A curious feature in Italian stories is the part played by dolls or puppets. They sometimes serve to represent an absent mistress, or to take her place and receive the brunt of the husband's anger. The most peculiar of these doll-stories are found in the south of Italy; the one that follows is from Naples (Nov. fior. p. 333) and is entitled:
XXX. THE FAIRY ORLANDA.
THERE was once a merchant who had no children. He was obliged to go away for merchandise. His wife said to him: "Here is a ring; put it on your finger. You must bring me a doll as large as I am; one that can move, sew, and dress herself. If you forget, this ring will turn red, and your steamer will go neither forward nor backward." And so it happened. He forgot the doll, embarked on the steamer, and it would not move. The pilot said: "Sir, have you forgotten anything?" to all the gentlemen who were there. "No, sir; nothing." At the end of the steamer was this merchant. "Sir, have you forgotten anything; for the steamer cannot move?" He looked at his hand and replied: "Yes, I have forgotten something--my wife's doll." He landed, got the doll, reëmbarked, and the steamer continued its way. On his arrival at Naples, he carried the doll to his wife, well dressed and elegant; it seemed like a very handsome young girl. His wife, well pleased, talked to the doll, and they both worked near the balcony. Opposite lived a king's son, who fell in love with the doll, and became ill from his passion. The queen, who saw that her son was ill, asked: "My son, what is the matter with you? Tell your mamma. To-day or to-morrow we die, and you reign; and if you take an illness and die, who will reign?" He answered: "Mamma, I have taken this illness because there is a young girl, the daughter of the merchant who lives opposite, who is so beautiful that she has enamored me." The queen said: "Yes, my son, I shall marry you to her. Were she the daughter of a scavenger, you shall marry her." "You would do a good thing. Now let us send for the merchant." They sent a servant to the merchant's house. "Her Majesty wishes you at the palace!" "What does she want?" "She must speak with you." The merchant went to the palace, and asked: "Majesty, what do you wish?" "Have you a daughter?" "No, Majesty." "What do you mean? My son has fallen ill from the love he has conceived for your daughter." "Your Majesty, I tell you it is a doll, and not a human being." "I don't want to hear nonsense! If you don't present your daughter to me in a fortnight, your head will fall under the guillotine." (Do you not know what the guillotine is? It is the gallows. He was to be hung if he did not take her his daughter within a fortnight.) The merchant went home, weeping. His wife said: "What is the matter; what has the king said to you at the palace, to make you weep?" "Can you not guess what has happened to me? The king's son has fallen ill for the sake of the doll you have!" "He has fallen ill? did he not see that it was a doll?" "He would not believe it, and says it is my daughter, and that if I do not bring her to him within a fortnight, my head will fall under the guillotine." "Well," said his wife, "take the doll, and carry her out into the country, and see what will happen." He did so, and while he was going along, all confused, he met an old man who asked him: "Merchant, what are you doing?" "Ah, my old man, why should I tell you?" "I know all." Then said the merchant: "Since you know all, find some remedy for my life." The old man said: "Exactly. Go to such and such a place, where there is a fairy, who is called the fairy Orlanda. She has a palace with no doorkeeper, and no stairway. Here is a violin and a silk ladder. When you reach this palace, begin to play. The fairy and all her twelve maidens will appear at the window. This fairy Orlanda can give you help."
The merchant continued his journey, and found the palace without a doorkeeper, and with no stairway. He began to play the violin, and the fairy and all her twelve damsels appeared and said: "What do you want that you call us?" "Ah! fairy Orlanda, help me!" "What help do you want?" "I have this doll, and the king's son has fallen in love with it, and is ill. What shall I do? If I do not present her to him in a fortnight my head will be cut off." The fairy Orlanda said: "Put this ladder to the wall. Give me the doll. Wait two hours and I will give her back to you again." He waited two hours and then the fairy appeared: "Here is your daughter. She will speak to all, to the king, to the queen, but not to the prince. Farewell." The fairy Orlanda disappeared within, and the merchant departed with his daughter. He took her home to his wife. The doll said: "Mamma, how do you do?" "I am very well, my daughter. Where have you been?" "I have been into the country with papa, and now I have returned." In a fortnight the merchant dressed her elegantly and carried her to the palace. As soon as the king saw her he said to the queen: "My son was right; she is a beautiful girl!" She went into the gallery and spoke with the king and queen, but did not speak to the prince. The mortified prince thought: "She speaks to papa, she speaks to mamma, but not to me! What does it mean? Perhaps she does not speak to me from embarrassment." They were married, but even then she did not speak to him. So the prince was obliged to separate from her, and they lived in two rooms apart. The prince, meanwhile, courted another princess. One morning, while he was breakfasting with his sweetheart, his wife called a servant: "Come here; is the prince at table?" "Yes, Highness." "Wait!" She cut off her two hands and put them in the oven, and there came out a roast, with ten sausages. "Carry these to the prince." "Prince, the princess sends you this." He asked: "How was it made?" The servant replied: "Prince, she cut off her two hands and put them in the oven. She amazed me." "Enough," said the prince, "let us eat them." His sweetheart said: "I can do it, too." So she cut off her hands and put them in the oven; but they were burned and she died. "Oh, what have you done to me! you have killed one for me!" said the prince. After a time he made love to another. The first time he sat at table with her, the princess called another servant: "Servant, where are you going?" "I am going, Majesty, to the prince's table." "Wait!" She cut off her arms, and put them in the oven, and there came out a roast, with two blood-puddings. She said: "Carry it to the prince, at table." "Prince!" "Go away, I don't want to hear any nonsense." "But listen; let me tell you!" "Well, tell away." So the servant told how the princess had cut off her arms (which had grown out again) and put them in the oven, and the roast and puddings had come out. The second sweetheart tried to do the same and died. After a while the prince fell in love with another, and the same thing was repeated. The princess cut off her legs and put them in the oven, and a large roast came out, with two larded hams. The third sweetheart tried to do the same, and died like the others. Then the prince said: "Ah! she has done it to three for me! Unhappy me! I will not make love to any more."
During the night when the princess had gone to bed, the lamp said: "Lady, I want to drink." "Oil-cruet, give the lamp a drink." "Lady, it has hurt me." "Oil-cruet, why did you hurt the lamp? How beautiful is the fairy Orlanda! How beautiful is the fairy Orlanda! How beautiful is the fairy Orlanda!" So she did all night until day. All these things were enchanted: the lamp and the oil-cruet. The prince, who heard it, said one day to a servant: "This evening you must enter the princess' room. You must spend the night under her bed. You must see what she does in the night." The servant did so, and the same thing was repeated with the lamp and the oil-cruet. The servant told the prince, who said: "To-night, I will go." At night he crept under his wife's bed. The same thing was repeated. The lamp said: "Lady, I want to drink!" "Oil-cruet, give the lamp a drink." "Lady, it has hurt me." "Oil-cruet, why have you hurt the lamp? How beautiful is the fairy Orlanda!" The whole night she repeated: "How beautiful is the fairy Orlanda!" The prince responded: "Blessed be the fairy Orlanda!" "Ah!" said the princess, "did it need so much to say a word?" Then they embraced and kissed each other, and remained contented and happy.