The Princess of the Precious Stones

There was a labourer who had 3 sons and they spent their lives collecting firewood in the bush to sell in town. On one occasion, when he had finished tying up his bundles, the oldest son sat down and said:  “If only I had as many sticks of wood as there are stones on this mountain.” The middle son replied: “If only I had as many sticks as there are leaves on those olive trees.” The youngest son said: “If only I could marry one of the three enchanted princesses, the one known as The Princess of the Precious Stones.”

The two older brothers began to insult their younger brother, calling him cheeky and uppity. That night they told their father of his youngest son’s aspirations and he too insulted the boy and treated him badly. The youngest son realized that his father and brothers bore such ill will towards him that he fled from the house that night and set off for the mountains.

He had a hard time of it, and walked for hours without knowing where he was going, until at last he came to a stream of clear water high up a mountain. He was thirsty and went to drink some water. He then saw that at the bottom of the stream, in which there wasn’t much water, there was a stone which looked like highly polished glass. He went to get it and found it was quite heavy.

The boy picked the stone up and set out for a city. He showed the stone to a jeweller who told him it was a very valuable diamond, and that in that city the king was the only person who could afford to buy it. The boy, knowing that the king was a very generous man, decided to offer the stone to him. He presented himself at the palace and asked to speak to the king. As soon as he appeared, the youth offered him the stone. The king was an expert in these matters and saw that the stone was extremely valuable. He thanked him for his gift and asked him whereabouts he lived. The boy replied that he still had nowhere to live, but hoped to find a place within the next few days. In fact the next day he bought an attractive property and the king sent him a large bag full of gold coins.

In a short time the youth became a person of great importance, not just because of his wealth, but because of the special consideration shown him by the king. The king’s regard for the youth aroused the envy of his courtiers and as they knew how pleased the king had been with the diamond, which lit up the entire great hall of the court, they began to say to him that the hall would be even more attractive if there was another diamond beside the one he already had, and that the youth had other diamonds than the the one he had given to the king. At first the king didn’t listen to his courtiers, but they were so persistent that in the end the king summoned the youth

and ordered him on pain of death to bring him another diamond like that which he had given him.

The youth, in obedience to the king’s demand, returned to his house very sadly,

locked up, and set off for the place where he had discovered the diamond. He found the stream almost dry. He traced back the little thread of water and saw that it came from a well. He went down the well hoping to find some stone at the bottom and then the water disappeared and he found himself in a porch in front of 3 doors. He knocked at the first door and a beautiful girl dressed in blue appeared. He explained his reason for being there and the girl told him he should knock at the other door. He knocked at the second door and an equally beautiful girl appeared wearing a beautiful rose coloured dress. He said he had come in search of diamonds and the girl told him to knock at the third door. He knocked and a girl dressed in white appeared, who was even more beautiful than the previous ones.

 “What is it you want?”

In a few words the youth told her the story of his life, and ended by asking her for a diamond. The girl laughed and asked him if he was a good horseman. He said he was.

Then the girl clapped her hands and the other two girls appeared.

 “Get ready because we are about to leave,” she told them.

Then she gave another signal and a high spirited horse appeared. The three girls packed their bags and mounted the horse, and the youth straddled the animal’s neck.

Then the girl in white gave a shout and the horse leapt upwards and emerged from the well at a marvellous speed. It took only a few minutes for the horse to arrive at the gates of the house where the youth lived. It was midnight when the four of them entered the house. The horse vanished.

The next day the youth was given a diamond by the girl in white and went to take it to the king, who was very pleased and even more well disposed towards the youth.

The courtiers were infuriated by this, and told the king it was a shame that his hall was not graced by a beautifully coloured bird which was to be found at the Garden of the Birds.

 “To enter that garden is very dangerous,” the king said.

 “That is how your majesty can discover whether this youth is really worthy of your esteem.”

Amongst the courtiers who were the enemies of the youth one person stood out.

He was the king’s best friend and always used to accompany him on his walks. This friend and trusted counsellor was the son of a former barber at the court, who had been a great friend of the king’s father. One day this counsellor urged the king to send the youth to find the bird and the king replied:

 “Go and bring him here.”

The courtier set off for the youth’s house and knocked at the door. A maid appeared and said that her master had gone out but would not be long. The courtier sat down to wait for him. While he was waiting he saw the girl in white cross from one room into another. He was astonished at how beautiful she was. When the youth arrived the courtier passed on the king’s order, telling him to present himself at court. The youth told him to tell his majesty that he would be there in less than an hour.

