Ricky of the
Tuft by Charles Perrault
Once upon a time there was a queen who bore a son so ugly and
misshapen that for some time it was doubtful if he would have human
form at all. But a fairy who was present at his birth promised that he
should have plenty of brains, and added that by virtue of the gift
which she had just bestowed upon him he would be able to impart to the
person whom he should love best the same degree of intelligence which
he possessed himself.
This somewhat consoled the poor queen, who was greatly disappointed
at having brought into the world such a hideous brat. And indeed, no
sooner did the child begin to speak than his sayings proved to be full
of shrewdness, while all that he did was somehow so clever that he
charmed every one.
I forgot to mention that when he was born he had a little tuft of
hair upon his head. For this reason he was called Ricky of the Tuft,
Ricky being his family name.
Some seven or eight years later the queen of a neighbouring kingdom
gave birth to twin daughters. The first one to come into the world was
more beautiful than the dawn, and the queen was so overjoyed that it
was feared her great excitement might do her some harm. The same fairy
who had assisted at the birth of Ricky of the Tuft was present, and, in
order to moderate the transports of the queen she declared that this
little princess would have no sense at all, and would be as stupid as
she was beautiful.
The queen was deeply mortified, and a moment or two later her
chagrin became greater still, for the second daughter proved to be
'Do not be distressed, Madam,' said the fairy; 'your daughter shall
be recompensed in another way. She shall have so much good sense that
her lack of beauty will scarcely be noticed.'
'May Heaven grant it!' said the queen; 'but is there no means by
which the elder, who is so beautiful, can be endowed with some
'In the matter of brains I can do nothing for her, Madam,' said the
fairy, 'but as regards beauty I can do a great deal. As there is
nothing I would not do to please you, I will bestow upon her the power
of making beautiful any person who shall greatly please her.'
As the two princesses grew up their perfections increased, and
everywhere the beauty of the elder and the wit of the younger were the
subject of common talk.
It is equally true that their defects also increased as they became
older. The younger grew uglier every minute, and the elder daily became
more stupid. Either she answered nothing at all when spoken to, or
replied with some idiotic remark. At the same time she was so awkward
that she could not set four china vases on the mantelpiece without
breaking one of them, nor drink a glass of water without spilling half
of it over her clothes.
[Illustration: 'She could not set four china vases on the
mantelpiece without breaking one of them']
Now although the elder girl possessed the great advantage which
beauty always confers upon youth, she was nevertheless outshone in
almost all company by her younger sister. At first every one gathered
round the beauty to see and admire her, but very soon they were all
attracted by the graceful and easy conversation of the clever one. In a
very short time the elder girl would be left entirely alone, while
everybody clustered round her sister.
[Illustration: 'Graceful and easy conversation']
The elder princess was not so stupid that she was not aware of this,
and she would willingly have surrendered all her beauty for half her
sister's cleverness. Sometimes she was ready to die of grief, for the
queen, though a sensible woman, could not refrain from occasionally
reproaching her with her stupidity.
The princess had retired one day to a wood to bemoan her misfortune,
when she saw approaching her an ugly little man, of very disagreeable
appearance, but clad in magnificent attire.
This was the young prince Ricky of the Tuft. He had fallen in love
with her portrait, which was everywhere to be seen, and had left his
father's kingdom in order to have the pleasure of seeing and talking to
Delighted to meet her thus alone, he approached with every mark of
respect and politeness. But while he paid her the usual compliments he
noticed that she was plunged in melancholy.
'I cannot understand, madam,' he said, 'how any one with your beauty
can be so sad as you appear. I can boast of having seen many fair
ladies, and I declare that none of them could compare in beauty with
'It is very kind of you to say so, sir,' answered the princess; and
stopped there, at a loss what to say further.
'Beauty,' said Ricky, 'is of such great advantage that everything
else can be disregarded; and I do not see that the possessor of it can
have anything much to grieve about.'
To this the princess replied:
'I would rather be as plain as you are and have some sense, than be
as beautiful as I am and at the same time stupid.'
'Nothing more clearly displays good sense, madam, than a belief that
one is not possessed of it. It follows, therefore, that the more one
has, the more one fears it to be wanting.'
'I am not sure about that,' said the princess; 'but I know only too
well that I am very stupid, and this is the reason of the misery which
is nearly killing me.'
'If that is all that troubles you, madam, I can easily put an end to
'How will you manage that?' said the princess.
'I am able, madam,' said Ricky of the Tuft, 'to bestow as much good
sense as it is possible to possess on the person whom I love the most.
You are that person, and it therefore rests with you to decide whether
you will acquire so much intelligence. The only condition is that you
shall consent to marry me.'
The princess was dumbfounded, and remained silent.
'I can see,' pursued Ricky, 'that this suggestion perplexes you, and
I am not surprised. But I will give you a whole year to make up your
mind to it.'
The princess had so little sense, and at the same time desired it so
ardently, that she persuaded herself the end of this year would never
come. So she accepted the offer which had been made to her. No sooner
had she given her word to Ricky that she would marry him within one
year from that very day, than she felt a complete change come over her.
She found herself able to say all that she wished with the greatest
ease, and to say it in an elegant, finished, and natural manner. She at
once engaged Ricky in a brilliant and lengthy conversation, holding her
own so well that Ricky feared he had given her a larger share of sense
than he had retained for himself.
On her return to the palace amazement reigned throughout the Court
at such a sudden and extraordinary change. Whereas formerly they had
been accustomed to hear her give vent to silly, pert remarks, they now
heard her express herself sensibly and very wittily.
