He who is born a prince should not act like a beggar boy. The man who is high in rank ought not to set a bad example to those below him; for the little donkey learns from the big one to eat straw. It is no wonder, therefore, that Heaven sends him troubles by bushels--as happened to a prince who was brought into great difficulties for ill-treating and tormenting a poor woman, so that he was near losing his life miserably.
ABOUT eight miles from Naples there
was once a deep wood of fig-trees and poplars. In this wood stood a
half-ruined cottage, wherein dwelt an old woman, who was as light of
teeth as she was burdened with years. She had a hundred wrinkles in
her face, and a great many more in her purse, and all her silver covered
her head, so that she went from one thatched cottage to another, begging
alms to keep life in her. But as folks nowadays much rather give a purseful
of crowns to a crafty spy than a farthing to a poor needy man, she had
to toil a whole day to get a dish of kidney-beans, and that at a time
when they were very plentiful. Now one day the poor old woman, after
having washed the beans, put them in a pot, placed it outside the window,
and went on her way to the wood to
The old woman returned just after they
had gone away, and seeing the sad disaster, she began to act as if she
were beside herself, crying, "Ay, let him stretch out his arm and
go about boasting how he has broken this pot! The villainous rascal
who has sown my beans out of season. If he had no compassion for my
misery, he should have had some regard for his own interest; for I pray
Heaven, on my bare knees and from the bottom of my soul, that he may
fall in love with the daughter of some ogress, who may plague and torment
him in every way. May his mother-in-law lay on him such a curse that
he may see himself living and yet bewail himself as dead; and being
spellbound by the beauty of the daughter, and the arts of the mother,
may he never be able to escape, but be obliged to remain. May she order
him about with a cudgel in her
Scarcely had two hours passed when the Prince, losing himself in the wood and parted from his attendants, met a beautiful maiden, who was going along picking up snails and saying with a laugh--
"Snail, snail, put out your horn,
When the Prince saw this beautiful apparition he knew not what had befallen him; and, as the beams from the eyes of that crystal face fell upon the tinder of his heart, he was all in a flame, so that he became a lime-kiln wherein the stones of designs were burnt to build the houses of hopes.
Now Filadoro (for so the maiden was named) was no wiser than other people; and the Prince, being a smart young fellow with handsome moustachios, pierced her heart through and through, so that they stood looking at one another for compassion with their eyes, which proclaimed aloud the secret of their souls. After they had both remained thus for a long time, unable to utter a single word, the Prince at last, finding his voice, addressed Filadoro thus, "From what meadow has this flower of beauty sprung? From what mine has this treasure of beauteous things come to light? O happy woods, O fortunate groves, which this nobility inhabits, which this illumination of the festivals of love irradiates."
"Kiss this hand, my lord," answered Filadoro, "not so much modesty; for all the praise that you have bestowed on me belongs to your virtues, not to my merits. Such as I am, handsome or ugly, fat or thin, a witch or a fairy, I am wholly at your command; for your manly form has captivated my heart, your princely mien has pierced me through from side to side, and from this moment I give myself up to you for ever as a chained slave."
At these words the Prince seized at once
her hand, kissing the ivory hook that had caught his heart. At this
ceremony of the prince, Filadoro's face grew as red as scarlet. But
the more Nardo Aniello wished to continue speaking, the more his tongue
seemed tied; for in this wretched life there is no wine of enjoyment
without dregs of vexation. And just at this moment Filadoro's mother
suddenly appeared, who was such an ugly ogress that Nature seemed to
have formed her as a model of horrors. Her hair was like a besom of
holly; her forehead like a rough stone; her
"Yourself the rogue," replied the Prince, "back with you, old hag!" And he was just going to draw his sword, when all at once he stood fixed like a sheep that has seen the wolf and can neither stir nor utter a sound, so that the ogress led him like an ass by the halter to her house. And when they came there she said to him, "Mind, now, and work like a dog, unless you wish to die like a dog. For your first task to-day you must have this acre of land dug and sown level as this room; and recollect that if I return in the evening and do not find the work finished, I shall eat you up." Then, bidding her daughter take care of the house, she went to a meeting of the other ogresses in the wood.
Nardo Aniello, seeing himself in this dilemma,
began to bathe his breast with tears, cursing his fate which brought
him to this pass. But Filadoro comforted him, bidding him be of good
heart, for she would ever risk her life to assist him. She said that
she ought not to lament his fate which had led him to the house where
she lived, who loved him so dearly, and that he showed little return
for her love by being so despairing at what had happened. The Prince
replied: "I am not grieved at having exchanged the royal palace
for this hovel; splendid banquets for a crust of bread; a sceptre for
a spade; not at seeing myself, who have terrified armies, now
So saying he heaved sighs by bushels, and shed many tears. But Filadoro, drying his eyes, said to him, "Fear not that my mother will touch a hair of your head. Trust to me and do not be afraid; for you must know that I possess magical powers, and am able to make cream set on water and to darken the sun. Be of good heart, for by the evening the piece of land will be dug and sown without any one stirring a hand."
