that he would wish some day to return, and his love was making a faithful map for him to do so.

From a dark grove where finally the shepherdess had led him he spied through the branches the golden roofs of his magnificent palace. Separated shortly from the beautiful girl, he was soon beset by a deep grief. The recollection of his recent adventure filled him with pleasure, yet on the morrow he was depressed with weariness and sorrow.

As soon as he could, he arranged another hunt and cleverly giving his followers the slip, sought again the woods and hills where the young shepherdess dwelt. There he found her, living with her father, and learned that her name was Griselda. Together the girl and the old man lived simply on the milk of their flock and wove their garments from the fleece.

As the days went by, the more he saw of her, the brighter the prince's love burned for the shepherdess. He was filled with an extreme happiness and, finally, one day he called his counselors together and spoke to them, "In accordance with your wishes, I am at last planning to wed although I shall not take a wife from a strange land but from someone among us -- someone lovely, wise and well bred. I shall eagerly await the great moment to inform you of my choice."

When this news was released, it was carried everywhere and no one could measure the joy with which it was received on every side.

It was amusing to see the useless trouble to which the belles of the town went to win the approval of their prince for whom modesty and simplicity had a charm above all else, as he had told them a hundred times. They changed their manners and their dress; they lowered their voices; they even coughed in a pious tone; they reduced their hairdos a half foot; they covered their necks and lengthened their sleeves, so that one scarcely saw the ends of their fingers.

The workmen and artists of the town labored diligently for the wedding day which they knew was approaching. Magnificent floats were contrived in an entirely new style in which gold which was used lavishly was the least of their ornaments. Here, on one side, grandstands were set up from which the pomp and ceremony might better be seen. There, in another direction, great arches were erected, celebrating the glories of their warrior prince and the brilliant victory of love over him.

Here were forges of the industrial arts whose fires, with harmless thundering, frightened the earth, their sparks like a thousand new stars adorning the heavens. There a clever ballet was devised, with merry foolishness, and there, too, in an opera lovelier than any which had ever been produced in Italy, were heard a thousand melodious songs.

At last the famous wedding day arrived! The very heavens mingled the crimson of the dawn with their gold and blue as the lovely maidens of the land wakened from their slumbers. Sightseers arrived from all directions. In many places guards were posted to hold the crowds in check. The palace echoed with the sounds of horns, flutes, oboes and rustic bagpipes, while on every side could be heard the drums and trumpets.

At last the prince came out from his palace, surrounded by his courtiers. A great cry of joy arose, but a moment later everyone was amazed when, at the first turn of the road, he took the path into the nearby forest, just as he had done many times before. "There," everyone mistakenly said, "is where his interest lies. In spite of his love, the hunt holds the first place in his heart."

The prince quickly crossed the open farm lands and, reaching the hills, entered the woods, to the astonishment of the troop of courtiers who accompanied him.

After having passed along several by-paths which his heart with its happiness remembered, he found himself at the rustic cottage where his precious loved one lived.

Griselda had heard, too, about the wedding and, dressed in her best, was waiting outside her little house, before going to see the celebration.

"Where are you going so gaily and in such haste?" asked the prince, drawing near and gazing on her tenderly. "Stop hurrying, my dear shepherdess. The wedding for which you are so ready to leave here and in which I am to become a husband will never take place without you as part of it. Yes, I love you and I have chosen you from among a thousand young beauties to spend the rest of my life with, if, of course, my hopes are not disappointed."

"My lord," she replied, "I could never dare believe that I might be destined for such an honor. Are you seeking to make sport with me?"

"Not for a moment," the prince answered. "I am most sincere.

But before we pledge an eternal vow between us it will be necessary for you to swear that you will never have any other wishes than what I shall desire."

"I swear it," she said, "and give you my promise. If I were to marry the least important man in the world, I should agree to obey him. His yoke would be a gentle one for me. How much rather, then, would I obey you if I found you my lord and master."

So the prince had spoken and while the court applauded his choice, he asked the shepherdess please to be patient as she was instructed in those graces and deportment which should belong to the bride of a king. Those whose duty it was displayed all their skill in making these adjustments for her.

