This trio of stories doesn’t need a lot of work. I shall, therefore, laze about and let you listen, breaking in for minor notes.

XVII: CANNETELLA

It is an evil thing to seek for better than wheaten bread, for a man comes at last to desire what others throw away, and must content himself with honesty. He who loses all and walks on the tops of the trees has as much madness in his head as danger under his feet, as was the case with the daughter of a King whose story I have now to tell you.

There was once on a time a King of High-Hill who longed for children more than the porters do for a funeral that they may gather wax. And at last his wife presented him with a little girl, to whom he gave the name Cannetella.

The child grew by hands, and when she was as tall as a pole the King said to her, “My daughter, you are now grown as big as an oak, and it is full time to provide you with a husband worthy of that pretty face. Since, therefore, I love you as my own life and desire to please you, tell me, I pray, what sort of a husband you would like, what kind of a man would suit your fancy? Will you have him a scholar or a dunce? a boy, or man in years? brown or fair or ruddy? tall as a maypole or short as a peg? small in the waist or round as an ox? Do you choose, and I am satisfied.”

In the original, she is offered a “man of letters or a swashbuckler”. This becomes “dunce” presumably because pirates have not always had the oddly jolly image they have now. He also asks if she wants a husband who has black, white or red skin. The idea that she might prefer a black guy has been removed because Victorian children were not to be exposed to that sort of thing. Early enough in Italian history, people seemed to care about that a lot less than later people.

Cannetella thanked her father for these generous offers, but told him that she would on no account encumber herself with a husband.

In the Penguin edition she had “dedicated her virginity to Diana.” This is a completely different thing to just not wanting a husband.

However, being urged by the King again and again, she said, “Not to show myself ungrateful for so much love I am willing to comply with your wish, provided I have such a husband that he has no like in the world.”

Her father, delighted beyond measure at hearing this, took his station at the window from morning till evening, looking out and surveying, measuring and examining every one that passed along the street. And one day, seeing a good-looking man go by, the King said to his daughter, “Run, Cannetella! see if yon man comes up to the measure of your wishes.” Then she desired him to be brought up, and they made a most splendid banquet for him, at which there was everything he could desire. And as they were feasting an almond fell out of the youth’s mouth, whereupon, stooping down, he picked it up dexterously from the ground and put it under the cloth, and when they had done eating he went away. Then the King said to Cannetella, “Well, my life, how does this youth please you?” “Take the fellow away,” said she; “a man so tall and so big as he should never have let an almond drop out of his mouth.”

When the King heard this he returned to his place at the window, and presently, seeing another well-shaped youth pass by, he called his daughter to hear whether this one pleased her. Then Cannetella desired him to be shown up; so he was called, and another entertainment made. And when they had done eating, and the man had gone away, the King asked his daughter whether he had pleased her, whereupon she replied, “What in the world should I do with such a miserable fellow who wants at least a couple of servants with him to take off his cloak?”

“If that be the case,” said the King, “it is plain that these are merely excuses, and that you are only looking for pretexts to refuse me this pleasure. So resolve quickly, for I am determined to have you married.”

In the Penguin edition, it’s “have my line germinate”.

To these angry words Cannetella replied, “To tell you the truth plainly, dear father, I really feel that you are digging in the sea and making a wrong reckoning on your fingers. I will never subject myself to any man who has not a golden head and teeth.” The poor King, seeing his daughter’s head thus turned, issued a proclamation, bidding any one in his kingdom who should answer to Cannetella’s wishes to appear, and he would give him his daughter and the kingdom.

Now this King had a mortal enemy named Fioravante, whom he could not bear to see so much as painted on a wall. He, when he heard of this proclamation, being a cunning magician, called a parcel of that evil brood to him, and commanded them forthwith to make his head and teeth of gold.

In the penguin edition this is clearer: the foe is a “necromancer”, which in period just means a black magician. The evil brood he calls to him are not other magicians but “those expelled by God”. They say it is difficult and offer him golden horns instead, but he forces them to his will with charms and spells.

So they did as he desired, and when he saw himself with a head and teeth of pure gold he walked past under the window of the King, who, when he saw the very man he was looking for, called his daughter. As soon as Cannetella set eyes upon him she cried out, “Ay, that is he! he could not be better if I had kneaded him with my own hands.”

