The cunning little tailor


Il saggio piccolo sarto

There was once on a time a princess who was extremely proud. If a wooer came she gave him some riddle to guess, and if he could not find it out, he was sent contemptuously away. She let it be made known also that whosoever solved her riddle should marry her, let him be who he might. At length, therefore, three tailors fell in with each other, the two eldest of whom thought they had done so many dexterous bits of work successfully that they could not fail to succeed in this also; the third was a little useless land-louper, who did not even know his trade, but thought he must have some luck in this venture, for where else was it to come from? Then the two others said to him, "Just stay at home; thou canst not do much with thy little bit of understanding." The little tailor, however, did not let himself be discouraged, and said he had set his head to work about this for once, and he would manage well enough, and he went forth as if the whole world were his.
They all three announced themselves to the princess, and said she was to propound her riddle to them, and that the right persons were now come, who had understandings so fine that they could be threaded in a needle. Then said the princess, "I have two kinds of hair on my head, of what color is it?" - "If that be all," said the first, "it must be black and white, like the cloth which is called pepper and salt." The princess said, "Wrongly guessed; let the second answer." Then said the second, "If it be not black and white, then it is brown and red, like my father's company coat." - "Wrongly guessed," said the princess, "let the third give the answer, for I see very well he knows it for certain." Then the little tailor stepped boldly forth and said, "The princess has a silver and a golden hair on her head, and those are the two different colors." When the princess heard that, she turned pale and nearly fell down with terror, for the little tailor had guessed her riddle, and she had firmly believed that no man on earth could discover it. When her courage returned she said, "Thou hast not won me yet by that; there is still something else that thou must do. Below, in the stable is a bear with which thou shalt pass the night, and when I get up in the morning if thou art still alive, thou shalt marry me." She expected, however, she should thus get rid of the tailor, for the bear had never yet left any one alive who had fallen into his clutches. The little tailor did not let himself be frightened away, but was quite delighted, and said, "Boldly ventured is half won."

When therefore the evening came, our little tailor was taken down to the bear. The bear was about to set at the little fellow at once, and give him a hearty welcome with his paws: "Softly, softly," said the little tailor, "I will soon make thee quiet." Then quite composedly, and as if he had not an anxiety in the world, he took some nuts out of his pocket, cracked them, and ate the kernels. When the bear saw that, he was seized with a desire to have some nuts too. The tailor felt in his pockets, and reached him a handful; they were, however, not nuts, but pebbles. The bear put them in his mouth, but could get nothing out of them, let him bite as he would. "Eh!" thought he, "what a stupid blockhead I am! I cannot even crack a nut!" and then he said to the tailor, "Here, crack me the nuts." - "There, see what a stupid fellow thou art!" said the little tailor, "to have such a great mouth, and not be able to crack a small nut!" Then he took the pebble and nimbly put a nut in his mouth in the place of it, and crack, it was in two! "I must try the thing again," said the bear; "when I watch you, I then think I ought to be able to do it too." So the tailor once more gave him a pebble, and the bear tried and tried to bite into it with all the strength of his body. But no one will imagine that he accomplished it. When that was over, the tailor took out a violin from beneath his coat, and played a piece of it to himself. When the bear heard the music, he could not help beginning to dance, and when he had danced a while, the thing pleased him so well that he said to the little tailor, "Hark you, is the fiddle heavy?" - "Light enough for a child. Look, with the left hand I lay my fingers on it, and with the right I stroke it with the bow, and then it goes merrily, hop sa sa vivallalera!" - "So," said the bear; "fiddling is a thing I should like to understand too, that I might dance whenever I had a fancy. What dost thou think of that? "Wilt thou give me lessons?" - "With all my heart," said the tailor, "if thou hast a talent for it. But just let me see thy claws, they are terribly long, I must cut thy nails a little." Then a vise was brought, and the bear put his claws in it, and the little tailor screwed it tight, and said, "Now wait until I come with the scissors," and he let the bear growl as he liked, and lay down in the corner on a bundle of straw, and fell asleep.

