THE GOLDEN ROOT
Day 5, Tale #4 of Giambattista Basile’s “Il Pentamerone”
retold in rhyme by Laura J. Bobrow
A gardener once was very poor. To make his daughters’ lives secure he gave them each a little sow. “These pigs will be your dowries now.” The eldest grazed theirs on a lee. “There is,” they said, “no room for three.” Thus Parmatella, banished so, was forced to take her sow and go to find another spot. She did. A glade within a forest hid a tree whose leaves were made of gold. She plucked one, which her father sold, but when he asked she would not tell the source. “No, father, it’s as well you do not know, lest fortune flee. You leave the picking up to me.” She picked the leaves, picked on and on till every single leaf was gone. The tree had given up its fruit. But still it had a golden root. She fetched an ax and laid it bare. Beneath it was a crystal stair and at the bottom she beheld a palace in which no one dwelled. She walked from room to room in awe. Then in a distant room she saw a splendid table was replete with dinner. She sat down to eat. And while she dined a slave came in, a handsome man with darkened skin. “I beg you not to run away. I want you for my wife. Please stay. I’ll make you happy.” Through her fright she managed to gasp out, “All right.” At once a coach with steeds was there which took her flying through the air. Then four attendant apes were seen. They dressed her up just like a queen. When night time came, her husband said, “It’s time for you to go to bed.