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YASHPEH
International Folktales Collection

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Story No. 228


The Cabbage Stalk

Book Name:

Portuguese Folk-Tales

Tradition: Portugal

There lived once a little maid who was the daughter of poor people. This girl had a cabbage which grew in her kitchen garden, and she was in the habit of watering it. The little maid was always watching the cabbage sprout to see when it would come to seed. One day she noticed that on the cabbage stalk there was formed a ladder by which one could descend into the ground. She went down these steps and quickly found herself in a splendid palace in which there was a table very well laid out, and a beautiful bed. The maid sat down at the table and partook of the good things laid upon it with avidity, and went up again along the cabbage stalk and returned home. Whenever she felt hungry she would secretly go down the steps on the cabbage stalk and feast upon the delicacies she found in the palace. The little maid was growing fat, much to the surprise of her father and mother, who never saw her eat anything. At night when her parents were gone to sleep she would very quietly descend the cabbage stalk, and lie down to sleep on a beautiful couch which she found prepared in the palace. The mother, who began to suspect her daughter, one night arose from her bed to follow her down the ladder. She watched and saw her daughter get upon her couch, in which there was a beast. The mother then lit a candle, went to the couch, and uncovered the bed-clothes. Three drops of candle-grease fell upon the sleeping beast and immediately it became transformed into a prince. The prince then said to the mother: "You little know the harm you have done me! You have broken my spell, and now I cannot marry your daughter I" He then told the little maid to leave the palace, and gave her a rock of gold, a pair of iron shoes, and a staff, and said when the shoes were worn out to come again to see him in the palace. The little maid departed, and walked and walked on until at last the shoes began to wear out and she went about begging for alms. She met an old woman and she asked her to give her some things whilst she related her history to her. The old woman told her that she was no longer in time to marry the prince because there was a princess already in the palace who was destined for him. The old woman then gave her a rock of gold, a spinning-wheel, and a reel, and took leave of her, wishing her good luck. The maid arrived at the palace gate with her shoes and garments all torn, and begged for alms, and when the princess saw her standing on a rock of gold she sent to ask her for it. The maid replied that if she gave her the rock of gold she must allow her to go into the prince's chamber and sleep there one night, The princess would not consent, but the prince's mother told her to allow her to sleep at the prince's feet, for there was no fear that he would be aware of it, as she would take care to give him a sleeping-draught. And so it happened the maid went into the chamber to sleep without the prince knowing it, and during the night as she awoke she began to say –

                    "Prince of love

                    I have come many leagues,

                    To see thee, oh, my Lord!

                    My shoes are torn –

                    My staff is travel-worn,

                    Yet here I am come back to thee!"

The prince made no reply to this, and as soon as the day dawned they sent her away; but the prince remained quite ignorant of her stay there. The maid, however, continued before the palace gate at her wheel spinning, and the princess seeing her sent to ask her for her spinning-wheel of gold. The maid replied that she would only give it to her on condition of her allowing her to remain and sleep in the prince's apartment another night. The princess consented, but made her promise to leave the chamber early in the morning. The maid entered and again settled herself to sleep at the prince's feet, and on awakening repeated her former appeal –

                    "Prince of love

                    I have come many leagues,

                    To see thee, oh, my Lord!

                    My shoes are torn –

                    My staff travel worn,

                    Yet here I am come back to thee.

To this the prince, as before, made no reply, for he was fast asleep. The maid again left the chamber very early; but a valet who appeared to occupy an apartment next to the prince told him what he had heard repeated during the night. The prince was much astonished to hear it, and swore he would not take the usual draught next evening as he retired to rest. Next day the princess saw the maid again at her work before the palace, and as she remarked she had a golden reel she went to ask her for it. The maid replied that she would on condition that the favour she had begged for on the previous evening should be granted her once more. To this the princess said she consented, and sent the prince the usual draught to take that night. But the prince made only a pretence to drink it, and threw it away, and then ordered his valet to leave the chamber. During the night the little maid repeated –

                    "Prince of love

I have come many leagues,

                    To see thee, oh, my Lord!

                    My shoes are torn –

                    My staff travel worn,

                    Yet here I am come back to thee!"

The moment the prince heard her he felt very pleased, but the next moment he was much distressed in his mind because he remembered that he was already engaged to be married to the princess. He told the little maid to remain and not to leave his chamber. And when the marriage day arrived he asked the princess's father to settle a question for him, which was this: that his apartment had two keys; the first had been mislaid and lost, but he ever had hopes of finding it: now that he had a new key which he had ordered to be made, the old one had appeared – which ought he, he therefore asked his majesty to advise him, to keep? The king replied that in this case he advised him to retain the old one. The prince then recounted to his majesty the whole history of the little maid, and reminded him at the same time that lie it was who had given the sentence. He married the little maid, and the princess went to another kingdom.

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