Roman Legends: A Collection of the Fables and Folk-lore of Rome | Annotated Tale

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I HAD heard it so often positively asserted that modern Italy had no popular mythology, and no contribution of special versions to offer to the world's store of Traditionary Tales, that, while possessing every opportunity, I was many years without venturing to set myself against the prevailing opinion so far as to attempt putting it to the proof.

               A certain humble friend, however, used time after time so to impress me with the fancy that she had all the qualifications for being a valuable repository of such lore if it only existed, that I was finally led to examine her on the subject. She gave me a capital opportunity one day when, during a visit to a bedridden cripple whom she nursed, she was flapping the dust off the pictures and ornaments with a feather-brush according to the Roman idea of dusting. 'I never do any dusting,' she said the while, 'but I always think of Monsignor Delegato dusting the altar of the holy house of Loreto. And now I think of it, he was not called Monsignor Delegato, but Monsignor Commissario. But every evening of my life while I was young and living at Loreto, I have seen him dust the altar of the Santa Casa at 23 o'clock, [1] before they shut up the church, saying a Salve Regina for the benefactors of the spot.' If she was so familiar with Loreto, I concluded, and had so noticed and remembered its customs, probably she was not ignorant of its Legends either, and I commenced my inquisition at once.

               I have not given her Legends of Loreto in the text because, being tolerably familiar, they were among those which could best be sacrificed to the exigencies of space. I gathered on that day, however, one version of S. Giovanni Bocca d'oro, with two stories of Padre Filippo: and her subsequent testimony concerning the crucifix of Scirollo came in usefully (pp. 193, 195) in illustration of the Legend of Pietro Bailliardo; but, what was precious to me above all, I gained the proof and earnest that there was certainly a vein of legendary lore underlying the classic soil of Rome, and that it only remained to find the means of working it.

               I first lazily set myself to hunt through the bookshops, new and old, to find any sort of collection of traditionary tales ready made; but only with the effect of establishing the fact that no Italian Grimm had yet arisen to collect and organise them, and put them into available shape. [2]

               It is true the erudite and indefatigable Cesare Cantù has found time in the midst of his more important labours to illustrate some few remnants of mediæval customs and sayings yet lingering in the north of Italy, in his 'Novelle Lombarde;' and he tells me that the Balio Benvenuti, also of Milan, is bringing out another little volume about Lombard customs; but even these have not approached the fairy tales, and leave Central and Southern Italy altogether untouched. [3]

               The nearest approach to the material of which I was in search was afforded in the roughly printed rimed legends which itinerant venders sell at the church doors on festa days. Among the collection I have made of these, are many whose quaintness gives them special interest, notwithstanding their baldness of style and diction; but the matter which came to me first hand seemed to have the first claim to publication; and I have, therefore, put these among my reserve for a second series. [4]

               No repository of Roman Folklore was to be found ready-formed. 'Who among us,' writes Cesare Cantù in his preface to his 'Novelle Lombarde,' 'knows anything about these matters? If they were the things of Scotland or Touraine we should all have read them long ago in the pages of Scott or Balzac. But here among us there are neither writers who care to describe nor readers who take any interest in learning the ways of our own country. People like to seem above giving their attention to such homely matters, and only care for what they must look at through a telescope.'

               I was thus thrown back on my own powers of collecting, and found the process, however fascinating where successful, much more uphill work than it had promised to be at the outset. Legends, it is true, there was less difficulty in obtaining. There might be some sense and some moral in them, and I found people were not ashamed of knowing them; but it long remained impossible to convince persons who had even betrayed to me indications that they possessed what I wanted, to own fully to a knowledge of bonâ fide Fairy Tales, or to believe that I could be serious in wishing to listen to such childish nonsense.

               'But suppose you had a child to amuse,' I would say at last, 'I am sure you would sometimes tell it a marvellous story.'

               'Ah, a creatura, [5] yes! But I haven't the face to tell such nonsense to your signoria.'

               'Never mind that, if I want to hear it. Imagine I am the creatura, and tell me one of your tales. I want something about transformations, fairy gifts, and marvels of all sorts.'

               In some such way, after due precaution taken to convince me that such things were only allowed a place in the memory for the sake of amusing children, and not because anyone believed in them, one tale after another would be suffered reluctantly to ooze out.

