The Pentamerone, or The Story of Stories/The Enchanted Doe




Great is doubtless the power of friendship, which makes us bear toils and perils willingly to serve a friend. We value our wealth as a trifle, honour as nothing at all, life as a straw, when we can give them for a friend's sake; fables teach us this, history is full of instances of it, and I will give you an example which my grandmother Semmonella—may she be in glory!—used to relate to me. So open your ears and shut your mouths, and hear what I shall tell you.

There was once a certain king of Long-Trellis named Giannone, who, desiring greatly to have children, had prayers continually made to the gods that they would grant his wish: and in order to incline them the more to give him this gratification, he was so charitable to beggars and pilgrims that he shared with them all he possessed. But seeing at last that matters were protracted, and there was no end to putting his hand into his pocket, he bolted his door fast, and shot with a cross bow at whoever came near.

Now it happened that at this time a long-bearded Capuchin was passing that way, and not knowing that the king had turned over a new leaf, or perhaps knowing it and wishing to make him change his mind again, he went to Giannone and begged for entertainment in his house. But, with a fierce look and a terrible growl, the king said to him, "If you have no other candle than this, you may go to bed in the dark. The time is gone by when Bertha span[1]; the kittens have their eyes open, and there's no more mammy now[2]." And when the old man asked what was the cause of this change, the king replied; "From my desire to have children, I have spent and have lent to all who came and all who went, and have squandered away all my wealth. At last, seeing that the beard was gone, I stopped and laid aside the razor."

"If that be all," replied the old man, "you may set your mind at rest, for I promise that your wish shall be forthwith fulfilled, on pain of losing my ears."

"Be it so," said the king, "and I pledge my word that I will give you one half of my kingdom." And the man answered, "Listen now to me,—if you wish to hit the mark, you have only to get the heart of a sea-dragon, and have it drest by a young maiden, who, from the mere steam that will come out of the dish, will instantly become in the family way. And as soon as the heart is drest, give it to the queen to eat, and you'll see that what I say will speedily come to pass."

"How is that possible?" replied the king; "to tell you the truth, it seems to me rather hard to swallow."

"Do not be surprised," said the old man; for if you read the fables you will find, that as Juno went through the Olenian fields and passed over a flower, she became pregnant and brought forth a child[3]."

"If that be the case," replied the king, "I must this very moment get the dragon's heart. At the worst I lose nothing by the trial."

So he sent a hundred fishermen out, and they got ready all kinds of fishing-tackle, drag-nets, casting-nets, seine-nets, bow-nets, and fishing-lines; and they tacked and turned, and cruized in all directions, until at last they caught a dragon; then they took out its heart and brought it to the king, who gave it to a handsome young lady to dress. So she shut herself up in a room, and scarcely had she set the heart on the fire, and the steam began to come out of the boiler, when not only did the fair cook herself feel its effects, but all the furniture in the room followed her example, and in the course of a few days they all lay-in; so that the state bed brought forth a little bed, the chest a pretty little box, the chairs pretty little babies' chairs, the table a little table, and the pitcher brought forth a little jug, so pretty that it was quite a pleasure to look upon.

When the heart was drest, the queen had no sooner tasted it than she felt the effects, and in a few days she and the young lady brought forth at the same time each of them a son, so like the one to the other that nobody could tell which was which. And the boys grew up together in such love for one another that they could not be parted for a moment; and their attachment was so great that the queen began to be jealous, at seeing her son testify more affection for the son of one of her servants than he did for herself, and she knew not in what way to remove this thorn from her eyes.

Now one day the prince wished to go a-hunting with his companion; so he had a fire lighted in a fireplace in his chamber, and began to melt lead to make balls; and being in want of I know not what, he went himself to look for it. Meanwhile the queen came in to see what her son was about, and finding nobody there but Canneloro, the son of the maiden, she thought to put him out of the world. So stooping down she flung the hot bullet-mould at his face, which hit him over the brow and gave him an ugly wound. She was just going to repeat the blow, when her son Fonzo came in; so pretending that she was only come to see how he was, after giving him a few trifling caresses she went away.

