Portugal | Pedroso: The Rabbit

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The Rabbit

A MAN used to go about the streets crying out, "Who'll buy troubles?" And as he passed by the king's palace, the queen, looking out of window, saw that he was selling flowers; and turning towards her maid of honour she told her to buy them. The maid bought the flowers and planted them in the garden, and the queen went every day to watch their growth and tend them. One day, as she was taking a walk in the garden, she saw a rabbit running pasts and she told her maid of honour to try and catch it. The maid seized it, and then fastened it up with her garter. They then continued their walk, and, whilst they were giving a turn round the garden, the rabbit escaped with the garter round its neck. The princess was very sorry to lose it, and the following day, at the same hour, took another turn round the garden, and she again saw the same rabbit running. She told her maid to catch hold of it, which she did, and this time she fastened it up with a handkerchief. They took another turn round the garden, and whilst they did so the rabbit escaped with the handkerchief. When the princess, with her maid of honour, returned to the spot where they had left the rabbit, she was grieved to find that the little animal was gone. Next day, at the same hour, the princess took her usual walk in the pleasure ground, and again saw the rabbit. She then threw down the gold necklet with the king's portrait which she wore, and told her maid to fasten the rabbit with it, as they could now take their walk without anxiety, because the little animal thus secured would not be able to run away. But the moment they turned round to take their walk, the rabbit went away with the necklet and portrait. When the queen returned, and missed the rabbit in its place, she went into the palace and fell ill from sorrow. The court physicians came, and said that what her highness suffered was from being in love, and gave orders that she was to be taken out for walks and amused. Many persons were called in to relate the most beautiful stories known to the princess, but she paid no heed to them.

There were two old women living together who were sisters; and one day one of them said to the other, "Oh! sister, I feel quite equal to going up to the palace with my stories, and try if I can amuse the princess with them." The sister endeavoured to dissuade her by saying that the princess was sure to have much prettier stories than she could relate. But the old woman remained obstinate, and said, "Never mind, any way I shall go to the palace with mine!" and started oft; taking with her some Indian corn loaves and some roasted sardines. After that she saw an ass with gold panniers come out from under the mile stone which she sat upon; and saw hands that led the ass, but could see no one. The old woman waited for the donkey to return, and when it did so she held on by the panthers, and descended some steps until she reached a palace of great splendour. There was a table laid with every good thing, and the woman sat down to it, and partook of everything. When she had finished her repast she began to look about her, and she saw many hands doing the work, but she could see no one, nor any thing else whatever; she could only see hands. When night set in she laid down; and, very early in the morning, she saw a rabbit enter from the garden. The rabbit went and bathed in a tub, and became transformed into a handsome prince; he went to the looking-glass and began combing himself, and repeated:

"Oh! comb that smooths my hair,
Oh! ribbons which bind my tresses, 
Would that you could shew me
She who pines in love or me."

He then again bathed himself in the tub, and once more became changed into the rabbit, and it departed.

The old woman then had her breakfast, and, when she saw that the ass with the golden panniers was going out, she held on by them and went out with the ass also. When she found herself in the high road she walked on to the palace of the princess, and on arriving there she said that she wished to see the princess, to relate a story to her which she was sure would amuse her. The princess was reposing on a couch, and when she saw the old woman she turned towards the wall. The old woman paid no heed to that, but began her story. The princess had scarcely commenced to hear the story about the rabbit than she instantly sat up, asked for some broth to take, and told the old woman to continue. When the story was finished, the princess said to the old woman that she would go with her to see the palace and the rabbit she had seen. Her health then began to improve, and one day, when she had perfectly recovered from her attack, she went with the maid of honour and the old woman to where the milestone was, and waited there to see if the ass with the golden panthers would come forth from whence the old woman had sat before. Shortly after this the ass made its appearance; they all three held on to the donkey, and down they went descending, whilst the princess was greatly astonished to find and behold so much splendour, and to see the hands busy doing all the work without any one being seen. More and more surprised at what she saw, she went further into the palace, until she had seen every part of it, and all it contained. They came to a house, and when the maid was entering she suddenly uttered a scream and ran out; the princess asked her what made her scream, and the maid replied that it was the sight of a dead man. The princess told her to go in and not to mind it, but the maid would not because she felt much frightened; and the princess, finding that she would not, went in herself; she threw water over the corpse and commenced to pray, and suddenly the dead man returned to life and transformed himself into a very handsome prince, and was the same one that the old woman had seen transform himself into a rabbit. In an instant all the hands took the form of persons, and were those that composed the magnificent court which were spell-bound. The prince expressed his grateful acknowledgments to the princess for having broken the spell he was under. The princess asked him for what purpose were all these preparations and work in the palace. The prince replied that it was for the marriage of the princess of Naples; in great surprise, she said, "I am the princess of Naples!" "Then you are destined for me," replied the prince. The princess, in great delight and filled with joy, said that she would marry him. The marriage was solemnized with great pomp, and they all remained in the same palace, living very happily together. The old woman was held in much esteem by all, but she went about looking very sad; and, when they asked her what ailed her, she said that she wished to return to her own home. They loaded her with many riches, and sent her back accompanied by a page. The old woman left the palace, and on arriving at her home she said:

"Oh! my house, my own little house;
There's no place like my own little home;
So let go to the devil my lady queen! ho!"

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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