               But you cannot make application for such wares to the first person you meet. The class in which such lore is stored away is not indeed so exclusive that introductions to it are a very difficult matter, but introduction of some sort you must have; some claim for taking up a person's time, where time is money; and some means of compensation you must devise, the more difficult to invent where direct payment would be an offence. Your modern Romans are very independent; I cannot say whether the quality is more an inheritance from their ancient forefathers, or adopted from the continental spread of French revolutionary ideas of '93. True, they are singularly urbane and deferential, but only so long as you are urbane and deferential towards them. If you omit any of their peculiar forms of politeness, they are suspicious of you, and scarcely know how to make allowance for the well-meaning inexperience of a foreigner. If you want to learn anything from them you must submit to become one of them. You must converse first on the subject uppermost in their minds, from the price of bread and meat to the latest change in the political atmosphere; only when all is exhausted may you venture to come round to the matter of which you are in search. Many, too, in whose memories such stories have lain dormant since childhood, for more than half a century, have not the power of recalling them in due form or order for narration on abrupt application, but will yet bring them out unconsciously if patiently led up to an appropriate starting point.

               Nor is it every application, made with all precautions, that will be successful. Often you must submit to be put off with the tantalising experience that a person knew plenty of stories, but was quite incapable of putting them into shape. This happened once with an intelligent old lady from Siena, whom, after allowing her to indulge her irony at my expense concerning my childishness in seeking such things, I brought to confess that she had heard in her youth a strange story of a cat which wore stivali di cacciatore (hunter's boots), but she could not succeed in recalling a single incident of it; and I was obliged to content myself with the information (no small encouragement in the early days of my work, however!) that 'Puss in Boots' had actually travelled to Tuscany.

               At another time one would have to spend hours in listening to detached incidents altogether lacking a thread to connect them, or stories of which the point had been so completely lost that they could only have been made available by means of a reconstruction too integral to be honestly attempted. As, e.g., 'Oh yes! I know a story of an enchantress who had a gown which made her invisible, and a pair of boots which would carry her a thousand miles without walking, but I quite forget what she did with them.' Or else it might be, 'I knew a story of a king whose wife had been fatata (subjected to magic influence), and maligned by her mother-in-law while the king was gone to the wars; but that's all I remember, except that in the end the queen was rehabilitated, and the mother-in-law punished'--incidents of stories recurring in every collection, but tantalisingly lacking all means of further particular identification with any. Sometimes, too, it would be only a title that could be recalled, and nothing more, as in the case of a certain 'Uccello Biverde,' [6] which I have been several times assured is 'a most beautiful story,' but I have never yet succeeded in meeting with any one who could supply the narrative. I have further felt called sometimes to exercise a difficult forbearance in withholding some specimens which at first promised to afford singular instances of interchanged episodes, but which there afterwards appeared reason to conclude were merely jumbled in the bad memory of the narrator, and had, therefore, no individual interest, but were rather calculated to mislead. [7]

               One of my worst disappointments was the case of a very old woman, who, I am assured, knows more of such things than anyone in the world, but whom nothing can induce to repeat them now. She has grown so toothless and tremulous and inconsecutive, that it is not easy to understand her; but I think her arguments are not difficult to appreciate in the following way,--that having had a long run of weary bad fortune, she had rather not dwell on stories where things turned out as one could wish to have them. She wants to go to heaven, she says, and so she believes in God, and whatever else she must believe; but for anything more, for special interpositions of Providence, and anything one is not obliged to believe, she had rather say nothing about all that. 'But don't tell them then as if you believed them; tell them only as a pastime; just to oblige me.' I thought I had moved her, but the utmost she would yield was to promise to think about it before I came again: and when I came again she was as rigid as ever. It is vexatious to think that a vast store is going to the grave with her under one's very eyes and that one cannot touch it.

               It is further to be remarked, that while there are thus a vast number of persons holding the store of traditional myths, it by no means includes the generality of the population; there is a still larger class among whom every trace of such lore is lost. So destitute are they of all knowledge of the kind, that it would be interesting to trace back the antecedents of each, and so discover, if it might be, the origin of this discrepancy; for not only have I found it impossible myself to stir up any memory of such stories in half the people I have applied to, (though, to all appearance, similarly circumstanced with those who have proved the most communicative), but old 'gossips,' sitting by while the stories in the text were being poured out, have, time after time, displayed a wonderment which proved that their very style was something quite new to them.