Canneloro, pulling his hat down on his forehead, said nothing of his wound to Fonzo, but stood quite quiet, though he was burning with the pain. And as soon as they had done making balls, he requested leave of the prince to go out. Fonzo, all in amazement at this new resolution, asked him the reason; but he replied, "Enquire no more, my dear Fonzo; let it suffice that I am obliged to go away, and Heaven knows that in parting with you, who are my heart, the soul is ready to leave my bosom, the breath to depart from my body, and the blood to run out of my veins; but since it cannot be otherwise, farewell, and keep me in remembrance!"

Then, after embracing one another and shedding many tears, Canneloro went to his own room, where taking a suit of armour and a sword (which had been brought forth by another weapon at the time when the dragon's heart was drest), he armed himself from top to toe; and having taken a horse out of the stable, he was just putting his foot into the stirrup when Fonzo came weeping and said, that since he was resolved to abandon him, he should at least leave him, some token of his love, to diminish his anguish for his absence. Thereupon Canneloro laid hold on his dagger and stuck it into the ground, and instantly a fine fountain rose up. Then said he to the prince, "This is the best memorial I can leave you; for by the flowing of this fountain you will know the course of my life; if you see it run clear, know that my life will likewise be clear and tranquil; if you see it turbid, think that I am passing through troubles; and if you find it dry, (which Heaven forbid!) depend on it that the oil of my lamp is all consumed, and I have paid the toll that belongs to Nature."

So saying he took his sword, and sticking it into the ground, he made a plant of myrtle spring up, saying to the prince, "As long as you see this myrtle green, know that I am green as a leek; if you see it wither, think that my fortunes are not the best in the world; but if it becomes quite dried up, you may say a requiem[4] for your Canneloro."

So saying, after embracing one another again, Canneloro set out on his travels; and journeying on and on, after various adventures which would be too long to recount,—such as quarrels with vetturini, disputes with landlords, murderous attacks by toll-gatherers, perils of bad roads, encounters with robbers,—he at length arrived at Long-Trellis[5], just at the time when they were holding a most splendid tournament, the hand of the king's daughter being promised to the victor. Here Canneloro presented himself, and bore him so bravely that he overthrew all the knights who were come from divers parts to gain a name for themselves. Whereupon Fenicia, the king's daughter, was given to him to wife, and a great feast was made.

When Canneloro had been there some months in peace and quiet, an unhappy fancy came into his head for going to the chase. Then he told it to the king, who said to him, "Take care of your legs, my son-in-law; do not be blinded by the evil one; be wise and open your eyes, sir! for in these woods there is the devil's own ogre, who changes his form every day, one time appearing like a wolf, at another like a lion, now like a stag, now like an ass, now like one thing and now like another; and by a thousand stratagems he decoys those who are so unfortunate as to meet him, into a cave, where he devours them. So, my son, do not put your safety in peril, or you will leave your rags there."

Canneloro, who did not know what fear was, paid no heed to the advice of his father-in-law; and as soon as the Sun with the broom of his rays had cleared away the soot of the Night, he set out for the chase; and on his way he came to a wood, where, beneath the awning of the leaves, the Shades had assembled to maintain their sway, and to make a conspiracy against the Sun. The ogre, seeing him coming, turned himself into a handsome doe, which as soon as Canneloro perceived he began to give chase to her; then the doe doubled and turned, and led him about hither and thither at such a rate, that at last she brought him into the very heart of the wood, where she made such a tremendous snow-storm arise that it looked as if the sky was going to fall. Canneloro, finding himself in front of the ogre's cave, went into it to seek shelter, and being benumbed with the cold, he took some sticks which he found within it, and pulling his steel out of his pocket he kindled a large fire. As he was standing by it to dry his clothes, the doe came to the mouth of the cave and said, "Sir knight, pray give me leave to warm myself a little while, for I am shivering with the cold." Canneloro, who was of a kind disposition, said to her, "Draw near, and welcome." "I would gladly," replied the doe, "but that I am afraid you would kill me." "Fear nothing," answered Canneloro; "come, trust to my word." "If you wish me to enter," rejoined the doe, "tie up these dogs, that they may not hurt me, and tie up your horse that he may not kick me."

