Petrosinella (Parsley) by Giambattista Basile

This is a story collected by a Neapolitan writer Giambattista Basile as part of the Tale of Tales. This story is one of the influences for Rapunzel by the Brothers Grimm.

There was once upon a time a woman named Pascadozzia. As she was standing one day at a window, which looked into the garden of an ogress, she saw a beautiful bed of parsley, for which she took such a longing that she was on the point of fainting away; and being unable to resist her desire, she watched until the ogress went out, and then plucked a handful of it.

But when the ogress came home, and was going to cook her pottage, she found that some one had been at the parsley, and said, "Ill luck to me but I'll catch this long-fingered rogue, and make him repent it, and teach him to his cost that every one should eat off his own platter, and not meddle with other folks' cups."

The poor woman went again and again down into the garden, until one morning the ogress met her, and in a furious rage exclaimed, "Have I caught you at last, you thief, you rogue? Prithee do you pay the rent of the garden, that you come in this impudent way and steal my plants? By my faith, but I'll make you do penance!"

Poor Pascadozzia, in a terrible fright, began to make excuses, saying that neither from gluttony nor the craving of hunger had she been tempted by the devil to commit this fault, but fear she had lest the child should be born with a crop of parsley on its face; and she added that the ogress ought rather to thank her, for not having given her sore eyes.

"Words are but wind," answered the ogress; "I am not to be caught with such prattle; you have closed the balance sheet of life, unless you promise to give me the child you bring forth, girl or boy, whichever it may be."

Poor Pascadozzia, in order to escape the peril in which she found herself, swore with one hand upon another to keep the promise. So the ogress let her go free. But when her time was come, Pascadozzia gave birth to a little girl, so beautiful that she was a joy to look upon, who, from having a fine sprig of parsley on her bosom, was named Parsley.

And the little girl grew from day to day, until when she was seven years old her mother sent her to school; and every time she went along the street and met the ogress, the old woman said to her, "Tell your mother to remember her promise."

And she went on repeating this message so often, that the poor mother, having no longer patience to listen to the same tale, said one day to Parsley, "If you meet the old woman as usual, and she reminds you of the hateful promise, answer her, 'Take it!'"

When Parsley, who dreamt of no ill, met the ogress again, and heard her repeat the same words, she answered innocently as her mother had told her; whereupon the ogress, seizing her by her hair, carried her off to a wood, which the sun never entered. Then she put the poor girl into a tower, which she caused to arise by her art, and which had neither gate nor ladder, but only a little window, through which she ascended and descended by means of Parsley's hair, which was very long, as the sailor is used to run up and down the mast of a ship.

Now it happened one day, when the ogress had left the tower, that Parsley put her head out of the little window, and let loose her tresses in the sun; and the son of a prince passing by saw these two golden banners, which invited all souls to enlist under the standard of love; and beholding with amazement in the midst of those gleaming waves a siren's face, that enchanted all hearts, he fell desperately in love with such wonderful beauty; and sending her a memorial of sighs, she decreed to receive him into favor.

Matters went on so well with the prince, that there was soon a nodding of heads and kissing of hands, thanks and offerings, hopes and promises, soft words and compliments. And when this had continued for several days, Parsley and the prince became so intimate that they made an appointment to meet, and agreed that it should be at night, and that Parsley should give the ogress some poppy juice, and draw up the prince with her tresses. So when the appointed hour came, the prince went to the tower, where Parsley, letting fall her hair at a given signal, he seized it with both his hands, and cried, "Draw up!" And when he was drawn up, he crept through the little window into the chamber.

The next morning early, the prince descended by the same golden ladder, to go his way home. And having repeated these visits many times, a gossip of the ogress, who was for ever prying into things that did not concern her, and poking her nose into every corner, got to find out the secret, and told the ogress to be upon the lookout, for that Parsley was courted by a youth.

The ogress thanked the gossip for the information, and said she would take good care to stop up the road; and as to Parsley, it was impossible for her to escape, as she had laid a spell upon her, so that, unless she had in her hand the three gallnuts which were in a rafter in the kitchen, it would be labor lost to attempt to get away.

Whilst they were talking thus together, Parsley, who stood with her ears wide open, and had some suspicion of the gossip, overheard all that passed. And when night had spread out her black garments, and the prince had come as usual, she made him climb onto the rafters and find the gallnuts, knowing well what effect they would have, as she had been enchanted by the ogress. Then, having made a rope ladder, they both descended to the ground, took to their heels, and scampered off towards the city.

But the gossip happening to see them come out, set up a loud halloo, and began to shout and make such a noise that the ogress awoke; and seeing that Parsley had fled, she descended by the same ladder, which was fastened to the window, and set off running after the lovers, who, when they saw her coming at their heels faster than a horse let loose, gave themselves up for lost. But Parsley, recollecting the gallnuts, quickly threw one on the ground, and lo! instantly a Corsican bulldog started up, -- a terrible beast! -- which with open jaws and barking loud flew at the ogress as if to swallow her at a mouthful. But the old woman, who was more cunning and spiteful than the devil, put her hand into her pocket, and pulling out a piece of bread, gave it to the dog, which made him hang his tail and allay his fury.

Then she turned to run after the fugitives again; but Parsley, seeing her approach, threw the second gallnut on the ground, and lo! a fierce lion arose, who, lashing the earth with his tail, and shaking his mane, and opening wide his jaws a yard apart, was just preparing to make a slaughter of the ogress; when, turning quickly back, she stripped the skin off an ass that was grazing in the middle of a meadow, and ran at the lion, who, fancying it a real jackass, was so frightened that he bounded away as fast as he could.

The ogress, having leaped over this second ditch, turned again to pursue the poor lovers, who, hearing the clatter of her heels and seeing the cloud of dust that rose up to the sky, conjectured that she was coming again. But the old woman, who was every moment in dread lest the lion should pursue her, had not taken off the ass's skin; and when Parsley now threw down the third gallnut, there sprang up a wolf, who, without giving the ogress time to play any new trick, gobbled her up just as she was, in the shape of a jackass.

So the lovers, being now freed from danger, went their way leisurely and quietly to the kingdom of the prince, where, with his father's free consent, he took Parsley to wife; and thus, after all these storms of fate, they experienced the truth, that

One hour in port, the sailor freed from fears
Forgets the tempests of a hundred years.

Zeza's story was listened to with such delight to the end, that, had it even continued for an hour longer, the time would have appeared only a moment.