The Tales of Mother Goose (Part II)
Translated by A. E. Johnson
Illustrated by Gustave Dore
Little Red Riding Hood
Once upon a time there lived in a certain village a little country girl,
the prettiest creature who was ever seen. Her mother was excessively
fond of her; and her grandmother doted on her still more. This good
woman had a little red riding hood made for her. It suited the girl so
extremely well that everybody called her Little Red Riding Hood.
One day her mother, having made some cakes, said to her, "Go, my dear,
and see how your grandmother is doing, for I hear she has been very ill.
Take her a cake, and this little pot of butter."
Little Red Riding Hood set out immediately to go to her grandmother,
who lived in another village.
As she was going through the wood, she met with a wolf, who had a
very great mind to eat her up, but he dared not, because of some
woodcutters working nearby in the forest. He asked her where she was
going. The poor child, who did not know that it was dangerous to stay
and talk to a wolf, said to him, "I am going to see my grandmother and
carry her a cake and a little pot of butter from my mother."
"Does she live far off?" said the wolf
"Oh I say," answered Little Red Riding Hood; "it is beyond that mill
you see there, at the first house in the village."
"Well," said the wolf, "and I'll go and see her too. I'll go this way
and go you that, and we shall see who will be there first."
The wolf ran as fast as he could, taking the shortest path, and the
little girl took a roundabout way, entertaining herself by gathering
nuts, running after butterflies, and gathering bouquets of little
flowers. It was not long before the wolf arrived at the old woman's
house. He knocked at the door: tap, tap.
"Your grandchild, Little Red Riding Hood," replied the wolf,
counterfeiting her voice; "who has brought you a cake and a little pot
of butter sent you by mother."
The good grandmother, who was in bed, because she was somewhat ill,
cried out, "Pull the bobbin, and the latch will go up."
The wolf pulled the bobbin, and the door opened, and then he
immediately fell upon the good woman and ate her up in a moment, for it
been more than three days since he had eaten. He then shut the door and
got into the grandmother's bed, expecting Little Red Riding Hood, who
came some time afterwards and knocked at the door: tap, tap.
Little Red Riding Hood, hearing the big voice of the wolf, was at
first afraid; but believing her grandmother had a cold and was hoarse,
answered, "It is your grandchild Little Red Riding Hood, who has brought
you a cake and a little pot of butter mother sends you."
The wolf cried out to her, softening his voice as much as he could,
"Pull the bobbin, and the latch will go up."
Little Red Riding Hood pulled the bobbin, and the door opened.
The wolf, seeing her come in, said to her, hiding himself under the
bedclothes, "Put the cake and the little pot of butter upon the stool,
and come get into bed with me."
Little Red Riding Hood took off her clothes and got into bed. She was
greatly amazed to see how her grandmother looked in her nightclothes,
and said to her, "Grandmother, what big arms you have!"
"All the better to hug you with, my dear."
"Grandmother, what big legs you have!"
"All the better to run with, my child."
"Grandmother, what big ears you have!"
"All the better to hear with, my child."
"Grandmother, what big eyes you have!"
"All the better to see with, my child."
"Grandmother, what big teeth you have got!"
"All the better to eat you up with."
And, saying these words, this wicked wolf fell upon Little Red Riding
Hood, and ate her all up.
Children, especially attractive, well bred young ladies,
should never talk to strangers, for if they should do so,
they may well
provide dinner for a wolf.
I say "wolf," but there are various kinds of
There are also those who are charming, quiet, polite,
unassuming, complacent, and sweet,
who pursue young women at home and in
And unfortunately, it is these gentle wolves who are
most dangerous ones of all.
Once upon a time there was a widow who had two daughters. The elder was
often mistaken for her mother, so like her was she both in nature and in
looks. Both of them were so disagreeable and arrogant that no one could
live with them.
The younger girl, who was a true likeness of her father in the
gentleness and sweetness of her disposition, was also one of the most
beautiful girls imaginable. The mother doted on the elder daughter
naturally enough, since she resembled her so closely; and she disliked
the younger one just as intensely. She made her eat all her meals in the
kitchen and work from morning till night.
One of the poor child's many duties was to go twice a day and draw
water from a spring a good half mile away, bringing it back in a large
pitcher. One day when she was at the spring an old woman came up and
begged for a drink.
"Why, certainly, good mother," said the beautiful girl. Rinsing the
pitcher, she drew some water from the cleanest part of the spring and
handed it to her, lifting up the pitcher so that she might drink more
Now this old woman was a fairy, who had taken the form of a poor
peasant woman to see just how far the girl's good nature would go. "You
are so beautiful," she said, when she had finished drinking, "and so
polite, that I am determined to bestow a gift upon you. I grant you,"
the fairy continued, "that with every word you speak, a flower or a
precious stone shall fall from your mouth."
When the beautiful girl arrived at home, her mother scolded her for
staying so long at the spring.
"I beg your pardon, mother," said the poor child, "for having taken
so long," and as she spoke these words, two roses, two pearls, and two
large diamonds fell from her mouth.
"What am I seeing?" cried her mother. "I do believe that I saw pearls
and diamonds dropping out of your mouth? What have you been doing, my
daughter?" (This was the first time she had ever called her her
The poor child related what had happened, scattering countless
diamonds as she spoke.
"Indeed!" cried her mother. "I must send my own daughter there. Come
here, Fanchon. Look what comes out of your sister's mouth whenever she
speaks! Wouldn't you like to be able to do the same thing? All you have
to do is to go and draw some water at the spring, and when a poor woman
asks you for a drink, give it to her very nicely."
"You want to see me going to the spring?" replied the ill-mannered
"I am telling you that you are to go," replied the mother, "and this
Very sulkily the girl went out taking with her the best silver flask
in the house. No sooner had she reached the spring than she saw a
magnificently dressed lady, who came out of the woods towards her and
asked for a drink. This was the same fairy who had appeared to her
sister, but she was now disguised as a princess in order to see how far
this girl's bad manners would go.
"Do you think I have come here just to get you a drink?" she said the
rude girl arrogantly. "Do you think I brought a silver flask here just
to give madam a drink? Yes, that's just what I think! Have a drink, if
"You are not very polite," replied the fairy, showing no anger. "Very
well! In return for your lack of courtesy I grant that for every word
you speak a snake or a toad shall drop out of your mouth."
As soon as her mother saw her returning she cried out, "Well,
"Well, mother?" replied the rude girl. As she spoke two vipers and
two toads fell from her mouth.
"Heavens!" cried the mother. "What do I see? Her sister is the cause
of this. She will pay for it!"
Off she ran to beat her, but the poor child ran off and escaped into
the woods nearby. The king's son met her on his way home from hunting,
and noticing how beautiful she was, he asked her what she was doing
there all alone, and why she was crying.
"Alas, sir, my mother has driven me from home."
As she spoke the king's son saw five or six pearls and as many
diamonds fall from her mouth. He begged her to tell him how this came
about, and she told him the whole story.
The king's son fell in love with her, and considering that such a
gift as had been bestowed upon her was worth more than any dowry that he
might receive from someone else, he took her to his father's royal
palace, where he married her.
As for her sister, she made herself so hateful that her own mother
drove her out of the house. No one would take in the miserable girl, so
at last she went into a corner of the woods and died.
Diamonds and gold coins may
Work some wonders in their way;
But a gentle word is worth
More than all the gems on earth.
Though -- when otherwise inclined --
It's a trouble to be kind,
Often it will bring you good
When you least believed it could.
Ricky of the Tuft
Once upon a time there was a queen who bore a son so ugly and misshapen
that for some time it was doubtful if he would have human form at all.
But a fairy who was present at his birth promised that he should have
plenty of brains, and added that by virtue of the gift which she had
just bestowed upon him he would be able to impart to the person whom he
should love best the same degree of intelligence which he possessed
This somewhat consoled the poor queen, who was greatly disappointed
at having brought into the world such a hideous brat. And indeed, no
sooner did the child begin to speak than his sayings proved to be full
of shrewdness, while all that he did was somehow so clever that he
I forgot to mention that when he was born he had a little tuft of
hair upon his head. For this reason he was called Ricky of the Tuft,
Ricky being his family name.