When Fioravante was getting up to go away the King said to him, “Wait a little, brother; why in such a hurry! One would think you had quicksilver in your body! Fair and softly, I will give you my daughter and baggage and servants to accompany you, for I wish her to be your wife.”

“I thank you,” said Fioravante, “but there is no necessity; a single horse is enough if the beast will carry double, for at home I have servants and goods as many as the sands on the sea-shore.” So, after arguing awhile, Fioravante at last prevailed, and, placing Cannetella behind him on a horse, he set out.

In the evening, when the red horses are taken away from the corn-mill of the sky and white oxen are yoked in their place, they came to a stable where some horses were feeding. Fioravante led Cannetella into it and said, “Listen! I have to make a journey to my own house, and it will take me seven years to get there. Mind, therefore, and wait for me in this stable and do not stir out, nor let yourself be seen by any living person, or else I will make you remember it as long as you live.” Cannetella replied, “You are my lord and master, and I will carry out your commands exactly, but tell me what you will leave me to live upon in the meantime.” And Fioravante answered, “What the horses leave of their own corn will be enough for you.”

Only conceive how poor Cannetella now felt, and guess whether she did not curse the hour and moment she was born! Cold and frozen, she made up in tears what she wanted in food, bewailing her fate which had brought her down from a royal palace to a stable, from mattresses of Barbary wool to straw, from nice, delicate morsels to the leavings of horses. And she led this miserable life for several months, during which time corn was given to the horses by an unseen hand, and what they left supported her.

But at the end of this time, as she was standing one day looking through a hole, she saw a most beautiful garden, in which there were so many espaliers of lemons, and grottoes of citron, beds of flowers and fruit-trees and trellises of vines, that it was a joy to behold. At this sight a great longing seized her for a great bunch of grapes that caught her eye, and she said to herself, “Come what will and if the sky fall, I will go out silently and softly and pluck it. What will it matter a hundred years hence? Who is there to tell my husband? And should he by chance hear of it, what will he do to me? Moreover, these grapes are none of the common sort.” So saying, she went out and refreshed her spirits, which were weakened by hunger.

A little while after, and before the appointed time, her husband came back, and one of his horses accused Cannetella of having taken the grapes. Whereat, Fioravante in a rage, drawing his knife, was about to kill her, but, falling on her knees, she besought him to stay his hand, since hunger drives the wolf from the wood. And she begged so hard that Fioravante replied, “I forgive you this time, and grant you your life out of charity, but if ever again you are tempted to disobey me, and I find that you have let the sun see you, I will make mincemeat of you. Now, mind me; I am going away once more, and shall be gone seven years. So take care and plough straight, for you will not escape so easily again, but I shall pay you off the new and the old scores together.”

So saying, he departed, and Cannetella shed a river of tears, and, wringing her hands, beating her breast, and tearing her hair, she cried, “Oh, that ever I was born into the world to be destined to this wretched fate! Oh, father, why have you ruined me? But why do I complain of my father when I have brought this ill upon myself? I alone am the cause of my misfortunes. I wished for a head of gold, only to come to grief and die by iron! This is the punishment of Fate, for I ought to have done my father’s will, and not have had such whims and fancies. He who minds not what his father and mother say goes a road he does not know.” And so she lamented every day, until her eyes became two fountains, and her face was so thin and sallow, that her own father would not have known her.

At the end of a year the King’s locksmith, whom Cannetella knew, happening to pass by the stable, she called to him and went out.

In the penguin edition it is the sewer-cleaner. Sewer cleaners have a certain magic to them, as noted in the very early episode about their goddess, Cloacina.

The smith heard his name, but did not recognise the poor girl, who was so much altered; but when he knew who she was, and how she had become thus changed, partly out of pity and partly to gain the King’s favour, he put her into an empty cask he had with him on a pack-horse, and, trotting off towards High-Hill, he arrived at midnight at the King’s palace.

The cask being a nightsoil barrel explains its serendipitous presence. There’s something to be said for the use of nightsoil barrels from covenants in smuggling people. Many have simple ring spell around the mouth to make the inside clean. People hate checking them, so a relatively simple illusion would work.

