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The Story Of Ciccu

from The Pink Fairy Book





From Sicilianische Mahrchen.


Once upon a time there lived a man who had three sons. The eldest was
called Peppe, the second Alfin, and the youngest Ciccu. They were all
very poor, and at last things got so bad that they really had not enough
to eat. So the father called his sons, and said to them, ' My dear boys,
I am too old to work any more, and there is nothing left for me but to
beg in the streets.'

'No, no!' exclaimed his sons; 'that you shall never do. Rather, if it
must be, would we do it ourselves. But we have thought of a better plan
than that.'

'What is it?' asked the father.

'Well, we will take you in the forest, where you shall cut wood, and
then we will bind it up in bundles and sell it in the town.' So their
father let them do as they said, and they all made their way into the
forest; and as the old man was weak from lack of food his sons took it
in turns to carry him on their backs. Then they built a little hut where
they might take shelter, and set to work. Every morning early the father
cut his sticks, and the sons bound them in bundles, and carried them to
the town, bringing back the food the old man so much needed.

Some months passed in this way, and then the father suddenly fell ill,
and knew that the time had come when he must die. He bade his sons fetch
a lawyer, so that he might make his will, and when the man arrived he
explained his wishes.

'I have,' said he, 'a little house in the village, and over it grows a
fig-tree. The house I leave to my sons, who are to live in it together;
the fig-tree I divide as follows. To my son Peppe I leave the branches.
To my son Alfin I leave the trunk. To my son Ciccu I leave the fruit.
Besides the house and tree, I have an old coverlet, which I leave to
my eldest son. And an old purse, which I leave to my second son. And a
horn, which I leave to my youngest son. And now farewell.'

Thus speaking, he laid himself down, and died quietly. The brothers wept
bitterly for their father, whom they loved, and when they had buried him
they began to talk over their future lives. 'What shall we do now?' said
they. 'Shall we live in the wood, or go back to the village?' And they
made up their minds to stay where they were and continue to earn their
living by selling firewood.

One very hot evening, after they had been working hard all day, they
fell asleep under a tree in front of the hut. And as they slept there
came by three fairies, who stopped to look at them.

'What fine fellows!' said one. 'Let us give them a present.'

'Yes, what shall it be?' asked another.

'This youth has a coverlet over him,' said the first fairy. 'When
he wraps it round him, and wishes himself in any place, he will find
himself there in an instant.'

Then said the second fairy: 'This youth has a purse in his hand. I will
promise that it shall always give him as much gold as he asks for.'

Last came the turn of the third fairy. 'This one has a horn slung round
him. When he blows at the small end the seas shall be covered with
ships. And if he blows at the wide end they shall all be sunk in the
waves.' So they vanished, without knowing that Ciccu had been awake and
heard all they said.

The next day, when they were all cutting wood, he said to his brothers,
'That old coverlet and the purse are no use to you; I wish you would
give them to me. I have a fancy for them, for the sake of old times.'
Now Peppe and Alfin were very fond of Ciccu, and never refused him
anything, so they let him have the coverlet and the purse without a
word. When he had got them safely Ciccu went on, 'Dear brothers, I
am tired of the forest. I want to live in the town, and work at some
trade.'

'O Ciccu! stay with us,' they cried. 'We are very happy here; and who
knows how we shall get on elsewhere?'

'We can always try,' answered Ciccu; 'and if times are bad we can come
back here and take up wood-cutting.' So saying he picked up his bundle
of sticks, and his brothers did the same.


But when they reached the town they found that the market was
overstocked with firewood, and they did not sell enough to buy
themselves a dinner, far less to get any food to carry home. They were
wondering sadly what they should do when Ciccu said, 'Come with me to
the inn and let us have something to eat.' They were so hungry by this
time that they did not care much whether they paid for it or not, so
they followed Ciccu, who gave his orders to the host. 'Bring us three
dishes, the nicest that you have, and a good bottle of wine.'


