Italian Popular Tales | Annotated Tale

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Fair Angiola, The

We next pass to the class of stories in which children are promised by their parents to witches or the Evil One. The children who are thus promised are often unborn, and the promise is made by the parents either to escape some danger with which they are threatened by witch or demon, or in return for money. Sometimes there is a misunderstanding, as in Grimm's story of the "Handless Maiden," where the Miller in return for riches promises the Evil One to give him "what stands behind his mill." The Miller supposes his apple-tree is meant, but it is his daughter, who happened to be behind the mill when the compact was made. The most usual form of the story in Italian is this: A woman who expects to give birth to a child is seized with a great longing for some herb or fruit (generally parsley) growing in the witch's garden. The witch (ogress) catches her picking it, and only releases her on condition that she shall give her the child after it is born and has reached a definite age. The following Sicilian story from Gonzenbach (No. 53) will illustrate this class sufficiently:


ONCE upon a time there were seven women, neighbors, all of whom were seized with a great longing for some jujubes which only grew in a garden opposite the place where they all lived, and which belonged to a witch. Now this witch had a donkey that watched the garden and told the old witch when any one entered. The seven neighbors, however, had such a desire for the jujubes that they entered the garden and threw the donkey some nice soft grass, and while he was eating it they filled their aprons with jujubes and escaped before the witch appeared. This they did several times, until at last the witch noticed that some one had been in her garden, for many of the jujubes were gone. She questioned the donkey, but he had eaten the nice grass and noticed nothing. Then she resolved the third day to remain in the garden herself. In the middle of it was a hole, in which she hid and covered herself with leaves and branches, leaving only one of her long ears sticking out. The seven neighbors once more went into the garden and began picking jujubes, when one of them noticed the witch's ear sticking out of the leaves and thought it was a mushroom and tried to pick it. Then the witch jumped out of the hole and ran after the women, all of whom escaped but one. The witch was going to eat her, but she begged hard for pardon and promised never to enter the garden again. The witch finally forgave her on the condition that she would give her her child, yet unborn, whether a boy or girl, when it was seven years old. The poor woman promised in her distress, and the witch let her go.

               Some time after the woman had a beautiful little girl whom she named Angiola. When Angiola was six years old, her mother sent her to school to learn to sew and knit. On her way to school she had to pass the garden where the witch lived. One day, when she was almost seven, she saw the witch standing in front of her garden. She beckoned to Angiola and gave her some fine fruits and said: "You see, fair Angiola, I am your aunt. Tell your mother you have seen your aunt, and she sends her word not to forget her promise." Angiola went home and told her mother, who was frightened and said to herself: "Ah! the time has come when I must give up my Angiola." Then she said to the child: "When your aunt asks you to-morrow for an answer, tell her you forgot her errand." The next day she told the witch as she was directed. "Very well," she replied, "tell her to-day, but don't forget." Thus several days passed; the witch was constantly on the watch for Angiola when she went to school, and wanted to know her mother's answer, but Angiola always declared that she had forgotten to ask her. One day, however, the witch became angry and said: "Since you are so forgetful, I must give you some token to remind you of your errand." Then she bit Angiola's little finger so hard that she bit a piece out. Angiola went home in tears and showed her mother her finger. "Ah!" thought her mother, "there is no help for it. I must give my poor child to the witch, or else she will eat her up in her anger." The next morning as Angiola was going to school, her mother said to her: "Tell your aunt to do with you as she thinks best." Angiola did so, and the witch said: "Very well, then come with me, for you are mine."

               So the witch took the fair Angiola with her and led her away to a tower which had no door and but one small window. There Angiola lived with the witch, who treated her very kindly, for she loved her as her own child. When the witch came home after her excursions, she stood under the window and cried: "Angiola, fair Angiola, let down your pretty tresses and pull me up!" Now Angiola had beautiful long hair, which she let down and with which she pulled the witch up.

               Now it happened one day when Angiola had grown to be a large and beautiful maiden, that the king's son went hunting and chanced to come where the tower was. He was astonished at seeing the house without any door, and wondered how the people got in. Just then the old witch returned home, stood under the window, and called: "Angiola, fair Angiola, let down your beautiful tresses and pull me up." Immediately the beautiful tresses fell down, and the witch climbed up by them. This pleased the prince greatly, and he hid himself near by until the witch went away again. Then he went and stood under the window and called: "Angiola, fair Angiola, let down your beautiful tresses and pull me up." Then Angiola let down her tresses and drew up the prince, for she believed it was the witch. When she saw the prince, she was much frightened at first, but he addressed her in a friendly manner and begged her to fly with him and become his wife.

               She finally consented, and in order that the witch should not know where she had gone she gave all the chairs, tables, and cupboards in the house something to eat; for they were all living beings and might betray her. The broom, however, stood behind the door, so she did not notice it, and gave it nothing to eat. Then she took from the witch's chamber three magic balls of yarn, and fled with the prince. The witch had a little dog that loved the fair Angiola so dearly that it followed her.