Then he knocked at the door, and at first the servants would not let him in, but roundly abused him for coming at such an hour to disturb the sleep of the whole house. The King, however, hearing the uproar, and being told by a chamberlain what was the matter, ordered the smith to be instantly admitted, for he knew that something unusual must have made him come at that hour. Then the smith, unloading his beast, knocked out the head of the cask, and forth came Cannetella, who needed more than words to make her father recognise her, and had it not been for a mole on her arm she might well have been dismissed. But as soon as he was assured of the truth he embraced and kissed her a thousand times. Then he instantly commanded a warm bath to be got ready; when she was washed from head to foot, and had dressed herself, he ordered food to be brought, for she was faint with hunger. Then her father said to her, “Who would ever have told me, my child, that I should see you in this plight? Who has brought you to this sad condition?” And she answered, “Alas, my dear sire, that Barbary Turk has made me lead the life of a dog, so that I was nearly at death’s door again and again. I cannot tell you what I have suffered, but, now that I am here, never more will I stir from your feet. Rather will I be a servant in your house than a queen in another. Rather will I wear sackcloth where you are than a golden mantle away from you. Rather will I turn a spit in your kitchen than hold a sceptre under the canopy of another.”

Meanwhile Fioravante, returning home, was told by the horses that the locksmith had carried off Cannetella in the cask, on hearing which, burning with shame, and all on fire with rage, off he ran towards High-Hill, and, meeting an old woman who lived opposite to the palace, he said to her, “What will you charge, good mother, to let me see the King’s daughter?” Then she asked a hundred ducats, and Fioravante, putting his hand in his purse, instantly counted them out, one a-top of the other. Thereupon the old woman took him up on the roof, where he saw Cannetella drying her hair on a balcony. But—just as if her heart had whispered to her—the maiden turned that way and saw the knave. She rushed downstairs and ran to her father, crying out, “My lord, if you do not this very instant make me a chamber with seven iron doors I am lost and undone!”

“I will not lose you for such a trifle,” said her father; “I would pluck out an eye to gratify such a dear daughter!” So, no sooner said than done, the doors were instantly made.

When Fioravante heard of this he went again to the old woman and said to her, “What shall I give you now? Go to the King’s house, under pretext of selling pots of rouge, and make your way to the chamber of the King’s daughter. When you are there contrive to slip this little piece of paper between the bed-clothes, saying, in an undertone, as you place it there—

Let every one now soundly sleep,
But Cannetella awake shall keep.”

Usually you need a hand of glory for this sort of thing. He must really know his business.

So the old woman agreed for another hundred ducats, and she served him faithfully.

The penguin edition really dislikes door-to-door makeup salespeople. It’s not clear why they do such damage to a person’s honour. It must be a cultural thing.

Now, as soon as she had done this trick, such a sound sleep fell on the people of the house that they seemed as if they all were dead. Cannetella alone remained awake, and when she heard the doors bursting open she began to cry aloud as if she were burnt, but no one heard her, and there was no one to run to her aid. So Fioravante threw down all the seven doors, and, entering her room, seized up Cannetella, bed-clothes and all, to carry her off. But, as luck would have it, the paper the old woman had put there fell on the ground, and the spell was broken.

In the Penguin edition the paper falls and “the powder in it spills out” which terminates the spell. This seems to be an activated charm with a material component.

All the people of the house awoke, and, hearing Cannetella’s cries, they ran—cats, dogs, and all—and, laying hold on the ogre, quickly cut him in pieces like a pickled tunny.

“Like a salami” in the Penguin edition. A pickled tunny seems an odd sort of thing to eat in Italy. They do get tuna in the Mediterranean, though, so…they pulled him apart like a can of tuna seems like a possible thing.

Thus he was caught in the trap he had laid for poor Cannetella, learning to his cost that—

“No one suffereth greater pain
Than he who by his own sword is slain.”