Some seven or eight years later the queen of a neighboring kingdom
gave birth to twin daughters. The first one to come into the world was
more beautiful than the dawn, and the queen was so overjoyed that it was
feared her great excitement might do her some harm. The same fairy who
had assisted at the birth of Ricky of the Tuft was present, and in order
to moderate the transports of the queen she declared that this little
princess would have no sense at all, and would be as stupid as she was
beautiful. The queen was deeply mortified, and a moment or two later her
chagrin became greater still, for the second daughter proved to be
"Do not be distressed, Madam," said the fairy. "Your daughter shall
be recompensed in another way. She shall have so much good sense that
her lack of beauty will scarcely be noticed."
"May Heaven grant it!" said the queen. "But is there no means by
which the elder, who is so beautiful, can be endowed with some
"In the matter of brains I can do nothing for her, Madam," said the
fairy, "but as regards beauty I can do a great deal. As there is nothing
I would not do to please you, I will bestow upon her the power of making
beautiful any person who shall greatly please her."
As the two princesses grew up their perfections increased, and
everywhere the beauty of the elder and the wit of the younger were the
subject of common talk.
It is equally true that their defects also increased as they became
older. The younger grew uglier every minute, and the elder daily became
more stupid. Either she answered nothing at all when spoken to, or
replied with some idiotic remark. At the same time she was so awkward
that she could not set four china vases on the mantelpiece without
breaking one of them, nor drink a glass of water without spilling half
of it over her clothes.
Now although the elder girl possessed the great advantage which
beauty always confers upon youth, she was nevertheless outshone in
almost all company by her younger sister. At first everyone gathered
round the beauty to see and admire her, but very soon they were all
attracted by the graceful and easy conversation of the clever one. In a
very short time the elder girl would be left entirely alone, while
everybody clustered round her sister.
The elder princess was not so stupid that she was not aware of this,
and she would willingly have surrendered all her beauty for half her
sister's cleverness. Sometimes she was ready to die of grief for the
queen, though a sensible woman, could not refrain from occasionally
reproaching her for her stupidity.
The princess had retired one day to a wood to bemoan her misfortune,
when she saw approaching her an ugly little man, of very disagreeable
appearance, but clad in magnificent attire.
This was the young prince Ricky of the Tuft. He had fallen in love
with her portrait, which was everywhere to be seen, and had left his
father's kingdom in order to have the pleasure of seeing and talking to
Delighted to meet her thus alone, he approached with every mark of
respect and politeness. But while he paid her the usual compliments he
noticed that she was plunged in melancholy.
"I cannot understand, madam," he said, "how anyone with your beauty
can be so sad as you appear. I can boast of having seen many fair
ladies, and I declare that none of them could compare in beauty with
"It is very kind of you to say so, sir," answered the princess; and
stopped there, at a loss what to say further.
"Beauty," said Ricky, "is of such great advantage that everything
else can be disregarded; and I do not see that the possessor of it can
have anything much to grieve about."
To this the princess replied, "I would rather be as plain as you are
and have some sense, than be as beautiful as I am and at the same time
"Nothing more clearly displays good sense, madam, than a belief that
one is not possessed of it. It follows, therefore, that the more one
has, the more one fears it to be wanting."
"I am not sure about that," said the princess; "but I know only too
well that I am very stupid, and this is the reason of the misery which
is nearly killing me."
"If that is all that troubles you, madam, I can easily put an end to
"How will you manage that?" said the princess.
"I am able, madam," said Ricky of the Tuft, "to bestow as much good
sense as it is possible to possess on the person whom I love the most.
You are that person, and it therefore rests with you to decide whether
you will acquire so much intelligence. The only condition is that you
shall consent to marry me."
The princess was dumfounded, and remained silent.
"I can see," pursued Ricky, "that this suggestion perplexes you, and
I am not surprised. But I will give you a whole year to make up your
mind to it."
The princess had so little sense, and at the same time desired it so
ardently, that she persuaded herself the end of this year would never
come. So she accepted the offer which had been made to her. No sooner
had she given her word to Ricky that she would marry him within one year
from that very day, than she felt a complete change come over her. She
found herself able to say all that she wished with the greatest ease,
and to say it in an elegant, finished, and natural manner. She at once
engaged Ricky in a brilliant and lengthy conversation, holding her own
so well that Ricky feared he had given her a larger share of sense than
he had retained for himself.
On her return to the palace amazement reigned throughout the court at
such a sudden and extraordinary change. Whereas formerly they had been
accustomed to hear her give vent to silly, pert remarks, they now heard
her express herself sensibly and very wittily.
The entire court was overjoyed. The only person not too pleased was
the younger sister, for now that she had no longer the advantage over
the elder in wit, she seemed nothing but a little fright in comparison.
The king himself often took her advice, and several times held his
councils in her apartment.
The news of this change spread abroad, and the princes of the
neighboring kingdoms made many attempts to captivate her. Almost all
asked her in marriage. But she found none with enough sense, and so she
listened to all without promising herself to any.
At last came one who was so powerful, so rich, so witty, and so
handsome, that she could not help being somewhat attracted by him. Her
father noticed this, and told her she could make her own choice of a
husband. She had only to declare herself. Now the more sense one has,
the more difficult it is to make up one's mind in an affair of this
kind. After thanking her father, therefore, she asked for a little time
to think it over. In order to ponder quietly what she had better do she
went to walk in a wood -- the very one, as it happened, where she had
encountered Ricky of the Tuft.
While she walked, deep in thought, she heard beneath her feet a
thudding sound, as though many people were running busily to and fro.
Listening more attentively she heard voices. "Bring me that boiler,"
said one; then another, "Put some wood on that fire!"
At that moment the ground opened, and she saw below what appeared to
be a large kitchen full of cooks and scullions, and all the train of
attendants which the preparation of a great banquet involves. A gang of
some twenty or thirty spit- turners emerged and took up their positions
round a very long table in a path in the wood. They all wore their
cook's caps on one side, and with their basting implements in their
hands they kept time together as they worked, to the lilt of a melodious
The princess was astonished by this spectacle, and asked for whom
their work was being done.
"For Prince Ricky of the Tuft, madam," said the foreman of the gang.
''His wedding is tomorrow."
At this the princess was more surprised than ever. In a flash she
remembered that it was a year to the very day since she had promised to
marry Prince Ricky of the Tuft, and was taken aback by the recollection.
The reason she had forgotten was that when she made the promise she was
still without sense, and with the acquisition of that intelligence which
the prince had bestowed upon her, all memory of her former stupidities
had been blotted out.
She had not gone another thirty paces when Ricky of the Tuft appeared
before her, gallant and resplendent, like a prince upon his wedding day.
"As you see, madam," he said, "I keep my word to the minute. I do not
doubt that you have come to keep yours, and by giving me your hand to
make me the happiest of men."
"I will be frank with you," replied the princess. "I have not yet
made up my mind on the point, and I am afraid I shall never be able to
take the decision you desire."
"You astonish me, madam," said Ricky of the Tuft.
"I can well believe it," said the princess, "and undoubtedly, if I
had to deal with a clown, or a man who lacked good sense, I should feel
myself very awkwardly situated. 'A princess must keep her word,' he
would say, 'and you must marry me because you promised to!' But I am
speaking to a man of the world, of the greatest good sense, and I am
sure that he will listen to reason. As you are aware, I could not make
up my mind to marry you even when I was entirely without sense; how can
you expect that today, possessing the intelligence you bestowed on me,
which makes me still more difficult to please than formerly, I should
take a decision which I could not take then? If you wished so much to
marry me, you were very wrong to relieve me of my stupidity, and to let
me see more clearly than I did."
"If a man who lacked good sense," replied Ricky of the Tuft, "would
be justified, as you have just said, in reproaching you for breaking
your word, why do you expect, madam, that I should act differently where
the happiness of my whole life is at stake? Is it reasonable that people
who have sense should be treated worse than those who have none? Would
you maintain that for a moment -- you, who so markedly have sense, and
desired so ardently to have it? But, pardon me, let us get to the facts.
With the exception of my ugliness, is there anything about me which
displeases you? Are you dissatisfied with my breeding, my brains, my
disposition, or my manners?"
"In no way," replied the princess. "I like exceedingly all that you
have displayed of the qualities you mention."
"In that case," said Ricky of the Tuft, "happiness will be mine, for
it lies in your power to make me the most attractive of men."
