The Goat-faced Girl
: The Grey Fairy Book
There was once upon a time a peasant called Masaniello who had
twelve daughters. They were exactly like the steps of a
staircase, for there was just a year between each sister. It was
all the poor man could do to bring up such a large family, and in
order to provide food for them he used to dig in the fields all
day long. In spite of his hard work he only just succeeded in
keeping the wolf from the door, and the poor l
ttle girls often
went hungry to bed.
One day, when Masaniello was working at the foot of a high
mountain, he came upon the mouth of a cave which was so dark and
gloomy that even the sun seemed afraid to enter it. Suddenly a
huge green lizard appeared from the inside and stood before
Masaniello, who nearly went out of his mind with terror, for the
beast was as big as a crocodile and quite as fierce looking.
But the lizard sat down beside him in the most friendly manner,
and said: ‘Don't be afraid, my good man, I am not going to hurt
you; on the contrary, I am most anxious to help you.'
When the peasant heard these words he knelt before the lizard and
said: ‘Dear lady, for I know not what to call you, I am in your
power; but I beg of you to be merciful, for I have twelve
wretched little daughters at home who are dependent on me.'
‘That's the very reason why I have come to you,' replied the
lizard. ‘Bring me your youngest daughter to-morrow morning. I
promise to bring her up as if she were my own child, and to look
upon her as the apple of my eye.'
When Masaniello heard her words he was very unhappy, because he
felt sure, from the lizard's wanting one of his daughters, the
youngest and tenderest too, that the poor little girl would only
serve as dessert for the terrible creature's supper. At the same
time he said to himself, ‘If I refuse her request, she will
certainly eat me up on the spot. If I give her what she asks she
does indeed take part of myself, but if I refuse she will take
the whole of me. What am I to do, and how in the world am I to
get out of the difficulty?'
As he kept muttering to himself the lizard said, ‘Make up your
mind to do as I tell you at once. I desire to have your youngest
daughter, and if you won't comply with my wish, I can only say it
will be the worse for you.'
Seeing that there was nothing else to be done, Masaniello set off
for his home, and arrived there looking so white and wretched
that his wife asked him at once: ‘What has happened to you, my
dear husband? Have you quarrelled with anyone, or has the poor
donkey fallen down?'
‘Neither the one nor the other,' answered her husband,' but
something far worse than either. A terrible lizard has nearly
frightened me out of my senses, for she threatened that if I did
not give her our youngest daughter, she would make me repent it.
My head is going round like a mill-wheel, and I don't know what
to do. I am indeed between the Devil and the Deep Sea. You know
how dearly I love Renzolla, and yet, if I fail to bring her to
the lizard to-morrow morning, I must say farewell to life. Do
advise me what to do.'
When his wife had heard all he had to say, she said to him: ‘How
do you know, my dear husband, that the lizard is really our
enemy? May she not be a friend in disguise? And your meeting with
her may be the beginning of better things and the end of all our
misery. Therefore go and take the child to her, for my heart
tells me that you will never repent doing so.'
Masaniello was much comforted by her words, and next morning as
soon as it was light he took his little daughter by the hand and
led her to the cave.
The lizard, who was awaiting the peasant's arrival, came forward
to meet him, and taking the girl by the hand, she gave the father
a sack full of gold, and said: ‘Go and marry your other
daughters, and give them dowries with this gold, and be of good
cheer, for Renzolla will have both father and mother in me; it is
a great piece of luck for her that she has fallen into my hands.'
Masaniello, quite overcome with gratitude, thanked the lizard,
and returned home to his wife.
As soon as it was known how rich the peasant had become, suitors
for the hands of his daughters were not wanting, and very soon he
married them all off; and even then there was enough gold left to
keep himself and his wife in comfort and plenty all their days.
As soon as the lizard was left alone with Renzolla, she changed
the cave into a beautiful palace, and led the girl inside. Here
she brought her up like a little princess, and the child wanted
for nothing. She gave her sumptuous food to eat, beautiful
clothes to wear, and a thousand servants to wait on her.
Now, it happened, one day, that the king of the country was
hunting in a wood close to the palace, and was overtaken by the
dark. Seeing a light shining in the palace he sent one of his
servants to ask if he could get a night's lodging there.
When the page knocked at the door the lizard changed herself into
a beautiful woman, and opened it herself. When she heard the
king's request she sent him a message to say that she would be
delighted to see him, and give him all he wanted.
The king, on hearing this kind invitation, instantly betook
himself to the palace, where he was received in the most
hospitable manner. A hundred pages with torches came to meet him,
a hundred more waited on him at table, and another hundred waved
big fans in the air to keep the flies from him. Renzolla herself
poured out the wine for him, and, so gracefully did she do it,
that his Majesty could not take his eyes off her.
