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Literature / Fair Brow

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Fair Brow is an Italian Fairy Tale collected by Thomas Frederick Crane in Italian Popular Tales.

A merchant sends out his son, Fair Brow, with a sum of money to trade. He spends it all paying off a dead man's debts so he can be buried. The merchant gives him another sum, and he spends it buying a kidnapped slave woman, whom he married. His father throws him out, and he can not work. His wife has him sell her paintings, and warns him not to tell anyone who paints them. Some Turks recognize them as the handiwork of the Sultan's daughter, and trick him into revealing it, so they carry her off again.

He tries to get east, and meets an old man who urges him to come fishing with him. They were carried off to Turkey by a storm, where Turks enslaved them, and they worked in the Sultan's garden. His wife gets wind of his presence and they escape, with her handmaidens and a huge treasure. The old man demands half share — not only for the gold, but also of the wife. Fair Brow begs him to take a larger share of the treasure and leave his wife alone. The old man reveals he is the ghost of the man he had buried, and leaves him all the treasure, and then he vanishes.


They returns to home, and Fair Brow's father comes to live with them. He dies not long after, and Fair Brow inherits his wealth.

Full text in the Project Gutenberg, the SurLALune site, and here

Tropes present in this tale:

  • Character Witness: The main character is helped by the ghost of a man whose burial was paid by Fair Brow.
  • Due to the Dead: Fair Brow pays a dead man's debts so he can be given a decent burial.
  • Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job: Fair Brow and his wife resort to paint and sell pictures when he is driven out of his father's home.
  • Forbidden Fruit: Fair Brow's wife forbids him to tell anyone who paints the paintings he sells. He is tricked into revealing it, and his wife is kidnapped again.
  • Girl in the Tower: After getting his daughter back, the Sultan locks her away in a tower as punishment.
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  • Made a Slave: The Sultan's daughter is captured by pirates who intend to sell her into slavery. Later, Fair Brow himself and the old man are captured by Turks and forced to work as slaves.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: The Sultan imprisons his Muslim daughter upon discovering she married to a Christian man.
  • Nameless Narrative: Fair Brow is the only character who is given one name, halfway through the story.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: The old man's ghost remained in the physical world in order to repay Fair Brow for his kindness.
  • Pirates: A band of pirates kidnaps the Sultan's daughter.
  • Riches to Rags: Fair Brow and his wife are kicked out of his father's house and live off painting and selling pictures for a while.