(a Portuguese tale)
Once upon a time a woman had three daughters and one baby boy. One day the eldest daughter picked a pink flower that was floating past in a stream, and she instantly vanished. The second daughter went to find her, but when she saw a rose in the path, she bent to pick it up, and she disappeared. The third daughter, searching for her sisters, plucked a bloom from a trailing jasmine vine, and poof! She was gone.
Their mother fell into despair. But when Antonio, the baby, grew up, he decided to find his sisters, and he set out. He soon came upon three boys fighting over a pair of boots, a key and a cap.
“Why are you fighting?” he asked.
They explained that whoever wore the boots and wished himself in any place would find himself there, the key opened every door in the world, and anyone who wore the cap became invisible. The boys were fighting over ownership.
Antonio offered to help. “I’ll throw a stone as far as I can and whoever picks it up first shall have all three,” he said.
With that, Antonio flung a stone. When the boys ran after it, he picked up the key and cap and pulled on the boots.
“Take me to my eldest sister,” Antonio said.
The next moment, he stood before a castle guarded by bolts and chains and gates. With the key, he opened each lock.
Inside he came upon a beautiful young woman he recognized at once as his eldest sister.
“How did you get here?” she asked, for she knew he was her brother.
“I’m here to rescue you,” Antonio said.
Alas, she explained, she had married a man who was under a spell they could not break until a monstrous man who could not die was killed.
Suddenly a bird flew in through an open window, and the woman picked up a basin and held it out to the bird. When the bird jumped into the basin, it turned into a handsome man, the woman’s husband. They embraced.
His wife explained how her brother wanted to try to break the spell.
“I wish you success,” the man said, and drew a feather from his pocket. “Take this. If you are ever in danger, call on me, the King of the Birds!”
Antonio thanked him, put on the boots and set off to find his second sister. As before, he turned up in front of a castle where he found her. She was living with her husband, who had longed for release from a spell that kept him living half his life as a fish.
“You must kill a man who cannot be killed to break the spell,” her husband said, and he pulled a fish scale from his pocket. “If ever you are in danger, call on me, the King of the Fish!”
Antonio thanked him, put on the boots and went to find his third sister. This time the boots carried him to a set of iron steps leading up to a dark cavern, where he found his youngest sister weeping.
“Please take me away from this place,” she begged when she recognized Antonio. She told him how she had been carried away by a terrible man who was monstrous and cruel and immortal. This man wanted to marry her, and every day he came to beg for her hand. Every day she refused, so he had promised he would never give her peace or set her free until she married him.
Antonio thought of his brothers-in-law: Of course this was the man he must kill. And so he came up with a plan. He put on his cap of invisibility, and waited in the cavern where his sister was.
That night when the monstrous man came to the cavern, he flung himself at the young woman’s feet and pleaded with her to marry him. But this time she went along with Antonio’s plan.
“I will marry you,” Antonio’s sister said. “But you must tell me why you cannot die!”
The monstrous man began to laugh. “You think you can kill me!” he hissed. “But to do that you would need an iron casket that lies at the bottom of the sea. Inside it there is a white dove, but you would have to find the egg the dove has laid and break it against my head.”
“It’s impossible,” he continued. “I’ll never die. But I have kept my promise, and now you must marry me.”
“I will,” she said, “but wait three days so I can make myself more beautiful!”
The monstrous man agreed and went away, and Antonio removed his cap and reappeared.
“Do not lose heart,” Antonio told his sister as he pulled on the boots. He wished himself to be at the seashore, and there he was.
He held the fish scale and called, “Come help me, King of the Fish!” and his brother-in-law appeared as a fish and brought with him hundreds of fish.
“We must find the iron casket at the bottom of the sea,” Antonio said, so all the fish spread out until they had found the casket. They carried it to shore, and Antonio opened it with his key.
A white dove escaped and flew away, so Antonio took out his feather and called on the King of the Birds. He soon appeared, followed by hundreds of birds.
“We must find the egg that dove has laid,” Antonio said, so the birds chased the white dove to its nest, and there lay the egg that would break the spell and set everyone free.
The King of the Birds carefully carried the egg to Antonio, and when it was safe in his pocket, he told the boots to carry him straight to the cavern.
There the monstrous man stood, ready for his wedding.
Antonio crept up behind him and broke the egg against his head.
The monstrous man roared in pain, and as the last breath left his body, the spell was broken. The two eldest sisters and their husbands were united, and they joined their youngest sister and brother and returned to their mother. And everyone lived happily ever after.