Day 1, Tale 8
retold in rhyme by Laura J. Bobrow
A peasant, who had little worth
and earned his bread by digging earth,
slaved hard to keep his family fed.
Each year his wife was brought to bed
with child, and each, with lusty bawl,
a daughter. There were twelve in all.
One day while in a deep dark wood
a lizard, quite enormous, stood
in front of him. He sought his knees
and begged, Oh, madam, spare me, please.
I have a needy family.
Their hungry mouths depend on me.
The lizard said, That’s why I’m here.
I will not harm you. Have no fear.
You have twelve daughters. I have none.
Bring to me your youngest one.
I’ll raise her as my own, and she
will know a better life with me.
Of course, if you refuse, poor man,
I might just eat you. Yes, I can.
Now choose! What could the peasant do?
He moaned and grieved. His wife did, too.
But then she said, Husband, who knows?
Is this the luck to end our woes?
Go bring her. I will not demur.
Some good will come of it for her.
They kissed the babe goodbye, and then
he took her to the lizard’s den
and got, in turn, a bag of gold
which pleased them much, if truth be told.
The babe, Renzolla was her name,
was fortunate, for she became
a veritable princess. She
had clothes and jewels and luxury,
and maids to serve her every need.
And she was beautiful. Indeed
a king who sheltered there one night
observed her with intense delight.
She poured his wine with supple grace.
He loved her for her gorgeous face.
He asked the lizard for her hand.
Your wish, oh king, is my command.
The girl is yours, and dowry too.
Take her. She now belongs to you.
Renzolla had grown proud and rude.
She said no word of gratitude,
no thanks for all your loving care,
just left the lizard standing there.
That caused the lizard’s lips to curl.
Bad luck to you, ungrateful girl!
Immediately she placed a curse.
Your beauty’s gone, and what is worse,
your face will be that of a goat.
You’ll grow a beard down to your throat.
Imagine now the king’s dismay.
They had not gone but miles away
when what was once a maiden fair
had narrowed jaws and facial hair
and horns. She looked just like a beast.
I’ll hide her out of sight, at least.
He put Renzolla in a room
with just one maid. Each had a loom.
You’ll spin and weave.The maid set to
to do the work she had to do.
Renzolla, with no mirror by
to see the change, began to cry.
Shall I, a princess and a queen,
be forced to do a task so mean?
And in a week? Not I! she said.
She stamped her feet and tossed her head.
But when the week was nearly through
she feared what else the king might do.
So, making her escape, she ran
back to the den where she began
and blubbered in the lizard’s ear.
The lizard calmed her. Have no fear.
The work is done, inside this sack.
Now dry your tears and take it back.
Without a single gracious word
she grabbed it. Has she never heard
of Thank you, ma’am? the lizard hissed.
I raised her but somehow I missed
instilling manners in her head,
and made her fair outside instead.
The king received the work with praise,
and gave them each a dog to raise.
The maid fed hers and brushed its fur.
But did Renzolla? As for her,
she kicked her dog and threw him out.
He thinks I’ll slave for him no doubt.
Six months went by. Then came the day
the king asked for the dogs. Away
Renzolla fled, back to the den.
A servant barred her entrance then.
Who are you, miss? What do you seek?
I am the princess! Dare you speak
to me that way? Renzolla cried.
You ugly man! Now step aside.
Well, as for ugly, miss, let’s see
which of us might more ugly be.
Just wait. He fetched a mirror. There!
Renzolla gasped. She saw the hair,
the horns, the beard. She had not known
how horrible her looks had grown.
Now who are you to cry for help?
Remember, you‘re a peasant’s whelp.
The lizard would have made you queen.
Your arrogance is what you’ve seen
inside the glass, you haughty churl.
You’ve spoiled it all, you stupid girl.
But maybe there’s salvation yet.
Go prove to her your deep regret.
Be humble. Shower her with praise
and say you rue your prideful ways.
The lizard has a tender heart.
Perhaps she’ll grant a second start.
And that’s exactly how it went.
When tears were shed and kisses spent,
Renzolla, dressed in cloth of gold,
as fair inside as to behold
rode back to be her husband’s wife.
And so she was, for all her life.
Copyright © 2019 Laura J. Bobrow. All rights reserved.