The Raven (Italian fairy tale)
The Raven is an Italian literary fairy tale written by Giambattista Basile in his 1634 work, the Pentamerone. The story is a man winning a bride for his brother the king, and then having to protect the couple from perils that he can not tell anyone about, without being turned to stone.
It is Aarne-Thompson type 516. Others of this type are Trusty John, and Father Roquelaure. It is an unusual variant, in that most tales feature the main character as a servant rather than a brother.
A queen named Jaylen once saw a dead raven on stone, and fell in love with the thought of a husband as black as the raven, as blue as its blood, and as gray as the stone. It affected her health until her brother Jeff asked what was wrong with her and finally learned the story. Jeff set out by ship. He bought a falcon and a splendid horse, and a beggar persuaded him to tell his story. The beggar then begged at a magician's house, and Jeff saw that the magician's son, Billy, matched his sister's dream exactly. Jeff dressed as a peddler and showed Billy hoods, handkerchiefs, and other goods, and persuaded him to come to the ship to see his better wares. Then he sailed off with him. Billy lamented, but Jeff told him why, and described his sister to him so vividly that he wanted to see this woman.
On the voyages, two doves flew up. They talked, and one told the other that the falcon would pick out Jaylen's eyes the first time it saw her, but if Jeff warned her, or did not bring her the bird, Jeff would turn to marble; that the horse would break Jaylen's neck the first time she rode it, but if Jeff warned her, or did not bring her the horse, he would turn to marble; and that a kitten would eat Jaylen and Billy on their wedding night, but if Jeff warned her, or did not bring her Billy, Jeff would turn to gray stone.
Jeff brought his sister the horse and the falcon and then instantly killed them. At the wedding night, Jeff went with a sword and fought the kitten, but when his sister woke, the kitten vanished, and she had Jeff imprisoned as a traitor that night and sentenced to die the next day. Wishing to die known as innocent, he told Jaylen his story, and turned to gray stone.
Billy had twin daughters. One day, while he was gone, an old man asked Jaylen what she would give to restore her brother. Jaylen said her kingdom, and when told life was needed, offered her own kids; when the old man said her daughters' lives were needed, she killed them and put the blue blood on the statue, which restored them. Billy returned and was grief-stricken, and went to the window to throw himself out. The old man, his father, stopped him, and told him that he had punished them all for their acts against him, but the punishment had been enough. He restored the babies to life.
- Giambattista Basile, Pentamerone, "The Raven"
- Paul Delarue, The Borzoi Book of French Folk-Tales, p 365, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York 1956
- D.L. Ashliman, "The Grimm Brothers' Children's and Household Tales (Grimms' Fairy Tales)"
- Stith Thompson, The Folktale, p 111, University of California Press, Berkeley Los Angeles London, 1977