XVIII: CORVETTO

I once heard say that Juno went to Candia to find Falsehood. But if any one were to ask me where fraud and hypocrisy might truly be found, I should know of no other place to name than the Court, where detraction always wears the mask of amusement; where, at the same time, people cut and sew up, wound and heal, break and glue together—of which I will give you one instance in the story that I am going to tell you.

There was once upon a time in the service of the King of Wide-River an excellent youth named Corvetto, who, for his good conduct, was beloved by his master; and for this very i going backward like a rope-maker, and getting from bad to worse, though we slave like dogs, toil like field-labourers, and run about like deer to hit the King’s pleasure to a hair? Truly one must be born to good fortune in this world, and he who has not luck might as well be thrown into the sea. What is to be done? We can only look on and envy.” These and other words fell from their mouths like poisoned arrows aimed at the ruin of Corvetto as at a target. Alas for him who is condemned to that den the Court, where flattery is sold by the kilderkin, malignity and ill-offices are measured out in bushels, deceit and treachery are weighed by the ton!

A kilderkin is half of a barrel. It’s a Dutch measure originally. A ton is 2240 pounds at this stage, what’s now called a long ton. As a metric person I don’t understand the point of that.

But who can count all the attempts these courtiers made to bring him to grief, or the false tales that they told to the King to destroy his reputation! But Corvetto, who was enchanted, and perceived the traps, and discovered the tricks, was aware of all the intrigues and the ambuscades, the plots and conspiracies of his enemies. He kept his ears always on the alert and his eyes open in order not to take a false step, well knowing that the fortune of courtiers is as glass. But the higher the lad continued to rise the lower the others fell; till at last, being puzzled to know how to take him off his feet, as their slander was not believed, they thought of leading him to disaster by the path of flattery, which they attempted in the following manner.

Ten miles distant from Scotland, where the seat of this King was, there dwelt an ogre,

So, we are in England, apparently. Is the Wide River the Esk?

the most inhuman and savage that had ever been in Ogreland, who, being persecuted by the King, had fortified himself in a lonesome wood on the top of a mountain, where no bird ever flew, and was so thick and tangled that one could never see the sun there.

He’s an ogre, so not a lot of surprise here: he’s going to die. Then there’s a castle in a distant woodland that needs little work for magi to move their covenant in.

This ogre had a most beautiful horse, which looked as if it were formed with a pencil; and amongst other wonderful things, it could speak like any man. Now the courtiers, who knew how wicked the ogre was, how thick the wood, how high the mountain, and how difficult it was to get at the horse, went to the King, and telling him minutely the perfections of the animal, which was a thing worthy of a King, added that he ought to endeavour by all means to get it out of the ogre’s claws, and that Corvetto was just the lad to do this, as he was expert and clever at escaping out of the fire. The King, who knew not that under the flowers of these words a serpent was concealed, instantly called Corvetto, and said to him, “If you love me, see that in some way or another you obtain for me the horse of my enemy the ogre, and you shall have no cause to regret having done me this service.”

Corvetto knew well that this drum was sounded by those who wished him ill; nevertheless, to obey the King, he set out and took the road to the mountain. Then going very quietly to the ogre’s stable, he saddled and mounted the horse, and fixing his feet firmly in the stirrup, took his way back. But as soon as the horse saw himself spurred out of the palace, he cried aloud, “Hollo! be on your guard! Corvetto is riding off with me.” At this alarm the ogre instantly set out, with all the animals that served him, to cut Corvetto in pieces. From this side jumped an ape, from that was seen a large bear; here sprang forth a lion, there came running a wolf.

That’s a werewolf.

The term “Hollo!” is used several times in this version of the text. At this time it means “I have discovered something” rather than the modern “Greetings!”. As I recall from QI, the crossover is in the early 20th century, where songs like “Hello, Hello, who’s your lady friend?” show both forms of “hello” together.

But the youth, by the aid of bridle and spur, distanced the mountain, and galloping without stop to the city, arrived at the Court, where he presented the horse to the King.

Then the King embraced him more than a son, and pulling out his purse, filled his hands with crown-pieces.

Crowns don’t exist yet: they are an English coin that turns up with the Tudoirs.

