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Ancilotto, King of Provino facts for kids

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"Ancilotto, King of Provino"
Author Giovanni Francesco Straparola
Country Italy
Language Italian
Genre(s) Fairy tale
Published in The Facetious Nights of Straparola

Ancilotto, King of Provino is an Italian literary fairy tale written by Giovanni Francesco Straparola in The Facetious Nights of Straparola.

It is Aarne-Thompson type 707: the dancing water, the singing apple, and the speaking bird. It is the oldest known variant of this tale, and influenced Madame d'Aulnoy's Princess Belle-Etoile. A variant of this tale appears in Antoine Galland's Arabian Nights collection, but no Arab manuscript exists, and Galland, reporting an oral source, may also have been influenced by this version. It spread to appear as The Three Little Birds in the Brothers Grimm's collection.


Ancilotto, the king, heard three sisters talking: Brunora, the eldest sister, said if she married the king's majordomo, she could give the entire court a drink from one glass of water; Lionella, the second, said if she married the king's chamberlain, she could turn one spindle of linen to give fine shifts to the entire court; Chiaretta, the youngest said if she married the king, she would give him triplets who would have fine hair with gold, a gold necklace, and a star on their forehead. The king married them off as they had said. The Queen mother was angry to have such a daughter-in-law. The king had to leave, and while he was gone, Chiaretta gave birth to two sons and a daughter, as she had described. Three black puppies with white stars had been born, and Chiaretta's sisters brought them to the queen. The queen substituted them for the babies, and the babies were put in a box and thrown into the river. A miller, Marmiato, found them. His wife, Gordiana, named the boys Acquirino and Fluvio, and the girl Serena.

Ancilotto was grief-stricken by the story, but when the Queen mother, the midwife, and the queen's sisters all agreed that Chiaretta had given birth to the puppies, he ordered her kept in the dungeon.

Gordiana gave birth to a son, named Borghino. Marmiato and Gordiana learned that if they cut the children's hair, gems fell out of it, and they lived prosperously; but when the children grew up, they learned that they were foundlings and set out. They found Ancilotto's land and met him; he told his mother that he thought they were the children Chiaretta had borne him.

The Queen mother sent the midwife after them, and she tricked Serena into asking for the dancing water. Acquirino and Fluvio went after it; a dove warned them of the danger and then filled up a vial for them. Ancilotto saw them again, and the Queen mother heard of their survival. The midwife tricked Serena into asking for the singing apple. Acquirino and Fluvio went after it, and on the way, their host one night warned them of the danger, and then gave them a robe of mirrors. This would trick the monster that guarded it, when it saw its own reflection. Fluvio used it and picked the apple. Ancilotto saw them again, and the queen learned they had survived. The midwife tricked Serena into asking for a beautiful green bird that could speak words of wisdom day and night, and when Acquirino and Fluvio found the garden with the bird, they looked at marble statues in it, and were turned into statues themselves.

Serena awaited them anxiously and finally set out after them. She reached the garden, snuck up on the bird, and caught it. It begged for its freedom, and showed her how to turn her brothers back to life. Serena said she would free it only if it brought them to their mother and father.

They went to Ancilotto's palace for dinner and brought the water, apple, and bird. The king and guests marveled at the water and apple, and the bird asked what punishment should be imposed on those who tried to kill two brothers and a sister. The queen mother said death by burning, and everyone agreed. The bird told the story of Chiaretta's children; the king freed her and had his mother, her sisters, and the midwife burned.

Other variants

Other variants of this tale include an oral Italian version, The Dancing Water, the Singing Apple, and the Speaking Bird, the Spanish The Bird of Truth, the Russian The Wicked Sisters, and the Romanian The Boys with the Golden Stars and A String of Pearls Twined with Golden Flowers.

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