The King’s Son-in-Law

Antonio Trueba

Antonio de Trueba (1819-1889) was a Spanish reteller of folklore in the tradition of Gustavo Bécquer and Fernán Caballero (the pen name of Cecilia Francisca Josefa Böhl de Faber) — both of whom I’ve posted on before. Trueba combined the traditional stories of the Spanish campesinos with sophisticated literary style and humorous political and social commentary. I found this delightful tale in a back issue of the fairy tale studies journal Marvels & Tales, and it hooked me at the first paragraph:

There once was a king so avaricious that instead of spending his life making his subjects happy, he passed it running throughout his kingdom searching for mines of gold and silver, and leaving the devil in charge of the ship of State. A pox on such kings!

I have a feeling this one will speak to a lot of people.

The tale is filled with many familiar motifs, though “Knows-it-all” felt rather new to me. As someone who takes pride in being competent at the things I do, I have mixed feelings about the idea of “faking it ’til you make it,” though some bit of jumping in without waiting to feel “completely ready” is always necessary. And the prince has a good heart, so I guess that makes it okay.

The translation from Marvels & Tales is by Robert M. Fedorchek, and it’s great; as usual, however, I wanted a translation that is free and clear to share, so I re-translated the story myself, from the 1879 third edition of Trueba’s 1866 collection Cuentos de Vivos Y Muertos: contados por el pueblo y recontados por… (Tales of the Living and the Dead: told by the people and retold by…) (the paragraph quoted above is from my translation, not Fedorchek’s).

I’m glad I did the re-translation, because Trueba has a wonderful voice, chatty and personable, and he uses many charming repetitions of wording and phrases that add to the pleasure of “listening” to him. Not to mention many colorful idiomatic expressions that were rather a challenge to translate. I can’t convey all of the original nuance in the translation, of course, but I hope that I’ve conveyed at least some of it.

You can read The King’s Son-in-Law here.



de Trueba, Antonio. “El Yerno del Rey,” Cuentos de Vivos Y Muertos, Tercera Edicion, Madrid, 1879.

de Trueba, Antonio and Robert M. Fedorchek (Trans.). “The King’s Son-in-Law,” Marvels & Tales, Volume 15, No. 2 (2001), pp. 202-216. (Available via JSTOR through an institutional subscription or a MyJSTOR account)

More Reading:

My post about Fernán Caballero’s “The Devil’s Mother-in-Law” (with link to the story).

My post about Gustavo Bécquer’s “The Miserere” (with link to the story). This one is a Holy Week ghost story, so also appropriate for today (it’s Holy Week as I post this).

My post about Gustavo Bécquer’s “Maese Pérez, Organist” and “The Devil’s Cross” (with links to both stories).

Stories of Enchantment from Nineteenth-century Spain: a collection of nineteenth-century literary Spanish fairy tales, compiled and translated by Robert Fedorchek.

Photo of Antonio de Trueba: Wikipedia

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