The Fool Whose Wishes All Came True

folktales of Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 675
translated and/or edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 2011


  1. Hans Dumb (Germany).

  2. Stupid Michel (Germany).

  3. Lazy Lars, Who Won the Princess (Denmark).

  4. Emelyan the Fool (Russia).

  5. Halfman (Greece).

  6. Juvadi and the Princess (Italy).

  7. Peter the Fool (Giovanni Francesco Straparola, The Facetious Nights).

  8. Peruonto (Giambattista Basile, The Pentamerone).

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Hans Dumb


There was a king who lived happily with his daughter, his only child. Quite suddenly the princess had a baby, but no one knew who the father was. For some time the king was beside himself. Finally he ordered the princess to take the child to the church. A lemon would be placed in his hand, and whoever he should give it to would be the child's father and the princess's husband. This happened, but only fine people were admitted into the church. However, in the town there was a small, crooked, hunchbacked lad who was not very smart and who was therefore known as Hans Dumb. He mingled with the others and slipped into the church without being seen. When the child reached out with the lemon, it was to Hans Dumb!

The princess was horrified, and the king was so taken aback that he had her, the child, and Hans Dumb placed into a cask and set adrift at sea. The cask soon drifted away, and when they were alone at sea the princess cried out bitterly, "You horrid, hunchbacked, impudent rogue, you are the cause of my suffering. Why did you force your way into the church? You have nothing to do with the child."

"Oh yes," said Hans Dumb. "I have a lot to do with it, because one day I wished that you would have a child, and my wishes come true."

"If that is so, then wish us something to eat."

"I can do that too," said Hans Dumb, and he wished for a plate filled with potatoes. The princess would have liked something better, but because she was so hungry she helped him eat the potatoes.

After they had eaten their fill, Hans Dumb said, "Now I shall wish us a fine ship!" He had scarcely said this and they were sitting in a splendid ship, with an excess of everything that they might want.

The helmsman steered straight for land, and as they were going ashore Hans Dumb said, "Here there shall be a castle!" And there was a splendid castle there, and servants dressed in gold came and led the princess and the child inside, and when they were in the middle of the great hall, Hans Dumb said, "Now I wish to become a young and intelligent prince!" Then his hump disappeared, and he was handsome and straight and friendly. He found favor with the princess, and he became her husband, and they lived happily for a long time.

One day the old king got lost while out riding and came to their castle. He was amazed, because he had never seen it before, and he went inside. The princess recognized her father at once, but he did not know who she was, for he thought that she had long since drowned in the ocean. She received him with splendor, but when he wanted to go back home, she secretly placed a golden goblet into his pocket.

After he had ridden away she sent some knights after him to stop him and see if he hadn't stolen the golden goblet. They found it in his pocket and brought him back. He swore to the princess that he had not stolen it and did not know how it came to be in his pocket.

She said, "You see, one should always be cautious about accusing another person." With this she revealed herself as his daughter. The king was overjoyed, and they lived happily together, and after his death Hans Dumb became king.

Stupid Michel


Once upon a time there was a peasant woman who had a son named Michel who never got further from the table than the tile stove.

Finally she decided that she would have to send him out into the world, so she said to him, "Michel, go out to the pond and fetch some water."

"Yes," said Michel, "but just where is the pond?"

"Go out the front door, walk down the garden path, and you will see it to the left."

Michel set forth at once and actually found the front door, the garden path, and the pond. When he pulled the bucket from the pond a large pike jumped out of it, and asked Michel to throw him back into the water, and he would reward him greatly.

"Did I tell you to jump out of the bucket?" asked Michel. "You can jump back into the water by yourself!"

The pike continued to beg, finally promising Michel that all his wishes would come true if he would throw him back into the water. Michel did just that, then picked up the bucket and returned home.

Now while at the pond in the distance he had seen a house that glistened magnificently like pure silver and gold, so he asked his mother, "Mother, what kind of a house is the one that I saw from the pond?"

His mother said, "That is the king's house. He lives there with the beautiful princess."

When Michel heard that a beautiful princess lived there, he thought, "I will see if the pike told me the truth. I wish that the princess should become pregnant."

Not long afterward the princess did indeed become pregnant, and when the king discovered this he became very angry and reprimanded her bitterly. But she swore sincerely that no one had been with her; it must have happened while she was asleep. However, the kind did not believe her.

With time she gave birth to a boy, and because the father's name was not known, he was named after his grandfather.

When the boy grew older he noticed that his grandfather was not his father, and he asked, "Tell me, who is my father?"

The grandfather answered, "You do not have a father."

"How can I not have a father?" replied the boy. "Everyone has a father. You just don't know who mine is!"

Then the old king had to admit that he did have a father, but that no one knew who he was.

Then the boy said, "Let's give a large feast, and I'll find out who he is."

The king did just that, and all the ministers, generals, and such people within the king's realm came, and the boy mingled among them, carefully looking at each one. Finally he went back to the king and said, "My father is not here. You will have to give a larger feast."

So the king invited all of his officers and councilors and even some of the most prominent citizens to come together, and once the boy mingled among them, examining each one. But he did not find his father, and he said to the king, "You must give a feast for everyone, and then I will find my father."

Then all the citizens and peasants from the entire land were invited to come together. When Michel's mother heard about this she said, "Michel, you too must go to the castle. The king is giving a general feast."

Now Michel had only a dirty, tarry jacket and an old three-cornered hat, but his mother made him look as good as possible, and he went to the court. After everyone had gathered together in a large group, the boy ran quickly among them, and before long he stopped next to Michel in his tarry jacket and three-cornered hat.

Taking Michel by the hand, the boy led him to the king and said, "This is my father!"

At first the king did not want to believe this, and he told the boy that he must be mistaken, but the boy insisted that Michel was his father.

Finally, beside himself with anger, the king said that he would neither accept the father, nor the mother, nor the child. Forthwith he had a large glass ball made with a lid that one could open and close. He had his daughter, Michel, and the boy put inside, then set it adrift on the open sea.

After they had drifted for some distance, with the princess sitting there bemoaning the fact that they had found such a father for her child, and that now they would miserably perish, Michel wished that they would come ashore on an island, and immediately the ball hit solid ground, and they all climbed out safely.

Then Michel wished for a magnificent castle with the best servants and all the houses that belonged to such a place, and immediately everything was there.

Now the princess was happier. Then Michel wished magnificent clothes for himself. Thus he lived here happily with his wife and his child for a long time.

Finally the princess grew lonely for her father and her homeland, and she told this to her husband, so he wished for a bridge to her father's kingdom, and immediately one was there, and indeed it had one railing of gold and the other of silver. Then they flew across the water in a golden coach to her father's castle. His anger disappeared when he discovered how well off his daughter now was, and they all lived happily and satisfied until they died.

Lazy Lars, Who Won the Princess


Once upon a time there was a very poor couple who lived not far from the king's castle. They had but one son, and he was not very promising, for he was so terribly lazy that the grass had plenty of time to grow beneath his feet. If you asked him to have a seat, you would be sure to find him later in the same spot. His name was Lars, and no one called him anything but Lazy Lars.

His parents worked every day up at the castle. His mother helped out in the kitchen and the father in the garden. Lars stayed at home the whole day doing nothing but turning into a complete lazybones.

One day at noon his mother came home to fix something to eat for herself and the boy. She was about to hang the pot over the fire, but there was no water in the house. They didn't have a well, so they had to fetch their water from a spring on the other side of the castle.

The mother said, "Listen, Lazy Lars, run and fetch a little water from the spring, or there will be nothing for you to eat."

"I'm going," said Lars, but he did not move from where he was sitting. She said it once again, and he gave her the same answer, but he did not move at all. Then the mother became angry and reached for the poker to teach Lazy Lars a lesson with it, so he had to get up after all.

He took an old broad-brimmed hat and an old iron kettle whose feet had been knocked off and went on his way. But it was a slow trip, because the day was very hot and every few moments he turned the kettle upside down and sat on it for a while.

As he was passing the castle it happened that the king's daughter, a young and spirited princess, was sitting at a window, and when she saw Lazy Lars, whom she knew well, and observed the trip he was making with the kettle, she broke out laughing and called down to him, "Where are you going, Lazy Lars?"

"To the spring to fetch water," he shouted.

"Hurry up, Lazy Lars, or else your kettle without legs will run away from you!" she called back.

Lars answered that there was no danger of that.

"You are going to need a boy to help you carry your kettle, Lazy Lars," she shouted haughtily.

It made Lars angry that she was thus making fun of him, and he looked up toward the window. He had never before seen such a beautiful girl, and he was so taken back that he just stood there with his mouth open staring at her. She laughed at him even more and shouted, "Close your mouth, Lazy Lars, or your heart will get cold!"

Then Lars picked up his feet and did not stop again to rest until he came to the spring.

