In which Giulla and Feristemo find each other, and take a little revenge. From the Peregrinaggio.
When last we saw them, Feristemo and Giassamen had finally learned Giulla’s whereabouts, and were making plans to rescue her.
Giassamen happened to know that quite near Giullistano, where Giulla was held, there was a grand palace whose owner was greatly in debt to the king (ah, back taxes). So the palace was up for public auction. With Feristemo’s approval, Giassamen took a large sum from the money that Feristemo’s father had given to them, and, while posing as a foreign merchant, bought the palace. He and Feristemo furnished the palace luxuriously, then set up residence there.
Late at night, Giassamen took his drill and excavated a passage from beneath their palace to where Giulla lived. Then he and Feristemo went through the tunnel to Giulla’s dwelling.
What a joyous reunion for Giulla and Feristemo! The two of them, along with Giassamen and Achel, returned to Giassamen’s palace and spent the rest of the evening quietly celebrating the fact that they had all found each other again. Towards morning, Feristemo suggested to everyone that it would be wise of the four of them to leave Letzer for other lands, to escape the evil king.
But Giassamen said, “Master, I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and I think it’s only right that you and Giulla have a little revenge on the king. Will you leave it to me?”
Feristemo trusted Giassamen implicitly, so he agreed.
The next day, Giassamen, in his disguise as a foreign merchant, presented himself to the king and invited him to visit the merchant’s new palace. The king accepted. When he arrived, he was greeted by Giassamen — and also by Feristemo and Giulla, both richly attired. In fact, Giulla was even wearing the jewels that the king had given her! Seeing the couple, the king was stunned.
“This woman is the very image of my bride-to-be,” he thought. “And doesn’t her husband look like my bride’s first husband — the one I had thrown into the sea? But that can’t be!”
“Is something wrong, Your Highness?” Giassamen asked him.
“No… nothing,” the king said. “But I just realized that I forgot something, and must return to the palace immediately. I’ll be back shortly.”
And the king dashed off. Of course, our heroes knew what was going through his mind, and so Giulla hurried back to Giullistano though the secret tunnel. The tunnel was a more direct route than the road, so she beat the king back easily. In her room, she changed back into her old clothing, and put away the jewels. When the king burst in, she was sitting calmly in her room, as though she’d never left it.
“Why do you not wear the jewels that I gave you, my dear?” The king asked her.
“It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to wear them, until after the forty day waiting period that I asked you for,” Giulla said. “So I keep them here.”
And she opened up a case to show him the jewels.
The king looked at them, puzzled. “Is something wrong?” Giulla asked.
The king started to tell Giulla all about her doppelganger at the merchant’s palace, when he got an idea of how determine if the two women were really one and the same. He took Giulla’s hand as he spoke to her, then suddenly grabbed her right arm, squeezing it so tightly that he left a black and blue bruise. Then he got up and hurried back to Giassamen’s palace.
Giulla dashed back through the tunnel in a panic. When she arrived at the palace, she showed her arm to Giassamen and Feristemo. But, as we mentioned earlier, Giassamen had many skills. He hurried out to the garden and picked the leaves of a special herb, which he crushed and rubbed on Giulla’s bruise. The marks disappeared and her arm looked fresh and unhurt.
When the king arrived, he bowed politely to Giulla. “Madam, with your permission, I would like to see your right arm. It would remove a great doubt from my mind.”
Giulla obliged, showing the king her bruise-free arm. So it couldn’t be his Giulla, the king thought. But she was as pretty as his Giulla. And as the four of them went in to dinner, the king began scheming how to seduce the merchant’s wife for himself.
They spent the rest of the evening dining on fine food, drinking good wine, and being entertained by singers and musicians. At the end of the evening the king told Giassamen that he had enjoyed himself wonderfully, and that he would very much like to do it again. As much as they would have him.
They had him all right, and they knew it. Giassamen graciously told the king that he would be welcome whenever he wished to visit. The plan was working!
The king arrived back at Giassamen’s palace the next morning, practically as soon as the sun had arisen. The more he saw Giulla, the more he wanted her, and every day he would come to visit, trying to get Giulla alone. Finally, after seven days of this, Giassamen and Feristemo and Giulla agreed that they would let the king catch Giulla unattended.