At this the rage of the courtiers knew no bounds; and whereas at first they were puffed up with a little pipe, they were now bursting with the blasts of a smith’s bellows, seeing that the crowbars with which they thought to lay Corvetto’s good fortune in ruins only served to smooth the road to his prosperity. Knowing, however, that walls are not levelled by the first attack of the battering-ram, they resolved to try their luck a second time, and said to the King, “We wish you joy of the beautiful horse! It will indeed be an ornament to the royal stable. But what a pity you have not the ogre’s tapestry, which is a thing more beautiful than words can tell, and would spread your fame far and wide! There is no one, however, able to procure this treasure but Corvetto, who is just the lad to do such a kind of service.”

Then the King, who danced to every tune, and ate only the peel of this bitter but sugared fruit, called Corvetto, and begged him to procure for him the ogre’s tapestry. Off went Corvetto and in four seconds was on the top of the mountain where the ogre lived; then passing unseen into the chamber in which he slept, he hid himself under the bed, and waited as still as a mouse, until Night, to make the Stars laugh, puts a carnival-mask on the face of the Sky. And as soon as the ogre and his wife were gone to bed, Corvetto stripped the walls of the chamber very quietly, and wishing to steal the counterpane of the bed likewise, he began to pull it gently.

A “counterpane” is a quilted blanket.

Thereupon the ogre, suddenly starting up, told his wife not to pull so, for she was dragging all the clothes off him, and would give him his death of cold.

Clothes in the sense of cloths, not his pyjamas.

“Why you are uncovering me!” answered the ogress.

“Where is the counterpane?” replied the ogre; and stretching out his hand to the floor he touched Corvetto’s face; whereupon he set up a loud cry,—”The imp! the imp! Hollo, here, lights! Run quickly!”—till the whole house was turned topsy-turvy with the noise. But Corvetto, after throwing the clothes out of the window, let himself drop down upon them. Then making up a good bundle, he set out on the road to the city, where the reception he met with from the King, and the vexation of the courtiers, who were bursting with spite, are not to be told. Nevertheless they laid a plan to fall upon Corvetto with the rear-guard of their roguery, and went again to the King, who was almost beside himself with delight at the tapestry—which was not only of silk embroidered with gold, but had besides more than a thousand devices and thoughts worked on it. And amongst the rest, if I remember right, there was a cock in the act of crowing at daybreak, and out of its mouth was seen coming a motto in Tuscan: IF I ONLY SEE YOU. And in another part a drooping heliotrope with a Tuscan motto: AT SUNSET—with so many other pretty things that it would require a better memory and more time than I have to relate them.

When the courtiers came to the King, who was thus transported with joy, they said to him, “As Corvetto has done so much to serve you, it would be no great matter for him, in order to give you a signal pleasure, to get the ogre’s palace, which is fit for an emperor to live in; for it has so many rooms and chambers, inside and out, that it can hold an army. And you would never believe all the courtyards, porticoes, colonnades, balconies, and spiral chimneys which there are—built with such marvellous architecture that Art prides herself upon them, Nature is abashed, and Stupor is in delight.”

The King, who had a fruitful brain which conceived quickly, called Corvetto again, and telling him the great longing that had seized him for the ogre’s palace, begged him to add this service to all the others he had done him, promising to score it up with the chalk of gratitude at the tavern of memory. So Corvetto instantly set out heels over head; and arriving at the ogre’s palace, he found that the ogress, whilst her husband was gone to invite the kinsfolk, was busying herself with preparing the feast.

Then Corvetto entering, with a look of compassion, said, “Good-day, my good woman! Truly, you are a brave housewife! But why do you torment the very life out of you in this way? Only yesterday you were ill in bed, and now you are slaving thus, and have no pity on your own flesh.”

In the Penguin edition, she has just given birth to a beautiful orgette, and the reason for the feast is to celebrate the baby’s birth. She was not so much “ill” as “in labour”.

“What would you have me do?” replied the ogress. “I have no one to help me.”

“I am here,” answered Corvetto, “ready to help you tooth and nail.”

“Welcome, then!” said the ogress; “and as you proffer me so much kindness, just help me to split four logs of wood.”

