Misfortune is an Italian fairy tale, from Palermo, collected by Italo Calvino in his Italian Folktales.[1]

Another telling of the tale appears under the title Unfortunate in A Book of Enchantments and Curses, by Ruth Manning-Sanders.


A king was captured and dethroned, and the queen had to make shift as best she could with her seven daughters. A beggar woman told the queen that all their misfortunes sprung from having a daughter who was unlucky. If she sent her away, all would go well with them, and she could find out which daughter it was: the one who slept with her hands crossed. The queen found it was her youngest; when her daughter found out why she was weeping, she left at once.

She sought service at a weavers', calling herself Misfortune. Her evil fortune followed her, and as a woman, went about the shop, cutting all the threads. They blamed Misfortune and threw her out. She found service at a shopkeeper's, but when her Fortune spilled all the wine, the shopkeeper blamed Misfortune and threw her out.

She worked for a laundress, and the prince, whose work the laundress did, was taken by her skill, giving ten gold pieces. The laundress bought Misfortune new clothing, and made two loaves of bread. She had Misfortune bring one to the laundress's Fortune, and ask her how she found find her own. The laundress's Fortune directed her to a foul old witch who refused the bread, but Misfortune still laid it down. They repeated this on the next washday, and on the third time, the prince gave twenty gold pieces, so the laundress sent her off with not only two loaves, but fine clothing for Misfortune's Fortune. When the Fortune took the bread, Misfortune grabbed her, washed her, and dressed her. The Fortune gave Misfortune a tiny box, which Misfortune found contained a tiny piece of braid. and stuffed batons in it.

Soon after, the laundress found the prince upset because his bride's betrothal gown lacked a tiny piece of braid that could not be matched anywhere. The laundress brought Misfortune's braid, and the prince decided to pay her its weight in gold, but no scale managed to weigh it. He demanded where it had come from, and the laundress told about Misfortune. The prince summoned her, asked who she was, paid off her old masters for the damage and warned them about their behavior, and married Misfortune instead of his betrothed bride.

Meanwhile, Misfortune's parents had regained their kingdom, but were distressed by the thought of their daughter. So the prince sent word to them.

See also


  1. ^ Italo Calvino, Italian Folktales p 746 ISBN 0-15-645489-0

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  • misfortune — misfortune, mischance, adversity, mishap are comparable when they denote bad luck or adverse fortune or an instance of this. Misfortune is both the most common and the most general term; it is applicable equally to the incident or conjunction of… …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • misfortune — I noun accident, adverse event, adverse fortune, adverse lot, adverse luck, adversity, affliction, backset, bad fortune, bad luck, bale, blow, calamitas, calamity, casualty, cataclysm, catastrophe, comedown, destruction, disadvantage,… …   Law dictionary

  • Misfortune — Mis*for tune, n. Bad fortune or luck; calamity; an evil accident; disaster; mishap; mischance. [1913 Webster] Consider why the change was wrought, You ll find his misfortune, not his fault. Addison. [1913 Webster] Syn: Calamity; mishap;… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • misfortune — / mishap [n] bad luck; disaster accident, adversity, affliction, annoyance, anxiety, bad break*, bad news*, blow*, burden, calamity, casuality, cataclysm, catastrophe, contretemps, cross, crunch, debacle, disadvantage, disappointment, discomfort …   New thesaurus

  • Misfortune — Mis*for tune, v. i. To happen unluckily or unfortunately; to miscarry; to fail. [Obs.] Stow. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • misfortune — (n.) mid 15c., from MIS (Cf. mis ) (1) + FORTUNE (Cf. fortune). Related: Misfortunate …   Etymology dictionary

  • misfortune — ► NOUN 1) bad luck. 2) an unfortunate event …   English terms dictionary

  • misfortune — [mis fôr′chən] n. 1. bad luck; ill fortune; trouble; adversity 2. an instance of this; unlucky accident; mishap; mischance SYN. AFFLICTION …   English World dictionary

  • misfortune — noun Date: 15th century 1. a. an event or conjunction of events that causes an unfortunate or distressing result ; bad luck < by misfortune he fell into bad company > < had the misfortune to break his leg > b. an unhappy situation < always ready… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • misfortune — noun ADJECTIVE ▪ great ▪ personal VERB + MISFORTUNE ▪ be dogged by (BrE), have, suffer ▪ The expedition was dogged by …   Collocations dictionary

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