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

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How Cajusse Was Married


THERE was a poor tailor starving for poverty because he could get no work. One day there knocked at his door a good-natured-looking old man; the tailor's son opened the door, and he won the boy's confidence immediately, saying he was his uncle. He also gave him a piastre [2] to buy a good dinner. When the father came home and found him installed, and heard that he called himself his son's uncle, and would, therefore, be his own brother, he was much surprised; but as he found he was so rich and so generous, he thought it better not to dispute his word. The visitor stayed a whole month, providing all expenses so freely all the time that everyone was delighted with him, and when at last he came to take leave, and proposed that the tailor's boy should go with him and learn some business at his expense, the son himself was all eagerness to go, and the father, too, willingly gave his consent.

               As soon as they had gone a good way outside the gates the stranger said to the boy, 'It is all a dodge about my calling myself your uncle. I am not your uncle a bit; only I want a strong daring sort of boy to do something for me which I am too old to do myself. I am a wizard, [3] and if you do what I tell you I will reward you well; but if you attempt to resist or escape you may be sure you will suffer for it.'

               'Tell me what I have to do, before we talk about resisting and escaping,' replied the boy; 'maybe I shan't mind doing it.'

               They were walking on as they talked, and the boy observed that they got over much more ground than by ordinary walking, and they were now in a wild desolate country. The wizard said nothing till they reached a spot where there was a flat stone in the ground. Here he stopped, and as he lifted up the stone, he said, 'This is what you have to do. I will let you down with this rope, and you must go all along through the dark till you come to a place where is a beautiful garden. At the gate of the garden sits a fierce dog, which will fly out at you, and bark fearfully. I will give you some bread and cheese to throw to him, and, while he is devouring the bread and cheese, you must pass on. Then all manner of terrible noises will cry after you, calling you back; but take no heed of them, and, above all, do not look back; if you look back you are lost. As soon as you are out of sound of the voices you will see on a stone an old lantern, take that and bring it back to me.'

               The boy showed no unwillingness to try his fortune, and the magician gave him the bread and cheese he had promised, and let him down by a rope. He gave him also a ring, saying, 'If anything else should happen, after you have got the lantern, to prevent your bringing it away, rub this ring and wish at the same time for deliverance, and you will be delivered.'

               The boy did all the wizard had told him, and something more besides; for when he got into the garden he found the trees all covered with beautiful fruits, which were all so many precious stones; with these he filled his pockets till he could hardly move for the weight of them; then he came back to the opening of the cave, and called to the wizard to pull him up.

               'Send up the lantern first,' said the magician, 'and I'll see about pulling you up afterwards.'

               But the boy was afraid lest he should be left behind; so he refused to send up the lantern unless the wizard hauled him up with it. This the wizard would by no means do.

               'Ah! the youngster will be frightened if I shut him up in the dark cave a bit,' said he, and closed the stone, meaning to call to him by-and-by to see if he had come round to a more submissive mind. The boy, however, finding himself shut up alone in the cave, bethought him of the ring, and rubbed it, wishing the while to be at home. Instantly he found himself there, lantern in hand. His parents were very much astonished at all he told them of his adventures, and, poor as they were, were very glad to have him safe back.

               'I wonder what the magician wanted this ugly old lantern for,' said the boy to himself one day. 'It must be good for something or he would not have been so anxious to have it; let me try rubbing it, and see if that answers as well as rubbing the ring.' He no sooner did so than One [4] appeared, and asked his pleasure. 'A table well laid for dinner!' said the boy; and immediately a table appeared covered with all sorts of good things, with real silver spoons and forks. [5] Then he called on his mother and father, and they made a good meal; after that they lived for a month on the price of the silver which the mother took out and pawned. [6] One day she found the town all illuminated. What is going on?' she asked of the neighbours. 'The daughter of the Sultan is going to marry the son of the Grand Vizier, and there is a distribution of alms to the people on the occasion; that is why they rejoice.' Such was the answer.

               When she came home she told her son what she had heard. He said, 'That will not be, because the daughter of the Sultan will have to marry me!' but she only laughed at him. The next day he brought her three neat little baskets filled with the precious stones which he had gathered in the under-ground garden, and he said, 'These you must take to the Sultan, and say I want to marry his daughter.' But she was afraid and would not go; and when at last he made her go, she stood in a corner apart behind all the people, for there was a public audience, and came back and said she could not get at the Sultan; but he made her go again the next two days following, and she always did the same. The last day, however, the Sultan sent for her, saying, 'Who is that old woman standing in the corner quite apart? bring her to me.' So they brought her to him all trembling.

