The Simpleton by Andrew Lang
There lived, once upon a time, a man who was as rich as he could be;
but as no happiness in this world is ever quite complete, he had an
only son who was such a simpleton that he could barely add two and two
together. At last his father determined to put up with his stupidity no
longer, and giving him a purse full of gold, he sent him off to seek
his fortune in foreign lands, mindful of the adage:
How much a fool that's sent to roam
Excels a fool that stays at home.
Moscione, for this was the youth's name, mounted a horse, and set
out for Venice, hoping to find a ship there that would take him to
Cairo. After he had ridden for some time he saw a man standing at the
foot of a poplar tree, and said to him: 'What's your name, my friend;
where do you come from, and what can you do?'
The man replied, 'My name is Quick-as-Thought, I come from
Fleet-town, and I can run like lightning.'
'I should like to see you,' returned Moscione.
'Just wait a minute, then,' said Quick-as-Thought, 'and I will soon
show you that I am speaking the truth.'
The words were hardly out of his mouth when a young doe ran right
across the field they were standing in.
Quick-as-Thought let her run on a short distance, in order to give
her a start, and then pursued her so quickly and so lightly that you
could not have tracked his footsteps if the field had been strewn with
flour. In a very few springs he had overtaken the doe, and had so
impressed Moscione with his fleetness of foot that he begged
Quick-as-Thought to go with him, promising at the same time to reward
Quick-as-Thought agreed to his proposal, and they continued on their
journey together. They had hardly gone a mile when they met a young
man, and Moscione stopped and asked him: 'What's your name, my friend;
where do you come from, and what can you do?'
The man thus addressed answered promptly, 'I am called Hare's-ear, I
come from Curiosity Valley, and if I lay my ear on the ground, without
moving from the spot, I can hear everything that goes on in the world,
the plots and intrigues of court and cottage, and all the plans of mice
'If that's the case,' replied Moscione, 'just tell me what's going
on in my own home at present.'
The youth laid his ear to the ground and at once reported: 'An old
man is saying to his wife, “Heaven be praised that we have got rid of
Moscione, for perhaps, when he has been out in the world a little, he
may gain some common sense, and return home less of a fool than when he
'Enough, enough,' cried Moscione. 'You speak the truth, and I
believe you. Come with us, and your fortune's made.'
The young man consented; and after they had gone about ten miles,
they met a third man, to whom Moscione said: 'What's your name, my
brave fellow; where were you born, and what can you do?'
The man replied, 'I am called Hit-the-Point, I come from the city of
Perfect-aim, and I draw my bow so exactly that I can shoot a pea off a
'I should like to see you do it, if you've no objection,' said
The man at once placed a pea on a stone, and, drawing his bow, he
shot it in the middle with the greatest possible ease.
When Moscione saw that he had spoken the truth, he immediately asked
Hit-the-Point to join his party.
After they had all travelled together for some days, they came upon
a number of people who were digging a trench in the blazing sun.
Moscione felt so sorry for them, that he said: 'My dear friends, how
can you endure working so hard in heat that would cook an egg in a
But one of the workmen answered: 'We are as fresh as daisies, for we
have a young man among us who blows on our backs like the west wind.'
'Let me see him,' said Moscione.
The youth was called, and Moscione asked him: 'What's your name;
where do you come from, and what can you do?'
He answered: 'I am called Blow-Blast, I come from Wind-town, and
with my mouth I can make any winds you please. If you wish a west wind
I can raise it for you in a second, but if you prefer a north wind I
can blow these houses down before your eyes.'
'Seeing is believing,' returned the cautious Moscione.
Blow-Blast at once began to convince him of the truth of his
assertion. First he blew so softly that it seemed like the gentle
breeze at evening, and then he turned round and raised such a mighty
storm, that he blew down a whole row of oak trees.
When Moscione saw this he was delighted, and begged Blow-Blast to
join his company. And as they went on their way they met another man,
whom Moscione addressed as usual: 'What's your name: where do you come
from, and what can you do?'
'I am called Strong-Back; I come from Power-borough, and I possess
such strength that I can take a mountain on my back, and it seems a
feather to me.'
