A String of Pearls Twined with Golden Flowers
A young and handsome king, whenever he could leave his duties, liked to wander the world. He passed by the castle of an emperor and heard his three daughters speak. They all wished they could marry him; the oldest said that she would keep his house clean; the second, that she would make his house like two golden apples; the third, that she would bear him golden twins. He married the third, and she became pregnant, but his old favorite, a gypsy slave, envied the queen. When the children were due, the king had to go to war. He was greeted back with two puppies, which he was told the queen had borne. He made the queen a slave, and the gypsy girl his queen.
In reality, the queen had borne two golden babies, but the gypsy girl had killed them and buried them in the vineyard. Two firs grew from their graves. At night, they turned into children again and went to nurse from their mother, which consoled her. The king liked the trees but the gypsy hated them, and she made him cut them down. The king had two beds made from them. In the night, the beds talked to each other; the one carrying the gypsy did not like it, but the one carrying their father liked it better. The gypsy girl heard it and had them burned. Two sparks flew into bran that a ewe ate, and the ewe gave birth to two lambs with golden fleeces. The king saw these lambs and loved them. The gypsy girl had them killed and assigned the queen the task of washing out their entrails.
A crow caught some of the entrails and would not give it back without some cornmeal; the miller would not give her cornmeal without a chicken; a hen would not give her chick without corn; but a kind farmer gave her corn, the hen gave her a chick, the miller gave her cornmeal, and the crow gave her back the piece -- but more had washed away while she did this, and she could not retrieve it.
The entrails caught on a snag, and when the waters retreated, they became a girl and a boy. The boy cut down osiers with his hatchett and the girl spun on her distaff, and people came to look at their beauty. The king was so delighted that he took them home, and the gypsy girl did not dare do anything to them. One day she broke her pearl necklace and it could not be rethreaded; the pearls escaped everyone's fingers. The king asked the children to do it, and they could. While they did it, the boy told the king the story of their lives (with a refrain of "o, a string of pearls twined with golden flowers"). The king had the gypsy girl stoned to death and restored his queen.
The opening sequence, of a woman promising to bear fabulous children and their kidnapping, is a common fairy tale motif, but in most such tales -- Ancilotto, King of Provino, The Three Little Birds, The Dancing Water, the Singing Apple, and the Speaking Bird, The Wicked Sisters -- the children are abandoned, rather than murdered. The villains are overwhelmingly the heroine's jealous sisters, or her mother-in-law, rather than a rival as in this tale.
The transformation chase described here is found in another Romanian tale of this type, The Boys with the Golden Stars. Even in this tale, however, the villain of the piece is the mother-in-law. The Chinese The Pretty Little Calf has the child murdered and restored in animal form; only the transformation to and from the title calf occurs, but it is more closely related to this tale in the villains, who are the first and second wife, the heroine being an official's third wife.
- Julia Collier Harris, Rea Ipcar, The Foundling Prince & Other Tales: Translated from the Roumanian of Petre Ispirescu, p 65, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston and New York 1917