The King of Love

The King of Love is an Italian fairy tale collected by Thomas Frederick Crane in Italian Popular Tales.[1]

It is Aarne-Thompson type 425A. Others of this type include The Black Bull of Norroway, The Brown Bear of Norway, The Daughter of the Skies, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, The Enchanted Pig, The Tale of the Hoodie, Master Semolina, The Enchanted Snake, The Sprig of Rosemary, and White-Bear-King-Valemon.[2]


One day he took his youngest daughter, Rosella, with him, and she pulled up a radish. A Turk appeared and said she must come to his master and be punished. He brought them underground, where a green bird appeared, washed in milk, and became a man. The Turk told what had happened. The father said that there was no sign that the radish had belonged to him. The man married Rosella and gave her father a sack of gold. One day, while the man was away, her sisters visited her. She told them that her husband had forbidden her to ask who he was, but they persuaded her to ask his name. He told her that he was the King of Love and vanished.

She wandered in search of him, calling for him, and an ogress appeared, demanding to know why Rosella called on her nephew. The ogress took pity on her and let her stay the night, telling her that she was one of seven sister ogresses, and the worst was her mother-in-law. Each day, Rosella met another; on the seventh day, a sister of the King of Love told Rosella to climb her hair into the house while their mother was out. Then she and her sisters told Rosella to seize their mother and pinch her until the ogress cried out to be left alone in her son's name.

Rosella did this, and the ogress wanted to eat her, but the ogress's daughters stopped her. Then she insisted that Rosella carry a letter for her. In the wilderness, Rosella called on the King of Love again. He warned her to flatter things along the way: to drink from and praise two rivers, to eat and praise fruit from an orchard, to eat bread from an oven and praise it, to feed two dogs, to sweep a hall, and to polish a knife, razor and scissors. Then she was to deliver the letter, seize a box from the table, and run. When she did this, the ogress called after her for things to destroy her, but they refused because of her kindness. Curious, she opened the box; musical instruments escaped, and she had to call on her husband again to get them back.

The ogress wanted to eat Rosella again but her daughters stopped her again. She ordered her to fill a mattress with feathers from all the birds in the air. The King of Love got the King of Birds to have the birds fill the mattress. Then the ogress married her son to the daughter of the King of Portugal, and had Rosella hold the torches for the bridal chamber; but the king got his bride to switch places with Rosella, and the ground opened up and swallowed the bride.

The ogress declared that Rosella's child would not be born until she unclasped her hands. The King of Love had his body laid out as if he were dead, and his sisters lamented him. The ogress unclasped her hands, demanding to know how he had died. Rosella's son was born. This so enraged the ogress that she died.


This form of startling the mother-in-law into allowing the baby's birth is found in Italian fairy tales; usually it is done by announcing the birth.[3] In English and Scandavian ballads, such as Willie's Lady, the mother-in-law must be startled so that she will accidentally reveal the charms she is using against the birth.[4]

See also


  1. Thomas Frederick Crane, Italian Popular Tales, "The King of Love"
  2. Heidi Anne Heiner, "Tales Similar to East of the Sun & West of the Moon"
  3. Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, v 1, p 85, Dover Publications, New York 1965
  4. Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, v 1, p 83-4, Dover Publications, New York 1965
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