When Nardo Aniello heard this, he answered, "If you have magic power, as you say, O beauty of the world, why do we not fly from this country? For you shall live like a queen in my father's house." And Filadoro replied, "A certain conjunction of the stars prevents this, but the trouble will soon pass and we shall be happy."
With these and a thousand other pleasant discourses the day passed, and when the ogress came back she called to her daughter from the road and said, "Filadoro, let down your hair," for as the house had no staircase she always ascended by her daughter's tresses. As soon as Filadoro heard her mother's voice she unbound her hair and let fall her tresses, making a golden ladder to an iron heart. Whereupon the old woman mounted up quickly, and ran into the garden; but when she found it all dug and sown, she was beside herself with amazement; for it seemed to her impossible that a delicate lad should have accomplished such hard labour.
But the next morning, hardly had the Sun gone out to warm himself on account of the cold he had caught in the river of India, than the ogress went down again, bidding Nardo Aniello take care that in the evening she should find ready split six stacks of wood which were in the cellar, with every log cleft into four pieces, or otherwise she would cut him up like bacon and make a fry of him for supper.
On hearing this decree the poor Prince had liked to have died of terror, and Filadoro, seeing him half dead and pale as ashes, said, "Why! What a coward you are to be frightened at such a trifle." "Do you think it a trifle," replied Nardo Aniello, "to split six stacks of wood, with every log cleft into four pieces, between this time and the evening? Alas, I shall sooner be cleft in halves myself to fill the mouth of this horrid old woman." "Fear not," answered Filadoro, "for without giving yourself any trouble the wood shall all be split in good time. But meanwhile cheer up, if you love me, and do not split my heart with such lamentations."
Now when the Sun had shut up the shop of
his rays, in order not to sell light to the Shades, the old woman returned;
and, bidding Filadoro let down the usual ladder, she ascended, and finding
the wood already split she began to suspect it was her own daughter
who had given her this check. At the third day, in order to make a third
trial, she told the Prince to clean out for her a cistern which held
a thousand casks of water, for she wished to fill it anew, adding that
if the task were not finished by the evening she would make mincemeat
of him. When the old woman went away Nardo Aniello began again to weep
and wail; and Filadoro, seeing that the labours increased, and that
the old woman had something of
Now, when the evening drew nigh, Filadoro
having dug a hole in the garden into a large underground passage, they
went out and took the way to Naples. But when they arrived at the grotto
of Pozzuolo, Nardo Aniello said to Filadoro, "It will never do
for me to take you to the palace on foot and dressed in this manner.
Therefore wait at this inn and I will soon return with horses, carriages,
servants, and clothes." So Filadoro stayed behind and the Prince
went on his way to the city. Meantime the ogress returned home, and
as Filadoro did not answer to her usual
But let us leave the old woman to say her
wicked curses and return to the Prince, who on arriving at the palace,
where he was thought to be dead, put the whole house in an uproar, every
one running to meet him and crying, "Welcome! welcome! Here he
is, safe and sound, how happy we are to see him back in this country,"
with a thousand other words of affection. But as he was going up the
stairs his mother met him half-way and embraced and kissed him, saying,
"My son, my jewel, the apple of my eye, where have you been and
why have you stayed away so long to make us all die with anxiety?"
The Prince knew not what to answer, for he did not wish to tell her
of his misfortunes; but no sooner had his mother
But meanwhile Filadoro, seeing that her
husband stayed away so long and hearing (I know not how) of the feast,
waited in the evening till the servant-lad of the inn had gone to bed,
and taking his clothes from the head of the bed, she left her own in
their place, and disguising herself like a man, went to the court of
the king, where the cooks, being in want of help, took her as kitchen
boy. When the tables were set out and the guests all took their seats,
and the dishes were set down and the carver was cutting up a large English
pie which Filadoro had made with her own hands, lo, out flew such a
beautiful dove that the guests in their
So saying, the dove flew away quickly and vanished like the wind. The Prince, hearing the murmuring of the dove, stood for a while stupefied. At length, he inquired whence the pie came, and when the carver told him that a scullion boy who had been taken to assist in the kitchen had made it, he ordered him to be brought into the room. Then Filadoro, throwing herself at the feet of Nardo Aniello, shedding a torrent of tears, said merely, "What have I done to you?"
Whereupon the Prince at once recalled to
mind the engagement he had made with her; and, instantly raising her
up, seated her by his side, and when he related to his mother the great
obligation he was under to this
So the feast being now ended, they all betook themselves to rest, and the Prince and Filadoro lived happily ever after, proving the truth of the proverb that--
"He who stumbles and does not fall,
The next story in Il Pentamerone is Cannetella.
These tales came from:
Basile, Giambattista. Stories from the Pentamerone. E. F. Strange, editor. Warwick Goble, illustrator. London: Macmillan & Co., 1911. The text of this book is based on John Edward Taylor's translation from 1847.