Page:The Grateful Dead.djvu/100

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
84
The Grateful Dead.

earlier, and accordingly in making him rescue the maiden from the hands of the person who is in the character of the thankful dead. The variant has been modified by a free fancy; yet its position in the group remains perfectly clear in spite of the loss of such traits as the agreement, the act of treachery, the rescue of the hero, and the division of the gains.

Straparola I., one of the Italian novelist's two renderings of our theme, is far more normal than the above, and is probably based directly on a folk-story. Bertuccio pays one hundred ducats to free a corpse from a robber and bury it, greatly to his mother's disgust. He goes out again with two hundred ducats, and pays them for the ransom of the daughter of the King of Navarre. His mother is still more angry. The princess is taken home to Navarre by officers of the court who have been searching for her, but first she tells Bertuccio to come to her, and to hold his hand to his head as a sign when he hears that she is to be married. On his way to Navarre he meets a knight who gives him a horse and clothing on condition of his returning them, together with half of his gains. He marries the princess, and is returning home, when he meets the knight again and offers to give up his wife whole rather than kill her by division. Whereupon the knight explains that he is the spirit of the dead, and resigns his claim.

All the traits previously mentioned are here evident save the act of treachery by which the hero comes near losing his bride. The sign appears as a means of communication between the lovers, as in Transylvanian and elsewhere. The question of division is simply a matter of fulfilling a bargain, but it shows how easily by a slight shift of emphasis the test of loyalty could be made the important element.

None of the Italian folk variants, which I know, conforms to the above closely enough to be regarded as a