"How can that be done?" asked the princess.
"It will happen of itself," replied Ricky of the Tuft, "if you love
me well enough to wish that it be so. To remove your doubts, madam, let
me tell you that the same fairy who on the day of my birth bestowed upon
me the power of endowing with intelligence the woman of my choice, gave
to you also the power of endowing with beauty the man whom you should
love, and on whom you should wish to confer this favor."
"If that is so," said the princess, "I wish with all my heart that
you may become the handsomest and most attractive prince in the world,
and I give you without reserve the boon which it is mine to bestow."
No sooner had the princess uttered these words than Ricky of the Tuft
appeared before her eyes as the handsomest, most graceful and attractive
man that she had ever set eyes on.
Some people assert that this was not the work of fairy enchantment,
but that love alone brought about the transformation. They say that the
princess, as she mused upon her lover's constancy, upon his good sense,
and his many admirable qualities of heart and head, grew blind to the
deformity of his body and the ugliness of his face; that his humpback
seemed no more than was natural in a man who could make the courtliest
of bows, and that the dreadful limp which had formerly distressed her
now betokened nothing more than a certain diffidence and charming
deference of manner. They say further that she found his eyes shine all
the brighter for their squint, and that this defect in them was to her
but a sign of passionate love; while his great red nose she found naught
but martial and heroic.
However that may be, the princess promised to marry him on the spot,
provided only that he could obtain the consent of her royal father.
The king knew Ricky of the Tuft to be a prince both wise and witty,
and on learning of his daughter's regard for him, he accepted him with
pleasure as a son-in-law.
The wedding took place upon the morrow, just as Ricky of the Tuft had
foreseen, and in accordance with the arrangements he had long ago put in
Here's a fairy tale for you,
Which is just as good as true.
What we love is always fair,
Clever, deft, and debonair.
Nature oft, with open arms,
Lavishes a thousand charms;
But it is not these that bring
True love's truest offering.
'Tis some quality that lies
All unseen to other eyes --
Something in the heart or mind.
Once upon a time there lived a woodcutter and his wife; they had seven
children, all boys. The eldest was but ten years old, and the youngest
only seven. People were astonished that the woodcutter had had so many
children in such a short time, but his wife was very fond of children,
and never had less than two at a time
They were very poor, and their seven children inconvenienced them
greatly, because not one of them was able to earn his own way. They were
especially concerned, because the youngest was very sickly. He scarcely
ever spoke a word, which they considered to be a sign of stupidity,
although it was in truth a mark of good sense. He was very little, and
when born no bigger than one's thumb, for which reason they called him
The poor child bore the blame of everything that went wrong in the
house. Guilty or not, he was always held to be at fault. He was,
notwithstanding, more cunning and had a far greater share of wisdom than
all his brothers put together. And although he spoke little, he listened
There came a very bad year, and the famine was so great that these
poor people decided to rid themselves of their children. One evening,
when the children were all in bed and the woodcutter was sitting with
his wife at the fire, he said to her, with his heart ready to burst with
grief, "You see plainly that we are not able to keep our children, and I
cannot see them starve to death before my face. I am resolved to lose
them in the woods tomorrow, which may very easily be done; for, while
they are busy in tying up the bundles of wood, we can leave them,
without their noticing."
"Ah!" cried out his wife; "and can you yourself have the heart to
take your children out along with you on purpose to abandon them?"
In vain her husband reminded her of their extreme poverty. She would
not consent to it. Yes, she was poor, but she was their mother. However,
after having considered what a grief it would be for her to see them
perish with hunger, she at last consented, and went to bed in tears.
Little Thumb heard every word that had been spoken; for observing, as
he lay in his bed, that they were talking very busily, he got up softly,
and hid under his father's stool, in order to hear what they were saying
without being seen. He went to bed again, but did not sleep a wink all
the rest of the night, thinking about what he had to do. He got up early
in the morning, and went to the riverside, where he filled his pockets
with small white pebbles, and then returned home.
They all went out, but Little Thumb never told his brothers one
syllable of what he knew. They went into a very thick forest, where they
could not see one another at ten paces distance. The woodcutter began
his work, and the children gathered up the sticks into bundles. Their
father and mother, seeing them busy at their work, slipped away from
them without being seen, and returned home along a byway through the
When the children saw they had been left alone, they began to cry as
loudly as they could. Little Thumb let them cry, knowing very well how
to get home again, for he had dropped the little white pebbles all along
the way. Then he said to them, "Don't be afraid, brothers. Father and
mother have left us here, but I will lead you home again. Just follow
They did so, and he took them home by the very same way they had come
into the forest. They dared not go in, but sat down at the door,
listening to what their father and mother were saying.
The woodcutter and his wife had just arrived home, when the lord of
the manor sent them ten crowns, which he had owed them a long while, and
which they never expected. This gave them new life, for the poor people
were almost famished. The woodcutter sent his wife immediately to the
butcher's. As it had been a long while since they had eaten, she bought
three times as much meat as would be needed for two people.
When they had eaten, the woman said, "Alas! Where are our poor
children now? They would make a good feast of what we have left here;
but it was you, William, who decided to abandon them. I told you that we
would be sorry for it. What are they now doing in the forest? Alas, dear
God, the wolves have perhaps already eaten them up. You are very inhuman
to have abandoned your children in this way."
The woodcutter at last lost his patience, for she repeated it more
than twenty times, that they would be sorry for it, and that she was
right for having said so. He threatened to beat her if she did not hold
her tongue. It was not that the woodcutter was less upset than his wife,
but that she was nagging him. He, like many others, was of the opinion
that wives should say the right thing, but that they should not do so
She nearly drowned herself in tears, crying out, "Alas! Where are now
my children, my poor children?"
She spoke this so very loud that the children, who were at the gate,
began to cry out all together, "Here we are! Here we are!"
She immediately ran to open the door, and said, hugging them, "I am
so glad to see you, my dear children; you are very hungry and tired. And
my poor Peter, you are horribly dirty; come in and let me clean you."
Now, you must know that Peter was her eldest son, whom she loved
above all the rest, because he had red hair, as she herself did.
They sat down to supper and ate with a good appetite, which pleased
both father and mother. They told them how frightened they had been in
the forest, speaking almost always all together. The parents were
extremely glad to see their children once more at home, and this joy
continued while the ten crowns lasted; but, when the money was all gone,
they fell again into their former uneasiness, and decided to abandon
them again. This time they resolved to take them much deeper into the
forest than before.
Although they tried to talk secretly about it, again they were
overheard by Little Thumb, who made plans to get out of this difficulty
as well as he had the last time. However, even though he got up very
early in the morning to go and pick up some little pebbles, he could not
do so, for he found the door securely bolted and locked. Their father
gave each of them a piece of bread for their breakfast, and he fancied
he might make use of this instead of the pebbles, by throwing it in
little bits all along the way; and so he put it into his pocket.
Their father and mother took them into the thickest and most obscure
part of the forest, then, slipping away by an obscure path, they left
them there. Little Thumb was not concerned, for he thought he could
easily find the way again by means of his bread, which he had scattered
along the way; but he was very much surprised when he could not find so
much as one crumb. The birds had come and had eaten every bit of it up.
They were now in great distress, for the farther they went the more lost
and bewildered they became.
Night now came on, and there arose a terrible high wind, which made
them dreadfully afraid. They fancied they heard on every side of them
the howling of wolves coming to eat them up. They scarcely dared to
speak or turn their heads. After this, it rained very hard, which
drenched them to the skin; their feet slipped at every step they took,
and they fell into the mire, getting them muddy all over. Their hands
were numb with cold.
Little Thumb climbed to the top of a tree, to see if he could
discover anything. Turning his head in every direction, he saw at last a
glimmering light, like that of a candle, but a long way from the forest.
He came down, but from the ground, he could no longer see it no more,
which concerned him greatly. However, after walking for some time with
his brothers in the direction where he had seen the light, he perceived
it again as he came out of the woods.
They came at last to the house where this candle was, but not without
many fearful moments, for every time they walked down into a hollow they
lost sight of it. They knocked at the door, and a good woman opened it.
She asked them what they wanted.
Little Thumb told her they were poor children who had been lost in
the forest, and begged her, for God's sake, to give them lodging.