Whereupon there slipped from the little cottage, stately and radiant, the charming shepherdess. Not only was there applause everywhere for her beauty, but beyond this for her real ornament, an innocent simplicity.

In a magnificent coach of gold and ivory, which had followed the course of the prince, the shepherdess was seated in full majesty, and the prince, proudly there with her, found no less glory in his role of a lover than when marching in triumph following a great victory. The courtiers followed them as they moved gaily toward the palace.

Meanwhile the whole town impatiently awaited the prince's return. Suddenly he appeared and they rushed to meet him.

Surrounded by a great crowd of people, the wedding coach could scarcely move. At the shouts of joy, doubled and redoubled, the horses were frightened. They reared, stamped their hooves, dashed forward and then drew back again further than they had advanced. But at long last they reached the church and with solemn vows the two lovers were united in marriage.

When they finally reached the palace, a thousand diversions awaited them. Dancing, games, racing and tournaments spread merriment throughout the city. And the love of the prince and the shepherdess was like a crowning glory of the day!

On the next day, the various sections of the country joined in congratulating the prince and princess in speeches by their leaders. Surrounded by her ladies-in-waiting, Griselda, without showing any surprise, listened to them like a princess and like a princess she replied. In everything she did, she acted so wisely that it seemed as though heaven had given her its richest blessings of the mind as well as of the body. She easily accustomed herself to the ways of the new world about her and was quickly as much at home there in the court as she had been formerly in taking care of her sheep.

Before a year had passed their marriage was blessed with a child, not a prince as might have been desired but a little princess, so lovely and endearing that every moment her father kept coming back to gaze on her again. Her mother, still more enraptured, never Look her eyes off her. She even determined to nurse the infant herself, for "How can I refuse her," she said, "when her cries insist on having me? Can I be only a part mother of the child I love so much?"

In time the love of the prince became a little less ardent than formerly, so that his evil mood seemed to grow again. It was as though a thick fog had obscured his senses and corrupted his heart. In everything that the princess did he imagined that he saw little real sincerity. Her outstanding goodness offended him; it was a snare, he thought, for his credulity. His unhappy state of mind led him to believe every suspicion. As a result of the melancholy with which his mind had been tainted, he followed her about, watching her. He seemed to enjoy limiting her pleasures and alarming her, mixing the false with the true.

"I must not be lulled asleep," he said. "If these virtues of hers are indeed genuine, then even my most unreasonable actions will only strengthen them."

And so she was confined to the palace and retired to her rooms, far from the pleasures of the court. Convinced that one's wardrobe and its accessories are the dearest delight of a woman, the prince rudely demanded her pearls, rubies, rings and jewels, all of which he had given her as a token of his affection when he became her husband.

She whose life was stainless, who had never been punished in any way, who had performed her every duty well, had been happy in giving as she had been in receiving, "My husband plagues me only to test my love," she said, "and he only makes me suffer to arouse my sleeping virtues which might have perished in a long and peaceful repose. Let us be happy, then, in this harsh but worthwhile severity. For one is often happy only as one suffers."

The prince was chagrined to see her obey freely all of his strictest orders. "I see," he said, "what lies behind this false goodness of hers and makes all my efforts useless. My blows have been directed only where there is no longer any love. But for her infant child, for the little princess, she has shown the greatest tenderness. If I am to succeed in my testing her, it is there that I must direct my efforts."

At the moment she was about to nurse the baby who was lying against her heart, smiling.

"I see that you love her," said the prince. "It will be necessary, however, that while she is still very young I separate her from you so that she will be brought up with the right manners and will be protected from the bad habits into which she will surely fall if she remains with you. By the best of good luck I have found a lady who will bring her up with all the virtues and good manners which a princess should have. You will arrange, then, to part with her. They will be coming soon to take her away."

At these words, he left her, not having the courage to watch them snatch from her arms this pledge of their love. A thousand tears bathed her face as she watched in mournful dejection the darkest moment of her unhappiness.