               'Don't be afraid, old woman,' said the Sultan. 'What have you to say?'

               'My son, who must have lost his senses, sent me to say he wanted to marry the daughter of the Sultan,' said the old woman, crying for very fear; 'and he sends these baskets as a present.'

               When the Sultan took the baskets and saw of what great value were the contents, he said, 'Don't be afraid, old woman; go back and tell your son I will give him an answer in a month.'

               She went back and told her son; but at the end of a week the princess was married, nevertheless, to the son of the Grand Vizier.

               'There!' said the mother, when she heard it; 'I thought the Grand Sultan was only making game of you. Was it likely that the daughter of the Sultan should marry a beggar, [7] like you?'

               'Don't be in too great a hurry, mother,' replied the lad; 'leave it to me, leave it to me.' [8]

               With that he went and took out the old lantern, and rubbed it till One appeared asking his pleasure.

               'Go to-night, at three hours of night,' [9] was his reply, 'and take the daughter of the Sultan and lay her in a poor wallet in the out-house here.'

               At three hours of night he went into the out-house and found the princess on the poor wallet as he had commanded. Then he laid his sabre on the bed between them, and sat down and talked to her; but she was too frightened to answer him. This he did three nights running. The princess, however, went crying to her mother, and told her all that had happened. The Sultana could not imagine how it was. 'But,' she said, 'something wrong there must be;' and she went and told the Sultan, and he, too, said it was all wrong, and that the marriage must be annulled. Also the son of the Grand Vizier went to his father and complained, saying, 'Every night my wife disappears just at bed-time, and, though the door is locked, I see nothing of her till the next morning.'

               His father too said, 'There must be something wrong,' and when the Sultan said the marriage must be annulled, the Grand Vizier was quite willing. So the marriage was annulled.

               At the end of the month, the lad made his mother go back to the Sultan for his answer, and he gave her three other baskets of precious stones to take with her. The Sultan, when he saw the man had so many precious stones to give away, thought he must be in truth a prince in disguise, and he answered, 'He may come and see us.' He also said, 'What is his name that I may know him?'

               And his mother said, 'His name is Cajusse.'

               So she went home and told her son what the sultan had said. Then he rubbed the lantern and asked for a suit to wear, all dazzling with gold and silver, and a richly caparisoned horse, and six pages in velvet dresses, four to ride behind, and one to go before with a purse scattering alms to the people, and one to cry, 'Make place for the Signor Cajusse!' Thus he came to the sultan, and the sultan received him well, and gave him his daughter to be his wife; but Cajusse had brought the lantern with him, and he rubbed it, and ordered that there should stand by the side of the sultan's palace a palace a great deal handsomer, furnished with every luxury, and that all the windows should be encrusted round with precious stones, all but one. This was all done as he had said, and he took the princess home with him to live there. Then he showed her all over the beautiful palace, and showed her the windows all encrusted with gems, 'and in this vacant one,' said he, 'we will put those in the six baskets I sent you before the sultan consented to our marriage; 'and they did so; but they did not suffice.

               But the magician meantime had learnt by his incantations what had happened, and in order to get possession of the lantern he watched till Cajusse was gone out hunting; then he came by dressed as a pedlar of metal work, [10] and offered to exchange old lanterns for new ones. The princess thought to make a capital bargain by exchanging Cajusse's shabby old lantern for a brand new one, and thus fell into his snare. The magician no sooner had possession of it than he rubbed it, and ordered that the palace and all that was in it should be transported on to the high seas.

               The sultan happened to look out of window just as the palace of Cajusse had disappeared. 'What is this?' he cried. And when he found the palace was really gone, he uttered so many furious threats that the people, who loved Cajusse well, ran out to meet him as he came home from hunting, and told him of all that had happened, and warned him of the sultan's wrath. Instead of going back to be put in prison by the sultan therefore, he rubbed his ring and desired to be taken to the place wherever the princess was. Instantly he found himself on a floating rock in mid ocean, at the foot of the palace. Then he went to the gate and sounded the horn. [11] The princess knew her husband's note of sounding and ran to the window. Great was her delight when she saw that it was really he, and she told him that there was a horrid old man who had possession of the palace, and persecuted her every day to marry him, saying her husband was dead. And she, to keep him at a distance, yet without offending him lest he should kill her, had said: 'No, I have always resolved never to marry an old man, because then if he dies I should be left alone, and that would be too sad.' 'But when I say that,' she continued, 'he always says, "You need not be afraid of that, for I shall never die!" so I don't know what to say next.'