The woman, seeing that they were good looking children, began to
weep, and said to them, "Alas, poor babies, where are you from? Do you
know that this house belongs to a cruel ogre who eats up little
"Ah! dear madam," answered Little Thumb (who, as well as his
brothers, was trembling all over), "what shall we do? If you refuse to
let us sleep here then the wolves of the forest surely will devour us
tonight. We would prefer the gentleman to eat us, but perhaps he would
take pity upon us, especially if you would beg him to."
The ogre's wife, who believed she could hide them from her husband
until morning, let them come in, and had them to warm themselves at a
very good fire. There was a whole sheep on the spit, roasting for the
After they warmed up a little, they heard three or four great raps at
the door. This was the ogre, who was come home. Hearing him, she hid
them under the bed and opened the door. The ogre immediately asked if
supper was ready and the wine drawn, and then sat down at the table. The
sheep was still raw and bloody, but he preferred it that way. He sniffed
about to the right and left, saying, "I smell fresh meat."
His wife said, "You can smell the calf which I have just now killed
"I smell fresh meat, I tell you once more," replied the ogre, looking
crossly at his wife, "and there is something here which I do not
As he spoke these words he got up from the table and went directly to
the bed. "Ah, hah!" he said. "I see then how you would cheat me, you
cursed woman; I don't know why I don't eat you as well. It is fortunate
for you that you are tough old carrion. But here is good game, which has
luckily arrived just in time to serve to three ogre friends who are
coming here to visit in a day or two."
With that he dragged them out from under the bed, one by one. The
poor children fell upon their knees, and begged his pardon; but they
were dealing with one of the cruelest ogres in the world. Far from
having any pity on them, he had already devoured them with his eyes. He
told his wife that they would be delicate eating with good savory sauce.
He then took a large knife, and, approaching the poor children,
sharpened it on a large whetstone which he held in his left hand.
He had already taken hold of one of them when his wife said to him,
"Why do it now? Is it not tomorrow soon enough?"
"Hold your chatter," said the ogre; "they will be more tender, if I
kill them now."
"But you have so much meat already," replied his wife. "You have no
need for more. Here are a calf, two sheep, and half a hog."
"That is true," said the ogre. "Feed them so they don't get too thin,
and put them to bed."
The good woman was overjoyed at this, and offered them a good supper,
but they were so afraid that they could not eat a bit. As for the ogre,
he sat down to drink, being highly pleased that now had something
special to treat his friends. He drank a dozen glasses more than
ordinary, which went to his head and made him sleepy.
The ogre had seven little daughters. These young ogresses all had
very fine complexions, because they ate fresh meat like their father;
but they had little gray eyes, quite round, hooked noses, and very long
sharp teeth, well spaced from each other. As yet they were not overly
mischievous, but they showed great promise for it, for they had already
bitten little children in order to suck their blood.
They had been put to bed early, all seven in a large bed, and each of
them wearing a crown of gold on her head. The ogre's wife gave the seven
little boys a bed just as large and in the same room, then she went to
bed to her husband.
Little Thumb, who had observed that the ogre's daughters had crowns
of gold upon their heads, and was afraid lest the ogre should change his
mind about not killing them, got up about midnight, and, taking his
brothers' caps and his own, went very softly and put them on the heads
of the seven little ogresses, after having taken off their crowns of
gold, which he put on his own head and his brothers', that the ogre
might take them for his daughters, and his daughters for the little boys
whom he wanted to kill.
All of this happened according to his plan for, the ogre awakened
about midnight and, regretting that he had put off until morning that
which he might have done tonight, he hastily got out of bed and picked
up his large knife. "Let us see," he said, "how our little rogues are
doing! We'll not make that mistake a second time!"
He then went, groping all the way, into his daughters' room. He came
to the bed where the little boys lay. They were all fast asleep except
Little Thumb, who was terribly afraid when he felt the ogre feeling
about his head, as he had done about his brothers'. Feeling the golden
crowns, the ogre said, "That would have been a terrible mistake. Truly,
I did drink too much last night."
Then he went to the bed where the girls lay. Finding the boys' caps
on them, he said, "Ah, hah, my merry lads, here you are. Let us get to
work." So saying, and without further ado, he cut all seven of his
daughters' throats. Well pleased with what he had done, he went to bed
again to his wife.
As soon as Little Thumb heard the ogre snore, he wakened his brothers
and told them to put on their clothes immediately and to follow him.
They stole softly down into the garden, and climbed over the wall. They
kept running nearly the whole night, trembling all the while, and not
knowing which way they were going.
The ogre, when he awoke, said to his wife, "Go upstairs and dress
those young rascals who came here last night."
The ogress was very much surprised at this goodness of her husband,
not dreaming how he intended that she should dress them, thinking that
he had ordered her to go and put their clothes on them, she went up, and
was horribly astonished when she saw her seven daughters with their
throats cut and lying in their own blood.
She fainted away, for this is the first expedient almost all women
find in such cases. The ogre, fearing his wife would be too long in
doing what he had ordered, went up himself to help her. He was no less
amazed than his wife at this frightful spectacle.
"What have I done?" he cried. "Those wretches shall soon pay for
this!" He threw a pitcher of water on his wife's face, and, having
brought her to herself, cried, "Bring me my seven-league boots at once,
so that I can catch them."
He went out, and ran this way and that over a vast amount of ground.
At last he came to the very road where the poor children were, and not
more than a hundred paces from their father's house. They saw the ogre
coming, who was stepping from mountain to mountain, and crossing over
rivers as easily as if they were little streams. Little Thumb hid
himself and his brothers in a nearby hollow rock, all the while keeping
watch on the ogre.
The ogre was very tired from his long and fruitless journey (for
seven-league boots are very tiring to wear), and decided to take a rest.
By chance he sat on the rock where the little boys had hid themselves.
He was so tired that he fell asleep, and began to snore so frightfully
that the poor children were no less afraid of him than when he had held
up his large knife and was about to cut their throats. However, Little
Thumb was not as frightened as his brothers were, and told them that
they immediately should run away towards home while the ogre was asleep
so soundly, and that they should not worry about him. They took his
advice, and soon reached home. Little Thumb came up to the ogre, pulled
off his boots gently and put them on his own feet. The boots were very
long and large, but because they were enchanted, they became big or
little to fit the person who was wearing them. So they fit his feet and
legs as well as if they had been custom made for him. He immediately
went to the ogre's house, where he saw his wife crying bitterly for the
loss of her murdered daughters.
"Your husband," said Little Thumb, "is in very great danger. He has
been captured by a gang of thieves, who have sworn to kill him if he
does not give them all his gold and silver. At the very moment they were
holding their daggers to his throat he saw me, and begged me to come and
tell you the condition he is in. You should give me everything he has of
value, without keeping back anything at all, for otherwise they will
kill him without mercy. Because his case is so very urgent, he lent me
his boots (you see I have them on), that I might make the more haste and
to show you that he himself has sent me to you."
The good woman, being sadly frightened, gave him all she had, for
although this ogre ate up little children, he was a good husband. Thus
Little Thumb got all the ogre' s money. He returned with it to his
father's house, where he was received with great joy.
There are many people who do not agree with this last detail. They
claim that Little Thumb never robbed the ogre at all, that he only made
off with the seven-league boots, and that with a good conscience,
because the ogre's only use of them was to pursue little children. These
folks affirm that they are quite sure of this, because they have often
drunk and eaten at the woodcutter's house.
These people claim that after taking off the ogre's boots, Little
Thumb went to court, where he learned that there was much concern about
the outcome of a certain battle and the condition of a certain army,
which was two hundred leagues off. They say that he went to the king,
and told him that, if he desired it, he would bring him news from the
army before night. The king promised him a great sum of money if he
could do so. Little Thumb was as good as his word, and returned that
very same night with the news. This first feat brought him great fame,
and he could then name his own price. Not only did the king pay him very
well for carrying his orders to the army, but the ladies of the court
paid him handsomely to bring them information about their lovers.
Occasionally wives gave him letters for their husbands, but they paid so
poorly, that he did not even bother to keep track of the money he made
in this branch of his business.
After serving as a messenger for some time and thus acquiring great
wealth, he went home to his father, where he was received with
inexpressible joy. He made the whole family very comfortable, bought
positions for his father and brothers, all the while handsomely looking
after himself as well.
It is no affliction to have many children, if they all are good looking,
courteous, and strong, but if one is sickly or slow-witted,
he will be
scorned, ridiculed, and despised.
However, it is often the little urchin
who brings good fortune to the entire family.
At the foot of the mountains where the Po escapes from its bed of reeds
to the neighboring plain, there once lived a youthful and gallant
prince, the favorite of the whole countryside. Combining in himself all
the gifts of body and spirit, he was strong, clever, skillful in war,
and displayed great enthusiasm for the arts. He loved fighting and
victory, too, along with all mighty endeavors and deeds of glory --
everything which makes one's name live in history. But more than all
these, his greatest pleasure lay in the happiness of his people.
This splendid disposition was obscured, however, by a somber cloud, a
melancholy mood which caused the prince to feel, in the depths of his
heart, that all women were faithless and deceivers. Even in a woman of
the highest distinction he saw only the heart of a hypocrite, elated
with pride. To him she was a cruel enemy whose unbroken ambition was to
gain the mastery over whatever unhappy man might surrender to her.
Each day the prince gave his morning to his royal business. He ruled
wisely, doing everything he felt best for his people -- the frail
orphan, the oppressed widow, protecting the rights of all. The remainder
of the day was devoted to the chase, either the stag or the bear. These,
in spite of their ferocity, frightened him less than the charming women
whom he shunned daily.
His subjects, nevertheless, kept urging him to provide them with an
heir to the throne, someone who would rule them with the same affection
that the prince had always shown.
In reply to their urgings, the prince said, "This zeal with which you
urge me to marry pleases me greatly. I am deeply touched. But I am
convinced," he added, "that happiness can be found in a marriage only
when one of the two partners is dominant over the other. If, therefore,
you wish to see me wed, find me a young beauty without pride or vanity,
obedient, with tried and proved patience and, above all, without a
domineering will of her own. Once you have found her, I will marry!"
The prince, having finished these comments, flung himself on his
horse and galloped off to join his hounds. Over field and meadow he
flew, to find his fellow huntsmen waiting for him, ready and alert.
Therefore, he ordered the chase to begin at once and urged the dogs
after the stag. The blare of the horns, the thunder of the horses'
hooves, and the baying of the hounds filled the forest with tumult so
that the echoes were repeated endlessly, growing louder and louder in
the hollows of the woods.
By chance, or perhaps by destiny, the prince turned one day into a
winding road where none of the huntsmen followed him. The further he
went, the more widely he became separated from them, until finally he
reached a point where he no longer heard either the hounds or the horns
of the huntsmen.
The place where his strange adventure had led him, with its clear
streams and shadowy trees, filled the prince with awe. The simple and
unspoiled nature about him was so beautiful and pure that a thousand
times he blessed his wanderings from the well-known paths.
Filled with the reveries which pervaded the woods, fields and
streams, his heart and his eyes were suddenly confronted by a most
delightful object, the sweetest and kindliest ever seen under heaven. It
was a young shepherdess.
She would, indeed, have tamed the most savage heart. Her complexion
was like a lily whose fresh whiteness had always been shielded from the
sun. Her lips were most engaging. Her eyes, softened by dark lashes,
were bluer than the sky and even more bright.
The prince, transported with delight, slipped back quietly into the
wood where he might gaze unseen on the beauty by which his heart was
possessed. The noise which he made, however, caused the girl to glance
in his direction. The moment she saw him she blushed deeply and this, in
turn, added to her beauty. Under this innocent veil of modesty the
prince discovered a simplicity, a sweetness and a sincerity which he did
not believe possible in any woman. He drew nearer to her, and even more
timid and confused than she, he explained in a trembling voice that he
had lost all trace of the other huntsmen and asked her if perchance the
chase had passed through that part of the wood.
"No one has been seen in this solitary place except you," she said,
"but do not be disturbed. I will put you on the right road again."
"For this extraordinary good fortune," said the prince, "I cannot be
thankful enough to heaven. For a long time I have been accustomed to
visit such places as these, but until today I have not realized how
precious they might be to me."
As the maiden saw the prince kneel on the edge of the stream to
quench his thirst, she called to him to wait, and hurrying to her little
cottage, she returned with a cup which she graciously handed him. All
the precious goblets of crystal, agate and gold, sparkling and artfully
designed, never had for him, in their silly uselessness, half the beauty
of this clay cup which the shepherdess had just given him.
To find an easy road whereby the prince might return to his palace,
together they journeyed through the woods, over steep rocks and across
torrents, and as he followed along this unfamiliar route, the prince
observed all the landmarks carefully. He was dreaming already that he
would wish some day to return, and his love was making a faithful map
for him to do so.
From a dark grove where finally the shepherdess had led him he spied
through the branches the golden roofs of his magnificent palace.
Separated shortly from the beautiful girl, he was soon beset by a deep
grief. The recollection of his recent adventure filled him with
pleasure, yet on the morrow he was depressed with weariness and sorrow.
As soon as he could, he arranged another hunt and cleverly giving his
followers the slip, sought again the woods and hills where the young
shepherdess dwelt. There he found her, living with her father, and
learned that her name was Griselda. Together the girl and the old man
lived simply on the milk of their flock and wove their garments from the
As the days went by, the more he saw of her, the brighter the
prince's love burned for the shepherdess. He was filled with an extreme
happiness and, finally, one day he called his counselors together and
spoke to them, "In accordance with your wishes, I am at last planning to
wed although I shall not take a wife from a strange land but from
someone among us -- someone lovely, wise and well bred. I shall eagerly
await the great moment to inform you of my choice."
When this news was released, it was carried everywhere and no one
could measure the joy with which it was received on every side.
It was amusing to see the useless trouble to which the belles of the
town went to win the approval of their prince for whom modesty and
simplicity had a charm above all else, as he had told them a hundred
times. They changed their manners and their dress; they lowered their
voices; they even coughed in a pious tone; they reduced their hairdos a
half foot; they covered their necks and lengthened their sleeves, so
that one scarcely saw the ends of their fingers.
The workmen and artists of the town labored diligently for the
wedding day which they knew was approaching. Magnificent floats were
contrived in an entirely new style in which gold which was used lavishly
was the least of their ornaments. Here, on one side, grandstands were
set up from which the pomp and ceremony might better be seen. There, in
another direction, great arches were erected, celebrating the glories of
their warrior prince and the brilliant victory of love over him.
Here were forges of the industrial arts whose fires, with harmless
thundering, frightened the earth, their sparks like a thousand new stars
adorning the heavens. There a clever ballet was devised, with merry
foolishness, and there, too, in an opera lovelier than any which had
ever been produced in Italy, were heard a thousand melodious songs.
At last the famous wedding day arrived! The very heavens mingled the
crimson of the dawn with their gold and blue as the lovely maidens of
the land wakened from their slumbers. Sightseers arrived from all
directions. In many places guards were posted to hold the crowds in
check. The palace echoed with the sounds of horns, flutes, oboes and
rustic bagpipes, while on every side could be heard the drums and
At last the prince came out from his palace, surrounded by his
courtiers. A great cry of joy arose, but a moment later everyone was
amazed when, at the first turn of the road, he took the path into the
nearby forest, just as he had done many times before. "There," everyone
mistakenly said, "is where his interest lies. In spite of his love, the
hunt holds the first place in his heart."
The prince quickly crossed the open farm lands and, reaching the
hills, entered the woods, to the astonishment of the troop of courtiers
who accompanied him.
After having passed along several by-paths which his heart with its
happiness remembered, he found himself at the rustic cottage where his
precious loved one lived.
Griselda had heard, too, about the wedding and, dressed in her best,
was waiting outside her little house, before going to see the
"Where are you going so gaily and in such haste?" asked the prince,
drawing near and gazing on her tenderly. "Stop hurrying, my dear
shepherdess. The wedding for which you are so ready to leave here and in
which I am to become a husband will never take place without you as part
of it. Yes, I love you and I have chosen you from among a thousand young
beauties to spend the rest of my life with, if, of course, my hopes are
"My lord," she replied, "I could never dare believe that I might be
destined for such an honor. Are you seeking to make sport with me?"
"Not for a moment," the prince answered. "I am most sincere.