'Ciccu! Ciccu!' whispered his brothers, horrified at this extravagance,
'are you mad? How do you ever mean to pay for it?'

'Let me alone,' replied Ciccu; 'I know what I am about.' And when they
had finished their dinner Ciccu told the others to go on, and he would
wait to pay the bill.

The brothers hurried on, without needing to be told twice, 'for,'
thought they, 'he has no money, and of course there will be a row.'

When they were out of sight Ciccu asked the landlord how much he owed,
and then said to his purse, 'Dear purse, give me, I pray you, six
florins,' and instantly six florins were in the purse. Then he paid the
bill and joined his brothers.

'How did you manage?' they asked.

'Never you mind,' answered he. 'I have paid every penny,' and no more
would he say. But the other two were very uneasy, for they felt sure
something must be wrong, and the sooner they parted company with Ciccu
the better. Ciccu understood what they were thinking, and, drawing forty
gold pieces from his pocket, he held out twenty to each, saying, 'Take
these and turn them to good account. I am going away to seek my own
fortune.' Then he embraced them, and struck down another road.

He wandered on for many days, till at length he came to the town where
the king had his court. The first thing Ciccu did was to order himself
some fine clothes, and then buy a grand house, just opposite the palace.

Next he locked his door, and ordered a shower of gold to cover the
staircase, and when this was done, the door was flung wide open, and
everyone came and peeped at the shining golden stairs. Lastly the rumour
of these wonders reached the ears of the king, who left his palace to
behold these splendours with his own eyes. And Ciccu received him with
all respect, and showed him over the house.

When the king went home he told such stories of what he had seen that
his wife and daughter declared that they must go and see them too. So
the king sent to ask Ciccu's leave, and Ciccu answered that if the queen
and the princess would be pleased to do him such great honour he would
show them anything they wished. Now the princess was as beautiful as the
sun, and when Ciccu looked upon her his heart went out to her, and he
longed to have her to wife. The princess saw what was passing in his
mind, and how she could make use of it to satisfy her curiosity as to
the golden stairs; so she praised him and flattered him, and put cunning
questions, till at length Ciccu's head was quite turned, and he told her
the whole story of the fairies and their gifts. Then she begged him to
lend her the purse for a few days, so that she could have one made like
it, and so great was the love he had for her that he gave it to her at
once.

The princess returned to the palace, taking with her the purse, which
she had not the smallest intention of ever restoring to Ciccu. Very
soon Ciccu had spent all the money he had by him, and could get no more
without the help of his purse. Of course, he went at once to the king's
daughter, and asked her if she had done with it, but she put him off
with some excuse, and told him to come back next day. The next day it
was the same thing, and the next, till a great rage filled Ciccu's heart
instead of the love that had been there. And when night came he took
in his hand a thick stick, wrapped himself in the coverlet, and wished
himself in the chamber of the princess. The princess was asleep, but
Ciccu seized her arm and pulled her out of bed, and beat her till she
gave back the purse. Then he took up the coverlet, and wished he was
safe in his own house.

No sooner had he gone than the princess hastened to her father and
complained of her sufferings. Then the king rose up in a fury, and
commanded Ciccu to be brought before him. 'You richly deserve death,'
said he, 'but I will allow you to live if you will instantly hand over
to me the coverlet, the purse, and the horn.'

What could Ciccu do? Life was sweet, and he was in the power of the
king; so he gave up silently his ill-gotten goods, and was as poor as
when he was a boy.

While he was wondering how he was to live it suddenly came into his mind
that this was the season for the figs to ripen, and he said to himself,
'I will go and see if the tree has borne well.' So he set off
home, where his brothers still lived, and found them living very
uncomfortably, for they had spent all their money, and did not know
how to make any more. However, he was pleased to see that the fig-tree
looked in splendid condition, and was full of fruit. He ran and fetched
a basket, and was just feeling the figs, to make sure which of them were
ripe, when his brother Peppe called to him, 'Stop! The figs of course
are yours, but the branches they grow on are mine, and I forbid you to
touch them.'