As soon as those who were to carry out this cruel and sad undertaking appeared, she told them, "I must obey." Then, taking up her child, she gazed on her and kissing her with a mother's love, weeping, she gave her up. Alas, how bitter was her sorrow. To tear an infant from its mother's heart, this is Grief itself.

Not far from the city was a convent, famous for its antiquity, where the nuns lived according to strict rules under the eyes of an abbess, renowned for her piety. It was here in silence and without revealing the secret of her birth that they took the infant.

The prince tried to escape, by hunting, from the sharp remorse which embarrassed him over his extreme show of cruelty. He hesitated to visit the princess, as one might fear to meet again a fierce tigress from whom its cub had been taken. Nevertheless, he was received tenderly by his wife and with the same affection which she had formerly shown during their happiest days.

At this remarkable and unexpected courage, he was touched with regret and shame, but the strange mood that had come over him was still strong. And so, two days later, with affected tears, in order to deliver the final and supreme blow, he came to her to announce the death of the amiable child.

This unexpected blow wounded her deeply. Nevertheless, in spite of her sadness, having noticed how her husband seemed changed in appearance, she forgot her own grief and exerted every effort to console him in his false sorrow.

This goodness, this unique marvel of love, suddenly softened the prince's harshness. It changed his heart so that he was inclined to announce that their child still lived. But his bitterness of spirit was still strong and fiercely upheld him in not revealing the mystery which it was so useless to conceal.

And so for fifteen years the sun moved through the various stages along its orbit and brought the changing seasons. Meanwhile the little princess in the convent grew in wisdom and stature. To the sweetness and simplicity which she inherited from her mother she added her father's pleasing and proud dignity, a combination which gave her a rare beauty of character. She shone like a bright star and, by chance, one of the noblemen at the court, young, well bred and gallant, having glimpsed her through the gate of the convent, fell in love with her.

By that instinct which nature has given the fairer sex of noticing the invisible wounds which their eyes make, at the moment they are made, the princess knew that she had found a tender lover. And having resisted for a little, as one has a right to do before giving in, she, for her part, fell completely in love, too.

Nothing was lacking in this young lover. He was handsome, courageous and came from an illustrious family. For a long time the prince had been observing him. And so it was with great joy that he learned that the two young people were in love. But he took a strange satisfaction in making them win the supreme happiness of their lives only by a series of vexations and torments. He told his subjects, for instance, that since they wanted an heir to the throne of distinguished birth he had decided to take a wife of a most illustrious family who had actually been brought up in a convent. The people, of course, did not know that he was speaking of his own daughter. She, too, did not realize that the prince was actually her father and that it was only his strangely twisted mind which had led him to make this foolish announcement which, even though he never intended to carry out the plan, would bring so much unhappiness to so many people. He even arranged another match for the young man with whom the princess had fallen so deeply in love.

One can only guess how cruel the news was to the two young lovers. Next, without any sign of concern for her, the prince told his faithful wife that it was necessary for him to leave her in order to avoid extreme misfortune later on. He explained that his people, shocked by her low birth, were urging him to make a more suitable alliance elsewhere. "You," he said, "will have to go back to your little thatched cottage, after having once more put on the dress of a shepherdess, as I have arranged for you."

Calmly and with a quiet firmness, the princess listened as he pronounced this sentence on her. Her face serene, she hid her grief and without her sorrow in any way lessening her charms, great tears fell from her eyes. So also, sometimes in April, the rain falls while the sun still is shining.

"You are my husband, my lord and master," she said, sighing, "and whatever else you may hear, you must remember that nothing is nearer my heart than to obey you completely." Therefore she retired alone to her apartments, stripped herself of her expensive wardrobe and, quietly and without a complaint, put on the clothes she had once worn while guarding her sheep.

In her humble carriage she left the prince with these words, "I cannot leave you without your pardon for having displeased you. I can bear the load of my own sorrow, but I cannot, my lord, endure your anger. Have pity on my sincere regret, and I will live willingly in my sad abode, knowing that time will never change my humble regard for you or my unbroken love."

