‘Tis that time of year again. Santas Ho-ho-ho-ing, Bing Crosby Bo-Bo-Bo-ing, red-breast robins posing on fake snow. To those who, like me, wince at the idea of candy canes, Christmas cake and over-sugary chocolates, here’s a savoury offering, a fairy tale translated just for you.
Once again, my heartfelt thanks to ELNet’s Rosie Goldsmith, West Camel, Anna Blasiak, Alice Banks and Rosie Eyre for all their help and support.
My very special thanks also go to all the kind, generous Italian authors, agents and publishers who make this column possible.
Last but not least, thank you to all of you who read The Italianist.
I wish you all a Yuletide with a warm glow and a 2022 with so much light it may put all the shadows of 2021 out of business!
Buone feste a tutti e tutte!
The Sweetest Thing
“What’s the sweetest thing in the world?” a father once asked his two daughters.
“Sugar,” the elder immediately replied.
“Salt,” the younger – who was also the prettier one – said.
Suspecting she was teasing him, the father scolded her. But the young woman stuck to her strange answer. A quarrel flared up between them and in the end, in a fit of anger, the father cast his daughter out of the house.
“Get out!” he shouted, furious. “Go find yourself another home where the cooking’s more to your taste!”
It was a warm summer’s evening and the beautiful young woman ventured into the forest, singing. She walked and walked until she came across a young prince who’d got lost while hunting a roe deer as swift as the wind.
Seeing the young woman, he approached and asked her to show him the way. As he spoke to her, he noticed how attractive and graceful she was. She indicated the path out of the forest; he asked her to go with him, took her to his palace, then proposed marriage to her.
She accepted happily and the wedding date was fixed seven days from then. The young woman had an invitation sent to her father, but without telling him that she was the bride.
On the appointed day, the father arrived at the castle and was seated in a huge ballroom, at the end of a very, very long table, at which sat another nine hundred and ninety-nine guests. The bride and groom were at the head of the table and the father couldn’t make out his daughter from such a distance. She was sumptuously dressed and her face was concealed by a snow-white wedding veil.
Wasn’t he surprised when all the courses served to him turned out to be without salt, bland and inedible? His fellow guests began to grumble and protest among themselves.
“Oh,” the father said, sighing. “Salt truly is the sweetest thing in the world! And yet when my younger daughter told me so, I didn’t believe her and, blinded by anger, cast her out of the house… Oh, if only I could see her again and admit I was wrong!”
At that moment, the bride stood up, went up to him and, lifting her veil, smiled at him lovingly. Excited and happy, they threw their arms around each other. It goes without saying that servants immediately brought in more dishes heaped with fish, meat and game, this time all seasoned to perfection – savoury and flavoursome.
And so the banquet continued in happiness and joy.
As told by Mary Tibaldi Chiesa
Translated by Katherine Gregor
Mary Tibaldi Chiesa (1896 – 1968) was an Italian writer, translator and politician. She was the author of numerous books about music, including biographies of composers, translations and books for children. She was a member of International Order of Freemasonry Le Droit Humain.
Katherine Gregor grew up in Italy and France before going to university in England. She has been a theatrical agent, press agent, teacher and one or two other things before becoming a literary translator from Italian, French and, on occasion, Russian. She also writes original material and is currently working on a non-fiction book.
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