A Portuguese Folktale: The Magician



Today’s folktale was first transcribed in 1879 and it’s a recurrent theme in folktales around the world, this theme being of a magical restraint.
It also happens that similar versions of this tale can be found in Russia, Italy and Great Britain and here from Portugal there are two main versions: one from the south of the country and another from the north.
We present to you our translation (and adaptation) of the southern version since it’s a bit cheekier, in our opinion!
Without further ado, let’s begin!


There was in a certain land a man well versed in the mystic arts, who never wished to take as a servant anyone that knew how to read, to prevent the secret of his spells getting stolen.
A young lad came to him, feigned not being able to read and consequently began serving him and read all the books in the Magician’s library. When he could stand up to his master’s level, the lad ran off with all the magic tomes. One day, thinking himself a master and wanting to live off of his trickeries, he told a servant to go to the market and sell a beautiful horse that would be at the stable. He set the price and ordered that as soon as he sold the horse, that he should remove its restraints right away (Note: not written in the original tale, but the intent was for the horse to run back home).
When the time for the Market came, the servant went to the stable and there he found a pretty horse and departed with it.
The robbed Magician happened to be at the market and instantly recognized his old disciple’s form under the guise of the horse. He bargained the price and paid so quickly that the servant forgot to take the horse’s restraints.
When he asked to do it, the Magician refused by saying a contract had been established from the moment he had given the money for the horse. So the Magician took the horse home, exultant with all the revenge he could have against the one that had stolen his wisdom.
Some time passed, and he ordered a new servant to take the horse to a stream so it would drink, but ordered him not to remove the restraints. The horse, depressed, sniffed the water but didn’t take a single sip of it and the servant thought to himself that certainly if the restraints were taken off, the horse would drink at last.
As soon as they were off, all of a sudden the horse turned into a frog and vanished into the water. By the window of his home, the Magician saw what happened and turned himself into a toad, to go to catch the frog.
The disciple knowing very well the doomed fate that waited for him if he got caught, turned into a dove and flew up in the air but the Magician transformed into a goshawk and sped after, to gobble it up.
Becoming very tired and almost close to getting caught, the dove saw a princess by a terrace and fell on her lap, turning into a priceless ring. Astonished with what she just witnessed and with the jewel’s beauty, she put it on her finger. The Magician saw there was nothing he could achieve and still in the shape of a goshawk, flew into the king’s bedroom and dropped a hair in the glass of milk that he was drinking.
As expected, the king fell terribly ill. All the physicians in the kingdom were called, but none could cure him, then the Magician appeared under the guise of a Physician and promised to restore the King’s health, but only if he gave him the ring the princess had on her finger. The king said yes and the ring knowing of this, turned himself into a gorgeous lad and asked the princess that when the king requested her to give the ring to the Magician, that she didn’t place it in his hand but throw it on the floor instead, so he had to pick it up.
A few days later, the king was healthy again and as soon as the Physician came to the court, he asked for the ring. The princess expressed sadness but obeyed, produced the ring and hurled it at the floor as if angered. The ring transformed right away, into a pomegranate that burst open, spreading its crimson seeds all across the royal hall, but the Magician turned into a chicken and in a flash swallowed all the seeds. Only one seed remained, behind a door and it turned into a red fox that threw itself at the chicken and devoured it quickly.
The princess was very surprised by all of this and asked the fox to turn into a prince, so she could marry him. This he did, and they were very happy together.


How lucky for both that the king and those present seemed to be ok with these bewildering events!
A prince-magician sounds a bit of an overpowered new ruling class and we’re not so sure that the princess could be trusted either, but we like to think they brought the best out of each other and didn’t become the nation’s dark overlords.

★stay inspired★


8 thoughts on “A Portuguese Folktale: The Magician

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