Italian Popular Tales/Chapter 6



Until the Reformation, Europe was, by its religion and the culture growing out of it, a homogeneous state. Not only, however, did the legends of the Church find access to the people everywhere, but the stories imported from the Orient were equally popular and widespread. The absence of other works of entertainment and the monotonous character of the legends increased the popularity of tales which were amusing and interesting. We have considered in other places the fairy tales and those stories which are of more direct Oriental origin. In the present chapter we shall examine those stories which are of the character of jests or amusing stories, some of which are also Oriental, but may more appropriately be classed in this chapter. The first story we shall mention is familiar to the reader from the ballad of "King John and the Abbot of Canterbury," in Percy and Burger's poem of Der Kaiser und der Abt. There are two popular versions in Italian, as well as several literary ones. The shortest is from Milan (Imbriani, Nov. fior. p. 621), and is entitled:


There was once a lord whose name was "Abbot-who-eats-and-drinks-without-thinking." The king went there and saw this name on the door, and said that if he had nothing to think of, he would give him something to think of. He told him that he must do in a week the three things which he told him. First, to tell him how many stars there were in heaven, how many fathoms of rope it would take to reach to heaven, and what he, the king, was thinking of. The cook saw that his master was sad, and sat with his head bent over the table, and asked him what was the matter, and his master told him everything. The cook promised to settle the matter if he would give him half of his property. He also asked for the skin of a dead ass, a cart-load of rope, and his master's hat and cloak. Then the cook went to the king, who said to him: "Well, how many stars are there in heaven?" The cook answered: "Whoever counts the hairs on this ass' skin will know how many stars there are in heaven." Then the king told him to count them, and he answered that his share was already counted, and that it was for the king to count now. Then the king asked him how many fathoms of rope it would take to reach to heaven, and the cook replied: "Take this rope and go to heaven, and then come back and count how many fathoms there are." Finally the king asked: "What am I thinking of?" "You are thinking that I am the abbot; instead of that, I am the cook, and I have here the stew-pan to try the broth."

The version in Pitrè (No. 97) is much better. It is called:


There was once in a city a priest who became an abbot, and who had his carriages, horses, grooms, steward, secretary, valet, and many other persons on account of the wealth that he had. This abbot thought only of eating, drinking, and sleeping. All the priests and laymen were jealous of him, and called him the "Thoughtless Abbot."

One day the king happened to pass that way, and stopped, and all the abbot's enemies went to him straightway, and accused the abbot, saying: "Your Majesty, in this town there is a person happier than you, very rich, and lacking nothing in the world, and he is called the 'Thoughtless Abbot.'"

After reflection the king said to the accusers: "Gentlemen, depart in peace, for I will soon make this abbot think." The king sent directly for the abbot, who had his carriage made ready, and went to the king in his coach and four. The king received him kindly, made him sit at his side, and talked about various things with him. Finally he asked him why they called him the "Thoughtless Abbot," and he replied that it was because he was free from care, and that his servants attended to his interests.

Then the king said: "Well, then, Sir Abbot, since you have nothing to do, do me the favor to count all the stars in the sky, and this within three days and three nights; otherwise you will surely be beheaded." The poor "Thoughtless Abbot" on hearing these words began to tremble like a leaf, and taking leave of the king, returned home, in mortal fear for his neck.

When meal-time came, he could not eat on account of his great anxiety, and went at once out on the terrace to look at the sky, but the poor man could not see a single star. When it grew dark, and the stars came out, the poor abbot began to count them and write it down. But it grew dark and light again, without the abbot succeeding in his task. The cook, the steward, the secretaries, the grooms, the coachmen, and all the persons in the house became thoughtful when they saw that their master did not eat or drink, and always watched the sky. Not knowing what else to think, they believed that he had gone mad. To make the matter short, the three days passed without the abbot counting the stars, and the poor man did not know how to present himself to the king, for he was sure he would behead him. Finally, the last day, an old and trusty servant begged him so long, that he told him the whole matter, and said: "I have not been able to count the stars, and the king will cut my head off this morning." When the servant had heard all, he said: "Do not fear, leave it to me; I will settle everything."

He went and bought a large ox-hide, stretched it on the ground, and cut off a piece of the tail, half an ear, and a small piece out of the side, and then said to the abbot: "Now let us go to the king; and when he asks your excellency how many stars there are in heaven, your excellency will call me; I will stretch the hide on the ground, and your excellency will say: 'The stars in heaven are as many as the hairs on this hide; and as there are more hairs than stars, I have been obliged to cut off part of the hide.'"

After the abbot had heard him, he felt relieved, ordered his carriage, and took his servant to the king. When the king saw the abbot, he saluted him, and then said: "Have you fulfilled my command?" "Yes, your Majesty," answered the abbot, "the stars are all counted."

"Then tell me how many they are." The abbot called his servant, who brought the hide, and spread it on the ground, while the king, not knowing how the matter was going to end, continued his questioning.

When the servant had stretched out the hide, the abbot said to the king: "Your Majesty, during these three days I have gone mad counting the stars, and they are all counted." "In short, how many are they?" "Your Majesty, the stars are as many as the hairs of this hide, and those that were in excess, I have had to cut off, and they are so many hundreds of millions; and if you don't believe me, have them counted, for I have brought you the proof."

Then the king remained with his mouth open, and had nothing to answer; he only said: "Go and live as long as Noah, without thoughts, for your mind is enough for you;" and so speaking, he dismissed him, thanking him, and remaining henceforth his best friend.

The abbot returned home with his servant, delighted and rejoicing. He thanked his servant, made him his steward and intimate friend, and gave him more than an ounce of money a day to live on.1

In another Sicilian version referred to by Pitrè, vol. IV., p. 437, the Pope, instead of the king, wishes to know from the abbot: "What is the distance from heaven to earth; what God is doing in heaven; what the Pope is thinking of. The cook, disguised as the abbot, answers: "As long as this ball of thread. Rewarding the good, and punishing the wicked. He thinks he is speaking with the abbot, and on the contrary, is talking to the cook."

The following story from Venice (Bernoni, Fiabe, No. 6) is a combination of the two stories in Grimm, "Clever Alice" and the "Clever People." It is called:


Once upon a time there was a husband and wife who had a son. This son grew up, and said one day to his mother: "Do you know, mother, I would like to marry!" "Very well, marry! whom do you want to take?" He answered: "I want the gardener's daughter." "She is a good girl; take her; I am willing." So he went, and asked for the girl, and her parents gave her to him. They were married, and when they were in the midst of the dinner, the wine gave out. The husband said: "There is no more wine!" The bride, to show that she was a good housekeeper, said: "I will go and get some." She took the bottles and went to the cellar, turned the cock, and began to think: "Suppose I should have a son, and we should call him Bastianelo, and he should die. Oh! how grieved I should be! oh! how grieved I should be!" And thereupon she began to weep and weep; and meanwhile the wine was running all over the cellar.

When they saw that the bride did not return, the mother said: "I will go and see what the matter is." So she went into the cellar, and saw the bride, with the bottle in her hand, and weeping, while the wine was running over the cellar. "What is the matter with you, that you are weeping?" "Ah! my mother, I was thinking that if I had a son, and should name him Bastianelo, and he should die, oh! how I should grieve! oh! how I should grieve!" The mother, too, began to weep, and weep, and weep; and meanwhile the wine was running over the cellar.

When the people at the table saw that no one brought the wine, the groom's father said: "I will go and see what is the matter. Certainly something wrong has happened to the bride." He went and saw the whole cellar full of wine, and the mother and bride weeping. "What is the matter?" he said; "has anything wrong happened to you?" "No," said the bride, "but I was thinking that if I had a son and should call him Bastianelo, and he should die, oh! how I should grieve! oh! how I should grieve!" Then he, too, began to weep, and all three wept; and meanwhile the wine was running over the cellar.

When the groom saw that neither the bride, nor the mother, nor the father came back, he said: "Now I will go and see what the matter is that no one returns." He went into the cellar and saw all the wine running over the cellar. He hastened and stopped the cask, and then asked: "What is the matter, that you are all weeping, and have let the wine run all over the cellar?" Then the bride said: "I was thinking that if I had a son and called him Bastianelo and he should die, oh! how I should grieve! oh! how I should grieve!" Then the groom said: "You stupid fools! are you weeping at this, and letting all the wine run into the cellar? Have you nothing else to think of? It shall never be said that I remained with you! I will roam about the world, and until I find three fools greater than you I will not return home."

He had a bread-cake made, took a bottle of wine, a sausage, and some linen, and made a bundle, which he put on a stick and carried over his shoulder. He journeyed and journeyed, but found no fool. At last he said, worn out: "I must turn back, for I see I cannot find a greater fool than my wife." He did not know what to do, whether to go on or to turn back. "Oh!" he said, "it is better to try and go a little farther." So he went on and shortly he saw a man in his shirt-sleeves at a well, all wet with perspiration and water. "What are you doing, sir, that you are so covered with water and in such a sweat?" "Oh! let me alone," the man answered, "for I have been here a long time drawing water to fill this pail and I cannot fill it." "What are you drawing the water in?" he asked him. "In this sieve," he said. "What are you thinking about, to draw water in that sieve? Just wait!" He went to a house near by, and borrowed a bucket, with which he returned to the well and filled the pail. "Thank you, good man, God knows how long I should have had to remain here!" "Here is one who is a greater fool than my wife."

He continued his journey and after a time he saw at a distance a man in his shirt who was jumping down from a tree. He drew near, and saw a woman under the same tree holding a pair of breeches. He asked them what they were doing, and they said that they had been there a long time, and that the man was trying on those breeches and did not know how to get into them. "I have jumped, and jumped," said the man, "until I am tired out and I cannot imagine how to get into those breeches." "Oh!" said the traveller, "you might stay here as long as you wished, for you would never get into them in this way. Come down and lean against the tree." Then he took his legs and put them in the breeches, and after he had put them on, he said: "Is that right?" "Very good, bless you; for if it had not been for you, God knows how long I should have had to jump." Then the traveller said to himself: "I have seen two greater fools than my wife."

