Today’s fairy tale features: a huge, green lizard-fairy; a spoiled, bitchy, goat-faced princess; three tasks; and an honest-to-dog moral. It’s short, it’s funny, it features a shocking act of villainy (poor little dog) — and it’s Italian, so of course all the aforementioned things are true. (For a deeper, more scholarly exploration of this story, check out the SurLaLune post about it. Heidi Anne Heiner is a wonder and a marvel.)
From Andrew Lang’s Grey Fairy Book, I give you…
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 help you.’
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?’