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

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Enchanted Rose Tree, The


THEY say there was once a merchant who, when he was going out to buy rare merchandise, asked his daughter what rich present he should bring home to her. She, however, would hear of nothing but only a simple rose-tree.

               'That,' said her father, 'is too easy. However, as you are bent on having a rose-tree, you shall have the most beautiful rose-tree I can find in all my travels.'

               In all his travels, however, he met with no rose-tree that he deemed choice enough. But one day, when he was walking outside the walls of his own city, he came to a garden which he had never observed before, filled with all manner of beautiful flowers.

               'This is a wonderful garden indeed,' said the merchant to himself; 'I never saw it before, and yet these luxuriant plants seem to have many years' growth in them. There must be something wonderful about them, so this is just the place to look for my daughter's rose-tree.' In he went therefore to look for the rose-tree.

               In the midst of the garden was a casino, the door of which stood open; when he went in he found a banquet spread with the choicest dishes; and though he saw no one, a kind voice invited him to sit down and enjoy himself. So he sat down to the banquet, and very much he did enjoy himself, for there was everything he could desire. [2]

               When he had well eaten and drunk, he bethought him to go out again into the garden and seek a choice rose-tree.

               'As the banquet was free,' he thought to himself, 'I suppose the flowers are free too.'

               So he selected what seemed to him the choicest rose of all; while it had petals of the richest red in the world, within it was all shining gold, and the leaves too were overlaid with shining gold. This rose-tree, therefore, he proceeded to root up.

               A peal of thunder attended the attempt, and with a noise of rushing winds and waters a hideous monster [3] suddenly appeared before him.

               'How dare you root up my rose-trees?' said the monster; 'was it not enough that I gave you my best hospitality freely? Must you also rob me of my flowers, which are as my life to me? Now you must die!'

               The merchant excused himself as best he could, saying it was the very freedom of the hospitality which had emboldened him to take the rose, and that he had only ventured to take it because he had promised the prettiest rose-tree he could find to his daughter.

               'Your daughter, say you?' replied the monster. 'If there is a daughter in the case perhaps I may forgive you; but only on condition that you bring her hither to me within three days' time.'

               The father went home sad at heart, but within three days he kept his promise of taking his daughter to the garden. The monster received them very kindly, and gave them the casino to live in, where they were well fed and lodged. At the end of eight days, however, a voice came to the father and told him he must depart; and when he hesitated to leave his daughter alone he was taken by invisible agency and turned out of the garden.

               The monster now often came and talked to the daughter, and he was so gentle and so kind that she began quite to like him. One day she asked him to let her go home and see her friends, and he, who refused her nothing, let her go; but begged her to promise solemnly she would come back at the end of eight days, 'for if you are away longer than that,' he added, 'I know I shall die of despair.' Then he gave her a mirror into which she could look and see how he was.

               Thus she went home, and the time passed quickly away, and eight days were gone and she had not thought of returning. Then by accident the mirror came under her hand, and, looking into it, she saw the monster stretched on the ground as if at the point of death. The sight filled her with compunction, and she hurried back with her best speed.

               Arrived at the garden, she found the monster just as she had seen him in the mirror. At sight of her he revived, and soon became so much better that she was much touched when she saw how deeply he cared for her.

               'And were you really so bad only because I went away?' she asked.

               'No, not only because you went away, for it was right you should go and see your parents; but because I began to fear you would never come back, and if you had never come back I should quite have died.'

               'And now you are all right again?'

               'Yes, now you are here I am quite happy; that is, I should be quite happy if you would promise always to remain and never go away any more.'

               Then when she saw how earnest and sincere he was in wishing her to stay, she gave her consent never to leave him more.

               No sooner had she spoken the promise than in the twinkling of an eye all was changed. The monster became a handsome prince, the casino a palace, the garden a flourishing country, and each several rose-tree a city. For the prince had been enchanted by an enemy, and had to remain transformed as a monster till he should be redeemed by the love of a maiden.



[1] 'La Rosa fatata.'

[2] According to the narrator, there was a dish of 'pasta' heaped up like a mountain; and 'souplis di riso con rigaglie' and 'capone con contorni,' and several kinds of wine. I give this description verbally, as it was given to me, as characteristic of the local colouring such legends receive. The dishes named are the favourites of the Roman middle class. 'Pasta' is the Roman equivalent for the 'maccaroni' of the Neapolitan. 'Rigaglie' is the liver, &c., of poultry minced, to put into the fried balls of rice. 'Contorni' means something more than 'garnish,' being something put round the dish, not merely for ornament, but more or less substantial, to be eaten with it, as sausages round a turkey.

[3] The word used in this place was 'mostro,' not 'orco,' marking a distinct idea in the tradition, where it is the Principle of Evil himself who is intended, and where, an unfortunate mortal subjected by malice to his influence.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Enchanted Rose Tree, The
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: ATU 425C: Beauty and the Beast

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