Portugal | Pedroso: The Maid and the Negress

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The Maid and the Negress

THERE was once a maiden who was imprisoned in a tower. She was very much attached to a prince, who used to come every afternoon to speak to her. This girl would let down her hair from the tower, and by this means the prince was enabled to come up and hold a conversation with her. One day, just as a witch happened to be passing that way, she saw the prince ascend. What should she do? She came next day to the place, earlier than the prince was in the habit of doing, and, imitating the prince's voice and speech, she called out to the girl. The girl threw down her hair as usual, and the witch caught hold of the long tress and ascended. She then commenced to tell the maiden not to care for the prince, and to discard him, and in fact gave her much bad advice; and when she found that it was near the hour when the prince would arrive as usual at the tower, she again laid hold of the girl's hair and slipped down to the ground. As soon as the maiden saw the prince she recounted to him all the witch had said to her, and how she had deceived her in order to ascend the tower. When the prince heard this he at once ordered a carriage in order to run away with the maiden. Before the girl left the tower she took leave of everything in it, but she forgot to take leave of the besom and the broomstick. She took away with her a glass with water, a little bag with stones, and another with sand, and she ran away. A little while after the witch came again to the foot of the tower, and began calling out to the girl as she had done the day before. To this the table and the chairs replied, "The maiden is very ill." But the broom stick and the besom which had remained, very much hurt and angry on account of the girl not having taken leave of them, came to the window and said to the witch, "What they say is not true; the girl ran away with the prince!" As soon as the witch knew this, she began to run to overtake her. The girl, who felt distrustful of the consequences, put her head out of the carriage to look out, and when she saw the witch following she emptied the bag of sand she had with her, and immediately a sand waste was formed. The witch found great difficulty in getting over the sand, but she managed to pass it, and still continued to run after the carriage. When the maiden saw that the witch was nearly overtaking her, she threw out the stones she carried in the other bag, and instantly a great wall rose up. The witch found great difficulty in getting over this wall, but succeeded in clearing it, and continued running to reach the carriage. But when the maiden saw that the witch had succeeded in getting over the wall, and was nearly upon her, she threw out the water she carried in the glass, and instantly a large wide river was formed; this time, however, the witch was unable to pass.

When the prince arrived at the gates of the city, he said to the maiden, "You must remain here on the top of t1iis tree whilst I go and summon my court together, for I cannot make my public entry without them;" and he gave her his word that he would return for her. The maiden remained on the top of the tree, which grew close to a fountain, and whose branches fell over it. A little while after a negro woman came with a pitcher for water: she saw the reflection of the girl's face upon it, and, thinking it was her own figure she saw, she cried out, "Oh! beautiful negress! break the pitcher!" She knocked the pitcher against the fountain and broke it. She then went away, but came back with another pitcher. She looked upon the limpid water, and seeing the girl's reflection upon it, she repeated, "Oh! beautiful negress! break the pitcher!" and again she broke the pitcher. The negro woman departed, and a third time returned with a tin jug. She looked towards the fountain, and again seeing the reflection of the maiden's figure, she said, "Oh! beautiful negress! break the pitcher!" But, as the pitcher was made of tin, she could not succeed in breaking it as she knocked it against the fountain. The negro woman, already very angry because she could not break the jug, said to herself; "Oh, what manner of a beautiful negro woman must this be that cannot break the pitcher!" She looked up to the tree, and, on seeing the maiden, she said, "Oh, poor girl! you are up there quite by yourself; would you like me to stay with you?" And she also went up the tree. She inquired of the maiden what she was doing there, and then said to her, "Oh, my girl! what a beautiful head of hair you have got! Would you like me to comb you?" Saying this, she pierced her head with a long pin. The girl at once became transformed into a dove, and flew about. When the prince returned he was much surprised at this, and said, "What ails you, my girl, who were so beautiful, and now you are so black?" "What would you have?" replied the black woman; "you left me here exposed to the heat of the sun, and I became sunburnt." The prince had certainly doubts about the truth of this, as he was convinced that this negress was not the girl he had left there; yet, as he had given his word to the maid, he took her to the palace and married her.

Every day a beautiful dove came to the garden which would coo, "Oh, gardener, how does the prince fare with his black Maria?" and the gardener replied, "Pretty well; be off." When the gardener met the prince coming into the garden, he related what had taken place. The prince told him that when the dove should come on the following day he was to lay a snare of ribbon to catch her. The next day the dove returned. "Oh, gardener, how does the prince fare with black Maria?" she cried. The gardener then threw at her the lasso of ribbon, but the dove merely replied, "Ha! ha! ha! Snares of ribbon were not made to catch me!" and flew away. When the prince came to inquire what had occurred, the gardener told him what the dove had said. The prince then said, "To-morrow throw over her a snare made of silver." The dove returned again and said, "Ha! ha! ha! Snares of silver are not made for me!" and flew away. And when the prince heard this, he ordered the gardener to lay a golden snare; and the little dove this time was caught. The gardener then took her to the prince. But when the black woman saw the dove she began telling the prince to kill it; the prince however would not, because he had already grown very fond of the little dove, and esteemed her more and more. One day as the prince was petting her he discovered a pin stuck in her pretty head which he at once extricated, and instantly the dove was transformed into the maiden. She then related to the prince all that had taken place, and he told her he would marry her. After this the prince asked her what she wished him to do to the black woman. The maiden replied that he should kill her and with her bones make bed-steps for her to climb into her bed, and with her skin to make a drum.

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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