               Then the prince said, 'Make a great feast to-night, and say you will marry him if he tells you one thing: say it is impossible that he should never die, for all people die some day or other; it is impossible but that there should be some one thing or other that is fatal to him; ask him what that one fatal thing is, and he, thinking you want to know it that you may guard him against it, will tell; then come and tell me what he says.'

               The princess did all her husband had told her, and then came back and repeated what the magician had said: 'One must go into the wood,' she repeated, 'where is the beast called hydra, and cut off all his seven heads. In the head which is in the middle of the other six, if it is split open, will be found a leveret; if this leveret is caught and his head split open there is a bird; if this bird is caught and his head split open, there is in it a precious stone. If that stone is put under my pillow I must die.'

               The prince did not wait for anything more: he rubbed the ring, and desired to be carried to the wood where the hydra lived. Instantly he found himself face to face with the hydra, who came forward spueing fire. But Cajusse had also asked for a coat of mail and a mighty sword, and with one blow he cut off the seven heads. Then he called to his servant to take notice which was the head which was in the middle of the other six, and the servant pointed it out. Then he said, 'Watch when I split it open, for a leveret will jump out. Beware lest it escapes.' The servant stood to catch it, but it was so swift it ran past the servant. The prince, however, was swifter than it, and overtook it and killed it. Then he said, 'Beware when I split open the head of the leveret. A little bird will fly out; mind that it escapes not, for we are undone if it escapes.' So the servant stood ready to catch the bird, but the bird was so swift it flew past the servant. The prince, however, was swifter than the bird, and he overtook it and killed it, and split open its head and took out the precious stone. Then he rubbed the ring and bid it take him back to the princess. The princess was waiting for him at the window.

               'Here is the stone,' said the prince; and he gave it to her, and with it a bottle of opium. 'To-night,' he said, 'you must say you are ready to marry the wizard; make a great feast again, and have ready some of this opium in his wine. He will sleep heavily, and not see what you are doing; then you can put the stone under his pillow and when he is dead call me.'

               All this the princess did. She told the wizard that she was now ready to do as he wished. The magician was so delighted that he ordered a great banquet.

               'Here,' said the princess at the banquet, 'is a little of my father's choicest wine, which I had with me in the palace when it was brought hither,' and she poured out to him to drink of the wine mixed with opium.

               After this, when the wizard went to bed, he was heavy and took no notice what she did, and thus she put the stone under his pillow. No sooner did he, therefore, lay his head on the pillow than he gave three terrible yells, turned himself round and round three times, and was dead.

               There was no need to call the prince, for he had heard the death yells, and immediately came up. They found the lantern, after they had hunted everywhere in vain, tied on to the magician's body under all his clothes, for he had hid it there that he might never part with it. By its power Cajusse ordered the palace to be removed back to its place, and there they lived happily for ever afterwards.


The introduction into this story of the dog to be appeased with a sop, and the hydra to be slain, no trace of either occurring in 'Aladdin's Lamp,' is noticeable; the incident of the unjewelled window loses its point, probably through want of memory. The transporting the palace into the middle of the sea is a novel introduction; but the most remarkable change is in the mode of compassing the death of the magician. This episode as here described enters into a vast number of tales. It occurs in a Hungarian one I have in MS.:--A king directs in dying that his three sons shall go out to learn experience by adventure before they succeed to the throne. The first two nights of the journey the two elder brothers keep watch in turn, while the others sleep, and each kills a dragon. The third night, István (Stephen), the youngest, keeps watch, and is enticed away by the cries for help of a frog, which he delivers, but when he comes back the watch-fire is out. He has now to wander in search of fresh fire; he sees a spark in the distance and makes for it; by the way he meets 'Dame Midnight,' who tells him the fire is a week's journey off, so he binds her to a tree, and the same with 'The Lady Dawn,' so that it might not be day before his return. In a week he reaches the fire, but three giants guard it, who are laying siege to a vár (fortress) to obtain possession of three beautiful maidens, whom they destined to be the brides of the King of the Dwarfs and of the very two dragons his brothers had killed. But before they give him of their fire they say he must help them in the siege. He, however, kills them by stratagem, and makes his way into the princesses' sleeping apartment, takes three pledges of his having been there, and returns to his brothers. They continue their wanderings till they come to an inn where the three princesses and the king their father have established themselves in disguise, and make all who pass that way tell the tale of their adventures as a means of discovering who it was delivered them from the giants. The princes make themselves known, and the king bestows his daughters on them. As they drive home with their brides, they pass the Dwarf-King in a ditch by the roadside, who implores them to deliver him. The two elder brothers take no notice. István stops and helps him out. The dwarf with his supernatural strength thrusts István back into the ditch, and drives off with his bride. István sets out to search after and recover her; he meets the frog he delivered, who gives him supernatural aid, and leads him through heroic adventures in which he does service to other persons and animals, who in turn assist him by directing him to the palace of the Dwarf-King. Here exactly the same scene occurs between István and his bride as between Cajusse and the sultan's daughter, and they lay the same plan. But the Dwarf-King is more astute than the magician, and he at first tells her that his life's safety lies in his sceptre, on which she makes him give her the sceptre, 'that she may take care of it,' in reality intending to give it up to István. When he sees her so anxious for his safety, he tells her it is not in the sceptre, but he does not yet tell the truth; he next says it is in the royal mantle, and then in the crown (incidents proper to the version of Hungary, which sets so great store by the royal crown and mantle). Ultimately he confides that it resides in a golden cockchafer, inside a golden cock, inside a golden sheep, inside a golden stag, in the ninety-ninth sziget (island). She communicates all this to István. He overcomes the above-named series of golden animals by the aid of the animals he lately assisted, and thus recovers his bride.

