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The Story Of Zaragoza Post by :corwin Category :Short Stories Author :Dean S. Fansler Date :November 2011 Read :3689

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The Story Of Zaragoza

(a) The Story of Zaragoza

Narrated by Teodato P. Macabulos, a Tagalog from Manila.

Years and years ago there lived in a village a poor couple, Luis and Maria. Luis was lazy and selfish, while Maria was hard-working and dutiful. Three children had been born to this pair, but none had lived long enough to be baptized. The wife was once more about to be blessed with a child, and Luis made up his mind what he should do to save its life. Soon the day came when Maria bore her second son. Luis, fearing that this child, like the others, would die unchristened, decided to have it baptized the very next morning. Maria was very glad to know of her husband's determination, for she believed that the early deaths of their other children were probably due to delay in baptizing them.

The next morning Luis, with the infant in his arms, hastened to the church; but in his haste he forgot to ask his wife who should stand as godfather. As he was considering this oversight, a strange man passed by, whom he asked, "Will you be so kind as to act as my child's godfather?"

"With all my heart," was the stranger's reply.

They then entered the church, and the child was named Luis, after his father. When the services were over, Luis entreated Zaragoza--such was the name of the godfather--to dine at his house. As Zaragoza had just arrived in that village for the first time, he was but too ready to accept the invitation. Now, Zaragoza was a kind-hearted man, and soon won the confidence of his host and hostess, who invited him to remain with them for several days. Luis and Zaragoza became close friends, and often consulted each other on matters of importance.

One evening, as the two friends were conversing, their talk turned upon the affairs of the kingdom. Luis told his friend how the king oppressed the people by levying heavy taxes on all sorts of property, and for that reason was very rich. Zaragoza, moved by the news, decided to avenge the wrongs of the people. Luis hesitated, for he could think of no sure means of punishing the tyrannical monarch. Then Zaragoza suggested that they should try to steal the king's treasure, which was hidden in a cellar of the palace. Luis was much pleased with the project, for he thought that it was Zaragoza's plan for them to enrich themselves and live in comfort and luxury.

Accordingly, one evening the two friends, with a pick-axe, a hoe, and a shovel, directed their way towards the palace. They approached the cellar by a small door, and then began to dig in the ground at the foot of the cellar wall. After a few hours of steady work, they succeeded in making an excavation leading into the interior. Zaragoza entered, and gathered up as many bags of money as he and Luis could carry. During the night they made several trips to the cellar, each time taking back to their house as much money as they could manage. For a long time the secret way was not discovered, and the two friends lost no opportunity of increasing their already great hoard. Zaragoza gave away freely much of his share to the poor; but his friend was selfish, and kept constantly admonishing him not to be too liberal.

In time the king observed that the bulk of his treasure was considerably reduced, and he ordered his soldiers to find out what had caused the disappearance of so much money. Upon close examination, the soldiers discovered the secret passage; and the king, enraged, summoned his counsellors to discuss what should be done to punish the thief.

In the mean time the two friends were earnestly discussing whether they should get more bags of money, or should refrain from making further thefts. Zaragoza suggested that they would better first get in touch with the secret deliberations of the court before making another attempt. Luis, however, as if called by fate, insisted that they should make one more visit to the king's cellar, and then inquire about the unrest at court. Persuaded against his better judgment, Zaragoza followed his friend to the palace, and saw that their secret passage was in the same condition as they had lately left it. Luis lowered himself into the hole; but lo! the whiz of an arrow was heard, and then a faint cry from Luis.

"What is the matter? Are you hurt?" asked Zaragoza.

"I am dying! Take care of my son!" These were Luis's last words.