Then he went his way and as he approached a city he heard a great noise. When he drew near he asked what it was, and was told it was a marriage, and that it was the custom in that city for the brides to enter the city gate on horseback, and that there was a great discussion on this occasion between the groom and the owner of the horse, for the bride was tall and the horse high, and they could not get through the gate; so that they must either cut off the bride's head or the horse's legs. The groom did not wish his bride's head cut off, and the owner of the horse did not wish his horse's legs cut off, and hence this disturbance. Then the traveller said: "Just wait," and came up to the bride and gave her a slap that made her lower her head, and then he gave the horse a kick, and so they passed through the gate and entered the city. The groom and the owner of the horse asked the traveller what he wanted, for he had saved the groom his bride, and the owner of the horse his horse. He answered that he did not wish anything and said to himself: "Two and one make three! that is enough; now I will go home." He did so and said to his wife: "Here I am, my wife; I have seen three greater fools then you; now let us remain in peace and think about nothing else." They renewed the wedding and always remained in peace. After a time the wife had a son whom they named Bastianelo, and Bastianelo did not die, but still lives with his father and mother.2

There is a Sicilian version of this story (Pitrè, No. 148) called, "The Peasant of Larcara," in which the bride's mother imagines that her daughter has a son who falls into the cistern. The groom (they are not yet married) is disgusted and sets out on his travels with no fixed purpose of returning if he finds some fools greater than his mother-in-law, as in the Venetian tale. The first fool he meets is a mother, whose child, in playing the game called nocciole,[1] tries to get his hand out of the hole while his fist is full of stones. He cannot, of course, and the mother thinks they will have to cut off his hand. The traveller tells the child to drop the stones, and then he draws out his hand easily enough. Next he finds a bride who cannot enter the church because she is very tall and wears a high comb. The difficulty is settled as in the former story.

After a while he comes to a woman who is spinning and drops her spindle. She calls out to the pig, whose name is Tony, to pick it up for her. The pig does nothing but grunt, and the woman in anger cries: "Well, you won't pick it up? May your mother die!"

The traveller, who had overheard all this, takes a piece of paper, which he folds up like a letter, and then knocks at the door. "Who is there?" "Open the door, for I have a letter for you from Tony's mother, who is ill and wishes to see her son before she dies." The woman wonders that her imprecation has taken effect so soon, and readily consents to Tony's visit. Not only this, but she loads a mule with everything necessary for the comfort of the body and soul of the dying pig.

The traveller leads away the mule with Tony, and returns home so pleased with having found that the outside world contains so many fools that he marries as he had first intended.

The credulity of the woman in the last version, in allowing Tony to visit his sick mother, finds a parallel in a Neapolitan story (Imbriani, Pomiglianesi, p. 226) called:


Once upon a time there was a husband who had a wife who was a little foolish. One day he said to her: "Come, put the house in order, for Christmas is coming." As soon as he left the house his wife went out on the balcony and asked every one who passed if his name was Christmas. All said No; but finally, one—to see why she asked—said Yes. Then she made him come in, and gave him everything that she had (in order to clean out the house). When her husband returned he asked her what she had done with things. She responded that she had given them to Christmas, as he had ordered. Her husband was so enraged at what he heard that he seized her and gave her a good beating.

Another time she asked her husband when he was going to kill the pig. He answered: "At Christmas." The wife did as before, and when she spied the man called Christmas she called him and gave him the pig, which she had adorned with her earrings and necklace, saying that her husband had so commanded her. When her husband returned and learned what she had done, he gave her a sound thrashing; and from that time he learned to say nothing more to his wife.3

In the Sicilian version, Pitrè, No. 186, "Long May,"[2] the wife, who is very anxious to make more room in her house by getting rid of the grain stored in it, asks her husband when they shall clean out the house. He answers: "When Long May comes." The wife asks the passers-by if they are Long May; and at last a swindler says he is, and receives as a gift all the grain. The swindler was a potter, and the woman told him that he ought to give her a load of pots. He did so, and the wife knocked a hole in the bottom of each, and strung them on a rope stretched across the room. It is needless to say that when the husband returned the wife received a beating "that left her more dead than alive."

Another story about foolish people is the following Venetian tale (Bernoni, Fiabe, xiii.), entitled:


There was once a husband and a wife. The former said one day to the latter: "Let us have some fritters." She replied: "What shall we do for a frying-pan?" "Go and borrow one from my godmother." "You go and get it; it is only a little way off." "Go yourself; I will take it back when we are done with it." So she went and borrowed the pan, and when she returned said to her husband: "Here is the pan, but you must carry it back." So they cooked the fritters, and after they had eaten, the husband said: "Now let us go to work, both of us, and the one who speaks first shall carry back the pan." Then she began to spin and he to draw his thread,—for he was a shoemaker,—and all the time keeping silence, except that when he drew his thread he said: "Leulerò, leulerò;" and she, spinning, answered: "Picicì, picicì, piciciò." And they said not another word.

Now there happened to pass that way a soldier with a horse, and he asked a woman if there was any shoemaker in that street. She said that there was one near by, and took him to the house. The soldier asked the shoemaker to come and cut his horse a girth, and he would pay him. The latter made no answer but: "Leulerò, leulerò" and his wife: "Picicì, picicì, piciciò." Then the soldier said: "Come and cut my horse a girth, or I will cut your head off!" The shoemaker only answered: "Leulerò, leulerò" and his wife: "Picicì, picicì, piciciò." Then the soldier began to grow angry, and seized his sword and said to the shoemaker: "Either come and cut my horse a girth, or I will cut your head off!"

But to no purpose. The shoemaker did not wish to be the first one to speak, and only replied: "Leulerò, leulerò," and his wife: "Picicì, picicì, piciciò." Then the soldier got mad in good earnest, seized the shoemaker's head, and was going to cut it off. When his wife saw that, she cried out: "Ah! don't, for mercy's sake!" "Good!" exclaimed her husband, "good! Now you go and carry the pan back to my godmother, and I will go and cut the horse's girth." And so he did, and won the wager.

In a Sicilian story with the same title (Pitrè, No. 181), the husband and wife fry some fish, and then set about their respective work,—shoemaking and spinning,—and the one who finishes first the piece of work begun is to eat the fish. While they were singing and whistling at their work, a friend comes along, who knocks at the door, but receives no answer. Then he enters and speaks to them, but still no reply; finally, in anger, he sits down at the table and eats up all the fish himself.4

One of our most popular stories illustrating woman's obstinacy is found everywhere in Italy. The following is the Sicilian version:


Once upon a time there was a husband and a wife. The husband was a tailor; so was the wife, and in addition was a good housekeeper. One day the husband found some things in the kitchen broken,—pots, glasses, plates. He asked: "How were they broken?" "How do I know?" answered the wife. "What do you mean by saying 'how do I know?' Who broke them?" "Who broke them? I, with the scissors," said the wife, in anger. "With the scissors?" "With the scissors!" "Are you telling the truth? I want to know what you broke them with. If you don't tell me, I will beat you." "With the scissors!" (for she had the scissors in her hand). "Scissors, do you say?" "Scissors they were!" "Ah! what do you mean? Wait a bit; I will make you see whether it was you with the scissors." So he tied a rope around her and began to lower her into the well, saying: "Come, how did you break them? You see I am lowering you into the well." "It was the scissors!" The husband, seeing her so obstinate, lowered her into the well; and she, for all that, did not hold her tongue. "How did you break them?" said the husband. "It was the scissors." Then her husband lowered her more, until she was half way down. "What did you do it with?" "It was the scissors." Then he lowered her until her feet touched the water. "What did you do it with?" "It was the scissors!" Then he let her down into the water to her waist. "What did you do it with?" "It was the scissors!" "Take care!" cried her husband, enraged at seeing her so obstinate, "it will take but little to put you under the water. You had better tell what you did it with; it will be better for you. How is it possible to break pots and dishes with the scissors! What has become of the pieces, if they were cut?" "It was the scissors! the scissors!" Then he let go the rope. Splash! his wife is all under the water. "Are you satisfied now? Do you say any longer that it was with the scissors?" The wife could not speak any more, for she was under the water; but what did she do? She stuck her hand up out of the water, and with her fingers began to make signs as if she were cutting with the scissors. What could the poor husband do? He said: "I am losing my wife, and then I shall have to go after her. I will pull her out now, and she may say that it was the scissors or the shears." Then he pulled her out, and there was no way of making her tell with what she had broken all those things in the kitchen.5

Another familiar story is:


Once upon a time there was a doctor who took his apprentice with him when he made his visits. One day while visiting a patient, the doctor said: "Why do you not listen to my orders that you are not to eat anything?" The invalid said: "Sir, I assure you that I have eaten nothing." "That is not true," answered the doctor, "for I have found your pulse beating like that of a person who has eaten grapes." The patient, convicted, said: "It is true that I have eaten some grapes; but it was only a little bunch." "Very well; do not risk eating again, and don't think you can fool me."

The poor apprentice, who was with the doctor, was amazed to see how his master guessed from the pulse that his patient had eaten grapes; and as soon as they had left the house he asked: "Master, how did you perceive that he had eaten grapes?" "Listen," said the doctor. "A person who visits the sick must never pass for a fool. As soon as you enter, cast your eyes on the bed and under the bed, too, and from the crumbs that you see you can guess what the patient has eaten. I saw the stalk of the grapes, and from that I inferred that he had eaten grapes."

The next day there were many patients in the town, and the doctor, not being able to visit them all, sent his apprentice to visit a few. Among others, the apprentice went to see the man who had eaten the grapes; and wishing to play the part of an expert like his master, to show that he was a skilful physician, when he perceived that there were bits of straw under the bed, said angrily: "Will you not understand that you must not eat?" The invalid said: "I assure you that I have not even tasted a drop of water." "Yes, sir, you have," answered the apprentice; "you have been eating straw, for I see the bits under the bed." The sick man replied at once: "Do you take me for an ass like yourself?" And so the apprentice cut the figure of the fool that he was.6

There are two figures in Sicilian folk-lore around whom many jokes have gathered which are, in other parts of Italy, told of some nameless person or attributed to the continental counterparts of the insular heroes. These two are Firrazzanu and Giufà. The former is the practical joker; the second, the typical booby found in the popular literature of all peoples.

The following stories of Firrazzanu (unless otherwise indicated) are from Pitrè, No. 156.


Firrazzanu was the valet of a prince in Palermo, on whom he also played his tricks; but as Firrazzanu was known and everybody was amused by him, the prince overlooked them.