               Nevertheless, in spite of all difficulties, a few years' patience has put me in possession of a goodly bulk of popular stories not yielding in interest, I think, to those of any other country. The tales included in the present collection are but a portion of those which I have gathered within the limits of the Roman State. I hope to be able to complete at some future day the remainder that I have gathered both there and from other divisions of the former Heptarchy of Italy. The localities from which these have been chiefly drawn are Palombara, Capranica, Loreto, Sinigaglia, Viterbo, Cori, Palestrina, and, above all, Rome itself. One of my chief contributors had passed her whole existence--infancy, married life, and widow-hood--within the limits of one parish in the heart of Rome.

               The collection has arranged itself, according to the spontaneous titling of the narrators, into four categories, and it may not be unimportant to note that Romans, always precise in their choice of language, keep rigidly to these designations. I have, for instance, been on the very verge of passing over a whole mine of 'Esempj,' or 'Ciarpe' by only asking for 'Favole' (and vice versâ). Remembering afterwards to say, 'I daresay you can, at all events, recall some "Esempj," or "Ciarpe,"' I have received for answer, 'To be sure; why didn't you say sooner that such would suit you?'

               The said four categories are,--

               1. Esempj, or those stories under which some religious or moral lessons might be conveyed, answering to what we call Legends. Though the word Leggenda exists in the dictionary, and is not altogether unused, I have never once met it among the people.

               2. Ghost stories and local and family traditions. The latter are much more carefully preserved than among our own people, [8] and the Roman poor will tell the tale (more or less accurately) of the virtues and vices of their great families, with a gusto which shows that they look upon them as something specially belonging to themselves; but the former do not appear to have any recognised title, and the contempt in which they are held makes it very difficult to get hold of them, so that it is not very easy to avoid giving offence in approaching the subject. Only by a prolonged and round-about conversation one may sometimes elicit excellent specimens brought in as matters of curious personal experience by the very persons who, on direct questioning, had repudiated all knowledge of anything of the sort.

               3. Favole. The word universally appropriated in Roman dialect for 'Fairy Tales,' a not unclassical application of the term, I think, and continued in the 'Fabliaux' of the mediæval period. But when asking for them I have never had any given me belonging to the class which we call 'fables' in English.

               4. Ciarpe, expounded by Bazzarelli as parole vane, ciance; ciance being said, on the authority of Petrarch, to stand for parole vane, lontane dal vero, chiacchiera; chiacchiera being the equivalent for gossip. Versions of some stories in this category, notably No. 6, 'L'Uccelletto' (The Little Bird), and 21, 'The Value of Salt,' we all heard in our English nurseries, while those under the heading of 'La Sposa Cece' (The Simple Wife) belong to the same class as ours of the man who being told to give his wife her medicine in a convenient vehicle, wheeled her about in a hand-barrow, while she swallowed it; or that of the idiotic couple who wasted their three precious chances in wishing three yards of black pudding on each other's noses, and then wishing it off again; but I do not know that we have any special technical designation for such. All the headings of which I have given the Italian are those used by the narrators themselves.

               It is impossible, in making acquaintance with these stories in their own language, not to regret having to put them into another tongue. Much of what is peculiar in them, and distinguishes them from their counterparts in other lands, is, of course, wrapped up in the form of expression in which they are clothed. Divested of this, they run the risk of losing the national character they have acquired during their residence on Italian soil. I had purposed, therefore, originally, to print an Italian version, side by side with the English rendering, but was obliged to renounce the arrangement, as it would have proved too voluminous. I have only been able to preserve some few of the vernacular idiosyncrasies in the notes, for the benefit of those who take an interest in the people's characteristic utterances.

               I think I may safely say that the whole of the stories are traditional. There were only two of my contributors who could have read them had they even existed in print. The best-instructed of them was the one who gave me 'Prete Olivo' and 'Perchè litigano i cani ed i gatti;' both of which I am clear, from 'asides' which accompanied them concerning her father's manner of telling, she had heard from his lips, even as she said.