Zaragoza knew not what to do. He tried to pull up the dead body of his friend; but in vain, for it was firmly caught between two heavy blocks of wood, and was pierced by many arrows. But Zaragoza was shrewd; and, fearing the consequences of the discovery of Luis's corpse, he cut off the dead man's head and hurried home with it, leaving the body behind. He broke the fatal news to Maria, whose grief was boundless. She asked him why he had mutilated her husband's body, and he satisfied her by telling her that they would be betrayed if Luis were recognized. Taking young Luis in her arms, Maria said, "For the sake of your godson, see that his father's body is properly buried."

"Upon my word of honor, I promise to do as you wish," was Zaragoza's reply.

Meantime the king was discussing the theft with his advisers. Finally, wishing to identify the criminal, the king decreed that the body should be carried through the principal streets of the city and neighboring villages, followed by a train of soldiers, who were instructed to arrest any person who should show sympathy for the dead man. Early one morning the military procession started out, and passed through the main streets of the city. When the procession arrived before Zaragoza's house, it happened that Maria was at the window, and, seeing the body of her husband, she cried, "O my husband!"

Seeing the soldiers entering their house, Zaragoza asked, "What is your pleasure?"

"We want to arrest that woman," was the answer of the chief of the guard.

"Why? She has not committed any crime."

"She is the widow of that dead man. Her words betrayed her, for she exclaimed that the dead man was her husband."

"Who is her husband? That remark was meant for me, because I had unintentionally hurt our young son," said Zaragoza smiling.

The soldiers believed his words, and went on their way. Reaching a public place when it was almost night, they decided to stay there until the next morning. Zaragoza saw his opportunity. He disguised himself as a priest and went to the place, taking with him a bottle of wine mixed with a strong narcotic. When he arrived, he said that he was a priest, and, being afraid of robbers, wished to pass the night with some soldiers. The soldiers were glad to have with them, as they thought, a pious man, whose stories would inspire them to do good. After they had talked a while, Zaragoza offered his bottle of wine to the soldiers, who freely drank from it. As was expected, they soon all fell asleep, and Zaragoza succeeded in stealing the corpse of Luis. He took it home and buried it in that same place where he had buried the head.

The following morning the soldiers woke up, and were surprised to see that the priest and the corpse were gone. The king soon knew how his scheme had failed. Then he thought of another plan. He ordered that a sheep covered with precious metal should be let loose in the streets, and that it should be followed by a spy, whose duty it was to watch from a distance, and, in case any one attempted to catch the sheep, to ascertain the house of that person, and then report to the palace.

Having received his orders, the spy let loose the sheep, and followed it at a distance. Nobody else dared even to make a remark about the animal; but when Zaragoza saw it, he drove it into his yard. The spy, following instructions, marked the door of Zaragoza's house with a cross, and hastened to the palace. The spy assured the soldiers that they would be able to capture the criminal; but when they began to look for the house, they found that all the houses were similarly marked with crosses.

For the third time the king had failed; and, giving up all hopes of catching the thief, he issued a proclamation pardoning the man who had committed the theft, provided he would present himself to the king within three days. Hearing the royal proclamation, Zaragoza went before the king, and confessed that he was the perpetrator of all the thefts that had caused so much trouble in the court. True to his word, the king did not punish him. Instead, the king promised to give Zaragoza a title of nobility if he could trick Don Juan, the richest merchant in the city, out of his most valuable goods.

When he knew of the desire of the king, Zaragoza looked for a fool, whom he could use as his instrument. He soon found one, whom he managed to teach to say "Si" (Spanish for "yes") whenever asked a question. Dressing the fool in the guise of a bishop, Zaragoza took a carriage and drove to the store of D. Juan. There he began to ask the fool such questions as these: "Does your grace wish to have this? Does not your grace think that this is cheap?" to all of which the fool's answer was "Si." At last, when the carriage was well loaded, Zaragoza said, "I will first take these things home, and then return with the money for them;" to which the fool replied, "Si." When Zaragoza reached the palace with the rich goods, he was praised by the king for his sagacity.