Ciccu did not answer, but set a ladder against the tree, so that he
could reach the topmost branches, and had his foot already on the first
rung when he heard the voice of his brother Alfin: 'Stop! the trunk
belongs to me, and I forbid you to touch it!'

Then they began to quarrel violently, and there seemed no chance that
they would ever cease, till one of them said, 'Let us go before a
judge.' The others agreed, and when they had found a man whom they could
trust Ciccu told him the whole story.

'This is my verdict,' said the judge. 'The figs in truth belong to
you, but you cannot pluck them without touching both the trunk and the
branches. Therefore you must give your first basketful to your brother
Peppe, as the price of his leave to put your ladder against the tree;
and the second basketful to your brother Alfin, for leave to shake his
boughs. The rest you can keep for yourself.'

And the brothers were contented, and returned home, saying one to the
other, 'We will each of us send a basket of figs to the king. Perhaps
he will give us something in return, and if he does we will divide it
faithfully between us.' So the best figs were carefully packed in a
basket, and Peppe set out with it to the castle.

On the road he met a little old man who stopped and said to him, 'What
have you got there, my fine fellow?'

'What is that to you?' was the answer; 'mind your own business.' But
the old man only repeated his question, and Peppe, to get rid of him,
exclaimed in anger, 'Dirt.'

'Good,' replied the old man; 'dirt you have said, and dirt let it be.'

Peppe only tossed his head and went on his way till he got to the
castle, where he knocked at the door. 'I have a basket of lovely figs
for the king,' he said to the servant who opened it, 'if his majesty
will be graciously pleased to accept them with my humble duty.'

The king loved figs, and ordered Peppe to be admitted to his presence,
and a silver dish to be brought on which to put the figs. When Peppe
uncovered his basket sure enough a layer of beautiful purple figs met
the king's eyes, but underneath there was nothing but dirt. 'How dare
you play me such a trick?' shrieked the king in a rage. 'Take him away,
and give him fifty lashes.' This was done, and Peppe returned home, sore
and angry, but determined to say nothing about his adventure. And when
his brothers asked him what had happened he only answered, 'When we have
all three been I will tell you.'

A few days after this more figs were ready for plucking, and Alfin
in his turn set out for the palace. He had not gone far down the road
before he met the old man, who asked him what he had in his basket.

'Horns,' answered Alfin, shortly.

'Good,' replied the old man; 'horns you have said, and horns let it be.'

When Alfin reached the castle he knocked at the door and said to the
servant: 'Here is a basket of lovely figs, if his majesty will be good
enough to accept them with my humble duty.'

The king commanded that Alfin should be admitted to his presence, and a
silver dish to be brought on which to lay the figs. When the basket
was uncovered some beautiful purple figs lay on the top, but underneath
there was nothing but horns. Then the king was beside himself with
passion, and screamed out, 'Is this a plot to mock me? Take him away,
and give him a hundred and fifty lashes!' So Alfin went sadly home, but
would not tell anything about his adventures, only saying grimly, 'Now
it is Ciccu's turn.'

Ciccu had to wait a little before he gathered the last figs on the tree,
and these were not nearly so good as the first set. However, he plucked
them, as they had agreed, and set out for the king's palace. The old man
was still on the road, and he came up and said to Ciccu, 'What have you
got in that basket?'

'Figs for the king,' answered he.

'Let me have a peep,' and Ciccu lifted the lid. 'Oh, do give me one, I
am so fond of figs,' begged the little man.

'I am afraid if I do that the hole will show,' replied Ciccu, but as he
was very good-natured he gave him one. The old man ate it greedily and
kept the stalk in his hand, and then asked for another and another and
another till he had eaten half the basketful. 'But there are not enough
left to take to the king,' murmured Ciccu.

'Don't be anxious,' said the old man, throwing the stalks back into
the basket; 'just go on and carry the basket to the castle, and it will
bring you luck.'

Ciccu did not much like it; however he went on his way, and with a
trembling heart rang the castle bell. 'Here are some lovely figs for
the king,' said he, 'if his majesty will graciously accept them with my
humble duty.'

