The Story Of Ciccu

: 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 t
e 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


'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


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


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


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


'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.