When the king came to visit the next day, he found Giulla alone in one of the rooms. He immediately came up and began sweet talking her, telling her how madly he had fallen in love. He told her he would die if he couldn’t have her.
“I feel the same about you,” Giulla said. “But it’s not safe with my husband and Giassamen around. If you can wait a few days, they are both leaving the city to sell their merchandise, and then we can enjoy ourselves together, in privacy.”
Overjoyed, the king kissed Giulla’s hand and told her he would be back after her husband left town. After he left, Giulla told Feristemo, Giassamen and Achel about her conversation with the king. The four were pleased that they had made such a fool of the king, but they also knew that to take it any farther would be dangerous. It was time to leave.
Giassamen went to the shore and found a ship flying the flag of a friendly neighboring nation. He went to the captain and booked passage for himself and his friends. The next morning, as the others prepared to depart, Giassamen went to the royal palace and informed the king that the two merchants were sailing the next day for India, to trade. He commended the care of his palace and of Giulla to the king while he and Feristemo were gone, and of course, the king promised to watch over the palace, and to take very good care of Giulla in the merchants’ absence.
As soon as Giassamen left the king, the four friends boarded the ship with all their possessions. The ship set sail, and by evening the four were far, far away, miles out of the king’s reach.
Early the next morning the king rushed to Giassamen’s palace, eager to get Giulla alone. When he arrived, the gates were open, and no retainers came out to meet him. The great front door of the palace was also open, and when the king entered, he found nothing but deserted rooms, empty of all furniture and rugs and tapestries. As he passed from room to room, he eventually came upon a big hole in one of the walls, which led to an underground passage. The king followed the passage, arriving at “his” Giulla’s dwelling in Giullistano — also deserted.
Finally, the king realized how he had been tricked. The knowledge made him so angry and frustrated that his heart couldn’t take all his rage, and two days later, he died.
The king had only one heir, his imprisoned daughter, so after the king’s death the royal counselors got together and decided to release the princess — now the queen. They also released the queen’s cousin, the son of the late king’s younger brother. The new queen’s grandfather (the good king) had wanted his two grandchildren to marry, to solidify the family’s hold on the throne. And so the queen married her cousin, in accordance with their grandfather’s wish.
The new royal couple heard rumors about how Giulla, Feristemo and Giassamen had tricked the old king, leading to the king’s death, and their freedom. So they sent out word that our heroes should return to Letzer to be rewarded. The news eventually reached the country where the four friends were living. At first, they were reluctant to return, until an ambassador from Letzer visited them personally, to assure them that the tyrant king was dead, and that the new royal couple only wanted to thank and reward them for their help.
So the four returned to Letzer. When the royal couple heard the whole story, they were so impressed that they granted Feristemo and Giulla a grand estate and riches, and the same for Giassamen and Achel, who had married.
And the six of them lived happily ever after.
This is a retelling of the sixth novella embedded in Peregrinaggio di tre giovani figliuoli del re di Serendippo, an Italian collection of seven novellas, with framing story; the stories are of mostly Indian origin. You can read about the background of this sixteenth-century Italian text here. The Italian original is also online, at Italian Wikisource.
As I mentioned in Part I, I dropped many of the Christian-centric details of the story. In the original tale, the tyrant king’s daughter converts to Christianity after she is freed (as she had vowed to). After she and her husband hear our heroes’ story, they both convert, and re-marry in the Catholic Church. And then the entire Court and the entire city all convert as well. This is the only story in the collection that was Christianized; I guess that’s how Michael Tramezzino, the Peregrinaggio‘s publisher and probable compiler, must have heard the story originally.
Serendipity and the Three Princes: From the Peregrinaggio. Edited, with Introduction and Notes, by Theodore G. Remer. University of Oklahoma Press, 1965.
Palace of Chernomor (Sketches of scenery for Mikhail Glinka’s Ruslan and Ludmilla), Ivan Bilibin (1900). Source: Wikiart
At the cell of Friar Lawrence, Arthur Rackham (c. 1899). Source: Wikiart
Ashenputtel goes to the ball, Arthur Rackham (1909). Source: Wikiart
Ships, Konstantin Bogaevsk (1912). Source: Wikiart