Anthony R. (Anthony Reubens) Montalba.

Fairy tales from all nations online

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related to him what had happened. When the father had heard the story,
he hastened to the river, transformed himself into a large fish,
dashed into the water, and as fast as his fins could carry him pursued
the little fish, intending to swallow him.

When the latter beheld the voracious fish, with its terrible teeth, he
was dreadfully alarmed at the thought of being swallowed by him, and
approaching the bank of the river, he left the water, and in the form
of a beautiful ruby, set in gold, he threw himself unseen into the
little basket which the king's daughter, who happened just then to be
amusing herself with picking up little pebbles on the sand, carried on
her arm.

As soon as the princess, who was called Violante, returned home, she
took her treasures out of the little basket, and perceived the ring
shining amongst the pebbles. Quite delighted, she placed it on her
finger, and could not desist from contemplating it.

At night, when the princess had retired to her sleeping apartment, the
ring suddenly changed into a handsome young man. He laid his hand on
the princess's mouth, who was about to scream aloud, then threw
himself at her feet and besought her forgiveness. He assured her he
was not there with any disrespectful purpose, but only to implore her
assistance, and then told her his misfortune, and the persecutions he
had to endure.

Violante, somewhat re-assured by the bright light of the lamp which
burned in her chamber, as also by the words of the young man, whom she
found very handsome and attractive, felt compassion for him, and
said: "Young man, thou art very bold in entering a place where thy
presence was not desired. But in consideration of thy misfortune, I
will forgive thee. Thy narration has awakened all my compassion, and I
will show thee that I am not made of marble, nor have a heart of
adamant. I am even resolved, so far as my honour will permit, to give
thee my entire protection."

The young man humbly returned thanks, and, when day dawned, again
transformed himself into the ring, which the princess placed amongst
her most costly jewels.

It happened just about that time, that the king fell dangerously ill,
and all his physicians declared his disease was incurable.

This came to the ears of Lactantius, who thereupon disguised himself
as a physician, went to the royal palace, and being introduced to the
king, inquired carefully respecting his symptoms, felt his pulse,
examined his countenance, and said: "Your majesty's disease is no
doubt an obstinate one, and very dangerous; but take courage: in a
short time I will restore you to health, for I possess a remedy by
which I can in a few days cure the severest and most dangerous illness
that exists."

"Master physician," replied the king, "if you restore me to health, I
promise to reward you so richly that you shall be content for the rest
of your life."

"My sovereign," rejoined the physician, "I desire neither rank,
honours, nor riches, but only request your majesty will grant me one

The king readily promised this, on condition that he should require
nothing that was impossible.

"I ask nothing more of your majesty than a ruby set in gold, which is
now in the possession of the princess your daughter."

When the king heard this modest request, he sent for his daughter, and
in presence of the physician, desired her to fetch her whole stock of
jewels. The princess obeyed, leaving out, however, the precious ring.
But when the physician had thoroughly examined them, he said the ruby
he wished for was not amongst them.

Violante, who valued her ruby above all the rest, affirmed that she
had no other jewels than those now before them; whereupon the king
said to the physician: "Retire now, and return to-morrow; I will
undertake that my daughter shall give me the ring."

When the physician was gone, the king called Violante, and inquired in
the gentlest manner, where was the beautiful ruby which the physician
wished for; saying that if she would give it to him, she should have
in its place a still more beautiful and precious one. But she
positively denied having it in her possession.

She no sooner returned to her apartment, than she locked herself in,
and began to weep bitterly at the thought of losing her poor ruby,
which she bathed with her tears, and kissed with the utmost

When the ruby felt the hot tears that fell from the princess's eyes,
and heard her deep sighs, it assumed the human form, and said to her:
"Princess, on whom my life hangs, I beseech you, do not thus
immoderately grieve at my misfortune. Let us rather devise some means
of rescue; for that physician who so zealously covets the possession
of me, is no other than my greatest foe Lactantius, who desires to
kill me. Therefore I implore you, do not give me into his hand, but
feign to be indignant, and dash me against the wall: leave the rest to
my care."

