The Grey Fairy Book
There lived, once upon a time, in the land of Marigliano, a poor woman called Masella,
who had six pretty daughters, all as upright as young fir-trees, and an only son called
Antonio, who was so simple as to be almost an idiot. Hardly a day passed without his
mother saying to him, ‘What are you doing, you useless creature? If you weren't too
stupid to look after yourself, I would order you to leave the house and never to let me see
your face again.'
Every day the youth committed some fresh piece of folly, till at last Masella, losing all
patience, gave him a good beating, which so startled Antonio that he took to his heels and
never stopped running till it was dark and the stars were shining in the heavens. He
wandered on for some time, not knowing where to go, and at last he came to a cave, at
the mouth of which sat an ogre, uglier than anything you can conceive.
He had a huge head and wrinkled brow--eyebrows that met, squinting eyes, a flat broad
nose, and a great gash of a mouth from which two huge tusks stuck out. His skin was
hairy, his arms enormous, his legs like sword blades, and his feet as flat as ducks'. In
short, he was the most hideous and laughable object in the world.
But Antonio, who, with all his faults, was no coward, and was moreover a very civil-
spoken lad, took off his hat, and said: ‘Good-day, sir; I hope you are pretty well. Could
you kindly tell me how far it is from here to the place where I wish to go?'
When the ogre heard this extraordinary question he burst out laughing, and as he liked the
youth's polite manners he said to him: ‘Will you enter my service?'
‘What wages do you give?' replied Antonio.
‘If you serve me faithfully,' returned the ogre, ‘I'll be bound you'll get enough wages to
So the bargain was struck, and Antonio agreed to become the ogre's servant. He was very
well treated, in every way, and he had little or no work to do, with the result that in a few
days he became as fat as a quail, as round as a barrel, as red as a lobster, and as impudent
as a bantam-cock.
But, after two years, the lad got weary of this idle life, and longed desperately to visit his
home again. The ogre, who could see into his heart and knew how unhappy he was, said
to him one day: ‘My dear Antonio, I know how much you long to see your mother and
sisters again, and because I love you as the apple of my eye, I am willing to allow you to
go home for a visit. Therefore, take this donkey, so that you may not have to go on foot;
but see that you never say "Bricklebrit" to him, for if you do you'll be sure to regret it.'