'If that's the case,' said Moscione, 'you are a clever fellow; but I
should like some proof of your strength.'
Then Strong-Back loaded himself with great boulders of rock and
trunks of trees, so that a hundred waggons could not have taken away
all that he carried on his back.
When Moscione saw this he prevailed on Strong-Back to join his
troop, and they all continued their journey till they came to a country
called Flower Vale. Here there reigned a king whose only daughter ran
as quickly as the wind, and so lightly that she could run over a field
of young oats without bending a single blade. The king had given out a
proclamation that anyone who could beat the princess in a race should
have her for a wife, but that all who failed in the competition should
lose their head.
As soon as Moscione heard of the Royal Proclamation, he hastened to
the king and challenged the princess to race with him. But on the
morning appointed for the trial he sent word to the king that he was
not feeling well, and that as he could not run himself he would supply
someone to take his place.
'It's just the same to me,' said Canetella, the princess; 'let
anyone come forward that likes, I am quite prepared to meet him.'
At the time appointed for the race the whole place was crowded with
people anxious to see the contest, and, punctual to the moment,
Quick-as-Thought, and Canetella dressed in a short skirt and very
lightly shod, appeared at the starting-point.
Then a silver trumpet sounded, and the two rivals started on their
race, looking for all the world like a greyhound chasing a hare.
But Quick-as-Thought, true to his name, outran the princess, and
when the goal was reached the people all clapped their hands and
shouted, 'Long live the stranger!'
Canetella was much depressed by her defeat; but, as the race had to
be run a second time, she determined she would not be beaten again.
Accordingly she went home and sent Quick-as-Thought a magic ring, which
prevented the person who wore it, not only from running, but even from
walking, and begged that he would wear it for her sake.
Early next morning the crowd assembled on the race-course, and
Canetella and Quick as-Thought began their trial afresh. The princess
ran as quickly as ever, but poor Quick-as-Thought was like an
overloaded donkey, and could not go a step.
Then Hit-the-Point, who had heard all about the princess's deception
from Hare's-ear, when he saw the danger his friend was in, seized his
bow and arrow and shot the stone out of the ring Quick-as-Thought was
wearing. In a moment the youth's legs became free again, and in five
bounds he had overtaken Canetella and won the race.
The king was much disgusted when he saw that he must acknowledge
Moscione as his future son-in-law, and summoned the wise men of his
court to ask if there was no way out of the difficulty. The council at
once decided that Canetella was far too dainty a morsel for the mouth
of such a travelling tinker, and advised the king to offer Moscione a
present of gold, which no doubt a beggar like him would prefer to all
the wives in the world.
The king was delighted at this suggestion, and calling Moscione
before him, he asked him what sum of money he would take instead of his
Moscione first consulted with his friends, and then answered: 'I
demand as much gold and precious stones as my followers can carry
The king thought he was being let off very easily, and produced
coffers of gold, sacks of silver, and chests of precious stones; but
the more Strong-Back was loaded with the treasure the straighter he
At last the treasury was quite exhausted, and the king had to send
his courtiers to his subjects to collect all the gold and silver they
possessed. But nothing was of any avail, and Strong-Back only asked for
When the king's counsellors saw the unexpected result of their
advice, they said it would be more than foolish to let some strolling
thieves take so much treasure out of the country, and urged the king to
send a troop of soldiers after them, to recover the gold and precious
So the king sent a body of armed men on foot and horse, to take back
the treasure Strong-Back was carrying away with him.
But Hare's-ear, who had heard what the counsellors had advised the
king, told his companions just as the dust of their pursuers was
visible on the horizon.
No sooner had Blow-Blast taken in their danger than he raised such a
mighty wind that all the king's army was blown down like so many
nine-pins, and as they were quite unable to get up again, Moscione and.
his companions proceeded on their way without further let or hindrance.
As soon as they reached his home, Moscione divided his spoil with
his companions, at which they were much delighted. He, himself, stayed
with his father, who was obliged at last to acknowledge that his son
was not quite such a fool as he looked.
[From the Italian, Kletke.]