THE ENCHANTED DOE
Day 1, Tale 9
retold in rhyme by Laura J. Bobrow
There once was a king who desired to have heirs,
but the gods gave no answer to his fervent prayers.
Then he thought if he gave away money, he’d find
that the gods would take note and be favorably inclined.
So he welcomed all beggars and pilgrims he met.
He spread out his wealth. He spent freely. And yet
no child had been born. Well enough, then. No more,
growled the King. He retired, and he bolted his door.
Now one pilgrim he’d aided along with the rest
sought to find out the reason the King was distressed.
What is wrong? roared the King. I’ve spent money in vain
and I still have no son. That’s what’s giving me pain.
If that’s all that is wrong, you have nothing to fear.
I can promise your wife will give birth in a year.
I pledge my two ears what I say will come true,
if you will but do what I tell you to do.
You must first catch a sea dragon’s heart on a hook.
Then give it to only a virgin to cook.
The odor will make her conceive. When it’s done
feed the heart to the Queen. She will bear you a son.
That’s impossible! snorted the King with a cry.
But ... I’ve nothing to lose. Let me give it a try.
The King called his sailors and sent them to sea
with every device to catch fish there might be.
They had reels, traps and lines. They had trawls used to sweep,
and they tacked and they turned as they plundered the deep
‘til at last a sea dragon was caught on a string.
They ripped out its heart and went straight to the King.
A young virgin servant cooked Dragon Heart Stew.
The steam made her faint and her small belly grew.
When the Queen ate the heart, it was tender and mild
and before seven bites she was swelled up with child.
and the strong box swelled up with a new little chest,
and the weapons with small arms, a coat with a vest,
the canopy bed with a small little cot,
and the bitches with puppies, the stove with a pot.
Two babies were born. They were fair to be seen,
one to the servant and one to the Queen.
They were so much alike, these two sons of the heart,
that only their mothers could tell them apart.
The two boys grew closer the older they got
as if their two spirits were tied in a knot.
Fonzo’s love for his brother was tender to see.
But the Queen became filled with intense jealousy.
Why, he loves Canneloro, my serving girl’s son
more than he loves his mother! Now what’s to be done?
Her envy increased to the point where she knew
that to kill Canneloro was what she must do.
Canneloro and Fonzo were busy one day
making bullets of lead for a hunting foray.
The metal was melting, the fire was hot
when Fonzo went off for some tool he’d forgot.
The Queen, when she saw Fonzo leaving, grew bold.
She entered the room and she picked up the mold.
Then quickly, with malice, she flung the hot lead
as hard as she could at the hated boy’s head.
He managed to duck, but some lead hit him, Ow!
and made a deep wound just above his right brow.
He was saved from more harm because Fonzo returned.
He pulled on a hat to conceal he was burned.
Though in pain, Canneloro remained standing still
while the Queen kissed her son. Son, be careful. I will.
But as soon as she left, he said, Fonzo, don’t grieve,
but I find that it’s urgent that I take my leave.
But why would you leave? What’s the matter? What’s wrong?
Suffice it to say that my reasons are strong.
You’re my heart. You’re my love. We’re so close! All these years!
The two boys embraced and they shed many tears.
And now we must chart Canneloro’s new course.
He armed himself well and he mounted his horse.
But before he rode off, he said, Fonzo, watch me.
This dagger is one of the heart’s progeny.
He stabbed at the earth and a fountain arose.
If the water runs clear, so my life clearly goes.
If the water turns muddy there’s trouble to pay.
If the fountain dries up, then my life’s passed away.
And this sword? It will also work magic for me.
Where he touched it to ground there at once stood a tree.
If it’s green, I am well. If it withers, I’m ill.
If it dies, you may know that I also lie still.
Canneloro had many exploits on his way
and at length he arrived on a tournament day
at a far distant kingdom. So well did he ride
that he won the King’s daughter, Fenizia, for bride.
They were perfectly matched, and the living was good.
Why does no one go hunting in that nearby wood?
Canneloro once asked. If we did we’d be dead.
We’d be caught by an ogre, his father-in-law said.
He changes his form, now a wolf, now a hare,
and he lures the lone hunter away to his lair.
Canneloro, who’d never known fear in his life,
went to hunt, despite cries from Fenizia, his wife.
The ogre saw all. With a smirk on his face
he changed to a doe. Canneloro gave chase.
The doe doubled back, and she turned to and fro
until, deep in the woods, she caused it to snow.
Canneloro sought shelter inside of a cave.
He kindled a fire for the warmth that it gave.
While he was drying his clothes, there outside
stood the doe he’d been chasing. Snow clung to her hide.
Sir Knight, said the doe, may I stand by your fire?
You are welcome, he said, for the weather is dire.
But I fear you will kill me, she shyly demurred.
Will you tie up your dogs? Will you give me your word?
Canneloro agreed, and he tied the dogs.There.
Will you tether your horse? For I still do not dare.
Will you bind up your sword? For I still have some fear.
Canneloro did all. Then, no longer a deer,
the ogre dragged poor Canneloro away
to the back of the cave where a fetid pit lay.
Down into that pit Canneloro was thrown,
and the opening closed with a very large stone.
Fonzo, meanwhile, saw the water turn brown.
Canneloro’s in trouble! he said with a frown.
He rushed to the stable. He mounted a bay,
and, without taking leave, swiftly galloped away.
He traveled the world until one day, at last,
he came to a palace. A pall had been cast
over all of the kingdom, in mourning, they said,
for a knight who went hunting and surely was dead.
When Fenizia saw Fonzo, My husband! she cried.
I thought you would never return to my side.
Fonzo kept silent. He needed to hear.
Canneloro had been there and left, it was clear.
Didn’t we warn you? she said in one breath,
That the ogre would trick you and lure you to death
if you went out to hunt? Well, thank God, you’ve been spared.
But Fonzo knew well how his brother had fared.
He sprang to his horse and went straight to the wood.
Fenizia begged, Stop! but her cries did no good.
There the ogre was waiting, again as a doe.
Fonzo set out to follow wherever she’d go.
When he got to the cave, he could see deep inside
his brother’s old horse, with his dogs tied beside.
He untied the dogs and he patted their heads.
When the doe begged for entry, they tore her to shreds.
Then he found Canneloro by searching about
and with joy the two brothers together set out
for the palace. Fenizia’s eyes opened wide.
Which of them was her husband? She could not decide.
Canneloro stood mute. But he took off his hat.
She saw the old wound and she knew him from that.
Fonzo saw the scar, too, and he suddenly guessed
why his brother had left. It was all for the best.
After lingering a while, Fonzo wished to depart.
Tell your mother the cause was the sea dragon’s heart.
I forgive her. And please send my mother to stay.
Canneloro was not known to hunt, from that day.
Copyright © 2019 Laura J. Bobrow. All rights reserved.