There he took a string, tied it to the handle of the kettle, and lowered it into the spring. The kettle filled with water, but when he pulled it back up there was a frog in it, and the frog could talk. Lars had never seen anything like this before. He set the kettle on the ground and looked in amazement at the frog, who asked him very politely if he could not be put back into the spring. But Lazy Lars said that that would not be possible, for it would be double the effort. The frog again asked politely, promising Lars that he could have one wish granted, if he would but put him back into the water.

Lars thought that that would not be bad. He took his old broad-brimmed hat and threw it onto the ground, then said that he wanted to have as many wishes granted as there were blades of grass covered by the hat, for he thought it would be all the same to the frog if he was going to the trouble to grant a wish.

So the frog was able to return to the spring and was happy about that.

Lars sat down next to his kettle, which he had filled up again, in order to take his time and think about what he should fish for. Of course, he thought that the first thing he should wish for would be that his kettle should get some legs and be able to walk, so he would not have to carry it. Then the princess would not be able to laugh at his kettle, saying that it had no feet, and she would not be able to make fun of him by saying that he needed a boy to carry the kettle.

He had scarcely uttered this wish, when the kettle had feet and looked like it wanted to run away. However, Lars took his time, for he wanted to think of another wish, but one did not come to him, so he and the kettle trotted off. He held tightly onto the string that he had tied to the kettle, so that it was half pulling him along behind. Because his large broad-brimmed hat grew too heavy and warm for him, he hung it on the kettle like a lid, and thus, like a proper kettle, it had both feet and a lid.

When he arrived at the castle window the young princess was still there, and when she saw the procession coming by with the kettle and the hat and Lazy Lars, she had to laugh, and she laughed so terribly hard that it almost made her sick.

"Now your kettle is walking by itself, Lazy Lars, and you don't have to carry your hat either!" she shouted. "All you need now is a boy to push from behind!"

"You yourself should have a boy," replied Lars, without thinking what he was saying, for he was tired of being teased.

Then the princess closed the window, for she no longer wanted to talk with Lazy Lars.

Lars arrived home safely with the kettle and got his noon meal. He did not give any thought to further wishes, for could not think of anything that he needed, so everything stayed as it was.

Time passed as always, but nearly a year later something strange was happening at the castle, for the princess had gotten very ill. The doctors were called in. They shook their heads and wrote prescriptions, each one longer than the others, but nothing helped even a little bit. Then the princess's mother had a private talk with her. They spoke for a long time, and the princess cried and insisted that she was innocent, but the queen did not believe her.

More time passed, and then there were no longer any doubts, for, as they say, a little barefoot boy came to the princes. The just old king nearly jumped out of his skin that such a scandal should come upon his house, and it did not make matters any better that the princess would not say anything about who the little prince's father was.

For good or for evil, more time passed, and the fatherless prince was three years old when the king said that he could no longer endure the scandal. He would find out who the child's father was, and the princess would have to marry whoever it turned out to be.

The king proclaimed across the whole realm that all men in the land, large and small, were to come together before the castle on a certain day. There they would hear the voice of the innocent child, who himself would determine who his father was.

The day arrived, and a large mass of people, fine and course, came together. Around the castle it was black with people.

On this day Lazy Lars's mother came home a little earlier than normal to prepare the noon meal, and as usual she found Lars sitting in the doorway enjoying the sunshine.

"I do say," she called out, "does my Lazy Lars have nothing better to do on such a day than to sit here doing nothing?"

Lars stretched and asked why she had said that, so she told him what was going on up at the castle. Lars thought that he was just as good as anyone else, so he meandered up there himself.

When the king saw Lazy Lars approaching the castle he thought that they could surely begin now, because certainly Lars would be the last one to arrive, even though he lived closest.

They put a golden apple in the little prince's hand, and the one to whom he would give the apple, he would be the father.

The child walked slowly back and forth with the golden apple among the many people, as though he did not know what he should do with it. Finally he caught sight of Lars, who was standing at the very back of the crowd with his hands in his pockets. He walked toward Lars and reached the apple to him.

Lars, in no hurry, slowly removed his hand from his pocket and took the apple. But then there came a huge uproar, so angry were the people -- large and small, poor and rich -- at Lars's good fortune. "Yes," they said, "those who can neither read nor write have all the luck."

Lars was nearly trampled by the envious mob, but he held the apple tightly and finally made his way to the king, the queen, and all the ministers.

When the king saw that it was Lazy Lars who had received the apple, he discovered that this final embarrassment was even worse than the first one. He took the princess, pushed her toward him, and said that he never wanted to see anything of them in his house again. If it had been a handsome gentleman then everything would have been all right, but Lazy Lars --!

The king ordered his people to put Lars and the princess and the child into a boat on the sea east of the castle. They could set their own course and travel to whatever country they might choose.

The king's order was carried out, and Lars and the princess were set adrift on the wild sea. They did not know which direction they were going. Evening came, and the princess cried pitifully. Lars, however, was lying on the bottom of the boat thinking only of himself, for this was the first time he had ever had water beneath him, and he was not up to a voyage at sea.

"What should we do?" cried the princess. "Tell me, Lars, what should we do?"

"Yes, what should be do?" answered Lars. "I don't know what we should do."

And so they sailed on.

After a while the princess said, "Say something, you Lazy Lars. You just lie there without saying a word."

"What should I say then?" mumbled Lars. "The only thing I can say is that I wish we would soon be on land!"

He had scarcely uttered this wish when there was suddenly before them, a beautiful island with woods and houses and people and cattle.

The princess was very happy that Lars had finally opened his mouth, and she thought that everything would now be quite simple, since he was able to wish so well. She would only have to put the words into his mouth, and he would utter the wish. First of all he would have to wish that he were a normal human being and not the lazy beast that he had been up until now. Then he would have to wish for a beautiful castle with everything that went with it. He had scarcely uttered these wishes when suddenly new life came into Lars, and in the middle of the island there stood a beautiful castle, shimmering like bright gold. Then Lars had to wish for splendid clothing, carriages and horses, soldiers, and much more; and suddenly it was all at hand. -- Yes, the princess knew exactly what she wanted.

The next morning after the king had gotten up, he went, as usual, to the window to look out over the sea. He had always liked to do this. There he saw a beautiful island east of his royal castle. On it was a castle that shimmered like bright gold. Could he trust his old eyes? No. He took a pair of spectacles and looked again.

Yes, the island and the castle were still there, and that was more than the old king could comprehend. He called his people and asked if until now they had ever seen anything of this before. They too opened their eyes wide and thought that the devil himself had done this to make fools of them, for previously there had no more been an island there than there are roses on a manure pile.

To assure himself the king had a ship made ready, and with his people he sailed over to the island. When he arrived on land, a row of soldiers was there, extending from the shore up to the castle. They presented arms to the old king, which pleased him greatly.

When the old king and his people finally arrived at the castle, his daughter approached them smiling. She fell at his feet and begged him to accept the two of them into his grace, promising that they would be obedient children.

The king was amazed, and his daughter had to tell him everything that had happened. She told him how she had been punished for having lightheartedly ridiculed Lazy Lars without considering that there might be some good in him after all. But it was good that everything had happened, for now she would not want anyone but Lars. He was no longer the way he had been before. New life had come into him.

Then Lars came out, and in his beautiful clothing he looked as stately as a prince. He confirmed what the princess had said, and he also asked the king for mercy.

All's well that ends well," said the king. We live in a strange world, but whosoever should be together, will be together.

So everything was in order. They celebrated their wedding for many days, and they lived happily together. And when the old king died Lars became king and ruled many years with his queen.

Emelyan the Fool


In a certain village lived one time a peasant, who had three sons, two of whom were clever, but the third was a fool, and his name was Emelyan. And when the peasant had lived a long time, and was grown very old, he called his three sons to him, and said to them, "My dear children, I feel that I have not much longer to live, so I give you the house and cattle, which you will divide among you, share and share alike. I have also given you each a hundred rubles."

Soon after, the old man died, and the sons, when they had buried him, lived on happy and contented.

Some time afterward Emelyan's brothers took a fancy to go to the city and trade with the hundred rubles their father had left them. So they said to Emelyan, "Hark ye, fool! We are going to the city, and will take your hundred rubles with us. And if we prosper in trade, we will buy you a red coat, red boots, and a red cap. But do you stay here at home. And when our wives, your sisters-in-law, desire you to do anything, do as they bid you."

The fool, who had a great longing for a red coat and cap, and red boots, answered that he would do whatever his sisters-in-law bade him. So his brothers went off to the city, and the fool stayed at home with his two sisters.

One day, when the winter was come, and the cold was great, his sisters-in-law told him to go out and fetch water. But the fool remained lying on the stove, and said, "Aye, indeed, and who then are you?"

The sisters began to scold him, and said, "How now, fool! We are what you see. You know how cold it is, and that it is a man's business to go."

But he said, "I am lazy."

