Fortunatus hardly remembers having fortune. His father squandered it before he was ten. At sixteen, he went off to find his own fortune. He found work as a page for the Earl of Flanders, and before you knew it, he had won the heart of the Earl’s daughter. They were about to be married when his envious rival told him that the Earl was plotting to kill him. He packed his bags and slipped away before dawn.
Since then he has been wandering penniless, without direction or work. I have followed him all over Brittany and now he has come into a pathless forest where the animals are wild and dangerous. It is time for me to make an appearance.
“I am Dame Fortune,” I tell him. “I have a gift for you. Shall it be wisdom, strength, long life, riches, health, or beauty? Think well, and tell me what you will have.”
He is hungry, and so he wishes for what all the hungry want.
“Riches,” he says.
I give him a magic purse. It will always contain ten pieces of gold. He and his children may have it, for as long as they live. Then their fortune will run out.
Dame Fortune in Fortunatus and His Purse, Grey Fairy Book. Illustrations by H.J. Ford and Warwick Goble.