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International Folktales Collection

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Story No. 225


The Baker's Idle Son

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Portuguese Folk-Tales

Tradition: Portugal

There was a woman baker who had a very indolent son. When the other boys went to gather firewood and he was told to go also he never would go. The mother was very unhappy to have such a lazy son, and really did not know what she should do with him. As she one day insisted upon his joining the other boys lie went along with them, but the moment they reached the wood whilst the other boys were collecting the sticks and small branches of trees for firewood he went to lie down by the side of a brook and began to eat what he had brought with him. While he was doing so a fish came close to him and began to eat up all the crumbs he let fall, until at last he caught it. The fish entreated him not to kill him, that he would do for him all he could wish for. The lazy boy, who did not trust the fish, said to it, "In the name of my God, and of my fish, I wish that this very moment a faggot of wood larger than any of the ones held by the other boys, shall appear before me, and that the bundle shall proceed without my being seen under it." All at once a faggot made its appearance ready tied; and he then allowed the fish to go back into the sea. He turned to go home, and as he passed the palace, the king, who was at the window with the princess, was very much astonished to see the faggot move along by itself; and the princess was so very much amused at it that she laughed. The lazy boy then said: "In the name of God, and of my fish, let the princess have a son without its being known whose son he is." The princess then began to feel that she was with child, and the king became very displeased with her, and ordered her to be imprisoned in a tower with her maids of honour. After a time she gave birth to a male child. The lazy boy returned to the wood, and the fish again appeared and told him that the princess had given birth to a son. The lazy boy, being instructed by the fish, ordered a palace to be erected which should be more splendid than the one belonging to the king. There was a garden in this palace replete with flowers of every colour and shade, and, wonderful to relate, there was an orchard full of fruit trees in which grew an orange tree with twelve golden oranges. All this was brought about by the fish and the fairies. The lazy boy went to this palace transformed into a prince, and no one knew him to be anything else. The king sent a message asking to see the palace, and he replied that he would be most happy to show him over it, and sent his majesty an invitation to breakfast and to all his court. The king and his chamberlains were much surprised on their arrival to see so much luxury and splendour. After they had inspected the whole palace they went into the garden. They were charmed with the variety of flowers in it, but were much more astonished to see an orange tree bearing golden oranges. The lazy boy informed the king and his courtiers that they could take of everything in the garden which they might desire, except gathering any of the oranges. They all returned to the palace and sat down to the breakfast. When the breakfast was over, and the king was taking his departure to return to his own palace, the lazy boy told the king that he was much surprised to find that after he had treated them so luxuriously they should have gathered one of the golden oranges. The courtiers all commenced to deny that any of them had taken the orange, and took off their coats that he might see for himself that they had not been guilty of the accusation. The king, who felt very much abashed, was now the only one who had not been examined. He took off his coat and nothing was found on examination in its pockets; but the lazy boy asked him to look carefully again when he had put his coat on, because since his courtiers had not taken the orange it must be himself who had. The king then put his hands again in his pocket and drew out the orange, very much confused and ashamed, for he could not imagine how it could have come there as he had not touched the oranges. The lazy boy then said to him that the very same thing had happened to the princess who had borne a son without knowing by whom. The spell under which the fish was bound was then broken, and it was transformed into a prince and married the princess. The lazy boy returned home a rich man.

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