"How," they exclaimed, "are you lazy?" Surely you will want to eat, and if we have no water we cannot cook. But never mind," they added. "We will only tell our husbands not to give him anything when they have bought the fine red coat and all for him!"

The fool heard what they said. And, as he longed greatly to have the red coat and cap, he saw that he must go. So he got down from the stove and began to put on his shoes and stockings and to dress himself to go out. When he was dressed, he took the buckets and the ax and went down to the river hard by. And when he came to the river he began to cut a large hole in the ice. Then he drew water in the buckets, and setting them on the ice, he stood by the hole, looking into the water. And as the fool was looking, he saw a large pike swimming about. However stupid Emelyan was, he felt a wish to catch this pike. So he stole cautiously and softly to the edge of the hole, and making a sudden grasp at the pike he caught him, and pulled him out of the water. Then, putting him in his bosom, he was hastening home with him, when the pike cried out, "Ho, fool! Why have you caught me?"

He answered, "To take you home and get my sisters-in-law to cook you."

"Nay, fool! Do not take me home, but throw me back into the water, and I will make a rich man of you."

But the fool would not consent and jogged on his way home. When the pike saw that the fool was not for letting him go, he said to him, "Hark ye, fool! Put me back in the water, and will do for you everything you do not like to do yourself. You will only have to wish, and it shall be done."

On hearing this, the fool rejoiced beyond measure, for as he was uncommonly lazy, he thought to himself, "If the pike does everything I have no mind to do, all will be done without my being troubled to work." So he said to the pike, "I will throw you back into the water if you do all you promise."

The pike said, "Let me go first, and then I will keep my promise."

But the fool answered, "Nay, nay, you must first perform your promise, and then I will let you go."

When the pike saw that Emelyan would not put him into the water, he said, "If you wish me to do all you desire, you must first tell me what your desire is."

"I wish," said the fool, "that my buckets should go of themselves from the river up the hill to the village without spilling any of the water."

Then said the pike, "Listen now, and remember the words I say to you: 'At the pike's command, go, buckets, of yourselves up the hill!'"

Then the fool repeated after him these words, and instantly, with the speed of thought, the buckets ran up the hill. When Emelyan saw this he was amazed beyond measure, and he said to the pike, "But will it always be so?"

"Everything you desire will be done," replied the pike. "But I warn you not to forget the words I have taught you."

Then Emelyan put the pike into the water and followed his buckets home.

The neighbors were all amazed and said the one another, "This fool makes the buckets come up of themselves from the river, and he follows them home at his leisure."

But Emelyan took no notice of them, and went his way home. The buckets were by this time in the house, and standing in their place on the foot-bench. So the fool got up and stretched himself on the stove.

After some time his sisters-in-law said to him again, "Emelyan, why are you lazying there? Get up and go cut wood."

But the fool replied, "Yes! And you -- who are you?"

"Don't you see it is now winter, and if you don't cut wood you will be frozen?"

"I am lazy," said the fool.

"What! You are lazy?" cried the sisters. "If you do not go instantly and cut wood, we will tell our husbands not to give you the red coat, or the red cap, or the fine red boots!"

The fool, who longed for the red cap, coat, and boots, saw that he must go and cut the wood. But as it was bitterly cold, and he did not like to come down from off the stove, he repeated in an undertone, as he lay, the words, "At the pike's command, and at my desire, up, ax, and hew the wood! And do you, logs, come of yourselves in the stove!"

Instantly the ax jumped up, ran out into the yard, and began to cut up the wood. And the logs came of themselves into the house, and laid themselves in the stove. When the sisters saw this, they wondered exceedingly at the cleverness of the fool. And, as the ax did of its own accord the work whenever Emelyan was wanted to cut wood, he lived for some time in peace and harmony with them. At length the wood was all finished, and they said to him, "Emelyan, we have no more wood, so you must go in the forest and cut some."

"Aye," said the fool, "and you, who are you, then?"

The sisters replied, "The wood is far off, and it is winter, and too cold for us to go."

But the fool only said, "I am lazy."

"How! You are lazy?" cried they. "You will be frozen then. And moreover, we will take care, when our husbands come home, that they shall not give you the red coat, cap, and boots."

As the fool longed for the clothes, he saw that he must go and cut the wood. So he got off the stove, put on his shoes and stockings, and dressed himself. And, when he was dressed, he went into the yard, dragged the sledge out of the shed, took a rope and the ax with him, and called out to his sisters-in-law, "Open the gate."

When the sisters saw that he was riding off without any horses, they cried, "Why, Emelyan, you have got on the sledge without yoking the horses!"

But he answered that he wanted no horses, and bade them only open the gate. So the sisters threw open the gate, and the fool repeated the words, "At the pike's command, and at my desire, away, sledge, off to the wood!"

Instantly the sledge galloped out of the yard at such a rate that the people of the village, when they saw it, were filled with amazement at Emelyan's riding the sledge without horses, and with such speed that a pair of horses could never have drawn it at such a rate. The fool had to pass through the town on his way to the wood, and away he dashed at full speed. But the fool did not know that he should cry out, "Make way!" so that he did not run over anyone. But away he went, and rode over quite a lot of people. An, though they ran after him, no one was able to overtake and bring him back.

At last Emelyan, having go clear of the town, came to the wood and stopped his sledge. then he got down and said, "At the pike's command, and at my desire, up, ax, hew wood. And you, logs, lay yourselves on the sledge and tie yourselves together."

Scarcely had the fool uttered these words when the ax began to cut wood, the logs to lay themselves on the sledge, and the rope to tie them down. When the ax had cut wood enough, Emelyan desired it to cut him a good cudgel. And when the ax had done this, he mounted the sledge and cried, "Up, and away! At the pike's command, and at my desire, go home, sledge!"

Away then went the sledge at the top of its speed, and when he come to the town, where he had hurt so many people, he found a crowd waiting to catch him. And, as soon as he got into the gates, they laid hold of him, dragged him off his sledge, and fell to beating him. When the fool saw how they were treating him, he said in an under voice, "At the pike's command, and at my desire, up, cudgel, and thrash them!"

Instantly the cudgel began to lay about it on all sides. and, when the people were all driven away, he made his escape, and come to his own village. The cudgel, having thrashed all soundly, rolled home after him. And Emelyan, as usual, when he got home, climbed up and lay upon the stove.

After he had left the town, all the people fell to talking, no so much of the number of persons he had injured, as of their amazement at his riding in a sledge without horses. And the news spread from on to another, till it reached the court and came to the ears of the king. And when the king heard it, he felt an extreme desire to see him. So he sent an officer with some soldiers to look for him. The officer instantly started, and took the road that the fool had taken. And when he came to the village where Emelyan lived, he summoned the starosta, or head-man of the village, and said to him, "I am sent by the king to take a certain fool, and bring him before his majesty."

The starosta at once showed him the house where Emelyan lived, and the officer went into it and asked where the fool was. He was lying on the stove, and answered, "What is it you want with me?"

"How!" said the officer. "What do I want with you? Get up this instant and dress yourself. I must take you to the king."

But Emelyan said, "What to do?" Whereat the officer became so enraged at the rudeness of his replies that he hit him on the cheek.

"At the pike's command, and at my desire," said the fool, "up, cudgel, and thrash them!"

Instantly up sprang the cudgel and began to lay about it on all sides. So the officer was obliged to go back to the town as fast as he could. And when he came before the king, and told him how the fool had cudgeled him, the king marveled greatly, and would not believe the story.

Then the king called to him a wise man and ordered him to bring the fool by craft, if nothing else would do. So the wise man went to the village where Emelyan lived, called the starosta before him, and said, "I am ordered by the king to take your fool. And therefore ask for persons with whom he lived."

Then the starosta ran and fetched Emelyan's sisters-in-law. The king's messenger asked them what it was the fool liked, and they answered, "Noble sir, if anyone entreats our fool earnestly to anything, he flatly refuses the first and second time. The third time he consents, and does what he is required, for he dislikes to be roughly treated."

The king's messenger thereupon dismissed them and forbade them to tell Emelyan that he had summoned them before him. Then he brought raisins, baked plums, and grapes, and went to the fool. When he came into the room, he went up to the stove and said, "Emelyan, why are you lying there?" And with that he gave him the raisins, the baked plums, and the grapes, and said, "Emelyan, we will go together to the king. I will take you with me."

But the fool replied, "I am very warm here," for there was nothing he liked so much as being warm.

Then the messenger began to entreat him, "Be so good, Emelyan, do let us go! You will like the court vastly."

"No," said the fool. "I am lazy."

But the messenger entreated him once more, "Do come with me, there's my good fellow, and the king will give you a fine red coat and cap, and a pair of red boots."

When the fool heard of the red coat he said, "Go on before. I will follow you."

The messenger pressed him no further, but went out and asked the sisters-in-law if there was any danger of the fool's deceiving him. They assured him there was not, and he went away.

