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(c) 2002 by Rosemary Lake, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, in Once Upon a Time When the Princess Rescued the Prince (13 Fairy Tales) available in paperback and ebook from http://www.rosemarylake.com

Free sample excerpt from

The Enchanted Crab


    [ At the beginning of the story, Princess Fiona befriends a giant crab. Then she finds a brass door underwater.  ]

    The door opened, and Fiona swam along a marble tunnel that ran upwards a short distance, then opened out into a magnificent room of marble pillars, lined by rich tapestries, with a table spread with silk cloth and golden plates.

    Suddenly Fiona felt a ripple in the water. Someone was coming! She jumped out of the water and hid behind a tapestry. As she watched, a Witch popped out of the water, riding on the giant crab! The Witch was wearing a long red dress and had a red flower in her hair.

    The crab carried the Witch to the edge of the pool, and they both climbed up onto the marble floor. The Witch tapped the crab with her wand. “Come out of your shell,” she commanded.

    The crab shell opened, and a nice-looking young man stepped out!

    The Witch ordered the young man to the table, they sat down, and she began tapping the empty dishes and glasses. Each thing she tapped instantly became full of some rich-smelling food or drink.

    The Witch and the young man both ate, and then the Witch said: “Now, is there anything else you would like?”

    “Yes,” said the young man. “My freedom.”

    The Witch laughed and touched the red flower in her hair. “Not while I hold this magic flower,” she sneered. “No other Witch has a servant as handsome as you, and I'm not going to give you up. – Now, go back in your shell till tomorrow.”

    “But please–”

    While they were arguing, the princess quietly ran and hid in the empty crab shell. Inside, it was fitted like a little boat, and each oar moved one of the claws.

    Soon the young man entered the shell. How surprised he was to find Fiona there! “My Witch is coming,” he said in dismay. “She’ll kill us both!”

    “Are you under a spell?” Fiona demanded. “Can it be broken? Shall I steal the Witch’s red flower?”

    “Oh,” said the young man, “that is not possible, unless the Witch throws away the flower herself. To get it, you would have to risk your life in deep water.”

    “I like water,” said the princess, “and I love you. What can I do?”

    The young man pressed her hand. “I love you too.... If only I could be freed! Here there is no chance, the Witch would kill any stranger she saw near her home. But in the open sea it might be possible. The Witch loves music, she goes mad and forgets everything else. If you stand on a rock by the sea and play and sing, she will come to listen. You can demand the flower in exchange for finishing your song.”

    “When I have the flower, then what?”

    “As soon as the red flower is in your hand, I will be free. For that magic flower holds my life. – Shhh, she's coming!”

    The Witch climbed on top of the crab shell and the young man rowed out along the tunnel. The bronze door opened magically as they approached, but he contrived to bump the shell against the doorframe, and signaled Fiona to slip out in the confusion. Silently she dived from the crab shell and swam away.

    Fiona swam back to the castle, went straight to her father, and said: “I would like to learn a little music and singing.”

    Her father, who spoiled her in every way, sent for the best music teachers in the land.

    The princess practiced every day, till she could play the flute, harpsichord, and dulcimer quite well. Then she went to her father. “I'd like to give a concert,” she told him. “Will you promise to let me choose the location?”

    Her father was suspicious. “Is it in my kingdom?”

    “Oh, yes. It's very close by.”

    “Very well. I promise.”

    “Good,” she said. “I want to give it on that big rock that sticks out over the ocean.”

    “But nobody lives on that lonesome shore to hear you,” her father protested. “What kind of a concert is that?”

    “A rock concert.”

    Her father sighed. “I might have known. But you can't go there alone. I'll have seven sailors row you down there, and you must choose seven baronesses to accompany you.”

    “Very well,” said Fiona. She chose the oldest and laziest of the baronesses of the kingdom, and told them to wear their fullest hoop skirts. On the day of the concert, the seven sailors rowed them all down the river in a big rowboat, and the baronesses all stood on the beach while Fiona climbed up on the rock alone.




Most of this story closely follows “El granzio” in Bernoni’s Fiabe popolari veneziane, originally published circa 1873, pp. 58-64. Some parts I’ve translated from Bernoni’s original so closely that the language may sound odd in English -- see Selected Bibliography.