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  1. Strange Linen Work
  2. Hammering Away at Death
  3. The Crucifix
  4. Figs from Heaven
  5. The Whistle
  6. Peter Fullone and the Egg
  7. Uncle Capriano
  8. The Clever Peasant
  9. From the Stone Throne
  10. Of One Who by the Help of a Woodsman Won the King's Daughter

Strange Linen Work

Giufà's mother once bought a large stock of flax and said to him: "Giufà, you can surely spin a little so as to be doing something." Giufà took a skein from time to time, but instead of spinning it put it in the fire and burned it. Then his mother became angry.

Giufà then took a bundle of twigs and wound it with flax like a distaff; then he took a broom for a spindle and sat himself on the roof and began to spin. While he was sitting there three fairies came by and said: "Just see how nicely Giufà is sitting there and spinning. Shall we not give him something?"

The first fairy said: "I will enable him to spin as much flax in a night as he touches."

The second said: "I will enable him to weave in a night as much yarn as he has spun."

The third said: "I will enable him to bleach all the linen he has woven in one night."

Giufà heard this and at night when his mother had gone to bed, he got behind her stock of flax, and as often as he touched a skein it was at once spun. When the flax was all gone he began to weave, and as soon as he touched the loom the linen began to roll from it. Finally he spread the linen out and had scarcely wet it a little when it was bleached.

The next morning Giufà showed his mother the fine pieces of linen, and she sold them and earned much money. Giufà continued this for several nights until he finally grew tired of it and wanted to go out to service.


Hammering Death Away

Giufà found a place with a smith, and his job was to blow the bellows. However, he blew them so hard that he put out the fire.

The smith said: "Leave off blowing and hammer the iron on the anvil."

But Giufà pounded on the anvil so hard that the iron flew into a thousand pieces. Then the smith became angry, but he could not send him away, for he had agreed to keep him a year. So he went to a poor man and said: "I will make you a handsome present if you will tell Giufà that you are Death and that you have come to take him away."

The poor man met Giufà one day, and said what the smith had told him. Giufà was not slow. "What, are you Death?" cried he, seized the poor man, put him in his sack, and carried him to the smithy. There he laid him on the anvil and began to hammer away on him. "How many years shall I yet live?" he asked, while he was hammering.

"Twenty years," cried the man in the sack.

"That is not near enough."

"Thirty years, forty years, as long as you will," screamed the man; but Giufà kept on hammering.


The Crucifix

The bishop once announced to the whole town that every goldsmith should make him a crucifix, and he would pay four hundred ounces for the most beautiful one. Whoever brought a crucifix that did not please him must lose his head. A goldsmith came and brought him a handsome crucifix, but the bishop said it did not please him and had the poor man's head cut off, but kept the crucifix. Next day a second goldsmith came and brought a still handsomer crucifix, but it went no better with him than with the first. This lasted for some time and many a poor man lost his head.

When Giufà heard of this he went to a goldsmith and said: "Master, you must make me a crucifix with a very thick body, but otherwise as fine as you can make it." When the crucifix was done Giufà took it on his arm and carried it to the bishop.

Scarcely had the bishop seen it when he cried out: "What are you thinking of, to bring me such a monster? Wait, you shall pay me for it!"

"Ah," said Giufà, "It could have swelled on the way here or when I went up your stairs. The Lord may be angry with you because of all the innocent blood that you have shed. If you do not at once give me a thousand pounds and an annuity to each of the goldsmiths' widows, then you too may swell in the same way, and God's wrath will visit you."

The bishop was frightened and gave him the money, and bade him send all the widows to him so that he could give each of them a yearly pension. Giufà took the money and went to each widow and said: "What will you give me if I get you an annuity from the bishop?"

Each gave him a handsome sum and Giufà took home to his mother a great heap of money.


Figs from Heaven

Giufà's mother once said to him: "Giufà, I have this piece of cloth to be dyed; take it and leave it with the dyer." Giufà took the cloth, and on his way to the dyer's sat down to rest on a heap of stones in a field. A lizard crept out from the stones, and Giufà, taking it for the dyer, left the cloth on the stones and returned home. His mother sent him at once back for the cloth, but it has disappeared, and the lizard too.

Giufà cried: "Dyer, if you don't give me back my cloth I will tear down your house." Then he began to pull down the heap of stones and found a pot of money that had been hidden there. He took it home to his mother, who gave him his supper and sent him to bed and then buried the money under the stairs. Then she filled her apron with figs and raisins, climbed on the roof, and threw figs and raisins down the chimney into Giufà's mouth as he lay in his bed. Giufà was well pleased with this, and ate his fill.

The next morning he told his mother that God has thrown him figs and raisins from heaven the night before.

Giufà could not keep the pot of money a secret, but told everyone about it, and finally was accused before the judge. The officers of justice went to Giufà's mother and said: "Your son has everywhere told that you have kept a pot of money which he found. Do you not know that money that is found must be delivered up to the court?"

The mother remonstrated that Giufà was often telling unlikely stories.

"But mother," said Giufà, "don't you remember when I brought you home the pot, and in the night that God rained figs and raisins from heaven into my mouth?"

The mother turned to the officers, adding, "And he does not always know what he says."

The officers of justice went away.



The Whistle

One day Giufà's mother sent him to another town, where there was a fair. On the way some children met him and asked: "Where are you going, Giufà?"

"To the fair."

"Will you bring me back a whistle?" asked one of them.

"Yes, the will is there!"

"And me, too?" asked another, a third and one after the other. Giufà said: "The will is there," to all.

At last there was a little child who said: "Giufà, bring me a whistle, too. Here is a penny."

When Giufà came back from the fair, he brought one whistle only and gave it to the last boy. "Giufà, what about us?" cried the other children.

"You did not give me a penny to buy it with," answered Giufà.


Peter Fullone and the Egg

Once on a time the stone-cutter Peter Fullone was working at the cemetery near the church of Santo Spirito when a man passed by and said: "Peter, what is the best mouthful?"

Fullone answered: "An egg;" and stopped.

A year later Fullone was working in the same place, sitting on the ground and breaking stones. The man who had questioned him the year before passed by again and said: "Peter, with what?" meaning: "What is good to eat with an egg?"

"With salt," answered Peter Fullone.


Uncle Capriano

There was once a husband and wife who had a daughter. The man's name was Uncle Capriano and he owned near the town a piece of property where he always worked. One day thirteen robbers happened to pass that way, saw Uncle Capriano, dismounted, began to talk with him and soon made friends with him. After this they often went to divert themselves with him. When they arrived they always saluted him with: "Good day, Uncle Capriano," and he answered: "Gentlemen; what are you doing?"

"We have come to amuse ourselves. Go and lunch, Uncle Capriano, for we will do the work meanwhile."

So he went and ate and they did his work for him. After some time Uncle Capriano started to think if he could outwit the robbers and come up with some way to get money from them. One day when he went home he said to his wife: "I am on friendly terms with the robbers. Now I would like to see whether I can get a little money out of them, so I have invented this story to tell them: that we have a rabbit that I send home alone every evening with fire-wood and things for soup that my wife cooks."

Then he said to his daughter: "When you see me coming with the thieves, bathe the rabbit in water and come out of the door to meet me and say: 'Is that the way to load the poor little rabbit so that it comes home tired to death?'"

When the thieves heard that he had a rabbit that carried things, they wanted it, saying: "If we had it we could send it to carry money, food, and other things to our houses."

Uncle Capriano said to them one day: "I should like to have you come to my house today." There were thirteen of the thieves; one said Yes, another said No, but their leader said: "Let us all go and see the rabbit."

When they arrived at the house the daughter came to the door and said: "Is that the way to load the poor little rabbit so that it comes home tired to death?"

When they entered the house all felt of the rabbit and exclaimed: "Poor little animal! poor little animal! it is all covered with sweat." The thieves then looked at each other and said: "Shall we ask him to give us this little rabbit?" Then they said: "Uncle Capriano, you must give us the rabbit without any words, and we will pay you whatever you ask."

He answered: "Ask me for anything except this rabbit, for if I give you that I shall be ruined."

They replied: "You must give it to us without further words, whether you get ruined or not."

At last Uncle Capriano let them have the rabbit for twenty pounds, and they gave him two pounds besides to buy himself a present with.

After the thieves had got possession of the rabbit, they went to a house in the country to try it. They each took a bag of money and said: "Let us send a bag to each of our houses."

The leader said: "First, carry a bag to mine."

So they took the rabbit to load it, and after they had put the bags on it, the rabbit could not move and one of the thieves struck it on the haunch with a switch. Then the rabbit ran away at once.

The thieves went in great anger to Uncle Capriano and said: "Did you have the boldness to play such a trick on us, to sell us a rabbit that could not stir when we put a few bags of money on it?"

"But, gentlemen," said the old man, "did you beat it?"

"Yes," answered one of the thieves, "my companion struck it with a switch on the haunch."

"But what fault is it of mine?"

The thieves said, "Uncle Capriano is right; so go and eat and we will attend to the work." And so their friendship was not broken this time.

After a time Uncle Capriano said to his wife: "We should try to get some more money from the thieves."


"Tomorrow I will tell the thieves that I have a pot that cooks without any fire. Here is what to do: Buy a new pot and cook in an old pot somewhere in the house, and just before I come home, empty the old pot into the new one, and put it on the hearth without any fire. Then I will let the thieve see a pot with hot food in it, and without any fire under it."

Next evening Uncle Capriano persuaded the thieves to go home with him. When they saw the pot they looked at one another and said: "We must ask him to give it to us." After some hesitation, he sold it to them for forty pounds, and got four pounds more too, as before.

When the thieves got to their house in the country, they killed a fine kid, put it into the pot and set it on the hearth, without any fire, and went away. In the evening they all ran and tried to see who would get back to their house first and find the meat cooked. The one who arrived first took out a piece of meat, and saw that it was as they had left it. Then he gave the pot a kick, and broke it in two.

When the others came and found the meat not cooked, they started for Uncle Capriano's, and complained to him that he had sold them a pot that cooked everything, and that they had put meat into it, and found it raw.

"Did you break the pot?" asked Uncle Capriano.

"Of course we broke it."

"What kind of a hearth did you have, high or low?"

One of the thieves answered: "Rather high."

"That could be the reason. If you did not observe the conditions and broke the pot; should I be blamed for it?"

The thieves sai: "Uncle Capriano is right. Go, Uncle Capriano, and eat, for we will do your work."

Some time after, Uncle Capriano said again to his wife: "Let us try to get some more money out of them."

"But how can we do it?"

"We have a whistle in the chest. Have it put in order, and tomorrow go to the butcher's, get a bladder of blood and fix it about your neck, and put on a shawl over your head and shoulders. When I return home, let me find you sitting down and angry, and the candle not lighted. I will bring my friends with me, and when I find the candle not lighted, I will begin to cry out. You will not utter a word. Then I will take my knife and seemingly cut your throat. You will fall down on the floor, and the blood will run out of the bladder. The thieves will then believe you are dead."

Turning to his daughter, he said, "Get the whistle' – get it and give it to me."

He then turned to his wife: When I blow the whistle three times, you will get up from the floor. When the thieves see this happen, they will want the whistle, and we will get more money from them."

Everything happened as Uncle Capriano had arranged; the thieves paid him six hundred pounds for the whistle and five pounds extra as a bonus, and then went home and killed their wives to try the whistle on them.

They had been deceived again. To avenge themselves, they took a sack and went to Uncle Capriano. They seized him without any words, put him in the sack, and taking him on a horse, rode away.

They came after a time to a country-house where they stopped to eat, leaving Uncle Capriano outside in the bag. Uncle Capriano, who was in the bag, began to cry: "I may be headed for lots of riches, but do I really need it?!"

There happened to be near by a herdsman who heard what he was saying about riches, and he said to himself: "I will go and get it instead." So he went to Uncle Capriano and said: "What is the matter with you?"

"I may be headed for lots of riches, but do I really need it?"

The herdsman said: "I will take your place then, but how can we arrange it?"

Uncle Capriano answered: "Take me out first."

"That looks like a good idea," said the herdsman; so he set Uncle Capriano free, handed over his herd to him, and was instructed in what to do: "Go to the neighbouring village for two days and let me herd your sheep and cattle in the meantime. Then, when you come home to me on this address I give you, you will be rewarded." The herdsman greeted and left the place. Uncle Capriano put a slaughtered, big sheep in the back, took the herdsman's staff and went to tend the sheep.

In a little while the thieves came and put the bag on a horse, and rode away to the sea. When they came to the sea, they threw the bag in and returned home.

On their way back, they happened to look up on the mountain, and exclaimed: "Look there! Isn't that Uncle Capriano?"

"Yes, it is."

"How can that be; didn't we throw him into the sea, and now he is on the mountain?"

They went to him and asked: "How is this, Uncle Capriano, didn't we throw you in the sea?"

"You threw the sack in near the shore. And I got these sheep and oxen . . ."

They interrupted him before he could finish, and wanted him to throw them all in. They went to the sea and he began to throw them in. Each said: "Quick, Uncle Capriano, throw me in quickly before my comrades get them all!"

After he had thrown them all in, Uncle Capriano took all the money, horses and sheep and oxen they had left behind, and went home. A few days later the herdsman got his sheep and cattle back and was doubly rewarded. Uncle Capriano and his wife were now very rich, married off their daughter, and gave a splendid banquet.



The Clever Peasant

There was once a king who, while hunting, saw a peasant working in the fields and asked him: "How much do you earn in a day?"

"Four small silver coins [carlini], your Majesty," answered the peasant.

"What do you do with them?" continued the king.

The peasant said: "The first I eat; the second I put out at interest; the third I give back, and the fourth I throw away."

The king rode on, but after a time the peasant's answer seemed very curious to him, so he returned and asked him: "Tell me, what do you mean by eating the first coin, putting the second out to interest, giving back the third, and throwing away the fourth?"

The peasant answered: "With the first I feed myself; with the second I feed my children, who must care for me when I am old; with the third I feed my father, and so repay him for what he has done for me, and with the fourth I feed my wife, and thus throw it away, because I have no profit from it."

"Yes," said the king, "you are right. Promise me, however, that you will not tell anyone this until you have seen my face a hundred times." The peasant promised and the king rode home well pleased.

While sitting at table with his ministers, the king said: "I will give you a riddle: A peasant earns four silver coins a day; the first he eats; the second he puts out at interest; the third he gives back, and the fourth he throws away. What is that?"

No one was able to answer it.

One of the ministers remembered finally that the king had spoken the day before with the peasant, and he resolved to find the peasant and get the answer from him. When he saw the peasant he asked him for the answer to the riddle, but the peasant answered: "I cannot tell you, for I have promised the king to tell no one until I have seen his face a hundred times."

"Oh!" said the minister, "I can show you the king's face," and drew a hundred coins from his purse and gave them to the peasant. On every coin the king's face was to be seen of course. After the peasant had looked at each coin once, he said: "I have now seen the king's face a hundred times, and can tell you the answer to the riddle," and told him it.

The minister went in great glee to the king and said: "Your Majesty, I have found the answer to the riddle; it is so and so."

The king exclaimed: "You can have heard it only from the peasant himself," had the peasant summoned, and took him to task. "Didn't you promise me not to tell it until you had seen my face a hundred times?"

"But, your Majesty," answered the peasant, "your minister showed me your picture a hundred times." Then he showed him the bag of money that the minister had given him. The king was so pleased with the clever peasant that he rewarded him and made him a rich man for the rest of his life.


From the Stone Throne

Spadònia was the son of a king who every day had bread baked and sent on the back of a little donkey to the souls in a desert. When the king and queen died, Spadònia became king after him. He then sent one of his servants, Peppe, to see where the donkey went. Peppe crossed a river of clear water, one of milk, and one of blood. Then he saw thin oxen in a rich pasture, and fat oxen in a poor pasture. He also saw a forest with small and large trees together, and a handsome youth who was cutting down now a large tree, now a small one, with a single stroke of a bright axe.

Then Peppe came into a hot desert with the donkey, and saw a burning bush - hot as it was. Farther on Peppe saw the parents of Spadònia. Finally Peppe came to a throne of stone in the cooling shade of a tree. The throne said to him that Spadònia must marry a maiden named Sècula and open an inn, in which anyone may eat and lodge without cost.

The throne then explained what Peppe had seen on his way to the hot desert. The river of water came from good deeds of people; that water aided and refreshed their souls in the beyond. The river of milk was that which blithe folks was nourished with; and the river of blood came out of lots of big and small sinners. The thin cattle were greedy grabbers of the belongings of others. The fat oxen had been trusting to the Lord. The youth felling trees was the Lord of Death.

Peppe returned and told his master all he had seen and heard in the trail of the donkey, and Spadònia wandered around to find a maiden called Sècula. He found at last a poor girl with that name, married her and opened an inn as he had been directed.

After a time a boy and his mother, followed by some fine-looking fellows, came and visited the inn. The king and his wife waited on them and treated them very well, although they did not knowwho they were. The next day after the guests had left, Spadònia and his wife found out who they had been, and hastened after them even in the face of a heavy storm that had blown up. When they overtook the company they asked the child for happiness for all who belonged to them. The boy told them to be at peaceand be prepared at Christmas.

They returned home, gave so much to the poor that in the end there were none to give any more to. At Christmas the couple died peacefully near each other, among what remained of their goods.

And that's what Christmas is about - in part.



Of One Who With the Help of a Woodsman Won the King's Daughter

A king proclaimed that he would give his daughter to anyone who built a ship that would go by land and water. The youngest of three brothers constructed such a vessel by the help of a woodsman he met, after his two brothers have failed. The woodsmanaccompanied the youth on the voyage on the condition that he should receive half of everything lovely that the youth received.

During the voyage they took on board a man who could fill a sack with mist, one who could tear up half a forest and carry the trees on his back, a man who could drink up half a river, one who could always hit what he shot at, and one who walked with such long steps that when one foot was in Catania the other was in Messina, almost a hundred kilometres away.

The king refused to give his daughter to the youth in spite of the ship that went by land and water. The youth, however, by the help of his wonderful servants and the woodsman, fulfilled all the king's requirements, and carried away the princess.

When the youth returned home with his bride and treasures, the woodsman called on him to fulfil his promise to him. The youth gave him half of his treasures, and even half of the crown he had won. The woodsman reminded him that the best of his possessions yet remained undivided - his bride. The youth stuck to his promise, drew his sword and was about to cut his bride in half when the woodsman said, "Enough! I think I've got a lot already!" and disappeared.




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