The queen was once in Palermo, and wished to know Firrazzanu. He went to see her, and amused her somewhat. The queen said: "Are you married, or single?" "Married, your Majesty." "I wish to make your wife's acquaintance." "How can that be, your Majesty, for my wife is deaf?" (Firrazzanu made this up out of his own head, for it was not true.) "No matter; when I speak with her I will scream. Go, have your wife come here."

Firrazzanu went home. "Fanny, the queen wants to know you; but you must remember that she is a little hard of hearing, and if you wish to speak to her, you must raise your voice."

"Very well," said his wife, "let us go." When they arrived at the palace she said to the queen, in a loud voice: "At your Majesty's feet!" The queen said to herself: "You see, because she is deaf, she screams as if everybody else were deaf!" Then she said to her, loudly: "Good day, my friend; how do you do?" "Very well, your Majesty!" answered Firrazzanu's wife, still louder. The queen, to make herself heard, raised her voice and screamed, also, and Fanny, for her part, cried out louder and louder, so that it seemed as if they were quarrelling. Firrazzanu could contain himself no longer, and began to laugh, so that the queen perceived the joke; and if Firrazzanu had not run away, perhaps she would have had him arrested, and who knows how the matter had ended?7

The second story, "The Tailor who twisted his Mouth," has already been mentioned in Chapter III.

On one occasion (No. 7) the viceroy gave a feast, and needed some partridges. Now the word pirnicana means both partridge and humpback; so Firrazzanu said he would get the viceroy as many pirnicani as he wanted, although they were very scarce. The viceroy said twenty would do. Firrazzanu then collected a score of humpbacks and introduced them into the viceroy's kitchen, sending word to the viceroy that the pirnicani were ready. His excellency wished to see them, and Firrazzanu led his troop to his apartment. When they were all in, Firrazzanu said: "Here they are." The viceroy looked around and said: "Where?" "Here. You wanted pirnicani, and these are pirnicani." The viceroy laughed, gave each of the humpbacks a present, and dismissed them.8

Another time, while the prince was at dinner, Firrazzanu led a number of asses under his window, and made them bray so that the poor prince was driven almost to distraction. The author of the joke, as usual, took to his heels, and escaped.

Once a very wealthy prince, having a great number of rents to collect, and not succeeding, thought of making Firrazzanu collector. "Here," said he to him, "take my authority, and collect for me, and I will give you twenty per cent." Firrazzanu went into the places where the rents were to be collected, and called together all the debtors. What do you suppose he did? He made them pay his share, that is, twenty per cent, and nothing more. "The rest," he said, "you can pay another year to the prince; now you may depart."

Then he went back to the prince. "What have you done, Firrazzanu? Have you collected all the rents?" "What are you talking about collecting! I had hard work to collect my share." "What do you mean?" "I collected with difficulty the twenty per cent, that belonged to me; your share will be paid next year." The prince was obliged to laugh at last, and Firrazzanu went away happy and satisfied.9

Another time the prince went hunting, and ordered Firrazzanu, when it was convenient, to tell the princess that he should not be home to dinner that day. Firrazzanu did not find it convenient to deliver the message for a week, when he said that the prince would not be home to dine that day. On the first occasion, of course, the princess waited for her husband in great anxiety until midnight; on the second she went out to pay visits, and when the prince returned, he found his wife out, and no dinner prepared. Firrazzanu, when scolded, excused himself by saying that the prince told him to deliver the message when convenient.

This recalls the story in Straparola (XIII. 6) where a master orders his lazy servant to go to market and buy some meat, and says to him, sarcastically: "Go and stay a year!" which command the servant obeys to the letter.

The viceroy at last, angry at one of Firrazzanu's jokes, banished him to the town of Murriali. When Firrazzanu grew tired of the place, he had a cart filled with the earth of the town, and rode into Palermo on it. The viceroy had him arrested as soon as he saw him, but Firrazzanu protested that he had not broken the viceroy's command, for he was still on the earth of Murriali.

The same story is told of Gonnella, the Italian counterpart of Firrazzanu, by Sacchetti (Nov. 27), and Bandello (IV. 18).

The prince desired once to give Firrazzanu a lesson that would correct him of his fondness for jokes; so he told the commandant of the castle that he would send him one day a servant of his with a letter, and that he, the commandant, should carry out the orders contained in it.

A week after, the prince called Firrazzanu and said: "Go to the commandant of the castle and ask him to give you what this letter says."

Firrazzanu went, turning over the letter and in doubt about the matter. Just then he met another servant and said to him: "Carry this letter for me to the commandant of the castle, and tell him to give you what he has to give you. When you return, we will have a good drink of wine."

The servant went and delivered the letter to the commandant, who opened it, and read: "The commandant will give my servant, who is a rascal, a hundred lashes, and then send him back to me." The order was carried out, and the poor servant returned to the palace more dead than alive. When Firrazzanu saw him, he burst out laughing, and said: "My brother, for me and for you, better you than me."

This story is told in Gonzenbach (No. 75) as the way in which the queen tried to punish Firrazzanu for the joke he played on her by telling her his wife was deaf.

There are other stories told of Firrazzanu, but they do not deserve a place here, and we can direct our attention at once to Giufà, the typical booby, who appears in the various provinces of Italy under different names.10

The first story told of him in Pitrè's collection (No. 190) is:


Once upon a time there was a very poor woman who had a son called Giufà, who was stupid, lazy, and cunning. His mother had a piece of cloth, and said one day to Giufà: "Take this cloth, and go and sell it in a distant town, and take care to sell it to those who talk little." So Giufà set out, with the cloth on his shoulder.

When he came to a town, he began to cry: "Who wants cloth?" The people called him, and began to talk a great deal; one thought it coarse, another dear. Giufà thought they talked too much, and would not sell it to them. After walking a long way, he entered a court-yard where he found nothing but a plaster image. Giufà said to it: "Do you want to buy the cloth?" The statue said not a word, and Giufà, seeing that it spoke little, said: "Now I must sell you the cloth, for you speak little;" and he took the cloth and hung it on the statue, and went away, saying: "Tomorrow I will come for the money."

The next day he went after the money, and found the cloth gone. "Give me the money for the cloth." The statue said nothing. "Since you will not give me the money, I will show you who I am;" and he borrowed a mattock, and struck the statue until he overthrew it, and inside of it he found a jar of money. He put the money in a bag, and went home to his mother, and told her that he had sold the cloth to a person who did not speak, and gave him no money; that he had killed him with a mattock, and thrown him down, and he had given him the money which he had brought home. His mother, who was wise, said to him: "Say nothing about it, and we will eat this money up little by little."11

Another time his mother said to him: "Giufà, I have this piece of cloth to be dyed; take it and leave it with the dyer, the one who dyes green and black." Giufà put it on his shoulder, and went off. On his way he saw a large, beautiful snake, and because it was green he said to it: "My mother has sent me with this cloth which she wants dyed. To-morrow I will come for it." And there he left it.

He went home and told his mother, who began to tear her hair. "Ah! shameless fellow! how you ruin me! Hasten and see whether it is there still!" Giufà went back, but the cloth had disappeared.12


One day Giufà went out to gather herbs, and it was night before he returned. On his way back the moon rose through the clouds, and Giufà sat down on a stone and watched the moon appear and disappear behind the clouds, and he exclaimed constantly: "It appears, it appears! it sets, it sets!"

Now there were near the way some thieves, who were skinning a calf which they had stolen, and when they heard: "It appears, it sets!" they feared that the officers of justice were coming, so they ran away and left the meat. When Giufà saw the thieves running away, he went to see what it was and found the calf skinned. He took his knife and cut off flesh enough to fill his sack and went home. When he arrived there his mother asked him why he came so late. He said it was because he was bringing some meat which she was to sell the next day, and the money was to be kept for him. The next day his mother sent him into the country and sold the meat.

In the evening Giufà returned and asked his mother: "Did you sell the meat?" "Yes, I sold it to the flies on credit." "When will they give you the money?" "When they get it." A week passed and the flies brought no money, so Giufà went to the judge and said to him: "Sir, I want justice. I sold the flies meat on credit and they have not come to pay me." The judge said: "I pronounce this sentence on them: wherever you see them you may kill them." Just then a fly lighted on the judge's nose, and Giufà dealt it such a blow that he broke the judge's head.

The anecdote of the fly in the latter part of the story is found independently in a version from Palermo. "The flies plagued Giufà and stung him. He went to the judge and complained of them. The judge laughed and said: 'Wherever you see a fly you can strike it.' While the judge was speaking a fly rested on his face and Giufà dealt it such a blow that he broke the judge's nose."

This story, which, as we shall see, has variants in different parts of Italy, is of Oriental origin and is found in the Pantschatantra. A king asked his pet monkey to watch over him while he slept. A bee settled on the king's head; the monkey could not drive it away, so he took the king's sword and killed the bee—and the king, too. A similar parable is put into the mouth of Buddha. A bald carpenter was attacked by a mosquito. He called his son to drive it away; the son took the axe, aimed a blow at the insect, but split his father's head in two, in killing the mosquito. In the Anvar-i-Suhaili, the Persian translation of the Pantschatantra, it is a tame bear who keeps the flies from the sleeping gardener by throwing a stone at his head.13

The only popular European versions of this story, as far as we know, are found in Italy. Besides those from Sicily, there are versions from Florence, Leghorn, and Venice. The first is called:


Once upon a time there was a little woman who had a little room and a little hen. The hen laid an egg and the little woman took it and made a little omelet of it, and put it to cool in the window. Along came a fly and ate it up. Imagine what an omelet that must have been! The little woman went to the magistrate and told him her story. He gave her a club and told her to kill the fly with it wherever she saw it. At that moment a fly lighted on the magistrate's nose, and the woman, believing it to be the same fly, gave it a blow and broke the magistrate's nose.

The versions from Leghorn and Venice are in almost the same words.14

The literary versions are quite abundant, four or five being found in Italy, and a number in France, the best known of which is La Fontaine's fable of "The Bear and the Amateur Gardener," Book VIII. 10.15

One morning, before Giufà was up, he heard a whistle and asked his mother who was passing. She answered that it was the morning-singer. One day Giufà, tired of the noise, went out and killed the man who was blowing the whistle, and came back and told his mother that he had killed the morning-singer. His mother went out and brought the body into the house and threw it into the well, which happened to be dry. Then she remembered that she had a lamb, which she killed and also threw in the well.

