Portugal | Pedroso: The Prince who had the head of a Horse

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The Prince who had the head of a Horse

THERE once lived a king and a queen who had been married many years, but had not any children. This was a great source of sorrow to them. The queen, however, took it to heart more than the king did, and one day, when she felt more sad and unhappy than usual, she prayed God to give her a son, even if he were born with the head of a horse. The first time that she went to the garden after this she met an exceedingly old woman, who said to her, "I know that you are sad and in trouble because you are childless, but I foretell you that you will in nine months' time bear a son; but how much better it would have been for you not to have such a son! because, instead of having a man's head, he will be born with the head of a horse." The queen was very sorry to hear this, but at the same time could not help rejoicing at the prospect of having a son born to her. Accordingly before long the queen felt she was with child, and in due time gave birth to a prince with the head of a horse. As the prince grew up those around him after a time became quite accustomed to the unusual appearance of his head, and even forgot that it was that of a horse. Having arrived at an age when his father thought it time to look out for a wife for him, he sent his portrait to all the cities in hopes that some princess might desire to marry him. But there was not one single princess who would entertain the idea, and all of them, when they saw his portrait, used to exclaim, "What, I marry a prince who has the head of a horse? After a time we should have children who would be altogether horses!" The prince was very unhappy, seeing that he could not succeed in getting a wife, but those near him told him, to console him, not to despair for he would be certain to find one. The king after a time resolved to make a proclamation with sound of trumpet that any maiden, rich or poor, who should be willing to marry the prince Would receive a good dowry, a handsome trousseau, and the jewels appertaining to a princess. Still no maiden came forward to offer herself; until at last, after much trouble, and when they had almost lost all hopes of finding one, a very poor girl, with very shabby clothes on, offered herself', who on account of her extreme poverty was willing to marry the prince. This maiden had three sisters who, the moment they knew their sister's intention, began to abuse her, and even to beat her, saying to her, "You have no shame in you. We are older than you are and are very poor, but we would not deign to marry a prince who had the head of a horse!" The maiden, however, paid no attention to their abuse and allowed them to say all they liked, and insisted upon marrying the prince. The maiden had hardly made up her mind to marry the prince when there appeared to her robes and everything necessary for a princess to wear; and at the same time a proclamation was issued in the capital declaring the approaching marriage of the prince in three days' time, that great rejoicings would take place and many festivities before the day, among which there would be held some races. The prince went each day to visit the maiden, and on the last day, when the cavalcade was passing the house, behind them all there came a very handsome knight, who rode most magnificently. When the whole suite had passed by, while the maiden's sisters were looking out, one said to the other, "If our sister were at least to marry that handsome knight, who does nothing but look towards us!" And they commenced to abuse and beat her, saying, "You are going to marry a prince with the head of a horse merely to become a princess." The girl at last, being afraid of worse treatment at their hands, said to them, "Do not abuse me or beat me any more, for that knight who was going behind that retinue, and looked towards us, is the prince who I shall marry." At that instant a crow came in at the window and began to flap and beat the girl with its wings, saying, "You ungrateful girl! most ungrateful! You have broken my spell! and if you wish to find me again you will have to wear a pair of iron shoes on your way to the Crows' Tower; you will have to enter and wait a long time for an opportunity to lay hold of my wings, for only then shall I again be yours and you mine; and should you not have sufficient c to undertake this task, and sufficient perseverance and patience to wait for your opportunity to catch me you will never see me again!" Having said these words the crow flew out of the window, taking the same direction as when it came. The girl remained very much grieved and began to cry, saying, "I am now wretched and unhappy on account of my sisters!" She then ordered a pair of iron boots to be made, and when she received them she put them on at once and begun her journey without taking leave of any one. She walked and walked and walked all day, and at nightfall she saw a hut and approached it. The door was closed and she could see no one, but taking courage she knocked at the door. She heard the voice of an old woman reply, "Who is there?" The girl answered, "A poor helpless creature who begs for shelter to-night!" The old woman opened the door to her and listened to what the girl had to say in explanation to her, that she had lost her way and entreated her to afford her shelter for the night. The good old woman then said to her, "My son lives here with me who is the south wind, but I do not know what my son will do to you if he sees you." The girl to this replied: "Never mind, I must have patience, and if he kills me why there will be an end of me and that is all!" The old woman felt pity for the girl and said, "Get