The Enchanted Doe by Giambattista Basile
Great is the power of friendship, which makes us willingly bear toils
and perils to serve a friend. We value our wealth as a trifle and life
as a straw, when we can give them for a friend's sake. Fables teach us
this and history is full of instances of it; and I will give you an
example which my grandmother used to relate to me. So open your ears
and shut your mouths and hear what I shall tell you.
There was once a certain King of Long-Trellis named Giannone, who,
desiring greatly to have children, continually made prayers to the gods
that they would grant his wish; and, in order to incline them the more
to his petition, he was so charitable to beggars and pilgrims that he
shared with them all he possessed. But seeing, at last, that these
things availed him nothing; and that there was no end to putting his
hand into his pocket, he bolted fast his door, and shot with a
cross-bow at all who came near.
Now it happened one day, that a long-bearded pilgrim was passing that
way, and not knowing that the King had turned over a new leaf, or
perhaps knowing it and wishing to make him change his mind again, he
went to Giannone and begged for shelter in his house. But, with a
fierce look and terrible growl, the King said to him, "If you have no
other candle than this, you may go to bed in the dark. The kittens have
their eyes open, and I am no longer a child." And when the old man
asked what was the cause of this change, the King replied, "To further
my desire for children, I have spent and lent to all who came and all
who went, and have squandered all my treasure. At last, seeing the
beard was gone, I stopped shaving and laid aside the razor."
"If that be all," replied the pilgrim, "you may set your mind at rest,
for I promise that your wish shall forthwith be fulfilled, on pain of
losing my ears."
"Be it so," said the King, "I pledge my word that I will give you one
half of my kingdom." And the man answered, "Listen now to me—if you
wish to hit the mark, you have only to get the heart of a sea-dragon,
and have it cooked and eaten by the Queen, and you will see that what I
say will speedily come to pass."
"That hardly seems possible," said the King, "but at the worst I lose
nothing by the trial; so I must, this very moment, get the dragon's
So he sent a hundred fishermen out; and they got ready all kinds of
fishing-tackle, drag-nets, casting-nets, seine-nets, bow-nets, and
fishing-lines; and they tacked and turned and cruised in all directions
until at last they caught a dragon; then they took out its heart and
brought it to the King, who gave it to the Queen to cook and eat. And
when she had eaten it, there was great rejoicing, for the King's desire
was fulfilled and he became the father of two sons, so like the other
that nobody but the Queen could tell which was which. And the boys grew
up together in such love for one another that they could not be parted
for a moment. Their attachment was so great that the Queen began to be
jealous, at seeing that the son whom she destined to be heir to his
father, and whose name was Fonzo, testified more affection for his
brother Canneloro than he did for herself. And she knew not in what way
to remove this thorn from her eyes.
Now one day Fonzo wished to go a-hunting with his brother; so he had a
fire lighted in his chamber and began to melt lead to make bullets; and
being in want of I know not what, he went himself to look for it.
Meanwhile the Queen came in, and finding no one there but Canneloro,
she thought to put him out of the world. So stooping down, she flung
the hot bullet-mould at his face, which hit him over the brow and made
an ugly wound. She was just going to repeat the blow when Fonzo came
in; so, pretending that she was only come in to see how he was, she
gave him some caresses and went away.
Canneloro, pulling his hat down on his forehead, said nothing of his
wound to Fonzo, but stood quite quiet though he was burning with the
pain. But as soon as they had done making the balls, he told his
brother that he must leave him. Fonzo, all in amazement at this new
resolution, asked him the reason: but he replied, "Enquire no more, my
dear Fonzo, let it suffice that I am obliged to go away and part with
you, who are my heart and my soul and the breath of my body. Since it
cannot be otherwise, farewell, and keep me in remembrance." Then after
embracing one another and shedding many tears, Canneloro went to his
own room. He put on a suit of armour and a sword and armed himself from
top to toe; and, having taken a horse out of the stable, he was just
putting his foot into the stirrup when Fonzo came weeping and said,
"Since you are resolved to abandon me, you should, at least, leave me
some token of your love, to diminish my anguish for your absence."
Thereupon Canneloro struck his dagger into the ground, and instantly a
fine fountain rose up. Then said he to his twin-brother, "This is the
best memorial I can leave you. By the flowing of this fountain you will
follow the course of my life. If you see it run clear, know that my
life is likewise clear and tranquil. If it is turbid, think that I am
passing through troubles; and if it is dry, depend on it that the oil
of my life is all consumed and that I have paid the toll which belongs
Then he drove his sword into the ground, and immediately a myrtle-tree
grew up, when he said, "As long as this myrtle is green, know that I
too am green as a leek. If you see it wither, think that my fortunes
are not the best in this world; but if it becomes quite dried up, you
may mourn for your Canneloro."