               All these incidents (somewhat differently worked in), occur in the Norse tale of 'The Giant who had no Heart in His Body,' and in the Russian 'Koschei the Deathless,' and in many others.

               I have other of the 'Arabian Night' stories, told with the local colouring of characters and incidents proper to the neighbourhood of Rome; particularly various versions of 'The Forty Thieves,' leading to a number of Brigand stories, for which I have not space left in this volume.


[1] 'Il Matrimonio di Cajusse,' I should imagine Caius was the right reading. Italians, though they are so fond of clipping off the final vowel of their own words, whenever they get hold of a foreign word ending in a consonant must needs always add a syllable on to it. The narrator in this instance could not spell, and I write the word as she pronounced it. Meeting with so close a counterpart of 'Aladdin's Lamp,' I cross-questioned the narrator very closely as to whether she had not read it, but she assured me most solemnly that her mother had told it her when she was not more than five years old; that it was impossible she could have read it, as she could only read very imperfectly, only a few easy sentences; she had never in her life read anything long. I further elicited that it was possible her mother might have read it; but I am inclined to think she said this rather to improve my idea of her family, than because she thought it was really the case.

[2] 'Piastra.' In Melchiorri's 'Guida Metodica di Roma,' ed. 1856, in the list of moneys current the half-scudo is put down as 'commonly called mezza piastra.' I do not remember to have heard it so used myself, though I have heard old people talk of piastres, the value of which would thus be the same as a scudo, or about five francs: an old inhabitant told me it was 7 1/2 bajocchi, more than a scudo.

[3] 'Mago.' I asked the narrator what her idea of a 'mago' was, and she said, 'Something like a stregone (masculine of strega, witch), only not quite so bad.'

[4] Genii having no place in modern Italian mythology, the 'Genius of the Lamp' loses his identity here.

[5] 'Posate,' spoons and forks. I spare the reader the enumeration of the Roman dishes which were detailed to me as figuring on the table, as I have had to quote many of them in other stories.

[6] 'I always used to wonder,' observed the narrator very pertinently, 'as my mother told me this, why they didn't rub the lamp again and ask for what they wanted, instead of going about pawning the posate. I suppose they had forgotten about it.'

[7] 'Pezzente,' a sorry fellow; literally beggar.

[8] 'Che ci penso io' is a saying ever in the mouth of a Roman. Whatever you may be giving directions about, they always stop you with 'Lasci far a me, che ci penso io' ('Leave it to me; I'll manage it.')

[9] 'Tre ore di notte' means three hours after the evening Ave. If it was summer-time this would be about 11 P.M. A subject of the 'Gran Sultan' being supposed to measure time by the Ave Maria is not one of the least bizarre of traditionary accretions.

[10] 'Chincaglieria,' all kinds of small articles of metal-work.

[11] 'Fravodo.' As I had never heard the word before, I was very particular in making the narrator repeat it, to take it down. She described it as a horn or trumpet, but I cannot meet with the word in any dictionary.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: How Cajusse Was Married
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 561: Aladdin

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