Portugal | Pedroso: The Three Citrons of Love

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The Three Citrons of Love

THERE was once a king who had a son passionately fond of hunting. And as he was one day going through some fields he met an old woman in great affliction, and who was nearly starved with hunger. The, prince had no money with him, but carried tome food which he had brought with him to eat whilst he should be out. He called his servants to him and ordered them to serve her with every thing he had brought for himself. The old woman eat and drank, and when she had satisfied her wants she thanked the prince very much, saying that she had no other way of showing her gratitude to him as she did not possess anything, "Yet here are three citrons which I give you as a mark of my gratitude." At the same time she recommended him never to break them open except when standing by a fountain, and that when he did so he should cut them open length- ways and not across. The prince kept the citrons, took leave of the old woman, and continued his journey.

When he had proceeded on his way for some length of time he thought he would open one of the citrons, but forgot to open it at the foot of a fountain, as the old woman had enjoined him; the instant he opened one a most lovely maid came out of the citron, who said to him, "Give me water to drink, if not I shall die." As there was no water there the poor girl died. The prince was struck very sad indeed, but as he had still two more citrons he became more consoled and reconciled to his loss, and continued his journey. Further on he opened another, but again forgot that he should do it at the foot of a fountain, and at the moment he did so a most beautiful girl made her appearance, who said to him, "Give me water or else I shall die." As there was no water there the poor girl died. The prince was extremely sad at the event, and now he did not dare open the third citron fearing lest the same thing should happen again. However, he had such a great wish to see what was inside it that, looking out for a spot where there was a fountain, he opened the third citron. That moment a most lovely maid stepped out from the citron, much more beautiful than any o the others, who also said to him, "Give me water to drink, or I shall die." The prince, who had brought a shell with him, filled it with water and gave the maiden to drink, who was greatly refreshed; but, as she was very delicate and very thin and spare, the prince fearing to take her as far as the palace, which was yet very distant, lest the journey should be more than she could bear, told her to go up a tree which stood there, whilst he went for a carriage for her. The maiden did so, and the prince departed. A short while after a negro woman made her appearance, who was very ugly, and had come to draw water for her master. The black woman began to look at the water which, as it was very clear and limpid, reflected the maiden's face in it. The black woman believing that it was her own lace, began to say, "What, little black woman, who art so very beautiful, do you come for water? Break, break the pitcher!" And she began to strike the ground with the pitcher, but as the pitcher was made of copper it would not break. The negress again looked at the water, and seeing the maiden's face reflected, repeated, "Little negress, who are so beautiful, how is it that you come to draw water? Break, break the pitcher," and she again struck the ground with it. All this time the maiden was very much amused at what she saw and heard, and felt inclined to laugh, but feared to do so lest the black woman should hear and see her, but at last, unable to contain herself; she laughed outright. This made the negress look on every side, but she was unable to discover any one, until at last looking up she saw the maiden in the tree. She then began to ingratiate herself with her by all manner of affectionate and endearing expressions and caresses, and asked her to come down the tree, but the maiden refused, saying that she was there waiting for the prince. But the negress, being a witch, began to renew her caresses, and said to her, "Come here, my girl, and let me at least clean your pretty little head." The witch said and did so much that at last the maiden decided to come down from the tree. As soon as the witch seized the girl she began to pretend to clean her hair, and ask her many questions about the prince, which the maiden answered her with all truth; and when the negress knew all she wished to know she drew out a large pin which she bad upon her, and stuck it into the girl's head. At that moment the maiden was trans. formed into a dove and flew away. The negress now went up the tree instead of the girl, and there waited for the prince, who arrived before long. He looked up the tree and was much surprised that, after having left such a beautiful girl there, he should find an ugly black woman instead. He began to grow very angry, but the Negress commenced to cry and say that it was all owing to an unfortunate spell which pursued her, and that she was as beautiful at one moment as she was an ugly black woman the next. The prince, believing all she said, took compassion upon her, and told her to come down from the tree, and then he took her to the palace. Next day he rose up very early in the morning and went to the garden to take a walk; shortly after he saw a beautiful dove who flew close up to the gardener and said, "Gardener of my own garden, how does the prince get on with his negress, the black, ugly, and evil-eyed bitch?" As she finished speaking she flew away. The gardener made no reply but went up to the prince and told him what the dove had said, and inquired of him, "What does your highness wish me to say in answer to the dove's question?" "Tell her that I live happily and lead a good life," replied the prince. Next day the dove returned and said, "Gardener of my own garden, how does the prince fare with his Regress, so black, ugly, and squinting?" The gardener replied, "He lives happily, and leads a good life." The dove then said, "Poor me! who fly about lost and without aim in life." The gardener then went and informed the prince of what the dove had said in answer. The prince ordered him to set up a snare of ribbon to see if they could entangle her leg and catch her, because he liked her very much. Next day the dove returned again and made the same speech as before and the gardener replied as he had done before, and when the dove looked towards the snare laid for her she gave a loud laugh and said, "Ha! ha! ha! A snare of ribbon was never meant for my leg," and she flew away. The gardener again went and told the prince what had occurred this time with the dove; and the prince ordered him to lay a snare of silver cords. The dove came, repeated what she had said before, looked towards the snare laid, and laughingly said, "Ha! ha! ha! Snares of silver cord were not made for my leg." The gardener now repeated to the prince what the dove had said, and the prince ordered a snare of gold cord to be prepared for her. The dove came again next day, said the same words as before, and, looking towards the snare, said, as she laughed, "Ha! ha! ha! Snares of gold were never made for me," and again flew away as she had done each time. When the gardener told the prince what the dove had said he was very angry indeed, and, being resolved to catch her in desperation, ordered a snare of brilliants to be laid for the dove. When next day the dove appeared, she had hardly seen the expensive snare when she flew right into it, saying, "Yes, this snare is the one fit for my leg," and allowed herself to be caught. The moment that the black woman saw that the little dove had been caught, she began to say that she felt very ill and wished a broth to be made with the dove, The prince in deep distress at this said that the dove was not to be killed, and commenced to caress and fondle her, and as he stroked her pretty head he found a pin buried in it which he drew out. That very instant the dove was transformed into a lovely maiden, and the very same form that the prince had left on the tree. The prince was much astonished to see her so suddenly before him; and the maiden related to the prince all that the black woman had done to her. The prince then commanded the woman to be killed, and a drum to be made of her skin and with her bones steps for the maiden to get to her bed. He then married the maiden and they were very happy.

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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