ONCE upon a time there was a certain Princess who was very fond of “drawing the long bow,” and who, to all her father’s requests that she would select a husband, declared she never would marry any one who could not fabricate falsehoods better than herself; and she was such a clever hand at fibbing that no one could be found who was able to surpass her.
All these things came to the ears of a clever young shepherd, as he was travelling. “I will present myself,” he murmured to himself, “for I am sure I can gain the hand of the Princess, if telling stories will do it, for to tell fibs as I can, one must have studied under a descendant of the old Serpent himself” So he went to the palace.
“What have you for me?” asked the Princess, when he arrived before her.
“I beg to inform your Royal Highness,” said the young shepherd, “that I have travelled a great deal, and that I have come to relate my travels to you.”
“That is all very well,” said the Princess; only I assure you that if you speak a single word of truth, you will be turned into the street in a very summary manner.”
“My first journey was a very lengthy one,” said the young shepherd, “because when I planted a palm-tree it grew so quickly that it carried me with it to heaven. I arrived there just in time to witness the bridal of the Eleven Thousand Virgins; and because I made love to one of them, St. Peter kicked me out. In falling I met with the moon, and on entering it by one of its eyes, I found that it had silver brains and hairs of gold; I attempted to descend by one of these, when the moon turned her head, and seeing me, with her mouth bit off the hair that suspended me. I fell into a pumpkin, where I passed the time pretty comfortably until my abode was carried to the market-place, where it was sold to the nuns of a convent. The nuns thought that I was an insect, and carried me out with the convent refuse to the kitchen garden. A shower of rain falling, I began to grow there, but cutting away the roots with my knife, I again set forth upon my travels. After a time I arrived at a river, where I made some nets, and fished up an ass; I mounted it and continued my journey. After travelling for two days, I saw that the animal had a wound; I showed this to a veterinary surgeon and he directed me to sow a bean in it. I did so, and quite a forest of beans grew up. I took a gun and hunted through them until I saw and shot a wild sow, which then changed into an old woman, whom I baptised and named “Nightmare.” Goody Nightmare fell in love with me, and in order to escape from her I mounted upon a tortoise that ran faster than the wind, and in a trice bore me to the uttermost depths of the ocean. There I found a convent of anchovies, the prior of which was a whale, who on seeing me opened his huge mouth and swallowed me, and with me a quantity of water, which he spouted out through his nostrils, casting me with it on to the sea-shore. There I met some sailors, and as I was encrusted with the sea salt, and was all white and stiff, they sold me to some pedlars, who in their turn disposed of me to a native of Seville, who placed me in the courtyard of his house, surrounding me with shrubs. The first night it rained, so the salt began to melt, and I was able to run. I knew that your Royal Highness sought for a greater liar than yourself in order to reward him, and I said, ‘I will go to her and prove that I am he.’”
“As in saying that you have already told one truth,” said the Princess, “I shall not be able to marry you; but as you have lied so well, and better than any one else, it is but just that you should be rewarded. I will, therefore, provide you with a suitable situation. What post is there vacant?” inquired her Royal Highness of the Minister in attendance.
“Madam,” responded the Minister, “there is nothing but the editorship of the Gazette, the editor of which died to-day.”
“Then the post shall be given at once to this shepherd for the talent he has displayed,” said the Princess.
And so it came to pass, and the young shepherd continued lying in the Gazette, whence it became the custom for people to say, “He lies like the Gazette” The saying grew into a proverb that has lasted until our days.