An eagle had made her nest up in a very high tree. One day she grabbed some baby rabbits who had been feeding in a meadow a long way off, to give them as food to her own chicks. The rabbit mother begged the eagle with gentle words to be so kind as to return the baby rabbits. But the eagle, supposing that the rabbit was unable to do her any harm, did not hesitate to slash the baby rabbits with her talons in full view of their mother, and to give them to her chicks to feast upon.
The rabbit was so stricken by the death of her babies that she refused to let this wrong go unpunished. Therefore she dug away at the roots of the tree that held up the eagle's nest. The tree, toppled by a light rustle of the wind, hurled the eagle's chicks - still without feathers and unable to fly -, down to the ground. There they were gobbled up by wild beasts, and the rabbit grieved less.
⦾ It happens that those who are less high and mighty get their revenge.
A man kept many castrated roosters in the same chicken-coop and fed them with generous food. All the roosters but one grew fat, and his brothers made fun of him for being skinny.
One day the man was going to give a dinner party for noble guests, and ordered the cook to kill and cook the roosters than were fat.
When the fat roosters heard this, they were upset and said, "How much better it would have been for us to be skinny."
There was once a fisherman who never could catch enough fish to buy food for his family. One day though, when he went to pull up his nets, he felt a weight almost too heavy to move. But he tugged and tugged and found a gigantic crab. "Oh, what a haul at last! Now I can buy food for my children!" the fisherman exclaimed.
He took the crab home on his back and told his wife to put the pot on the fire, for he would return shortly with food. Then he carried the crab to the king's palace. There he said to the king, "I've come to see if you will kindly buy this crab from me. My wife has put the pot on the fire, but I have no money to buy anything to go in it."
The king replied, "But what would I do with a crab? Can't you sell it to someone else?"
Just then the king's daughter came in. "Oh, what a fine crab, what a fine crab! Please buy it for me, Papa, please! We'll put it in the fishpond with the mullets and the goldfish."
The king's daughter was fascinated by fish and would sit for hours on the rim of the fishpond in the garden watching the mullets and the goldfish swim about. Her father could refuse her nothing, so he bought the crab. The fisherman put it into the fishpond and in return got a purse of gold coins that would feed his children for a whole month.
The princess never tired of watching the crab and spent all her time by the fishpond. She had become thoroughly familiar with him and his ways, noticing that from noon till three o'clock he always disappeared and went off goodness knows where. One day the king's daughter was there studying her crab, when she heard the doorbell ring. She looked down from her balcony, and there was a poor tramp asking for alms. She threw down a purse of money, but it flew past him into a ditch. The tramp went into the ditch after it, plunged under water, and began to swim. The ditch connected with the king's fishpond by an underground canal which continued on to no telling where. The tramp followed it and came out in a beautiful basin in the middle of a large underground hall that was hung with tapestries and contained a sumptuously laid table.
The tramp stepped from the basin and hid behind the tapestries. At the stroke of noon, up popped a fairy in the middle of the basin, seated on the back of a crab. She and the crab jumped out of the water into the hall, the fairy tapped the crab with her wand, and there emerged from the crab shell a handsome youth. The young man took a seat at the table and the fairy tapped her wand, producing food in the dishes and wine in the bottles.
When the youth had finished eating and drinking, he re-entered the crab shell, which the fairy touched with her wand, and the crab took her onto his back once more, jumped into the basin, and disappeared underwater with her.
Then the tramp came out from behind the tapestries, dove into the water, and swam back to the king's fishpond. The king's daughter was there looking at her fish and, seeing the vagabond's head bob up, she asked, "What are you doing here?"
"Princess," said the tramp, "I have a wonderful thing to tell you." He came out of the pond and told her the whole story.
"Now I understand where the crab goes from noon to three o'clock!" exclaimed the king's daughter. "Fine, tomorrow at noon we shall go together and see."
