|Hark, hark, the dogs do bark!|
One upon a time, "a king said to his son on his 18th birthday,'Time is going by, old age is drawing nigh. Why don't you take a wife? If we die, who will inherit the kingdom?" And he insisted that his son take a wife immediately. The prince did not want to marry so soon, and replied,"Father, please understand I will marry only when I've found a girl as white as ricotta and rosy as a rose." So the king ordered his royal portrait painters to scour the kingdom for such maidens, and paint their portraits. In one year's time, they were to return to court so that the prince could choose his bride. And "one of these grandees went to Spain, where where the first thing he did was stop and talk with a chemist." When that man understood what the search was for, he said that he knew such a maiden. However, it would be difficult to see her, for she was a shielded fine lady. Then the chemist ran to a lady he knew, and begged him to present her to the portrati painter. He told her,"If you allow him to paint it, you will be paid forty gold crowns." So the portrait was painted, and the fee paid. Then the portrait was carried back to the palace, for the year was now over. There the prince examined them carefully. Then he stopped right in front of the Spanish maiden's likeness and said,"If the face itself is like the portrait, it is truly a perfect face." He sent for the maiden, who came, but only after she had "spent four months at a palace learning to be a queen". When she got to the palace and married the prince, the queen really took a liking to her. In fact, "she and her mother-in-law got along together like a pair of pigeons. a rarity, since mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law have quarreled from the beginning of time. Yet Beezelbub, as you know, is always on the look-out for a way in", and now he nagged the queen into criticizing her daughter-in-law for never going out on the balcony. So the girl went out, and "at that instant, an English milord happened by" and saw the princess, and fell in love with her. Knowing that this was impossible, the young man's health failed. One day, as he pined for the princess in the road by the palace, an old woman stopped to speak with him. She asked him kindly what his trouble was, and he rudely replied,"Be off with you, it's none of your business." But the old one will not budge, and at last, the milord tells her that he longs to see the princess. The old woman says that she can arrange this, if only the man will provide her with a diamond ring to carry to the princess. So the milord buys one, and gives it to the granny. Who promptly enters the palace and sells it to the princess for 300 crowns. Then she pockets the gold and tells the milord that the princess accepted the ring and will send word in 10 days. But 10 days later, when she appears to meet the milord, she requests a valuable necklace for the princess, and then a gown. All are sold to the princess, and the old woman stows a cool one thousand five hundred crowns "in her coffers". She then tells the princess that a grand ball is to be held, and that she will be the most fashionable of all if she wears the dress, necklace and ring. Then she goes back to the young lord. and suggests that he host a grand ball, saying that the princess has agreed to speak to him then. So the lord does, but the princess doesn't. And from there, events take a series of dramatic turns, including: the prince disguised as a peasant; the wrath of the prince when he finds out his princess has played him false; a shipwreck, in which the princess is cast upon an island, and not killed after all, as ordered. She is subsequently employmed as a paralegal.( For real. see:Calvino, p.573)The captain of the ship that left the princess on an island kills a dog instead, and gives its tongue to the prince as proof of his wife's death. At last, the truth comes out, and the prince sends for the old woman. He says to her,"Tell me, good old woman, about those sales of yours to the princess?' And the old biddy unbosomed herself." But she declared that the princess was innocent, as she had neither sent nor received any messages, merely bought costly items from the old woman. She was guilty of vanity, nothing more. So the prince forgave her, and "the two captains — the one who killed a dog instead of a princess, and the one who rescued her and took her to Brazil — were elevated to the rank of court grandees. And all the sailors were awarded pom-pons for their berets."
From: Calvino, I. (1953) Italian Folktales, Selected and Retold
Notes: This story is from the city of Palermo, Italy.