Emelyan, who remained lying on the stove, then said to himself, "How I dislike this going to the king!" And after a minute's thought, he said, "At the pike's command, and at my desire, up stove, and away to the town!"

And instantly the wall of the room opened, and the stove moved out. And when it got clear of the yard, it went at such a rate that there was no overtaking it. Soon it came up with the king's messenger, and went along with him into the palace. When the king saw the fool coming, he went forth with all his court to meet him. And he was amazed beyond measure at seeing Emelyan come riding on the stove. But the fool lay still and said nothing.

Then the king asked him why he had upset so many people on his way to the wood.

"It was their own fault," said the fool. "Why did they not get out of the way?"

Just at that moment the king's daughter came to the window, and Emelyan happening suddenly to look up, and seeing how handsome she was, said in a whisper, "At the pike's command, and at my desire, let this lovely maiden fall in love with me!"

And scarcely had he spoken the words when the king's daughter in love with him. Then said the fool, "At the pike's command, and at my desire, up, stove, and away home!"

Immediately the stove left the palace, went through the town, returned home, and set itself in its old place. And Emelyan lived there for some time comfortably and happy.

But it was very different in the town. For, at the word of Emelyan, the king's daughter had fallen in love, and she began to implore her father to give her the fool for her husband. The king was in a great rage, both with her and with fool, but he knew not how to catch him. Then his minister proposed that the same officer, as a punishment for not succeeding the first time, should be sent again to take Emelyan.

This advice pleased the king, and he summoned the officer to his presence, and said, "Hark ye, friend! I sent you before for the fool, and you came back without him. To punish you, I now send you for him a second time. If you bring him, you shall be rewarded. If you return without him, you shall be punished."

When the officer heard this, he left the king and lost no time to going in quest of the fool. And on coming to the village he called for the starosta and said to him, "Here is money for you. Buy everything necessary for a good dinner tomorrow. Invite Emelyan, and when he comes, make him drink until he falls asleep."

The starosta, knowing that the officer came from the king, was obliged to obey him, so he bought all that was required and invited the fool. And Emelyan said he would come, whereat the officer was greatly rejoiced. So next day the fool came to dinner, and the starosta plied him so well with drink that he fell fast asleep. When the officer saw this, he ordered the kibitka (or carriage) to be brought, and putting the fool into it, they drove off to the town, and went straight to the palace.

As soon as the king heard that they were come, he ordered a large cask to be provided without delay, and to be bound with strong iron hoops. When the cask was brought to the king, and he saw that everything was ready as he desired, he commanded his daughter and the fool to be put in it, and the cask to be well pitched. And when this was done, the cask was thrown into the sea, and left to the mercy of the waves. Then the king returned to his palace, and the cask floated along upon the sea.

All this time the fool was fast asleep. When he awoke, and saw that it was quite dark, he said to himself, "Where am I?" for he thought he was alone.

But the princess said, "You are in a cask, Emelyan! And I am shut up with you in it."

"But who are you?" said the fool.

"I am the king's daughter," replied she. And she told him why she had been shut up there with him.

Then she besought him to free himself and her out of the cask, but the fool said, "Nay, I am warm enough here."

"But grant me at least the favor," said the princess. "Have pity on my tears, and deliver me out of this cask."

"Why so?" said Emelyan. "I am lazy."

Then the princess began to entreat him still more urgently, until the fool was at last moved by her tears and entreaties, and said, "Well, I will do this for you." Then he said softly, "At the pike's command, and at my desire, cast us, O sea, upon the shore, where we may dwell on dry land. But let it be near our own country. And, cask, fall to pieces on the shore."

Scarcely had the fool uttered these words when the waves began to roll, and the cask was thrown on a dry place, and fell to pieces of itself. So Emelyan got up and went with the princess round about the spot where they were cast. And the fool saw that they were on a fine island, where there was an abundance of trees, with all kinds of fruit upon them.

When the princess saw this, she was greatly rejoiced and said, "But, Emelyan, where shall we live? There is not even a nook here."

"You want too much," said the fool.

"Grant me one favor," replied the princess. "Let there be at least a little cottage in which we may shelter ourselves from the rain," for the princess knew that he could do everything that he wished.

But the fool said, "I am lazy."

Nevertheless, she went on entreating him, until at last Emelyan was obliged to do as she desired. Then he stepped aside and said, "At the pike's command, and at my desire, let me have in the middle of this island a finer castle than the king's, and let a crystal bridge lead from my castle to the royal palace. And let there be attendants of all conditions in the court!"

Hardly were the words spoken, when there appeared a splendid castle, with a crystal bridge. The fool went with the princess into the castle and beheld the apartments all magnificently furnished, and a number of persons, footmen and all kinds of officers, who waited for the fool's commands.

When he saw that all these men were like men, and the he alone was ugly and stupid, he wished to be better, so he said, "At the pike's command, and at my desire, away, let me become a youth without an equal, and extremely wise!" And hardly had he spoken, when he became so handsome and so wise that all were amazed.

Emelyan now sent on of his servants to the king to invite him and all his court. So the servant went along the crystal bridge which the fool had made, and when he came to the court, the ministers brought him before the king, and Emelyan's messenger said, "Please, your majesty, I am sent by my master to invite you do dinner."

The king asked him who his master was, but he answered, "Please, your majesty, I can tell you nothing about my master (for the fool had ordered him not to tell who he was), but if you come to dine with him, he will inform you himself."

The king, being curious to know who had sent to invite him, told the messenger that he would go without fail. The servant went away, and when he got home, the king and his court set out along the crystal bridge to go and visit the fool. And, when they arrived at the castle, Emelyan came forth to meet the king, took him by his white hands, kissed him on his sugared lips, led him into his castle, and seated him at the oaken tables covered with fine diaper tablecloths, and spread with sugar-meats and honey-drinks. The king and him ministers ate and drank and made merry.

When they rose from the table and retired, the fool said to the king, "Does your majesty know who I am?"

As Emelyan was now dressed in fine clothes, and was very handsome, it was not possible to recognize him, so the king replied that he did not know him.

Then the fool said, "Does not your majesty recollect how a fool came riding on a stove to your court, and how you fastened him up in a pitched cask with your daughter, and cast them into the sea? Know me now. I am that Emelyan."

When the king saw him thus in his presence he was greatly terrified and knew not what to do. But the fool went to the princess and led her out to him. And the king, on seeing his daughter, was greatly rejoiced, and said, "I have been very unjust to you, and so I gladly give you my daughter to wife."

The fool humbly thanked the king. And when Emelyan had prepared everything for the wedding, it was celebrated with great magnificence, and the following day the fool gave a feast to the ministers and all the people. When the festivities were at an end, the king wanted to give up his kingdom to his son-in-law, but Emelyan did not wish to have the crown. So the king went back to his kingdom, and the fool remained in the castle and lived happily.



Once upon a time there was a woman who had no children. She was so unhappy about this that one day she prayed to God, "Dear God, give me a child, even if it were only half a child."

Then God gave her a boy with half a head, half a nose, half a mouth, half a body, one hand and one foot. He was so misshapen that the mother always kept him at home and did not send him out to work.

One day, however, he became bored, and he said to his mother, "Mother, I do not want to stay at home any longer. Give me an ax and a mule. I want to go out into the woods to fetch wood."

His mother replied, "How can you chop wood, dear child? You are only half a person."

Nonetheless, he begged so long that finally his mother gave him an ax and a mule. He took these into the woods. He chopped wood and brought it back home. He did this work so well that his mother allowed him to continue.

One day when he was fetching wood he passed by the princess's castle. When she saw him with one foot and one arm sitting on the mule she laughed out loud and called to her maidservants, "Come and see the half man!"

This embarrassed Halfman so much that he dropped his ax. He thought for a moment, then asked himself, "Shall I get off and pick it up, or shall I not?"

In the end he did not get off, but instead left the ax lying there rode on.

The princess said to the maidservants, "Just look at Halfman! He drops his ax and doesn't even get off to pick it up!"

This embarrassed Halfman even more, and he dropped his rope. Once again he thought for a moment, then said to himself, "Shall I get off and pick up the rope, or shall I not?"

In the end he rode off, leaving the rope lying there.

With that the princess called to her maidservants, "Just look at Halfman! He drops his ax and his rope and doesn't even get off to pick them up!"

Halfman rode on to the place where he was gathering wood, but arriving there he said to himself, "How can I chop wood, and how can I tie it together?"

A lake was there, and while he stood there looking into the water he saw a fish swim up to the bank. He quickly threw his ragged coat onto it and caught it.

The fish begged for its life, saying, "Let me loose, Halfman, and I will teach you a charm to make all your wishes come true."

Then Halfman said, "If what you say is true, then load my mule with wood."

The fish said, "By the first word of God and the second word of the fish, the mule shall be loaded with wood!"

And behold, before he finished speaking this charm, the mule was loaded with wood.

Seeing this, Halfman said to the fish, "If you will teach me the charm I will set you free."