               With the exception of some of the Legends, Local Traditions, and Ciarpe, there are few, either printed in this collection or among those I still hold in MS., the leading episodes of which (if not the entire story) are not to be found in the collections of other countries; but certain categories common in other countries are wanting in the Roman. One could not in making the collection but be struck with the almost complete absence of stories of heroism and chivalry. There are some, indeed, in which courageous deeds occur; but there is none of the high-souled mettle which comes out so strong in Hungarian, Gaelic, and Spanish tradition, in many of the Teutonic and Breton, and some Norse and Russian tales. Several, we shall find, are identical stories, with the grand and fierce element left out. I have never come across a single story of knightly prowess in any shape. I have in MS. one or two dragon stories, but no knights figure even in these. At the same time, tales of horror seem equally to have failed to fascinate the popular imagination, and we can trace again the toning down process in many instances. I have in MS. several versions of the rather ghastly story of the boy who went out to discover Fear, but the Roman mind does not often indulge in such scenes as it presents. Similarly, horrid monsters are rare. 'Orco' himself is not painted so terrible as in other countries. Giants and dwarfs, again, being somewhat monstrous creations, are not frequent. The stories about the Satiri were only told me spontaneously by one narrator; one other owned to having heard of such beings on being questioned, but there is no general popular conception corresponding to the German ideas of wild men. I have never met anyone who believed in the present existence of any supernatural being of this class, [9] and rarely with any who imagined such had ever existed. 'The stories always say, "there was a fairy who did so and so:" but were there ever fairies? Perhaps there were, perhaps there weren't,' soliloquised an old woman one day at the end of a tale; that was the strongest expression of opinion in their favour that came in my way. Another said once, 'If there ever were such beings there would be now; but there certainly are not any now, so I don't believe there ever were any.' [10]

               Again, religious legends, with admixture of pagan superstitions, seem rare. English readers may say that there is superstition in some of the legends in the text; but they only exaggerate the literalness with which they deal with Gospel promises; there is little at variance with it. The false tale of the pilgrim husband, pp. 355-6, is the most devious from Christian doctrine that I have come across in Rome. I cannot fancy a Roman, however illiterate, gravely telling such stories as some of those which Mr. Ralstone gives us from Russia. The story of 'Pret' Olivo' is doubtless derivatively the same as Dr. Dasent's 'Master Smith'; but the Roman version presents vastly less of the pagan element.

               In winding up his general remarks on the migrations of myths, Prof. de Gubernatis gives as his opinion that 'the elementary myth was the spontaneous production of imagination and not of reflection;' ... that 'morals have often been made an appendix to fables, but never entered into the primitive fable;' that 'art and religion have made use of the already existing myths (themselves devoid of moral conscience) as allegories for their own æsthetic and moral ends.' And it appears to me that the Romans, in adapting such elementary myths to legendary use, have christianised them more than some other peoples.

               Pacts with the Devil, in which the Germans revel, are rare; the story of 'Pietro Bailliardo' is one of the very few. It would seem that witchcraft never at any time obtained any great hold upon the people of Rome, nor were witches ever treated with the same severity which befell them in other parts of Europe. It is true that some stories about witch-stepmothers wind up with 'e la brucciorno in mezzo alla Piazza,' [11] but I am inclined to think it is rather a 'tag' received from other countries, than an actual local tradition; and certainly by cross-questioning I failed to awaken in the memory of the 'oldest inhabitants' with whom I have had the opportunity of conversing any tradition of anything of the sort having actually taken place.

               'What do you know about burning witches in mezzo alla Piazza? I thought such things were never done in Rome?' I observed one day to one who ended a story thus. 'Who said the story took place in Rome?' was the ready reply. I received the same reply to the same observation from another, with the addition of 'There was something about a king and a queen in the story and in other stories I have told you, and we never had a king or a queen of Rome--the one may belong to the same country as the other. Who knows what sort of a country such stories come from!' A third answered, 'No; I don't believe witches were ever burnt by law in Rome; I have always heard say that our laws were less fierce than those of some other countries; but I can quite fancy that if the people found a witch doing such things as I have told you, they would burn her all by themselves, law or no law.'

               Of course I have no pretension that my researches have been exhaustive, nor have I been, properly speaking, searching for superstitions, but in a good deal of intercourse with the uneducated, I have certainly come across less of superstitious beliefs in Rome than collectors of Folklore seem to have met in other countries. The saying exists,

Giorno di Venere,                         
Giorno di Marte,                         
Non si sposa,                         
E non si parte. [12]

                But I have seldom heard the lines quoted without the addition of, 'But I don't believe in such things;' and a reference to the column of marriage announcements in the 'Times' will show that the prejudice against marrying in the month of May is, to say the least, quite as strong among our own most highly-educated classes.

               It is not altogether uncommon at the Parochial Mass, to hear along with banns of marriage and other announcements, a warning pronounced against such and such a person whom private counsel has failed to deter from 'dabbling in black arts;' but from the observations which I have had the opportunity of making such persons find their dupes chiefly among the dissolute and non-believing. I know a very consistently religious woman, and also singularly intelligent, who appeared to have a salutary contempt for certain practices in which her husband, a worthless fellow, who had long ago abandoned her and his religion together, indulged. 'He actually believes,' she told me one day, 'that if you go out and stand on a cross road--not merely where two roads happen to cross each other, but where they actually make a perfect cross--and if at the stroke of mezzogiorno in punto, you call the Devil he is bound to come to you.'

