Patrañas; or, Spanish Stories, Legendary and Traditional | Annotated Tale

COMPLETE! Entered into SurLaLune Database in October 2018 with all known ATU Classifications.

Ill-Tempered Princess, The

THERE was once a poor young knight, and he went out into the world, to seek adventures and do knightly deeds. As he went, he met a man standing in front of a long narrow tunnel in a rock, and blowing through it with his cheeks stretched like two ripe pomegranates, to whom the knight called out, "Halloa! fellow, what do you do there?"

               And the man made reply, "Disturb me not, your worship, for with my breath I am turning five hundred and thirty-two mills."

               So the knight asked, "Then who are you?"

               And the man made answer, "I am Blowo, son of Blowon [1], the good blower."

               Then the knight said, "Will you come out with me to seek fortune?"

               And the man made answer, "Your worship is not readier to ask than I to accept, for I am tired enough of blowing." So he gave one more good strong blow, enough to set the mills twirling for a long time, and walked on behind the knight.

               A little farther along they came upon a man toiling up the hill-side, with a load of a hundred and thirty-two hundred-weight upon his back.

               To whom the knight called out, "Halloa! man, you carry more than a waggon with two yoke of oxen! Who are you?"

               And the man made answer, "I am Porto, son of Porton, the strong porter."

               Then the knight said, "Will you come out with me to seek fortune?"

               And the man made answer, "Your worship is not more ready to ask, than I to accept, for I am weary of this burden." So he laid the weight down by the road-side, and walked along behind the knight.

               A little farther on they came to a long stretch where the road was very straight, and by the side a man walked up and down twisting a rope, to whom the knight cried out,--

               "Halloa! fellow, what do you there? and who are you?"

               And the man made answer, "I am Ropo, son of Ropon, the cunning rope-maker, and I make ropes which none can break."

               Then the knight said, "Will you come out with me to seek fortune?"

               And the man made answer, "Your worship is not more ready to ask than I to accept, for I am weary of twisting this rope." So he left there his rope by the road-side, and walked along behind the knight.

               A little farther on they came upon a man crouched down by the way-side.

               To whom the knight called out, "Halloa! fellow, what do you there? and who are you?"

               And the man made answer, "I am Listeno, son of Listenon, the ready listener."

               So the knight said, "What are you listening for?"

               And the man made answer, "Blowo has left off turning the mills, and I am listening for the wind to come down from the mountains of Burgos."

               "Fellow! the mountains of Burgos are a hundred leagues off."

               "What does that signify, if my hearing reaches as far?"

               Then the knight said, "Will you come along with me and seek fortune?"

               And the man made answer, "Your worship is not more ready to ask than I to accept, for I am weary of straining my ears." So he set up three flags, that all the country might know the wind would be there in three days, and walked along behind the knight.

               Then, after three days' journey, they came in sight of a magnificent castle, extending half a mile every way over the top of a mountain, but all desolate and in ruins; and the way up to it was overgrown with interlacing brambles and briars, so that they could hardly pass through. Then to increase their difficulty, a heavy storm came on, which would soon have wetted them through; but Blowo cried out,--

               "Never fear, your worship; for I will soon clear the air."

               So he blew a mighty blast, and sent all the big thunder-clouds travelling back to the Sierra; and they went on toiling up the brake.

               When they came up to the castle, they found there was no door or opening, nor any way in. Porto, Ropo, Listeno, and Blowo wanted to give up the attempt, and pass on farther; but the knight would not hear of abandoning the adventure.

               "If your worship is so determined," said Porto, "I'll open a way for you."

               So he broke off a huge piece of rock as big as two men, and, standing a hundred yards off, he flung it against the wall, with a noise that could be heard a hundred miles off. The wall trembled and clattered; but it was held together by a stronger than human power, and all Porto's great strength could produce no effect on it.

               "Let us go away from here, Master," pleaded Ropo, "this is no place for us. There is something wrong about this place; and the blessing of God is not here."

               "No," replied the knight, "we will first learn all about it; there may be work for us."

               So they continued walking round the walls to see where they might effect an entrance, and all to no purpose. By and by Listeno exclaimed, "I hear some one cry;" and they all listened, but could hear nothing. So Listeno made them follow him in the direction whence the sound proceeded till at last they were near enough for the others to hear the sound also; and they went on following it up, till they came to the mouth of a great well all grown over with climbing-plants; when they had cleared these away, the hole looked so black and deep, it seemed as if it went down to the centre of the earth, and up the shaft there came sounds of a woman's wailing, so loud and pitiful, they were all moved to pity, and anxious to run to the relief of the distressed person; but there was no means of telling how to reach the bottom. Then Ropo came forward, and said, "We will all go abroad, and gather five thousand bundles of esparto, and palmito [2] grass, and all five shall set to work to make a long rope; and with that we will reach the bottom."

               So said, so done. They gathered five thousand bundles of esparto, and palmito grass, and they all five set to work under Ropo's directions and twisted away at the rope; and now and then they tied a fragment of rock to the end and let it down, to see if it reached the bottom. They went on thus for five years, and at last it splashed the water, and when they let it down again it sounded on the rock, and they found only a few feet of the rope was wet, for the water was not deep.

               Then Listeno put his ear to the top and told them it was not standing water, but that a brook ran through, along the bottom of the cave. As they were twisting the rope, they talked away about the great deeds each would do; and each had a conjecture as to what they might find at the bottom of the well. They all thought they should find a treasure, and Porto said he would take it up on his shoulders and carry it home for them, though it should weigh as much as all the lead of the Sierra Almagrera [3].

