There was once upon a time a peasant called Masaniello who had twelve daughters. They were exactly like the steps of a staircase, for there was just a year between each sister. It was all the poor man could do to bring up such a large family, and in order to provide food for them he used to dig in the fields all day long. In spite of his hard work he only just succeeded in keeping the wolf from the door, and the poor little girls often went hungry to bed.
There was once a Tsar who had three sons, and they were all dear to him, but the youngest, Ivan, was the dearest of them all.
When the Princes grew to manhood the Tsar began to talk and talk to them about getting married, but it so happened not one of the Princes had ever seen the girl he wished to have for a wife. There were many in the kingdom whom they might well have loved, but not one of them meant more to any of the Princes than another.
Once upon a time there was a family in which there were seven daughters. One day when the father went out to gather wood, he found seven wild duck eggs. He brought them home, but did not think of giving any to his children, intending to eat them himself, with his wife. In the evening the oldest daughter woke up, and asked her mother what she was cooking. The mother said: “I am cooking wild duck eggs. I will give you one, but you must not let your sisters know.” And so she gave her one. Then the second daughter woke up, and asked her mother what she was cooking. She said: “Wild duck eggs. If you will not tell your sisters, I’ll give you one.” And so it went. At last the daughters had eaten all the eggs, and there were none left.
Red Loki, the wickedest of all the Æsir, had done something of which he was very much ashamed. He had married a giantess, the ugliest, fiercest, most dreadful giantess that ever lived; and of course he wanted no one to find out what he had done, for he knew that Father Odin would be indignant with him for having wedded one of the enemies of the Æsir, and that none of his brothers would be grateful to him for giving them a sister-in-law so hideous.
There was once upon a time a king who had a son who was very fond of hunting. He often allowed him to indulge in this pastime, but he had ordered his grand-vizir always to go with him, and never to lose sight of him. One day the huntsman roused a stag, and the prince, thinking that the vizir was behind, gave chase, and rode so hard that he found himself alone. He stopped, and having lost sight of it, he turned to rejoin the vizir, who had not been careful enough to follow him. But he lost his way. Whilst he was trying to find it, he saw on the side of the road a beautiful lady who was crying bitterly. He drew his horse’s rein, and asked her who she was and what she was doing in this place, and if she needed help. “I am the daughter of an Indian king,” she answered, “and whilst riding in the country I fell asleep and tumbled off. My horse has run away, and I do not know what has become of him.”
There are so many tales of the vanity of kings and queens that the half of them cannot be told.
There was Cassiopaeia, queen of Aethiopia, who boasted that her beauty outshone the beauty of all the sea-nymphs, so that in anger they sent a horrible sea-serpent to ravage the coast. The king prayed of an Oracle to know how the monster might be appeased, and learned that he must offer up his own daughter, Andromeda. The maiden was therefore chained to a rock by the sea-side, and left to her fate. But who should come to rescue her but a certain young hero, Perseus, who was hastening homeward after a perilous adventure with the snaky-haired Gorgons. Filled with pity at the story of Andromeda, he waited for the dragon, met and slew him, and set the maiden free. As for the boastful queen, the gods forgave her, and at her death she was set among the stars. That story ended well.
A certain woman was very bumptious. Her husband came from a village council one day, and she asked him:
“What have you been deciding over there?”
“What have we been deciding? why choosing a Golova.”
“Whom have you chosen?”
“No one as yet.”
“Choose me,” says the woman.
Once upon a time there lived in the city of Famagosta, in the island of Cyprus, a rich man called Theodorus. He ought to have been the happiest person in the whole world, as he had all he could wish for, and a wife and little son whom he loved dearly; but unluckily, after a short time he always grew tired of everything, and had to seek new pleasures. When people are made like this the end is generally the same, and before Fortunatus (for that was the boy’s name) was ten years old, his father had spent all his money and had not a farthing left.
There was once a widow who had two daughters, one named Rose and the other Blanche.
Blanche was good and beautiful and gentle, but the mother cared nothing for her and gave her only hard words and harder blows; but she loved Rose as she loved the apple of her eye, because Rose was exactly like herself, coarse-looking, and with a bad temper and a sharp tongue.
Blanche was obliged to work all day, but Rose sat in a chair with folded hands as though she were a fine lady, with nothing in the world to do.
One day the mother sent Blanche to the well for a bucket of water. When she came to the well she saw an old woman sitting there. The woman was so very old that her nose and her chin met, and her cheeks were as wrinkled as a walnut.
Long, long ago, there once lived a king and a queen who had a daughter. One day, when the daughter went walking in the garden, a tremendous storm suddenly came up and carried her away with it. Now the storm had come from the bird with nine heads, who had robbed the princess, and brought her to his cave. The king did not know whither his daughter had disappeared, so he had proclaimed throughout the land: “Whoever brings back the princess may have her for his bride!”