The Whistle and The Purse

Once upon a time, in a little village in Sicily, two peasants and their wives were having a christening party for their newborn baby sons. They were to be given the names of Franco and Geraldo. It was the custom at that time always to leave two empty places at the table, for the simple peasants believed that two fairies might appear and give their blessings on the celebrations and the babies for their future.

It was a little party with a good soup, followed by chestnuts and wine. For a long time, the two seats at the table remained empty, but as the feast ended, two women suddenly appeared. One was old, with a happy smiling face. She sat down beside the mother of little Franco. The other was sterner-looking, and she sat down beside the mother of Geraldo.

The two strangers ate a little food and drank a sip of wine. Then they got up from the table and asked to see the two infant boys.

The older, smiling fairy touched Franco and said in a trembling voice. “I am the fairy Lubina, and the only gift I can give to this child is happy in his heart. I will give him this magic whistle to ensure he will always be happy. When he blows it, he will never be sad.”

The other woman then touched the forehead of little Geraldo and said:

“I am the fairy, Laurita, and it is in my power to give this child a special gift. Geraldo will never be poor. If he ever needs money, he must hold this leather purse and say the magic words “Copper, silver, gold”, and he will find inside three golden coins. But, remember, this will only happen once a day.”

The two fairies vanished as suddenly as they came.

The parents of Geraldo were delighted with their son’s gift. Their child had been given the wish of riches forever.

The parents of Franco were not so pleased because all their son had been given was the gift of happiness, and happiness could not be eaten or used as money.

The two children grew up, and their mothers made them use the gifts given to them. Franco was always happy and gay because of his. Magic whistle, but Geraldo al- ways seemed better off because all he had to do was hold the leather bag every day and say the words: “Copper. silver, gold,” and out dropped three shining gold coins; little by little, the two families became jealous of one another. After all, the parents of Geraldo always had plenty of money and looked down on the poorer parents of Franco.

When the two boys had grown into men, they became soldiers of the Duke of Aquitania and were sent to fight against the Moors.

Alas, one day, they were both captured by the Moors and sent to work in the gardens of the Emir,

Thanks to his magic whistle, Franco never felt sad and often sang as he did his tasks. But Geraldo was different; he was not happy at all. He went to the Emir one day and asked how much it would cost to buy his freedom.

“Sixty gold coins,” laughed the Emir, who thought that such a sum was far more than a peasant would have in a lifetime.

“I will give it to you in twenty days,” said Geraldo.

The Emir was surprised and suspicious of Geraldo’s answer and sent soldiers to spy on him. They soon discovered the secret of Geraldo’s magic purse, and the rich and greedy Emir wanted the bag for himself.

“Even if you give me sixty times sixty gold coins,” the Emir told Geraldo, “I will not let you go. I command that you place three gold coins on my table daily, or you will be punished.”

Poor Geraldo had to say the three magic words daily and give the gold coins to the Emir.

One day the Emir’s daughter fell ill. She could not eat and could not smile anymore. Nothing could cure her, but one Emir’s ministers had an idea. “Why not ask that prisoner Franco, who is always happy and laughing, to see if he can do anything.”

Franco was called into the palace and shown the unhappy Princess. He played a few soft notes on his magic whistle, and the Princess smiled and asked for something to eat.

The Emir was delighted and told Franco he could have his freedom as a reward.

“I would like you to set free all your prisoners,” The Emir was initially reluctant to agree because he wanted the three coins from Geraldo daily. But his daughter was so happy that he finally decided.

Franco and Geraldo set off together for their homes in Sicily. As they came to a river, Geraldo took the leather purse from his pocket and cast it into the waters.

“I never want to see it again,” he said to Franco. “It has only brought me bad luck. You, Franco, had the better gift from the fairies because happiness is a treasure greater than riches.”

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