Italian Popular Tales
by Thomas Crane
Parrot Which Tells Three Stories
ONCE upon a time there was a rich merchant who wanted to marry, and who happened to find a wife as good as the day was long, and who loved her husband desperately. One day she saw him a little annoyed, and said: "What makes you feel so?" "What should make me feel so! I have important business to attend to, and must go and see to it on the spot." "And are you annoyed about that? Let us arrange matters thus: you will leave me provisions and close up all the doors and windows but one high up; make me a wicket, and then depart." "The advice pleases me," said her husband, and he laid in at once a large provision of bread, flour oil, coals, and everything; had all the doors and windows closed up but one, to take the air, had a wicket made like those in the convents, and departed, and the wife remained with her maid. The next day a servant called at the wicket to do what was necessary and then went away. After ten days the lady began to be oppressed, and had a great mind to cry. The maid said: "There is a remedy for everything, my mistress; let us draw the table up to the window, and climb up and enjoy the sight of the Corso." They did so, and the lady looked out. "Ah! I thank you, sirs!" As she uttered the ah! opposite her was a notary's office, and there were the notary and a cavalier. They turned and saw this beautiful young woman. "Oh! What a handsome woman! I must speak with her!" said the cavalier. "No: I will speak first," said the notary. And "I first," and "I first." They laid a wager of four hundred ounces as to who would speak with her first. The lady perceived them and withdrew from the window.
The notary and the cavalier thought about the bet, and had no rest running here and there and trying to speak with the lady. At last the notary in despair went out into the fields and began to call his demon. The demon appeared and the notary told him everything, saying: "And this cavalier wishes to have the advantage of speaking with the lady first." "What will you give me?" said the demon. "My soul." "Then see what you have to do; I will change you into a parrot and you must fly and alight on the window of the lady. The maid will take you and have a silver cage made for you and put you in it. The cavalier will find an old woman who is able to make the lady leave the house. But she will not make her leave, you know. You must say: 'My pretty mamma, sit down while I tell you a story.' The old woman will come thrice; you must tear out your feathers and fly into a passion and say always: 'My pretty mamma, don't go with that old woman, she will betray you; sit down while I tell you a story.' And then tell her any story you wish."
The demon ended with: "Man you are, become a parrot!" And the par rot flew away to the window. The maid saw it and caught it with her handkerchief. When the lady saw the parrot she said: "How beautiful you are! Now you will be my consolation." "Yes, pretty mamma, I will love you, too." The lady had a silver cage made, and shut the parrot up in it.
Let us leave the parrot in the cage, and return to the cavalier, who was making desperate efforts to see the lady. An old woman met him, and asked him what the matter was. "Must I tell you what the matter is?" and dismissed her; but the old woman was persistent. At last to get rid of her he told her all about the wager. The old woman said: "I am able to make you speak with the lady. You must have prepared for me two handsome baskets of early fruit." The cavalier was so anxious to see the lady that he had the baskets of early fruit prepared and given to her. With these things the old woman went to the wicket, pretending that she was the lady's grandmother. The lady believed her. One word brings on another. "Tell me, my granddaughter, you are always shut up, but don't you hear mass Sundays?" "How could I hear it shut up?" "Ah, my daughter, you will be damned. No, this is not well. You must hear mass Sundays. To day is a feast day; let us go to mass."
While the lady was being persuaded, the parrot began to lament. When its mistress opened the clothespress, the parrot said: "My pretty mamma, don't go, for the old woman will betray you. If you don't go I will tell you a story." The lady took an idea into her head. "Now, my grand mother," she said, "go away, for I cannot come." And the old woman went away. When she had gone, the lady went to the parrot, which related to her this story:
First Story of the Parrot
ONCE upon a time there was a king who had an only daughter, who was very fond of dolls, and had one that was her delight. She dressed her and undressed her and put her to bed, in short did for her what is done for children. One day the king wished to go into the country, and the princess wished to take the doll. While they were walking about, in a moment of forgetfulness, she left her doll on a hedge. It was meal time, and after they had eaten they got into the carriage and returned to the royal palace. What do you suppose the princess forgot? The doll!