So the next day they both swam the underground canal from the fishpond to the underground hall and hid behind the tapestries. Exactly at noon, up popped the fairy on the crab's back. She tapped her wand and out stepped the handsome young man from the crab shell and took his place at the table. The princess, who already liked the crab, was charmed with the young man and at once fell in love with him.
Seeing the empty crab shell right there next to her, she hid inside it.
When the youth got back into the shell he found the beautiful maiden there. "What have you done?" he whispered. "If the fairy learns of this, she will put us both to death."
"But I want to free you from the spell!" whispered the king's daughter. "Tell me what I must do."
"Impossible," said the young man. "Only a maiden who loved me enough to die for me could break the spell."
"Maybe I am that maiden," said the princess.
While this conversation was taking place inside the crab shell, the fairy seated herself on the crab's back, and the youth, working the crab claws as usual, carried her through the underground waterways to the open sea, without her suspecting that hidden inside with him was the king's daughter.
After leaving the fairy at her destination, on the way back to the fishpond, the young man - who was a prince - explained to his beloved close beside him in the crab shell what to do to free him. "You must climb up on a rock on shore and play and sing. The fairy is enthralled by music and will emerge from the sea to listen to you and say, 'Play on, lovely maiden, your music is so delightful.' And you will reply, 'I certainly shall, if you give me the flower in your hair.' When you have that flower in your hand, I will be free, since the flower is my life."
Meanwhile the crab had reached the fishpond, and he let the king's daughter out of the shell.
The tramp had swum back by himself and, finding no princess, saw himself in serious trouble. But the maiden emerged from the fishpond, thanked him, and gave him a handsome reward. Then she went to her father and told him she wanted to study music and singing. The king, who never refused her anything, sent for the finest musicians and singers to give her lessons.
As soon as she had learned music, the daughter said to the king, "Papa, I want to go and play my violin on a rock by the sea."
"On a rock by the sea? Have you lost your mind?" But, as usual, he gave in to her and let her go with eight maids of honour, all dressed in white. Also, as a precaution, he had her followed at a distance by a few armed soldiers to serve as guards.
Seated on a rock, with her eight maids of honour in white dresses on eight rocks around her, the king's daughter played her violin. From the waves rose the fairy. "How beautifully you play!" she said. "Play on, play on, it delights me so to hear you!"
The king's daughter said, "Yes, I shall, if you give me that flower you are wearing in your hair. I love flowers."
"I will give it to you if you can fetch it from where I throw it."
So the princess started to play and sing. When the song was over, she said, "And now give me the flower."
"Here you are," said the fairy, and threw it as far as she could out to sea.
The princess dove into the sea and swam toward the flower floating on the waves. "Princess, princess! Help! Help!" screamed the eight maids of honour standing up on the rocks, with their white veils billowing in the wind. But the princess swam on and on, disappearing in the waves and coming back up; she was beginning to doubt whether she would reach the flower, when a big wave swept it right into her hand.
In that instant she heard a voice beneath her, saying, "You have given me back my life, and will be my bride. Now don't be afraid. I am under you and will carry you to shore. But say nothing of this, not even to your father. I must go and tell my parents, and within twenty-four hours I'll come and ask your parents for your hand in marriage."
"Yes, yes, I understand," was all she could answer, for she was out of breath a long time while the crab underwater carried her to shore.
So when she got back home, all the princess told the king was that she had enjoyed herself immensely.
The next day at three o'clock there was a roll of drums, a flourish of trumpets, a prancing of horses, and in walked a senior servant, saying the son of his king asked for an audience.
The prince put the customary request to the king for the princess's hand and then told the whole story. The king was somewhat taken aback, for he had been in the dark about everything. He sent for his daughter. She came running in and threw herself into the prince's arms, exclaiming, "This is my bridegroom, this is my bridegroom!"
The king realized there was nothing to do but conclude the marriage as soon as possible.
[Venice, from Calvino]