The Simpleton

: The Grey Fairy Book

There lived, once upon a time, a man who was as rich as he could

be; but as no happiness in this world is ever quite complete, he

had an only son who was such a simpleton that he could barely add

two and two together. At last his father determined to put up

with his stupidity no longer, and giving him a purse full of

gold, he sent him off to seek his fortune in foreign lands,

mindful of the adage:

r /> How much a fool that's sent to roam

Excels a fool that stays at home.

Moscione, for this was the youth's name, mounted a horse, and set

out for Venice, hoping to find a ship there that would take him

to Cairo. After he had ridden for some time he saw a man standing

at the foot of a poplar tree, and said to him: ‘What's your name,

my friend; where do you come from, and what can you do?'

The man replied, ‘My name is Quick-as-Thought, I come from

Fleet-town, and I can run like lightning.'

‘I should like to see you,' returned Moscione.

‘Just wait a minute, then,' said Quick-as-Thought, ‘and I will

soon show you that I am speaking the truth.'

The words were hardly out of his mouth when a young doe ran right

across the field they were standing in.

Quick-as-Thought let her run on a short distance, in order to

give her a start, and then pursued her so quickly and so lightly

that you could not have tracked his footsteps if the field had

been strewn with flour. In a very few springs he had overtaken

the doe, and had so impressed Moscione with his fleetness of foot

that he begged Quick-as-Thought to go with him, promising at the

same time to reward him handsomely.

Quick-as-Thought agreed to his proposal, and they continued on

their journey together. They had hardly gone a mile when they met

a young man, and Moscione stopped and asked him: ‘What's your

name, my friend; where do you come from, and what can you do?'

The man thus addressed answered promptly, ‘I am called

Hare's-ear, I come from Curiosity Valley, and if I lay my ear on

the ground, without moving from the spot, I can hear everything

that goes on in the world, the plots and intrigues of court and

cottage, and all the plans of mice and men.'

‘If that's the case,' replied Moscione, ‘just tell me what's

going on in my own home at present.'

The youth laid his ear to the ground and at once reported: ‘An

old man is saying to his wife, "Heaven be praised that we have

got rid of Moscione, for perhaps, when he has been out in the

world a little, he may gain some common sense, and return home

less of a fool than when he set out."'

‘Enough, enough,' cried Moscione. ‘You speak the truth, and I

believe you. Come with us, and your fortune's made.'

The young man consented; and after they had gone about ten miles,

they met a third man, to whom Moscione said: ‘What's your name,

my brave fellow; where were you born, and what can you do?'

The man replied, ‘I am called Hit-the-Point, I come from the city

of Perfect-aim, and I draw my bow so exactly that I can shoot a

pea off a stone.'

‘I should like to see you do it, if you've no objection,' said


The man at once placed a pea on a stone, and, drawing his bow, he

shot it in the middle with the greatest possible ease.

When Moscione saw that he had spoken the truth, he immediately

asked Hit-the-Point to join his party.

After they had all travelled together for some days, they came

upon a number of people who were digging a trench in the blazing


Moscione felt so sorry for them, that he said: ‘My dear friends,

how can you endure working so hard in heat that would cook an egg

in a minute?'

But one of the workmen answered: ‘We are as fresh as daisies, for

we have a young man among us who blows on our backs like the west


‘Let me see him,' said Moscione.

The youth was called, and Moscione asked him: ‘What's your name;

where do you come from, and what can you do?'

He answered: ‘I am called Blow-Blast, I come from Wind-town, and

with my mouth I can make any winds you please. If you wish a west

wind I can raise it for you in a second, but if you prefer a

north wind I can blow these houses down before your eyes.'

‘Seeing is believing,' returned the cautious Moscione.

Blow-Blast at once began to convince him of the truth of his

assertion. First he blew so softly that it seemed like the gentle

breeze at evening, and then he turned round and raised such a

mighty storm, that he blew down a whole row of oak trees.

When Moscione saw this he was delighted, and begged Blow-Blast to

join his company. And as they went on their way they met another

man, whom Moscione addressed as usual: ‘What's your name: where

do you come from, and what can you do?'