The following morning the physician again visited the king, who
informed him that his daughter still persisted that she did not
possess the ring. Lactantius much displeased, on hearing this,
however, positively asserted that the ruby was in the princess's

Thereupon the king again sent for the princess, and in the physician's
presence said to her: "Violante, thou knowest that I owe the
restoration of my health to this man's skill and care. He requires no
other recompense of me than that ring which he declares to be in thy
possession, and which thou dost assert thou hast not. I should have
thought thy love for me would have led thee not to give thy ruby
alone, but thy very life. I beseech thee, by the obedience thou owest
to me, by the affection I have borne thee, to withhold it from me no

The princess, on hearing her father's will so decidedly expressed,
returned to her room, collected all her jewels, amongst which she laid
the ruby, and taking them one by one in her hand, in the presence of
her father, showed them each in succession to the physician, who, the
moment he saw the ruby, would have laid his hand on it, saying:
"Princess, this is the ring I wish for, and which the king has
promised me."

But the princess, repelling him, said: "Stay, master, you shall have
it!" and holding the ring in her hand, exclaimed: "Then it is this
precious jewel, so infinitely dear to me, that you covet: I must
renounce this, for the loss of which I shall be inconsolable for life.
But I do not yield it willingly, but only because the king, my
father, requires it of me."

With these words she flung the ruby against the wall. As it fell to
the ground it instantly changed into a beautiful pomegranate, which
burst as it fell, and its seeds were scattered all over the room.

The physician as quickly became a cock, in order to swallow all the
seeds, and thus to destroy the unlucky Dionysius; but he had
miscalculated: one of the seeds had so concealed itself that the cock
could not discover it. The seed watched its opportunity, transformed
itself into a fox, who throwing himself on master cock, seized him by
the throat, and strangled and devoured him in the presence of the
astonished monarch and his daughter Violante. Dionysius then resumed
his human form, and related all to the king, who thought he could not
do better than immediately give him his daughter in marriage. They
lived long together in peace and happiness, and the good old father of
Dionysius became, instead of an indigent man, a rich and powerful one;
whilst, on the other hand, the cruelty of Lactantius had cost him his




Near the centre of a thick forest once dwelt a forester with his
beloved wife. The chase was his occupation, and he lived contentedly
on the provision which his ever-active bow procured him from day to
day. In this manner he passed two years very happily; although the
blessing of children, which he earnestly desired, had been hitherto
denied him. But the saying, "Patience brings roses," consoled him, and
indeed the saying did at last prove true, and in so striking a manner,
that it seemed as if destiny had exerted its utmost power to fulfil
it, in his case, even to excess. In the third year, whilst the
forester was away hunting in the wood, his family was increased by the
addition of twelve fine, healthy sons, upon whom the attendant
midwife bestowed every necessary care, and then placed them in a
circle on the floor in the centre of the room, where the sturdy
infants stretched their limbs and raised their voices for the first
time in a tremendously loud Tutti.

Whilst these events were taking place, the day declined, and evening
gradually threw its shade over field and mountain. The light-hearted
hunter bethought him of his supper, and returned, laden with two or
three hares, to his cottage.

But how thunderstruck was he when he heard that Heaven had showered
down upon him such an abundant blessing. He entered, gazed, and at the
sight of the liberal gift, at once lost his reason, and rushed raving
out of doors back into the depths of the dark forest, never to return

The poor forsaken wife now remained in her hut with her twelve little
sons, desiring nothing more ardently than to be able to leave her bed,
in order to provide food for her children.

The midwife afforded her all the assistance in her power, and when at
length she recovered, she prepared a bow and arrows, scoured the woods
and hills, and daily brought home as much game as was requisite for
the support of herself and her children. Thus she lived fifteen years;
during which period the little ones grew strong and healthy, and
learned from her to provide, by hunting, for their own necessities.

But before they reached their sixteenth year, it pleased Heaven to
call their mother to itself, and now the youths, deprived of parental
care, were abandoned to their fate. They continued to live as before,
on the products of the chase, which they fraternally divided amongst
them, and remained together in harmony and peace.