After a while D. Juan the merchant found out that what he thought was a bishop was really a fool. So he went to the king and asked that he be given justice. Moved by pity, the king restored all the goods that had been stolen, and D. Juan wondered how his Majesty had come into possession of his lost property.

Once more the king wanted to test Zaragoza's ability. Accordingly he told him to bring to the palace an old hermit who lived in a cave in the neighboring mountains. At first Zaragoza tried to persuade Tubal to pay the visit to the king, but in vain. Having failed in his first attempt, Zaragoza determined to play a trick on the old hermit. He secretly placed an iron cage near the mouth of Tubal's cave, and then in the guise of an angel he stood on a high cliff and shouted,--

"Tubal, Tubal, hear ye me!"

Tubal, hearing the call, came out of his cave, and, seeing what he thought was an angel, knelt down. Then Zaragoza shouted,--

"I know that you are very religious, and have come to reward your piety. The gates of heaven are open, and I will lead you thither. Go enter that cage, and you will see the way to heaven."

Tubal meekly obeyed; but when he was in the cage, he did not see the miracle he expected. Instead, he was placed in a carriage and brought before the king. Thoroughly satisfied now, the king released Tubal, and fulfilled his promise toward Zaragoza. Zaragoza was knighted, and placed among the chief advisers of the kingdom. After he had been raised to this high rank, he called to his side Maria and his godson, and they lived happily under the protection of one who became the most upright and generous man of the realm.


(b) Juan the Peerless Robber.

Narrated by Vicente M. Hilario, a Tagalog from Batangas, who heard the story from a Batangas student.

Not many centuries after Charlemagne died, there lived in Europe a famous brigand named Juan. From childhood he had been known as "the deceitful Juan," "the unrivalled pilferer," "the treacherous Juan." When he was twenty, he was forced to flee from his native land, to which he never returned.

He visited Africa, where he became acquainted with a famous Ethiopian robber named Pedro. Not long after they had met, a dispute arose between them as to which was the more skilful pickpocket. They decided to have a test. They stood face to face, and the Ethiopian was first to try his skill.

"Hey!" exclaimed Juan to Pedro, "don't take my handkerchief out of my pocket!"

It was now Juan's turn. He unbuckled Pedro's belt and slipped it into his own pocket. "What's the matter with you, Juan?" said Pedro after a few minutes. "Why don't you go ahead and steal something?"

"Ha, ha, ha!" said Juan. "Whose belt is this?"

Pedro generously admitted that he had been defeated.

Although these two thieves were united by strong ties of common interest, nevertheless their diverse characteristics and traits produced trouble at times. Pedro was dull, honorable, and frank; Juan was hawk-eyed and double-faced. Pedro had so large a body and so awkward and shambling a gait, that Juan could not help laughing at him and saying sarcastic things to him. Juan was good-looking and graceful.

While they were travelling about in northern Africa, they heard the heralds of the King of Tunis make the following proclamation: "A big bag of money will be given to the captor of the greatest robber in the country." The two friends, particularly Juan, were struck by this announcement.

That night Juan secretly stole out of his room. Taking with him a long rope, he climbed up to the roof of the palace. After making a hole as large as a peso (33) in the roof, he lowered himself into the building by means of the rope. He found the room filled with bags of gold and silver, pearls, carbuncles, diamonds, and other precious stones. He took the smallest bag he could find, and, after climbing out of the hole, went home quickly.

When Pedro heard Juan's thrilling report of the untold riches, he decided to visit the palace the following night. Early in the morning Juan went again to the palace, taking with him a large tub. After lowering it into the room, he departed without delay. At nightfall he returned to the palace and filled the tub with boiling water. He had no sooner done this than Pedro arrived. Pedro was so eager to get the wealth, that he made no use of the rope, but jumped immediately into the room when he reached the small opening his treacherous friend had made in the roof. Alas! instead of falling on bags of money, Pedro fell into the fatal tub of water, and perished.