“With all my heart,” answered Corvetto, “but if four logs are not enow, let me split five.” And taking up a newly-ground axe, instead of striking the wood, he struck the ogress on the neck, and made her fall to the ground like a pear. Then running quickly to the gate, he dug a deep hole before the entrance, and covering it over with bushes and earth, he hid himself behind the gate.

Her child disappears from the story here. In some of the eastern parts of Europe, Giants give birth to witches, so she might come back for revenge.

As soon as Corvetto saw the ogre coming with his kinsfolk, he set up a loud cry in the courtyard, “Stop, stop! I’ve caught him!” and “Long live the King of Wide-River.” When the ogre heard this challenge, he ran like mad at Corvetto, to make a hash of him. But rushing furiously towards the gate, down he tumbled with all his companions, head over heels to the bottom of the pit, where Corvetto speedily stoned them to death.

That pit is full of Corpus vis.

Then he shut the door, and took the keys to the King, who, seeing the valour and cleverness of the lad, in spite of ill-fortune and the envy and annoyance of the courtiers, gave him his daughter to wife; so that the crosses of envy had proved rollers to launch Corvetto’s bark of life on the sea of greatness; whilst his enemies remained confounded and bursting with rage, and went to bed without a candle; for—

“The punishment of ill deeds past,
Though long delay’d, yet comes at last.”

XIX: THE BOOBY

The Booby is a variant of the Atalanta story. In it, the girl is distracted with flung golden apples. These exist in Ars Magica: they are guarded by one of my oldest NPCs, Denis the Hydra, who is over in the Hesperides.

An ignorant man who associates with clever people has always been more praised than a wise man who keeps the company of fools; for as much profit and fame as one may gain from the former, so much wealth and honour one may lose by the fault of the latter; and as the proof of the pudding is in the eating, you will know from the story which I am going to tell you whether my proposition be true.

There was once a man who was as rich as the sea, but as there can never be any perfect happiness in this world, he had a son so idle and good-for-nothing that he could not tell a bean from a cucumber. So being unable any longer to put up with his folly, he gave him a good handful of crowns, and sent him to trade in the Levant; for he well knew that seeing various countries and mixing with divers people awaken the genius and sharpen the judgment, and make men expert.

Moscione (for that was the name of the son) got on horseback, and began his journey towards Venice, the arsenal of the wonders of the world, to embark on board some vessel bound for Cairo; and when he had travelled a good day’s journey, he met with a person who was standing fixed at the foot of a poplar, to whom he said, “What is your name, my lad? Whence are you, and what is your trade?” And the lad replied, “My name is Lightning; I am from Arrowland, and I can run like the wind.” “I should like to see a proof of it,” said Moscione; and Lightning answered, “Wait a moment, and you will see whether it is dust or flour.”

When they had stood waiting a little while, a doe came bounding over the plain, and Lightning, letting her pass on some way, to give her the more law, darted after her so rapidly and light of foot, that he would have gone over a place covered with flour without leaving the mark of his shoe, and in four bounds he came up with her. Moscione, amazed at this exploit, asked if he would come and live with him, and promised to pay him royally.

So Lightning consented, and they went on their way together; but they had not journeyed many miles when they met another youth, to whom Moscione said, “What is your name, comrade? What country are you from? And what is your trade?” “My name,” replied the lad, “is Quick-ear; I am from Vale-Curious; and when I put my ear the ground I hear all that is passing in the world without stirring from the spot. I perceive the monopolies and agreements of tradespeople to raise the prices of things, the ill-offices of courtiers, the appointments of lovers, the plots of robbers, the reports of spies, the complaints of servants, the gossiping of old women, and the oaths of sailors; so that no one has ever been able to discover so much as my ears can.”

“If that be true,” said Moscione, “tell me what they are now saying at my home.”

So the lad put his ear to the ground, and replied, “An old man is talking to his wife, and saying, ‘Praised be Sol in Leo! I have got rid from my sight of that fellow Moscione, that face of old-fashioned crockery, that nail in my heart. By travelling through the world he will at least become a man, and no longer be such a stupid ass, such a simpleton, such a lose-the-day fellow, such a——'”

“Stop, stop!” cried Moscione, “you tell the truth and I believe you. So come along with me, for you have found the road to good-luck.”