But before we pledge an eternal vow between us it will be necessary
for you to swear that you will never have any other wishes than what I
"I swear it," she said, "and give you my promise. If I were to marry
the least important man in the world, I should agree to obey him. His
yoke would be a gentle one for me. How much rather, then, would I obey
you if I found you my lord and master."
So the prince had spoken and while the court applauded his choice, he
asked the shepherdess please to be patient as she was instructed in
those graces and deportment which should belong to the bride of a king.
Those whose duty it was displayed all their skill in making these
adjustments for her.
Whereupon there slipped from the little cottage, stately and radiant,
the charming shepherdess. Not only was there applause everywhere for her
beauty, but beyond this for her real ornament, an innocent simplicity.
In a magnificent coach of gold and ivory, which had followed the
course of the prince, the shepherdess was seated in full majesty, and
the prince, proudly there with her, found no less glory in his role of a
lover than when marching in triumph following a great victory. The
courtiers followed them as they moved gaily toward the palace.
Meanwhile the whole town impatiently awaited the prince's return.
Suddenly he appeared and they rushed to meet him.
Surrounded by a great crowd of people, the wedding coach could
scarcely move. At the shouts of joy, doubled and redoubled, the horses
were frightened. They reared, stamped their hooves, dashed forward and
then drew back again further than they had advanced. But at long last
they reached the church and with solemn vows the two lovers were united
When they finally reached the palace, a thousand diversions awaited
them. Dancing, games, racing and tournaments spread merriment throughout
the city. And the love of the prince and the shepherdess was like a
crowning glory of the day!
On the next day, the various sections of the country joined in
congratulating the prince and princess in speeches by their leaders.
Surrounded by her ladies-in-waiting, Griselda, without showing any
surprise, listened to them like a princess and like a princess she
replied. In everything she did, she acted so wisely that it seemed as
though heaven had given her its richest blessings of the mind as well as
of the body. She easily accustomed herself to the ways of the new world
about her and was quickly as much at home there in the court as she had
been formerly in taking care of her sheep.
Before a year had passed their marriage was blessed with a child, not
a prince as might have been desired but a little princess, so lovely and
endearing that every moment her father kept coming back to gaze on her
again. Her mother, still more enraptured, never Look her eyes off her.
She even determined to nurse the infant herself, for "How can I refuse
her," she said, "when her cries insist on having me? Can I be only a
part mother of the child I love so much?"
In time the love of the prince became a little less ardent than
formerly, so that his evil mood seemed to grow again. It was as though a
thick fog had obscured his senses and corrupted his heart. In everything
that the princess did he imagined that he saw little real sincerity. Her
outstanding goodness offended him; it was a snare, he thought, for his
credulity. His unhappy state of mind led him to believe every suspicion.
As a result of the melancholy with which his mind had been tainted, he
followed her about, watching her. He seemed to enjoy limiting her
pleasures and alarming her, mixing the false with the true.
"I must not be lulled asleep," he said. "If these virtues of hers are
indeed genuine, then even my most unreasonable actions will only
And so she was confined to the palace and retired to her rooms, far
from the pleasures of the court. Convinced that one's wardrobe and its
accessories are the dearest delight of a woman, the prince rudely
demanded her pearls, rubies, rings and jewels, all of which he had given
her as a token of his affection when he became her husband.
She whose life was stainless, who had never been punished in any way,
who had performed her every duty well, had been happy in giving as she
had been in receiving, "My husband plagues me only to test my love," she
said, "and he only makes me suffer to arouse my sleeping virtues which
might have perished in a long and peaceful repose. Let us be happy,
then, in this harsh but worthwhile severity. For one is often happy only
as one suffers."
The prince was chagrined to see her obey freely all of his strictest
orders. "I see," he said, "what lies behind this false goodness of hers
and makes all my efforts useless. My blows have been directed only where
there is no longer any love. But for her infant child, for the little
princess, she has shown the greatest tenderness. If I am to succeed in
my testing her, it is there that I must direct my efforts."
At the moment she was about to nurse the baby who was lying against
her heart, smiling.
"I see that you love her," said the prince. "It will be necessary,
however, that while she is still very young I separate her from you so
that she will be brought up with the right manners and will be protected
from the bad habits into which she will surely fall if she remains with
you. By the best of good luck I have found a lady who will bring her up
with all the virtues and good manners which a princess should have. You
will arrange, then, to part with her. They will be coming soon to take
At these words, he left her, not having the courage to watch them
snatch from her arms this pledge of their love. A thousand tears bathed
her face as she watched in mournful dejection the darkest moment of her
As soon as those who were to carry out this cruel and sad undertaking
appeared, she told them, "I must obey." Then, taking up her child, she
gazed on her and kissing her with a mother's love, weeping, she gave her
up. Alas, how bitter was her sorrow. To tear an infant from its mother's
heart, this is Grief itself.
Not far from the city was a convent, famous for its antiquity, where
the nuns lived according to strict rules under the eyes of an abbess,
renowned for her piety. It was here in silence and without revealing the
secret of her birth that they took the infant.
The prince tried to escape, by hunting, from the sharp remorse which
embarrassed him over his extreme show of cruelty. He hesitated to visit
the princess, as one might fear to meet again a fierce tigress from whom
its cub had been taken. Nevertheless, he was received tenderly by his
wife and with the same affection which she had formerly shown during
their happiest days.
At this remarkable and unexpected courage, he was touched with regret
and shame, but the strange mood that had come over him was still strong.
And so, two days later, with affected tears, in order to deliver the
final and supreme blow, he came to her to announce the death of the
This unexpected blow wounded her deeply. Nevertheless, in spite of
her sadness, having noticed how her husband seemed changed in
appearance, she forgot her own grief and exerted every effort to console
him in his false sorrow.
This goodness, this unique marvel of love, suddenly softened the
prince's harshness. It changed his heart so that he was inclined to
announce that their child still lived. But his bitterness of spirit was
still strong and fiercely upheld him in not revealing the mystery which
it was so useless to conceal.
And so for fifteen years the sun moved through the various stages
along its orbit and brought the changing seasons. Meanwhile the little
princess in the convent grew in wisdom and stature. To the sweetness and
simplicity which she inherited from her mother she added her father's
pleasing and proud dignity, a combination which gave her a rare beauty
of character. She shone like a bright star and, by chance, one of the
noblemen at the court, young, well bred and gallant, having glimpsed her
through the gate of the convent, fell in love with her.
By that instinct which nature has given the fairer sex of noticing
the invisible wounds which their eyes make, at the moment they are made,
the princess knew that she had found a tender lover. And having resisted
for a little, as one has a right to do before giving in, she, for her
part, fell completely in love, too.
Nothing was lacking in this young lover. He was handsome, courageous
and came from an illustrious family. For a long time the prince had been
observing him. And so it was with great joy that he learned that the two
young people were in love. But he took a strange satisfaction in making
them win the supreme happiness of their lives only by a series of
vexations and torments. He told his subjects, for instance, that since
they wanted an heir to the throne of distinguished birth he had decided
to take a wife of a most illustrious family who had actually been
brought up in a convent. The people, of course, did not know that he was
speaking of his own daughter. She, too, did not realize that the prince
was actually her father and that it was only his strangely twisted mind
which had led him to make this foolish announcement which, even though
he never intended to carry out the plan, would bring so much unhappiness
to so many people. He even arranged another match for the young man with
whom the princess had fallen so deeply in love.
One can only guess how cruel the news was to the two young lovers.
Next, without any sign of concern for her, the prince told his faithful
wife that it was necessary for him to leave her in order to avoid
extreme misfortune later on. He explained that his people, shocked by
her low birth, were urging him to make a more suitable alliance
elsewhere. "You," he said, "will have to go back to your little thatched
cottage, after having once more put on the dress of a shepherdess, as I
have arranged for you."
Calmly and with a quiet firmness, the princess listened as he
pronounced this sentence on her. Her face serene, she hid her grief and
without her sorrow in any way lessening her charms, great tears fell
from her eyes. So also, sometimes in April, the rain falls while the sun
still is shining.