Meanwhile the family of the murdered man had learned of the murder and had gone to the judge, with their complaint, and all together went to Giufà's house to investigate the matter. The judge said to Giufà: "Where did you put the body?" Giufà, who was silly, replied: "I threw it in the well." Then they tied Giufà to a rope and lowered him into the well. When he reached the bottom he began to feel around and touched wool, and cried out to the son of the murdered man: "Did your father have wool?" "My father did not have wool." "This one has wool; he is not your father." Then he touched the tail: "Did your father have a tail?" "My father did not have a tail." "Then it's not your father." Then he felt four feet and asked: "How many feet did your father have?" "My father had two feet." Giufà said: "This one has four feet; he is not your father." Then he felt the head and said: "Did your father have horns?" "My father did not have horns." Giufà replied: "This one has horns; he is not your father." Then the judge said: "Giufà, bring him up either with the horns or with the wool." So they drew up Giufà with the lamb on his shoulder, and when the judge saw that it was a real lamb, they set Giufà at liberty.

In a variant of the above story Giufà's mother, to get rid of him, one day tells him to take his gun and go off and shoot a cardinal-bird. Giufà asks what a cardinal is, and his mother tells him that it is one that has a red head. Giufà, of course, shoots a cardinal and carries him home. The remainder of the story is as above. In another variant Giufà's mother has a cock which she cooks one day, and Giufà, who had never eaten anything of the kind before, likes it greatly and asks what it is. His mother tells him it is the night-singer. One evening Giufà saw a poor man singing behind a door, and thinking he was a night-singer, killed him and carried him home. The rest of the story is like the first version.16

Giufà is not without an occasional gleam of wit, as is shown in the following story (Pitrè No. 190, § 8), entitled:


As Giufà was half a simpleton no one showed him any kindness, such as to invite him to his house or give him anything to eat. Once Giufà went to a farm-house for something, and the farmers, when they saw him looking so ragged and poor, came near setting the dogs on him, and made him leave in a hurry. When his mother heard it she procured for him a fine coat, a pair of breeches, and a velvet vest. Giufà dressed up like an overseer, went to the same farm-house, and then you should see what great ceremonies they made! they invited him to dine with them. While at the table all were very attentive to him. Giufà, on the one hand, filled his stomach, and on the other, put into his pockets, coat, and hat whatever was left over, saying: "Eat, my clothes, for you were invited!"

It is interesting to note that this story is told of no less a person than Dante, about whom cluster more popular traditions than many are aware of. It is the subject of one of Sercambi's novels, and will be found with many other interesting traditions of the great poet in Papanti's Dante secondo la Tradizione e i Novellatori, Leghorn, 1873.17

Giufà was not a very safe person to leave alone in the house. Once his mother went to church and told him to make some porridge for his little sister. Giufà made a great kettle of boiling porridge and fed it to the poor child and burned her mouth so that she died. On another occasion his mother, on leaving home, told him to feed the hen that was sitting and put her back on the nest, so that the eggs should not get cold. Giufà stuffed the hen with the food until he killed her, and then sat on the eggs himself until his mother returned.18

Giufà's mother went to mass once and said to him: "Pull the door to!" When his mother had gone out Giufà took hold of the door and began to pull it, and pulled and pulled until it came off. Giufà put it on his back and carried it to the church, and threw it down before his mother, saying: "There is the door!"19

A number of other stories about Giufà are found in Gonzenbach (No. 27) which we give here for completeness.


After Giufà had scalded his little sister to death, his mother drove him from the house, and he entered the service of a priest. "What wages do you want?" asked the priest. "One egg a day, and as much bread as I can eat with it; and you must keep me in your service until the screech-owl cries in the ivy." The priest was satisfied and thought he could not find such a cheap servant again. The next morning Giufà received his egg and a loaf of bread. He opened the egg and ate it with a pin, and every time he licked off the pin he ate a great piece of bread. "Bring me a little more bread," he cried; "this is not enough;" and the priest had to get him a large basket of bread.

So it was every morning. "Alas for me!" cried the priest; "in a few weeks he will reduce me to beggary." It was winter then and would be several months until the screech-owl cried in the ivy. In despair the priest said to his mother: "This evening you must hide in the ivy and scream like an owl." The old woman did as she was told and began to cry: "Miu, miu!" "Do you hear, Giufà?" said the priest, "the screech-owl is crying in the ivy; we must part." So Giufà took his bundle and was going to return to his mother.

As he was going by the place where the priest's mother was still crying "Miu, miu," he exclaimed: "O you cursed screech-owl suffer punishment and sorrow!" and threw stones into the ivy and killed the old woman.

Giufà's mother would not allow him to remain at home, and made him take service as a swineherd with a farmer, who sent him into the woods to keep the swine until they were fat and then drive them back. So Giufà lived several months in the woods until the swine were fat. As he was driving them home he met a butcher and said to him: "Would you like to buy these swine? I will sell them to you at half price if you will give me back the ears and tails." The butcher bought the whole herd, and paid Giufà the money, together with the ears and tails.

Giufà then went to a bog near by and planted two ears close together and three spans off a tail, and so with all of them. Then he ran in great trouble to the farmer and cried: "Sir, imagine what a great misfortune has happened to me. I had fattened your swine beautifully and was driving them home when they fell into a bog and are all swallowed up in it. The ears and tails only are still sticking out." The farmer hastened with all his people to the bog, where the ears and tails still stuck out. They tried to pull the swine out, but whenever they seized an ear or a tail it came right off and Giufà exclaimed: "You see how fat the swine were: they have disappeared in the marsh from pure fatness." The farmer was obliged to return home without his swine, while Giufà took the money home to his mother and remained a time with her.

One day his mother said to him: "Giufà, we have nothing to eat to-day; what shall we do?" "Leave it to me," said he, and went to a butcher. "Gossip, give me half a rotulu of meat; I will give you the money to-morrow." The butcher gave him the meat and he went in the same way to the baker, the oil-merchant, the wine-dealer, and the cheese-merchant and took home to his mother the meat, macaroni, bread, oil, wine, and cheese which he had bought on credit, and they ate together merrily.

The next day Giufà pretended he was dead and his mother wept and lamented. "My son is dead, my son is dead!" He was put in an open coffin and carried to the church and the priests sang the mass for the dead over him. When, however, every one in the city heard that Giufà was dead, the butcher, the baker, the oil-merchant, and the wine-dealer said: "What we gave him yesterday is as good as lost. Who will pay us for it now?" The cheese-dealer, however, thought: "Giufà, it is true, owes me only four grani[3] but I will not give them to him. I will go and take his cap from him." So he crept into the church, but there was still a priest there praying over Giufà's coffin. "As long as the priest is there, it is not fitting for me to take his cap," thought the cheese-merchant, and hid himself behind the altar. When it was night the last priest departed and the cheese-merchant was on the point of coming out from his hiding-place when a band of thieves rushed into the church. They had stolen a large bag of money and were going to divide it in the dark church. They quarrelled over the division and began to cry out and make a noise. Thereupon Giufà sat up in his coffin and exclaimed: "Out with you!" The thieves were greatly frightened when the dead man rose up, and believed he was calling to the other dead, so they ran out in terror, leaving the sack behind. As Giufà was picking up the sack, the cheese-merchant sprang from his hiding-place and claimed his share of the money. Giufà, however, kept crying: "Your share is four grani." The thieves outside thought he was dividing the money among the dead and said to each other: "How many he must have called if they receive but four grani apiece!" and ran away as fast as they could run. Giufà took the money home to his mother, after he had given the cheese-merchant a little to say nothing about what had happened.

Giufà's mother once bought a large stock of flax and said to her son: "Giufà, you can surely spin a little so as to be doing something." Giufà took a skein from time to time, and instead of spinning it put it in the fire and burned it. Then his mother became angry and beat him. What did Giufà do then? He took a bundle of twigs and wound it with flax like a distaff; then he took a broom for a spindle and sat himself on the roof and began to spin. While he was sitting there three fairies came by and said: "Just see how nicely Giufà is sitting there and spinning. Shall we not give him something?" The first fairy said: "I will enable him to spin as much flax in a night as he touches." The second said: "I will enable him to weave in a night as much yarn as he has spun." The third said: "I will enable him to bleach all the linen he has woven in one night." Giufà heard this and at night when his mother had gone to bed, he got behind her stock of flax, and as often as he touched a skein it was at once spun. When the flax was all gone he began to weave, and as soon as he touched the loom the linen began to roll from it. Finally he spread the linen out and had scarcely wet it a little when it was bleached. The next morning Giufà showed his mother the fine pieces of linen, and she sold them and earned much money. Giufà continued this for several nights; finally he grew tired and wanted to go out to service again.

He found a place with a smith, whose bellows he was to blow. He blew them so hard, however, that he put the fire out. The smith said: "Leave off blowing and hammer the iron on the anvil." But Giufà pounded on the anvil so hard that the iron flew into a thousand pieces. Then the smith became angry, but he could not send him away, for he had agreed to keep him a year. So he went to a poor man and said: "I will make you a handsome present if you will tell Giufà that you are Death, and that you have come to take him away." The poor man met Giufà one day, and said what the smith had told him. Giufà was not slow. "What, are you Death?" cried he, seized the poor man, put him in his sack, and carried him to the smithy. There he laid him on the anvil and began to hammer away on him. "How many years shall I yet live?" he asked, while he was hammering. "Twenty years," cried the man in the sack. "That is not near enough." "Thirty years, forty years, as long as you will," screamed the man; but Giufà kept on hammering until the poor man was dead.