               'He always kept a bag of particular herbs,' I heard from her another time, 'hung up over the door, all shred into the finest bits. As he was very angry if I touched them, I one day said, "Why do you want that bundle of herbs kept just there?" and then he told me that it was because no witch could pass under them without first having to count all the minute bits, and that though it was true she might do so by her arts without taking them down and handling them, it was yet so difficult when they were shred into such an infinite number that it was the best preservative possible against evil influences.'

               Another class of infrequent occurrence in the Roman stories is that in which animals are prominent actors, other than those in which they are transformed men. The tátos, the enchanted horse which excites so great enthusiasm in the Hungarian, and whose counterpart does great wonders also in the Gaelic tales, seems to be absolutely unknown, [13] as I think is also the class not uncommon in the Gaelic (e.g. 'Tales of the West Highlands,' i. 275 et seq.), also in the Russian Folklore, p. 338, of birds made to pronounce articulate words analogous in sound to their own cries. [14] Such traditions would naturally find a hold rather among countrypeople than townspeople.

               Fairies and witches are frequent enough, but the limits between the respective domains assigned to them are not so marked as with us. Roman fairies, it will be seen, are by no means necessarily 'fairy-like.' At the same time fairies, such as those described by Mr. Campbell, 'West Highland Tales,' p. ci., are altogether unknown.



[1] An hour before the evening Ave.

[2] Professor de Gubernatis (whose work was not published till my collection had long been in progress) fills a far more important place than that of a mere collector of legends. His vast generalisations, indeed, touch less upon the household tales of Italy than those of any other country, and those which he does introduce are entirely from Tuscany and Piedmont. I had not the advantage of seeing either his book on 'Zoological Mythology,' or Mr. Cox's 'Mythology of the Aryan Nations,' till after my MS. was in the printer's hands, and was not able, therefore, to give references in my notes to the places where their interpretation may be found, though each group to which my stories respectively belong has been treated by them. It is a treatment, however, which requires to be studied as a whole, and could hardly be understood under any piecemeal reference.

[3] There are, of course, the older collections of Straparola and Basile, referred to by Mr. Campbell and Professor De Gubernatis, not to speak of those of Boccaccio and Sacchetti; but these were made for quite different purposes than that of supplying Italy's quota to the study of Comparative Mythology. The comparatively recent 'Collection of Sicilian Tales,' by Laura Gonzenbach, mentioned by Professor De Gubernatis, I did not know of, and have not been able to see. Straparola's collection seems, in Rome at least, to have fallen into the oblivion which Mr. Campbell says is its merited lot. At least, not only was it not mentioned to me at any of the depôts where rare books are a spécialité, but my subsequent inquiry for it by name failed to produce a copy.

[4] I gave a translation of one of them, containing legendary details of the 'Flight into Egypt,' together with some verses of a Spanish version of the same, in a paper on 'Street Music in Rome,' in the 'Monthly Packet' of December, 1868.

[5] Roman vernacular for a child of either sex.

[6] Whatever Biverde may mean. Possibly bel-verde, such, at least, is the title of Pellicciaio's Madonna with the 'beautiful green' dress, at the Servite Church, Siena. The title may also be compared with 'The Maid of the Bright-Green Kirtle,' in Campbell's 'West Highland Tales.'

[7] This, I am inclined to think, is the case with some published stories, as e.g. the singular medley contained in the third of the 'Tales of the West Highlands,' vol. i.

[8] Except perhaps among the Scotch Highlanders. See Campbell's 'Tales,' Preface to vol. i.

[9] See remarks in Preface to Campbell's 'Tales of the West Highlands,' vol. i. p. c. Dr. Dasent's 'Popular Tales from the Norse,' pp. xliv, xlv, &c.

[10] It has been observed to me that these words furnish a remarkable, because unconscious, parallel to the well-known dictum of Minucius Felix, on the mythical exploits of the old heathen gods and heroes, 'Quæ si facta essent fierent; quia fieri non possunt ideò nec facta sunt.'

[11] ('And they burnt her to death in the public square.')

[12] 'Don't marry or set out on a journey on a Friday or Tuesday;' and under the two heads brought under the rime, any other undertaking is equally proscribed: some servants, for instance, dislike going to a new situation on those days.