As soon as they arrived at the palace the princess remembered the doll. What did she do? Instead of going up-stairs, she turned round and went to look for the doll. When she got outdoors, she became lost and wandered about like a person bereft of her senses. After a time she came to a royal palace and asked who was the king of that palace. "The King of Spain," they said. She asked for a lodging. She entered; the king gave her lodging and treated her like a daughter. She made herself at home in the palace and began to be the mistress. The king had no daughters and gave her liberty to do as she pleased in spite of twelve royal damsels. Now, as there is envy among equals, the damsels began to oppose her. Said they: "Just see! Who knows who she is? And is she to be our princess? Now this thing must stop!" The next day they said to the princess: "Will you come with us?" "No, because papa does not wish it. If he is willing, I will come." "Do you know what you must do to make him let you come? Tell him: 'By the soul of his daughter he must let you go.' When he hears that, he will let you go at once." The princess did so, but when the king heard her say: "By the soul of his daughter!" "Ah! Wretch," exclaimed the king; "Quick, throw her down the trap-door!" When the princess fell down the trap-door she found a door, then another, and another, always feeling her way along. At a certain point she felt with her hands like the blind, and found tinder and matches. She then lighted a candle which she found there, and saw a beautiful young girl, with a padlock on her mouth, so that she could not speak, but she made signs that the key to open it with was under the pillow of the bed. The princess got it and opened the pad lock; then the young girl spoke, and said that she was the daughter of the king whom a magician had stolen. This magician brought her, every day, something to eat, and then locked up her mouth, and she had to wait until the next day to open it again. "But tell me," said the princess, "what way is there to free you?" "How do I know? I can do nothing but ask the magician when he opens my mouth; you hide under the bed and listen, and afterwards think what has to be done." "Good! Good!" The princess locked her mouth, put the key under the pillow, and crawled under the bed. But at midnight a great noise was heard; the earth opened, lightning, smoke, and smell of sulphur, and the magician appeared in a magician's robe. With the magician was a giant with a bowl of food, and two servants with two torches. The magician sent away the servants, and locked the doors, took the key, and opened the mouth of the king's daughter. While they were eating, she said: "Magician, I have a thought: out of curiosity I would like to know what it would be necessary for me to do to escape from here." "You want to know a great deal, my daughter!" "Never mind, I don't care to know." "However, I will tell you. It would be necessary to make a mine all around the palace, and precisely at midnight, when I am on the point of entering, to explode the mine: you will find yourself with your father, and I will fly up in the air." "It's as if you had not told any one," said the young girl. The magician dressed himself and went away. After a few hours the princess came out from under the bed, took leave of her little sister, for she already called her "little sister," and departed.
She went back to the trap-door and, at a certain point, stopped and called for help. The king heard her, and had a rope lowered. The princess climbed up and related everything to the king. He was astounded, and began the mine, which he had filled with shot, powder, and balls. When it was full to the brim, the princess descended with a watch and went to the king's daughter: "Either both dead, or both alive!" When she entered the room, she said: "It is I," took the lock from her mouth, talked with her, and then concealed herself under the bed. At midnight the magician came, and the king was on the lookout, with his watch in his hand. As the clock struck twelve, the princess fired the mine: boom! And a great noise was heard: the magician vanished, and the two young girls found themselves free and in each other's arms. When the king saw them, he exclaimed: "Ah! My daughters! Your misfortune was your good fortune. My crown belongs to you," said he to the princess whom he had adopted. "No, your Majesty for I am a king's daughter, and I, too, have a crown."
This matter spread over the world, and her fame passed through all the kingdoms, and every one talked of nothing but the great courage and goodness of this princess who had delivered the other princess from the magician. And they remained happy and always enjoyed holy peace.