The distracted father meanwhile continued to wander incessantly
through the forest. His habiliments had long been torn to rags, and
his appearance terrified every one who beheld him. Although other
foresters occasionally met him, and brought tidings of him to his
sons, yet no one could ever lay hold of him, as he shunned the
approach of everybody, and at the aspect of a human being he hastened
like a frightened beast to hide himself in the thicket. But his
unhappy fate was a daily increasing source of sorrow to his sons, who
at length consulted seriously together, how they might get him into
their hands, so as to be able to take care of him, and, if possible,
restore him to reason.

They at length agreed to betake themselves, provided with a roasted
goose, a pitcher of brandy, and one large boot, to a certain spring in
the forest, near which the foresters frequently saw him. With these
things they went to the appointed spot, placed them close to the
spring, and then concealed themselves in the bushes to watch for his

They had waited a considerable time when they heard the sound of
footsteps, and beheld a dark figure approaching the spring. With
ardent curiosity they peeped from their concealment, and at length
saw, with surprise and horror, a being more like a ghost than a man,
but who, however, perfectly corresponded to the description which the
foresters had given them of their unfortunate father.

When he approached the spring to slake his thirst he started on
perceiving the unaccustomed objects which were beside it, and prepared
to start off at the moment, should he perceive a human form. But as
the youths kept themselves entirely concealed, and made not the least
noise, his alarm subsided, and he ventured to drink from the spring.

After he had refreshed himself, the roasted goose, the little pitcher,
and the large boot seemed again to attract his attention, and he could
not resist the desire to make himself master of them. He laid himself
down quite leisurely by the boot, devoured the goose with the greatest
avidity, and emptied the pitcher with a satyr-like expression of

The liquor seemed quickly to affect him; for almost as soon as he had
swallowed it he manifested his satisfaction by fantastic leaps, and
all kinds of ridiculous antics. He soon laid hold of the boot,
examined it attentively on all sides, and nodded his head knowingly,
as if in self-approval for having devised its purpose.

Thus satisfied with himself, he again seated himself on the ground,
and endeavoured to draw the boot over both feet at once; and although
it was large enough to admit the foot of a demi-giant, it cost the
lunatic extraordinary efforts to effect his object. Overpowered by
fatigue, and the strength of the liquor he had drunk, he gradually
sank down by the stream, and fell asleep.

His sons, when they perceived this, hastened with the greatest caution
from the bushes, raised the intoxicated sleeper from the ground, and
carried him home. But before they had half reached the hut, they
discovered with horror that the burthen, which at every step had
appeared to grow heavier, was a corpse. Whether it was the effect of
the too hastily swallowed drink, or the too rapid satisfaction of his
appetite after long fasting, in either case, the father lay dead in
the arms of his sons. With tears of regret, and self-reproaches for
their ill-advised attempt, the afflicted sons buried the beloved
corpse, under an oak not far from the cottage.

They lived together for some time after this event, but at length,
being imbued with the desire of seeing foreign countries, they
resolved to renounce their hitherto rude mode of life, and each to set
out in a different direction to seek his fortune.

When they had fixed the day for their separation they once more went
hunting together, in order to provide so much food as they might
require for at least the first day of their wandering. On the day
appointed for their departure they went to the oak which shaded their
father's grave, swore eternal brotherly love to each other, and after
mutually taking an affectionate leave, each pursued his separate way.

To relate what occurred to each of these twelve brethren, and how each
fulfilled his appointed destiny, would be a very tedious task, and the
more so as the fate of the younger brother was alone sufficiently
remarkable to deserve attention.