When the meal was finished and the table cleared, the king
retired to sleep, and Renzolla drew the shoes from his feet, at
the same time drawing his heart from his breast. So desperately
had he fallen in love with her, that he called the fairy to him,
and asked her for Renzolla's hand in marriage. As the kind fairy
had only the girl's welfare at heart, she willingly gave her
consent, and not her consent only, but a wedding portion of seven
thousand golden guineas.
The king, full of delight over his good fortune, prepared to take
his departure, accompanied by Renzolla, who never so much as
thanked the fairy for all she had done for her. When the fairy
saw such a base want of gratitude she determined to punish the
girl, and, cursing her, she turned her face into a goat's head.
In a moment Renzolla's pretty mouth stretched out into a snout,
with a beard a yard long at the end of it, her cheeks sank in,
and her shining plaits of hair changed into two sharp horns. When
the king turned round and saw her he thought he must have taken
leave of his senses. He burst into tears, and cried out: ‘Where
is the hair that bound me so tightly, where are the eyes that
pierced through my heart, and where are the lips I kissed? Am I
to be tied to a goat all my life? No, no! nothing will induce me
to become the laughing-stock of my subjects for the sake of a
When they reached his own country he shut Renzolla up in a little
turret chamber of his palace, with a waiting-maid, and gave each
of them ten bundles of flax to spin, telling them that their task
must be finished by the end of the week.
The maid, obedient to the king's commands, set at once to work
and combed out the flax, wound it round the spindle, and sat
spinning at her wheel so diligently that her work was quite done
by Saturday evening. But Renzolla, who had been spoilt and petted
in the fairy's house, and was quite unaware of the change that
had taken place in her appearance, threw the flax out of the
window and said: ‘What is the king thinking of that he should
give me this work to do? If he wants shirts he can buy them. It
isn't even as if he had picked me out of the gutter, for he ought
to remember that I brought him seven thousand golden guineas as
my wedding portion, and that I am his wife and not his slave. He
must be mad to treat me like this.'
All the same, when Saturday evening came, and she saw that the
waiting-maid had finished her task, she took fright lest she
should be punished for her idleness. So she hurried off to the
palace of the fairy, and confided all her woes to her. The fairy
embraced her tenderly, and gave her a sack full of spun flax, in
order that she might show it to the king, and let him see what a
good worker she was. Renzolla took the sack without one word of
thanks, and returned to the palace, leaving the kind fairy very
indignant over her want of gratitude.
When the king saw the flax all spun, he gave Renzolla and the
waiting-maid each a little dog, and told them to look after the
animals and train them carefully.
The waiting-maid brought hers up with the greatest possible care,
and treated it almost as if it were her son. But Renzolla said:
‘I don't know what to think. Have I come among a lot of lunatics?
Does the king imagine that I am going to comb and feed a dog with
my own hands?' With these words she opened the window and threw
the poor little beast out, and he fell on the ground as dead as a
When a few months had passed the king sent a message to say he
would like to see how the dogs were getting on. Renzolla, who
felt very uncomfortable in her mind at this request, hurried off
once more to the fairy. This time she found an old man at the
door of the fairy's palace, who said to her: ‘Who are you, and
what do you want?'
When Renzolla heard his question she answered angrily: ‘Don't you
know me, old Goat-beard? And how dare you address me in such a
‘The pot can't call the kettle black,' answered the old man, ‘for
it is not I, but you who have a goat's head. Just wait a moment,
you ungrateful wretch, and I will show you to what a pass your
want of gratitude has brought you.'
With these words he hurried away, and returned with a mirror,
which he held up before Renzolla. At the sight of her ugly, hairy
face, the girl nearly fainted with horror, and she broke into
loud sobs at seeing her countenance so changed.
Then the old man said: ‘You must remember, Renzolla, that you are
a peasant's daughter, and that the fairy turned you into a queen;
but you were ungrateful, and never as much as thanked her for all
she had done for you. Therefore she has determined to punish you.
But if you wish to lose your long white beard, throw yourself at
the fairy's feet and implore her to forgive you. She has a tender
heart, and will, perhaps, take pity on you.'
Renzolla, who was really sorry for her conduct, took the old
man's advice, and the fairy not only gave her back her former
face, but she dressed her in a gold embroidered dress, presented
her with a beautiful carriage, and brought her back, accompanied
by a host of servants, to her husband. When the king saw her
looking as beautiful as ever, he fell in love with her once more,
and bitterly repented having caused her so much suffering.
So Renzolla lived happily ever afterwards, for she loved her
husband, honoured the fairy, and was grateful to the old man for
having told her the truth.