A week passed after the story; the old woman again came with two other baskets of fruit to her granddaughter: "Pretty idea!" said the parrot, "Take care, pretty mamma; the old woman is coming." The old woman said: "Come, my daughter, are you going to mass?" "Yes, my grandmother;" and the lady began dressing herself. When the parrot saw her dressing herself it began to tear out its feathers and weep: "No, pretty mamma, don't go to mass; that old woman will ruin you. If you will stay with me, I will tell you another story." "Now go away," said the lady to the old woman, "for I cannot kill my dear little parrot, for the sake of the mass." "Ah! Wicked woman! To lose your soul for an animal!" The old woman went away and the parrot told this story:
Second Story of the Parrot
WELL then, my lady, there was once upon a time a king who had an only daughter as beautiful as the sun and moon. When she was eighteen a Turkish king wished to marry her. When she heard that it was a Turkish king she said: "What do I want of Turks!" and refused him. Shortly after she became very ill, convulsions, twisting of the body, rolling of her eyes to the back of her head, and the doctors did not know what was the matter. The poor father in confusion called his council together, and said: "Gentlemen, my daughter is losing ground every day; what advice do you give me?" The sages said: "Your Majesty, there is a young girl who found the daughter of the King of Spain; find her and she will tell you what must be done for your daughter." "Bravo! The council has been favorable." The king ordered vessels to go for this young girl: "And if the King of Spain will not let her go, give him this iron glove and declare war!" The vessels departed and reached Spain one morning. They fired a salute, the ambassador landed, presented himself to the king, and gave him a sealed letter. The king opened it and after reading it began to weep and said: "I prefer war, and I will not give up this girl." Meanwhile the girl entered: "What is the matter, your Majesty? (and she saw the letter). What are you afraid of? I will go at once to this king." "How, my daughter, will you then leave me thus?" "I will return. I will go and see what is the matter with this young girl and then come back."
She took leave of her half-sister and departed. When she arrived the king went to meet her "My daughter, if you cure this sick daughter of mine, I will give you my crown!" "That makes two crowns!" she said to herself "I have a crown, your Majesty Let us see what the matter is, and never mind the crowns." She went and saw the princess all wasted away. She turned to the king and said: "Your Majesty! Have some broth and substantial things made," and they were prepared at once. "I am going to shut myself up with your daughter, and you must not open the door, for in three days I will give her to you alive or dead. And listen to what I say: even if I should knock you must not open." Everything was arranged and the door was fastened with chains and padlocks, but they forgot the tinder to light the candle with at night. In the evening there was great confusion. The young girl did not wish to knock, and as she looked out of the window she saw a light at a distance. So she descended by a ladder of silk, taking with her a candle. When she drew near the light she saw a large cauldron placed on some stones and a furnace under it, and a Turk who was stirring it with a stick. "What are you doing, Turk?" "My king wanted the daughter of the king, she did not want him, he is bewitching her," "My poor little Turk! You are tired, are you not? Do you know what you must do? Rest yourself a little while I stir." "I will, by Mahomet!" He got down; she got up and began to stir with the stick. "Am I doing it all right thus?" "Yes, by Mahomet." "Well then, you take a nap, and I will stir." When he was asleep, she came down, seized him, and threw him into the boiling cauldron, where he died. When she saw that he was dead, she lighted her candle and returned to the palace. She entered the room and found the invalid had fainted on the floor. She brought her to with cologne water (acqua d' oduri) and in three days she had recovered. Then she knocked at the door and the king entered, beside himself at finding his daughter cured. "Ah! My daughter he said to the young girl who had healed her, "How much we owe you! You must remain here with me." "It is impossible; you threatened my father with war if he did not allow me to come; now my father declares war with you if you do not let me return to him." She remained there a fortnight, then departed, and the king gave her quantities of riches and jewels. She returned to the king of Spain's palace.
And so the story ends.
After a week the old woman came with her baskets. "My daughter, you must do me this pleasure to-day, come and hear the holy mass." "I will." When the parrot heard that, he began to weep and tear out his feathers:
"No, my pretty mamma, don't go with the old woman. If you will stay, I will tell you another story." "Grandmother mine," says she, "I can't come, for I don't wish to lose the parrot for your sake." She closed the wicket and the old woman went away grumbling and cursing. The lady then seated herself near the parrot, which told this story:
Third Story of the Parrot
ONCE upon a time there was a king and a queen who had an only son, whose sole diversion was the chase. Once he wished to go hunting at a distance, and took with him his attendants. Where do you think he happened to go? To the country where the doll was. When he saw the doll he said: "I have finished my hunt, let us return home!" He took the doll and placed it before him on the horse, and exclaimed every few minutes: "How beautiful this doll is! Think of its mistress!" When he reached the palace he had a glass case made in the wall, and put the doll in it, and kept looking at it continually and saying: "How beautiful the doll is! Think of the mistress!"