Such obedience and nobleness of spirit from one so meanly dressed aroused in the heart of the prince some remembrance of his early love for her and almost ended the banishment. Moved by her charms and on the verge of tears, he was about to put his arms around her when his domineering vanity suddenly overcame his love. And so he said harshly, "Of days that are gone I have lost all recollection. I am satisfied with your confession. Come, let us go."

She left immediately and turning to her father who was also dressed once more in his rustic clothes and whose heart was weeping bitterly over this sudden and unexpected change, she said, "Let us return to our shady groves and our simple life and leave without regret the pomp of this palace. Our cottage is not very elaborate, but it does offer more of honesty and rest for us and peace of mind."

When they arrived at their wilderness home, she took up her distaff and spindle and began her spinning on the bank of the same stream where the prince had first discovered her. A hundred times a day her heart, peaceful and with no bitterness, implored heaven to bless her husband with fame and riches and to refuse him none of his wishes. A love fed on caresses could not have been warmer than hers.

But her dear husband of whom she was thinking still insisted on testing her further, and so he ordered her once again to come and visit him.

"Griselda," he said, when she presented herself, "it is necessary that the princess, to whom I give my hand tomorrow in the church, should understand completely where you and I stand. I therefore insist on your attendance on her and that you help me in every way in pleasing her. You know in what manner I must be served -- nothing held back, and nothing too good. Everyone must see in me a prince -- more than that, a prince in love.

"Use all your energies in preparing her apartment with abundance of everything: richness, neatness and elegance all combined. And finally, always keep in mind that she is a young princess whom I love tenderly. And so that you may carry out your duties completely you must understand that to serve her in every way is my strictest order to you."

As radiant as the morning sun appears in the East, so, too, the lovely princess seemed on her arrival at the palace. At first, in the depths of her heart Griselda felt an ecstasy of mother love when she saw her. Days that were gone, happier days, came back to her in memory. "Alas! my daughter," she said to herself. "If a kind heaven had heard my prayers, she would be almost as tall and perhaps just as beautiful as this new princess."

For this young princess she felt so deep a love she could not help saying to the prince, "Permit me to warn you, my lord, that this charming princess who is to be your wife, reared in a life of ease and luxury, will not be able to endure the sort of treatment I have received from you.

"Necessity and my humble station in life have hardened me for work and I can endure all sorts of misfortune without pain and without complaint. But she who has never known grief will die under the least hardship, at the least sharp or unkind word. Do, my lord, I beg you, always treat her with kindness."

"Try to serve me " said the prince severely, "as well as you can. It is hardly necessary for a simple shepherdess like you to give me lessons or to meddle in my affairs by explaining my duties to me."

At this rebuke, Griselda, lowering her glance, quickly with. drew from his presence.

And now the lords and ladies from far and near began to assemble for the wedding. In a magnificent reception room where they were called together before the ceremony, the prince addressed them. "Nothing in the world," he said, "is more deceitful than appearances. Here you can see a shining example. Who among you would not think that this young woman, so soon to be my wife, would be most happy and contented. But she is not at all!

"Who would dare believe that this young man, eager for fame, would not be happy in this marriage we have arranged for him, triumphing over all his rivals? Yet this is not true! Again, who would imagine that, with justifiable anger, Griselda would not weep in despair at her lot? Yet she has complained of nothing, has consented to everything I asked of her and nothing whatever has been able to provoke her patience. And, finally, who would dream that anything could match my happy outlook for the future in beholding the charms of the object of my vows? If, however, fate should deal unkindly with me in these matters, I shall be most deeply grieved and of all the princes in this world the most unhappy. If anything I have said is difficult for you to understand, a word or two further should explain everything -- words which should make all the unhappiness of which you may have heard rumors vanish at once.

"Know then," he went on, "that the charming person who has stolen my heart is, in fact, my own daughter and that the woman who is the attendant to the lady, who loves her extremely and is, in turn, loved by her, is really still my beloved wife. Know further that, moved by the patience of this wise and faithful wife whom I have driven away and humiliated, I here and now take her back again as far as I can atone for the cruel and harsh treatment she has received from my jealous spirit. It will be my purpose in the future to prevent anything which might bring about this regrettable situation again. And if the memory of these cruel days in which her heart was not once borne down should in after times remain, I hope that even more than this people will speak of the fame with which I have crowned her surpassing virtue."

Just as when a thick cloud has cut off the sun and all the heavens are darkened by a fearful storm, if these clouds are parted by the winds and a brilliant burst of sunlight shines down on the landscape, so that the whole world smiles again and renews its beauty -- so in all eyes where sadness had reigned suddenly now a new happiness shone everywhere. For at this announcement, the young princess was enraptured in realizing that she had won back her life again from the prince. Falling to her knees she embraced him warmly, but her father, who had also won back his beloved daughter, lifted her to her feet, blessed her and led her to her mother.

So much happiness, coming all at once, almost robbed the mother of all feelings. Her great heart which had endured grief so well, almost broke now with the burden of this new joy. Scarcely could she hold in her arms this lovely child of hers whom heaven had returned to her. All she could do was to weep.

"We have years to come in which to be happy," the prince told her. "Put on the new wardrobe which your rank demands."

And so together they led the two young lovers to the church where they were married. A thousand diversions followed -- tournaments, games, dances, music, and great banquets. And everywhere everyone's eyes were on Griselda whose patience under the greatest adversity was praised by all. Indeed, the people even praised the prince's cruelties because they had produced so remarkable a proof of Griselda's constancy that people saw in her a model for women everywhere in the world.

 

 


Donkey Skin


Once upon a time there was a king who was the most powerful ruler in the whole world. Kind and just in peace and terrifying in war, his enemies feared him while his subjects were happy and content. His wife and faithful companion was both charming and beautiful. From their union a daughter had been born.

Their large and magnificent palace was filled with courtiers, and their stables boasted steeds large and small, of every description. But what surprised everyone on entering these stables was that the place of honor was held by a donkey with two big ears. However, it was quite worthy of this position, for every morning, instead of dung, it dropped a great load of gold coins upon the litter.

Now heaven, which seems to mingle good with evil, suddenly permitted a bitter illness to attack the queen. Help was sought on all sides, but neither the learned physicians nor the charlatans were able to arrest the fever which increased daily. Finally, her last hour having come, the queen said to her husband: "Promise me that if, when I am gone, you find a woman wiser and more beautiful than I, you will marry her and so provide an heir for throne."

Confident that it would be impossible to find such a woman, the queen thus believed that her husband would never remarry. The king accepted his wife's conditions, and shortly thereafter she died in his arms.

For a time the king was inconsolable in his grief, both day and night. Some months later, however, on the urging of his courtiers, he agreed to marry again, but this was not an easy matter, for he had to keep his promise to his wife and search as he might, he could not find a new wife with all the attractions he sought. Only his daughter had a charm and beauty which even the queen had not possessed.

Thus only by marrying his daughter could he satisfy the promise he had made to his dying wife, and so he forthwith proposed marriage to her. This frightened and saddened the princess, and she tried to show her father the mistake he was making. Deeply troubled at this turn of events, she sought out her fairy godmother who lived in a grotto of coral and pearls.

"I know why you have come here," her godmother said. "In your heart there is a great sadness. But I am here to help you and nothing can harm you if you follow my advice. You must not disobey your father, but first tell him that you must have a dress which has the color of the sky. Certainly he will never be able to meet that request."

And so the young princess went all trembling to her father. But he, the moment he heard her request, summoned his best tailors and ordered them, without delay, to make a dress the color of the sky, or they could be assured he would hang them all.

The following day the dress was shown to the princess. It was the most beautiful blue of heaven. Filled now with both happiness and fear, she did not know what to do, but her godmother again told her, "Ask for a dress the color of the moon. Surely your father will not be able to give you this."