The fish said, "Whenever you want something to happen, just say, 'By the first word of God and the second word of the fish,' and whatever you wish for shall be granted."

With that Halfman set the fish free, took his loaded mule, and walked off toward the princess's castle.

When the princess saw him she called to her maidservants, "Come quickly and see how Halfman has loaded his mule without an ax or a rope." Then they all laughed until they could laugh no more.

This made Halfman angry, and he said, "By the first word of God and the second word of the fish, let the princess become pregnant!"

When her time came she bore a child, and no one knew who the father was.

Her father summoned her and asked her who the father was, but she answered repeatedly, "I have not even spoken with a man. I do not know where the child came from."

When the child was older the king summoned everyone to his capitol. After they had all gathered there he gave the child an apple and said, "Go forth and give this to your father."

While the child was walking about and playing with the apple, he dropped it onto the ground, and it rolled away from him, finally coming to a rest in the corner where Halfman was standing. The child bent over to pick up the apple, then lifting his head he saw Halfman and said, "Here Papa! Take the apple!"

Hearing this, the people took hold of Halfman and brought him before the king.

The king said, "Because it was Halfman who did this, we must kill them all: him, the princess, and the child."

However, some of his councilors said to him, "What you say is unjust. The princess is your daughter, and you cannot shed your own blood. It would be better to make an iron cask, put the princess, Halfman, and the child inside, and throw them into the sea. Give them only a bunch of figs for the child, so that it will not die too quickly."

This advice pleased the king. Thus he had the cask made, the three placed inside, and thrown into the sea.

Now seated inside the cask, the princess said to Halfman, "I have never seen you before. How is it that we are now here together?"

"Give me a fig," replied Halfman, "and I will tell you about it."

The princess gave him a fig from those that they had brought along for the child. After he had eaten it, Halfman said, "Don't you remember how you laughed at me when I passed by the castle, and I dropped my ax and my rope?"

"Yes, I remember that," replied the princess.

"Now I know a charm, and when I repeat it my every wish is fulfilled. At that time I wished that you should become pregnant, and that is why you became pregnant."

To that the princess said, "If you know such a charm that fulfills your every wish, then wish us out of this cask and onto dry land."

Halfman replied, "Give me a fig, and I will do so."

So the princess gave him a fig, and he secretly said, "By the first word of God and the second word of the fish, may this cask drift onto dry land and open itself so that we can get out."

And immediately the cask hit dry land, opened itself, and they all got out.

It was raining outside, and the princess said, "Speak your charm so that we can find shelter and not get wet."

Halfman said, "Give me a fig, and I will do so."

So the princess gave him a fig, and he said to himself, "By the first word of God and the second word of the fish, let there be shelter here!"

Suddenly such was the case, and they got under it.

The princess said to Halfman, "Until now you have done very well! Now speak your charm and give us a large castle whose stones and timbers and furnishings all can speak."

Halfman said, "Give me a fig, and I will do so."

So the princess gave him a fig, and he said to himself, "By the first word of God and the second word of the fish, let there be castle whose stones and timbers and furnishings all can speak!"

Suddenly such a castle was there, and everything connected to it could speak, and they went inside to live there, and Halfman brought forth everything that they needed and whatever the princess wished for herself.

One day the king was out hunting, and he saw in the distance a castle that he had never seen before. He sent two of his servants thither, saying to them, "Take these partridges, go to that castle and broil them there, and see what kind of castle it is, for I have often been here hunting, but I have never before noticed it."

The servants, thus commanded by the king, took the partridges and went to the castle. When they approached the outer door, it said to them, "What do you want here?"

They said, "The king sent us here to broil these two partridges."

The door replied, "Stay here. First I must ask the lady of the house."

Then the outer door asked the first inner door, which in turn asked the second one, which in turn asked the third one, and so on, door to door, until the question reached the lady of the house. She ordered that the strangers be admitted, and suddenly all the doors opened by themselves, allowing the servants to come inside. They were greatly amazed when even the stones and the timbers welcomed them.

Entering the kitchen one of them said, "Where can we find some wood?"

The pieces of wood called out, "Here we are!"

Then they said to one another, "We have no salt and no butter," to which the salt and butter called out, "Here we are!"

After they had prepared the partridges, put them on the spit, and placed them next to the fire, they wanted to look around outside the kitchen to see if there were other things in the castle that could speak. However, they found so many such things and stayed away from the kitchen so long that the partridges had burned to charcoal when they finally thought about them and ran back to the kitchen.

They did not know how they could excuse themselves to the king for having burned up his partridges. Finally they decided to go directly back to him and tell him what they had seen.

The king did not believe them, and he sent other servants thither. They experienced the same things that the first ones had, and when the king heard them say the same thing, he decided that he would go there himself to see and hear with his own eyes and ears.

When he arrived at the outside door, it said to him, "Welcome, your majesty!"

When he went inside, all the stones and timbers called out the same welcome to him, and the king was amazed that here wood and stones could talk. Hearing that the king himself had arrived, the princess went to him to receive him. She led him into her splendid rooms, but did not tell him who she was. The king wondered about her correct manners and her elegant speech.

Meanwhile the servants in the kitchen wanted to broil the partridges that the king had brought, and the same thing happened to them that had happened to the others. Amazed at all they saw and heard, they let the partridges burn to charcoal.

When the king learned of this he became extremely angry, for he was very hungry and now had nothing to eat.

The princess said, "I beg of your majesty to do us the favor of dining in our humble house."

The king accepted, and she left him in order to look for Halfman, who had sneaked away from the king. Finding him, she said, "I invited the king to eat with us. Now speak a charm to provide a splendid feast with the appropriate servants, musicians, dancers, and everything else to go with it."

To this Halfman said, "Give me a fig, and I will speak the charm."

So the princess gave him a fig, and after he had eaten it he spoke the charm, asking for everything that the princess wanted, and suddenly a feast appeared, with everything that went with it.

As soon as the king and his servants were seated at the table the musicians began to play, and they played so beautifully that the king was amazed. He said, "I am a king, but I have never had such music in my castle."

Then the dancers began to dance, and they danced so beautifully that the king said to the princess, "I am a king, but I have never had such dancers in my castle. Tell me how you came to them."

The princess replied, "My father left them to me as an inheritance."

Then the princess went to Halfman and said, "You must speak a charm that will put a spoon into one of the king's boots."

Halfman replied, "Give me a fig and I will do so."

The princess gave him a fig, and he spoke the charm, granting the princess's wish.

When the king was about to depart, the princes said, "Wait a moment. I believe that something is missing."

This disturbed the king, who said, "No, that is not possible. We are not such people!"

But the princess would not be dissuaded. She called out, "Are you platters all there?"


"Are you plates all there?"


"Are you spoons all there?"

With that the spoon inside the king's boot called out, "I am stuck in the king's boot!"

Now the princess began to scold the king, saying, "I invited you into my house, prepared a feast for you, and granted you every honor, and now your are stealing one of my spoons! Are you not ashamed of yourself?"

The king said, "This is not possible! Someone put the spoon into my boot! You are doing me a severe injustice!"

To that the princess said, "You also did such an injustice to me when you put Halfman and me into a cask, although I had done nothing wrong."

The king stood there a long time, speechless with amazement. Then the princess brought Halfman to him, and Halfman explained everything that had happened.

The king was amazed at this tale. He took his daughter back home with him and married her to one of his noblemen. He appointed Halfman to be his chief bodyguard and gave him his most beautiful slave girl for a wife.

Juvadi and the Princess


One day Juvadi went to gather twigs, and he found an oak branch with acorns on it. He picked it up and carefully carried it in his arms. As he approached town he straddled it like a horse and thus pulled it further along.

The little princess was standing at one of the king's windows, and she began to laugh out loud.

Juvadi saw her and said, "May you get pregnant by me!"

She soon became pregnant, and nine months later gave birth to a girl. The king was so angry about this that he called together his council and said, "Advise me what I should do to the person who has brought this shame upon me. I cannot believe what people are saying."

The councilors said, "Bring together all the men in the kingdom, and then we shall see whom the child calls Papa."

So the king summoned all the men to his house. His barons, princes, knights, citizens, and peasants all came, but the child did not call any of them Papa. The only man left was Juvadi, who did not come. Then the king forced him to come, and the child had scarcely seen him when she called him Papa.

Once again the king called together his council and asked, "What should the punishment be for those who caused this shame?"

They answered, "Let us put them into a cask and roll it over a cliff."

So they had a cask made and locked the princess, her daughter, and Juvadi inside, then rolled it to a cliff to push it over.

As it rolled along, Juvadi said, "Let me out! Let me out! I'll give you figs and raisins."

So saying, he threw handfuls of figs and raisins out of the cask. The cask stopped rolling at a level spot. Juvadi broke open the cask, and they all got out.

A witch was in the vicinity, and she laughed so hard that a swelling on her neck disappeared. She was very happy about this, and she said to Juvadi, "What is your wish? I can do everything, and will do something good for you."