The bishop once announced to the whole town that every goldsmith should make him a crucifix, and he would pay four hundred ounces for the most beautiful one. Whoever brought a crucifix that did not please him must lose his head. So a goldsmith came and brought him a handsome crucifix, but the bishop said it did not please him and had the poor man's head cut off, but kept the crucifix. The next day a second goldsmith came, who brought a still handsomer crucifix, but it went no better with him than with the first. This lasted for some time and many a poor man lost his head. When Giufà heard of this he went to a goldsmith and said: "Master, you must make me a crucifix with a very thick body, but otherwise as fine as you can make it." When the crucifix was done Giufà took it on his arm and carried it to the bishop. Scarcely had the bishop seen it when he cried out: "What are you thinking of, to bring me such a monster? Wait, you shall pay me for it!" "Ah, worthy sir," said Giufà, "just hear me and learn what has happened to me. This crucifix was a model of beauty when I started with it; on the way it began to swell with anger and the nearer your house I came the more it swelled, most of all when I was mounting your stairs. The Lord is angry with you on account of the innocent blood that you have shed, and if you do not at once give me the four hundred ounces and an annuity to each of the goldsmiths' widows, you, too, will swell in the same way, and God's wrath will visit you." The bishop was frightened and gave him the four hundred ounces, and bade him send all the widows to him so that he could give each of them a yearly pension. Giufà took the money and went to each widow and said: "What will you give me if I will procure you an annuity from the bishop?" Each gave him a handsome sum and Giufà took home to his mother a great heap of money.

One day Giufà's mother sent him to another town, where there was a fair. On the way some children met him, who asked: "Where are you going, Giufà?" "To the fair." "Will you bring me back a whistle?" "Yes!" "And me, too?" "Yes!" "Me, too?" "Me, too?" asked one after the other, and Giufà said "Yes" to all. At last there was a child who said: "Giufà, bring me a whistle, too. Here is a penny." When Giufà came back from the fair, he brought one whistle only and gave it to the last boy. "Giufà, you promised each of us one," cried the other children. "You did not give me a penny to buy it with," answered Giufà.20

The counterpart of Giufà is found in a Venetian story (Bernoni, Fiabe, No. 11) entitled "The Fool," which is, in substance, as follows:


Once upon a time there was a mother who had a son with little brains. One morning she said: "We must get up early, for we have to make bread." So they both rose early and began to make bread. The mother made the loaves, but took no pains to make them the same size. Her son said to her finally: "How small you have made this loaf, mother!" "Oh!" said she, "it does not matter whether they are big or little; for the proverb says: 'Large and small, all must go to mass.'" "Good, good!"

When the bread was made, instead of carrying it to the baker's, the son took it to the church, for it was the hour for mass, saying: "My mother said that, 'Large and small, all must go to mass.'" So he threw the loaves down in the middle of the church. Then he went home to his mother and said: "I have done what you told me to do." "Good! did you take the bread to the baker's?" "Oh! mother, if you had seen how they all looked at me!" "You might also have cast an eye on them in return," said his mother. "Wait, wait, I will cast an eye at them, too," he exclaimed, and went to the stable and cut out the eyes of all the animals, and putting them in a handkerchief, went to the church and when any man or woman looked at him he threw an eye at them.

When his mother learned what he had done she took to her bed and sent her son for a physician. When the doctor came he felt her pulse and said: "Oh! how weak this poor woman is!" Then he told the son that he must take good care of his mother and make her some very thin broth and give her a bowlful every minute. The son promised to obey him and went to the market and bought a sparrow and put on the fire a pail of water. When it boiled he put in the sparrow and waited until it boiled up two or three times, and then took a bowl of the broth to his mother, and repeated the dose as fast as he could.

The next day the physician found the poor woman weaker than ever, and told her son he must put something heavy on her so as to throw her into a perspiration. When the doctor had gone the son piled all the heavy furniture in the room on her, and when she could no longer breathe he ran for the doctor again. This time the doctor saw that nothing was to be done, and advised her son to have her confess and prepare for death. So her son dressed her and carried her to church and sat her in the confessional and told the priest that some one was waiting for him and then went home. The priest soon saw that the woman was dead and went to find her son. When the son heard that his mother was dead, he declared that the priest had killed her, and began to beat him.21

There are many stories in Italy which turn on the tricks played by a sharper on his credulous friends; a good specimen of the class is the following from Sicily (Pitrè, No. 157):


There was once a husband and wife who had a daughter. The man's name was Uncle Capriano and he owned near the town a piece of property, where he always worked. One day thirteen robbers happened to pass that way, saw Uncle Capriano, dismounted, and began to talk with him, and soon formed a friendship for him. After this they frequently went to divert themselves with him. When they arrived they always saluted him with: "Good day, Uncle Capriano," and he answered: "Your servant, gentlemen; what are your worships doing?" "We have come to amuse ourselves. Go, Uncle Capriano, go and lunch, for we will do the work meanwhile." So he went and ate and they did his work for him. Finally, what do you suppose Uncle Capriano tried to do? He sought to invent some way to get money from the robbers. When he went home he said to his wife: "I am on friendly terms with the robbers and I would like to see whether I can get a little money out of them, and I have invented this story to tell them: that we have a rabbit, which I send home alone every evening with fire-wood and things for soup, which my wife cooks." Then he said to his daughter: "When I come with the thieves, you bathe the rabbit in water and come out of the door to meet me and say: 'Is that the way to load the poor little rabbit so that it comes home tired to death?'"

When the thieves heard that he had a rabbit that carried things, they wanted it, saying: "If we had it we could send it to carry money, food, and other things to our houses." Uncle Capriano said to them one day: "I should like to have you come to my house to-day." There were thirteen of the thieves; one said Yes, another said No. The captain said: "Let us go and see the rabbit." When they arrived at the house the daughter came to the door and said: "Is that the way to load the poor little rabbit so that it comes home tired to death?" When they entered the house all felt of the rabbit and exclaimed: "Poor little animal! poor little animal! it is all covered with sweat." When the thieves saw this they looked at each other and said: "Shall we ask him to give us this little rabbit?" Then they said: "Uncle Capriano, you must give us the rabbit without any words, and we will pay you whatever you ask." He answered: "Ask me for anything except this rabbit, for if I give you that I shall be ruined." They replied: "You must give it to us without further words, whether you are ruined or not." Finally Uncle Capriano let them have the rabbit for two hundred ounces, and they gave him twenty besides to buy himself a present with. After the thieves had got possession of the rabbit, they went to a house in the country to try it. They each took a bag of money and said: "Let us send a bag to each of our houses." The captain said: "First, carry a bag to mine." So they took the rabbit to load it, and after they had put the bags on it, the rabbit could not move and one of the thieves struck it on the haunch with a switch. Then the rabbit ran away instantly. The thieves went in great anger to Uncle Capriano and said: "Did you have the boldness to play such a trick on us, to sell us a rabbit that could not stir when we put a few bags of money on it?" "But, gentlemen," said the old man, "did you beat it?" "Of course," answered one of the thieves, "my companion struck it with a switch on the haunch." The old man asked: "But where did you strike it, on the right or on the left haunch?" "On the left." "That is why the rabbit ran away," said the old man. "You should have hit it on the right. If you did not observe these conditions, what fault is it of mine?" "This is true," said the thieves, "Uncle Capriano is right; so go and eat and we will attend to the work." And so their friendship was not broken this time.

After a time Uncle Capriano said to his wife: "We must get some more money from the thieves." "In what way?" "To-morrow you must buy a new pot, and then you must cook in an old pot somewhere in the house, and at Ave Maria, just before I come home, you must empty the old pot into the new one, and put it on the hearth without any fire. To-morrow I will tell the thieves that I have a pot that cooks without any fire."

The next evening Uncle Capriano persuaded the thieves to go home with him. When they saw the pot they looked at one another and said: "We must ask him to give it to us." After some hesitation, he sold it to them for four hundred ounces, and twenty over as before.

When the thieves arrived at their house in the country, they killed a fine kid, put it into the pot, and set it on the hearth, without any fire, and went away. In the evening they all ran and tried to see who would arrive first, and find the meat cooked. The one who arrived first took out a piece of meat, and saw that it was as they had left it. Then he gave the pot a kick, and broke it in two. When the others came and found the meat not cooked, they started for Uncle Capriano's, and complained to him that he had sold them a pot that cooked everything, and that they had put meat into it, and found it raw. "Did you break the pot?" asked Uncle Capriano. "Of course we broke it." "What kind of a hearth did you have, high or low?" One of the thieves answered: "Rather high." "That was why the pot did not cook; it should have been low. You did not observe the conditions and broke the pot; what fault is that of mine?" The thieves said: "Uncle Capriano is right; go, Uncle Capriano, and eat, for we will do your work."

Some time after, Uncle Capriano said again to his wife: "We must get some more money out of them." "But how can we manage it?" "You know that we have a whistle in the chest; have it put in order, and to-morrow go to the butcher's, and get a bladder of blood, and fix it about your neck, and put on your mantilla; and when I return home, let me find you sitting down and angry, and the candle not lighted. I will bring my friends with me, and when I find the candle not lighted, I will begin to cry out, and you will not utter a word; then I will take my knife and cut your throat. You will fall down on the floor; the blood will run out of the bladder, and the thieves will believe that you are dead. You" (turning to his daughter)—"what I say I mean, when I tell you: 'Get the whistle'—get it and give it to me. When I blow it three times, you" (speaking to his wife) "will get up from the floor. When the thieves see this operation they will want the whistle, and we will get another six hundred ounces from them."

[Everything took place as Uncle Capriano had arranged; the thieves paid him six hundred ounces, and twenty over as usual, and then went home and killed their wives, to try the whistle on them. The rage of the thieves can be imagined when they found they had been deceived again. In order to avenge themselves, they took a sack and went to Uncle Capriano, and without any words seized him, put him in it, and taking him on a horse, rode away. They came after a time to a country-house, where they stopped to eat, leaving Uncle Capriano outside in the bag.]

