There was once a king who had three very beautiful daughters, Princess
Clara, Princess Catalina, and Princess Maria.
This king was sick for a long time with a dreadful disease, and
although he spent much money on medicines and doctors he was only
worse instead of better.
At last he sent word to all his people proclaiming that whoever would
cure him might have one of the princesses to marry.
After several days one of the heralds returned, saying he had met
a snake who inquired if the king would give his daughter to a snake
to wife if he were cured. The king called his daughters and asked if
they would be willing to marry a snake.
Said Princess Clara, "I will be stung by a snake till I am dead before
I give my virginity to a snake." Said Princess Catalina, "I may be
beaten to death with sticks, but I will not give my virginity to a
snake." Said Princess Maria, "Father, so you be but well, I care
not what becomes of me. If a snake can cure you, I am willing to
So the king's message was carried to the snake, and the king was made
well. The snake and the princess were married, and set off through
the forest together. After a long journey they came to a house in the
forest, and there the snake and the beautiful Maria lived together
many days. But the snake, being very wise, saw that the princess ate
little and cried very much, and asked her why it was so. She told
him that it was hard for her to live with a snake. "Very well," said
the snake, and went into a house near by; after a little there came
out a handsome man with silken clothes, and rings on his fingers,
who told her that he was her husband, that he was known among men as
Don Juan del Mundo de Austria, and that he was king of all the beasts,
being able to take the form of any of them at will.
They passed many happy days together till the time came for the great
feast at the court of Princess Maria's father. Don Juan told her that
she might go, but that she must on no account tell his name or rank,
otherwise when she came to their trysting-place by the seashore she
would not find him. He gave her a magic ring by means of which she
might obtain anything she wanted, and left her close to her own city.
When she arrived at home her sisters were greatly surprised to see
her looking well, happy, and much more finely dressed than when she
went away, but her father was very glad to see her. The elder sisters
often asked her the secret of her husband's identity, but her answer
was always the same, "Did you not both see that I married a snake? Who
else could it be." The wicked women then determined to make her tell,
whether she wished or not, and so they asked her to walk with them
in a secluded garden.
Then they took sticks and set upon her, beating her and telling her
that she must tell who her husband was. The poor little princess
defended herself a long time, saying that if she told she would never
see him again, but finally, when she was nearly dead from beating,
she told them that her husband was Don Juan de Austria. Then she was
beaten for not telling the truth, but her tormentors finally desisted
and she went to her father and told him all.
He did not wish her to return to the forest and begged her to remain
with him, but she insisted.
When she arrived at the trysting-place, Don Juan was not there, but
she set out bravely, asking of her ring whatever she needed for food,
drink, and clothing. Wherever she went she inquired of the beasts
and birds the whereabouts of her husband, Don Juan de Austria, and,
when they knew who she was, they worshipped her and did all that
After many days of wandering she came to a place where there was a
giant, who was about to eat her, but when he knew her for Don Juan's
wife he worshipped her and sent her on her way. Soon she was found by
a young giantess who, too, was about to eat her, but when she learned
that Maria was the wife of Don Juan she carried her to her own house
and hid her, saying that she must be cared for a while until her
parents should return, for they might eat her without asking who she
was. When the old giant and his wife came back, they told her that
she must stay with them for a while, until they could find out about
the whereabouts of Don Juan, when they would help her further.
They were very good to her, for, said they, "Don Juan is not only
king of the animals but of the giants and monsters of every kind."
Then the giants took her to Don Juan's city and found her a place in
the house of an old childless couple, and there she made her home. But
Don Juan had taken another wife, the Lady Loriana, and the new wife saw
the old and desired her for a servant. So the Princess Maria became
a servant of her rival, and often sat in old rags under the stairs
at her work, while her faithless husband passed her without seeing her.
The poor girl was torn with jealousy and spent much time thinking
about how she might win her husband again. So she asked the ring for
a toy in the form of a beautiful little chick, just from the egg.
The Lady Loriana saw the pretty toy and begged for it. "No," said
Maria, "unless you grant me a little favor, that I may sleep on the
floor to-night in your room." So Loriana, suspecting no deceit, agreed.
That night Maria wished on her ring that Loriana might be overcome with
sleep, and again that her own rags might be transformed into royal
raiment and that her tiara should glitter on her forehead. Then she
went to the head of the bed and called Don Juan. At first he would
not answer, then, without turning to look at the speaker, he bade
her go away, as his wife would be angry. "But that is not your wife,
Don Juan," said Maria; "I am your true wife, Maria. Look at my dress
and the jewels on my forehead--my face, the ring on my finger." And
Don Juan saw that she was indeed the deserted wife, and after he had
heard the sad story of her wanderings he loved her afresh. The next day
at noon-time Maria was not to be found, although Dona Loriana looked
everywhere. At last she looked into Don Juan's room, and there, locked
in each other's arms fast asleep, were Don Juan and Princess Maria.
Loriana aroused them, angrily saying to Maria, "Why do you wish
to steal my husband? You must leave this house at once." But Maria
resisted saying, "No, he is not your husband but mine, and I will
not give him up." And so they quarrelled long and bitterly, but at
last agreed to be judged by the council.
There each told her story, and Maria showed Don Juan's enchanted ring,
which worked its wonders for her but would not obey the Lady Loriana.
When the matter was decided, it was the judgment of all, including
the Archbishop, that Maria was the lawful wife, but that she and Don
Juan must go away and never return.
So Don Juan and the Princess Maria went away and lived long and