THE ENCHANTED DOE
Day 1, Tale #9 of Giambattista Basile’s “Il Pentamerone”
retold in narrative verse 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.”