Note: Contains violence. Once upon a time in Calabria, a province of Italy, there lived “ a man named Serafino, and his daughter, Luisa.” The girl’s mother had recently died, but before she did, she begged Serafino that if he ever married again, it would be to “a lady who can wear her wedding ring.” Her husband made her this promise, and she closed her eyes and went to heaven. Luisa and her father lived in sorrow, but the years passed by. One day, the idea struck Louisa that she would take out the golden ring which her mother had left her, and try it on. To her dismay, the ring, which had slid easily over her finger going on, was now stuck fast! Try as she might, it would not come off her finger. Luisa is afraid. What will her father say if he sees it? That night at suppertime he questions his daughter: Why has she bound a rag over her hand? Has she burned her fingers? He demands to know. Luisa must now unwrap her finger from the cloth, and with a trembling hand she does so. What is this! Her father sees that upon her finger is the wedding band worn by his dear departed wife. It fits Luisa perfectly,and an evil idea takes shape in Serafino’s mind. She is the one he will marry! Her finger fits the ring, and this is all the sign he needs. His daughter flees, and takes comfort from her nurse-maid, her “mamma di latte”. The good woman counsels her to demand “from her father a dress of gold lined with rabbit skins, which shall leave behind it a trail of gold. Serafino, in quest of such a dress, meets a handsome youth, really the devil (la tentazione) who mounts him on a horse, and conducts him at a bound to a shop where he finds the very thing.” He brings this dress to Luisa, but the girl says it is not enough. Now she must have a dress “with sun, moon, and stars of gold all round it.” La tentazione aids Serafino once again, and by nightfall he has procured the dress. Luisa accepts it, and begs to show it to her mamma di latte who naturally adivises her to ask for another gown. This time the girl tells her father that she must have “a third dress, the colour of the sea, with golden fishes all round.” The devil himself overhears this description, and hand delivers the dress to her father within the hour. Luisa is in despair. How can she stave off her father’s unnatural demand? Her nurse-maid advises her to beg of her father “a cage, in which she can shut herself and not be recognized.” He gives this to her, and she tells her papa that he should go along to church and she will meet him there shortly. Instead, as soon as Serafino has ridden away, Luisa puts on her reversible dress of of gold cloth and rabbit skins, rabbit side out. Now she climbs into her cage. It is a flying cage, and she rides it to the palace of the king. There, all is a bustle, as the betrothal between the king’s son and his bride-to-be will take place that night at a ball. There is plenty of extra work to be done, and Luisa is given the task of poultry herd. That evening, with no one watching but the ducks and geese, she turns the dress to the golden side and sneaks into the ball. No one can recognize the beautiful stranger in the golden dress, and the prince cannot take his eyes off of her. Leaving his betrothed on the sidelines, he dances only with Luisa. As they eat dinner, he slips a jewel into Luisa’s lap, a multifaceted stone meant for his bride. When she slips away later that evening,the prince questions his sentinels. They cannot tell him where she has gone, and he commands them, on pain of death, to inform him if she returns. The sentinels gossip the information to the other servants: the prince is madly in love with the lady in the golden dress! The servants pass this tidbit along to the new poultry herd, who “shows no interest.” The following night the ball continues, and now Luisa takes from her cage the dress of the sun, moon, and stars. Attired thusly, she again slips into the ball. Once again the prince’s attention is diverted from his betrothed. He dances all evening with the mysterious newcomer and, during dinner, slips a necklace onto her. Now he is distracted for a moment — and when he turns back, the woman with the sun, moon, and stars has gone again. She is vigorously pursued by the sentinels but repels them by flinging silver coins at them. Her aim is such that she hits them in the eyes and they cannot see which way she has gone. They beg the prince to spare their lives, and he agrees, on condition that they bring him the enigmatic lady the following evening. The next morning, “the servants tell the poultry herd, who remains indifferent. “ The following evening, she appears once more, this time wearing her sea-colored dress. Yet again she gives the prince and his guards the slip. When the sentinels follow, she hurls more coins at them, injuring their eyes. Now the prince falls into a swoon, so overcome is he by longing for the beautiful maiden. His condition deteriorates into a fever, and he will take no food. The finest doctors in the land come to diagnose him, but all claim there is nothing that they can do. The prince is dying of a broken heart. In desperation, his mother, the Queen, suggests that maybe soup prepared by the pretty new poultry herd will give him strength, and orders the girl to cook broth. She does so, and secretly drops the jewel into his bowl. The prince eats the soup, finding it delicious. When he reaches the bottom of the bowl, there is the jewel given to the stranger! Such a finding gives him renewed strength, and he requests a second bowl of the soup. Into this dish, Luisa drops the necklace. He is now “quite cured”, and sends for the one who made the soup. Luisa dresses herself carefully in her sea-colored gown and goes to meet the prince. Straightaway, “the prince marries her in the presence of the pope and cardinals.” But Luisa’s father has not forgotten her. He too has heard the tale of the lady in the three beautiful dresses who has caught the eye of the prince, and he knows that she is his daughter. Bent on revenge he disguises himself as a goldsmith, and comes to the palace with a tray of fine bangles. The prince calls to his bride to come and select one, and when she picks up a ring, her eyes meet those of the would-be jeweler. Recognizing him, she flees at once. The prince laughs this off as the nerves of a new bride, and invites the jeweler to stay the night in the palace. This hospitality is repaid with betrayal: Serafino “ goes all over the palace [and] administers an opiate in each room. All fall into a deep sleep.” The opiate is applied by means of a slip of paper soaked in the drug, and plastered to each person’s brow. Now the wicked father finds the room where Luisa slumbers, drugs her, and “drags her by the hair to throw her into a cauldron of boiling oil which he has prepared.” She is heavier than he has anticipated, and his clumsy handling of her knocks the drugged paper off. She wakes up and arouses the sentinels, whose eyes have recovered sufficiently for them to see what is happening. “and they throw Serafino into the boiling oil.” Luisa and
the prince live on in peace.
Notes: This is Cox Number 148, p. 158. Here we have "rabbitskins" in place of catskins, and yet again, birds, this time as the ingredient for soup, play a role. For the first time we encounter a flying vehicle, here a cage. Luisa has no animal helpers to travel with her, but merely flies directly to the castle. How the Queen gets the idea to ask the poultry herd to prepare soup is not known. Here again we have a father pushing his daughter into the soup pot, as in the Cambodian Cinderella. He meets his just desserts when he is thrust in himself!
Due to disturbing images I do not recommend this version for children younger than ten years old.