Uncle Capriano, who was in the bag, began to cry: "They want to give me the king's daughter, and I don't want her!" There happened to be near by a herdsman, who heard what he was saying about the king's daughter, and he said to himself: "I will go and take her myself." So he went to Uncle Capriano and said: "What is the matter with you?" "They want to give me the king's daughter, and I don't want her, because I am married." The herdsman said: "I will take her, for I am single; but how can we arrange it?" Uncle Capriano answered: "Take me out, and get into the bag yourself." "That is a good idea," said the herdsman; so he set Uncle Capriano at liberty, and got into the bag himself. Uncle Capriano tied him fast, took his crook, and went to tend the sheep. The herdsman soon began to cry: "They want to give me the king's daughter. I will take her, I will take her!" In a little while the thieves came and put the bag on a horse, and rode away to the sea, the herdsman crying out all the time: "They want to give me the king's daughter. I will take her, I will take her!" When they came to the sea, they threw the bag in, and returned home. On their way back, they happened to look up on the mountain, and exclaimed: "See there! is that not Uncle Capriano?" "Yes, it is." "How can that be; did we not throw him into the sea, and is he there now?" Then they went to him and said: "How is this, Uncle Capriano, didn't we throw you in the sea?" "Oh! you threw me in near the shore, and I found these sheep and oxen; if you had thrown me in farther out, I would have found many more." Then they asked Uncle Capriano to throw them all in, and they went to the sea, and he began to throw them in, and each said: "Quick, Uncle Capriano, throw me in quickly before my comrades get them all!" After he had thrown them all in, Uncle Capriano took the horses and sheep and oxen, and went home and built palaces, and became very rich, and married his daughter, and gave a splendid banquet.22

A very interesting class of stories is found in Pitrè (Nos. 246–270) illustrating proverbial sayings. The first, on the text "The longer one lives, the more one learns," relates that a child came to an old man and asked for some coals to light a fire with. The old man said he would willingly give them, but the child had nothing to carry them in. The child, however, filled his palm with ashes, put a coal on them, and went away. The old man gave his head a slap, and exclaimed: "With all my years and experience, I did not know this thing. 'The longer one lives, the more one learns.'" And from that time these words have remained for a proverb.

Another (No. 252) recalls one of Giufà's pranks. A husband, to test his wife and friend, who is a bailiff, throws a goat's head into the well, and tells the wife that he has killed a person and cut off the head to prevent the body from being recognized. The wife promises secrecy, but soon tells the story to her friend, who denounces the supposed murderer to the judge. The house is entered by an arbor, from which they climb into a window, and the husband is arrested and taken to the well, which a bailiff descends, and finds the goat's head. The husband explains his trick, which gave rise to the saying: "Do not confide a secret to a woman; do not make a bailiff your friend, and do not rent a house with an arbor."23

Another shows how the stories of classic times survive among the people. Nero, a wicked king, goes about in disguise to hear what the people say of him. One day he meets an old woman in the field, and when Nero's name is mentioned, instead of cursing him as others do, she says: "May God preserve him." She explains her words by saying that they have had several kings, each worse than the other, and now they have Nero, who tears every son from his mother, wherefore may God guard and preserve him, for "There is no end to evil."24

There was once a whimsical prince who thought he could arrange the world and animals as he pleased and overcome Nature. He taught his horse to devour flesh and his dogs to eat grass. He trained an ass to dance and accompany himself by his braying: in short, the prince boasted that by means of Art one could rule Nature. Among other things he trained a cat to stand on the table and hold a lighted candle while he was eating. No matter what was brought on the table, the cat never moved, but held the candle as if it had been a statue of wood. The prince showed the cat to his friends and said, boastingly: "Nature is nothing; my art is more powerful and can do this and other things." His friends often said that everything must be true to its nature; "Art departs and Nature prevails." The prince invited them to make any trial they wished, asserting that the cat would never forget the art he had taught it. One of his friends caught a mouse one day and wrapped it up in a handkerchief and carried it with him to the prince's. When the cat heard and saw the mouse, it dropped the candlestick and ran after the mouse. The friend began to laugh, and said to the prince, who stood with his mouth wide open with amazement: "Dear prince, I always told you Art departs and Nature prevails!"

This story is told of Dante and Cecco d' Ascoli, the former playing the rôle of the prince.25

To counterbalance the stories of foolish people which have been related above, we will conclude this chapter with some stories of clever people, stories which were popular as long ago as the Middle Ages.

The first is from Sicily (Gonz., No. 50) and is called:


There was once a king who, while hunting, saw a peasant working in the fields and asked him: "How much do you earn in a day?" "Four carlini, your Majesty," answered the peasant. "What do you do with them?" continued the king. The peasant said: "The first I eat; the second I put out at interest; the third I give back, and the fourth I throw away."

The king rode on, but after a time the peasant's answer seemed very curious to him, so he returned and asked him: "Tell me, what do you mean by eating the first carlino, putting the second out to interest, giving back the third, and throwing away the fourth?" The peasant answered: "With the first I feed myself; with the second I feed my children, who must care for me when I am old; with the third I feed my father, and so repay him for what he has done for me, and with the fourth I feed my wife, and thus throw it away, because I have no profit from it." "Yes," said the king, "you are right. Promise me, however, that you will not tell any one this until you have seen my face a hundred times." The peasant promised and the king rode home well pleased.

While sitting at table with his ministers, he said: "I will give you a riddle: A peasant earns four carlini a day; the first he eats; the second he puts out at interest; the third he gives back, and the fourth he throws away. What is that?" No one was able to answer it.

One of the ministers remembered finally that the king had spoken the day before with the peasant, and he resolved to find the peasant and obtain from him the answer. When he saw the peasant he asked him for the answer to the riddle, but the peasant answered: "I cannot tell you, for I have promised the king to tell no one until I have seen his face a hundred times." "Oh!" said the minister, "I can show you the king's face," and drew a hundred coins from his purse and gave them to the peasant. On every coin the king's face was to be seen of course. After the peasant had looked at each coin once, he said: "I have now seen the king's face a hundred times, and can tell you the answer to the riddle," and told him it.

The minister went in great glee to the king and said: "Your Majesty, I have found the answer to the riddle; it is so and so." The king exclaimed: "You can have heard it only from the peasant himself," had the peasant summoned, and took him to task. "Did you not promise me not to tell it until you had seen my face a hundred times?" "But, your Majesty," answered the peasant, "your minister showed me your picture a hundred times." Then he showed him the bag of money that the minister had given him. The king was so pleased with the clever peasant that he rewarded him, and made him a rich man for the rest of his life.26


Once upon a time there was a huntsman who had a wife and two children, a son and a daughter; and all lived together in a wood where no one ever came, and so they knew nothing about the world. The father alone sometimes went to the city and brought back the news. The king's son once went hunting and lost himself in that wood, and while he was seeking his way it became night. He was weary and hungry. Imagine how he felt! But all at once he saw a light shining at a distance. He followed it and reached the huntsman's house and asked for lodging and something to eat. The huntsman recognized him at once and said: "Highness, we have already supped on our best. But if we can find anything for you, you must be satisfied with it. What can we do? We are so far from the towns, that we cannot procure what we need every day." Meanwhile he had a capon cooked for him. The prince did not wish to eat it alone, but called all the huntsman's family, and gave the head of the capon to the father, the back to the mother, the legs to the son, and the wings to the daughter, and ate the rest himself. In the house there were only two beds, in the same room. In one the husband and wife slept, in the other the brother and sister. The old people went and slept in the stable, giving up their bed to the prince. When the girl saw that the prince was asleep, she said to her brother: "I will wager that you do not know why the prince divided the capon among us in the manner he did." "Do you know? Tell me why." "He gave the head to papa because he is the head of the family, the back to mamma because she has on her shoulders all the affairs of the house, the legs to you because you must be quick in performing the errands which are given you, and the wings to me to fly away and catch a husband." The prince pretended to be asleep; but he was awake and heard these words, and perceived that the girl had much judgment; and as she was also pretty, he fell in love with her.

The next morning he left the huntsman's; and as soon as he reached the court, he sent him, by a servant, a purse of money. To the young girl he sent a cake in the form of a full moon, thirty patties, and a cooked capon, with three questions: "Whether it was the thirtieth of the month in the wood, whether the moon was full, and whether the capon crowed in the night." The servant, although a trusty one, was overcome by his gluttony and ate fifteen of the patties, and a good slice of the cake, and the capon. The young girl, who had understood it all, sent back word to the prince that the moon was not full but on the wane; that it was only the fifteenth of the month and that the capon had gone to the mill; and that she asked him to spare the pheasant for the sake of the partridge. The prince, too, understood the metaphor, and having summoned the servant, he cried: "Rogue! you have eaten the capon, fifteen patties, and a good slice of the cake. Thank that girl who has interceded for you; if she had not, I would have hung you."

A few months after this, the huntsman found a gold mortar, and wished to present it to the prince. But his daughter said: "You will be laughed at for this present. You will see that the prince will say to you: 'The mortar is fine and good, but, peasant, where is the pestle?'" The father did not listen to his daughter; but when he carried the mortar to the prince, he was greeted as his daughter had foretold. "My daughter told me so," said the huntsman. "Ah! if I had only listened to her!" The prince heard these words and said to him: "Your daughter, who pretends to be so wise, must make me a hundred ells of cloth out of four ounces of flax; if she does not I will hang you and her." The poor father returned home weeping, and sure that he and his daughter must die, for who could make a hundred ells of cloth with four ounces of flax. His daughter came out to meet him, and when she learned why he was weeping, said: "Is that all you are weeping for? Quick, get me the flax and I will manage it." She made four small cords of the flax and said to her father: "Take these cords and tell him that when he makes me a loom out of these cords I will weave the hundred ells of cloth." When the prince heard this answer he did not know what to say, and thought no more about condemning the father or the daughter.

The next day he went to the wood to visit the girl. Her mother was dead, and her father was out in the fields digging. The prince knocked, but no one opened. He knocked louder, but the same thing. The young girl was deaf to him. Finally, tired of waiting, he broke open the door and entered: "Rude girl! who taught you not to open to one of my rank? Where are your father and mother?" "Who knew it was you? My father is where he should be and my mother is weeping for her sins. You must leave, for I have something else to do than listen to you." The prince went away in anger and complained to the father of his daughter's rude manners, but the father excused her. The prince, at last seeing how wise and cunning she was, married her.