               But when the rope was finished, and it was a question of who should go down, not one of the knight's followers, though they had been boasting so loudly before, would venture down into the well. So the knight laughed, and said he was not afraid; and one end of the rope having been lashed tightly to a rock, the four followers undertook to pay it out steadily, and down the knight descended into the black, gloomy depth.

               Day and night he went on steadily descending for three days and three nights, and at the end he came into the water. It was not more than breast high, so he waded through it for several yards till he came to a place where the bank widened sufficiently for him to get out and walk along it; and then he came to some trees, and through the trees was an open space lighted by a lurid light which came from a deeper cave. On a sloping bank, covered with shining grass and strange flowers, lay a beautiful princess all dressed in white, and decked with shining jewels; and as she lay, she moaned and cried and prayed for deliverance. So the knight was hastening towards her, and drew his sword to cut the bonds which confined her, but at that instant up started a fierce demon whom he had not observed before, as he lay coiled up at the mouth of the cave.

               "Not so fast, fine caballero!" he cried, "for she is mine, and you will have to fight me before you can touch her." The knight disregarded the menace, and continued his way towards the princess, but the air was stiff all around him--though he could see no hindrance, he found he could not make any way towards her.

               "Ha! ha!" roared the demon, "my fine caballero, you'll find you will have to do with me at last!"

               "And who are you?" shouted the baffled knight, "and what is this beautiful princess to you?"

               "I am bound to answer the knight who asks that question," answered the demon, "or it is little you would have learnt from me. Know, then, that this princess was the only daughter of King Euríc, to whom belonged all the country as far as eye can see; and she would have succeeded to his kingdom, but her temper was so violent, no one could bear with her. Upon the least contradiction she would order a subject to be executed; and her arbitrary conduct was continually involving the kingdom in discontent and trouble. Her father, who tenderly loved her, used to coax her and use every endeavour to soften her, but with no avail. At last, one day she provoked him so sore that in his anger he exclaimed, 'Go to the horned one!' When I heard myself called, I hastened to seize her, but, notwithstanding all my speed, before I could arrive he had revoked the curse, and so I was tricked out of her. This happened several times, but each time fatherly fondness was quicker than my utmost haste. At last, a day came when she excited him greatly, and he said again, 'Go to the horned one!' and before he could recall the words that time, he had fallen down a lifeless corpse. So now she is mine, and mine she must remain till some knight will win her in arms from me, and marry her, and restore her to her castle and her kingdom."

               "That will I!" said the knight stoutly; for though he feared the lady's violent temper after what he had heard, his devotion to chivalry bound him to use his best endeavours to deliver her.

               Accordingly he drew his sword, and called to the demon to come on. "Remember one thing," said the demon, "if you should win her, she is yours for ever; I take her back no more."

               Meantime, Listeno, at the top of the well, had been reporting to his companions all that he heard going on below, and their curiosity getting the better of their fears, they let themselves down by the rope, and all four arrived in time to witness the terrible contest.

               Never was such a fight seen in this world as that between this knight and the demon; and at last the knight cut off the demon's ear. No tongue could describe the demon's rage at finding his ear in possession of a mortal.

               "Give me my ear!" he cried in tones so sharp that they almost stunned Listeno's sensitive hearing powers.

               "Never," replied the knight, "or at least not without a heavy ransom. In the first place I exact that without further ado you reinstate the Princess in her castle and all her power." The demon stamped and raged, but the knight was firm. The demon was ashamed to go home without his ear, so he thought it best to comply.

               The Princess was restored to her throne, the castle was restored to its strength, the garrison was restored to the ramparts, the servants were restored to the halls. The knight married the princess; great rejoicings and festivities were celebrated, and to his four followers were given places of trust and consequence in the palace.

               The demon often came to beg for his ear, but the knight felt that at some time or other he might have need of him, so he would not lose his hold over him.

               For a time all went well enough, but by little and little the Princess forgot her years of adversity and the debt she owed the knight: she grew more and more wilful, and before a year was out she had become so violent again, that he grew weary of his life, and declared he could no longer endure the continual turmoil. Remonstrance and coaxing were alike unheeded, and it was vain that he tried her father's remedy, for the demon had sworn never to take her back.

               In this strait Porto reminded him of the ear he held in hostage, adding, "I will take it upon myself to deliver you of her." So putting the bottle of brine in which the ear was kept into his pocket, he swung the Princess over his shoulder, and all her struggling was useless against "the son of the strong porter."

               Thus laden he went to find out the demon. "You are to take back this princess, she is only fit for your company," he said, when he had found him.

               "Not I!" answered the demon, grinning: "I told your master when he would have her he must take her for good and all."

               "Do you know this ear?" then asked Porto, showing him the bottle.

               The demon clutched at it.

               "Not so fast!" cried Porto. "If you want to have it back, this is my master's condition: you must take back the princess along with it."

               So, crest-fallen and glad to get his ear back on any condition, the demon accepted the bargain as it was dictated to him; and the princess who could not command her temper never found another knight to deliver her.



[1] On is the Spanish augmentative.

[2] A tall fibrous plant, which covers whole plains in the south of Spain, so called because its spreading leaves give it a certain resemblance to dwarf palms. 

[3] The Sierra Almagrera is near Cartagena. The mine whose riches have been thus celebrated in a popular tale for many a century, is just now being vigorously worked by an Anglo-French company. 

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Ill-Tempered Princess, The
Tale Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel
Book Title: Patrañas; or, Spanish Stories, Legendary and Traditional
Book Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel
Publisher: Griffith and Farran
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1870
Country of Origin: Spain
Classification: ATU 301: The Three Stolen Princesses

Back to Top