Cobbler and His Three Daughters
(A Basque Tale)
LIKE many others in the
world, there was a cobbler who had three daughters. They were very poor.
He only earned enough just to feed his children. He did not know what
would become of him. He went about in his grief, walking, walking sadly
on, and he meets a gentleman, who asks him where he is going, melancholy
like that. He answers him,
"Even if I shall tell you, I shall get no relief."
"Yes, yes; who knows? Tell it,"
"I have three daughters, and I have not work enough
to maintain them. I have famine in the house."
"If it is only that, we will manage it. You will
give me one of your daughters, and I will give you so much money."
The father was very grieved to make any such bargain;
but at last he comes down to that. He gives him his eldest daughter.
This gentleman takes her to his palace, and, after having passed some
time there, he said to her that he has a short journey to make--that
he will leave her all the keys, that she might see everything, but that
there is one key that she must not make use of--that it would bring
misfortune on her. He locks the door on the young lady. This young girl
goes into all the rooms, and finds them very beautiful, and she was
curious to see what there was in that which was forbidden. She goes
in, and sees heaps of dead bodies. Judge of her fright! With her trembling
she lets the key fall upon the ground. She trembles for the coming of
her husband. He arrives, and asks her if she has entered the forbidden
chamber. She tells him "Yes." He takes her and puts her into
an underground dungeon; hardly, hardly did he give her enough to eat
(to live on), and that was human flesh.
This cobbler had finished his money, and he was again
melancholy. The gentleman meets him again, and says to him,
"Your other daughter is not happy alone; you must
give me another daughter. When she is happy, I will send her back; and
I will give you so much money."
The father did not like it; but he was so poor that,
in order to have a little money, he gives him his daughter. The gentleman
takes her home with him, like the other. After some days he said to
"I must take a short journey. I will give you all
the keys of the house, but do not touch such a key of such a room."
He locks the house-door, and goes off, after having
left her the food she needed. This young girl goes into all the rooms,
and, as she was curious, she went to look into the forbidden chamber.
She was so terribly frightened at the sight of so many dead bodies in
this room, that she lets the key fall, and it gets stained. Our young
girl was trembling as to what should become of her when the master should
come back. He arrives, and the first thing he asks--
"Have you been in that room?"
She told him "Yes." He takes her underground,
like her other sister.
This cobbler had finished his money, and he was in misery;
when the gentleman comes to him again, and says to him,
"I will give you a great deal of money if you will
let your daughter come to my house for a few days; the three will be
happier together, and I will send you the two back again together."
The father believes it, and gives him his third daughter.
The gentleman gives him the money, and he takes this young girl, like
the others. At the end of some days he leaves her, saying that he is
going to make a short journey. He gives her all the keys of the house,
saying to her--
"You will go into all the rooms except this one,"
pointing out the key to her. He locks the outside door, and goes off.
This young girl goes straight, straight to the forbidden chamber; she
opens it, and think of her horror at seeing so many dead people. She
thought that he would kill her too, and, as there were all kinds of
arms in this chamber, she takes a sabre with her, and hides it under
her dress. She goes a little further on, and sees her two sisters almost
dying with hunger, and a young man in the same condition. She takes
care of them as well as she can till the gentleman comes home. On his
arrival, he asks her--
"Have you been in that room?"
She says, "Yes;" and, in giving him back the
keys, she lets them fall on the ground, on purpose, and at the instant
that this gentleman stoops to pick them up, the young lady cuts off
his head (with her sword). Oh, how glad she was! Quickly she runs to
deliver her sisters and that young man, who was the son of a king. She
sends for her father, the cobbler, and leaves him there with his two
daughters, and the youngest daughter goes away with her young gentleman,
after being married to him. If they lived well, they died well too.
on the Tale:
In another version, by Estefanella Hirigaray,
we have the more ordinary tale of "Blue Beard"--that of a
widower who has killed twenty wives, and marries a twenty-first, who
has two brothers. She drops the key in the forbidden chamber, and is
detected by the blood on it. She manages to write to her brothers, and
the dialogue by which she endeavours to gain time is rather spirited.
She is allowed to put oh her wedding-dress, etc., to die in. She goes
to get ready, and she hears the cries of her husband, "Are you
ready?" "I am putting on my dress." He bawls out again,
"Are you ready?" "Give me a moment more." "Are
you ready?" "I am fastening my dress." "Are you
ready yet?" "I am putting on my stockings." And she kept
constantly looking out of window to see if her brothers were coming.
"Are you ready?" "Stop one moment; I am putting on my
shoes." "Are you ready?" "I am brushing my hair."
"Are you ready?" "Let me put on my wreath." And
she sees her brothers coming on horseback in the forest, but a very
long way off. She hears again, "Are you ready?" "I am
coming in an instant." "You are coming?" "I'll come,
if you do not come down." "Don't come; I will come down myself,
without you." He seizes her on the stairs to kill her; but the
brothers rush in just in time to prevent her death, and they put him
We heard, also, another version, which, unfortunately,
we did not take down. It had something about a horse in it, and was
like "The Widow and her Daughters,"
in Campbell, Vol. II., Tale xli., p. 265.
Webster, Wentworth. Basque Legends. London:
Griffith and Farran, 1877. Amazon.com: Buy the book in paperback.