The Grey Fairy Book HTML version
The Goat-faced Girl
There was once upon a time a peasant called Masaniello who had twelve daughters. They
were exactly like the steps of a staircase, for there was just a year between each sister. It
was all the poor man could do to bring up such a large family, and in order to provide
food for them he used to dig in the fields all day long. In spite of his hard work he only
just succeeded in keeping the wolf from the door, and the poor little girls often went
hungry to bed.
One day, when Masaniello was working at the foot of a high mountain, he came upon the
mouth of a cave which was so dark and gloomy that even the sun seemed afraid to enter
it. Suddenly a huge green lizard appeared from the inside and stood before Masaniello,
who nearly went out of his mind with terror, for the beast was as big as a crocodile and
quite as fierce looking.
But the lizard sat down beside him in the most friendly manner, and said: ‘Don't be
afraid, my good man, I am not going to hurt you; on the contrary, I am most anxious to
When the peasant heard these words he knelt before the lizard and said: ‘Dear lady, for I
know not what to call you, I am in your power; but I beg of you to be merciful, for I have
twelve wretched little daughters at home who are dependent on me.'
‘That's the very reason why I have come to you,' replied the lizard. ‘Bring me your
youngest daughter to-morrow morning. I promise to bring her up as if she were my own
child, and to look upon her as the apple of my eye.'
When Masaniello heard her words he was very unhappy, because he felt sure, from the
lizard's wanting one of his daughters, the youngest and tenderest too, that the poor little
girl would only serve as dessert for the terrible creature's supper. At the same time he said
to himself, ‘If I refuse her request, she will certainly eat me up on the spot. If I give her
what she asks she does indeed take part of myself, but if I refuse she will take the whole
of me. What am I to do, and how in the world am I to get out of the difficulty?'
As he kept muttering to himself the lizard said, ‘Make up your mind to do as I tell you at
once. I desire to have your youngest daughter, and if you won't comply with my wish, I
can only say it will be the worse for you.'
Seeing that there was nothing else to be done, Masaniello set off for his home, and
arrived there looking so white and wretched that his wife asked him at once: ‘What has
happened to you, my dear husband? Have you quarrelled with anyone, or has the poor
donkey fallen down?'
‘Neither the one nor the other,' answered her husband,' but something far worse than
either. A terrible lizard has nearly frightened me out of my senses, for she threatened that