The young man would not see any one and became so melancholy that his father summoned the physicians, who said: "Your Majesty, we know nothing of this illness; see what he does with his doll." The king went to see his son and found him gazing at the doll, and exclaiming: "Oh! How beautiful the doll is! Think of the mistress!" The physicians departed as wise as when they came. The prince meanwhile did nothing but sit and look at the doll, and draw deep breaths, and sigh, and exclaim: "How beautiful the doll is! Think of the mistress!" The king at last, in despair, summoned his council, and said: "See how my son is reduced! He has no fever, or pain in his head, but he is wasting away, and some one else will enjoy my kingdom! Give me advice." "Majesty, are you perplexed? Is there not that young girl who found the King of Spain's daughter, and cured the other princess? Send for her. If her father will not let her come, declare war with him."
The king sent his ambassadors with the message that the
young girl should be sent nolens volens. 'While the ambassadors were in
the king's presence, his daughter entered, the one who had done the wonders,
and found her father perplexed: "What is the matter, your Majesty?"
"Nothing, my daughter. Another occasion has arrived, another king
So she embarked with all her attendants and began her journey. When she arrived where the prince was, she saw him drawing such deep breaths that it seemed as if he would swallow himself, and always exclaiming: "Oh! How beautiful the doll is! Think of the mistress!" She said: "You have called me none too soon! However, give me a week: bring me ointments, food, and in a week, alive and well, or dead."
She shut herself up with him and listened to hear what the prince said, for she had not yet heard what he was saying, he was so feeble. When she heard him whisper: "Oh! How be-au-ti-ful is the doll, consider," and saw the doll, she cried: "Ah! Wretch! It was you who had my doll! Leave it to me, I will cure you." When he heard these words he came to himself and said: "Are you the doll's mistress?" "I am." Just think! He returned to life and she began to give him broth until she had restored him. When he was restored she said: "Now tell me how you got the doll," and the prince told her everything. To make the matter short, in a week the prince was cured, and they declared that they would marry each other. The king, beside himself with joy because his son was healed, wrote several letters: one to the King of Spain to tell him that his daughter had found her doll, another to the other king, her father, to tell him that his daughter was found, and another to the king whose daughter she had cured. Afterwards all these monarchs came together and made great festivals, and the prince married the princess, and they lived together in great peace.
After the story was ended a servant came: "My lady, my lady, the master is coming!" "Truly!" said the lady. "Now, parrot, listen; I will have a new cage made for you." The master arrived, the windows were all opened, and he embraced his wife. At dinner they placed the parrot in the middle of the table, and when the joy was at its height the bird threw some soup in its master's eyes. The master, when he felt it, put his hands to his eyes, and the parrot darted at his throat, strangled him, and flew away.
He flew away to the country, and saying, "I am a parrot, and I become a man," he was changed into a handsome, cunning, and well-kempt man on the Corso. He met the cavalier: "Do you know," said this one, "that the poor lady's husband is dead? A parrot strangled him!" "Truly? Poor woman! Poor woman!" said the notary, and went his way without speaking of the wager. The notary learned that the lady had a mother, and went to her to ask her daughter in marriage. After hesitating, the lady finally said yes, and they were married. That evening the notary said to the lady: "Now tell me, who killed your husband?" "A parrot." "And what about this parrot?" The lady told him everything to where the parrot dashed the broth in its master's eyes, and then flew away. "True! True!" said the notary. "Was I not the parrot?" "It was you! I am amazed." "It was I, and I became a parrot for your sake!"
The next day the notary went to the cavalier to get the four hundred ounces of the wager, which he enjoyed with his wife.
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THE THREE stories related by the parrot are, as has been seen, in reality one story, and they are, in fact found as such independent of the frame. It has also been seen that the story or stories related by the par rot are, substantially, the same in all the versions. The Florentine version alone does not contain the episode of the doll. The story, as a whole, has no parallels, although it bears a slight resemblance to the story in the Pentamerone (II. 2), "Green Meadow." The princess as physician, and the secret malady of the prince or princess, are traits which abound in all the popular tales of Europe.
Many single stories of Oriental origin will be found in the chapters following. We shall close this one with a story which was popular in Europe during the Middle Ages, being found in one of the great collections of that period, the Gesta Romanorum. Of the various Italian versions we shall select one from Pomigliano d'Areo called: