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YASHPEH
International Folktales Collection

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Story No. 219


The Tower of Ill Luck

Book Name:

Portuguese Folk-Tales

Tradition: Portugal

There was once a woman who had three sons. The eldest asked her blessing one day, and told her that if she gave him a horse and lion he would go and travel abroad. The mother replied, "Where will you go alone?" "Let me go, mother, I want to travel through different parts of the world." The mother gave him the horse and the lion, and he took his departure. He travelled on and on until he met a little old woman who was washing. The lad went up close to her, and inquired of her, "Oh! old lady, what are you doing there?" The old woman replied, "Oh! my son, I am here washing, and shall continue all my life." The lad asked her another question, "Can you tell me what tower that is yonder?" The old woman replied, "Oh! child, that tower is the Tower of Ill Luck; who ever enters never returns." The lad replied, "Well, I shall go there and I shall return, and I shall find you here still." He proceeded on and on until he at last reached the said tower. It was an inn. He had scarcely reached the door when he saw an old woman, and he asked her if that was an inn, for he wished to take up his abode there. The old woman replied that it was an inn. "Look here," said she, "take this key, and go and open the stables. Take also this fine hair, and roll it round the neck of your horse and lion, to tie them up with." The boy did so. He opened the stable, took the horse and lion inside, and then rolled the hair round the necks of both, and left the stable. After this he went up to the old woman, and asked her for something to eat. The old woman replied, "Ah! you want to eat, yes, Sir, my little boy; but first of all let us have a wrestling match together." The lad had no other alternative, and began to wrestle with the old hag, but he found himself so overpowered, as the woman was a witch, that he began to call for his horse and lion. "Come to my help, my horse and my lion!" The old hag rejoined, "Be ye thickened, thin hair, into a strong coil, binding your horse and lion." Immediately the hair became like a thick iron chain, which secured the animals effectually, and they were not able to come to rescue the lad. The old hag continued to wrestle until at last the boy was killed. And when she saw that he was quite dead, she went and buried him in a grave where there already many other' corpses buried. After the lapse of some time the second brother, on perceiving that his brother did not return, asked his mother to bestow upon him her blessing, and give him a horse and a lion, because he also wished to travel through many countries and seek his brother. The mother replied, "Oh! my son, do you wish to go and remain away as your other brother who has never made his appearance?" He replied, "Do not fear mother;" and as he persisted in his resolve and entreaties to be allowed the mother gave him the horse and the lion, and a bag of money. The boy departed and travelled without stopping until he reached the same spot where the old woman was washing. The boy inquired, "Oh! little old lady, what are you about there?" The old woman replied, "I am washing clothes, my son, and shall be washing all my life!" The boy again inquired, "Can you inform me what tower that is yonder?" The old woman said, "Ah! child, that is the Tower of Ill Luck; who ever goes there never returns." The boy rejoined, "Very well, but I shall go there, and am certain to return, and even find you here still." "Now," said the old washerwoman, "a boy has passed this way already who said the same thing, yet he has not returned." The boy replied, u Well then, that must have been my brother; and now I am more determined than ever to go there and bring him back!" He proceeded towards the tower, arrived, and saw the same old hag, and he asked her if that was an inn as he desired to take up his abode there. The old woman replied that it was an inn. "Now listen," said she, "take this key and go and open the stable. Take also this thin hair and bind it round the neck of your horse and of your lion, to tie them up with." The boy did as he was told, opened the stables as his brother had done before him, took the horse and lion inside and fastened them to the wall with the hair the old hag had given him. After that he left the stable and went to the old woman to ask her for something to eat. She answered him, "Ah! you want some food, yes Sir, my boy; but first let us have a wrestling match." The boy called out, "My horse and my lion come to my help!" The old hag instantly rejoined, "Let the thin hair round your horse and lion be thickened into a strong coil," and immediately the thin hair became a thick iron chain which effectually fastened the animals, and they were not able to succour the boy. The old hag killed him, and when she saw that he was quite dead she buried him in the grave where his brother's corpse was laid.

After some time the youngest brother, seeing that the others did not return home, asked the mother to bestow her blessing upon him, give him a horse and a lion, and when he obtained what he wanted he travelled through the world in search of his brothers. He carne up to the spot where the old woman was washing clothes, and he asked her, "Oh! old lady, what are you doing here?" to which the old woman replied, "Oh! my son, I am here washing clothes all my life, and shall be washing for ever, because I was once washing clothes on a Sunday and a poor man passing asked me if it was possible that I was employed in washing on a Sunday. I answered him that I was, because on Sundays I also required food. And he replied, 'You shall be obliged to wash clothes all your life then.'" The boy then asked her another question, "Can you inform me what tower that is yonder?" The old woman replied, "Ah! my boy, that is the Tower of Ill Luck; who goes there never returns." The boy said to this, "Well then I shall go there, I shall return and shall still find you here." "Well," said the old woman, "two boys have already passed by here who said the same as you, and have not returned." The boy then rejoined, "Well then, those must have been my brothers, I shall go there and shall yet bring them back." He directed his steps to the tower, and when he reached it the old hag was at the door. The boy inquired if that was an inn as he would wish to stay there. The old woman replied that it was, and said to him, "Look here, take this key and open the stable. Take also this thin hair, and tie it round the neck of your horse and of your lion. The boy took the horse and the lion into the stable, but instead of tying them up, he, with a pair of scissors he brought with him, cut up the hair the old woman had given him into little bits. He then left the stable and asked for his breakfast. The old woman replied to this, "You shall have your breakfast, oh yes Sir, my boy, but first of all let us have a wrestle together." The boy instantly called out to his horse and lion, "Come to my help, my horse and my lion!" The old woman said, "Let the thin hair become a very strong coil round the neck of your horse and your lion!" But the boy had cut up the hair into very small bits and had thrown them into the sea. The lion and the horse responded to the call, and came immediately. The boy then said to the hag: "You must bring my brothers to me here or else you shall die!" The old hag replied, "Oh, Sir! I know nothing of your brothers." The boy then told her that he was going to kill her; and the old woman had no other alternative left but to confess where the brothers were. She then gave an ointment and a scent for the dead brothers to smell. The boy went and anointed the bodies of his brothers, and when he put the scent to their noses they returned immediately to life. When the three brothers found themselves together again they went to the old hag, caught her, dug a grave, and buried her alive in it.

Comments:

This tower is also called the "Tower of Somnolence" and "Tower of Babylon," in some of our popular stories. The formula varies also, "Whoever goes there, remains, and never returns," "Who goes there, never returns," &c. F. H. Coelho – contos popular es portugueses. "The Tower of Babylon" is not the same story as this one.

Abstract:

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