So saying, after embracing one another again, Canneloro set out on his
travels; journeying on and on, with many adventures which it would be
too long to recount—he at length arrived at the Kingdom of
Clear-Water, just at the time when they were holding a most splendid
tournament, the hand of the King's daughter being promised to the
victor. Here Canneloro presented himself and bore him so bravely that
he overthrew all the knights who were come from divers parts to gain a
name for themselves. Whereupon he married the Princess Fenicia, and a
great feast was made.
When Canneloro had been there some months in peace and quiet, an
unhappy fancy came into his head for going to the chase. He told it to
the King, who said to him, "Take care, my son-in-law; do not be
deluded. Be wise and keep open your eyes, for in these woods is a most
wicked ogre who changes his form every day, one time appearing like a
wolf, at another like a lion, now like a stag, now like an ass, like
one thing and now like another. By a thousand stratagems he decoys
those who are so unfortunate as to meet him into a cave, where he
devours them. So, my son, do not put your safety into peril, or you
will leave your rags there."
Canneloro, who did not know what fear was, paid no heed to the advice
of his father-in-law. As soon as the Sun with the broom of his rays had
cleared away the soot of the Night he set out for the chase; and, on
his way, he came to a wood where, beneath the awning of the leaves, the
Shades has assembled to maintain their sway, and to make a conspiracy
against the Sun. The ogre, seeing him coming, turned himself into a
handsome doe; which, as soon as Canneloro perceived he began to give
chase to her. Then the doe doubled and turned, and led him about hither
and thither at such a rate, that at last she brought him into the very
heart of the wood, where she raised such a tremendous snow-storm that
it looked as if the sky was going to fall. Canneloro, finding himself
in front of a cave, went into it to seek for shelter; and being
benumbed with the cold, he gathered some sticks which he found within
it, and pulling his steel from his pocket, he kindled a large fire. As
he was standing by the fire to dry his clothes, the doe came to the
mouth of the cave, and said, "Sir Knight, pray give me leave to warm
myself a little while, for I am shivering with the cold."
Canneloro, who was of a kindly disposition, said to her, "Draw near,
"I would gladly," replied the doe, "but I am afraid you would kill me."
"Fear nothing," answered Canneloro, "trust to my word."
"If you wish me to enter," rejoined the doe, "tie up those dogs, that
they may not hurt me, and tie up your horse that he may not kick me."
So Canneloro tied up his dogs and hobbled his horse, and the doe said,
"I am now half assured, but unless you bind fast your sword, I dare not
come in." Then Canneloro, who wished to become friends with the doe,
bound his sword as a countryman does, when he carries it in the city
for fear of the constables. As soon as the ogre saw Canneloro
defenceless, he re-took his own form, and laying hold on him, flung him
into a pit at the bottom of the cave, and covered it up with a
stone—to keep him to eat.
But Fonzo, who, morning and evening visited the myrtle and the
fountain, to learn news of the fate of Canneloro, finding the one
withered and the other troubled, instantly thought that his brother was
undergoing misfortunes. So, to help him, he mounted his horse without
asking leave of his father or mother; and arming himself well and
taking two enchanted dogs, he went rambling through the world. He
roamed and rambled here, there, and everywhere until, at last, he came
to Clear-Water, which he found all in mourning for the supposed death
of Canneloro. And scarcely was he come to the court, when every one,
thinking, from the likeness he bore him, that it was Canneloro,
hastened to tell Fenicia the good news, who ran leaping down the
stairs, and embracing Fonzo cried, "My husband! my heart! where have
you been all this time?"
Fonzo immediately perceived that Canneloro had come to this country and
had left it again; so he resolved to examine the matter adroitly, to
learn from the Princess's discourse where his brother might be found.
And, hearing her say that he had put himself in great danger by that
accursed hunting, especially if the cruel ogre should meet him, he at
once concluded that Canneloro must be there.
The next morning, as soon as the Sun had gone forth to give the gilded
frills to the Sky, he jumped out of bed, and neither the prayers of
Fenicia, nor the commands of the King could keep him back, but he would
go to the chase. So, mounting his horse, he went with the enchanted
dogs to the wood, where the same thing befell him that had befallen
Canneloro; and, entering the cave, he saw his brother's arms and dogs
and horse fast bound, by which he became assured of the nature of the
snare. Then the doe told him in like manner to tie his arms, dogs, and
horse, but he instantly set them upon her and they tore her to pieces.
And as he was looking about for some traces of his brother, he heard
his voice down in the pit; so, lifting up the stone, he drew out
Canneloro, with all the others whom the ogre had buried alive to
fatten. Then embracing each other with great joy, the twin-brothers
went home, where Fenicia, seeing them so much alike, did not know which
to choose for her husband, until Canneloro took off his cap and she saw
the mark of the old wound and recognised him. Fonzo stayed there a
month, taking his pleasure, and then wished to return to his own
country, and Canneloro wrote by him to his mother, bidding her lay
aside her enmity and come and visit him and partake of his greatness,
which she did. But from that time forward, he never would hear of dogs
or of hunting, recollecting the saying—
"Unhappy is he who corrects himself at his own cost."