An hour later Juan went to look for his friend, whom he found dead. The next day he notified the king of the capture and death of the greatest of African robbers. "You have done well," said the king to Juan. "This man was the chief of all the African highwaymen. Take your bag of money."

After putting his gold in a safe place, Juan went out in search of further adventures. On one of his walks, he heard that a certain wealthy and devout abbot had been praying for two days and nights that the angel of the lord might come and take him to heaven. Juan provided himself with two strong wings. On the third night he made a hole as large as a peso through the dome of the church.

Calling the abbot, Juan said, "I have been sent by the Lord to take you to heaven. Come with me, and bring all your wealth."

The abbot put all his money into the bag. "Now get into the bag," said Juan, "and we will go."

The old man promptly obeyed. "Where are we now?" said he, after an hour's "flight."

"We are within one thousand miles of the abode of the blessed," was Juan's reply.

Twenty minutes later, and they were in Juan's cave. "Come out of the bag, and behold my rude abode?" said Juan to the old man. The abbot was astounded at the sight. When he heard Juan's story, he advised him to abandon his evil ways. Juan listened to the counsels of his new friend. He became a good man, and he and the abbot lived together until their death.



The story of "Zaragoza" is of particular interest, because it definitely combines an old form of the "Rhampsinitus" story with the "Master Thief" cycle. In his notes to No. 11, "The Two Thieves," of his collection of "Gypsy Folk Tales," F. H. Groome observes, "(The) 'Two Thieves' is so curious a combination of the 'Rhampsinitus' story in Herodotus and of Grimm's 'Master Thief,' that I am more than inclined to regard it as the lost original, which, according to Campbell of Islay, 'it were vain to look for in any modern work or in any modern age.'" By "lost original" Mr. Groome doubtless meant the common ancestor of these two very widespread and for the most part quite distinct cycles, "Rhampsinitus" and the "Master Thief."

Both of these groups of stories about clever thieves have been made the subjects Of investigation. The fullest bibliographical study of the "Rhampsinitus" saga is that by Killis Campbell, "The Seven Sages of Rome" (Boston, 1907), pp. lxxxv-xc. Others have treated the cycle more or less discursively: R. Köhler, "Ueber J. F. Campbell's Sammlung gälischer Märchen," No. XVII (d) (in Orient und Occident, 2 (1864) : 303-313); Sir George Cox, "The Migration of Popular Stories" (in Fraser's Magazine, July, 1880, pp. 96-111); W. A. Clouston, "Popular Tales and Fictions" (London, 1887), 2 : 115-165. See also F. H. Groome, 48-53; McCulloch, 161, note 9; and Campbell's bibliography. The "Master Thief" cycle has been examined in great detail as to the component elements of the story by Cosquin (2 : 274-281, 364-365). See also Grimm's notes to the "Master Thief," No. 192 (2 : 464); and J. G. von Hahn, 2 : 178-183.

F. Max Müller believed that the story of the "Master Thief" had its origin in the Sanscrit droll of "The Brahman and the Goat" (Hitopadesa, IV, 10 = Panchatantra, III, 3), which was brought to Europe through the Arabic translation of the "Hitopadesa." Further, he did not believe that the "Master Thief" story had anything to do with Herodotus's account of the theft of Rhampsinitus's treasure (see Chips from a German Workshop (New York, 1869), 2 : 228). Wilhelm Grimm, however, in his notes to No. 192 of the "Kinder- und Hausmärchen," says, "The well-known story in Herodotus (ii, 121) ... is nearly related to this." As Sir G. W. Cox remarks (op. cit., p. 98), it is not easy to discern any real affinity either between the Hitopadesa tale and the European traditions of the "Master Thief," or between the latter and the "Rhampsinitus" story. M. Cosquin seems to see at least one point of contact between the two cycles: "The idea of the episode of the theft of the horse, or at least of the means which the thief uses to steal the horse away .... might well have been borrowed from Herodotus's story ... of Rhampsinitus" (Contes de Lorraine, 2 : 277).

