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Main > Portuguese folktales > Fairy tale "Why the Owl Flies at Night"

Why the Owl Flies at Night


"Here, dear boy," said the saint, smiling. "Just pick the roses and fill your basket with them. Then take them to your stepmother and see what she will say to you. I'll be with you."

Pedro filled his big basket with the lovely red and yellow and pink and white roses which grew in the garden in such rich abundance. Then he ran into the house with them. As the light from the candles fell upon them, to his amazement he saw that they were no longer roses. The basket was full of wood.

"Where did you get this wood?" cried the woman angrily. "There are only roses in the garden. Where have you been?"

She seized Pedro roughly by the collar of his new coat and shook him until his teeth chattered. He looked up into the saint's eyes. St. Anthony's face was stern.

"Stop, woman!" cried the voice which a moment before had been so kind and gentle. Now it thundered forth in stern accents. "This little lad has done no harm. You have been guilty of a desire to bring harm to him, For this cruelty take the punishment which you so richly merit. It is you who have sent this child out into the night. Now it is I who sends you out into the night."

From that moment Pedro's stepmother was no longer a woman. She was changed into an owl with her eyes the big round circles they had looked when she had gazed up into the fierce face of angry St. Anthony. To this very day the owl has to fly by night.

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