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Day Two
Pentamerone Day Three
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Day Five


                                                CANNETELLA
                                                        Day 3, Tale 1
                                        retold in rhyme by Laura J. Bobrow

A king once had a daughter. Cannetella was her name.
The taller that she grew the more unyielding she became.
I will not, she’d say and No, she’d say. It drove her father wild
to have to try to deal with such a stubborn, willful child.

Cannetella, said her father, it is time for you to wed.
I will never, she replied, allow a stranger in my bed.
But you must be married, said the king. It’s what young women do.
I will stay here in the palace with the servants and with you.

He insisted, he implored, but she continued to refuse.
Then, pretending to give in, she said, But I’m the one who’ll choose.
I will marry any man who has no fault that I can find.
There ensued a long procession of young men of every kind.

He’s much too thin, he’s simply fat, and no, his feet are small.
This one is dull, and that one has no elegance at all.
Cannetella found a reason to dismiss each man in turn.
The king became impatient. His regal voice was stern.

You are making up excuses!    That’s not true, his daughter said.
I’ve decided that the man I wed must have a golden head.
And he’ll have golden teeth as well.  She made this up because
she knew that no such creature could exist in nature’s laws.  

Well, not in nature, no, but she had failed to realize
an evil man with bad intent can conjure a disguise.
A magician, who despised the king, on hearing of the news
was overcome with joy for he had special arts to use.

He knew the ways of alchemy, and when his work was through
with golden head he strolled about within the sovereign’s view.
I see him. There he is! cried Cannetella’s father. There,
with golden teeth and golden eyes and nose and golden hair.

When Cannetella saw him she said, Father. You are right,
and I must wed that loathsome man. She shuddered at the sight.
As soon as they were wed the wicked groom made haste to leave.
But wait! cried out the king. You’ll need some horses, I believe,

and what of servants to attend her in her new abode?
One horse will serve us both, replied the groom. And off they rode.
They went an hour, they went a day, and just at eventide
they reached a stable. Here they stopped. He pushed his bride inside.

What place is this? she asked. He said, It’s where you’re going to stay
for I must make a journey. Seven years I’ll be away.
You may not set a foot outside nor ask for anything
or I will kill you, Cannetella, daughter of the king. 

What shall I eat for all those years? Alas, what shall I do?
Whatever food the horses leave will be enough for you.
You’ll have a bucket for your throne, and straw to sleep upon.
Remember, speak to no one, darling bride. Then he was gone!

And she who’d slept on silken sheets would do so never more.
She wailed and shrieked. She tore her hair and curled up on the floor.
But then she scratched the wall until a little hole was made. 
Outside she saw a garden filled with trees of every shade.

Flowers bloomed, and luscious grapes hung low upon a vine.
She wanted them. She longed for them. And why shan’t they be mine?
Who is there to tell on me? A hundred years from now
what will it matter? Death’s not worse than this life, anyhow.

Reasoning so, she pushed the door and managed to escape.
She crammed the fruit into her mouth, one grape, another grape ...
but suddenly without a noise her husband reappeared.
Ah, Cannetella, you have disobeyed me, as I feared.

He snarled at her and spat at her and then he drew his knife.
For this transgression, Cannetella, I will have your life!
Cannetella gasped and pleaded, Husband, spare me please!
He threw her in the stable where she landed on her knees.

This one time I forgive you, out of charity, but I
know all, and next I hear that you have crossed me, you will die.
He left, and left a wretched girl, disheartened and forlorn.
Oh why, cried Cannetella, was I ever even born!

My father wished the best for me. He’s not the one to blame.
It’s I who challenged nature, to my everlasting shame. 
She wept and pined until one day she thought she heard a sound,
as if a set of wagon wheels were trundling on the ground. 

And yes! The little hole revealed, just coming down the road, 
a peasant and his horse and cart with barrels for a load.
The driver nodded on his seat. Without a backward glance
she rushed outside and called to him. It was her only chance.

Please help me! Let me ride, and you may have my wedding ring. 
And take me to the palace to my father who is king.  
A likely story, Miss, the peasant laughed, but come along.
You’re ragged and you’re pale and I can see that something’s wrong.

Her father did not know her. She was dirty, bruised and thin.
But finally he recognized the mole upon her chin.
He had her bathed and clothed and fed. She told him of her woes.
And, Father, I still fear my groom. He’ll kill me if he knows.

You may be sure it was not long before her husband heard.
The horses in the stable told him all that had occurred.
He flew into an awful rage. She’ll not escape from me.
He hurried to a nearby roof to see what he could see.

She sat upon a balcony while brushing out her hair.
A golden glint soon caught her eye. She saw that he was there.
She rushed inside and called the king. Oh, Father, it’s my doom.
Quick! Build me seven iron doors to seal me in my room.

The seven doors were built. Alas, the seven were too few.
Her husband bribed a lady’s maid and told her what to do.
You take this piece of paper on which is writ a spell.
Do as I say. No harm will come. And I will pay you well.

Cannetella has been traveling. She needs a pleasant rest.
Just slip this in her bedding and the charm will do the rest.
The foolish maid believed him. She never did suspect
the paper which she held would have the opposite effect.

Written on the paper in a script too small to see
was a charm devised to further the magician’s treachery.
That night in Cannetella’s room, her iron-door retreat,
the maid laid down the charm, between the mattress and the sheet,

All living in the palace, read the charm, will fall asleep
except for Cannetella who alone awake will keep.
At once the king and dogs and cats and servants slept as dead.
But Cannetella lay awake and fearful in her bed.

The palace halls were silent. Then she could plainly hear
her husband’s cruel laughter and his footsteps drawing near.
She heard the crash as one door fell, and then the second, too.
Your iron is no match for gold!    What kind of fiend are you?

she screamed as doors fell: three, four, five. But none came to her aid.
She dove beneath the sheets. She’d never been so stark afraid.
The sixth door yielded, then the last, and standing in the room
was the man who’d sworn to kill her, he, her monstrous, wicked groom.

He bent right down and scooped her up, the girl, bed sheets and all.
But doing so dislodged the charm. He let the paper fall.
No sooner had it touched the ground than all rose from their dreams.
They heard the dreadful sound of Cannetella’s frightened screams.

They rushed into her room and fell upon that man of gold.
They beat and tore his flesh till there was little to behold.
Then they threw what still remained down from the highest palace wall.
The golden head sank deep into the moat, beyond recall.

Cannetella sobbed hysterically within the king’s embrace.
I’d rather be your slave than be a queen in any place.
She learned her lesson only after tears and blood were shed.
She’s living in the palace still, I think I’ve heard it said. 

And as for the magician? The doom he would have served
instead was his to suffer. And he got what he deserved.

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