[13] In the story of 'Filagranata,' infra, pp. 6 et seq., he is divested in a marked manner of the individuality and importance attaching to his part in the corresponding versions of other countries.

[14] The Rev. Alfred White told me, however, an English story of the sort, picked up from a countryman in Berkshire. The Magpie was one day building her nest so neatly, and whispering to herself after her wont as she laid each straw in its place, 'This upon that, this upon that,' when the Woodpigeon came by. Now the Woodpigeon was young and flighty, and had never learnt how to build a nest; but when she saw how beautifully neat that of the Magpie looked, she thought she would like to learn the art. The busy Magpie willingly accepted the office of teaching her, and began a new one on purpose. Long before she was half through, however, the flighty Woodpigeon sang out, 'That'll doooo!' The Magpie was offended at the interruption, and flew away in dudgeon, and that's why the Woodpigeon always builds such ramshackle nests. Told well; the 'This upon that!' and the 'That'll do!' takes just the sound of the cry of each of the birds named.

APPENDIX A. p. xx.

               I have done injustice to the part assigned to the horse in French legendary tales by omitting mention of it in this place. Charles Louandre ('Chefs-d'oeuvre des conteurs Français,' Paris, 1873, note to pp. 43-4) calls special attention to it and gives us the name of many horses famous in the old French minstrelsy. There was 'Valentin,' the horse of Roland; 'Tencedor, of Charlemagne;' 'Barbamouche, swifter than the swallow;' and many others. But there is no name to the charger in the graceful 'Lai de Graélent,' by Marie de France, whose fidelity is the occasion of his Note. I ought not to have forgotten either, the honours paid him in the Spanish Romances, of which the brave 'Black Charger of Hernando' ('Patrañas') may serve as the type.


               My attention has been called, while these sheets have been passing through the press, to a collection which enables me to subjoin some notes of analogies between the Folktales of France and those in the text. It is entitled 'Recueil des Contes des Fées,' Geneva, 1718; published without author's name, and the stories are much less artificially treated than in the better known collections of the Comtesse d'Aulnoy, de Caylus, Perrault, Madame de Villeneuve, &c.

               Monteil ('Traité de Matériaux-Manuscrits,' Paris, 1835) mentions a MS. in his possession, of the year 1618, entitled 'Contes des Fées,' from which Perrault, the least artificial of the French collectors, seems to have drawn his tales. Mayer ('Discours sur l'Origine des Contes des Fées,' Geneva and Paris, 1786) ascribes to him the revival of the knowledge of the existence of popular fairy tales and mediæval romances, and many of our own Nursery Rimes (notably 'Puss in Boots') are simply translated from his versions.

               'Prince Rainbow' ('Le Prince Arc-en-Ciel'), the fifth story in the 'Recueil,' contains similar incidents with those in 'Filagranata,' in combination with the introduction of the opening of a nut in place of one of the oranges in my next story. (I have another Roman story in MS. which hinges on the opening of three nuts in the place of three oranges.) In the French story the ire of the bad fairy is excited against the princess who holds the place of Filagranata, by her receiving the name of 'Fairer-than-Fairies' ('Plus-belle-que-Fée'). The bad fairy Lagrée, who is so old that she has only one tooth and one eye, carries her off to an underground palace, where her task is to tend a fire, instead of feeding pigeons. Here she is courted by a prince transformed into a rainbow, whom she finds of course always seated in the sunshine on a fountain. While talking to him, she lets her fire out. Lagrée sends her to get fresh fire from the giant Locrinos, devourer of maidens; the giant's wife takes compassion on her, and gives her the fire, and with it a stone to use in time of distress. Lagrée, in fury at her success, sends away Prince Rainbow. Fairer-than-Fairies escapes, and goes in search of him, taking with her the stone, a branch of myrtle, and her cat and dog; when she is weary with wandering, the stone provides her a cave to sleep in, the dog keeping guard. Lagrée pursues her; the dog attacks her, and throws her down, so that she breaks her only tooth, and the princess escapes for another stage. Lagrée overtakes her again as she is sleeping in a bower the branch of myrtle has raised for her. The cat makes the defence this time, scratching out her only eye, finally disabling her. After this, Fairer-than-Fairies is entertained in a white and green palace by a white and green lady, who gives her a nut, to be used only in direst need. After another year's wanderings, another white and green lady gives her a pomegranate; at the end of another year, another gives her a crystal vial. Afterwards she comes to a silver palace, suspended by silver chains from four trees. She then breaks the nut; a Swiss appears and admits her, and she finds Prince Rainbow in an enchanted sleep, answering to the kiss of forgetfulness in 'Filagranata.' Fairer-than-Fairies breaks open the pomegranate, all the pips become violins, whose melody makes the prince open his eyes. She breaks open the crystal flask, and a Seiren appears, who sings the tale of all the princess has endured. The prince wakes--the spell is ended. The silver palace turns into a real and inhabited one. They embrace, and are married.