The wedding was celebrated with great splendor, but an event happened which came near plunging the princess into misfortune. One Sunday two peasants were passing a church; one of them had a hand-cart and the other was leading a she-ass ready to foal. The bell rang for mass and they both entered the church, one leaving his cart outside and the other tying the ass to the cart. While they were in the church the ass foaled, and the owner of the ass and the owner of the cart both claimed the colt. They appealed to the prince, and he decided that the colt belonged to the owner of the cart, because, he said, it was more likely that the owner of the ass would tie her to the cart in order to lay a false claim to the colt than that the owner of the cart would tie it to the ass. The owner of the ass had right on his side, and all the people were in his favor, but the prince had pronounced sentence and there was nothing to say. The poor man then applied to the princess, who advised him to cast a net in the square when the prince passed. When the prince saw the net, he said: "What are you doing, you fool? Do you expect to find fish in the square?" The peasant, who had been advised by the princess, answered: "It is easier for me to find fish in the square than for a cart to have foals." The prince revoked the sentence, but when he returned to the palace, knowing that the princess had suggested the answer to the peasant, he said to her: "Prepare to return to your own home within an hour. Take with you what you like best and depart." She was not at all saddened by the prospect, but ate a better dinner than usual, and made the prince drink a bottle of wine in which she had put a sleeping potion; and when he was as sound asleep as a log, she had him put in a carriage and took him with her to her house in the wood. It was in January, and she had the roof of the house uncovered and it snowed on the prince, who awoke and called his servants: "What do you wish?" said the princess. "I command here. Did you not tell me to take from your house the thing I liked best? I have taken you, and now you are mine." The prince laughed and they made peace.27

The next story is the Italian version of the tale familiar to the readers of Grimm by the title of "Doctor Knowall." There is a Sicilian version in Pitrè, No. 167, in which our story forms one of several episodes. It is found, however, independently in the Mantuan collection from which we take it, changing the name slightly to suit the conclusion of the story.


There was once a king who had lost a valuable ring. He looked for it everywhere, but could not find it. So he issued a proclamation that if any astrologer could tell him where it was he would be richly rewarded. A poor peasant by the name of Crab heard of the proclamation. He could neither read nor write, but took it into his head that he wanted to be the astrologer to find the king's ring. So he went and presented himself to the king, to whom he said: "Your Majesty must know that I am an astrologer, although you see me so poorly dressed. I know that you have lost a ring and I will try by study to find out where it is." "Very well," said the king, "and when you have found it, what reward must I give you?" "That is at your discretion, your Majesty." "Go, then, study, and we shall see what kind of an astrologer you turn out to be."

He was conducted to a room, in which he was to be shut up to study. It contained only a bed and a table on which were a large book and writing materials. Crab seated himself at the table and did nothing but turn over the leaves of the book and scribble the paper so that the servants who brought him his food thought him a great man. They were the ones who had stolen the ring, and from the severe glances that the peasant cast at them whenever they entered, they began to fear that they would be found out. They made him endless bows and never opened their mouths without calling him "Mr. Astrologer." Crab, who, although illiterate, was, as a peasant, cunning, all at once imagined that the servants must know about the ring, and this is the way his suspicions were confirmed. He had been shut up in his room turning over his big book and scribbling his paper for a month, when his wife came to visit him. He said to her: "Hide yourself under the bed, and when a servant enters, say: 'That is one;' when another comes, say: 'That is two;' and so on." The woman hid herself. The servants came with the dinner, and hardly had the first one entered when a voice from under the bed said: "That is one." The second one entered; the voice said: "That is two;" and so on. The servants were frightened at hearing that voice, for they did not know where it came from, and held a consultation. One of them said: "We are discovered; if the astrologer denounces us to the king as thieves, we are lost." "Do you know what we must do?" said another. "Let us hear." "We must go to the astrologer and tell him frankly that we stole the ring, and ask him not to betray us, and present him with a purse of money. Are you willing?" "Perfectly."

So they went in harmony to the astrologer, and making him a lower bow than usual, one of them began: "Mr. Astrologer, you have discovered that we stole the ring. We are poor people and if you reveal it to the king, we are undone. So we beg you not to betray us, and accept this purse of money." Crab took the purse and then added: "I will not betray you, but you must do what I tell you, if you wish to save your lives. Take the ring and make that turkey in the court-yard swallow it, and leave the rest to me." The servants were satisfied to do so and departed with a low bow. The next day Crab went to the king and said to him: "Your Majesty must know that after having toiled over a month I have succeeded in discovering where the ring has gone to." "Where is it, then?" asked the king. "A turkey has swallowed it." "A turkey? very well, let us see."

They went for the turkey, opened it, and found the ring inside. The king, amazed, presented the astrologer with a large purse of money and invited him to a banquet. Among the other dishes, there was brought on the table a plate of crabs. Crabs must then have been very rare, because only the king and a few others knew their name. Turning to the peasant the king said: "You, who are an astrologer, must be able to tell me the name of these things which are in this dish." The poor astrologer was very much puzzled, and, as if speaking to himself, but in such a way that the others heard him, he muttered: "Ah! Crab, Crab, what a plight you are in!" All who did not know that his name was Crab rose and proclaimed him the greatest astrologer in the world.28


  1. A game played with peach-pits, which are thrown into holes made in the ground and to which certain numbers are attached.
  2. There is a Sicilian phrase: "Long as the month of May," to indicate what is very long.
  3. About a cent and a half.


1. A well-known literary version of this story is Sachetti, Nov. IV. Copious references to this popular story will be found in Oesterley's notes to Pauli's Schimpf und Ernst, No. 55; see also Pitrè, IV. pp. 392, 437. The entire literature of the subject is summed up in a masterly manner by Professor F. J. Child in English and Scottish Popular Ballads, Part II. p. 403.

2. There is a version from Siena in Gradi, Saggio di Letture varie, p. 179, "Teà, Tècla e Teopista;" and from Rome in Busk, pp. 357, 367. References to other European versions of this story may be found in Grimm, Nos. 34, 104; Schneller, No. 56, "Die närrischen Weiber;" Zingerle, Märchen, I. No. 14; Dasent's Tales from the Norse, p. 191, "Not a Pin to choose between Them" (Asbj. & M., No. 10); Ralston, R. F. T. pp. 52–54; Jahrbuch, V. 3, Köhler to Cénac Moncaut's Contes pop. de la Gascogne, p. 32, "Maître Jean l'habile Homme; "Orient und Occident, II. p. 319; Köhler to Campbell, No. 20, "The Three Wise Men," p. 686, to No. 48, "Sgire Mo Chealag."

3. This story is sometimes found as one of the episodes of the last tale, as for example in Schneller, No. 56. Imbriani, Pomiglianesi, p. 227, cites as parallels: Coronedi-Berti, XII. "La fola dla Patalocca;" Beroaldo di Verville, Le Moyen de Parvenir, LXXVIII.; and a story in La Civiltà italiana, 1865, No. 13. See also Romania, VI. p. 551 (E. Cosquin, Contes pop. lorrains, No. 22), and Jahrb. VIII. 267, Köhler to the above cited story in the Civiltà ital. from Calabria. It is also the story of "The Miser and his Wife" in Halliwell, p. 31.

4. There is a literary version in Straparola, VIII. 1. Other literary versions are cited in Pitrè, IV. p. 443.

5. Pitrè, No. 257, where references to other Italian versions may be found. See also Pitrè, IV. pp.412 and 447; and Köhler's notes to Bladé, Contes pop. recueillis en Agenais, p. 155, for other European versions. Additional references may be found in Oesterley's notes to Pauli's Schimpf und Ernst, No. 595. A similar story is in Pitrè's Nov. tosc. No. 67.

6. Pitrè, No. 180. A literary version is in Straparola, VIII. 6. For other references see Schmidt, Straparola, p. 329; and Oesterley's notes to Pauli's Schimpf und Ernst, No. 357.

7. This story is found in Gonz., No. 75, "Von Firrazzanu," and is (with the queen's attempt to punish him for it) the only joke in that collection relating to Firrazzanu. A literary version is in Bandello, Novelle, IV. 27.

8. See Pitrè, No. 156, var. 5 (III. p. 181).

9. Imbriani in his notes to Pitrè (IV. p. 417) gives a French version of this joke entitled: Un Neveu pratique.

10. The name Giufà is retained in many localities with slight phonetic changes. Thus it is Giucà in Trapani; Giuχà in the Albanian colonies in Sicily; in Acri, Giuvali; and in Tuscany, Rome, and the Marches, Giucca. Pitrè, III. p. 371, adds that the name Giufà is the same as that of an Arab tribe. The best known continental counterparts of Giufà are Bertoldino and Cacasenno (see Olindo Guerrini, La Vita e le Opere di Giulio Cesare Croce, Bologna, 1879, PP- 257–279). Tuscan versions of the stories of Giufà given in the text may be found in Nov. tosc. pp. 179–193.

11. The same story is told by Miss Busk, "The Booby," p. 371, and is in the Pent. I. 4. It is probably founded on the well-known fable of Æsop, "Homo fractor simulacri" (ed. Furia, No. 21), which seems very widely spread. A Russian version, from Afanasieff, is in De Gub., Zoöl. Myth. I. p. 176. See also Benfey, Pant. I. p. 478; and Köhler to Gonz., No. 37.

12. In Gonz., No. 37, Giufà takes the cloth, and on his way to the dyer's sits down to rest on a heap of stones in a field. A lizard creeps out from the stones, and Giufà, taking it for the dyer, leaves the cloth on the stones and returns home. His mother, of course, sends him immediately back for the cloth, but it has disappeared, as well as the lizard. Giufà cries: "Dyer, if you don't give me back my cloth I will tear down your house." Then he begins to pull down the heap of stones, and finds a pot of money which had been hidden there. He takes it home to his mother, who gives him his supper and sends him to bed, and then buries the money under the stairs. Then she fills her apron with figs and raisins, climbs upon the roof, and throws figs and raisins down the chimney into Giufà's mouth as he lies in his bed. Giufà is well pleased with this, and eats his fill. The next morning he tells his mother that the Christ child has thrown him figs and raisins from heaven the night before. Giufà cannot keep the pot of money a secret, but tells every one about it, and finally is accused before the judge. The officers of justice go to Giufà's mother and say: "Your son has everywhere told that you have kept a pot of money which he found. Do you not know that money that is found must be delivered up to the court?" The mother protests that she knows nothing about the money, and that Giufà is always telling stupid stories. "But mother," said Giufà, "don't you remember when I brought you home the pot, and in the night the Christ child rained figs and raisins from heaven into my mouth?" "There, you see how stupid he is," says the mother, "and that he does not know what he says." The officers of justice go away thinking, "Giufà is too stupid!"

Köhler, in his Notes to Gonz., No. 37, cites as parallels to the above, Pent. I. 4, and Thousand and One Nights, Breslau trans. XI. 144. For the rain of figs and raisins he refers to Jahrb. VIII. 266 and 268; and to Campbell, II. 385, for a shower of milk porridge. See Note 16 of this chapter, and Indian Fairy Tales, p. 257.