"You are my husband, my lord and master," she said, sighing, "and
whatever else you may hear, you must remember that nothing is nearer my
heart than to obey you completely." Therefore she retired alone to her
apartments, stripped herself of her expensive wardrobe and, quietly and
without a complaint, put on the clothes she had once worn while guarding
In her humble carriage she left the prince with these words, "I
cannot leave you without your pardon for having displeased you. I can
bear the load of my own sorrow, but I cannot, my lord, endure your
anger. Have pity on my sincere regret, and I will live willingly in my
sad abode, knowing that time will never change my humble regard for you
or my unbroken love."
Such obedience and nobleness of spirit from one so meanly dressed
aroused in the heart of the prince some remembrance of his early love
for her and almost ended the banishment. Moved by her charms and on the
verge of tears, he was about to put his arms around her when his
domineering vanity suddenly overcame his love. And so he said harshly,
"Of days that are gone I have lost all recollection. I am satisfied with
your confession. Come, let us go."
She left immediately and turning to her father who was also dressed
once more in his rustic clothes and whose heart was weeping bitterly
over this sudden and unexpected change, she said, "Let us return to our
shady groves and our simple life and leave without regret the pomp of
this palace. Our cottage is not very elaborate, but it does offer more
of honesty and rest for us and peace of mind."
When they arrived at their wilderness home, she took up her distaff
and spindle and began her spinning on the bank of the same stream where
the prince had first discovered her. A hundred times a day her heart,
peaceful and with no bitterness, implored heaven to bless her husband
with fame and riches and to refuse him none of his wishes. A love fed on
caresses could not have been warmer than hers.
But her dear husband of whom she was thinking still insisted on
testing her further, and so he ordered her once again to come and visit
"Griselda," he said, when she presented herself, "it is necessary
that the princess, to whom I give my hand tomorrow in the church, should
understand completely where you and I stand. I therefore insist on your
attendance on her and that you help me in every way in pleasing her. You
know in what manner I must be served -- nothing held back, and nothing
too good. Everyone must see in me a prince -- more than that, a prince
"Use all your energies in preparing her apartment with abundance of
everything: richness, neatness and elegance all combined. And finally,
always keep in mind that she is a young princess whom I love tenderly.
And so that you may carry out your duties completely you must understand
that to serve her in every way is my strictest order to you."
As radiant as the morning sun appears in the East, so, too, the
lovely princess seemed on her arrival at the palace. At first, in the
depths of her heart Griselda felt an ecstasy of mother love when she saw
her. Days that were gone, happier days, came back to her in memory.
"Alas! my daughter," she said to herself. "If a kind heaven had heard my
prayers, she would be almost as tall and perhaps just as beautiful as
this new princess."
For this young princess she felt so deep a love she could not help
saying to the prince, "Permit me to warn you, my lord, that this
charming princess who is to be your wife, reared in a life of ease and
luxury, will not be able to endure the sort of treatment I have received
"Necessity and my humble station in life have hardened me for work
and I can endure all sorts of misfortune without pain and without
complaint. But she who has never known grief will die under the least
hardship, at the least sharp or unkind word. Do, my lord, I beg you,
always treat her with kindness."
"Try to serve me " said the prince severely, "as well as you can. It
is hardly necessary for a simple shepherdess like you to give me lessons
or to meddle in my affairs by explaining my duties to me."
At this rebuke, Griselda, lowering her glance, quickly with. drew
from his presence.
And now the lords and ladies from far and near began to assemble for
the wedding. In a magnificent reception room where they were called
together before the ceremony, the prince addressed them. "Nothing in the
world," he said, "is more deceitful than appearances. Here you can see a
shining example. Who among you would not think that this young woman, so
soon to be my wife, would be most happy and contented. But she is not at
"Who would dare believe that this young man, eager for fame, would
not be happy in this marriage we have arranged for him, triumphing over
all his rivals? Yet this is not true! Again, who would imagine that,
with justifiable anger, Griselda would not weep in despair at her lot?
Yet she has complained of nothing, has consented to everything I asked
of her and nothing whatever has been able to provoke her patience. And,
finally, who would dream that anything could match my happy outlook for
the future in beholding the charms of the object of my vows? If,
however, fate should deal unkindly with me in these matters, I shall be
most deeply grieved and of all the princes in this world the most
unhappy. If anything I have said is difficult for you to understand, a
word or two further should explain everything -- words which should make
all the unhappiness of which you may have heard rumors vanish at once.
"Know then," he went on, "that the charming person who has stolen my
heart is, in fact, my own daughter and that the woman who is the
attendant to the lady, who loves her extremely and is, in turn, loved by
her, is really still my beloved wife. Know further that, moved by the
patience of this wise and faithful wife whom I have driven away and
humiliated, I here and now take her back again as far as I can atone for
the cruel and harsh treatment she has received from my jealous spirit.
It will be my purpose in the future to prevent anything which might
bring about this regrettable situation again. And if the memory of these
cruel days in which her heart was not once borne down should in after
times remain, I hope that even more than this people will speak of the
fame with which I have crowned her surpassing virtue."
Just as when a thick cloud has cut off the sun and all the heavens
are darkened by a fearful storm, if these clouds are parted by the winds
and a brilliant burst of sunlight shines down on the landscape, so that
the whole world smiles again and renews its beauty -- so in all eyes
where sadness had reigned suddenly now a new happiness shone everywhere.
For at this announcement, the young princess was enraptured in realizing
that she had won back her life again from the prince. Falling to her
knees she embraced him warmly, but her father, who had also won back his
beloved daughter, lifted her to her feet, blessed her and led her to her
So much happiness, coming all at once, almost robbed the mother of
all feelings. Her great heart which had endured grief so well, almost
broke now with the burden of this new joy. Scarcely could she hold in
her arms this lovely child of hers whom heaven had returned to her. All
she could do was to weep.
"We have years to come in which to be happy," the prince told her.
"Put on the new wardrobe which your rank demands."
And so together they led the two young lovers to the church where
they were married. A thousand diversions followed -- tournaments, games,
dances, music, and great banquets. And everywhere everyone's eyes were
on Griselda whose patience under the greatest adversity was praised by
all. Indeed, the people even praised the prince's cruelties because they
had produced so remarkable a proof of Griselda's constancy that people
saw in her a model for women everywhere in the world.
Once upon a time there was a king who was the most powerful ruler in the
whole world. Kind and just in peace and terrifying in war, his enemies
feared him while his subjects were happy and content. His wife and
faithful companion was both charming and beautiful. From their union a
daughter had been born.
Their large and magnificent palace was filled with courtiers, and
their stables boasted steeds large and small, of every description. But
what surprised everyone on entering these stables was that the place of
honor was held by a donkey with two big ears. However, it was quite
worthy of this position, for every morning, instead of dung, it dropped
a great load of gold coins upon the litter.
Now heaven, which seems to mingle good with evil, suddenly permitted
a bitter illness to attack the queen. Help was sought on all sides, but
neither the learned physicians nor the charlatans were able to arrest
the fever which increased daily. Finally, her last hour having come, the
queen said to her husband: "Promise me that if, when I am gone, you find
a woman wiser and more beautiful than I, you will marry her and so
provide an heir for throne."
Confident that it would be impossible to find such a woman, the queen
thus believed that her husband would never remarry. The king accepted
his wife's conditions, and shortly thereafter she died in his arms.
For a time the king was inconsolable in his grief, both day and
night. Some months later, however, on the urging of his courtiers, he
agreed to marry again, but this was not an easy matter, for he had to
keep his promise to his wife and search as he might, he could not find a
new wife with all the attractions he sought. Only his daughter had a
charm and beauty which even the queen had not possessed.
Thus only by marrying his daughter could he satisfy the promise he
had made to his dying wife, and so he forthwith proposed marriage to
her. This frightened and saddened the princess, and she tried to show
her father the mistake he was making. Deeply troubled at this turn of
events, she sought out her fairy godmother who lived in a grotto of
coral and pearls.
"I know why you have come here," her godmother said. "In your heart
there is a great sadness. But I am here to help you and nothing can harm
you if you follow my advice. You must not disobey your father, but first
tell him that you must have a dress which has the color of the sky.
Certainly he will never be able to meet that request."
And so the young princess went all trembling to her father. But he,
the moment he heard her request, summoned his best tailors and ordered
them, without delay, to make a dress the color of the sky, or they could
be assured he would hang them all.
The following day the dress was shown to the princess. It was the
most beautiful blue of heaven. Filled now with both happiness and fear,
she did not know what to do, but her godmother again told her, "Ask for
a dress the color of the moon. Surely your father will not be able to
give you this."
