: The Grey Fairy Book
There lived, once upon a time, in the land of Marigliano, a poor
woman called Masella, who had six pretty daughters, all as
upright as young fir-trees, and an only son called Antonio, who
was so simple as to be almost an idiot. Hardly a day passed
without his mother saying to him, ‘What are you doing, you
useless creature? If you weren't too stupid to look after
yourself, I would order you to leave the house and neve
me see your face again.'
Every day the youth committed some fresh piece of folly, till at
last Masella, losing all patience, gave him a good beating, which
so startled Antonio that he took to his heels and never stopped
running till it was dark and the stars were shining in the
heavens. He wandered on for some time, not knowing where to go,
and at last he came to a cave, at the mouth of which sat an ogre,
uglier than anything you can conceive.
He had a huge head and wrinkled brow--eyebrows that met,
squinting eyes, a flat broad nose, and a great gash of a mouth
from which two huge tusks stuck out. His skin was hairy, his arms
enormous, his legs like sword blades, and his feet as flat as
ducks'. In short, he was the most hideous and laughable object in
But Antonio, who, with all his faults, was no coward, and was
moreover a very civil-spoken lad, took off his hat, and said:
‘Good-day, sir; I hope you are pretty well. Could you kindly tell
me how far it is from here to the place where I wish to go?'
When the ogre heard this extraordinary question he burst out
laughing, and as he liked the youth's polite manners he said to
him: ‘Will you enter my service?'
‘What wages do you give?' replied Antonio.
‘If you serve me faithfully,' returned the ogre, ‘I'll be bound
you'll get enough wages to satisfy you.'
So the bargain was struck, and Antonio agreed to become the
ogre's servant. He was very well treated, in every way, and he
had little or no work to do, with the result that in a few days
he became as fat as a quail, as round as a barrel, as red as a
lobster, and as impudent as a bantam-cock.
But, after two years, the lad got weary of this idle life, and
longed desperately to visit his home again. The ogre, who could
see into his heart and knew how unhappy he was, said to him one
day: ‘My dear Antonio, I know how much you long to see your
mother and sisters again, and because I love you as the apple of
my eye, I am willing to allow you to go home for a visit.
Therefore, take this donkey, so that you may not have to go on
foot; but see that you never say "Bricklebrit" to him, for if you
do you'll be sure to regret it.'
Antonio took the beast without as much as saying thank you, and
jumping on its back he rode away in great haste; but he hadn't
gone two hundred yards when he dismounted and called out
No sooner had he pronounced the word than the donkey opened its
mouth and poured forth rubies, emeralds, diamonds and pearls, as
big as walnuts.
Antonio gazed in amazement at the sight of such wealth, and
joyfully filling a huge sack with the precious stones, he mounted
the donkey again and rode on till he came to an inn. Here he got
down, and going straight to the landlord, he said to him: ‘My
good man, I must ask you to stable this donkey for me. Be sure
you give the poor beast plenty of oats and hay, but beware of
saying the word "Bricklebrit" to him, for if you do I can promise
you will regret it. Take this heavy sack, too, and put it
carefully away for me.'
The landlord, who was no fool, on receiving this strange warning,
and seeing the precious stones sparkling through the canvas of
the sack, was most anxious to see what would happen if he used
the forbidden word. So he gave Antonio an excellent dinner, with
a bottle of fine old wine, and prepared a comfortable bed for
him. As soon as he saw the poor simpleton close his eyes and had
heard his lusty snores, he hurried to the stables and said to the
donkey ‘Bricklebrit,' and the animal as usual poured out any
number of precious stones.
When the landlord saw all these treasures he longed to get
possession of so valuable an animal, and determined to steal the
donkey from his foolish guest. As soon as it was light next
morning Antonio awoke, and having rubbed his eyes and stretched
himself about a hundred times he called the landlord and said to
him: ‘Come here, my friend, and produce your bill, for short
reckonings make long friends.'
When Antonio had paid his account he went to the stables and took
out his donkey, as he thought, and fastening a sack of gravel,
which the landlord had substituted for his precious stones, on
the creature's back, he set out for his home.
No sooner had he arrived there than he called out: ‘Mother, come
quickly, and bring table-cloths and sheets with you, and spread
them out on the ground, and you will soon see what wonderful
treasures I have brought you.'
His mother hurried into the house, and opening the linen-chest
where she kept her daughters' wedding outfits, she took out
table-cloths and sheets made of the finest linen, and spread them
flat and smooth on the ground. Antonio placed the donkey on them,
and called out ‘Bricklebrit.' But this time he met with no
success, for the donkey took no more notice of the magic word
than he would have done if a lyre had been twanged in his ear.
Two, three, and four times did Antonio pronounce ‘Bricklebrit,'
but all in vain, and he might as well have spoken to the wind.
Disgusted and furious with the poor creature, he seized a thick
stick and began to beat it so hard that he nearly broke every
bone in its body. The miserable donkey was so distracted at such
treatment that, far from pouring out precious stones, it only
tore and dirtied all the fine linen.
When poor Masella saw her table-cloths and sheets being
destroyed, and that instead of becoming rich she had only been
made a fool of, she seized another stick and belaboured Antonio
so unmercifully with it, that he fled before her, and never
stopped till he reached the ogre's cave.
When his master saw the lad returning in such a sorry plight, he
understood at once what had happened to him, and making no bones
about the matter, he told Antonio what a fool he had been to
allow himself to be so imposed upon by the landlord, and to let a
worthless animal be palmed off on him instead of his magic
Antonio listened humbly to the ogre's words, and vowed solemnly
that he would never act so foolishly again. And so a year passed,
and once more Antonio was overcome by a fit of home-sickness, and
felt a great longing to see his own people again.
