Tuesday, May 7, 2013

El Principe Oso (the Bear Prince) from Mexico

Once upon a time there was a very poor woodcutter who had three beautiful daughters. Of the three girls, the youngest was the most beautiful. One day the woodcutter went into the forest and was chopping down an oak tree when a very large and horrible bear wrenched the axe from his hands.“Who gave you permission to cut the wood in my forest?” growled the bear. “You have been stealing my timber and now you must pay for it with your life.”

“Please forgive me, Senor Oso,” said the poor woodcutter, “I was only cutting the wood to sell it and thus support my three little daughters. If you kill me, my little girls will starve.”

The Bear remained thoughtful and then said, “There is only one way in which you life may be saved. You have to give me one of your daughters in marriage.”
The woodcutter didn’t know what to say or do. Finally the thought of dying and leaving his daughters destitute forced him to agree to the Bear’s proposal.

The woodcutter returned home and told his daughters what had happened. “Father,” said the two eldest girls, “we would rather die than marry that Bear.” Ninfa, the youngest, said. “Father, I will marry the Bear.”

Next day Ninfa and her father went into the forest where the Bear was waiting for them. After seeing the beautiful maiden, he was satisfied. Ninfa, however, said to the Bear, “If I must marry you, I want to be married according to the Catholic rites.”

The woodcutter went in search of a priest and soon returned with one. Ninfa and the Bear were then married.

The Bear took Ninfa to his cave, and when it grew dark he chanted:
“Bear so hairy, Bear so alarming,
Change into a prince handsome and charming.”

In an instant the Bear changed into a handsome prince. He then told Ninfa, “I am an enchanted prince, cursed by a witch into being a bear by day and a man by night. You do anything you want around here but you must never reveal that I am an enchanted prince.” Ninfa, happily promised that she would never reveal the secret.

The next morning they arose from bed, and the prince said:
“Prince so handsome, Prince so charming,
Change into a bear, hairy and alarming.”
In an instant the prince had changed back into a bear.

Days followed days and Ninfa felt a desire to go and visit her family in the village. “I wish you would let me go to the village to see my father and sisters. It isn’t far, and if I leave early enough I will be back before it gets dark.”

The prince finally consented. However, he made her repeat her oath never to reveal the prince’s secret.

Next day Ninfa dressed herself richly and went to see her father and sisters, who welcomed her joyously. However, the sisters began to poke fun at Ninfa, jealous of the fact that she was wearing rich jewels and costly garments.

“You married a bear, what shame!” the sisters repeatedly told her.

So many times did the sisters repeat this, that finally Ninfa lost her temper and revealed her husband’s secret. The sisters were deeply amazed to hear Ninfa’s tale. The eldest one then said:
“Look, Ninfa, why don’t you disenchant the prince? When he goes to sleep, tie him up and gag him. As soon as day breaks and the prince wakes up, he will not be able to say the magic words. Then you will have a husband with a human form forever.”

Ninfa returned to the bear’s cave and that night did everything her sister had suggested. The prince awoke the next morning, and imagine his surprise at finding himself tied and gagged! He could not say the magic rhyme and the enchantment was broken.

“Wife,” the prince later said to Ninfa, “you have broken your promise. To break the enchantment and live happily ever after, we two had to live happily married a year and a day. Since you have disobeyed me, you are going to have to look for me. You will not find me until you locate the Castle of Faith.”

Saying this, the prince vanished and Ninfa was left alone. She cried and was sorry, for she truly loved the prince. Then, determined to be reunited with her husband, Ninfa decided to go and look for the Castle of Faith. Tying a few belongings together, she left on her search.

She walked and walked and finally arrived at a forest where a wizard lived.“Nina,” said the wizard, “what do you want here in this forest?”

“I am looking for the Castle of Faith,” answered Ninfa, “do you know where it is?”

“I do not know.” said the wizard, “but follow this road until you reach my father’s house. He may know where the castle is. Take this nut and if you ever find yourself in trouble break it.”

Ninfa thanked the old man, and left, finally reaching the house where the wizard’s father lived. The old man didn’t know either but said: “Walk along this road until you come to the house of my eldest brother. Perhaps he can tell you where the castle is. I am going to give you another nut just as my son did. If you find yourself in trouble, break it and it will help you.