“Well and good!” said the youth. So they all went on together and travelled ten miles farther, when they met another man, to whom Moscione said, “What is your name, my brave fellow? Where were you born? And what can you do in the world?” And the man answered, “My name is Shoot-straight; I am from Castle Aimwell; and I can shoot with a crossbow so point-blank as to hit a crab-apple in the middle.”

This is a chickpea in the original. They are oddly late arrivals in British cuisine. Castle Aimwell would be a great place to hire grogs. I presume it’s full of faeries.

“I should like to see the proof,” said Moscione. So the lad charged his crossbow, took aim, and made a pea leap from the top of a stone; whereupon Moscione took him also like the others into his company. And they travelled on another day’s journey, till they came to some people who were building a large pier in the scorching heat of the sun, and who might well say, “Boy, put water to the wine, for my heart is burning.” So Moscione had compassion on them, and said, “My masters, how is it you have the head to stand in this furnace, which is fit to roast a buffalo?”

In the Penguin edition this is a buffalo’s placenta. Please do not attempt to look this up online. There’s a guy in the University of Buffalo who really likes smoothies with odd ingredients. Have you wondered if there’s something I won’t research for the podcast? We’ve found a the limit.

And one of them answered, “Oh, we are as cool as a rose; for we have a young man here who blows upon us from behind in such a manner that it seems just as if the west wind were blowing.” “Let me see him, I pray,” cried Moscione. So the mason called the lad, and Moscione said to him, “Tell me, by the life of your father, what is your name? what country are you from? and what is your profession!” And the lad replied, “My name is Blow-blast; I am from Windy-land; and I can make all the winds with my mouth. If you wish for a zephyr, I will breathe one that will send you in transports; if you wish for a squall, I will throw down houses.”

“Seeing is believing,” said Moscione. Whereupon Blow-blast breathed at first quite gently, so that it seemed to be the wind that blows at Posilippo towards evening; then turning suddenly to some trees, he sent forth such a furious blast that it uprooted a row of oaks.

When Moscione saw this he took him for a companion; and travelling on as far again, he met another lad, to whom he said, “What is your name, if I may make so bold? Whence are you, if one may ask? And what is your trade, if it is a fair question?” And the lad answered, “My name is Strong-back; I am from Valentino; and I have such strength that I can take a mountain on my back, and it seems to me only a feather.”

“If that be the case,” said Moscione, “you deserve to be the king of the custom-house, and you should be chosen for standard-bearer on the first of May. But I should like to see a proof of what you say.”

Then Strong-back began to load himself with masses of rock, trunks of trees, and so many other weights that a thousand large waggons could not have carried them; which, when Moscione saw, he agreed with the lad to join him.

So they travelled on till they came to Fair-Flower, the King of which place had a daughter who ran like the wind, and could pass over the waving corn without bending an ear; and the King had issued a proclamation that whoever could over-take her in running should have her to wife, but whoever was left behind should lose his head.

When Moscione arrived in this country and heard the proclamation, he went straight to the King, and offered to run with his daughter, making the wise agreement either to win the race or leave his noddle there. But in the morning he sent to inform the King that he was taken ill, and being unable to run himself he would send another young man in his place. “Come who will!” said Ciannetella (for that was the King’s daughter), “I care not a fig—it is all one to me.”

This is one occasion where the English version is ruder than the Penguin translation from the Italian: the fig here is a hand signal that is meant to look a little like genitals.

So when the great square was filled with people, come to see the race, insomuch that the men swarmed like ants, and the windows and roofs were all as full as an egg, Lightning came out and took his station at the top of the square, waiting for the signal. And lo! forth came Ciannetella, dressed in a little gown, tucked half-way up her legs, and a neat and pretty little shoe with a single sole. Then they placed themselves shoulder to shoulder, and as soon as the tarantara and too-too of the trumpets was heard, off they darted, running at such a rate that their heels touched their shoulders, and in truth they seemed just like hares with the grey-hounds after them, horses broken loose from the stable, or dogs with kettles tied to their tails. But Lightning (as he was both by name and nature) left the princess more than a hand’s-breadth behind him, and came first to the goal. Then you should have heard the huzzaing and shouting, the cries and the uproar, the whistling and clapping of hands of all the people, bawling out, “Hurra! Long life to the stranger!” Whereat Ciannetella’s face turned as red as a schoolboy’s who is going to be whipped,

