The Goat Faced Girl by Andrew Lang
There was once upon a time a peasant called Masaniello who had
twelve daughters. They were exactly like the steps of a staircase, for
there was just a year between each sister. It was all the poor man
could do to bring up such a large family, and in order to provide food
for them he used to dig in the fields all day long. In spite of his
hard work he only just succeeded in keeping the wolf from the door, and
the poor little girls often went hungry to bed.
One day, when Masaniello was working at the foot of a high mountain,
he came upon the mouth of a cave which was so dark and gloomy that even
the sun seemed afraid to enter it. Suddenly a huge green lizard
appeared from the inside and stood before Masaniello, who nearly went
out of his mind with terror, for the beast was as big as a crocodile
and quite as fierce looking.
But the lizard sat down beside him in the most friendly manner, and
said: 'Don't be afraid, my good man, I am not going to hurt you; on the
contrary, I am most anxious to help you.'
When the peasant heard these words he knelt before the lizard and
said: 'Dear lady, for I know not what to call you, I am in your power;
but I beg of you to be merciful, for I have twelve wretched little
daughters at home who are dependent on me.'
'That's the very reason why I have come to you,' replied the lizard.
'Bring me your youngest daughter to-morrow morning. I promise to bring
her up as if she were my own child, and to look upon her as the apple
of my eye.'
When Masaniello heard her words he was very unhappy, because he felt
sure, from the lizard's wanting one of his daughters, the youngest and
tenderest too, that the poor little girl would only serve as dessert
for the terrible creature's supper. At the same time he said to
himself, 'If I refuse her request, she will certainly eat me up on the
spot. If I give her what she asks she does indeed take part of myself,
but if I refuse she will take the whole of me. What am I to do, and how
in the world am I to get out of the difficulty?'
As he kept muttering to himself the lizard said, 'Make up your mind
to do as I tell you at once. I desire to have your youngest daughter,
and if you won't comply with my wish, I can only say it will be the
worse for you.'
Seeing that there was nothing else to be done, Masaniello set off
for his home, and arrived there looking so white and wretched that his
wife asked him at once: 'What has happened to you, my dear husband?
Have you quarrelled with anyone, or has the poor donkey fallen down?'
'Neither the one nor the other,' answered her husband,' but
something far worse than either. A terrible lizard has nearly
frightened me out of my senses, for she threatened that if I did not
give her our youngest daughter, she would make me repent it. My head is
going round like a mill-wheel, and I don't know what to do. I am indeed
between the Devil and the Deep Sea. You know how dearly I love
Renzolla, and yet, if I fail to bring her to the lizard to-morrow
morning, I must say farewell to life. Do advise me what to do.'
When his wife had heard all he had to say, she said to him: 'How do
you know, my dear husband, that the lizard is really our enemy? May she
not be a friend in disguise? And your meeting with her may be the
beginning of better things and the end of all our misery. Therefore go
and take the child to her, for my heart tells me that you will never
repent doing so.'
Masaniello was much comforted by her words, and next morning as soon
as it was light he took his little daughter by the hand and led her to
The lizard, who was awaiting the peasant's arrival, came forward to
meet him, and taking the girl by the hand, she gave the father a sack
full of gold, and said: 'Go and marry your other daughters, and give
them dowries with this gold, and be of good cheer, for Renzolla will
have both father and mother in me; it is a great piece of luck for her
that she has fallen into my hands.'
Masaniello, quite overcome with gratitude, thanked the lizard, and
returned home to his wife.
As soon as it was known how rich the peasant had become, suitors for
the hands of his daughters were not wanting, and very soon he married
them all off; and even then there was enough gold left to keep himself
and his wife in comfort and plenty all their days.
As soon as the lizard was left alone with Renzolla, she changed the
cave into a beautiful palace, and led the girl inside. Here she brought
her up like a little princess, and the child wanted for nothing. She
gave her sumptuous food to eat, beautiful clothes to wear, and a
thousand servants to wait on her.
Now, it happened, one day, that the king of the country was hunting
in a wood close to the palace, and was overtaken by the dark. Seeing a
light shining in the palace he sent one of his servants to ask if he
could get a night's lodging there.
When the page knocked at the door the lizard changed herself into a
beautiful woman, and opened it herself. When she heard the king's
request she sent him a message to say that she would be delighted to
see him, and give him all he wanted.
