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

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Satyrs, The


THEY say there was a queen whose husband was dead, and she had one only son. Imagine how devoted she was to him, her only child, soon to be the king of vast dominions.

               One day a lady, unknown to her, came and asked if she might put a horse of hers in her stable.

               'No,' said the queen; 'I cannot have the horses of anyone else mixed up there.'

               The lady turned to go; but as she went, she met the prince coming in from hunting, surrounded by all his suite. The lady was a fairy, and in her indignation at the queen's refusal of her demand, she turned the prince and all those following him into salvatichi. [1]

               Imagine the horror and the cries of the queen when she saw what had happened. What was to be done? Much as she adored her son, it was impossible to keep him in the palace now.

               'You must put him in the stables,' said the cruel fairy, who had waited to enjoy her revenge, and now preserved her coolness amid the confusion and excitement of those around. 'You must put him in the stables, and all the others too now. Your stables will be full enough, indeed!'

               But the queen's grief was too deep to waste itself in a strife of words with her.

               'There is only one mode of redemption for him. If he can find a maiden to consent to marry him as he is, without knowing he is a prince, I will come and remove the spell.'

               The queen had seen the proof of her relentless spirit, and knew it would be vain if she should humble herself to entreat her to alter her sentence. So she said nothing, and the fairy went away.

               To find a maiden who should consent to marry such a monster as her son now was, and who should yet be meet to be his wife when restored to his due estate, was a hopeless task indeed; but what will not a mother's love attempt? With endless fatigue and continued mortifications she made the fruitless effort in every quarter. When this had utterly failed, she condescended to maidens of lower estate, and tried daughters of merchants and tradesmen, and even peasants, to whom the elevation of rank might in some measure compensate the ill-conditioned union. But it was all in vain, there were only fresh repulses and deeper mortifications.

               It happened that adjoining the paddock in which the stables lay, were the grounds of a duke. One day the duke's daughter was walking in her garden, and the prince immediately turned his head and saw her, and began beckoning to her, for he had the head and arms and body of a man from the waist upwards still, and the rest of him was like the hindquarters of a goat, only he stood upright, like a man. The duke's daughter was perplexed, however, at the sight of such a monster, and ran away.

               Nevertheless the next day she came back, and the prince beckoned to her again, and all his suite, who were satyrs like himself, beckoned to her too, till at last she came near.

               'Do you wish me well?' [2] he asked.

               'No!' exclaimed the duke's daughter with disgust, because she could not say that she loved him: and she ran away. Every day it was the same thing; and when she told her mother what had happened, she bid her keep away, and beware of going near such a monster.

               For a whole month, therefore, she kept away; but curiosity overcame her at last, and she went down into the garden as before. All the satyrs began beckoning as usual, and she went up to them.

               'If you will say you wish me well, you will give me endless happiness,' said the prince; 'and if not, I will dash my head against this wall, and put an end to my life.'

               He was so much in earnest, and the tears were in his eyes, and his sighs and entreaties were so moving, that she almost forgot his monstrous form. The prince observed that her face betrayed signs of interest, and he redoubled his sighs, and all the other satyrs made signs and gesticulations to her that she should consent.

               'Say you wish me well! Let me just have the happiness of once hearing you say so!' continued the prince.

               'Poor fellow, he seems so sad, and so anxious I should just say it once. There can't be much harm in saying just once that I wish him well,' said the maiden to herself.

               'Say, say just once, that you wish me well!' persisted the prince; and the maiden in her compassion said:

               'Yes! I wish you well.'

               Immediately the fairy appeared and took the spell from off the prince, and from off all his suite.

               When the duke's daughter found to what a fine handsome prince she was promised, she saw her compassion was well rewarded.



[1] Bazzarini gives 'salvatico' as synonymous with 'satiro.'

[2] 'Mi volete bene,' literally, only 'do you wish me well?' but the accepted form of saying, 'do you love me?' when therefore the girl says the words at last she is supposed to make a sort of compromise by means of which she saves the prince and her own good taste at the same time.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Satyrs, 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: unclassified

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