It’s a different part of the anatomy that reddens, and spanked, rather than whipped in the Italian. Note that in the English version, whipping children seems to be a perfectly normal thing, whereas in the Italian, the idea that you’d whip a kid just doesn’t come up. I remember seeing something similar in the “Amityville Horror”, where suddenly whipping your children was seen as a thing slightly less alarming that a cross flipping upside down and some flies turning up.

and she stood lost in shame and confusion at seeing herself vanquished. But as there were to be two heats to the race, she fell to planning how to be revenged for this affront; and going home, she put a charm into a ring of such power that if any one had it upon his finger his legs would totter so that he would not be able to walk, much less run; then she sent it as a present to Lightning, begging him to wear it on his finger for love of her.

She can make rings that cause paralysis. That’s not just a natal power, like her running.

Quick-ear, who heard this trick plotted between the father and daughter, said nothing, and waited to see the upshot of the affair. And when, at the trumpeting of the birds, the Sun whipped on the Night, who sat mounted on the jackass of the Shades, they returned to the field, where at the usual signal they fell to plying their heels. But if Ciannetella was like another Atalanta, Lightning had become no less like an old donkey and a foundered horse, for he could not stir a step. But Shoot-straight, who saw his comrade’s danger, and heard from Quick-ear how matters stood, laid hold of his crossbow and shot a bolt so exactly that it hit Lightning’s finger, and out flew the stone from the ring, in which the virtue of the charm lay; whereupon his legs, that had been tied, were set free, and with four goat-leaps he passed Ciannetella and won the race.

As noted in our episodes on The Curious Lore of Precious Stones, the magic in rings is due to a theurgic spirit which lives in the gemstone.

The King seeing this victory of a blockhead, the palm thus carried off by a simpleton, the triumph of a fool, bethought himself seriously whether or no he should give him his daughter; and taking counsel with the wiseacres of his court, they replied that Ciannetella was not a mouthful for the tooth of such a miserable dog and lose-the-day bird, and that, without breaking his word, he might commute the promise of his daughter for a gift of crowns,

Again, they are using an English coin here.

which would be more to the taste of a poor beggar like Moscione than all the women in the world.

This advice pleased the King, and he asked Moscione how much money he would take instead of the wife who had been promised him. Then Moscione, after consulting with the others, answered, “I will take as much gold and silver as one of my comrades can carry on his back.” The king consented; whereupon they brought Strong-back, on whom they began to load bales of ducats, sacks of patacas, large purses full of crowns, barrels of copper money, chests full of chains and rings; but the more they loaded him the firmer he stood, just like a tower, so that the treasury, the banks, the usurers, and the money-dealers of the city did not suffice, and he sent to all the great people in every direction to borrow their silver candlesticks, basins, jugs, plates, trays, and baskets; and yet all was not enough to make up the full load. At length they went away, not laden but tired and satisfied.

When the councillors saw what heaps and stores these six miserable dogs were carrying off, they said to the King that it was a great piece of assery to load them with all the sinews of his kingdom, and that it would be well to send people after them to lessen the load of that Atlas who was carrying on his shoulders a heaven of treasure. The King gave ear to this advice, and immediately despatched a party of armed men, foot and horse, to overtake Moscione and his friends. But Quick-ear, who had heard this counsel, informed his comrades; and while the dust was rising to the sky from the trampling of those who were coming to unload the rich cargo, Blow-blast, seeing that things were come to a bad pass, began to blow at such a rate that he not only made the enemies fall flat on the ground, but he sent them flying more than a mile distant, as the north wind does the folks who pass through that country. So without meeting any more hindrance, Moscione arrived at his father’s house, where he shared the booty with his companions, since, as the saying goes, a good deed deserves a good meed.

“Meed” is praise.

So he sent them away content and happy; but he stayed with his father, rich beyond measure, and saw himself a simpleton laden with gold, not giving the lie to the saying—

“Heaven sends biscuits to him who has no teeth.”

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