Italian Popular Tales | Annotated Tale

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Bucket, The

This story leads quite naturally to the class in which gifts, good and bad, are bestowed by the fairies on two persons, one of whom is deserving of good fortune; the other, of punishment or reproof. The simplest form of this story is found in a Milanese tale (Nov. fior. p. 190).


THERE was once a mother who had two daughters: one was bad and the other was very good. But the mother loved the bad one more than the good one. She said one day to the bad one: "Go and draw a bucket of water." The bad one did not want to go, and so she would not obey her mother. The good daughter, however, said: "I will go and draw it." She went to draw the water, and the bucket fell down the well. She said: "If I go home now without the bucket, who knows what my mother will do to me?" So she climbed down the well, and at the bottom found a narrow passage, with a door. She knocked at the door. "Have you not found a cord and bucket?" There was a saint there, who answered: "No, my child." She continued her way and found another door. "Have you not found a cord and bucket?" "No!" That was the devil there. He answered her angrily because she was a good girl; he did not say: "My child." She knocked at another door. "Have you not found a cord and bucket?" It was the Madonna who replied: "Yes, my child. Listen. You could do me a pleasure to stay here while I am away. I have my little son here, to whom you will give his soup; you will sweep and put the house in order. When I come home I will give you your bucket." The Madonna went away, and the good girl put the house in order, gave the child his broth, swept the house; and while she was sweeping, instead of finding dirt, she found coral and other beautiful things. She saw that it was not dirt, and put it aside to give the Madonna when she returned. When the Madonna came back, she asked: "Have you done all I told you to do?" The good girl answered: "Yes, but I have kept these things here; I found them on the ground; it is not dirt." "Very well; keep them for yourself. Would you like a dress of calico, or one of silk?" The girl answered: "No, no! a calico dress." Instead of that, the Madonna gave her the silk one. "Do you wish a brass thimble, or a silver one?" "Give me the brass one." "No, take the silver thimble. Here is the bucket and your cord. When you reach the end of this passage, look up in the air." The girl did so, and a beautiful star fell on her brow.

               She went home, and her mother ran to meet her to scold her for being away so long; and was about to strike her, when she saw the star on her brow, which shone so that it was beautiful to see, and said: "Where have you been until now? Who put that thing on your forehead?" The girl answered: "I don't know what there is there." Her mother tried to wash it away, but instead of disappearing, it shone more beautiful than ever. Then the girl told what had happened to her, and the other sister wished to go there, too. She went, and did the same as her sister. She let the bucket fall, climbed down, and knocked at the saint's door. "Have you not found a cord and bucket?" "No, my child." She knocked at the next door. "Have you not found a cord and bucket?" The devil answered: "No, I have not found them; but come here, my child, come here." But when she heard that he had not found her bucket, she said: "No, I will go on." She knocked at the Madonna's door. "Have you not found a cord and bucket?" The Madonna said that she had. "I am going away: you will give my son his broth, and then you will sweep. When I return I will give you your bucket." Instead of giving the broth to the child, the bad girl ate it herself. "Oh!" she said, "how good it was!" She swept and found a great deal of dirt. "Oh, poor me! My sister found so many pretty things!" The Madonna returned. "Have you done what I told you?" "Yes." "Do you wish the brass or silver thimble?" "Oh! I want the silver one!" She gave her the brass one. "Do you want the calico dress or the silk one?" "Give me the silk dress." She gave her the calico dress. "Here is your bucket and cord. When you are out of here, look up into the air." When she was out she looked up into the air and there fell on her forehead a lump of dirt that soiled her whole face. She went home in a rage to weep and scold her sister because she had had the star, while she had that dirt on her face. Her mother began to wash her face and rub it; and the more she did so the less the dirt went away. Then the mother said: "I understand; the Madonna has done this to show me that I loved the bad girl and neglected the good one." [1]

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               In other versions (mentioned in the note to the above story) the two sisters receive different gifts from the fairies. In a Sicilian tale (Pitrè, No. 62) it is the children of unlike sisters who receive the gifts: the one, beauty. When she combs her hair jewels fall from it; when she washes the water becomes full of fishes; when she opens her mouth flowers fall out; her cheeks are like apples; and finally she can finish her work in a short time. The cousin receives, of course, gifts the very reverse of the above. The story ends with the trait of "True Bride," mentioned at length in Chapter I.


[1] This story is often found as an introduction to "False Bride;" see Chap. I., note 21. Sicilian versions may be found in Pitrè, Nos. 62, 63; Neapolitan, Pent. III. 10; from the Abruzzi in Finamore, No. 48; De Nino, No. 18; Tuscan, Gradi, Vigilia, p. 20, De Gub., Sto. Stefano, No. 1, Zoöl. Myth. II. p. 62, note, Tuscan Fairy Tales, pp. 9, 18, Corazzini, p. 409, Nov. tosc. No. 8, La Tinchina dell' alto Mare; Venetian, Bernoni, XIX.; and Tyrolese, Schneller, Nos. 7, 8.

               In several of the Tuscan versions (Gradi, Zoöl. Myth., Tuscan Fairy Tales, p. 9, and Nov. fior. p. 202, which is composed of "Two Sisters" and "True Bride") instead of fairies the sisters find cats who bestow the varying gifts.

               Other European versions of this story will be found in Grimm, No. 24, "Old Mother Holle;" Norwegian in Asbj. & Moe, No. 15; [Dasent, Pop. Tales from the Norse, p. 103, "The Two Step-Sisters"] French in Bladé, Contes agen. p. 149, and Cosquin, Contes pop. lorrains, No. 48 (Romania, No. 32, p. 564). The Oriental versions are mentioned by Cosquin in his notes to the last named story; see also Benfey, Pant. I. p. 219.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Bucket, 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 480: The Kind and the Unkind Girls

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