"The Love for Three Oranges" or "The Three Citrons" is an Italian literary fairy tale written by Giambattista Basile in the Pentamerone. It is the concluding tale, and the one the heroine of the frame story uses to reveal that an imposter has taken her place.
It is Aarne-Thompson type 408, and the oldest known variant of this tale. It was the basis for Carlo Gozzi's commedia dell'arte scenario by the same name, and for Sergei Prokofiev's opera, The Love for Three Oranges. Italo Calvino included a variant The Love of the Three Pomegranates, an Abruzzese version known too as As White as Milk, As Red ad Blood but noted that he could have selected from forty different Italian versions, with a wide array of fruit.Hillary DePiano's play The Love of the Three Oranges is based on Gozzi's scenario.
A king, who only had one son, anxiously waited for him to marry. One day, the prince cut his finger; his blood fell on white cheese. The prince declared that he would only marry a woman as white as the cheese and as red as the blood, so he set out to find her.
The prince wandered the lands until he came to the Island of Ogresses, where two little old women each told him that he could find what he sought here, if he went on, and the third gave him three citrons, with a warning not to cut them until he came to a fountain. A fairy would fly out of each, and he had to give her water at once.
He returned home, and by the fountain, he was not quick enough for the first two, but was for the third. The woman was red and white, and the prince wanted to fetch her home properly, with suitable clothing and servants. He had her hide in a tree. A black slave, coming to fetch water, saw her reflection in the water, and thought it was her own and that she was too pretty to fetch water. She refused, and her mistress beat her until she fled. The fairy laughed at her in the garden, and the slave noticed her. She asked her story and on hearing it, offered to arrange her hair for the prince. When the fairy agreed, she stuck a pin into her head, and the fairy only escaped by turning into a bird. When the prince returned, the slave claimed that wicked magic had transformed her.
The prince and his parents prepared for the wedding. The bird flew to the kitchen and asked after the cooking. The lady ordered it be cooked, and it was caught and cooked, but the cook threw the water it had been scalded in, into the garden, where a citron tree grew in three days. The prince saw the citrons, took them to his room, and dealt with them as the last three, getting back his bride. She told him what had happened. He brought her to a feast and demanded of everyone what should be done to anyone who would harm her. Various people said various things; the slave said she should be burned, and so the prince had the slave burned.