The Grey Fairy Book
There was once upon a time a king who reigned over a country called ‘Bello Puojo.' He
was very rich and powerful, and had everything in the world he could desire except a
child. But at last, after he had been married for many years, and was quite an old man, his
wife Renzolla presented him with a fine daughter, whom they called Cannetella.
She grew up into a beautiful girl, and was as tall and straight as a young fir-tree. When
she was eighteen years old her father called her to him and said: ‘You are of an age now,
my daughter, to marry and settle down; but as I love you more than anything else in the
world, and desire nothing but your happiness, I am determined to leave the choice of a
husband to yourself. Choose a man after your own heart, and you are sure to satisfy me.'
Cannetella thanked her father very much for his kindness and consideration, but told him
that she had not the slightest wish to marry, and was quite determined to remain single.
The king, who felt himself growing old and feeble, and longed to see an heir to the throne
before he died, was very unhappy at her words, and begged her earnestly not to
When Cannetella saw that the king had set his heart on her marriage, she said: ‘Very
well, dear father, I will marry to please you, for I do not wish to appear ungrateful for all
your love and kindness; but you must find me a husband handsomer, cleverer, and more
charming than anyone else in the world.'
The king was overjoyed by her words, and from early in the morning till late at night he
sat at the window and looked carefully at all the passers-by, in the hopes of finding a son-
in-law among them.
One day, seeing a very good-looking man crossing the street, the king called his daughter
and said: ‘Come quickly, dear Cannetella, and look at this man, for I think he might suit
you as a husband.'
They called the young man into the palace, and set a sumptuous feast before him, with
every sort of delicacy you can imagine. In the middle of the meal the youth let an almond
fall out of his mouth, which, however, he picked up again very quickly and hid under the
When the feast was over the stranger went away, and the king asked Cannetella: ‘Well,
what did you think of the youth?'
‘I think he was a clumsy wretch,' replied Cannetella. ‘Fancy a man of his age letting an
almond fall out of his mouth!'
When the king heard her answer he returned to his watch at the window, and shortly
afterwards a very handsome young man passed by. The king instantly called his daughter
to come and see what she thought of the new comer.