To Book List

To Story List

To Main Page

International Folktales Collection

To Next Story

To Previous Story

Story No. 830

Oraggio and Bianchinetta

Book Name:

Italian Popular Tales

Tradition: Italy

(Tuscan, Novellaja fiorentina, p. 314, Oraggio e Bianchinetta)

There was once a lady who had two children: the boy was called Oraggio, the girl, Bianchinetta. By misfortunes they were reduced from great wealth to poverty. It was decided that Oraggio should go out to service, and indeed he found a situation as valet de chambre to a prince. After a time the prince, satisfied with his service, changed it, and set him to work cleaning the pictures in his gallery. Among the various paintings was one of a very beautiful lady, which was constantly Oraggio's admiration. The prince often surprised him admiring the portrait. One day he asked him why he spent so much time before that picture. Oraggio replied that it was the very image of his sister, and having been away from her some time, he felt the need of seeing her again. The prince answered that he did not believe that picture resembled his sister, because he had a search made, and it had not been possible to find any lady like the portrait. He added: "Have her come here, and if she is as beautiful as you say, I will make her my wife."

Oraggio wrote at once to Bianchinetta, who immediately set out on her journey. Oraggio went to the harbor to await her, and when he perceived the ship at a distance, he called out at intervals: "Mariners of the high sea, guard my sister Bianchina, so that the sun shall not brown her." Now, on the ship where Bianchinetta was, was also another young girl with her mother, both very homely. When they were near the harbor, the daughter gave Bianchinetta a blow, and pushed her into the sea. When they landed, Oraggio could not recognize his sister; and that homely girl presented herself, saying that the sun had made her so dark that she could no longer be recognized. The prince was surprised at seeing such a homely woman, and reproved Oraggio, removing him from his position and setting him to watch the geese. Every day he led the geese to the sea, and every day Bianchinetta came forth and adorned them with tassels of various colors. When the geese returned home, they said: –

                    "Crò! crò!

                   From the sea we come,

                    We feed on gold and pearls.

                    Oraggio's sister is fair,

                    She is fair as the sun;

                    She would suit our master well."

The prince asked Oraggio how the geese came to repeat those words every day. He told him that his sister, thrown into the sea, had been seized by a fish, which had taken her to a beautiful palace under the water, where she was in chains. But that, attached to a long chain, she was permitted to come to the shore when he drove the geese there. The prince said: "If what you relate is true, ask her what is required to liberate her from that prison."

The next day Oraggio asked Bianchinetta how it would be possible to take her from there and conduct her to the prince. She replied: "It is impossible to take me from here. At least, the monster always says to me: 'It would require a sword that cuts like a hundred, and a horse that runs like the wind.' It is almost impossible to find these two things. You see, therefore, it is my fate to remain here always." Oraggio returned to the palace, and informed the prince of his sister's answer. The latter made every effort, and succeeded in finding the horse that ran like the wind, and the sword that cut like a hundred. They went to the sea, found Bianchinetta, who was awaiting them. She led them to her palace. With the sword the chain was cut. She mounted the horse, and thus was able to escape. When they reached the palace the prince found her as beautiful as the portrait Oraggio was always gazing at, and married her. The other homely one was burned in the public square, with the accustomed pitch-shirt; and they lived content and happy.[22]


[22] See Pent. IV. 7; Gonz., Nos. 33, 34; Pitrè, Nos. 59, 60 (61); Archivio, II. 36 (Sardinia); De Nino, No. 19; and Schneller, No. 22. The corresponding Grimm story is No. 135, "The White Bride and the Black One." For other European references, see Köhler to Gonz., Nos. 33, 34 (II. p. 225), and Romania, No. 24, pp. 546, 561. See also Chapter II., note 1.

We have already encountered the trait of "Thankful Animals," who assist the hero in return for kindness he has shown them. What is merely an incident in the stories above alluded to constitutes the main feature of a class of stories which may be termed "Animal Brothers-in-law." The usual formula in these stories is as follows: Three princes, transformed into animals, marry the hero's sisters. The hero visits them in turn; they assist him in the performance of difficult tasks, and are by him freed from their enchantment. This formula varies, of course. Sometimes there are but two sisters, and the brothers-in-law are freed from their enchantment in some other way than by the hero. A good specimen of this class is from the south of Italy, Basilicata (Comparetti, No. 20), and is called:

13. The Fair Fiorita.


To Next Story

To Previous Story