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

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Gluttonous Girl, The (La Ragazza Golosa)


THERE was a poor woman who went out to work by the day. She had one idle, good-for-nothing daughter, who would never do any work, and cared for nothing but eating, always taking the best of everything for herself, and not caring how her mother fared.

               One day the mother, when she went out to her work, left the girl some beans to cook for dinner, and some pieces of bacon-rind [2] to stew along with them. When the pieces of bacon-rind were nicely done, she took them out and ate them herself, and then found a pair of dirty old shoe-soles, which she pared in slices, and put them into the stew for her mother.

               When the poor mother came home, not only were there no pieces of bacon which she could eat, but the beans themselves were rendered so nasty by the shoe-soles that she could not eat them either. Determined to give her daughter a good lesson, once for all, on this occasion, she took her outside her cottage door, and beat her well with a stick.

               Just as she was administering this chastisement, a farmer [3] came by.

               'What are you beating this pretty lass for?' asked the man.

               'Because she will work so hard at her household duties that she works on Sundays and holidays the same as common days,' answered the mother, who, bad as her daughter was, yet had not the heart to give her a bad character.

               'That is the first time I ever heard of a mother beating her child for doing too much work; the general complaint is that they do too little. Will you let me have her for a wife? I should like such a wife as that.'

               'Impossible!' replied the mother, in order to enhance her daughter's value; 'she does all the work of the house, I can't spare her; what shall I do without her?'

               'I must give you something to make up for the loss,' replied the merchant; 'but such a notable wife as this I have long been in search of, and I must not miss the chance.'

               'But I cannot spare such a notable daughter, either,' persisted the mother.

               'What do you say if I give you five hundred scudi?'

               'If I let her go, it is not because of the five hundred scudi,' said the mother; 'it is because you seem a husband, who will really appreciate her; though I don't say five hundred scudi will not be a help to a poor lone widow.'

               'Let it be agreed then. I am going now to the fair; when I come back let the girl be ready, and I'll take her back with me.'

               Accordingly, when the farmer returned from the fair, he fetched the girl away.

               When he got home his mother came out to ask how his affairs had prospered at the fair.

               'Middling well, at the fair,' replied the man; 'but, by the way, I found a treasure, and I have brought her home to make her my wife. She is so hardworking that she can't be kept from working, even on Sundays.'

               'She doesn't look as if there was much work in her,' observed the mother dryly; 'but if you're satisfied that's enough.'

               All went well enough the first week, because she was not expected to do much just at first, but at the end of that time the husband had to go to a distant fair which would keep him absent three weeks. Before he went he took his new wife up into the store-room, and said, 'Here are provisions of all sorts, and you will have all you like to eat and drink; and here is a quantity of hemp, which you can amuse yourself with spinning and weaving if you want more employment than merely keeping the place in order.'

               Then he gave her a set of rooms to herself, next the store-chamber, that there might be no cause of quarrel with the mother-in-law, who, he knew, was inclined to be jealous of her, and said good-bye.

               Left to herself, she did no more work than she could help; all the nice things she found she cooked and ate, and that was all the work she did. As to the hemp, she never touched it; nor did she even clean up the place, or attempt to put it tidy.

               When the husband had been gone a fortnight, the mother-in-law came up to see how she was going on, and when she saw the hemp untouched, and the place in disorder, she said, 'So this is how you go on when your husband is away!'

               'You mind your affairs, and I'll mind mine,' [4] answered the wife, and the mother-in-law went away offended.

               Nevertheless, it was true that in eight days the husband would be back, and might expect to see something done, so she took up a lot of hemp and began trying to spin it; but, as she had no idea of how to do it, she went on in the most absurd way imaginable with it.

               As she stood on the top of the outside staircase, twisting it this way and that, there passed three deformed fairies. One was lame, and one squinted, [5] and one had her head all on one side, because she had a fish-bone stuck in her throat.

               The three fairies called out to ask what she was doing, and when she said 'spinning,' the one who squinted laughed so much that her eyes came quite right, and the one who had a bone stuck in her throat laughed so much that the bone came out, and her head became straight again like other people's, and when the lame one saw the others laughing so much, she ran so fast to see what it was that her lameness was cured.

               Then the three fairies said:

               'Since she has cured us of our ailments, we must go in and do her a good turn.'

               So they went in and took the hemp and span it, and wove it, and did as much in the six remaining days as any human being could have done in twenty years; moreover, they cleaned up everything, and made everything look spick-and-span new.

               Then they gave her a bag of walnuts, saying, 'in half an hour your husband will be home; go to bed and put this bag of walnuts under your back. When he comes in say you have worked so hard that all your bones are out of joint; then move the bag of walnuts and they will make a noise, c-r-r-r-r, and he will think it is your bones which are loosened, and will say you must never work again.'

               When the husband came home his mother went out to meet him, saying--

               'I told you I did not think there was much work in your "treasure." When you go up you'll see what a fine mess the place is all in; and as to the hemp, you had better have left it locked up, for a fine mess she has made of that.'

               But the husband went up and found the place all in shining order, and so much hemp spun and woven as could scarcely be got through in twenty years. But the wife was laid up in bed.

               When the husband came near the bed she moved the bag of walnuts and they went c-r-r-r-r.

               'You have done a lot of work indeed!' said the husband.

               'Yes,' replied the wife; 'but I have put all my bones out of joint; only hear how they rumble!' and she moved the walnuts again, and they went c-r-r-r-r. 'It will be sometime before I am about again.'

               'Oh, dear! oh, dear!' said the husband; 'only think of such a treasure of a wife being laid up by such marvellous diligence.'

               And to his mother he said: 'A mother-in-law has never a good word for her daughter-in-law; what you told me was all pure invention.'

               But to the wife he said: 'Mind I will never have you do any work again as long as you live.'

               So from that day forth she had no work to do, but ate and drank and amused herself from morning till night.



[1] 'La Ragazza Golosa;' 'goloso' means, in particular, greedy of nice things.

[2] 'Codiche di presciúto.'

[3] 'Mercante di Campagna.' See Note 2, p. 154.

[4] 'Voi pensate a voi ed io penso a me!' 'Pensare' is much used in Rome in the sense of 'to attend to,' 'to provide for.'

[5] 'Guèrcia,' see Note 3 to 'The Two Friars;' in this case squinting seems intended.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Gluttonous Girl, The (La Ragazza Golosa)
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 501: The Three Old Spinning Women

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