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Pentamerone Day One
Day Two
Day Three
Day Four
Day Five

                                                                THE FLEA
                                                                        Day 1, Tale 5
                                                        retold in rhyme by Laura J. Bobrow


A king, one day, was bitten by a flea.
He picked it off with great dexterity.
But as he was about to squash it dead,
he saw how strongly built it was. Instead

he placed it in a jar, quite safe from harm,
and fed it bloody droplets from his arm.
No flea has ever grown so big, so fast.
He sacrificed the lamb-sized thing at last.

He had it skinned and, when the skin was dressed,
sent out the word: If anybody guessed
what hide this was, he would receive as wife
his daughter, who was in the prime of life

and pretty, too. Most everybody tried
to win dear Porziella for his bride.
A crocodile? Some kind of monster cat?
They guessed at this or else they guessed at that,

until an ogre, hideous to see,
sniffed at the hide and promptly said, A flea,
The Lord of Fleas! What was a king to do?
A promise made becomes a promise due.

Though in his heart he knew it was not right,
he sent her off in tears that very night.
The ogre dragged her off into a wood
where sunlight never entered. In it stood

the ogre’s gruesome house made out of stones
and plastered all around with human bones.
The morsels that he gave his bride to eat
were pickled human hands and human feet.

Poor Porziella retched and turned away. 
’Not appetizing’ did I hear you say?
Tomorrow, then, I’ll hunt a wild beast
and roasted pig will be our wedding feast.

At dawn the ogre tramped off with a sack.
You sit outside and wait. I’ll soon be back. 
A woman passing by saw her and said,
My dearie, could you spare a bit of bread?

A bit of bread? she blurted out in tears.
The story I could tell would burn your ears.
Between her sobs she managed to relate
the life she’d led and this, her cruel fate.

Take heart. You were not meant for such as he.
My seven sons and I will set you free.
My first has such good hearing he, they say,
can hear a cow sneeze thirty miles away.

My second’s spit produces soapy glades.
My third turns grass into a field of blades.
The fourth drops twigs and forests then appear.
The fifth draws rivers from a single tear.

The sixth has still another useful power.
He turns a stone into a mighty tower.
And last of all the seventh, so say I,
can shoot a mile and hit a chicken’s eye. 

Make haste to call them, Porziella said.
If I don’t leave this house, I’ll soon be dead.
And now I’ll tell you how they came, and went,
and foiled the ogre’s odious intent.

They had not gone about two miles or so
when first son listened hard and whispered, Whoa!
The ogre’s back. He’s missed you and I fear
he’s coming after us. He’ll soon be here!

The second son spit out a soapy sea.
The ogre laughed. Your lather can’t stop me.
He ran back home and got a sack of bran.
He smeared it on his shoes, and on he ran.

The third son then laid down a field of steel,
the sharpest blades you’d ever want to feel,
but the ogre put on armor, head to toe,
and crossed the field as fast as he could go.
T
The first son heard him coming, Oh, be quick!
The fourth son right away threw down a stick.
A forest grew, a wood of monstrous trees.
The ogre swore, I’ve cut down worse than these.

And with a cleaver, slashing right and left,
he made a path and hurried thought the cleft.
Porziella, in her fright, now shed a tear.
The fifth son grabbed it up. Thank you, my dear.

He threw it on the ground. A river grew.
The ogre cried, I still can follow you.
He doffed his clothes and put them on his head,
and swam across. I’m here! the ogre said.

The first son heard his steps. He’s right behind!
Let’s see what kind of shelter we can find.
The sixth son said, I’ll save us! Have no fear.
He threw a stone and made a tower appear.

They ran inside and locked the only door.
You’ll not escape! they heard the ogre roar.
He fetched a ladder, leaned it on the wall,
and climbed with speed. He planned to kill them all.

Before he could, the seventh son took aim
and shot him. Down the shrieking ogre came.
The lad then quickly grabbed the ogre’s knife
and with one slash deprived him of his life.

Come out, he called. He’s dead. Don’t fear a thing.
They took the ogre’s body to the king 
who sorely had repented of his deed  
and was overcome with joy now she was freed.

How could I, Porziella, on a whim
have sent you from my home to marry him!
I swear to keep you safe for evermore.
I’ll find a handsome husband you’ll adore.

He called for gold and treasure by the tons
and gave them to the woman and her sons.
And thus there ends a story happily
about a king, his daughter and a flea.


Copyright © 2019 Laura J. Bobrow. All rights reserved.