No sooner had the princess made the request than the king summoned his embroiderers and ordered that a dress the color of the moon be completed by the fourth day. On that very day it was ready and the princess was again delighted with its beauty.

But still her godmother urged her once again to make a request of the king, this time for a dress as bright and shining as the sun. This time the king summoned a wealthy jeweler and ordered him to make a cloth of gold and diamonds, warning him that if he failed he would die. Within a week the jeweler had finished the dress, so beautiful and radiant that it dazzled the eyes of everyone who saw it.

The princess did not know how to thank the king, but once again her godmother whispered in her ear. "Ask him for the skin of the donkey in the royal stable. The king will not consider your request seriously. You will not receive it, or I am badly mistaken." But she did not understand how extraordinary was the king's desire to please his daughter. Almost immediately the donkey's skin was brought to the princess.

Once again she was frightened and once again her godmother came to her assistance. "Pretend," she said, "to give in to the king. Promise him anything he wishes, but, at the same time, prepare to escape to some far country.

"Here," she continued, "is a chest in which we will put your clothes, your mirror, the things for your toilet, your diamonds and other jewels. I will give you my magic wand. Whenever you have it in your hand, the chest will follow you everywhere, always hidden underground. Whenever you wish to open the chest, as soon as you touch the wand to the ground, the chest will appear.

"To conceal you, the donkey's skin will be an admirable disguise, for when you are inside it, no one will believe that anyone so beautiful could be hidden in anything so frightful."

Early in the morning the princess disappeared as she was advised. They searched everywhere for her, in houses, along the roads, wherever she might have been, but in vain. No one could imagine what had become of her.

The princess, meanwhile, was continuing her flight. To everyone she met, she extended her hands, begging them to find her some place where she might find work. But she looked so unattractive and indeed so repulsive in her Donkey Skin disguise that no one would have anything to do with such a creature.

Farther and still farther she journeyed until finally she came to a farm where they needed a poor wretch to wash the dishcloths and clean out the pig troughs. They also made her work in a corner of the kitchen where she was exposed to the low jokes and ridicule of all the other servants.

On Sundays she had a little rest for, having completed her morning tasks, she went to her room and closed the door and bathed. Then she opened the chest, took out her toilet jars and set them up, with the mirror, before her. Having made herself beautiful once more, she tried on her moon dress, then that one which shone like the sun and, finally, the lovely blue dress. Her only regret was that she did not have room enough to display their trains. She was happy, however, in seeing herself young again, and this pleasure carried her along from one Sunday to the next.

On this great farm where she worked there was an aviary belonging to a powerful king. All sorts of unusual birds with strange habits were kept there. The king's son often stopped at this farm on his return from the hunt in order to rest and enjoy a cool drink with his courtiers.

From a distance Donkey Skin gazed on him with tenderness and remembered that beneath her dirt and rags she still had the heart of a princess. What a grand manner he has, she thought. How gracious he is! How happy must she be to whom his heart is pledged! If he should give me a dress of only the simplest sort, I would feel more splendid wearing it than any of these which I have.

One day the young prince, seeking adventure from court yard to court yard, came to the obscure hallway where Donkey Skin had her humble room. By chance he put his eye to the key hole. It was a feast-day and Donkey Skin had put on her dress of gold and diamonds which shone as brightly as the sun. The prince was breathless at her beauty, her youthfulness, and her modesty. Three times he was on the point of entering her room, but each time refrained.

On his return to his father's palace, the prince became very thoughtful, sighing day and night and refusing to attend any of the balls and carnivals. He lost his appetite and finally sank into sad and deadly melancholy. He asked who this beautiful maiden was that lived in such squalor and was told that it was Donkey Skin, the ugliest animal one could find, except the wolf, and a certain cure for love. This he would not believe, and he refused to forget what he had seen.

His mother, the queen, begged him to tell her what was wrong. Instead, he moaned, wept and sighed. He would say nothing, except that he wanted Donkey Skin to make him a cake with her own hands.

"O heavens," they told her, "this Donkey Skin is only a poor, drab servant."