No sooner had the princess made the request than the king summoned
his embroiderers and ordered that a dress the color of the moon be
completed by the fourth day. On that very day it was ready and the
princess was again delighted with its beauty.
But still her godmother urged her once again to make a request of the
king, this time for a dress as bright and shining as the sun. This time
the king summoned a wealthy jeweler and ordered him to make a cloth of
gold and diamonds, warning him that if he failed he would die. Within a
week the jeweler had finished the dress, so beautiful and radiant that
it dazzled the eyes of everyone who saw it.
The princess did not know how to thank the king, but once again her
godmother whispered in her ear. "Ask him for the skin of the donkey in
the royal stable. The king will not consider your request seriously. You
will not receive it, or I am badly mistaken." But she did not understand
how extraordinary was the king's desire to please his daughter. Almost
immediately the donkey's skin was brought to the princess.
Once again she was frightened and once again her godmother came to
her assistance. "Pretend," she said, "to give in to the king. Promise
him anything he wishes, but, at the same time, prepare to escape to some
"Here," she continued, "is a chest in which we will put your clothes,
your mirror, the things for your toilet, your diamonds and other jewels.
I will give you my magic wand. Whenever you have it in your hand, the
chest will follow you everywhere, always hidden underground. Whenever
you wish to open the chest, as soon as you touch the wand to the ground,
the chest will appear.
"To conceal you, the donkey's skin will be an admirable disguise, for
when you are inside it, no one will believe that anyone so beautiful
could be hidden in anything so frightful."
Early in the morning the princess disappeared as she was advised.
They searched everywhere for her, in houses, along the roads, wherever
she might have been, but in vain. No one could imagine what had become
The princess, meanwhile, was continuing her flight. To everyone she
met, she extended her hands, begging them to find her some place where
she might find work. But she looked so unattractive and indeed so
repulsive in her Donkey Skin disguise that no one would have anything to
do with such a creature.
Farther and still farther she journeyed until finally she came to a
farm where they needed a poor wretch to wash the dishcloths and clean
out the pig troughs. They also made her work in a corner of the kitchen
where she was exposed to the low jokes and ridicule of all the other
On Sundays she had a little rest for, having completed her morning
tasks, she went to her room and closed the door and bathed. Then she
opened the chest, took out her toilet jars and set them up, with the
mirror, before her. Having made herself beautiful once more, she tried
on her moon dress, then that one which shone like the sun and, finally,
the lovely blue dress. Her only regret was that she did not have room
enough to display their trains. She was happy, however, in seeing
herself young again, and this pleasure carried her along from one Sunday
to the next.
On this great farm where she worked there was an aviary belonging to
a powerful king. All sorts of unusual birds with strange habits were
kept there. The king's son often stopped at this farm on his return from
the hunt in order to rest and enjoy a cool drink with his courtiers.
From a distance Donkey Skin gazed on him with tenderness and
remembered that beneath her dirt and rags she still had the heart of a
princess. What a grand manner he has, she thought. How gracious he is!
How happy must she be to whom his heart is pledged! If he should give me
a dress of only the simplest sort, I would feel more splendid wearing it
than any of these which I have.
One day the young prince, seeking adventure from court yard to court
yard, came to the obscure hallway where Donkey Skin had her humble room.
By chance he put his eye to the key hole. It was a feast-day and Donkey
Skin had put on her dress of gold and diamonds which shone as brightly
as the sun. The prince was breathless at her beauty, her youthfulness,
and her modesty. Three times he was on the point of entering her room,
but each time refrained.
On his return to his father's palace, the prince became very
thoughtful, sighing day and night and refusing to attend any of the
balls and carnivals. He lost his appetite and finally sank into sad and
deadly melancholy. He asked who this beautiful maiden was that lived in
such squalor and was told that it was Donkey Skin, the ugliest animal
one could find, except the wolf, and a certain cure for love. This he
would not believe, and he refused to forget what he had seen.
His mother, the queen, begged him to tell her what was wrong.
Instead, he moaned, wept and sighed. He would say nothing, except that
he wanted Donkey Skin to make him a cake with her own hands.
"O heavens," they told her, "this Donkey Skin is only a poor, drab
"It makes no difference," replied the queen. "We must do as he says.
It is the only way to save him."
So Donkey Skin took some flour which she had ground especially fine,
and some salt, some butter and some fresh eggs and shut herself alone in
her room to make the cake. But first she washed her face and hands and
put on a silver smock in honor of the task she had undertaken.
Now the story goes that, working perhaps a little too hastily, there
fell from Donkey Skin's finger into the batter a ring of great value.
Some who know the outcome of this story think that she may have dropped
the ring on purpose, and they are probably right, for when the prince
stopped at her door and looked through the key hole, she must have known
it. And she was sure that the ring would be received most joyfully by
The prince found the cake so good that in his ravishing hunger, he
almost swallowed the ring! When he saw the beautiful emerald and the
band of gold that traced the shape of Donkey Skin's finger, his heart
was filled with an indescribable joy. At once he put the ring under his
pillow, but his illness increased daily until finally the doctors,
seeing him grow worse, gravely concluded that he was sick with love.
Marriage, whatever may be said against it, is an excellent remedy for
love sickness. And so it was decided that the prince was to marry.
"But I insist," he said, "that I will wed only the person whom this
ring fits." This unusual demand surprised the king and queen very much,
but the prince was so ill that they did not dare object.
A search began for whoever might be able to fit the ring on her
finger, no matter what the station in life. It was rumored throughout
the land that in order to win the prince one must have a very slender
finger. Every charlatan had his secret method of making the finger slim.
One suggested scraping it as though it was a turnip. Another recommended
cutting away a small piece. Still another, with a certain liquid,
planned to decrease the size by removing the skin.
At last the trials began with the princesses, the marquesses and the
duchesses, but their fingers, although delicate, were too big. for the
ring. Then the countesses, the baronesses and all the nobility presented
their hands, but all in vain. Next came the working girls, who often
have slender and beautiful fingers, but the ring would not fit them,
Finally it was necessary to turn to the servants, the kitchen help,
the slaveys and the poultry keepers, with their red and dirty hands.
Putting the tiny ring on their clumsy fingers was like trying to thread
a big rope through the eye of a needle.
At last the trials were finished. There remained only Donkey Skin in
her far corner of the farm kitchen. Who could dream that she ever would
"And why not?" asked the prince. "Ask her to come here." At that,
some started to laugh; others cried out against bringing that frightful
creature into the room. But when she drew out from under the donkey skin
a little hand as white as ivory and the ring vas placed on her finger
and fitted perfectly, everyone was astounded.
They prepared to take her to the king at once, but she asked that
before she appeared before her lord and master, she be permitted to
change her clothes. To tell the truth, there was some smiling at this
request, but when she arrived at the palace in her beautiful dress, the
richness of which had never been equaled, with her blonde hair all
alight with diamonds and her blue eyes sweet and appealing and even her
waist so slender that two hands could have encircled it, then even the
gracious ladies of the court seemed, by comparison, to have lost all
their charms. In all this happiness and excitement, the king did not
fail to notice the charms of his prospective daughter-in-law, and the
queen was completely delighted with her. The prince himself found his
happiness almost more than he could bear. Preparations for the wedding
were begun at once, and the kings of all the surrounding countries were
invited. Some came from the East, mounted on huge elephants. Others were
so fierce looking that they frightened the little children. From all the
corners of the world they came and descended on the court in great
But neither the prince nor the many visiting kings appeared in such
splendor as the bride's father, who now recognized his daughter and
begged her forgiveness.
"How kind heaven is," he said, "to let me see you again, my dear
daughter." Weeping with joy, he embraced her tenderly. His happiness was
shared by all, and the future husband was delighted to find that his
father-in-law was such a powerful king. At that moment the fairy
godmother arrived, too, and told the whole story of what had happened,
and what she had to tell added the final triumph for Donkey Skin.
It is not hard to see that the moral of this tale is that it is
better to undergo the greatest hardships rather than to fail in one's
duty, that virtue may sometimes seem ill-fated but will always triumph
in the end.
The story of Donkey Skin may be hard to believe, but so long as there
are children, mothers, and grandmothers in this world, it will be
remembered by all.