A brief analysis of the characteristic incidents of these two "thieving" cycles will be of some assistance, perhaps, in determining whether or not there were originally any definite points of contact between the two. The elements of the "Rhampsinitus" story follow:--

A Two sons of king's late architect plan to rob the royal treasure-house.

(A1 In some variants of the story the robbers are a town thief and a country thief.)

A2 They gain an entrance by removing a secret stone, a knowledge of which their father had bequeathed them before he died.

B The king discovers the theft, and sets a snare for the robbers.

C Robbers return; eldest caught inextricably. To prevent discovery, the younger brother cuts off the head of the older, takes it away, and buries it.

D The king attempts to find the confederate by exposing the headless corpse on the outer wall of the palace.

D1 The younger thief steals the body by making the guards drunk. He also shaves the right side of the sleeping guards' beards.

E King makes second attempt to discover confederate. He sends his daughter as a common courtesan, hoping that he can find the thief; for she is to require all her lovers to tell the story of their lives before enjoying her favors.

E1 The younger thief visits her and tells his story; when she tries to detain him, however, he escapes by leaving in her hand the hand of a dead man he had taken along with him for just such a contingency.

F The king, baffled, now offers to pardon and reward the thief if he will discover himself. The thief gives himself up, and is married to the princess.

In some of the later forms of the story the king makes various other attempts to discover the culprit before acknowledging himself defeated, and is met with more subtle counter-moves on the part of the thief: (D2) King orders that any one found showing sympathy for the corpse as it hangs up shall be arrested; (D3) by the trick of the broken water-jar or milk-jar, the widow of the dead robber is able to mourn him unsuspected. (D4) The widow involuntarily wails as the corpse is being dragged through the street past her house; but the thief quickly cuts himself with a knife, and thus explains her cry when the guards come to arrest her. They are satisfied with the explanation. (E2) The king scatters gold-pieces in the street, and gives orders to arrest any one seen picking them up; (E3) the thief, with pitch or wax on the soles of his shoes, walks up and down the road, and, unobserved, gathers in the money. (E4) The king turns loose in the city a gold-adorned animal, and orders the arrest of any person seen capturing it. The thief steals it as in D1, or is observed and his house-door marked. Then as in E6. (E5) Old woman begging for "hind's flesh" or "camel-grease" finds his house; but the thief suspects her and kills her; or (E6) she gets away, after marking the house-door so that it may be recognized again. But the thief sees the mark, and proceeds to mark similarly all the other doors in the street. (E7) The king puts a prohibitive price on meat, thinking that only the thief will be able to buy; but the thief steals a joint.

However many the changes and additions of this sort (king's move followed by thief's move) rung in, almost all of the stories dealing with the robbery of the king's treasury end with the pardon of the thief and his exaltation to high rank in the royal household. In none of the score of versions of the "Rhampsinitus" story cited by Clouston is the thief subjected to any further tests of his prowess after he has been pardoned by the king. We shall return to this point.

The "Master Thief" cycle has much less to do with our stories than has the "Rhampsinitus" cycle: hence we shall merely enumerate the incidents to be found in it. (For bibliography of stories containing these situations, see Cosquin.)

A Hero, the youngest of three brothers, becomes a thief. For various reasons (the motives are different in Grimm 192, and Dasent xxxv) he displays his skill:--

B1 Theft of the purse (conducted as a droll: the young apprentice-thief, noodle-like, brings back purse to robber-gang after throwing away the money).

B2 Theft of cattle being driven to the fair. This trick is usually conducted in one of four ways: (a) two shoes in road; (b) hanging self; (c) bawling in the wood like a strayed ox; (d) exciting peasant's curiosity,--"comedy of comedies," "wonder of wonders."

B3 Theft of the horse. This is usually accomplished by the disguised thief making the grooms drunk.

