The Crow Prince

There were a king and a queen who lived in great sadness that they had no children.

One day the queen exclaimed in her distress:

“All the animals have children, all the birds, only I lack a son. I’d love to have a son, even if he were to be a crow.”

Some time later the queen became pregnant and gave birth to a son: he was a crow.

The queen was very sad and the king no less so, but they raised the crow as if it was human. When the crow reached 18 years of age it announced that it wanted to get married.

 “Who will want you for a husband?

Can’t you see that you are nothing but a crow?”

 “I want to marry the eldest daughter of a merchant, who is a resident of this kingdom and lives in the city, a league’s distance from the court,” the crow replied angrily.

The king ordered the merchant’s eldest daughter be asked if she was willing

and she agreed to the marriage. When the merchant’s daughter was on her way to court she stopped at a fountain where she saw a most handsome youth.

 “Where are you going, young maiden?”

 “I’m on my way to court to marry a prince.”

 “What a shame! A prince who is nothing but a crow! You can’t really want to marry him!…”

 “I don’t care if he is a crow; I’ve got a needle with me and I’m going to stick in his ears the first night we spend together. I will kill the crow but still be princess.”

And the girl set off for the court. As soon as she reached the palace the king and queen came to embrace their daughter-in-law. The crow came too, but seemed to be in a bad mood. The next day they were married. On the wedding night they both went into the nuptial quarters. The following day time went by and the crow still didn’t appear. Finally the queen went to her son’s room and found him walking backwards and forwards.

 “How did you sleep, my son?”

 “Neither well nor badly,” replied the crow bad humouredly. 

 “And your wife?”

 “If you want to know how she slept, go and ask her.”

The queen went to the bed and found his wife was dead. She immediately went to inform the king of the sad news and the king was very angry with the crow, but it remained silent. The unfortunate woman was buried.

After 6 months had gone by, the crow began to shout that it wanted to get married again.

“Have you already forgotten that you killed your other wife?” the king asked it angrily.

 “I killed her because I wanted to. I’ve already told you: I want to get married.”

The king, frightened by his son, lowered his voice and asked him whom he wanted to marry.

 “The middle daughter of the same merchant.”

The king ordered the middle daughter to be sent for, and she set off for the court.

When she came to the same fountain a youth appeared who found it odd that she wanted to marry a crow which had already killed her sister.

 “It won’t kill me, because I’ll kill it first,” she replied.

The same thing happened as had happened to her sister, to the grief of the king and queen.

After the similar passage of time the crow announced that he wanted to marry the youngest daughter of the merchant. When she came to the same fountain, she also met a youth who found it odd that she wanted to marry the crow which had put an end to her two sisters. The girl replied:

 “I don’t know if it killed them; they died because they had to die. I hope to treat it so well that we will live together in perfect happiness.”

The girl went off to the court and the king and queen greeted her with great pleasure. As soon as th egirl saw the crow, she embraced it tenderly. The crow was very pleased and hopped along beside its fiancée. Thet were married and spent several happy days together.

One day the queen said to her daughter-in-law:

 “Tell me honestly: how does my son behave towards you at night?”

 “Perfectly, my lady.”

 “Tell me honestly; I know you’re hiding a secret from me.”

 “I’m not hiding anything.”

But the queen was so insistent that her daughter-in-law told her that during the night the crow turned into the most handsome of youths. That night the queen went with her husband to their son’s room, while he and his wife were sleeping, and she was enchanted to see how handsome her son was. She saw the crow’s feathers on a table. She went back to her room and assumed that her son’s enchantment would continue for as long as the feathers did. Without warning her daughter-in-law, the next night she went to her room, picked up the crow’s feathers, and took them and threw them into a fire prepared beforehand in the kitchen. Immediately the prince woke up in great distress and told his wife:

 “My enchantment has been redoubled. Perhaps you will never see me again.”

His wife began to cry.

 “Don’t cry because there is no alternative. Go and open the window and tell me what you see.”

The princess opened the window and said she could see a white cloud of doves.

 “I’m not going with those. Open the window again and tell me what you see?”

 “A blue cloud of various birds.”

 “I’m not going with those either. Look again.”

 “Now I see a black cloud of crows.”

 “Now is the time.”

And as he said these words the prince turned into a crow and disappeared with the others. The princess began to sob loudly. The king and queen woke up, and the princess told them what had happened to their son, who, lacking only 19 days for his disenchantment, now found his enchantment redoubled. They all wept over this misfortune. 

The princess waited a year for her husband and seeing that he was not coming back, one night she set out, accompanied by a lady-in-waiting, to travel the world. After travelling for some time they came to a plaza from which 4 roads departed to the 4 cardinal points. She halted there and ordered a house to be built with all facilities.

At the door she put the following notice: Here you will find food and drink but the only payment accepted is tales or personal stories. Everyone who passed there when they wanted to pay their bill, the princess, who had now adopted the name of Dona Maria the Unfortunate, replied that they should tell a story or a something remembered.  They all told stories and went on their way.

One day a blind man and his son came to the house. They ate their fill, and when they asked how much they owed, the princess replied that they should tell her some happening. Then the blind man’s son told her that the previous night his father had slept beneath a tree, while he kept watch for wolves. He said that three rams had come to the spot, one of whom was carrying a loaf of bread, another a cheese and the third some keys in his mouth; that the latter divided the bread and cheese into four parts and shared them among its companions, saying:

 “One for me, two for you and the fourth for:

Dona Maria the Unfortunate:

Neither single nor married.

As soon as the princess heard this story, she asked the boy to take her to the place, because she wanted to see the three rams. The boy took her and she in fact saw the three rams and heard the one which carried the keys say the words already mentioned.

Then the priest seized the ram and said:

 “Your Dona Maria the Unfortunate is here.”

The ram replied with great sadness:

 “The time has not yet come, unhappy woman. Go back to my father’s palace and go to our garden every morning. One day you will see 3 doves of the same size and colour bathe in the pond. Embrace one of them: If you choose me, I will be disenchanted, but if you embrace another, you will find yourself with another prince. With your loving eyes you may be able to recognize me, which I still doubt, because we are all thhree very similar.”

And the three rams disappeared. The princess offered her house to the blind man and his son and set off with her lady-in-waiting for the palace of her in-laws.

When she arrived she was warmly received. The king and queen asked her if she had seen the prince, her husband, and she replied that she hadn’t seen him.

The princess went to the garden every morning to wait for the doves, but they didn’t appear. One morning she saw three doves land by the pond, wash themselves three times and then begin to walk in front of her. The princess hesitated becaause she didn’t know which one to catch. She took out a penknife out of her pocket and stabbed one of her breasts, producing much blood. Then she saw that one of the doves was staring at her, and that two tears had fallen from its eyes. Then she caught it and exclaimed:

 “You are my dear husband.”

She chose correctly. They lived together in great happiness. The one who had been a crow was now a handsome youth.


Oliveira 1900 I, 396-400, #175, O Príncipe Corvo [The Crow Prince]. Algarve, Loulé. Oliveira 2002 I, 353-357.

Type AhTh 425D, The Search for the Lost Husband. Vanished Husband learned of by Keeping an Inn


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