When the princess heard the bear growling so fiercely during the night, she believed nothing else but that he was growling for joy, and had made an end of the tailor. In the morning she arose careless and happy, but when she peeped into the stable, the tailor stood gaily before her, and was as healthy as a fish in water. Now she could not say another word against the wedding because she had given a promise before every one, and the King ordered a carriage to be brought in which she was to drive to church with the tailor, and there she was to be married. When they had got into the carriage, the two other tailors, who had false hearts and envied him his good fortune, went into the stable and unscrewed the bear again. The bear in great fury ran after the carriage. The princess heard him snorting and growling; she was terrified, and she cried, "Ah, the bear is behind us and wants to get thee!" The tailor was quick and stood on his head, stuck his legs out of the window, and cried, "Dost thou see the vise? If thou dost not be off thou shalt be put into it again." When the bear saw that, he turned round and ran away. The tailor drove quietly to church, and the princess was married to him at once, and he lived with her as happy as a woodlark. Whosoever does not believe this, must pay a thaler.
C'era una volta una principessa molto superba: ogni volta che si presentava un pretendente, ella gli proponeva un indovinello, e se egli non sapeva risolverlo lo scacciava deridendolo. Fece sapere, inoltre, che colui che avesse indovinato l'avrebbe sposata; e poteva presentarsi chi voleva. Ora si trovarono insieme anche tre sarti: i due più vecchi pensavano che avevano azzeccato tanti bei punti e quindi avrebbero azzeccato sicuramente anche questa; il terzo invece era uno sbarbatello buono a nulla, che non conosceva neanche il proprio mestiere. E gli altri due gli dissero: -Resta pure a casa, tanto non andrai molto lontano con quel poco sale che hai in zucca!-. Ma il piccolo sarto non si lasciò confondere e disse che scommetteva la testa che se la sarebbe cavata; e se ne andò, come se fosse il padrone del mondo. Si presentarono tutti e tre alla principessa e le dissero che doveva proporre il suo indovinello: erano proprio i tipi giusti, con un ingegno così fino che lo si poteva infilare in un ago. La principessa disse: -Ho in testa capelli di due diverse specie, di che colore sono?-. -Se è tutto qui- disse il primo -saranno bianchi e neri come il cumino e il sale-. La principessa esclamò. -Sbagliato! risponda il secondo-. Il secondo disse: -Se non è bianco e nero, è rosso e bruno, come l'abito da festa di mio padre-. -Sbagliato!- esclamò la principessa. -Risponda il terzo, vedo che lo sa di sicuro.- Allora il piccolo sarto si fece avanti e disse: -La principessa ha in testa un capello d'argento e uno d'oro, e questi sono i due colori-. All'udirlo, la principessa impallidì e stava quasi per cadere dallo spavento, perché‚ il piccolo sarto aveva indovinato, ed ella era convinta che nessuno al mondo ci sarebbe riuscito. Quando tornò in s‚ disse: -Con ciò non mi hai ancora conquistata; devi fare un'altra cosa: giù nella stalla c'è un orso e tu devi trascorrere la notte con lui. Domani, quando mi alzo, se sei ancora vivo mi sposerai-. Ma pensava di sbarazzarsi così del piccolo sarto, perché‚ l'orso non aveva ancora lasciato vivo nessuno che gli fosse capitato fra le zampe. Il piccolo sarto rispose allegramente: -Farò anche questo!-. Quando venne la sera, il nostro piccolo sarto fu condotto giù dall'orso. L'orso voleva subito scagliarsi su di lui e dargli il benvenuto con la zampa. -Piano, piano!- disse il piccolo sarto -ti calmerò io.- Come se non avesse alcun timore, trasse di tasca delle noci, le ruppe con i denti e mangiò il gheriglio. Al vederlo anche l'orso ebbe voglia di noci. Il piccolo sarto mise la mano in tasca e gliene porse una manciata: ma non erano noci, bensì sassi. L'orso se li mise in bocca ma, per quanto mordesse, non riusciva a romperli. "Ehi" pensava "che razza di tonto che sei! Non sei neanche capace di rompere delle noci!" e disse al piccolo sarto: -Per favore, rompile tu-. -Vedi che tipo sei!- disse il piccolo sarto -hai una bocca enorme e non sai rompere una piccola noce!- Prese la pietra, ma in fretta si mise in bocca una noce e crac! eccola spezzata in due. -Devo provare ancora una volta- disse l'orso -vedendoti, mi pare che dovrei riuscirci anch'io.- Allora il piccolo sarto tornò a dargli le pietre e l'orso si mise a darci dentro con tutte le sue forze. Ma non credere certo che le abbia aperte! Poi il piccolo sarto tirò fuori un violino da sotto la giubba e suonò un'arietta. All'udirlo, l'orso non pot‚ resistere e si mise a ballare e dopo aver ballato un po' ci prese tanto gusto che disse al piccolo sarto: -Senti, è difficile suonare il violino?-. -Oh, niente affatto: vedi, ci metto sopra le dita della sinistra, e con la destra ci passo l'archetto; e allegria! trallallera, trallallà!- -Potresti insegnarmelo?- domandò l'orso. -Mi piacerebbe sapere suonare così, per poter ballare ogni volta che ne ho voglia.- -Di tutto cuore- rispose il piccolo sarto -ma se vuoi imparare, devi prima mostrarmi le zampe: sono terribilmente grandi, devo prima tagliarti un po' le unghie.- Allora prese una morsa e l'orso ci mise sopra le zampe, ma il piccolo sarto l'avvitò e disse: -Adesso aspetta che venga con le forbici!-. Lo lasciò brontolare finché‚ ne ebbe voglia, si sdraiò in un angolo, su di un fascio di paglia e si addormentò. Quella sera la principessa, sentendo l'orso brontolare così forte, pensò che brontolasse per la gioia e che avesse ucciso il piccolo sarto. Così al mattino si alzò tutta contenta, ma quando guardò verso la stalla vide il piccolo sarto vispo e arzillo come un pesce. Ormai ella non poteva più far nulla perché‚ aveva promesso pubblicamente; il re fece venire una carrozza, ed ella dovette andare in chiesa con il piccolo sarto per sposarsi. Quando furono saliti in carrozza, gli altri due sarti, che erano cattivi e gli invidiavano la fortuna, andarono nella stalla e liberarono l'orso. L'animale, pieno di rabbia, si mise a correre dietro la carrozza. La principessa lo udì sbuffare, ebbe paura e disse: -Ah, l'orso ci insegue e vuole catturarti!-. Ma il piccolo sarto si mise in fretta a testa in giù, sporse le gambe dalla finestra e gridò: -Vedi la morsa? Se non te ne vai, ci torni dentro-. A quella vista l'orso si voltò e corse via. Il nostro piccolo sarto se ne andò invece tranquillamente in chiesa, sposò la principessa e visse con le felice come un'allodola. Chi non ci crede, paghi uno scudo.

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