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.
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.
Once there was a man who shunned the world, and lived in the wilderness. He owned nothing but a flock of sheep, whose milk and wool he sold, and so procured himself bread to eat; he also carried wooden spoons, and sold them. He had a wife and one little girl, and after a long time his wife had another child. The evening it was born the man went to the nearest village to fetch a nurse, and on the way he met a monk who begged him for a night’s lodging. This the man willingly granted, and took him home with him. There being no one far nor near to baptize the child, the man asked the monk to do him this service, and the child was given the name of Janni.
There was once a girl who was wiser than the King and all his councilors; there never was anything like it. Her father was so proud of her that he boasted about her cleverness at home and abroad. He could not keep his tongue still about it. One day he was boasting to one of his neighbors, and he said, “The girl is so clever that not even the King himself could ask her a question she couldn’t answer, or read her a riddle she couldn’t unravel.”
There once lived a king who was much loved by his people, and he, too, loved them warmly. He led a very happy life, but he had the greatest dislike to the idea of marrying, nor had he ever felt the slightest wish to fall in love. His subjects begged him to marry, and at last he promised to try to do so. But as, so far, he had never cared for any woman he had seen, he made up his mind to travel in hopes of meeting some lady he could love.
Once upon a time there was a poor widow who had only one son, and he was so dear to her that no one could have been dearer. All the same she was obliged to send him out into the world to seek his fortune, for they were so very poor that as long as he stayed at home they were like to starve.
‘Don’t stir from the fireplace to-night,’ said old Peggy, ‘for the wind is blowing so violently that the house shakes; besides, this is Hallow-e’en, when the witches are abroad, and the goblins, who are their servants, are wandering about in all sorts of disguises, doing harm to the children of men.’
‘Why should I stay here?’ said the eldest of the young people. ‘No, I must go and see what the daughter of old Jacob, the rope-maker, is doing. She wouldn’t close her blue eyes all night if I didn’t visit her father before the moon had gone down.’
There was once upon a time a king who was so much beloved by his subjects that he thought himself the happiest monarch in the whole world, and he had everything his heart could desire. His palace was filled with the rarest of curiosities, and his gardens with the sweetest flowers, while in the marble stalls of his stables stood a row of milk-white Arabs, with big brown eyes.
There was once a lad, and what his real name was nobody remembered, unless it was the mother who bore him; but what every one called him was Ashipattle. They called him that because he sat among the ashes to warm his toes.
He had six older brothers, and they did not think much of him. All the tasks they scorned to do themselves they put upon Ashipattle. He gathered the sticks for the fire, he swept the floor, he cleaned the byre, he ran the errands, and all he got for his pains were kicks and cuffs and mocking words. Still he was a merry fellow, and as far as words went he gave his brothers as good as they sent.