               'Incarnat, Blanc et Noir,' in the same 'Recueil,' is very similar to the 'Three Love-Oranges.' A prince walking out in the snow sees a crow. He tries his skill at bringing him down, and the black bird falls bleeding on the white snow. The sight makes him desire a maiden who combines these three tints. Suddenly a voice tells him to go to the 'Kingdom of Marvels,' and that there he will find a tree with splendid apples (they are not expressly said to be golden). He is to take three, and not to open them till he reaches home. Curiosity overcomes him by the way; he opens one, and a beautiful maiden appears; before he can embrace her she disappears. Afterwards, his homeward travels lead him on the sea; the desire to open one of the apples again overcomes him, but though he orders the vessel to be closely covered down all over, the second maiden disappears like the first. He only opens the third on reaching home, and then there comes to him a maiden exactly such as he desired, whom he marries. Afterwards he goes to the wars; and the mother-in-law, who hated her all along, kills her, and throws her body in the castle moat, and substitutes another woman, a creature of her own. The prince expresses his surprise, but she assures him the different appearance is only the effect of a spell. The prince, however, pines after his own maiden. One day he sees swimming in the castle moat a fish with red, white, and black scales, which he spends all his time in gazing at. The false wife pretends she has an irrepressible desire to eat that particular fish; she is in a delicate state of health, and he cannot refuse her. After that a tree springs up suddenly, which once more presents the three colours. The false wife (inspired by the mother-in-law) demands that it shall be cut down and burnt. He cannot refuse her. Finally, a palace, built of rubies, pearls, and jet, suddenly appears by the side of his own. By unheard-of exertion he gets into it, and there finds in a cabinet his own maiden, whom he recalls to his side.

               Another ('Le Buisson d'Épines fleuries') contains noticeable analogies with both the group of 'The Pot of Marjoram,' and that of 'Maria Wood.' The mother of a fairy princess is led to fill the stepmother's part towards her, by her having so lavishly distributed the ointment of perpetual youth, which had been entrusted to her keeping, that none is left for the queen's own use when she desires to have recourse to it to regain the lost affections of her husband, an earthly king. The governess comes to the aid of the princess, and they fly away together with tents and all requisites of the journey stowed away in pearls for travelling boxes (some analogy, perhaps, with the 'Candeliera'). Their adventures bring them across Prince Zelindor, who marries the princess. The vengeance of the fairy mother pursues them in various shapes, till at last she turns Zelindor into a Sweet Briar. The princess is attracted towards the plant, and tends it with the greatest care, without knowing it is her husband. The enraged fairy queen orders her to pluck a branch, and she is obliged to obey. The plant flows with blood, and Zelindor declares she is the cause of his death; at this juncture the husband of the fairy queen, fetched by the benevolent governess, appears. His return reconciles the queen to her daughter; and with an elixir she heals Zelindor's wounds, and restores him to his bride.

               Perrault's rimed fable of 'Peau d'Âne' is much nearer 'Maria Wood.' The dying queen binds the king to marry no one who does not surpass her in beauty and understanding. Only their daughter comes up to the mark. Her fairy godmother tells her to ask for the brilliant dresses, and finally for the skin of a gold-coin-producing donkey. The king sacrifices even this. The fairy tells her to put on this skin while she stows her sunbeam dresses, jewels, &c., in a press which she promises shall follow underground wherever she carries her wand. She is made hen-wife in a king's farmyard, and puts on her brilliant dresses on holidays in her private room. The prince sees her through the keyhole, and falls ill because his parents object to the union. 'Peau d'Âne' makes him a cake into which she drops one of her rings. The prince is charmed with the idea of the hand it suggests to him; his malady increases, and this softens his parents. He says he will marry no one but her whom the ring fits, and thus of course 'Peau d'Âne' marries him.