Juvadi answered, "Make a house for me, for we have no place to live."

The witch picked up a stick and made a circle with it, saying, "Here shall be a palace, with all the comforts of the world."

Suddenly a beautiful palace was there, and Juvadi happily went inside with the princess and their daughter.

The princess then said to Juvadi, "Now you have to have an enchantment that will drive out your stupidity."

Peter the Fool

Giovanni Francesco Straparola

A simple fellow, named Peter, gets back his wits by the help of a tunny fish which he spared after having taken it in his net, and likewise wins for his wife a king's daughter.
There is proof enough, dear ladies, both in the chronicles of the past and in the doings of our own day, that a fool, whether by lucky accident or by sheer force of blundering, may sometimes score a success where a wise man might fail. Therefore, it has come into my mind to tell you the story of one of these fools, who, through the issue of a very foolish deed, got for his wife the daughter of a king and became a wise man himself into the bargain.

In the Ligurian Sea there is an island called Capraia, which, at the time I am describing, was ruled by King Luciano. Amongst his subjects was a poor widow named Isotta, who lived with her only son Peter, a fisher lad. But from Peter's fishing she would scarce have kept body and soul together, for he was a poor silly creature known to all the neighbors as Peter the Fool.

Though he went fishing every day he never caught anything, but in spite of his ill success he would always come up from his boat shouting and bellowing so that all the town might hear him, "Mother, mother, bring out your tubs and your buckets and your pails. Bring them out all, great and small, for Peter has caught a boatful of fish."

The poor woman soon got to know the value of Peter's bragging, but in spite of this she always prepared the vessels, only to find herself jeered at by the silly youth, who, as soon as he came near, would thrust out his long tongue in ridicule, and otherwise mock at her.

Now it chanced that the widow's cottage stood just opposite to the palace of King Luciano, who had only one child, a pretty graceful girl about ten years old, Luciana by name.

She, it happened, was looking out of the window of the palace one day when Peter came back from fishing, crying out to his mother to bring out her tubs and her buckets and her pails to hold the fish with which he was laden, and so much was she diverted at the silly antics of the fool, that it seemed likely she would die with laughing.

Peter, when he saw that he was made sport of, grew very angry, and threw some ugly words at her, but the more he raged the more she -- after the manner of willful children -- laughed and made mock at him.

Peter, however, went on with his fishing day after day, and played the same trick on his mother every evening on his return. But at last fortune favored him, and he caught a fine tunny, very big and fat.

Overjoyed at his good luck, he began to shout and cry out over and over again, "Mother and I will have a good supper tonight," when, to his amazement, he heard the tunny which he had just caught begin to speak, "Ah! My dear brother, I pray you of your courtesy to give me my life. When once you have eaten me, what farther benefit do you think you will get from me? But if you will let me live there is no telling what service I may not render you."

But Peter, whose thoughts just then were set only on his supper, hoisted the fish on his shoulders and set off homewards. But the tunny still kept on beseeching his captor to spare his life, promising him first as many fish as he could want, and finally to do him any favor he might demand. Peter was not hardhearted, and, though a fool, fancied he might profit by sparing the fish, so he listened to the tunny's petition and threw him back into the sea.

The fish, sensible of Peter's kindness, and not wishing to seem ungrateful, told Peter to get into his boat again and tilt it over so that the water could run in. This advice Peter at once followed, and, having leant over on one side, he let the boat be half filled with water, which brought in with it such a huge quantity of fish that the boat was in danger of sinking.

Peter was well nigh beside himself with joy when be saw what had happened, and, when he had taken as many fish as he could carry, he betook himself homewards, crying out, as was his wont, when he drew near to the cottage, "Mother, mother, bring out your tubs and your buckets and your pails. Bring out them all, great and small, for Peter has caught a boatful of fish."

At first poor Isotta, thinking that he was only playing his old fool's game, took no heed. But at last, hearing him cry out louder than ever, and fearing that he might commit some greater folly if he should not find the vessels prepared as usual, got them all ready. What was her surprise to see her simpleton of a son at last coming back with a brave spoil!

The Princess Luciana was at the palace window, and hearing Peter bellowing louder than ever, she laughed louder than ever, so that Peter was almost mad with rage, and having left his fish, he rushed back to the seashore, and called aloud on the tunny to come and help him.

The fish, hearing Peter's voice, came to the marge of the shore, and putting his nose up out of the waves, asked what service was required of him.

"What service!" cried Peter. "Why I would that Luciana, that saucy minx, the daughter of our king, should find herself with child at once."

What followed was a proof that the tunny had. not made an empty promise to Peter, for before many days had passed the figure of the young girl, who was not twelve years old, began to show signs of maternity.

Her mother, when she marked this, fell into great trouble, but she could not believe that a child of eleven could be pregnant, and rather set down the swelling to the working of an incurable disease; so she brought Luciana to be examined by some women expert in such cases, and these, as soon as they saw the girl, declared that she was certainly with child.

The queen, overwhelmed by this terrible news, told it also to the king, and he, when he heard it, cried aloud for death rather than such ignominy. Strict inquisition was made to discover who could have violated the child, but nothing was found out; so Luciano, to hide her dire disgrace, determined to have his daughter secretly killed.

The queen, on hearing this, begged her husband to spare the unfortunate Luciana till the child should be born, and then do with her what he would. The king, moved with compassion for his only daughter, gave way so far; and in due time Luciana was delivered of a boy so fine and beautiful that the king could no longer harbor the thought of putting them away, but, on the other hand, gave order to the queen that the boy should be well tended till he was a year old.

When this time was completed the child had become beautiful beyond compare, and then it came into the king's mind that he would again make a trial to find out who the father might be. He issued a proclamation that every man in the city who had passed fourteen years should, under pain of losing his head, present himself at the palace bearing in his hand some fruit or flower which might attract the child's attention. On the appointed day, in obedience to the proclamation, all those summoned came to the palace, bearing, this man one thing and that man another, and, having passed before the king, sat down according to their rank.

Now it happened that a certain young man as he was betaking himself to the palace met Peter, and said to him, "Peter, why are you not going to the palace like all the others to obey the order of the king?"

"What should I do in such a crowd as that?" said Peter. "Cannot you see I am a poor naked fellow, and have hardly a rag to my back, and yet you ask me to push myself in amongst all those gentlemen and courtiers? No."

Then the young man, laughing at him, said, "Come with me, and I will give you a coat. Who knows whether the child may not turn out to be yours?"

In the end Peter let himself be persuaded to go to the young man's house, and having put on a decent coat, they went together to the palace. But when they arrived there Peter's heart again failed him, and he hid himself behind a door. By this time all the men had presented themselves to the king, and were seated in the hall.

Then Luciano commanded the nurse to bring in the child, thinking that if the father should be there the sense of paternity would make him give some sign. As the nurse carried the child down the hall everyone, as he passed, began to caress him and to give him, this one a fruit and that one a flower; but the infant, with a wave of his hand, refused them all.

When the nurse passed by the entrance door the child began to laugh and crow, and threw himself forward so lustily that he almost jumped out of the woman's arms, but she, not knowing that anyone was there, walked on down the hall. When she came back to the same place the child was more delighted than ever, laughing and pointing with his finger to the door; so that the king, who had already noticed the child's actions, called to the nurse and asked her who was behind the door.

The nurse, being somewhat confused, said that surely some beggar must be hidden there. By the king's command Peter was at once haled forth, and everybody recognized the town fool. But the child, who was close to him, stretched out his arms and clasped Peter round the neck and kissed him lovingly. The king, recognizing the sign, was stricken to the heart with grief, and having discharged the assembly, commanded that Peter and Luciana and the child should be put to death forthwith.

The queen, though assenting to this doom, was fearful lest the public execution of the victims might draw down upon the king the anger of the people; so she persuaded him to have made a huge cask into which the three might be put and cast into the sea to drift at random. Then, at least, no one might witness their dying agony.

This the king agreed to; and when the cask was made, the condemned ones were put therein, with a basket of bread and a flask of wine, and a drum of figs for the child, and thrust out into the rough sea, with the expectation that the waves would soon dash it to pieces against the rocks. But this was not to be their fate.

Peter's poor old mother, when she heard of her son's misfortune, died of grief in a few days; and the unhappy Luciana, tossed about by the cruel waves, and seeing neither sun nor moon, would have welcomed a similar fate. The child, since she had no milk to give it, had to be soothed to sleep with now and then a fig. But Peter seemed to care for nothing, and ate the bread and drank the wine steadily, laughing the while.

"Alas! alas!" cried Luciana in despair. "You care nothing for this evil which you have brought upon me, a poor innocent girl. You eat and drink and laugh without a thought of the danger around us.

"Why," replied Peter, "this misfortune is more your own fault than mine. If you had not mocked me so, it would never have happened. But do not lose heart. Our troubles will soon be over."