The king, on hearing this kind invitation, instantly betook himself
to the palace, where he was received in the most hospitable manner. A
hundred pages with torches came to meet him, a hundred more waited on
him at table, and another hundred waved big fans in the air to keep the
flies from him. Renzolla herself poured out the wine for him, and, so
gracefully did she do it, that his Majesty could not take his eyes off
When the meal was finished and the table cleared, the king retired
to sleep, and Renzolla drew the shoes from his feet, at the same time
drawing his heart from his breast. So desperately had he fallen in love
with her, that he called the fairy to him, and asked her for Renzolla's
hand in marriage. As the kind fairy had only the girl's welfare at
heart, she willingly gave her consent, and not her consent only, but a
wedding portion of seven thousand golden guineas.
The king, full of delight over his good fortune, prepared to take
his departure, accompanied by Renzolla, who never so much as thanked
the fairy for all she had done for her. When the fairy saw such a base
want of gratitude she determined to punish the girl, and, cursing her,
she turned her face into a goat's head. In a moment Renzolla's pretty
mouth stretched out into a snout, with a beard a yard long at the end
of it, her cheeks sank in, and her shining plaits of hair changed into
two sharp horns. When the king turned round and saw her he thought he
must have taken leave of his senses. He burst into tears, and cried
out: 'Where is the hair that bound me so tightly, where are the eyes
that pierced through my heart, and where are the lips I kissed? Am I to
be tied to a goat all my life? No, no! nothing will induce me to become
the laughing-stock of my subjects for the sake of a goat-faced girl!'
When they reached his own country he shut Renzolla up in a little
turret chamber of his palace, with a waiting-maid, and gave each of
them ten bundles of flax to spin, telling them that their task must be
finished by the end of the week.
The maid, obedient to the king's commands, set at once to work and
combed out the flax, wound it round the spindle, and sat spinning at
her wheel so diligently that her work was quite done by Saturday
evening. But Renzolla, who had been spoilt and petted in the fairy's
house, and was quite unaware of the change that had taken place in her
appearance, threw the flax out of the window and said: 'What is the
king thinking of that he should give me this work to do? If he wants
shirts he can buy them. It isn't even as if he had picked me out of the
gutter, for he ought to remember that I brought him seven thousand
golden guineas as my wedding portion, and that I am his wife and not
his slave. He must be mad to treat me like this.'
All the same, when Saturday evening came, and she saw that the
waiting-maid had finished her task, she took fright lest she should be
punished for her idleness. So she hurried off to the palace of the
fairy, and confided all her woes to her. The fairy embraced her
tenderly, and gave her a sack full of spun flax, in order that she
might show it to the king, and let him see what a good worker she was.
Renzolla took the sack without one word of thanks, and returned to the
palace, leaving the kind fairy very indignant over her want of
When the king saw the flax all spun, he gave Renzolla and the
waiting-maid each a little dog, and told them to look after the animals
and train them carefully.
The waiting-maid brought hers up with the greatest possible care,
and treated it almost as if it were her son. But Renzolla said: 'I
don't know what to think. Have I come among a lot of lunatics? Does the
king imagine that I am going to comb and feed a dog with my own hands?'
With these words she opened the window and threw the poor little beast
out, and he fell on the ground as dead as a stone.
When a few months had passed the king sent a message to say he would
like to see how the dogs were getting on. Renzolla, who felt very
uncomfortable in her mind at this request, hurried off once more to the
fairy. This time she found an old man at the door of the fairy's
palace, who said to her: 'Who are you, and what do you want?'
When Renzolla heard his question she answered angrily: 'Don't you
know me, old Goat-beard? And how dare you address me in such a way?'
'The pot can't call the kettle black,' answered the old man, 'for it
is not I, but you who have a goat's head. Just wait a moment, you
ungrateful wretch, and I will show you to what a pass your want of
gratitude has brought you.'
With these words he hurried away, and returned with a mirror, which
he held up before Renzolla. At the sight of her ugly, hairy face, the
girl nearly fainted with horror, and she broke into loud sobs at seeing
her countenance so changed.
Then the old man said: 'You must remember, Renzolla, that you are a
peasant's daughter, and that the fairy turned you into a queen; but you
were ungrateful, and never as much as thanked her for all she had done
for you. Therefore she has determined to punish you. But if you wish to
lose your long white beard, throw yourself at the fairy's feet and
implore her to forgive you. She has a tender heart, and will, perhaps,
take pity on you.'
Renzolla, who was really sorry for her conduct, took the old man's
advice, and the fairy not only gave her back her former face, but she
dressed her in a gold embroidered dress, presented her with a beautiful
carriage, and brought her back, accompanied by a host of servants, to
her husband. When the king saw her looking as beautiful as ever, he
fell in love with her once more, and bitterly repented having caused
her so much suffering.
So Renzolla lived happily ever afterwards, for she loved her
husband, honoured the fairy, and was grateful to the old man for having
told her the truth.
[From the Italian. Kletke.]