Portugal | Pedroso: The Aunts

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The Aunts

THERE was an old woman who had a granddaughter; and whilst one lay the girl was looking out of the window, the king, happening to pass by the house at the time, was immediately struck with her beauty. He knocked at the door, and the old woman came to open the door, and asked his majesty what might be his pleasure. The king replied that he wished to see the maiden. The old woman then told him that the maiden he had seen at the window would make him a shirt that could be drawn through the eye of a needle. The king hearing this, said that he would marry the maiden if she succeeded in doing such a wonderful thing; but that in the event of her not succeeding, he would have her put to death. When the king departed, the girl who had not said or thought of doing such a thing began to weep: an old woman however appeared to her, and told her not to be troubled, for she would make the shirt for her, but she must promise her to call her "aunt" before every one present at the wedding banquet on her marriage day. The maiden readily promised her to do so; after which the shirt appeared all at once ready made, and it was given to the king. On receiving the shirt the king said that he was not yet satisfied, and that the girl must prove herself more clever still. Upon which the grand mother told him that her granddaughter could hear anything that was said three leagues off. When the maiden knew of this she commenced to cry again, but the woman returned and in formed her that if she promised to call her "aunt" on the day of the marriage, before every one, she would tell her what the king would say at the hunt he had gone to three leagues off. The girl promised to comply; and the woman shortly after came and informed her of what the king had said at the hunt. The grandmother then went to the king to tell him. But, as his majesty required yet more proofs of the maiden's extraordinary cleverness, the granny told him that her daughter was so quick at her work, that she could wind in half-an-hour a whole skein of thread. When the girl heard of this she began to weep, because she knew she was not able to do so. The woman, how ever, who always came to her help, returned once more and offered to do it for her if she complied with the usual promise; which the maiden readily agreed to, and immediately the skein appeared ready wound. The day of the marriage was at last fixed upon, and the king married the maiden. Whilst they were sitting at the banquet which was given on the occasion, a knock was suddenly heard at the door of the hail, and a woman entered who was exceedingly ugly and had very large prominent eyes. The maiden, now a queen, rose at once from the table, and addressed her in this way: "Good afternoon, aunt, give me your blessing!" Every one present was much surprised at what they saw and heard; but the ugly woman, turning towards the king, explained to him that the reason of her having such very large eyes came from straining them to make a shirt that could pass through the eye of a needle. After a while another knock was heard at the door, and in came another woman with exceeding large ears. The queen rose and saluted her thus, "Good afternoon, aunt, bestow me your blessing!" Every one pre sent was much surprised, but the woman went up to the king and explained that her ears had become so exceedingly large from her constantly listening to what was said at the distance of three leagues. Not long after this a third knock was heard, and another woman entered who was very, very ugly, and had very long arms. The queen rose from the table and said to her, saluting her, "Good afternoon, aunt, bestow your blessing upon me." All the people were much astonished, but the woman told the king that she had such long arms because she had been obliged to wind a whole skein in half-an-hour. The king then rose and said to the queen that he did not require her to make the shirt, nor to hear what was said at the distance of three leagues, nor did he expect her to wind a whole skein of thread in half-an-hour. And thus it was that the maiden was saved from having to accomplish what her grandmother had told the king she was capable of doing.

The text came from:

Pedroso, Consiglieri. Portuguese Folk-Tales. Folk Lore Society Publications, Vol. 9. Miss Henrietta Monteiro, translator. New York: Folk Lore Society Publications, 1882. 
[Reprinted: New York: Benjamin Blom, Inc., 1969.]
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