"I believe that," cried Luciana, "for the cask will soon be split on a rock, and then we must all be drowned."

"No, no," said Peter." Calm yourself. I have a secret, and were you to know what it is, you would be vastly surprised and vastly delighted too, I believe."

"What secret can you know," said Luciana, "which will avail us in such danger as this?"

"I will soon tell you," Peter replied. "I have a faithful servant, a great fish, who will do me any service I ask of him, and there is nothing he cannot do. I may as well tell you it was through his working that you became with child."

"That I cannot believe," said Luciana. And what may this fish of yours be called?"

"His name is Signor Tunny," replied Peter.

"Then," said Luciana, "to put your fish to the test, I will ask you to transfer to me the power you exercise over him, and to command him to do my bidding instead of yours."

"Be it as you will," said Peter; and without more ado he called the tunny, who at once rose up near the cask, whereupon Peter commanded him to do everything that Luciana might require of him.

She at once exercised her power over the fish by ordering him to make the waves cast the cask ashore in a fair safe cleft in the rocks on an island, a short sail from her father's kingdom.

As soon as the fish had worked her will so far, she laid other and much harder tasks upon him. One was to change Peter from the ugly fool that he was into a clever, handsome gallant. Another was to have built for her forthwith a rich and sumptuous palace with lofty halls and chambers and girt with carven terraces. Within the court there was to be laid out a beautiful garden, full of trees which should bear, instead of fruit, pearls and precious stones, and in the midst of it two fountains, one of the freshest water and the other of the finest wine. All these wonders were wrought by the fish almost as soon as Luciana had spoken.

Now all this time the king and the queen were in deep misery in thinking of the cruel death they had contrived for Luciana and her child, how they had given their own flesh and blood to be eaten by the fishes. Therefore, to find some solace in their woe, they determined to go to Jerusalem and to visit the Holy Land. So they ordered a ship to be put in order for them, and furnished with all things suited to their state.

They set sail with a favoring wind, and before they had gone a hundred miles they came in sight of an island upon which they could see a stately palace, built a little above the level of the sea. Seeing that this palace was so fair and sumptuous, and standing, moreover, within Luciano's kingdom, they were seized with a longing to view it more closely. So, having put into a haven, they landed on the island.

Before they had come to the palace Luciana and Peter saw and recognized them, and, having gone forth to meet them, greeted them with a cordial welcome, but the king and queen did not know their hosts for the great change which had come over them.

The guests were taken first into the palace, which they examined in every part, praising loudly its great beauty, and then they were led by a secret staircase into the garden, the splendor of which pleased them so amazingly that they swore they had never at any time before looked upon a place so delightful.

In the center of this garden there stood a noble tree, which bore on one of its branches three golden apples. These the keeper of the garden was charged to guard jealously against robbers, and now, by some secret working which I cannot unravel, the finest of these apples was transported into the folds of the king's robe about his bosom, and there hidden.

Luciano and the queen were about to take their leave when the keeper approached and said to Luciana, "Madam, the most beautiful of the three golden apples is missing, and I can find no trace of the thief."

Luciana forthwith gave orders that the whole household should be searched, one by one, for such a loss as this was no light matter. The keeper, after he had searched thoroughly everyone, came back and told Luciana that the apple was nowhere to be found.

At these words Luciana fell into great confusion, and, turning to the king, said, "Your majesty must not be wroth with me if I ask that even you allow yourself to be searched, for I prize the golden apple that is lost almost as highly as my life."

The king, unsuspicious of any trick, and sure of his innocence, straightway loosened his robe, and lo! the golden apple fell from it to the ground.

The king stood as one dazed, ignorant as to how the golden apple could have come into his robe, and Luciana spoke, "Sire, we have welcomed you to our house with all the worship fitting to your rank, and now, as a recompense, you would privily rob our garden of its finest fruit. Meseems you have proved yourself very ungrateful."

The king, in his innocence, attempted to prove to her that he could not have taken the apple, and Luciana, seeing his confusion, knew that the time had come for her to speak, and reveal herself to her father.

"My lord," she said, with the tears in her eyes, "I am Luciana, your hapless daughter, whom you sentenced to a cruel death along with my child and Peter the fisher boy. Though I bore a child, I was never unchaste. Here is the boy, and here is he whom men were wont to call Peter the Fool. You wonder at this change. It has all been brought about by the power of a marvelous fish whose life Peter spared when he had caught it in his net. By this power Peter has been turned into the wisest of men, and the palace you see has been built. In the same way I became pregnant without knowledge of a man, and the golden apple was conveyed into the folds of your robe. I am as innocent of unchastity as you are of theft."

When the king heard these words his eyes were opened, and he knew his child. Then, weeping with joy, they embraced each other, and all were glad and happy. After spending a few days on the island, they all embarked and returned together to Capraia, where with sumptuous feastings and rejoicings Peter was duly married to Luciana, and lived with her in great honor and contentment, until Luciano died, and then he became king in his stead.


Giambattista Basile

Peruonto goes to the forest to gather a fagot of wood, and behaves kindly towards three girls whom he finds sleeping in the sun, and receives from them a charm. The king's daughter mocks him, and he calls down a curse upon her that she should be with child of him, which coms to pass. Knowing that he is the father, the king commands that he should be put inside a cask with his wife and little ones, and thrown into the sea: but in virtue of the charm he has received, he frees himself of the danger, and becoming a handsome youth, is made king.
A good deed is never lost: whoever sows the seed of kindness meets with due reward, and whoever sows the seed of love gathers love in return. The favor which is shown to a grateful heart is never barren, and gratitude gives birth to gifts. Instances of these sayings occur continually in the deeds of mankind: and you will meet with an example of it in the tale that I am about to relate to you.

A countrywoman of Casoria, by the name of Ceccarella, had a son named Peruonto, who was the silliest body and the ugliest lump of flesh that nature had ever created; so that the unhappy mother always felt sad at heart, and cursed the day and the hour upon which she had given birth to this good-for-nothing, who was not worth a dog's hide. The unfortunate woman could cry out as much as she liked, but the ass never stirred to do her the lightest service.

At last, after screaming herself hoarse, and assailing him with all the epithets she could think of, she induced him to go to the forest and gather a fagot of wood, saying, "It is nearly time that we should have something to eat. Run for this wood, that I may get ready somewhat: and forget not yourself on the way, but come back at once, that I may cook the needful so as to keep the life in us."

Peruonto departed, and fared on like a monk among his brethren in a procession. Away he went, stepping as one treading down eggs, with the gait of a jackdaw, counting his paces as he went. At last he reached a certain part of the forest through which ran a streamlet, and nearby he saw three young girls lying on the grass, with a stone for a pillow, fast asleep, with the sun pouring its rays straight upon them. When Peruonto saw them, like a fountain amid a roaring fire, he took compassion upon them; and with the ax which he carried to cut the wood he severed some branches from the trees, and built a kind of arbor over them. Whilst he was busy so doing the young girls awoke (they were the daughters of a fairy), and perceiving the kindness and goodness of heart of Peruonto, in gratitude they gave him a charm, by which he might possess whatever he knew how to ask for.

Peruonto, having performed this action, continued faring towards the forest, where he cut down a fagot of wood so large that it would require a cart to carry it.

Seeing that it would be impossible for him to lift it, he sat upon it, saying, "Would it not be a fine thing if only this fagot would carry me home?"

And behold, the fagot began to trot like a Besignano horse, and arriving before the king's palace, it began to wheel round, and prance, and curvet, so that Peruonto cried out aloud, enough to deafen all hearers. The young ladies who attended the king's daughter, whose name was Vastolla, happening to look out of the window and behold this marvel, hastened to call the princess, who, glancing out and observing the tricks played by the fagot, laughed until she fell backwards, which thing was unusual, and the young ladies were astonished at the sight, as the Lady Vastolla was by nature so melancholy that they never remembered to have seen her smile.

Peruonto lifted his head, and perceiving that they were mocking him, said, "O Vastolla, may you be with child by me!" and thus saying, tightened his heels on the fagot, which at once moved away, and in an instant arrived home with a train of screaming children behind; and if his mother had not quickly shut the door, they would have slain him with stones.

In the meantime Vastolla, after a feeling of uneasiness, and unrest, and the delay of her monthly period, perceived that she was with child, and hid as long as possible her plight, until she was round as a cask.

The king, discovering her condition, was exceedingly angry, and fumed, and swore terrible oaths, and convened a meeting of the council, and thus spoke to them: '"You all know that the moon of my honor is wearing horns, and you all know that my daughter has furnished matter of which to write chronicles, or, even better, to chronicle my shame. You all know that to adorn my brow she has filled her belly; therefore tell me, advise me what I had better do. Methinks I had rather have her slain than have her give birth to a bastard race. I have a mind to let her feel rather the agonies of death than the labor of childbed. I have a mind to let her depart this world ere she bring bad seed into it."

