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Foolish Woman, The (La Donna Mattarella) (Two Versions)


THERE was once a couple well-to-do in the world, who had one only daughter.

               The son of a neighbour came to ask her in marriage, and as the father thought he would do, the father asked him to dinner, and sent the daughter down into the cellar to draw the wine.

               'If I am married,' said the girl to herself, and began to cry as she drew the wine, 'I shall have a child, and the child will be a boy, and the boy will be called Petrillo, and by-and-by he will die, and I shall be left to lament him, and to cry all day long "Petrillo! Petrillo! where are you!"' and she went on crying, and the wine went on running over.

               Then the mother went down to see what kept her so long, and she repeated the story all over to her, and the mother answered, 'Right you are, my girl!' and she, too, began to cry, and the wine was all the time running over.

               Then the father went down, and they repeated the story to him, and he, too, said, 'Right you are!' and he, too, began to cry, and the wine all the time went on running all over the floor.

               Then the young man also goes down to see what is the matter, and stops the wine running, and makes them all come up.

               'But,' he says, 'I'll not marry the girl till I have wandered over the world and found other three as simple as you.' He dines with them, and sets out on his search.

               The first night he goes to bed in an inn, and in the morning he hears in the room next him such lamenting and complaining that he goes in to see what is the matter. A man is sitting by the side of the bed lamenting because he cannot get his stockings on.

               The young man says, 'Take hold of one side this way, and the other side that way, and pull them up.'

               'Ah, to be sure!' cries the man, and gives him a hundred scudi for the benefit he has done him.

               'There's one of my three simpletons, at all events,' says the young man, and journeys on.

               The next day, at the inn where he spends the night, he hears a noise bru, bru! goes in to see, and finds a man fruitlessly trying to put walnuts into a sack by sticking a fork into them.

               'You'll never do it that way,' says the young man; and he shows him how to scoop them up with both his hands and so pour them in.

               'Ah, to be sure!' answers the man, and gives him a hundred scudi for the favour he has done him.

               'There is my second simpleton,' says the young man, and goes further.

               The third day----Ah! I can't remember what he meets the third day; but it is something equally stupid, and he gets another hundred scudi, and goes back and marries the girl as he had promised.

               When they had been married some time, he goes out for two or three days to shoot.

               'I'll come with you,' says the wife.

               'Well, it's not quite the thing,' answered he; 'but perhaps it's better than leaving you at home; but mind you pull the door after you.'

               'Oh yes, of course,' answers the simple wife, and pulls it so effectually that she lifts it off its hinges and carries it along with her.

               When they had gone some way he looks back and sees her carrying the door.

               'What on earth are you bringing the door along for!' he cries.

               'You told me to pull it after me,' answers she.

               'Of course, I only meant you to pull it to, to make the house secure,' he says.

               'If merely pulling it to, made the house secure, how much securer it must be when I pull it all this way!' answers she.

               He finds it useless to reason with her, and they go on. At night they climb up into a tree to sleep, the woman still carrying the door with her. A band of robbers come and count their gains under the tree; the woman from sheer weariness, and though she believes it will rouse the robbers to come and kill them, drops the door upon them. They take it for an earthquake and run away. The man and his wife then gather up the money, and are rich for the rest of their lives.


A version from Sinigaglia was very like the last. It only took up the story, however, after the husband and wife are married. The first silly thing the wife does is the feat of the 'brocoli strascinati,' as in 'La Sposa Cece,' No. 2. Some variety is always thrown in in the way of telling. This wife was represented as having a very sweet voice, and saying, 'Si, si, marito mio!' in the gentlest and tenderest way in the world, to everything her husband tells her, though she mismanages everything so. After the brocoli affair he tells her to cook some beans for dinner. 'Si, si, marito mio,' she says in her sweet tone, but takes four beans only and boils them in a pot of water. When he comes in and asks if the beans are done, she says, 'Si, si, marito mio!' She says she has cooked two beans apiece, but one has boiled away, so she will only take one for her share.

               He finds it impossible to live with her, and goes away, but she in her simplicity says if he goes away she will go with him! When he finds he can't prevent this he tells her to pull the door after her, and the story has the same ending as the last.

               After tales of simple wives come similar tales of simple boys. Compare 'Russian Folktales,' pp. 10 and 49. An analogous incident to the selling of the linen to a statue in the following is told of a grown-up peasant in Grimm's 'Der gute Handel,' p. 30, which story is not unlike one called 'How the poorest became the richest' I have given from the German-Tirolese province of Vorarlberg at the end of 'Household Stories from the Land of Höfer,' a close counterpart of which I have met in a Roman periodical, told as collected at Modena. The Italian-Tirolese counterpart bears the name of 'Turlulù,' and resembles the Roman very closely. There is a place in German Tirol where they not only tell the story, but point out the Bildstocklein (the wayside image), to which the simple boy sold his linen; I cannot recall the place now, though I remember having occasion to mention it in 'Traditions of Tirol' in the 'Monthly Packet.' In the German there is also 'Der gescheidte Hans,' which is somewhat different in structure; but Scheible, 'Schaltjahr,' i. 493, gives a story which contains both ways of telling.


[1] 'La Donna Mattarella.' 'Matto' is simply 'mad,' with the diminutive 'ella' it comes to mean 'slightly mad,' 'simple.'

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Foolish Woman, The (La Donna Mattarella) (Two Versions)
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 1384: The Husband Hunts Three Persons as Stupid as His Wife

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