Day 1, Tale #5 of Giambattista Basile’s “Il Pentamerone”
retold in narrative verse 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 became a promise due.