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Main > Italy folktales > Fairy tale "The Three Citrons"

The Three Citrons

And when he had done eating she gave him three citrons, which seemed to be just fresh gathered from the tree; and she gave him also a beautiful knife, saying, "You are now free to return to Italy, for your labour is ended, and you have what you were seeking. Go your way, therefore, and when you are near your own kingdom stop at the first fountain you come to and cut a citron. Then a fairy will come forth from it, and will say to you, 'Give me to drink.' Mind and be ready with the water or she will vanish like quicksilver. But if you are not quick enough with the second fairy, have your eyes open and be watchful that the third does not escape you, giving her quickly to drink, and you shall have a wife after your own heart."

The Prince, overjoyed, kissed the old woman's hairy hand a hundred times, which seemed just like a hedgehog's back. Then taking his leave he left that country, and coming to the seashore sailed for the Pillars of Hercules, and arrived at our Sea, and after a thousand storms and perils, he entered port a day's distance from his own kingdom. There he came to a most beautiful grove, where the Shades formed a palace for the Meadows, to prevent their being seen by the sun; and dismounting at a fountain, which, with a crystal tongue, was inviting the people to refresh their lips, he seated himself on a Syrian carpet formed by the plants and flowers. Then he drew his knife from the sheath and began to cut the first citron, when lo! there appeared like a flash of lightning a most beautiful maiden, white as milk and red as a strawberry, who said, "Give me to drink!" The Prince was so amazed, bewildered, and captivated with the beauty of the fairy that he did not give her the water quick enough, so she appeared and vanished at one and the same moment. Whether this was a rap on the Prince's head, let any one judge who, after longing for a thing, gets it into his hands and instantly loses it again.

Then the Prince cut the second citron, and the same thing happened again; and this was a second blow he got on his pate; so making two little fountains of his eyes, he wept, face to face, tear for tear, drop for drop, with the fountain, and sighing he exclaimed, "Good heavens, how is it that I am so unfortunate?

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