B4 Stealing of a live person and carrying him in a sack to the one who gave the order. (The thief disguises himself as an angel, and promises to conduct his victim to heaven.)

Other instances of the "Master Thief's" cleverness, not found in Cosquin, are--

B5 Stealing sheet or coverlet from sleeping person (Grimm, Dasent).

B6 Stealing roast from spit while whole family is guarding it (Dasent).

We may now examine the members of the "Rhampsinitus" group that contain situations clearly belonging to the "Master Thief" formula. These are as follows:--

Groome, No. II, "The Two Thieves," B2 (d), B4.
F. Liebrecht in a Cyprus story (Jahrb. f. rom. und eng. lit., 13 :
367-374 = Legrand, Contes grecs, p. 205), "The Master Thief,"
B2(a, c, d).
Wardrop, No. XIV, "The Two Thieves," B4.
Radloff, in a Tartar story (IV, p. 193), B4.
Prym and Socin, in a Syriac story (II, No. 42), B4.

It seems very likely that the Georgian, Tartar, and Syriac stories are nearly related to one another. The Roumanian gypsy tale, too, it will be noted, adds to the "Rhampsinitus" formula the incident of the theft of a person in a sack. This latter story, again, is connected with the Georgian tale, in that the opening is identical in both. One thief meets another, and challenges him to steal the eggs (feathers) from a bird without disturbing it. While he is doing so, he is in turn robbed unawares of his drawers by the first thief. (Compare Grimm, No. 129; a Kashmir story in Knowles, 110-112; and a Kabylie story, Rivière, 13.)

The number of tales combining the two cycles of the "Master Thief" and "Rhampsinitus's Treasure-House" is so small compared with the number of "pure" versions of each cycle, that we are led to think it very unlikely that there ever was a "lost original." There seems to be no evidence whatsoever that these two cycles had a common ancestor. Besides the fact that the number of stories in which the contamination is found is relatively very small, there is also to be considered the fact that these few examples are recent. No one is known to have existed more than seventy-five years ago. Hence the "snowball" theory will better explain the composite nature of the gypsy version and our story of "Zaragoza" than a "missing-link" theory. These two cycles, consisting as they do of a series of tests of skill, are peculiarly fitted to be interlocked. The wonder is, not that they have become combined in a few cases, but that they have remained separate in so many more, particularly as both stories are very widespread; and, given the ingredients, this is a combination that could have been made independently by many story-tellers. Could not the idea occur to more than one narrator that it is a greater feat to steal a living person (B4) than a corpse (D1), a piece of roast meat guarded by a person who knows that the thief is coming (B6) than a piece of raw meat from an unsuspecting butcher (E7)? All in all, it appears to me much more likely that the droll and certainly later cycle of the "Master Thief" grew out of the more serious and earlier cycle of "Rhampsinitus's Treasure-House" (by the same process as is suggested in the notes to No. 1 of this present collection) than that the two are branches from the same trunk.

In any case, our two stories make the combination. When or whence these Tagalog versions arose I cannot say. Nor need they be analyzed in detail, as the texts are before us in full. I will merely call attention to the fact that in "Zaragoza" the king sets a snare (cf. Herodotus) for the thief, instead of the more common barrel of pitch. There is something decidedly primitive about this trap which shoots arrows into its victim. Zaragoza's trick whereby he fools the rich merchant has an analogue in Knowles's Kashmir story of "The Day-Thief and the Night-Thief" (p. 298).

"Juan the Peerless Robber," garbled and unsatisfactory as it is in detail and perverted in dénouement, presents the interesting combination of the skill-contest between the two thieves (see above), the treachery of one (cf. the Persian Bahar-i-Danush, 2 : 225-248), and the stealing of the abbot in a sack.


(33) Why peso, I cannot say. A hole the size of a peso would accommodate a rope, but hardly a man or a large tub. The story is clearly imperfect in many respects.

(The end)
Dean S. Fansler's short story: Story Of Zaragoza

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