The entire Court was overjoyed. The only person not too pleased was
the younger sister, for now that she had no longer the advantage over
the elder in wit, she seemed nothing but a little fright in comparison.
The king himself often took her advice, and several times held his
councils in her apartment.
The news of this change spread abroad, and the princes of the
neighbouring kingdoms made many attempts to captivate her. Almost all
asked her in marriage. But she found none with enough sense, and so she
listened to all without promising herself to any.
At last came one who was so powerful, so rich, so witty, and so
handsome, that she could not help being somewhat attracted by him. Her
father noticed this, and told her she could make her own choice of a
husband: she had only to declare herself.
Now the more sense one has, the more difficult it is to make up
one's mind in an affair of this kind. After thanking her father,
therefore, she asked for a little time to think it over.
In order to ponder quietly what she had better do she went to walk
in a woodthe very one, as it happened, where she encountered Ricky of
While she walked, deep in thought, she heard beneath her feet a
thudding sound, as though many people were running busily to and fro.
Listening more attentively she heard voices. 'Bring me that boiler,'
said one; then another'Put some wood on that fire!'
At that moment the ground opened, and she saw below what appeared to
be a large kitchen full of cooks and scullions, and all the train of
attendants which the preparation of a great banquet involves. A gang of
some twenty or thirty spit-turners emerged and took up their positions
round a very long table in a path in the wood. They all wore their
cook's caps on one side, and with their basting implements in their
hands they kept time together as they worked, to the lilt of a
The princess was astonished by this spectacle, and asked for whom
their work was being done.
'For Prince Ricky of the Tuft, madam,' said the foreman of the gang;
'his wedding is to-morrow.'
At this the princess was more surprised than ever. In a flash she
remembered that it was a year to the very day since she had promised to
marry Prince Ricky of the Tuft, and was taken aback by the
recollection. The reason she had forgotten was that when she made the
promise she was still without sense, and with the acquisition of that
intelligence which the prince had bestowed upon her, all memory of her
former stupidities had been blotted out.
She had not gone another thirty paces when Ricky of the Tuft
appeared before her, gallant and resplendent, like a prince upon his
'As you see, madam,' he said, 'I keep my word to the minute. I do
not doubt that you have come to keep yours, and by giving me your hand
to make me the happiest of men.'
'I will be frank with you,' replied the princess. 'I have not yet
made up my mind on the point, and I am afraid I shall never be able to
take the decision you desire.'
'You astonish me, madam,' said Ricky of the Tuft.
'I can well believe it,' said the princess, 'and undoubtedly, if I
had to deal with a clown, or a man who lacked good sense, I should feel
myself very awkwardly situated. A princess must keep her word, he
would say, and you must marry me because you promised to! But I am
speaking to a man of the world, of the greatest good sense, and I am
sure that he will listen to reason. As you are aware, I could not make
up my mind to marry you even when I was entirely without sense; how can
you expect that to-day, possessing the intelligence you bestowed on me,
which makes me still more difficult to please than formerly, I should
take a decision which I could not take then? If you wished so much to
marry me, you were very wrong to relieve me of my stupidity, and to let
me see more clearly than I did.'
'If a man who lacked good sense,' replied Ricky of the Tuft, 'would
be justified, as you have just said, in reproaching you for breaking
your word, why do you expect, madam, that I should act differently
where the happiness of my whole life is at stake? Is it reasonable that
people who have sense should be treated worse than those who have none?
Would you maintain that for a momentyou, who so markedly have sense,
and desired so ardently to have it? But, pardon me, let us get to the
facts. With the exception of my ugliness, is there anything about me
which displeases you? Are you dissatisfied with my breeding, my brains,
my disposition, or my manners?'
'In no way,' replied the princess; 'I like exceedingly all that you
have displayed of the qualities you mention.'
'In that case,' said Ricky of the Tuft, 'happiness will be mine, for
it lies in your power to make me the most attractive of men.'
'How can that be done?' asked the princess.
[Illustration: Ricky of the Tuft]
'It will happen of itself,' replied Ricky of the Tuft, 'if you love
me well enough to wish that it be so. To remove your doubts, madam, let
me tell you that the same fairy who on the day of my birth bestowed
upon me the power of endowing with intelligence the woman of my choice,
gave to you also the power of endowing with beauty the man whom you
should love, and on whom you should wish to confer this favour.'
'If that is so,' said the princess, 'I wish with all my heart that
you may become the handsomest and most attractive prince in the world,
and I give you without reserve the boon which it is mine to bestow.'
No sooner had the princess uttered these words than Ricky of the
Tuft appeared before her eyes as the handsomest, most graceful and
attractive man that she had ever set eyes on.
Some people assert that this was not the work of fairy enchantment,
but that love alone brought about the transformation. They say that the
princess, as she mused upon her lover's constancy, upon his good sense,
and his many admirable qualities of heart and head, grew blind to the
deformity of his body and the ugliness of his face; that his hump back
seemed no more than was natural in a man who could make the courtliest
of bows, and that the dreadful limp which had formerly distressed her
now betokened nothing more than a certain diffidence and charming
deference of manner. They say further that she found his eyes shine all
the brighter for their squint, and that this defect in them was to her
but a sign of passionate love; while his great red nose she found
nought but martial and heroic.
However that may be, the princess promised to marry him on the spot,
provided only that he could obtain the consent of her royal father.
The king knew Ricky of the Tuft to be a prince both wise and witty,
and on learning of his daughter's regard for him, he accepted him with
pleasure as a son-in-law.
The wedding took place upon the morrow, just as Ricky of the Tuft
had foreseen, and in accordance with the arrangements he had long ago
put in train.