The Prince of Alcarela

There was a king who had three daughters, one of them 20 years old, another 18, and the third 16. As the king was going to go to a fair soon, he asked his daughters what they would like him to bring them. One daughter asked for a necklace, another for a bracelet, but the youngest one said she didn’t want him to bring her anything. When the king insisted, his daughter replied: “Bring me a bouquet of damask roses.”

The king went off to the fair, and there he bought the presents his two daughters had asked for, but he forgot the bouquet of damask roses. On his way back from the fair the king took another route and he came upon a fine bush of damask roses. Then he remembered the present his youngest daughter had asked for. He stood up on his horse to pick a bouquet of roses and at that moment a bear appeared and stopped him picking the roses. The king told the bear that his daughter had asked him to buy a bouquet of damask roses at the fair, but that he’d forgotten to do so, and when he saw the roses he had remembered his daughter’s request. The bear replied that in that case he could take the roses, but that afterwards he would have to bring him his daughter.

When the king got home he gave his daughters the presents, but forgot the roses in his travelling bag. The next day, as the king had to go to another fair, and his eldest daughter was preparing his bag for the journey, she found the dried roses. She asked her father what they were, and he replied that they were the present for his youngest daughter. Just as they were going to give her the bouquet, the bear appeared at the palace, intending to take the princess away, which is what he did.

The princess went with the bear to his house. The bear asked the princess if she would prefer him to be a bear by night and a prince by day or a prince by night and a bear by day. The princess replied that she would prefer him to be a prince by night and a bear by day.

After a year the princess had a little girl, at the end of the second year she had another, and at the end of the third year another. After another three years, because the princess missed her sisters so much, she went on the bear’s arm to visit them, taking her daughters with her. Her sisters were very surprised that three such pretty children had a bear as a father. Afterwards they went to dine, the princess eating from the same plate as the bear and the little girls went to sit beside the other princesses.

After dinner, which went on very late, they went to bed. The sisters were curious to see their sister in bed with the bear, and went to their room where they had already gone to bed and were asleep. They were astonished to see a bearskin lying on a chair and a really handsome prince in the bed. They seized the skin and went and put it onto a fire, where it crackled loudly. This made the prince wake up in great alarm and embracing the princess he told her: “They have doubled my enchantment. If you want to see me again you will have to wander for 7 years, 7 half years, 7 months and 7 half months.” And having said this he disappeared under the ground.

At the time the prince had said these words and embraced the princess, she had noticed three bloodstains on the front of his shirt. Afterwards she got out of bed and set off with her three daughters in search of the prince.

After much wandering, at the end of 7 years the princess came across a hot oven and the woman who was tending the oven asked her what she wanted. The princess told her that she had been wandering for 7 years in search of the bear prince. The woman took her eldest daughter and threw her into the oven. Then she gave the princess a walnut and told her that when she found herself in some difficulty she should open the nut. The princess went on her way, weeping over her daughter.

After wandering another 7 half years she came upon a woman heating olive oil who asked her what she wanted. The princes replied that for 7 years and 7 half years she had been looking for the bear prince. The woman seized one of her two daughters and threw her into the oil. Then she gave the princess a chestnut and told her that if some time she found herself in difficulty she should open the nut. The princess left in tears at the loss of her two daughters.

After she had wandered for another 7 months she came upon a woman boiling wood ash to make leach to clean clothes with. She too asked the princess what she wanted. The princess replied that she had been wandering for 7 years, 7 half years and 7 months in search of the bear prince without ever finding him. The woman seized her only remaining daughter and threw her into the cauldron of leach. Then she gave the princess a pear and told her to open it if she ever found herself in difficulty. The princess left in tears at the loss of her three children.

After wandering for 7 half months she came to a water tank where she was astonished to see 3 princesses washing a shirt on which there were three spots of blood. They told her that they were keen to wash the shirt because whoever succeeded in removing the bloodstains would marry the prince. The princess replied that she could remove the spots of blood and when she looked at the shirt she saw that it was the one the prince was wearing when his enchantment was doubled. Two of the princesses took no notice of her, but the other asked the princess to remove the stains but to do so in secret and afterwards come with her to the palace. The princess immediately removed the stains and went with her to the palace.

She was given a cottage in the garden to live in. In the palace they began to refer to her as ‘the pilgrim’. While they were dining in the palace, the pilgrim opened the walnut and a gold vase appeared containing a walnut tree full of fruit. A palace maid went and told them that the pilgrim was at the door with a fine vase, and the princess immediately sent word to ask the pilgrim how much she wanted for the vase. She replied that she wouldn’t sell it but she would give it to the princess on condition she was allowed to sleep in the prince’s room. The princess agreed to the condition she imposed and the maid took her the vase, which caused great admiration among those at the dinner table.

At supper-time, unknown to the prince, they gave him a sleeping draught in his wine and carried him to his bed, so that he was unaware that the pilgrim had come into his room. The pilgrim said to him: “Look at me, Prince of Alcarela, because I am your wife, who has wandered 7 years, 7 half years, 7 months and 7 half months in search of you.” And she told him everything that had happened to her up to the removal of the bloodstains. The prince didn’t reply.

The next day she opened the chestnut and a gold vase appeared, containing a chestnut tree full of fruit. The same scene as the previous night was repeated, with the same condition, the same wine, and same tale told by the pilgrim.

One of the prince’s servants, having overheard everything the pilgrim had said to the prince on the two previous nights, asked the prince what she was talking about. The prince didn’t reply. While those in the palace were dining, the pilgrim opened the pear and a gold vase with a pear-tree full of fruit appeared. The same scene as the previous two nights was repeated.

At supper-time the prince was wearing a large scarf round his neck, and while pretending to drink the wine he poured it into the scarf. And he went to bed, pretending to be asleep. When the pilgrim came to his room she said: “Look at me because I am your wife ...” And she repeated everything she had said to him on the previous nights. The prince didn’t reply.

The marriage of the prince to the princess was to take place the next day and when the prince appeared at breakfast he said: “I had a case I used to open with a gold key, and I lost the key, and had to have a silver key made. After I’d ordered the silver key, the old gold key turned up again and it opened the case better than the new silver key did. Tell me, which key should I use?”

Everyone at the breakfast table, including his fiancée, said he ought to use the gold key, because although it a was old, it worked better than the new key.

Then the prince told them: “That’s why I’m not going marry the new princess, because I’ve found the princess with whom I lived for some time, who treated me so well and who has given me so many proofs of her love.”

And the prince took the pilgrim in his arms and married her.


Oliveira 1905 II, 13-18, #221, O Príncipe d’ Alcarela [The Prince of Alcarela]. Algarve, Castro Marim; Oliveira 2002 II, 13-16

Type AaTh 425 A, The Search for the Lost Husband: The Monster Bridegroom

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