This youth had from his earliest years an aversion to all kind of
labour and trouble; hence, in all his necessities he always relied on
the favour of Fortune, and the more so as he had more than once had
reason to surmise that she was favourably inclined towards him. Whilst
his brothers laboriously pursued their game under every disadvantage
of time, place, and weather, he would lie at his ease, with his
weapons beside him, on a grassy hill, beneath the shade of the trees;
and it generally came to pass that whilst his brothers pursued some
poor hare, in the sweat of their brow, a roebuck would come, as if at
his call, so near to him that he could shoot it without the least
exertion. Owing to this, he had to endure many a jeer from his
brethren, whose jealousy was excited by his good luck, and they called
him in derision Lazy Bones.

His confidence in the favour of the blind goddess guided him
prosperously on his way. By day he shot all kinds of game, which came
in abundance towards him, kindled a fire, roasted and eat it; at
night, he stretched himself on the soft grass, and slept refreshingly
till the next morning. After he had pursued his way in this manner for
six days, he arrived at a royal city altogether unknown to him. He
entered one of the best inns, and offered the host a hare in exchange
for a draught of wine, to refresh himself with after the fatigue of
his journey. The host gave him credit for more than he was able both
to eat and drink, offered him a bed, and charged him the most moderate

Just as he sat down to table, a multitude of persons assembled in the
room of the inn, and conversed with each other about a most remarkable
occurrence which had just taken place. The affair was indeed one of no
trifling importance, for it concerned the royal establishment. The
king had had ninety-nine swineherds, who one and all had disappeared,
and in all probability would never again be heard of. The
nine-and-ninetieth of these had been missed only the night before, and
it was much doubted whether the king would be able to find any one
again who would be willing to undertake so perilous a charge. For
although the highest wages were offered to any one who would undertake
to tend the royal swine but for a single day, yet no one throughout
the whole kingdom had yet offered himself, and the illustrious owner
of the swine was in great risk of losing them all.

The young stranger listened to this narration with surprise, but could
not conjecture what could be the difficulty attached to the service.
As the host had for some time been employed in looking out for
swineherds for the king, he asked his young guest whether he would
undertake the office, adding at the same time, that the king would
give a year's wages for a single day's service.

"Why not?" replied Pista, (that was the young adventurer's name) and
he declared himself quite willing to undertake the charge, as he
thought the business of a swineherd did not demand more skill and
trouble than he was accustomed to exert. His consent thus given, the
host joyfully conducted him to the king and praised throughout the
whole city the courageous resolution of his guest.

The monarch received them both graciously, and not only confirmed the
offer made by the host to the youth, but promised him a gratuity into
the bargain, in case of his discharging his duty with zeal and

He commanded a capital supper to be placed before him, and appointing
him to drive the swine in the morning to the heath, he dismissed him
with the most gracious wishes for his welfare.

Before the dawn of day, Pista was already at his post. The heath lay
in a pleasant district, inclosed on the one side by mountains, and on
the other by a thick forest. On his arrival there he found all
tranquil, and could not imagine what danger was to be apprehended.

He passed the day in expectation, and the evening approached as
peacefully as the day had departed. The moon and stars shed their
light over the district, and the refreshing coolness of the air
invited the carefree herdsman to repose. He lay calmly down near his
herd, commended them and himself to fortune, and slept in peace.

He had not slept an hour, when the most extraordinary of all night
visions awakened him. The oldest patriarch of the herd stood before
him, and thus addressed him: "Fear not, for I am thy friend, and come
to thee as a well-intentioned counsellor, to warn thee of the danger
that awaits thee. As I have selected thee for my protégé, I will
assist thee to the best of my power. When thou drivest us home
to-morrow, mind to request the king to give thee a loaf of bread and a
flask of wine, for the following day. These shall preserve thee from
all misfortune. A great dragon who rules this forest, will endeavour
to overthrow and swallow thee. But if thou givest him these gifts,
thou wilt not only be able to resist him, but after he shall have
drunk the wine thou mayest destroy him."

Pista was not a little astonished at this apparition; he rubbed his
eyes, pricked up his ears, and collected all his senses, to convince
himself that he was really awake and not dreaming. But when he saw the
boar standing bodily before him, and distinctly heard every word, he
at last returned him grateful thanks for his friendly admonition, and
promised punctually to observe his instructions.

