Day 5, Tale #3 of Giambattista Basile’s “Il Pentamerone”
retold in narrative verse by Laura J. Bobrow
A merchant had a daughter who refused to settle down. She would not hear of marriage. Once, when he went off to town he asked her, “Betta, what shall I bring home when I come back?” “A hundredweight of sugar and some almonds in a sack, six flasks of scented water which give off a pleasant smell, a little musk and ambergris, and forty pearls as well, and two bright sapphires. Rubies, too, and garnets,” she cajoled, “a mixing trough and scraper, and some thread spun out of gold.” Her father was amazed at her extravagant request, but as he loved his child he answered, “I will do my best.” He managed to obtain them all. Then Betta, in her room began to mix ingredients all sweetened by perfume. She made a batch of almond paste and from it shaped a youth. The sapphires were his two bright eyes. Each pearl became a tooth. The rubies were his lips. His hair was made of golden thread. The only grace he lacked was speech. But Betta once had read about a king of Cyprus who transformed a girl of clay into a living being by his prayers alone. That day she prayed and begged the God of Love that such she could achieve. She prayed so hard and long, at last the youth began to breathe.