When the king was told that there was another man with a basket of figs
he cried out, 'Oh, have him in, have him in! I suppose it is a wager!'
But Ciccu uncovered the basket, and there lay a pile of beautiful ripe
figs. And the king was delighted, and emptied them himself on the silver
dish, and gave five florins to Ciccu, and offered besides to take him
into his service. Ciccu accepted gratefully, but said he must first
return home and give the five florins to his brothers.

When he got home Peppe spoke: 'Now we will see what we each have got
from the king. I myself received from him fifty lashes.'

'And I a hundred and fifty,' added Alfin.

'And I five florins and some sweets, which you can divide between you,
for the king has taken me into his service.' Then Ciccu went back to the
Court and served the king, and the king loved him.

The other two brothers heard that Ciccu had become quite an important
person, and they grew envious, and thought how they could put him to
shame. At last they came to the king and said to him, 'O king! your
palace is beautiful indeed, but to be worthy of you it lacks one
thing--the sword of the Man-eater.'

'How can I get it?' asked the king.

'Oh, Ciccu can get it for you; ask him.'

So the king sent for Ciccu and said to him, 'Ciccu, you must at any
price manage to get the sword of the Man-eater.'

Ciccu was very much surprised at this sudden command, and he walked
thoughtfully away to the stables and began to stroke his favourite
horse, saying to himself, 'Ah, my pet, we must bid each other good-bye,
for the king has sent me away to get the sword of the Maneater.' Now
this horse was not like other horses, for it was a talking horse, and
knew a great deal about many things, so it answered, 'Fear nothing, and
do as I tell you. Beg the king to give you fifty gold pieces and leave
to ride me, and the rest will be easy.' Ciccu believed what the horse
said, and prayed the king to grant him what he asked. Then the two
friends set out, but the horse chose what roads he pleased, and directed
Ciccu in everything.

It took them many days' hard riding before they reached the country
where the Man-eater lived, and then the horse told Ciccu to stop a group
of old women who were coming chattering through the wood, and offer them
each a shilling if they would collect a number of mosquitos and tie
them up in a bag. When the bag was full Ciccu put it on his shoulder
and stole into the house of the Man-eater (who had gone to look for his
dinner) and let them all out in his bedroom. He himself hid carefully
under the bed and waited. The Man-eater came in late, very tired with
his long walk, and flung himself on the bed, placing his sword with its
shining blade by his side. Scarcely had he lain down than the mosquitos
began to buzz about and bite him, and he rolled from side to side trying
to catch them, which he never could do, though they always seemed to
be close to his nose. He was so busy over the mosquitos that he did
not hear Ciccu steal softly out, or see him catch up the sword. But the
horse heard and stood ready at the door, and as Ciccu came flying down
the stairs and jumped on his back he sped away like the wind, and never
stopped till they arrived at the king's palace.

The king had suffered much pain in his absence, thinking that if the
Man-eater ate Ciccu, it would be all his fault. And he was so overjoyed
to have him safe that he almost forgot the sword which he had sent him
to bring. But the two brothers did not love Ciccu any better because
he had succeeded when they hoped he would have failed, and one day they
spoke to the king. 'It is all very well for Ciccu to have got possession
of the sword, but it would have been far more to your majesty's honour
if he had captured the Man-eater himself.' The king thought upon these
words, and at last he said to Ciccu, 'Ciccu, I shall never rest until
you bring me back the Man-eater himself. You may have any help you like,
but somehow or other you must manage to do it.' Ciccu felt very much
cast, down at these words, and went to the stable to ask advice of his
friend the horse. 'Fear nothing,' said the horse; 'just say you want me
and fifty pieces of gold.' Ciccu did as he was bid, and the two set out
together.