               Soon after they had fled, the witch came back, and called: "Angiola, fair Angiola, let down your beautiful tresses and draw me up." But the tresses were not let down for all she called, and at last she had to get a long ladder and climb in at the window. When she could not find Angiola, she asked the tables and chairs and cupboards: "Where has she fled?" But they answered: "We do not know." The broom, however, called out from the corner: "The fair Angiola has fled with the king's son, who is going to marry her." Then the witch started in pursuit of them and nearly overtook them. But Angiola threw down behind her one of the magic balls of yarn, and there arose a great mountain of soap. When the witch tried to climb it she slipped back, but she persevered until at last she succeeded in getting over it, and hastened after the fugitives. Then Angiola threw down the second ball of yarn, and there arose a great mountain covered all over with nails small and large. Again the witch had to struggle hard to cross it; when she did she was almost flayed. When Angiola saw that the witch had almost overtaken them again, she threw down the third ball, and there arose a mighty torrent. The witch tried to swim across it, but the stream kept increasing in size until she had at last to turn back. Then in her anger she cursed the fair Angiola, saying: "May your beautiful face be turned into the face of a dog!" and instantly Angiola's face became a dog's face.

               The prince was very sorrowful and said: "How can I take you home to my parents? They would never allow me to marry a maiden with a dog's face." So he took her to a little house, where she was to live until the enchantment was removed. He himself returned to his parents; but whenever he went hunting he visited poor Angiola. She often wept bitterly over her misfortunes, until one day the little dog that had followed her from the witch's said: "Do not weep, fair Angiola. I will go to the witch and beg her to remove the enchantment." Then the little dog started off and returned to the witch and sprang up on her and caressed her. "Are you here again, you ungrateful beast?" cried the witch, and pushed the dog away. "Did you leave me to follow the ungrateful Angiola?" But the little dog caressed her until she grew friendly again and took him up on her lap. "Mother," said the little dog, "Angiola sends you greeting; she is very sad, for she cannot go to the palace with her dog's face and cannot marry the prince." "That serves her right," said the witch. "Why did she deceive me? She can keep her dog's face now!" But the dog begged her so earnestly, saying that poor Angiola was sufficiently punished, that at last the witch gave the dog a flask of water, and said: "Take that to her and she will become the fair Angiola again." The dog thanked her, ran off with the flask, and brought it safely to poor Angiola. As soon as she washed in the water, her dog's face disappeared and she became beautiful again, more beautiful even than she had been before. The prince, full of joy, took her to the palace, and the king and queen were so pleased with her beauty that they welcomed her, and gave her a splendid wedding, and all remained happy and contented. [1]


[1] Other Italian versions are: Pitrè, No. 20; Pent. II. 1; Pomiglianesi, pp. 121, 130, 136, 188, 191; Busk, p. 3; Nov. fior. p. 209; Gargiolli, No. 2; Fiabe Mant. No. 20; Bernoni, No. 12; Archivio, I. 525 (Tuscan), III. 368 (Abruzzi), and De Nino, XX. Some points of resemblance are found also in Pent. V. 4; Coronedi-Berti, No. 8; and Finamore, Trad. pop. abruzzesi, No. 12.

               Other stories in which children are promised to ogre, demon, etc., are to be found in Pitrè, No. 31, Widter-Wolf, No. XIII., and in the various versions of the story of "Lionbruno." See Chap. II., note 13.

               For other European versions of the story in the text, see Ralston's R. F. T. p. 141; Grimm, No. 12, "Rapunzel," and Basque Legends, p. 59. For child promised to demon, see Romania, No. 28, p. 531; Grimm, Nos. 31 ("The Girl Without Hands") 55, ("Rumpelstiltskin") 92, ("The King of the Golden Mountain"), and 181 ("The Nix of the Mill-Pond"). See also Hahn, I. p. 47, No. 8.

               Some of the incidents of this story are found in those belonging to other classes. The girl's face changed to that of dog, etc., is in Comparetti, No. 3 (furnished with a long beard), and Finamore, Trad. pop. abruzzesi, No. 1, Pent. I. 8 (goat), Nerucci, Nos. 30 (sheep's neck), 37 (buffalo), and Nov. pop. toscani, in Archivio per la Trad. pop. No. 1 (goat). For "flight and obstacles," see Nov. fior. pp. 12, 415, Pent. II. 1, and stories cited by Pitrè in his notes to No. 13, also note 25 to this chapter, Basque Legends, p. 120, Orient und Occident, II. p. 103, and Brueyre, p. 111. For "ladder of hair," see Pomiglianesi, p. 126.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Fair Angiola, The
Tale Author/Editor: Crane, Thomas
Book Title: Italian Popular Tales
Book Author/Editor: Crane, Thomas Frederick
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin and Company
Publication City: Boston
Year of Publication: 1885
Country of Origin: Italy
Classification: ATU 310: The Maiden in the Tower

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