13. See Max Mühler's Chips, II. p. 229, and Benfey, Pant. I. p. 293.

14. See Imbriani, Nov. fior. p. 545; Papanti, Nov. pop. livor. No. 3; and Bernoni, Punt. III. p. 83.

15. See Robert, Fables inédites, II. p. 136. The Italian literary versions are: Morlini, XXI., Straparola, XIII. 4; and two stories mentioned by Imbriani in his Nov. fior. pp. 545, 546.

16. This episode is in Strap. XIII. 4; Pitrè, IV. p. 291, gives a version from the Albanian colony of Piana de' Greci, sixteen miles from Palermo. In the same vol., p. 444, he gives a variant from Erice in which, after Giufà has killed the "canta-la-notti," his mother climbs a fig-tree and rains down figs into the mouth of Giufà, who is standing under. In this way she saves herself from the accusation of having thrown a murdered man into the well. See Note 12. For another Sicilian version of this episode see Gonz., No. 37 (I. p. 252).

17. Papanti, p. 65. Copious references will be found in Papanti, pp. 72–81; Oesterley to Pauli, Schimpf und Ernst, No. 416; and Kirchof, Wendunmuth, I. 122; and Köhler's notes to Sercambi's Novels in Jahrb. XII. p. 351.

18. Köhler, in his notes to Gonz., No. 37 (II. p. 228), cites for this story: Thousand and One Days, V. 119; Pent. I. 4; Grimm, II. 382; Morlini, No. 49; Zingerle, I. 255; Bebelius, Facetiæ, I. 21; Bladé, Contes et Proverbes, Paris, 1867, p. 21; and Bertoldino (Florence, Salani), p. 31, "Bertoldino entra nella cesta dell' oca a covare in cambio di lei." In the story in the Fiabe Mant. No. 44, "Il Pazzo" ("The Fool"), the booby kills his own mother by feeding her too much macaroni when she is ill.

19. See Pitrè, No. 190, var. 9; Jahrb. V. 18; Simrock, Deutsche Märchen, No. 18 (Orient und Occident, III. p. 373); Hahn, No. 34; Jahrb. VIII. 267; Mélusine, p. 89; Nov. fior. p. 601; Romania, VI. p. 551; Busk, pp. 369, 374; and Fiabe Mant. No. 44.

In the Sicilian stories Giufà simply takes the door off its hinges and carries it to his mother, who is in church. In the other Italian versions the booby takes the door with him, and at night carries it up into a tree. Robbers come and make a division of their booty under the tree, and the booby lets the door fall, frightens them away, and takes their money himself.

20. See Köhler's notes to Gonz., II. p. 228. To these may be added, for the story of Giufà planting the ears and tails of the swine in the marsh: Ortoli, p. 208: Mélusine, p. 474; and Romania, VII. p. 556, where copious references to parallels from all of Europe may be found. In the story in Ortoli, cited above, the priest's mother is killed, as in text.

21. For the literal throwing of eyes, see: Jahrb. V. p. 19; Grimm, No. 32 (I. p. 382); Nov. fior. p. 595; Webster, Basque Legends, p. 69; Orient und Occident, II. 684 (Köhler to Campbell, No. 45).

22. See Gonz., Nos. 70, 71, and Köhler's notes, II. p. 247. Other Italian versions are: De Gub., Sto. Stefano, No. 30; Widter-Wolf, No. 18, and Köhler's notes (Jahrb. VII. 282); Strap., I. 3: Nov. fior. p. 604; Fiabe Mant. No. 13. To these may be added: Romania, V. p. 357; VI. p. 539; and VIII. p. 570.

23. See Pitrè's notes, IV. pp. 124, 412; and F. Liebrecht in the Academy, vol. IV. p. 421.

24. See Pitrè's notes, IV. pp. 140, 448; Wright's Latin Stories, pp. 49, 226.

25. Pitrè, No. 290. See Papanti, op. cit. p. 197, where other versions are cited. To these may be added the story in Marcolf, see Guerrini, Vita di G. C. Croce, p. 215; and Marcolphus, Hoc est Disputationis, etc., in Epistolæ obscuror, virorum, Frankf. a. M., 1643, p. 593.

There is another story in Pitrè (No. 200) which is also attributed to Dante. It is called:—


Once upon a time Peter Fullone, the stone-cutter, was working at the cemetery, near the church of Santo Spirito; a man passed by and said: "Peter, what is the best mouthful?" Fullone answered: "An egg;" and stopped.

A year later Fullone was working in the same place, sitting on the ground and breaking stones. The man who had questioned him the year before passed by again and said: "Peter, with what?" meaning: what is good to eat with an egg. "With salt," answered Peter Fullone. He had such a wise head that after a year he remembered a thing that a passer-by had said.

The cemetery alluded to, Pitrè says, is beyond the gate of St. Agatha, near the ancient church of Sto. Spirito, where the Sicilian Vespers began. An interesting article on Peter Fullone may be found in Pitrè, Studi di Poesia popolare, p. 109, "Pietro Fullone e le Sfide popolari siciliane."

The sight-seer in Florence has noticed, on the east side of the square in which the cathedral stands, a block of stone built into the wall of a house, and bearing the inscription, "Sasso di Dante." 1 The guide-books inform the traveller that this is the stone on which the great poet was wont to sit on summer evenings. Tradition says that an unknown person once accosted Dante seated in his favorite place, and asked: "What is the best mouthful?" Dante answered: "An egg." A year after, the same man, whom Dante had not seen meanwhile, approached and asked: "With what?" Dante immediately replied: "With salt."

A poet, Carlo Gabrielli, put this incident into rhyme, and drew from it the following moral (senso):—

"L' acuto ingegno grande apporta gloria;
Maggior, se v'è congiunta alta memoria."

See Papanti, op. cit. pp. 183, 205.

26. This story is told in almost the same words in Pitrè, No. 297, "The Peasant and the King." There are several Italian literary versions, the best known being in the Cento nov. ant. ed. Borghini, Nov. VI.: see D'Ancona's notes to this novel in the Romania, III. p. 185, "Le Fonti del Novellino." It is also found in the Gesta Romanorum, cap. 57, see notes in Oesterley's edition; and in Simrock's Deutsche Märchen, No. 8, see Liebrecht's notes in Orient und Occident, III. p. 372. To the above may, finally, be added Köhler's notes to Gonz., No. 50 (II. p. 234).

27. Comparetti, No. 43, "La Ragazza astuta" (Barga). The first part of the story, dividing the fowl, and sending the presents, which are partly eaten on the way, is found in Gonz., No. 1, "Die Kluge Bauerntochter" ("The Peasant's Clever Daughter"). See Köhler's notes to Gonz., No. 1 (II. 205); and to Nasr-eddin's Schwänke in Orient und Occident, I. p. 444. Grimm, No. 94, "The Peasant's Wise Daughter," contains all the episodes of the Italian story except the division of the fowl. An Italian version in the Fiabe Mant. No. 36, "La giovane accorta" contains the episode of the mortar. The king sends word to the clever daughter that she must procure for him some ahimè (sneeze) salad. She sent him some ordinary salad with some garlic sprinkled over it, and when he touched it he sneezed (and formed the sound represented by the word ahimè). The rest of the story contains the episode lacking in the other popular Italian versions, but found in Grimm, and technically known as "halb geritten." For this episode see Gesta Romanorum, ed. Oesterley, cap. 124, and Pauli, 423.

Another Italian version from Bergamo may be found in Corazzini, p. 482, "La Storia del Pestu d' or" ("The Story of the Gold Pestle"), which is like the version in the text from the episode of the mortar on. In the story from Bergamo it is a gold pestle, and not a mortar, that is found, and the story of "halb geritten" is retained. The episode of the foal is changed into a sharp answer made (at the queen's suggestion) by the king's herdsman to his master, who had failed to pay him for his services. A version from Montale, Nerucci, p. 18, "Il Mortajo d' oro" ("The Golden Mortar"), contains all the episodes of the story in the text (including "halb geritten") except the division of the fowl. The first part of the story is found in a tale from Cyprus, in the Jahrb. XI. p. 360.

A parallel to the story in our text may also be found in Ralston's R. F. T. p. 30. The literature of the story of "The Clever Girl" may be found in Child's English and Scottish Popular Ballads, Part I. p. 6, "The Elfin Knight."

28. Fiabe Mantovane, No. 41, "Gàmbara." The Italian for crab is gambero. There is a Tuscan story (Nov. pop. tosc. p. 8), "Il Medico grillo" ("Doctor Cricket"), with reference perhaps to the other meaning of grillo, whim, fancy, which reminds one of the story in the text. The pretended doctor cures a king's daughter by making her laugh so hard that she dislodges a fish-bone that had stuck in her throat. Doctor Cricket becomes so popular that the other doctors starve, and finally ask the king to kill him. The king refuses, but sets him a difficult task to do, namely, to cure all the patients in the hospital; failing to accomplish this, he is to be killed or dismissed. Doctor Cricket has a huge cauldron of water heated, and then goes into the wards and tells the patients that when the water is hot they are all to be put into it, but if any one wishes to depart he can go away then. Of course they all run away in haste, and when the king comes the hospital is empty. The doctor is then richly rewarded, and returns to his home.

For parallels to our story see Pitrè's notes, vol. IV. p. 442, and to the Tuscan story above-mentioned.

Another Tuscan version has recently been published in Nov. tosc. No. 60. See also Grimm, No. 98; Asbjørnsen, Ny Sam. No. 82 [Dasent, Tales from the Fjeld, p. 139, "The Charcoal Burner"]; Caballero, Cuentos, p. 68; Orient und Occident, I. 374; and Benfey, Pant. I. 374. There is a story in Straparola (XIII. 6) that recalls the story in our text. A mother sends her stupid son to find "good day" (il buon dì). The youth stretched himself in the road near the city gate where he could observe all those who entered or left the town. Now it happened that three citizens had gone out into the fields to take possession of a treasure that they had discovered. On their return they greeted the youth in the road with "good day." The youth said, when the first one saluted him: "I have one of them," meaning one of the good days, and so on with the other two. The citizens who had found the treasure, believing that they were discovered, and that the youth would inform the magistrates of the find, shared the treasure with him.