When they reached the country of the Man-eater, Ciccu made all the
church bells toll and a proclamation to be made. 'Ciccu, the servant of
the king, is dead.' The Man-eater soon heard what everyone was saying,
and was glad in his heart, for he thought, 'Well, it is good news that
the thief who stole my sword is dead.' But Ciccu bought an axe and a
saw, and cut down a pine tree in the nearest wood, and began to hew it
into planks.

'What are you doing in my wood?' asked the Maneater, coming up.


'Noble lord,' answered Ciccu, 'I am making a coffin for the body of
Ciccu, who is dead.'

'Don't be in a hurry,' answered the Man-eater, who of course did not
know whom he was talking to, 'and perhaps I can help you;' and they set
to work sawing and fitting, and very soon the coffin was finished.

Then Ciccu scratched his ear thoughtfully, and cried, 'Idiot that I am!
I never took any measures. How am I to know if it is big enough? But now
I come to think of it, Ciccu was about your size. I wonder if you would
be so good as just to put yourself in the coffin, and see if there is
enough room.'

'Oh, delighted!' said the Man-eater, and laid himself at full length in
the coffin. Ciccu clapped on the lid, put a strong cord round it, tied
it fast on his horse, and rode back to the king. And when the king saw
that he really had brought back the Man-eater, he commanded a huge iron
chest to be brought, and locked the coffin up inside.

Just about this time the queen died, and soon after the king thought he
should like to marry again. He sought everywhere, but he could not hear
of any princess that took his fancy. Then the two envious brothers came
to him and said, 'O king! there is but one woman that is worthy of being
your wife, and that is she who is the fairest in the whole world.'

'But where can I find her?' asked the king

'Oh, Ciccu will know, and he will bring her to you.'

Now the king had got so used to depending on Ciccu, that he really
believed he could do everything. So he sent for him and said, 'Ciccu,
unless within eight days you bring me the fairest in the whole world, I
will have you hewn into a thousand pieces.' This mission seemed to Ciccu
a hundred times worse than either of the others, and with tears in his
eyes he took his way to the stables.

'Cheer up,' laughed the horse; 'tell the king you must have some bread
and honey, and a purse of gold, and leave the rest to me.'

Ciccu did as he was bid, and they started at a gallop.

After they had ridden some way, they saw a swarm of bees lying on the
ground, so hungry and weak that they were unable to fly. 'Get down, and
give the poor things some honey,' said the horse, and Ciccu dismounted.
By-and-bye they came to a stream, on the bank of which was a fish,
flapping feebly about in its efforts to reach the water. 'Jump down, and
throw the fish into the water; he will be useful to us,' and Ciccu did
so. Farther along the hillside they saw an eagle whose leg was caught
in a snare. 'Go and free that eagle from the snare; he will be useful to
us; ' and in a moment the eagle was soaring up into the sky.

At length they came to the castle where the fairest in the world lived
with her parents. Then said the horse, 'You must get down and sit upon
that stone, for I must enter the castle alone. Directly you see me come
tearing by with the princess on my back, jump up behind, and hold her
tight, so that she does not escape you. If you fail to do this, we are
both lost.' Ciccu seated himself on the stone, and the horse went on to
the courtyard of the castle, where he began to trot round in a graceful
and elegant manner. Soon a crowd collected first to watch him and then
to pat him, and the king and queen and princess came with the rest.
The eyes of the fairest in the world brightened as she looked, and she
sprang on the horse's saddle, crying, 'Oh, I really must ride him a
little!' But the horse made one bound forward, and the princess was
forced to hold tight by his mane, lest she should fall off. And as they
dashed past the stone where Ciccu was waiting for them, he swung himself
up and held her round the waist. As he put his arms round her waist, the
fairest in the world unwound the veil from her head and cast it to the
ground, and then she drew a ring from her finger and flung it into the
stream. But she said nothing, and they rode on fast, fast.

The king of Ciccu's country was watching for them from the top of a
tower, and when he saw in the distance a cloud of dust, he ran down
to the steps so as to be ready to receive them. Bowing low before the
fairest in the world, he spoke: 'Noble lady, will you do me the honour
to become my wife?'

