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

goat-faced girl!'

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.