The ministers and advisers, who had made use of more oil than vinegar, answered him, saying, "Truly she deserves a great punishment, and of the horns which she forces on your brow should the handle be made of the knife that shall slay her; but if we slay her now that she is with child, the villain who has been the principal cause of your disgust, and who has dressed you with horns right and left will escape unhurt. Let us await, therefore, until it comes to port, and then we are likely to know the root of this dishonor; and afterwards we will think and resolve, with a grain of salt, which course we should best follow."

The king was pleased with this advice, perceiving in it sound sense, and therefore held his hand, and said, "Let us await the issue of events."

As heaven willed, the time came, and with little labor, at the first sound of the midwife's voice, and the first squeeze of the body, out sprang two male children like two golden apples.

The king, who was full of wrath, sent for his ministers and counselors, and said to them, "My daughter has been brought to bed, and the time has come for her to die."

The old sages answered (and all to gain time upon time), "No, we will wait until the children get older, so as to be able by their favor to recognize their father."

The king, not desiring his counselors to think him unjust, shrugged his shoulders and took it quietly, and patiently waited until the children were seven years of age, at which time he again sent for his counselors, and asked them for their advice.

One of them said, "As you have not been able to know from your daughter who was the false coiner that altered the crown from your image, it is time that we seek to obliterate the stain. Command that a great banquet should be prepared, and ask all the grandees and noblemen of the city, and let us be watchful, and seek with our own eyes him to whom the children incline most by the inclination of nature, for that one without fail will be the father, and we will at once get hold of him like goat's excrement."

The king was pleased with this advice. He gave orders for the banquet, invited all folk of any consequence, and after they had eaten their fill he asked them to stand in line and pass before the children, but they took as much notice of them as did Alexander's steed of the rabbits, so that the king became enraged and bit his lips with anger, and although he was not wanting in shoes, because of the tightness of those he was compelled to wear he stamped the ground with the excess of pain.

His advisers said to him, "Softly, your majesty! Take heart. We will give another banquet in a short while, no more inviting the noblest of the land, but instead folk of the lower class, as women often attach themselves to the worst: and perchance we will meet with the seed of your wrath amid cutlers, comb-sellers, and other merchants of small wares, as we have not met with him among the noble and well-born."

The king was pleased with this advice, and commanded the second banquet to be prepared, whereto came, by invited by a summons, all folk from Chiaja, all the rogues, all adventurers and fortune-hunters, all quick-witted, all ruffians, and villains, and apron-wights that were to be found in the city, who, taking seat like unto noblemen at a long table spread with rich abundance, began straightway to stuff themselves.

Now it so happened that Ceccarella, having heard the ban which invited folk to this banquet, began to urge Peruonto to go to it also, and so much did she say and do that at last she prevailed upon him to depart, and he went. He had hardly entered the place of feasting, when the two pretty children ran to him, and embraced him, and received him with great joy, and sported and played with him.

The king, beholding this sight, pulled out his own beard, seeing that the winning ticket of this lottery had fallen to an ugly brute, the sight of whom made one sick. He was shaggy-headed, owl-eyed, had a nose like a parrot's beak, and a mouth like a fish. He was so tattered and torn, that no part of his body was hidden.

Sighing heavily, the king said, "Has ever any one seen anything like this, that that light-o'-brains daughter mine should have it in her head to fall in love with this sea-monster? Has ever any one seen one that could take to the heel of such a hairy foot? Ah, infamous woman, what blind and false metamorphoses are these: to become a strumpet for a pig, so that I should become a ram? But what am I waiting for? What am I thinking of? Let them feel the weight of my just chastisement. Let them be punished as they deserve, and let them bear the penalty that you will adjudge. Take them out of my sight, for I cannot endure them."

The ministers all took counsel together, and resolved that the princess and the malefactor, with the two children, should be put into a cask and thrown into the sea, so that they should thus end their days without the king soiling his hands with his own blood.

No sooner was the sentence pronounced than the cask was brought, and all four were put therein; but before they were thrown in, some of the handmaidens of Princess Vastolla, who were weeping bitterly, put inside the hogshead raisins and dried figs, so that they could live for a little time. Then the cask was closed, and taken away, and flung into the sea, and it kept sailing on wherever the wind blew it.

Meanwhile Vastolla, weeping with sore weeping, her eyes running two streamlets of tears, said to Peruonto, "What great misfortune is ours that our grave should be Bacchus' cradle! Oh, could I but have known who it was that worked in this body to have me thrown into this prison! Alas! I have come to a sad end, without knowing the why or wherefore. O you cruel one, tell me, tell me, what magic art did you use, what wand did thou wave, to bring me to this pass, to be shut herein by this hogshead's hoops? Tell me, tell me, what devil tempted you to put into me the invisible pipe, and gain nothing by it but this dark spectacle?

Peruonto, who had for a time listened and pretended not to hear, answered at last, "If thou want know how it came to pass, give me some raisins and figs."

The princess, desiring to draw from him something, gave him a handful of each; and as soon as he had eaten them, he began to recount all that had happened to him with the three young girls and the fagot of wood, and how at last he had passed under her window, and how, when she laughed at him, he wished her to be with child by him.

When the lady Vastolla heard this, she took heart, and said to him, "Why should we make exit of life inside this hogshead? Why not wish for this vessel to become a splendid ship, so that we may escape from this peril and arrive in good port?'

Peruonto answered, "Give me some figs and raisins, if you want this to happen."

Vastolla at once satisfied his gluttony, so that he should be willing to speak, and like a carnival fisherwoman, with the raisins and figs she fished for the words fresh out of his body. Peruonto said the words desired by the princess, and at once the cask became a ship, with all the sails ready for sailing, and with all the sailors that were needed for the ship's service; and there were to be seen some lowering the sheets, some hauling the shrouds, some holding the rudder, some setting the studding-sails, some mounting to the upper-main-topsail, one crying, "Put the ship about!" and another, "Put the helm up!" and one blowing the trumpet, and others firing the guns, and some doing one thing, and some another, so long as Vastolla remained on board the ship, swimming in a sea of sweetness.

It was now the hour when the moon played with the sun at going and coming, and Vastolla said to Peruonto, "Handsome youth of mine, wish that this ship may become a palace, so that we may be more secure. You know the proverb, 'Praise the sea, but dwell on shore.'"

Peruonto answered, "If you want this to happen, give me some figs and raisins," and she at once gave him what he asked for.

Peruonto, having eaten, wished his wish, and the ship became a beautiful palace, adorned in all points, and furnished with such splendor that nothing was wanting. So that the princess, who would have parted with life easily but a short time before, now would not have exchanged her place with the highest lady in the world, seeing that she was served and entreated as a queen.

Then, to put a seal, upon her good fortune, she begged Peruonto to obtain the grace of becoming handsome and polished, so that they could be happy together, for although the proverb says, "Better a pig for a husband than an emperor for a friend," if he could change his looks she would take it as the greatest good fortune.

Peruonto once again answered, "Give me some figs and raisins, if you want this to happen,"

Vastolla at once responded with the raisins and figs, so that as soon as the wish was spoken he became from a sparrow a bullfinch, from a ghoul a narcissus, and from a hideous mask a handsome youth. Vastolla, seeing such a transformation, was beside herself with joy, and throwing her arms around him, tasted the sweet juice of happiness.

Now it so happened that at this same time the king, who from the day on which he had pronounced the cruel sentence had not lifted his eyes from the ground, was entreated to go hunting by his courtiers, who though thus to cheer him up.

He went, but was surprised by nightfall. Sighting from afar a light from a lantern at one of the windows of the palace, he sent one of his followers to see if they would receive him there, and he was answered that he could shelter there for the night.

The king accepted the invitation, and mounting the steps, entered, and going from room to room, he could see no person living except the two children, who kept at his side, saying, "Grandfather! grandfather! grandfather!"

The king wondered with greatest wonder, and marveled with greatest marvel. Being wearied, he seated himself by a table, when he beheld spread on it by invisible hands a white cloth and divers dishes of food, of which he partook, and wines of good vintage, of which he drank truly as a king, served by the two pretty children, never ceasing: and whilst he was eating, a band of musicians played beautifully, touching even the marrow of his bones. When he was finished eating, a bed suddenly appeared made of cloth of gold; and having had his boots pulled off, he took his rest, and all his courtiers did the same, after having eaten well at a hundred tables, which had been made ready in other rooms.

As soon as morning came, the king got ready to depart, and was going to take with him also the little ones, when Vastolla and her husband appeared, and falling at his feet, asked his pardon, and recounted to him all their fortune. The king, seeing that he had won two grandsons that were like two grains of gold and two priceless gems, and a son-in-law like a jinn, embraced first one and then the other, and took them with him to the city, and commanded great festivals and rejoicings to be made for this great gain, which lasted many days, solemnly confessing to himself that "Man proposes, but God disposes."

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

Revised September 20, 2011.