"It makes no difference," replied the queen. "We must do as he says. It is the only way to save him."

So Donkey Skin took some flour which she had ground especially fine, and some salt, some butter and some fresh eggs and shut herself alone in her room to make the cake. But first she washed her face and hands and put on a silver smock in honor of the task she had undertaken.

Now the story goes that, working perhaps a little too hastily, there fell from Donkey Skin's finger into the batter a ring of great value. Some who know the outcome of this story think that she may have dropped the ring on purpose, and they are probably right, for when the prince stopped at her door and looked through the key hole, she must have known it. And she was sure that the ring would be received most joyfully by her lover.

The prince found the cake so good that in his ravishing hunger, he almost swallowed the ring! When he saw the beautiful emerald and the band of gold that traced the shape of Donkey Skin's finger, his heart was filled with an indescribable joy. At once he put the ring under his pillow, but his illness increased daily until finally the doctors, seeing him grow worse, gravely concluded that he was sick with love.

Marriage, whatever may be said against it, is an excellent remedy for love sickness. And so it was decided that the prince was to marry.

"But I insist," he said, "that I will wed only the person whom this ring fits." This unusual demand surprised the king and queen very much, but the prince was so ill that they did not dare object.

A search began for whoever might be able to fit the ring on her finger, no matter what the station in life. It was rumored throughout the land that in order to win the prince one must have a very slender finger. Every charlatan had his secret method of making the finger slim. One suggested scraping it as though it was a turnip. Another recommended cutting away a small piece. Still another, with a certain liquid, planned to decrease the size by removing the skin.

At last the trials began with the princesses, the marquesses and the duchesses, but their fingers, although delicate, were too big. for the ring. Then the countesses, the baronesses and all the nobility presented their hands, but all in vain. Next came the working girls, who often have slender and beautiful fingers, but the ring would not fit them, either.

Finally it was necessary to turn to the servants, the kitchen help, the slaveys and the poultry keepers, with their red and dirty hands. Putting the tiny ring on their clumsy fingers was like trying to thread a big rope through the eye of a needle.

At last the trials were finished. There remained only Donkey Skin in her far corner of the farm kitchen. Who could dream that she ever would be queen?

"And why not?" asked the prince. "Ask her to come here." At that, some started to laugh; others cried out against bringing that frightful creature into the room. But when she drew out from under the donkey skin a little hand as white as ivory and the ring vas placed on her finger and fitted perfectly, everyone was astounded.

They prepared to take her to the king at once, but she asked that before she appeared before her lord and master, she be permitted to change her clothes. To tell the truth, there was some smiling at this request, but when she arrived at the palace in her beautiful dress, the richness of which had never been equaled, with her blonde hair all alight with diamonds and her blue eyes sweet and appealing and even her waist so slender that two hands could have encircled it, then even the gracious ladies of the court seemed, by comparison, to have lost all their charms. In all this happiness and excitement, the king did not fail to notice the charms of his prospective daughter-in-law, and the queen was completely delighted with her. The prince himself found his happiness almost more than he could bear. Preparations for the wedding were begun at once, and the kings of all the surrounding countries were invited. Some came from the East, mounted on huge elephants. Others were so fierce looking that they frightened the little children. From all the corners of the world they came and descended on the court in great numbers.

But neither the prince nor the many visiting kings appeared in such splendor as the bride's father, who now recognized his daughter and begged her forgiveness.

"How kind heaven is," he said, "to let me see you again, my dear daughter." Weeping with joy, he embraced her tenderly. His happiness was shared by all, and the future husband was delighted to find that his father-in-law was such a powerful king. At that moment the fairy godmother arrived, too, and told the whole story of what had happened, and what she had to tell added the final triumph for Donkey Skin.

It is not hard to see that the moral of this tale is that it is better to undergo the greatest hardships rather than to fail in one's duty, that virtue may sometimes seem ill-fated but will always triumph in the end.

The story of Donkey Skin may be hard to believe, but so long as there are children, mothers, and grandmothers in this world, it will be remembered by all.

 

 
 
 
 
 

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