Now the ogre, although he was so hideous to look upon, had a very
kind heart, and when he saw how restless and unhappy Antonio was,
he at once gave him leave to go home on a visit. At parting he
gave him a beautiful table-cloth, and said: ‘Give this to your
mother; but see that you don't lose it as you lost the donkey,
and till you are safely in your own house beware of saying
"Table-cloth, open," and "Table-cloth, shut." If you do, the
misfortune be on your own head, for I have given you fair
Antonio set out on his journey, but hardly had he got out of
sight of the cave than he laid the table-cloth on the ground and
said, ‘Table-cloth, open.' In an instant the table-cloth unfolded
itself and disclosed a whole mass of precious stones and other
When Antonio perceived this he said, ‘Table-cloth, shut,' and
continued his journey. He came to the same inn again, and calling
the landlord to him, he told him to put the table-cloth carefully
away, and whatever he did not to say ‘Table-cloth, open,' or
‘Table-cloth, shut,' to it.
The landlord, who was a regular rogue, answered, ‘Just leave it
to me, I will look after it as if it were my own.'
After he had given Antonio plenty to eat and drink, and had
provided him with a comfortable bed, he went straight to the
table-cloth and said, ‘Table-cloth, open.' It opened at once, and
displayed such costly treasures that the landlord made up his
mind on the spot to steal it.
When Antonio awoke next morning, the host handed him over a
table-cloth exactly like his own, and carrying it carefully over
his arm, the foolish youth went straight to his mother's house,
and said: ‘Now we shall be rich beyond the dreams of avarice, and
need never go about in rags again, or lack the best of food.'
With these words he spread the table-cloth on the ground and
said, ‘Table-cloth, open.'
But he might repeat the injunction as often as he pleased, it was
only waste of breath, for nothing happened. When Antonio saw this
he turned to his mother and said: ‘That old scoundrel of a
landlord has done me once more; but he will live to repent it,
for if I ever enter his inn again, I will make him suffer for the
loss of my donkey and the other treasures he has robbed me of.'
Masella was in such a rage over her fresh disappointment that she
could not restrain her impatience, and, turning on Antonio, she
abused him soundly, and told him to get out of her sight at once,
for she would never acknowledge him as a son of hers again. The
poor boy was very depressed by her words, and slunk back to his
master like a dog with his tail between his legs. When the ogre
saw him, he guessed at once what had happened. He gave Antonio a
good scolding, and said, ‘I don't know what prevents me smashing
your head in, you useless ne'er-do-well! You blurt everything
out, and your long tongue never ceases wagging for a moment. If
you had remained silent in the inn this misfortune would never
have overtaken you, so you have only yourself to blame for your
Antonio listened to his master's words in silence, looking for
all the world like a whipped dog. When he had been three more
years in the ogre's service he had another bad fit of
home-sickness, and longed very much to see his mother and sisters
So he asked for permission to go home on a visit, and it was at
once granted to him. Before he set out on his journey the ogre
presented him with a beautifully carved stick and said, ‘Take
this stick as a remembrance of me; but beware of saying, "Rise
up, Stick," and "Lie down, Stick," for if you do, I can only say
I wouldn't be in your shoes for something.'
Antonio took the stick and said, ‘Don't be in the least alarmed,
I'm not such a fool as you think, and know better than most
people what two and two make.'
‘I'm glad to hear it,' replied the ogre, ‘but words are women,
deeds are men. You have heard what I said, and forewarned is
This time Antonio thanked his master warmly for all his kindness,
and started on his homeward journey in great spirits; but he had
not gone half a mile when he said ‘Rise up, Stick.'
The words were hardly out of his mouth when the stick rose and
began to rain down blows on poor Antonio's back with such
lightning-like rapidity that he had hardly strength to call out,
‘Lie down, Stick;' but as soon as he uttered the words the stick
lay down, and ceased beating his back black and blue.
Although he had learnt a lesson at some cost to himself, Antonio
was full of joy, for he saw a way now of revenging himself on the
wicked landlord. Once more he arrived at the inn, and was
received in the most friendly and hospitable manner by his host.
Antonio greeted him cordially, and said: ‘My friend, will you
kindly take care of this stick for me? But, whatever you do,
don't say "Rise up, Stick." If you do, you will be sorry for it,
and you needn't expect any sympathy from me.'
The landlord, thinking he was coming in for a third piece of good
fortune, gave Antonio an excellent supper; and after he had seen
him comfortably to bed, he ran to the stick, and calling to his
wife to come and see the fun, he lost no time in pronouncing the
words ‘Rise up, Stick.'
The moment he spoke the stick jumped up and beat the landlord so
unmercifully that he and his wife ran screaming to Antonio, and,
waking him up, pleaded for mercy.
When Antonio saw how successful his trick had been, he said: ‘I
refuse to help you, unless you give me all that you have stolen
from me, otherwise you will be beaten to death.'
The landlord, who felt himself at death's door already, cried
out: ‘Take back your property, only release me from this terrible
stick;' and with these words he ordered the donkey, the
table-cloth, and other treasures to be restored to their rightful
As soon as Antonio had recovered his belongings he said ‘Stick,
lie down,' and it stopped beating the landlord at once.
Then he took his donkey and table-cloth and arrived safely at his
home with them. This time the magic words had the desired effect,
and the donkey and table-cloth provided the family with treasures
untold. Antonio very soon married off his sister, made his mother
rich for life, and they all lived happily for ever after.