Day 1, Tale #4 of Giambattista Basile’s “Il Pentamerone”
retold in rhyme by Laura J. Bobrow
There lived a widow, poor in goods but rich in common sense. The folk for miles around knew of her sweet benevolence. She had one son, Vardiello, who, unfortunately so, was the greatest sort of simpleton you’d ever want to know. “Vardiello, son, I’m off to town on these old bandy legs. Now you stay home and mind the hen. She has a clutch of eggs. We’ll have a bit of money once the little chicks are sold. But see that she stays on the nest. The eggs must not grow cold. And one thing more, take warning, in the cupboard there’s a pot. Inside are poisoned walnuts. You will die, so touch them not!” In truth it was but pickled nuts the little pot contained, but she feared that he would eat them until not a nut remained. No sooner had she left than Vardiello saw the hen run from the house. He tried and tried to shoo her back again. He stamped his feet and shouted. And when nothing worked, instead he threw a brick at her. And, oh! It struck and killed her dead. “The eggs must not get cold,” Vardiello muttered to himself. He rushed into the hen house where he climbed up on the shelf. He sat himself down awkwardly upon the little nest. But when he felt the gooey wet ... Ah well. You know the rest.