Day 2, Tale 9
retold in rhyme by Laura J. Bobrow
A woman had three daughters and so needy was their state,
they had to go out begging. They were weary of their fate,
and they were cross. The woman had some cabbage leaves she’d got.
She needed only water from the fountain for the pot.
I’ll make a stew, she said. Tell me, which one of you will go
to fetch the water? And, in turn, each daughter answered, No.
All right, their mother sighed, it’s I who’ll have to get it. Stay,
the youngest, Luciella, cried. You’ve had a tiring day.
I’ll go and fetch it, mother. You must stay at home and rest.
Luciella, of the three, was easily the best.
She trudged off to the fountain. There a slave stood in the shade.
He said, You’re lovely. Come with me. Your fortune will be made.
Luciella was not loathe, But first I must, alack,
take water to my mother. If you’ll wait, I’ll be right back.
At home she said she’d seen some sticks of wood that they could use,
and left again. Her sisters did not guess their sister’s ruse
although they wondered when, indeed, she never did return.
She’d gone off with the slave to see what treasures she could earn.
Through woods and grotto this brave girl accompanied the slave.
He led her to a mansion which, from outside, was a cave.
The walls shone bright with gold. A sumptuous feast before her lay.
Servant girls replaced her rags with clothing bright and gay.
As night came on, they led her to a bed bedecked with gems.
She fell asleep to dream of kings and royal diadems.
Now while she slept as soon as all the curtains had been drawn,
a youth lay down beside her, but he left before the dawn.
Four weeks she lived in luxury and then she felt a yen
to visit with her mother and her sisters once again.
She told the slave who spoke, in turn, to someone out of sight,
and was quite pleased when he returned to say it was all right.
Here’s a sack of coins for mother but tell no one where you’ve been.
You must return before three days or we won’t let you in.
Needless to say, her sisters, when they saw her dressed like that,
were green with envy. Tell us all. Explain yourself, they spat.
But she refused to tell them and, when time came to depart,
she refused to take them with her. You’ll be sorry, little tart!
A few months later Luciella visited once more.
Again, she brought some money. She looked finer than before.
Again her sisters baited her, and having no success
determined on a different plan to squelch her happiness.
When next she came her sisters pled, We’re groveling at your feet.
Pray listen to us and you’ll find your life will be complete.
You’re of our blood. We love you, so we sought to learn the truth.
An ogre told us that you’re sleeping with a splendid youth.
When you’re asleep he comes into your room and takes his place.
You’re given sleeping potions, so you never see his face.
You must refuse the potion, Luciella. Stay awake.
And here’s a magic padlock which the ogre begs you take.
The ogre told us that this youth is underneath a spell,
but open up this padlock, dear, and he will then be well.
Your lover will be yours forever. Trust us. Yes, he will.
Luciella took their bad advice. That night when all was still
by candlelight she gazed at him. No flower was as grand.
She marveled at him. Then she took the padlock in her hand
and opened it. She saw in grave procession on the spreads
a group of women carrying skeins of yarn upon their heads.
One woman dropped a coil and, unaware, walked right along.
Kind Luciella called to her, You’ve dropped a skein! Too strong
was Luciella’s voice, for she observed that as she spoke
to her dismay the handsome youth first stirred and then awoke.
He was displeased! He sent her forth at once into the night.
She hastened home, but there her sisters shunned her out of spite.
She wandered. After two whole weeks of nights without a bed,
she reached the palace where she sought some straw to rest her head.
A gracious lady of the court saw Luciella there,
and through the dirt and grime discerned a maiden sweet and fair
though obviously pregnant. She was moved to pity. Dear,
you’ve no need to go further. Stay and quarter with me here.
A short time later Luciella bore a child, a son.
That very night while sleep had closed the eyes of everyone,
A handsome youth stood in her room and, speaking softly, said
these words: (and every night he said them standing by her bed)
Oh, precious son and lovely bride, if but the queen were told,
she’d swaddle you in silken robes and raiment made of gold.
Oh, lovely bride and precious son, if but my mother knew,
and if the rooster never sang, I would not part from you.
Luciella’s hostess soon found out and told the queen
that every night, until the rooster crowed, there could be seen
a handsome youth. The queen cried out, Have every rooster killed!
then stood in Luciella’s room. Her hopes were soon fulfilled.
He came. She quickly kissed her son and took him in her arms,
exactly what was needed to undo the ogre’s charms.
The ogre had decreed the prince must wander to and fro
until his mother kissed him and the rooster failed to crow.
Now the queen had son and grandson. Golden sunshine filled the room.
Luciella found her fortune and a handsome groom.
Her sisters, when they heard the news, rushed quickly to her side.
It is just as we predicted, Luciella dear, they lied.
Luciella was not fooled by what they had to say.
They received the treatment they deserved, and they were turned away.
Copyright © 2019 Laura J. Bobrow. All rights reserved.