As soon as the courtier left, the girl in white said:

 “The king wants you to go and bring a beautifully coloured bird which is to be found in the Garden of the Birds. Tell him to provide you with 12 horses, which his favouite counsellor should bring to the outskirts of the city. Then count all the horses and mount the 13th one which will take shape beside the other 12 without you noticing it. When you reach the garden don’t worry about anything you hear. Grab hold of the bird which is in a cage and come back without looking to see whether the other 12 horses are following you or not.”

The youth presented himself at the palace, and the king ordered him to go and bring the bird, and the youth answered in the way the girl had told him. He mounted the 13th horse and soon found himself in front of an iron gate which suddenly opened.

The youth entered, and immediately found himself surrounded by wild beasts, which threw themselves upon the 12 horses while he seized the birdcage and leaped out of the garden.

He presented himself before the king with the bird, but without the horses. The king thanked him and became even more friendly towards the youth. This deed further exasperated the king’s favourite, the son of the old barber, and that night he spoke to the king, telling him:

 “As you know, sire, your three daughters are enchanted, and I believe that they will remain in that state until the giant, who is enchanted from his waist up in the Garden of the Birds, is brought back here. Now as your friend already knows the way to the garden, he can go there and slice the giant with his sword and bring back the part of him from the waist up, since the part from his waist down has been turned to stone.”

The king immediately had the youth summoned. The girl in white said:

 “The king wants you to bring him the giant. Make the same demand of him and carry yourself as courageously as you did before, mounting the 13th horse.”

And that is what happened, with the youth bringing the monstrous giant back to the king’s presence. The courtier plotted again:

 “A few days ago, sire, your late father and my own late father discovered how your daughters may be disenchanted. Send the youth to the underworld with letters to our fathers.”

The king had the youth summoned. The girl in white said:

 “The king wants you to go to the underworld and deliver two letters, and you must tell him to order a pit to be dug in the garden 14 metres deep and 4 metres wide.

Go down it and you will find the road which takes you there.”

The youth was very saddened by this news.

 “Don’t lose heart now, because a happy outcome is in sight for us and for you.”

The youth went to the palace and the king handed him two letters to take to his father and the father of his court favourite, who were both in the underworld.

 “Your majesty must order a pit to be dug in his garden 14 metres deep and 4 metres wide: I want to travel to the underworld through the earth.”

The king ordered this to be done, and the youth descended to the bottom of the pit

in front of the king and his courtiers. As soon as the youth disappeared the favourite said to the king that the youth had a beautiful maiden in his house, and that now would be a good opportunity to go and see her.

The king went straightaway, but found the door locked. They knocked, but no-one answered. Infuriated they tried to force open the door, but it resisted. He ordered it to be broken down, but there was no way they could do so. For a whole week they tried every way they could.

One evening the king and his courtiers were in the garden when they saw the youth emerge from the pit, very thin. The youth brought letters to the king and his favourite from their fathers, in reply to the ones that they had received. Both letters insisted that the the favourite should go down to the underworld to speak with his father, who wanted to give him some advice. The king and his favourite recognised their fathers’ handwriting, and that very evening the favourite went down into the pit to hear his father’s advice. But hardly had he reached the bottom of the pit than it closed over him. Great alarm was heard inside and outside the pit.

The king and his counsellors were terrified. Full of fear, they ran to escape from the garden, and just then they met three beautiful maidens, one dressed in blue, another in rose, and a third in white. The king stopped, stared at the maidens and then ran to embrace them, crying:

 “Oh, my dearest daughters, you have been disenchanted!”

 “Yes, father, we are your daughters, who have just been disenchanted.

It was this youth whose efforts brought about our disenchantment, which was completed by the death of your most trusted friend, your favourite courtier.”

The king began to embrace and kiss his daughters again and said:

 “What would you like me to do, daughters?”

The maiden in white answered: “I would like you to give this youth my hand.”

And he did so. The youth married the maiden in white, and weeks later the other two maidens married two princes.


Oliveira 1900 I, 406-411, #178, A Princesa das Pedras Finas [The Princess of the Precious Stones]. Algarve, Loulé. [1900]. Oliveira 2002 I, 362-366

Type AaTh 465, The Man Persecuted Because of his Beautiful Wife

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