The Cavaliers

A saying that one cannot make black white or white black.  Once upon a time there was a little old woman who lived all alone with her little black son. The little old woman had not always lived alone with the little black boy. She had once been the mother of three beautiful daughters, the very loveliest maidens in all the whole country. They were so handsome that they attracted the attention of the wicked fairy who lived in an enchanted castle nearby, and this fairy had been very jealous of them. By the aid of magic she tied them up in sacks which could be opened only by burning the sacks over a fire built from magic wood. The little old woman and her black son searched long for magic wood, but they were never able to find any.

The old woman had grown weak in her search to find the magic wood. If it had not been for the black boy she would have given up entirely. The little black boy was always optimistic and always sure that someday they would succeed in finding the magic wood.

One day the little old woman took her big water jar upon her head and carried it down to the stream to fill. It was so very heavy when she had filled it with water that she could not lift it to her head even with the help of the little black boy. Three fine looking cavaliers happened to be passing on horseback. She sent the little black boy to ask them if they would help her. They said they couldn’t possibly stop. The little old woman was very angry. She did not know that they were on their way to the magic castle and didn’t have a choice to stop. The same wicked fairy was leading them on.

If the little old woman had known all about the cavaliers she would not have been angry. She would have wanted to help them instead. They very good and very wise, so they managed to get along very well. As soon as they reached the enchanted castle the fairy showed them to their beds. She had marked each bed with a candle. No one before had ever been wise enough to blow out these candles, but they blew out the candles and that took away the fairy’s power over them. They were able to escape from the palace. When the wicked fairy came to put them in her magic sacks she found the beds empty.

The three cavaliers took their horses and rode back by the same road by which they had come. They stopped at a little shop on a corner which was kept by a good fairy and bought some ashes, pins and salt.

The cavaliers returned to the house of the old woman and the black boy. The woman was still angry because they had refused to stop and help her lift her water jar to her head. When she saw them coming she threw stones at them.

The cavaliers were greatly surprised as they had forgotten all about the little woman and boy whom he had asked them to help. When they saw her coming with the stones they thought that she must be a wicked fairy.

One of the cavaliers threw his ashes at her. It became night. The little old woman came on with her stones just as usual.

Another cavalierthrew the salt at her. Immediately a sea of salt water appeared between the three and the old woman. The woman came on with her stones just as usual

The final cavalier threw pins at the old lady. Immediately a high, thorny hedge sprang out of the ground between the little old woman and the three cavaliers.

The little old woman was too angry to think clearly. If she had not been so angry she would have known at once that this must be magic wood. The little black boy, however, had his wits about him. He gathered the branches even though the thorns tore his hands. Soon he had brought together a great pile of wood like the piles which they make in the streets to burn.

The little old woman saw what he was doing and ran to get the magic sacks in which her daughters were imprisoned. They laid the sacks on top of the pile of magic wood and lighted the fire. Out of the three magic sacks there sprang three beautiful maidens who had been preserved alive in the sacks by a miracle.

The little old woman and her three beautiful daughters turned to thank the little black boy for what he had done. The little black boy was no longer black. He had been turned white.

The three cavaliers married the three beautiful maidens and the little boy who was now white, grew up to be the greatest cavalier of them all.

Obviously, while this story is meant to have a positive message regarding purification of the soul, it is definitely an outdated tale in the way that it continues to reinforce rather gross and incompetent racial stereotypes. However, it is also a fascinating insight into the inner workings of Brazilian racial attitudes in the country’s older historical culture.