So Canneloro tied up his dogs and fettered his horse, and the doe said, "I am now half assured, but unless you bind fast your sword, by the soul of my grandsire I will not go in!" Then Canneloro, who wished to become friends with the doe, bound his sword, as a countryman does his when he carries it in the city for fear of the constables. As soon as the ogre saw Canneloro defenceless, he took his own form, and laying hold on him, flung him into a pit that was at the bottom of the cave, and covered it up with a stone, to keep him to eat.

But Fonzo, who morning and evening visited the myrtle and the fountain, to learn news of the fate of Canneloro, finding the one withered and the other troubled, instantly thought that his friend[6] was passing through some misfortunes; and being desirous of giving him succour, be mounted his horse without asking leave of his father or mother, and arming himself well, and taking two enchanted dogs, he went rambling through the world; and he roamed and rambled here and there and everywhere, until at last he came to Long-Trellis, which he found all in mourning for the supposed death of Canneloro. And scarcely was he come to the court, when every one, thinking it was Canneloro from the likeness he bore him, hastened to tell Fenicia the good news, who ran tumbling down the stairs, and embracing Fonzo exclaimed, "My husband! my heart! where have you been all this time?"

Fonzo immediately perceived that Canneloro had come to this country, and had left it again; so he resolved to examine the matter adroitly, to learn from the princess's discourse where he might be found; and hearing her say that he had put himself in such great danger by that accursed hunting, especially if the cruel ogre should meet him, he at once concluded that his friend must be there.

The next morning, as soon as the Sun had gone forth to give the gilded pills to the Sky, he jumped out of bed, and neither the prayers of Fenicia nor the commands of the king could keep him back, but he would go to the chase. So mounting his horse, he went with the enchanted dogs to the wood, where the same thing befell him that had befallen Canneloro; and entering the cave, he saw Canneloro's arms and dogs and horse fast bound, by which he became certain that his friend had there fallen into a snare. Then the doe told him in like manner to tie his arms, dogs and horse; but he instantly set them upon her, and they tore her to pieces. And as he was looking about for some other traces of his friend, he heard his voice down in the pit; so lifting up the stone he drew out Canneloro, with all the others whom the ogre had buried alive to fatten. Then embracing each other with great joy, the two friends went home, where Fenicia, seeing them so much alike, did not know which to choose for her husband; but when Canneloro took off his cap, she saw the wound, and recognized and embraced him. And after staying there a month, taking his amusement, Fonzo wished to return to his own country, and to go back to his nest; and Canneloro wrote by him to his mother, bidding her come and partake of his greatness, which she did, and from that time forward he never would hear either of dogs or of hunting, recollecting the saying,

"Unhappy is he who corrects himself at his own cost."

This story was ended just at the time when the Sun, like a student expelled from school, has an hour allowed him to take his departure from the fields of the Sky; whereupon the Prince commanded Fabiello, the master of the robes, and Ghiacovuccio, the steward of the household, to be called, that they should come and give the dessert to the day's feast. And lo! they appeared as quick as the constable, one clothed in long black stockings, a coat in the shape of a bell, with buttons as big as a football, and a flat cap drawn over his ears; the other, with a trencher-cap, a doublet, and tight yellow flannel pantaloons. Then entering a bower of myrtle, which served as a scene, these two began a pleasant pastoral dialogue, accompanied with such gestures and grimaces that it threw all who heard it into fits of laughter[7]. But as the grasshoppers were now beginning to call the folks home from the fields, the Prince dismissed the women, requesting them to return the following morning and continue the amusement; then, accompanied by the Slave, he retired to his chamber.

  1. A saying well known also in Germany.
  2. i. e. 'I am no longer a child or a fool.'
  3. See Ovid's Fasti, v. 229, et seq.
  4. Requie, scarpe, e zoccoli.-The two first words are a corruption of requiescat in pace, and zoccoli (slippers) is added to answer to scarpe (shoes); or because the Frati Zoccolanti (Franciscans) usually attended funerals. The dead were borne to the grave drest, and with shoes on them.
  5. Basile forgot that this was the name of Canneloro's birthplace, from whence he set out.
  6. Cardascio,—an intimate friend—an Arabic word, Cardasch.
  7. Che potive cacciare li diente da quante le 'ntesero. Literally, 'that you might draw the teeth of all who heard them,'—to express their grinning.