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

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Candeliera, La


THEY say there was once a king who wanted to make his beautiful young daughter marry an old, ugly king. Every time the king talked to his daughter about this marriage, she cried and begged him to spare her; but he only went on urging her the more, till at last she feared he would command her to consent, so that she might not disobey; therefore at last she said: 'Before I marry this ugly old king to please you, you must do something to please me.'

               'Oh, anything you like I will do,' replied he.

               'Then you must order for me,' she replied, 'a splendid candelabrum, ten feet high, having a thick stem bigger than a man, and covered all over with all kinds of ornaments and devices in gold.'

               'That shall be done,' said the king; and he sent for the chief goldsmith of the court, and told him to make such a candelabrum; and, as he was very desirous that the marriage should be celebrated without delay, he urged him to make the candelabrum with all despatch.

               In a very short space of time the goldsmith brought home the candelabrum, made according to the princess's description, and the king ordered it to be taken into his daughter's apartment. The princess expressed herself quite pleased with it, and the king was satisfied that the marriage would now shortly take place.

               Late in the evening, however, the princess called her chamberlain to her, and said to him: 'This great awkward candlestick is not the sort of thing I wanted; it does not please me at all. To-morrow morning you may take it and sell it, for I cannot bear the sight of it. You may keep the price it sells for, whatever it is; but you had better take it away early, before my father gets up.'

               The chamberlain was very pleased to get so great a perquisite, and got up very early to carry it away. The princess, however, had got up earlier, and had placed herself inside the candlestick; so that she was carried out of the palace by the chamberlain, and thus she escaped the marriage she dreaded so much with the ugly old king.

               The chamberlain, judging that the king would be very angry if he heard of his selling the splendid candelabrum he had just had made, did not venture to expose it for sale within the borders of his dominions, but carried it to the capital of the neighbouring sovereign. Here he set it up in the market-place, and cried, 'Who'll buy my candelabrum? Who'll buy my fine candelabrum?' When all the people saw what a costly candelabrum it was, no one would offer for it. At last it got bruited about till it reached the ears of the son of the king of that country, that there was a man standing in the market-place, offering to sell the most splendid candelabrum that ever was seen; so he went out to look at it himself.

               No sooner had the prince seen it than he determined that he must have it; so he bought it for the price of three hundred scudi, and sent his servants to take it up into his apartment. After that, he went about his affairs as usual. In the evening, however, he said to his body-servant, 'As I am going to the play to-night, and shall be home late, take my supper up into my own room.' And the servant did as he told him.

               When the prince came home from the play, he was very much surprised to find his supper eaten and all the dishes and glasses disarranged.

               'What is the meaning of this?' he exclaimed, calling his servant to him in a great fury. 'Is this the way you prepare supper for me?'

               'I don't know what to say, your Royal Highness,' stammered the man; 'I saw the supper properly laid myself. How it got into this condition is more than I can say. With the leave of your Highness, I will order the table to be relaid.'

               But the prince was too angry to allow anything of the sort, and he went supperless to bed.

               The next night the same thing happened, and the prince in his displeasure threatened to discharge his servant. The night after, however, his curiosity being greatly excited as he thought over the circumstance, he called his servant, and said: 'Lay the supper before I go out, and I will lock the room and take the key in my pocket, and we will see if anyone gets in then.'

               But, though this is what he said outloud, he determined to stay hidden within the room; and this is what he did. He had not remained there hidden very long when, lo and behold, the candelabrum, on which he had never bestowed a thought since the moment he bought it, opened, and there walked out the most beautiful princess he had ever seen, who sat down at the table, and began to sup with hearty appetite.

               'Welcome, welcome, fair princess!' exclaimed the astonished prince. 'You have heard me from within your hiding-place speaking with indignation because my meal had been disturbed. How little did I imagine such an honour had been done me as that it should have served you!' And he sat down beside her, and they finished the meal together. When it was over, the princess went away into her candelabrum again; and the next night the prince said to his servant: 'In case anyone eats my supper while I am out, you had better bring up a double portion.' The next day he had not his supper only, but all his meals, brought into his apartment; nor did he ever leave it at all now, so happy was he in the society of the princess.

               Then the king and queen began to question about him, saying: 'What has bereft our son of his senses, seeing that now he no more follows the due occupations of his years, but sits all day apart in his room?'

               Then they called him to them and said: 'It is not well that you should sit thus all day long in your private apartments alone. It is time that you should bethink yourself of taking a wife.'

               But the prince answered, 'No other wife will I have but the candelabrum.'

               When his parents heard him say this they said: 'Now there is no doubt that he is mad;' and they spoke no more about his marrying.

               But one day, the queen-mother coming into his apartment suddenly, found the door of the candelabrum open, and the princess sitting talking with the prince. Then she, too, was struck with her beauty, and said: 'If this is what you were thinking of when you said you would marry the candelabrum, it was well judged.' And she took the princess by the hand and led her to the presence of the king. The king, too, praised her beauty, and she was given to the prince to be his wife.

               And the king her father, when he heard of the alliance, he too was right glad, and said he esteemed it far above that of the ugly old king he wanted her to have married at the first.


The mode of telling adopted by Roman narrators makes a way out of the difficulty which this group of stories presents at first sight in the king seeming to be fated by supernatural appointment to marry his daughter. One says, 'the queen did not say he was to marry her the ring fitted, but he was not to marry any it did not fit.' The other says, the slipper was a supernatural slipper, and would not fit anyone whom he could marry. Whether this was a part of the traditional story or the gloss of the repeater, I do not pretend to decide. In the 'Candeliera,' though similar in the main, this difficulty does not arise.

               My Roman narrators seem to have been fonder of stories of maidens than of youths. I have only one of the latter, and by no means an uncommon one, to set off against all the Stepmother stories of the former. It, however, is the male counterpart of a prolific family in which the girls figure under similar circumstances. Grimm gives several, particularly 'Frau Holle,' p. 104. Dr. Dasent gives 'The two Stepsisters.' In the Tales of Italian Tirol are two, 'Cölla döllö doi sores' and 'Le due sorelle.' And among the Russian Tales, 'Frost,' p. 214. It has also been connected with the large group in which a rich brother (sometimes the elder, sometimes the younger) leaves his poor brother to starve, and ultimately gets terribly punished for enviously grasping at the poor one's subsequent good fortune: but the structure of these is very different.


[1] Among the licenses which Italians take with the terminations of their words, not the least is altering the gender. 'Candeliere' (masc.), otherwise 'candelliere,' is the proper form; and I do not think 'candeliera' will be found in any dictionary; but as the story requires the female gender, the word is readily coined.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Candeliera, La
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: unclassified

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