In Italian culture, many stories are passed between the generations. One story that parents and grandparents like to tell Italian children is the story of ‘The Frog’.
There was once a woman with three sons. Although the family was poor in terms of monetary wealth, the land on which they lived was fruitful. The young men told their mother they wanted to marry and she gave them her blessing. Her advice was to find good housewives. The woman gave her sons bundles of flax and told them to give them to their future wives for them to spin. She declared her favorite daughter-in-law would be the one who achieved the best results.
The two elder sons had chosen wives so set off with their flax. The younger son was perplexed as he had yet to find a woman he wanted to marry. He wandered around the village asking girls if they would spin the flax but they laughed in his face. Instead, he went in search of a woman in the country.
The young man sat by a pond and began to cry. A frog jumped over and asked what was troubling him. The young man explained his woes and the frog told him not to worry and that she would spin the flax for him herself. Without further ado, she took the flax and jumped into the pond.
When the older brothers returned, they proudly showed off the linen their future wives had spun with the flax. The younger son was distressed as he had nothing to show. He returned to the pond and began to weep. No sooner than he had arrived, the frog jumped from the water to greet him and presented him with a beautifully spun piece of linen. When he presented it to his mother, it was clear that it was the best linen of the three.
His mother then declared that the linen was not enough evidence of a good wife. She gave each of her sons a puppy and told them to take it to their future wife for her to train. She declared her favorite daughter-in-law would be the one who trained the dog the best.
Again, the youngest son did not know what to do. He returned to the bank of the pond to weep. The frog appeared and offered to train the puppy for him. She held out her arms for the puppy and then disappeared into the water.
Months passed before the mother asked to see how well the puppies were trained. The two older sons returned with large growling dogs that made their mother shake with fear. The younger son returned to the pond to see the frog. She presented him with a cute and obedient little dog with a lovely manner that could do all kinds of tricks. His mother was delighted when he presented her with the adorable creature.
The final task the mother set was for her sons to take their future wives a shirt for sewing, declaring that the neatest sewer would win the title of her favorite daughter-in-law. Once again, the work of the frog was far better than that of the women the older men wanted to marry.
The mother decided it was time for her to meet the future wives of her sons. The younger son began to panic and returned to the pond to speak to the frog. How could he take the frog to his mother and explain it was she who had created the linen, trained the dog, and mended the shirt?
The frog asked if the boy would take her as his wife. The young man said he could neither accept her as his wife nor refuse the proposition. The frog leaped from the pond and invited the man into a carriage pulled by ponies at the side of the road.
As the pair traveled along, they came across three witches. One was blind, the second had a hunchback, and the third could not speak due to a thorn in her throat. At the sight of the frog sat on the cushions, all three witches began to laugh uproariously. Strangely, the laughter caused the blind witch’s eyes to burst open and her sight returned. It also caused the second witch to lose her hunchback and the thorn was forced out of the third witch’s throat.
The witch’s felt that they should reward the little frog for they credited her with their new good fortune. The first transformed the frog into a beautiful young woman. The second changed the carriage and ponies into a stunning coach with horses and coachmen. The third gave the young woman a purse full of gold.
On his return home, the youngest brother presented his beautiful bride-to-be and she was declared by the mother as her favorite daughter-in-law. The pair went on to live a happy life together.
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