               The counterpart, in Perrault, to the group to which 'Il Rè Moro' belongs is a very clever, but somewhat artificially told story, called 'Kadour.' Kadour, an exquisitely beautiful princess of Cashmere, is utterly deficient, not in riches, like the chicory-seller's daughter, but in mind. She comes one day to a hole in the ground, and a monstrous figure comes out of it, and offers her the gift of mind, on condition of marrying him in a year. Without knowing what mind is, she has perceived that all her exceeding beauty has been powerless to attract any of the attention she has seen lavished on others, and she gives a sort of stupid consent. The monster tells her that the gift of mind is to be obtained by simply repeating the words, 'O Love, who canst inspire all things; if it needs but to love to lose my insipidity, behold I am ready!'

'O toi qui peux tout animer,         
Amour, si pour n'être plus bête        
Il ne faut que savoir aimer,               
      Je suis prête.'

                In proportion as she repeats these words she is filled with intelligence; but no sooner is she so gifted than everyone appreciates and surrounds her, and she soon falls in love with Arada, the handsomest of her adorers. When the monster returns at the end of the year, and takes her down to his palace through the hole in the earth, she is in great perplexity what decision to make. She perceives that either way she must lose Arada, and says that she cannot give any answer; the monster says he will decide for her, and send her back to her first estate. Her newly-acquired powers, however, give her such loathing of this condition, that she finally prefers retaining her mind even on the terrible condition already propounded. The monster declares himself King of the Gnomes, master of boundless riches, and every kind of luxury and pleasure is lavished on her, as on the chicory-seller, to reconcile her with her situation; but in this case all in vain. She contrives to let Arada know her unhappy position, that she may have the benefit of his sympathy. The gnome-king punishes her by transforming his handsome person into a duplicate of his own, so that Kadour never knows to which of them she is speaking.

               This story is better known under the title of 'Riquet à la Houpe,' under which name it has been dramatised; in this, however, the senseless but beautiful princess has the compensatory faculty of rendering handsome her mind-giving but hideous lover, and therefore the happy dénouement is easily worked out. It is also the foundation of 'Beauty and the Beast;' and probably springs from the same idea as that embodied in the Ardshi Bordshi story I have given as 'Who invented Woman,' in 'Sagas from the Far East.'

               A sort of counterpart to the story of 'Il Rè Moro' is given under the title of 'Le Prince Sincer,' in Gueulette's 'Fabliaux, ou Soirées Bretonnes,' but this series seems to be but a réchauffé of Oriental tales, and not a collection of local traditions, as the name leads one to expect, notwithstanding that he introduces Druids into them. The story I have named forms a link also in some of its details with that in the text called 'I Satiri.' Another of the same series, called 'Le Prince Engageant,' has some analogy with the 'Tre Merangoli di Amore' (The Three Love-Oranges), in a prince finding his bride by giving her a pomegranate while she is transformed as a dragon.

               In a note to his translation of the ballad of 'Pérédur ou le Bassin Magique,' Th. de la Villemarqué [1] gives a Breton version of the 'Three Golden Apples' story. Pérédur is induced to abandon the state of retirement in which his mother has kept him, after the death of his father and his five brothers, by seeing Owen ride by, 'seeking the knight who divided the apples at the Court of Arthur.' Upon this the annotator remarks that the episode here alluded to has not been discovered; but, by way of compensation, he supplies the following, which was told him by a peasant of the diocese of Quimper, who could not read, and had received it by tradition from his forefathers.

               King Arthur was holding a feast at Lannion, in Brittany; five other kings assisted at it, with their wives and their suite. Just as dinner is over Merlin appears, and hands three golden apples to the king, and says they are to be adjudged to the three most beautiful women. There is a great commotion, and blood is about to flow in the dispute, when an unknown knight advances into the hall, mounted on a black charger with so luxuriant a mane that it envelops both him and his rider. The cause of dispute is referred to him for arbitration. He takes up the three apples, and compares their colour to the hair of the five queens, and their perfume to the ladies' breath; but settles the competition, like 'the Gold-Spitting Prince,' in 'Sagas from the Far East,' by disappearing with the prize.

               He further quotes, from 'Myvyrian,' i. 151, 152, 155, that Merlin was so fond of apples that he devoted a poem to their celebration, and declared he had an orchard with 147 apple-trees of the greatest beauty; their shade was as valued as their fruit, and was confided to the care, not of a dragon, but of a fair maiden, with floating hair and teeth like drops of dew.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Preface
Tale Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel Harriette
Book Title: Roman Legends: A Collection of the Fables and Folk-lore of Rome
Book Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel Harriette
Publisher: Estes and Lauriat
Publication City: Boston
Year of Publication: 1877
Country of Origin: Italy
Classification: Introduction

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