Once upon a time, a boy named Rafael lived in a tiny cottage near the Bay of Angra. Not far from his home was a chapel with a shrine dedicated to St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost things who looks after the sick and the poor. Rafa, as the boy was known, loved that statue. Every day he walked to the chapel to pray to St. Anthony to help him.
You see, Rafa's mother had died when he was very young. Rafa's father later remarried, and his stepmother was cruel to the boy. She never uttered a kind word, and she teased and taunted him and forced him to do all the housework. She dressed Rafa in tattered clothing, which made him the laughingstock among his friends.
One morning, Rafa was at the chapel praying to St. Anthony. "Please help me not to suffer so," he began, when to his astonishment, he opened his eyes and discovered he was dressed in fine clothing.
When Rafa returned home, his stepmother stopped him at the door. "Where did you get those clothes?" she said. "You must have stolen them. I've always known you were good for nothing, and now you will pay for your sins!"
"I swear I didn't steal these clothes," he insisted. "I was praying to St. Anthony, and when I opened my eyes, this is what I was wearing!"
"Liar and thief!" she shrieked, wagging a finger at him. "Go away. Take the water jars and fill them at the spring. Bring them back as fast as you can, and do not lie, cheat or steal on your way, or your father will punish you."
Rafa lifted the water jars and began to climb the steep hill to the nearest spring, but as he was walking, he passed an old man sitting by the side of the road.
"Where are you going?" the old man asked.
"To the spring to fetch some water for our family," Rafa said.
The old man shook his head. "There is no water in that spring," he said. "It has been dry for many days."
Rafa felt his heart contract. The jars were already heavy, even with no water. He was sad just thinking of the other spring far away. He would never be able to carry two full jars of water all the way home from there. But he gathered his wits and said to the old man, "I will just go see for myself, thank you. Perhaps I will be lucky."
The old man sighed, but Rafa walked on. When he reached the spring, he discovered the water was flowing fast -- faster than it had in years. And when he remembered that he was wearing a fine set of clothes, he beamed with joy. Soon all the sadness he had felt was gone.
"Today is my lucky day," he shouted to the bright blue sky. "St. Anthony is watching over me. Surely it was he who blessed this spring."
Rafa filled the jars and diligently carried them home, but his stepmother greeted him at the door. "Where did you get that water? You have not been gone long enough to reach the spring."
"It's from the nearby spring," Rafa said. "The water is flowing again."
"Liar!" she cried. "That spring is dry. Just you wait. I will make certain your father gives you the beating you deserve."
With that, she thrust an enormous basket into Rafa's arms. "Go to the forest and get some wood for our fire. Don't dawdle. I am in a hurry to cook our food."
Rafa knew he would have to walk deep into the forest -- others had picked all the wood nearby, and the nearby fields were only full of wild roses and daffodils. The wood for the fire was at the very top of the highest hill. The path was very steep, and the day was growing late. He was already exhausted, but he knew he must go.
Rafa left his home with tears streaking his cheeks. When he reached the chapel on his way to the hill, he looked longingly at the statue of St. Anthony.
To his astonishment, the statue began to speak.
"Why are you crying?" St. Anthony asked. "I have been watching over you for a long time, and I have never seen you cry."
Stunned, Rafa told the saint his problem. St. Anthony nodded. "I will solve your problem. Go to the nearby field and pick the roses growing there. Put those in your basket and take them to your stepmother. You will be fine."
Rafa did just as he had been instructed. He filled the basket with all the roses he could find and ran back home before the sun set. Just as he arrived, all those roses turned to wood. When his stepmother greeted him at the door, she sneered, "Where did you get all that wood so quickly? Now I know you are a thief!"
But another voice suddenly spoke -- a voice louder, stronger, deeper and richer than hers. It was St. Anthony.
"Stop right now," he demanded. "This young man is a good person. It is you who are the liar and the thief. You have lied about your intentions. You have stolen this boy's happiness. You hoped he would be destroyed, and for your cruelty, you shall be punished. You will have to go out into the night and search and search endlessly."
With those words, Rafa's stepmother transformed into a great gray owl with big, round eyes that could not blink. Ever since, she and her descendants have had to spend their nights flying in search of something, though they are not sure what they are looking for.
"Tell Me a Story 3: Women of Wonder," the third CD in the audiobook series, is now available. For more information, please visit www.mythsandtales.com.