Italian Popular Tales | Annotated Tale

COMPLETE! Entered into SurLaLune Database in October 2018 with all known ATU Classifications.

Treasure, The

The next story is well known from the use made of it by Cervantes in Don Quixote (Part I., chap. xx.) where Sancho relates it to beguile the hours of the memorable night when the noise of the fulling-mill so terrified the doughty knight and his squire. The version in the Disciplina Clericalis is as follows: A certain king had a story-teller who told him five stories every night. It happened once that the king, oppressed by cares of state, was unable to sleep, and asked for more than the usual number of stories. The story-teller related three short ones. The king wished for more still, and when the story-teller demurred, said: "You have told me several very short ones. I want something long, and then you may go to sleep." The story-teller yielded, and began thus: "Once upon a time there was a certain countryman who went to market and bought two thousand sheep. On his way home a great inundation took place, so that he was unable to cross a certain river by the ford or bridge. After anxiously seeking some means of getting across with his flock, he found at length a little boat in which he could convey two sheep over." After the story-teller had got thus far he went to sleep. The king roused him and ordered him to finish the story he had begun. The story-teller answered: "The flood is great, the boat small, and the flock innumerable; let the aforesaid countryman get his sheep over, and I will finish the story I have begun." [1]

               The version in Pitrè (No. 138) lacks all connection and is poor, but we give it here, as it is very brief.


ONCE upon a time there was a prince who studied and racked his brains so much that he learned magic and the art of finding hidden treasures. One day he discovered a treasure in a bank, let us say the bank of Ddisisa: "Oh, he says, now I am going to get it out." But to get it out it was necessary that ten million million ants should cross one by one the river Gianquadara (let us suppose it was that one) in a bark made of the half shell of a nut. The prince puts the bark in the river and begins to make the ants pass over. One, two, three,----and he is still doing it.

               Here the person who is telling the story pauses and says: "We will finish this story when the ants have finished passing over." [2]


[1] See Disc. Cler. ed. Schmidt, pp. 50 and 128. The version in the Cento nov. ant. ed. Gualt, No. 31, is as follows: Messer Azzolino had a story-teller, whom he made tell stories during the long winter nights. It happened one night that the story-teller had a great mind to sleep, and Azzolino asked him to tell stories. The story-teller began to relate a story about a peasant who had a hundred bezants. He went to market to buy sheep, and had two for a bezant. Returning home with his sheep, a river that he had crossed was greatly swollen by a heavy rain that had fallen. Standing on the bank he saw a poor fisherman with an exceedingly small boat, so small that it would only hold the peasant and one sheep at a time. Then the peasant began to cross with one sheep, and began to row: the river was wide. He rows and crosses. And the story-teller ceased relating. Azzolino said: "Go on." And the story-teller answered: "Let the sheep cross, and then I will tell the story." For the sheep would not be over in a year, so that meanwhile he could sleep at his leisure.

               The story passed from the Disc. Cler. into the Spanish collection El Libro de los Enxemplos, No. 85. A similar story is also found in Grimm, No. 86, "The Fox and the Geese."

[2] The word translated bank (bancu) is here used to indicate a buried treasure. The most famous of these concealed treasures was that of Ddisisa, a hill containing caves, and whose summit is crowned by the ruins of an Arab castle. This treasure is mentioned also in Pitrè, No. 230, "The Treasure of Ddisisa," where elaborate directions are given for finding it.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Treasure, 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 2300: Endless Tales

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