‘I am called Strong-Back; I come from Power-borough, and I

possess such strength that I can take a mountain on my back, and

it seems a feather to me.'

‘If that's the case,' said Moscione, ‘you are a clever fellow;

but I should like some proof of your strength.'

Then Strong-Back loaded himself with great boulders of rock and

trunks of trees, so that a hundred waggons could not have taken

away all that he carried on his back.

When Moscione saw this he prevailed on Strong-Back to join his

troop, and they all continued their journey till they came to a

country called Flower Vale. Here there reigned a king whose only

daughter ran as quickly as the wind, and so lightly that she

could run over a field of young oats without bending a single

blade. The king had given out a proclamation that anyone who

could beat the princess in a race should have her for a wife, but

that all who failed in the competition should lose their head.

As soon as Moscione heard of the Royal Proclamation, he hastened

to the king and challenged the princess to race with him. But on

the morning appointed for the trial he sent word to the king that

he was not feeling well, and that as he could not run himself he

would supply someone to take his place.

‘It's just the same to me,' said Canetella, the princess; ‘let

anyone come forward that likes, I am quite prepared to meet him.'

At the time appointed for the race the whole place was crowded

with people anxious to see the contest, and, punctual to the

moment, Quick-as-Thought, and Canetella dressed in a short skirt

and very lightly shod, appeared at the starting-point.

Then a silver trumpet sounded, and the two rivals started on

their race, looking for all the world like a greyhound chasing a


But Quick-as-Thought, true to his name, outran the princess, and

when the goal was reached the people all clapped their hands and

shouted, ‘Long live the stranger!'

Canetella was much depressed by her defeat; but, as the race had

to be run a second time, she determined she would not be beaten

again. Accordingly she went home and sent Quick-as-Thought a

magic ring, which prevented the person who wore it, not only from

running, but even from walking, and begged that he would wear it

for her sake.

Early next morning the crowd assembled on the race-course, and

Canetella and Quick as-Thought began their trial afresh. The

princess ran as quickly as ever, but poor Quick-as-Thought was

like an overloaded donkey, and could not go a step.

Then Hit-the-Point, who had heard all about the princess's

deception from Hare's-ear, when he saw the danger his friend was

in, seized his bow and arrow and shot the stone out of the ring

Quick-as-Thought was wearing. In a moment the youth's legs became

free again, and in five bounds he had overtaken Canetella and won

the race.

The king was much disgusted when he saw that he must acknowledge

Moscione as his future son-in-law, and summoned the wise men of

his court to ask if there was no way out of the difficulty. The

council at once decided that Canetella was far too dainty a

morsel for the mouth of such a travelling tinker, and advised the

king to offer Moscione a present of gold, which no doubt a beggar

like him would prefer to all the wives in the world.

The king was delighted at this suggestion, and calling Moscione

before him, he asked him what sum of money he would take instead

of his promised bride.

Moscione first consulted with his friends, and then answered: ‘I

demand as much gold and precious stones as my followers can carry


The king thought he was being let off very easily, and produced

coffers of gold, sacks of silver, and chests of precious stones;

but the more Strong-Back was loaded with the treasure the

straighter he stood.

At last the treasury was quite exhausted, and the king had to

send his courtiers to his subjects to collect all the gold and

silver they possessed. But nothing was of any avail, and

Strong-Back only asked for more.

When the king's counsellors saw the unexpected result of their

advice, they said it would be more than foolish to let some

strolling thieves take so much treasure out of the country, and

urged the king to send a troop of soldiers after them, to recover

the gold and precious stones.

So the king sent a body of armed men on foot and horse, to take

back the treasure Strong-Back was carrying away with him.

But Hare's-ear, who had heard what the counsellors had advised

the king, told his companions just as the dust of their pursuers

was visible on the horizon.

No sooner had Blow-Blast taken in their danger than he raised

such a mighty wind that all the king's army was blown down like

so many nine-pins, and as they were quite unable to get up again,

Moscione and. his companions proceeded on their way without

further let or hindrance.

As soon as they reached his home, Moscione divided his spoil with

his companions, at which they were much delighted. He, himself,

stayed with his father, who was obliged at last to acknowledge

that his son was not quite such a fool as he looked.