But she answered, 'That can only be when Ciccu brings me the veil that I
let fall on my way here.'

And the king turned to Ciccu and said, 'Ciccu, if you do not find the
veil at once, you shall lose your head.'

Ciccu, who by this time had hoped for a little peace, felt his heart
sink at this fresh errand, and he went into the stable to complain to
the faithful horse.

'It will be all right,' answered the horse when he had heard his tale;
'just take enough food for the day for both of us, and then get on my
back.'

They rode back all the way they had come till they reached the place
where they had found the eagle caught in the snare; then the horse bade
Ciccu to call three times on the king of the birds, and when he replied,
to beg him to fetch the veil which the fairest in the world had let
fall.

'Wait a moment,' answered a voice that seemed to come from somewhere
very high up indeed. 'An eagle is playing with it just now, but he will
be here with it in an instant;' and a few minutes after there was a
sound of wings, and an eagle came fluttering towards them with the veil
in his beak. And Ciccu saw it was the very same eagle that he had freed
from the snare. So he took the veil and rode back to the king.

Now the king was enchanted to see him so soon, and took the veil from
Ciccu and flung it over the princess, crying, 'Here is the veil you
asked for, so I claim you for my wife.'

'Not so fast,' answered she. 'I can never be your wife till Ciccu puts
on my finger the ring I threw into the stream. Ciccu, who was standing
by expecting something of the sort, bowed his head when he heard her
words, and went straight to the horse.

'Mount at once,' said the horse; 'this time it is very simple,' and he
carried Ciccu to the banks of the little stream. 'Now, call three times
on the emperor of the fishes, and beg him to restore you the ring that
the princess dropped.

Ciccu did as the horse told him, and a voice was heard in answer that
seemed to come from a very long way off.

'What is your will?' it asked; and Ciccu replied that he had been
commanded to bring back the ring that the princess had flung away, as
she rode past.

'A fish is playing with it just now,' replied the voice; 'however, you
shall have it without delay.'

And sure enough, very soon a little fish was seen rising to the surface
with the lost ring in his mouth. And Ciccu knew him to be the fish that
he had saved from death, and he took the ring and rode back with it to
the king.

'That is not enough,' exclaimed the princess when she saw the ring;
'before we can be man and wife, the oven must be heated for three days
and three nights, and Ciccu must jump in.' And the king forgot how Ciccu
had served him, and desired him to do as the princess had said.

This time Ciccu felt that no escape was possible, and he went to the
horse and laid his hand on his neck. 'Now it is indeed good-bye, and
there is no help to be got even from you,' and he told him what fate
awaited him.

But the horse said, 'Oh, never lose heart, but jump on my back, and make
me go till the foam flies in flecks all about me. Then get down, and
scrape off the foam with a knife. This you must rub all over you, and
when you are quite covered, you may suffer yourself to be cast into the
oven, for the fire will not hurt you, nor anything else.' And Ciccu did
exactly as the horse bade him, and went back to the king, and before the
eyes of the fairest in the world he sprang into the oven.

And when the fairest in the world saw what he had done, love entered
into her heart, and she said to the king, 'One thing more: before I can
be your wife, you must jump into the oven as Ciccu has done.'

'Willingly,' replied the king, stooping over the oven. But on the brink
he paused a moment and called to Ciccu, 'Tell me, Ciccu, how did you
manage to prevent the fire burning you?'

Now Ciccu could not forgive his master, whom he had served so
faithfully, for sending him to his death without a thought, so he
answered, 'I rubbed myself over with fat, and I am not even singed.'

When he heard these words, the king, whose head was full of the
princess, never stopped to inquire if they could be true, and smeared
himself over with fat, and sprang into the oven. And in a moment the
fire caught him, and he was burned up.

Then the fairest in the world held out her hand to Ciccu and smiled,
saying, 'Now we will be man and wife.' So Ciccu married the fairest in
the world, and became king of the country.





Next: Don Giovanni De La Fortuna

Previous: The Sparrow With The Slit Tongue



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