inside this wooden chest." The girl went inside and the woman fastened down the cover after the girl had told her the whole history of her life, and who begged the woman to ask her son the way to the "Crows' Tower;" and the old woman promised to find out for her where the tower was. The wooden chest was hardly closed upon her when a great noise of wind was heard, and the door moved as though great force was used to break it open. The woman opened the door and the south wind came in whistling softly vuuuu. . . . vuuu. . . . vuuuu. . . . saying, "I smell human flesh!" The old woman rejoined: "My son be calm, there is no such thing here." As soon as the wind became lulled and quieted she informed him of what had occurred, and asked him whether he knew where the "Crows' Tower" was situated. The son replied: "I do not know where it is, but the n wind is sure to know," and he showed the girl where it was to be found, and said that since she had iron hoots the only way to destroy them was by wetting them over, as otherwise she might walk for years and years and yet would never succeed in tearing -them. After this the wind went to lie down, and at day dawn rose up and left the hut. He had hardly gone out when the old woman opened the chest and told the girl of all her son had said, and the information he had given for her guidance, and then she dismissed her. The girl thanked the old lady very much for her kindness to her, and set out on her expedition, remembering to wet the boots occasionally. She walked and walked and walked, and at nightfall she again saw another hut, and she resolved to knock at the door. She saw an old woman come to open to her, who told her that her son was the north wind. The girl asked to be allowed to remain there for the night, and begged she would ask her son where the "Crows' Tower" was situated, because she had been told that the north wind would know where it was. Shortly after this the north wind came in by the door, blowing strongly as it whistled vuuuu . . . . vuuuu . . . . and crying out with a shrill voice, "Mother I smell human blood." The mother replied, "Be calm, my son, it is nothing whatever." And she then told him of all that had passed since he had left home, and she asked him to inform the girl she had there - where the "Crows' Tower" was situated as she wished to go to it. He replied, and told his mother that she must tell the girl that the north-east wind was sure to know, and that he himself was ignorant of its whereabouts. The wind departed, and the woman, uncovering the woodon chest, gave the girl all the information she had received from her son, and the injunction that she was not to forget to wet her boots over continually. She set out on her expedition at once, was mindful to wet her boots, and continually examined them to see if they were getting worn out; and at first she was much distressed because the boots did not seem to wear out, but after a while she was happier, for she saw them getting rusty. She walked all day, and only as night approached did she find another hut. She also knocked at the door of this hut, and an old woman appeared, who made the girl the same speech as the other had done. The girl entreated her to allow her to go in for the night, as she had nowhere to go, and begged the old woman kindly to ask her son, where the "Crows' Tower" was situated, and the way to reach it, as she had been informed that the north wind was the only wind that could tell her. The woman shut her up in the chest, and very soon after the north-east wind came in whistling; hoom. . . . hoom. . . . hoom. . . . "Oh! mother, I smell human flesh." "Oh no, my son, you make a mistake," was the mother's reply; and she told him to be quieted, for it was only a poor girl who wished to know the way to the "Crows' Tower." The north-east wind said he knew where it was, but that it lay very far indeed, and that the girl would have to walk for three nights and three days without resting to get there. He further told his mother that she must explain to the girl that when she reached the tower she would not be able to enter as there were a number of crows who would prevent her, because inside the tower there lived a prince who was spell-bound, and knew that the girl was seeking for him. That if she wished to find him she was to wait until the crows were all inside the tower, so that they should not peck at her and hurt her-that the largest crow among them was the prince himself; to get as close as possible to him and put her hands on his wings suddenly and not to leave go on any account; for if she lost him this time she would never find him again. After saying all this the north-east wind blew himself out of the hut. The girl began her journey, and for three days and three nights she walked without ever resting. The boots were already torn in several parts, and on the third day she could scarcely walk with them, as the sharp points pierced her feet. She at last reached the "Crows' Tower," and waited for an opportunity to enter. She gradually approached, keeping as close as she could to the largest crow, and at a moment when he was engaged in singing, and his mind was diverted from her, she suddenly and dexterously put both her hands upon the bird, holding its wings down, saying, "You are caught; you are now mine." The crow did its best to fly away, but remarking before long that it was his own maiden that held him, and had caught him, he transformed himself into a prince, without further resistance, the crows into noblemen and courtiers, and the tower into the court. The prince married the maiden, and the sisters, as a punishment, were imprisoned.

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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