Ninfa walked and walked and finally came to the house of the third wizard. He also didn’t know where the castle was. He said: “The Moon probably knows. Follow this road and soon you will come to her house. But be careful, the Moon may be angry. I am also going to give you a nut. If you find yourself in trouble, break it.”

Ninfa left. The poor girl was very, very tired, but at last that night she arrived at the moon’s house. She knocked on the door and a little old lady, who was the moon’s housekeeper, came out.

“Merciful God! Daughter, what are you doing here?” asked the old lady. “Don’t you know that if the Moon finds you here she will eat you?”

Ninfa tearfully told the old woman all that had happened. “Look,” said the old one, “you hide, and when the moon comes, I will carelessly ask her if she know where the castle is.”

At dawn the moon came in, and said, “Human flesh I smell here. Give it to me or on you I will feast.”

“Go on,” said the old woman, “you’re crazy. Just because there is a roast in the oven, you think it’s human flesh. Sit down and eat so that you can go to bed. You are very tired.”

The moon sat down to eat and the old lady began to talk. “The other day an owl went by, and I got to talking with her. She told me she had heard about the Castle of Faith. You, who know so many things, surely know where this castle is.”
“I don’t know, the one who probably knows is the Sun.”

The moon went to bed and the little old lady whispered to Ninfa, “Quickly, leave before the Moon wakes up. Go along this road and you will find the house of the Sun.”
Ninfa left and finally came to the Sun’s house. She knocked on the door and another little old lady answered.
“Valgame Dios, nina!” she exclaimed, “What are you doing here?” Don’t you know that if the Sun finds you here he will burn you?”

Ninfa began to cry, and between sobs told her story to the little old lady. They were both gloomily taking when the house suddenly filled with light and the Sun came in. Poor Ninfa. She crossed herself and prepared to die. But the little old lady yelled.

“Wait, Sun! Wait! this poor child is looking for the Castle of Faith.”

“Ah!” exclaimed the Sun, “so you are looking for the Castle of Faith.”

“I know where the castle is,” said the Sun. “But it is very far from here. I could take you, but I am not allowed to go out after dark. But near here lives my good friend, El Aire, the Wind. He can take you. When you get to El Aire’s home, you tell him that it was I who sent you.”

Ninfa arrived at the Wind’s house. She knocked and the Wind screamed, “Come in whoever it is!”

Ninfa entered and told El Aire that the Sun had sent her with a request.

“Granted,” said El Aire, “no matter what it may be.”

She told Senor Aire all that had adversely happened to her and that she wanted to go to the Castle of Faith.

“Do not worry,” said El Aire, “I myself, will take you.” Ninfa straddled El Aire’s back, and in less time than it takes to wink an eye, they arrived at the castle. “Look,” said El Aire, “it seems that there is a fiesta in the castle.” “I have to leave,” he told Ninfa. “With the help of God, everything will come out all right.” And turning into a whirlwind, he rushed away.

Ninfa knocked on the door of the castle, and a servant come out. “In what may I serve you?” asked the servant.
“I would like to see the prince.”

Ninfa entered the castle and saw her husband, the prince, eating at a table and surrounded by his guests. Ninfa tried so hard to get the prince’s attention that the bride saw her. She was an evil witch who with her magic had put a spell on the prince and made him marry her.

The prince then saw Ninfa and recognized her immediately. He yelled at the servants, telling them to bring Ninfa to him, but with the noise nobody heard him.

The witch screamed at her servants, “Run that beggar out!”

The servants were about to lay their hands on Ninfa when the girl broke one of the magic nuts the wizards had given her. In an instant Ninfa turned into a little rat. When the witch saw this, she turned into a huge cat which began to chase the rat. The rat sprang atop the prince’s table, and onto his plate. There Ninfa broke another nut and turned into a grain of rice which became lost among many on the prince’s plate. The cat also jumped on the table, turning instantly into a chicken which began to eat the rice. Ninfa then broke the other nut and turned into a coyote which ate the chicken in one bite.

Ninfa then was transformed back into human form to be reunited with the prince and both lived happily ever after.

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