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Main > Portuguese folktales > Fairy tale "Maria-of-the-Forest"

Maria-of-the-Forest

Once upon a time there was a young king who went into the deep forest on a hunting expedition. He and his favorite page became separated from the rest of the party and soon they realized that they were lost. As night approached they found the rude hut of a charcoal burner and begged for permission to pass the night there. They were received most hospitably.

Just at the hour of midnight the king was awakened from his sleep by a voice. This is what it said:

"Here in this hut is born to-night

The maiden of your fate:

You can't escape your lot, young king;

Your fate for you will wait.

'Tis fate—'tis fate—'tis fate."

The king turned over on his pillow and tried to sleep, but the strange voice kept ringing in his ears. He rose early.

As soon as he saw the charcoal burner the man said: "A baby daughter was born to me last night."

"At what time?" asked the king.

"It was just midnight," replied the charcoal burner.

The king awakened his page and told him what had happened.

"I refuse to wed any maid born in this poor hut," he said. "You must help me to escape this fate."

"What can I do about it?" asked the page, yawning.

"You must steal this babe this very day and put it to death," said the king sternly.

The page did not dare refuse, and easily obtained possession of the baby when no one was looking. He carried her away into the deep forest, but he did not have the heart to put an innocent babe to death. He left her in a hollow tree, wrapped up in the bright red sash he wore.

When he had returned to the king he confessed that he had been too tender-hearted to slay the baby. The king was angry.

"Take me to the baby," he said. "I'll do the deed myself."

Though they searched long and faithfully they were unable to find the hollow tree where the baby had been left. They, of course, did not wish to return to the hut of the charcoal burner, and at length they found their way out of the deep forest.

"No one will ever discover that baby if I could not find it myself!

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