The following evening he drove the herd home. The king met him, not
without astonishment, caused the year's wages to be paid to him
immediately, and gave him permission further to ask some favour.
Pista, well pleased, put the money in his pocket, and for the present
asked for nothing more than bread and wine for the following evening.

The cock had scarcely crowed to welcome the first hour of the morning,
when our herdsman again passed out at the city gate with his herd. He
betook himself to the same heath where he had passed the foregoing
night, and had had the strange _tête-à-tête_ with the boar.

As soon as he reached the spot, his bristly Mentor again approached
him and said: -

"Up and mount me without fear,
Swift on my back I thee will bear;
So that, ere many minutes' space,
Thou shalt reach the appointed place."

The youth bestrode the boar, and in a trice found himself in the
neighbouring wood, and deposited under an enormous oak. The boar then
repeated what he had said to his protégé the preceding day, and
hastened back to the herd.

Pista prepared himself for his adventure, and before he could
accurately reconnoitre the field of battle, so dreadful a noise
proceeding from the interior of the forest pierced his ears, that all
the trees round him creaked and rustled as in a storm. It came nearer
and nearer, and he soon perceived a monstrous dragon, rapidly making
towards him, tearing the bushes and trees as he passed, and even
throwing them to the ground. Mindful of his Mentor's words, Pista took
courage, offered the bread and wine to the dragon, and besought him to
spare his life.

This liberal offer astonished the dragon more than the resistance of a
whole band of herdsmen would have done. He quietly received the gifts,
devoured the bread with much satisfaction, and as the wine speedily
took effect, he drowsily tumbled on the earth. Pista did not delay to
avail himself of the opportunity. When he perceived that the dragon
slept, he drew out his knife and cut the throat of the drunken
monster; before, however, he had completed the operation, he saw a
copper key fall out of his jaws, which he picked up and put in his

[Illustration: FORTUNE'S FAVOURITE. P. 292.]

In the meantime, the herd had gradually moved towards the interior of
the forest, to a considerable distance from the spot where the dragon
had met his death. Pista, fearing he might lose the objects of his
charge, resolved to cut across the bend of the forest, and to go in a
straight line, the same by which the dragon had come, to look after

He had not gone far, when a new overwhelming surprise banished them
from his thoughts. An immense castle, entirely built of copper, stood
before him, far surpassing in splendour the residence of his king, and
which seemed the more to invite him to enter, inasmuch as he could
nowhere descry a single guard to forbid his approach.

Solitary and silent was all around him: not even the song of a bird
broke the stillness. Hastening up to the castle, he found all the
gates locked; but suddenly remembering the key in his pocket, he drew
it out and tried it in the nearest gate, and discovered to his joyful
surprise that it opened every lock. He soon found himself in the
interior of a most magnificent palace, with such a number of state
rooms opening round him, that he could hardly tell which he should
first enter. He passed through the grand hall and went from room to
room, until he at last reached a great saloon, the walls of which were
mirrors, whilst all manner of gold and silver articles of furniture
glittered round him. In the centre of the room stood a table of
silver, whereon lay a golden rod. Without precisely knowing wherefore,
he took up the rod and struck the table with it, upon which a young
dragon immediately appeared, and with indescribable courtesy begged
that he would honour him with his commands.

Recovering from his surprise, Pista expressed a wish to be shown the
whole interior of the palace, with the gardens belonging to it. The
obliging dragon immediately complied with, and requested his guest to
follow him. He led him through all the chambers and halls of the
palace, each of which seemed to contain the treasure of a whole
kingdom; thence into the stables, where splendid coursers fed from
silver mangers on golden oats, and who neighed loudly at the entrance
of their visitors.

At last Pista and his attendant came into a garden full of
marvellously beautiful flowers and delicious fruits, which seemed to
the stranger like a second paradise. He could not refrain from
plucking a rose, which he stuck in his cap.


When he had seen all, he inquired of the dragon for the lord of the

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Online LibraryAnthony R. (Anthony Reubens) MontalbaFairy tales from all nations → online text (page 13 of 19)