Once upon a time a witch who loved a poor youth, but was so handsome that the sun, compared to him, seemed dark.
The witch was eager to win his heart and continually offered him precious gifts. She also told him that if he had married her, he would become the richest man in the world.
The youth, however, wasn't interested in wealth and above all, was repelled by the witch. So he always gave back all her gifts and looked for an excuse to reject her proposal without hurting her.
Nevertheless, the witch never surrendered and continued to insist. It happened that one day the youth, his patience exhausted, revealed that he was in love with a fair maid and that he would marry her in a short time. The witch was hurt and offended by this, and she swore that she would avenge.
The young man was worried at the beginning, but then the love of the girl and their joy made him forget the words of that witch. They got married and shortly thereafter, had a son. The witch was soon to know and also learned that the two lovers were happy. So she decided that it was the time to take revenge.
One day she appeared, under the guise of a fairy, at the door of their home and, under the pretext to make a gift to the child, she came in. When she was in front of their son, she suddenly ripped the child's heart from his little chest with a magic dagger.
Then, under the confused and horrified gazes of the parents, she showed her true identity and cried, "Ah! This is my revenge: I understand that I have no power against a love as big as yours! But this is a feeling that our son won't never know because, without a heart, he isn't able to fall in love! Also, I'll have the heart that I couldn't get from his father!" Having said this, she disappeared, taking the child's heart with her.
The parents wept for their's son fate and gave him the name of Heartless. They promised to do the best for their beloved child and took care of him with love and the right lessons.
The child grew strong and healthy up to become an handsome youth, just as his father had been. Many young women fell in love with him, but their love was never reciprocated. Heartless felt nothing for any of them and, moreover, couldn't even imagine how wonderful was the love.
He grieved in front of the love of the other people and even of his own parents. So one day, as he had became increasingly curious and tormented, asked them why he couldn't fell in love. His parents, with a heavy heart, explained to him what had happened.
Heartless, determinate to get his heart back, went to the witch. The latter still suffered much for her old heartbreak. As she saw the youth, she recognized him due to the similar appearance of the father and was blinded by the hate for him.
She decided to give his heart back; but in return, she wanted the heart of the first person he would meet. He accepted and, after having borrowed her magical dagger, he departed into the woods.
He soon met a young maid and, ignoring her cries, ripped her heart for her chest. He brought it to the witch, who sewed his heart in the chest with a magic wire. As she was sewing, the witch said artfully, "Watch out for the fair maid who live at the end of the wood, otherwise you'll fall madly in love with her!"
Heartless fell in this trap and, curious, went in the end of the wood. There he found a small house, knocked several times until a beautiful girl came to the door. As soon as the young man's eyes fell on her, Heartless felt an unfamiliar emotion, that was stronger than all the others. He finally had known what love was and at that moment he thought to be the happiest man in the world.
But the maid was the one to which Heartless had ripped the heart. It was the witch's plan, who was sure that the youth would have gone right to the only girl without a heart for loving. Also, the latter recognized him and sent him away.
Heartless was now the most desperate man in the world, because he kept thinking about the girl. Every day was worse than the previous, because he suffered ever more. He often tried to go to the maid's house, but she didn't want to approach him.
Finally he returned to the witch and asked her to give the maid's heart back. At the beginning she refused, but as the young man insisted, she changed her mind and thought about another occasion to make him suffer even more.
So she said, "I've hidden the heart in the cave of a beast: if you can get it, it's yours." The witch believed that the youth hadn't the courage to go, and if he would have gone, he would be mauled by the beast.
Heartless was scared, but the thought of the girl changed his mind and decided to go.
He finally came to the beast's cave. For a moment he was tempted to go back, but his love was stronger than his fear. He took courage and entered.
Inside the cave was dark, but the beast managed to catch a glimpse of the golden hair of the youth. So that monster growled loudly and made the poor Heartless run away.
Then Heartless covered his hair and body with mud, to avoid being seen in the dark and entered in the cave again. This time, the beast didn't notice him at all, but heard the sounds of his footsteps. It growled again and for the second time, Heartless went out.
Now the youth didn't know how to get the maid's heart. He paced back and forth, trying to find a solution. At the end, he noticed a little man who jumped up and down. Heartless asked him what was doing.
"I'm hungry, and I can not get the fruit from this tree..." the little man replied.
"If I get these fruits for you," the youth said, "would you do a favor for me?"
The little man looked at looked at that dirty and filthy youth suspiciously for a moment, but then gave in, "Whatever, just take those fruits. I'm too hungry!"
The youth got and gave the fruits to the little man. As he was satisfied, the little man said, "now, weird creature, ask what can I do for you..."
Heartless told him his sad story and asked for help to recover the heart of his beloved.
"I won't go in the cave of that beast..." the little man said, "... but since you get those fruits for me, I want to help you."
The little man put the hand in his bag and pulled out a pair of shoes.
"Anyone wearing them won't make any noise and can act undisturbed."
The youth thanked him several times, put on the magical shoes and succeeded at last.
Heartless hastened to the girl. He met her near a watercourse. As soon as she saw him, she was frightened by his appearance and tried to push him away. Heartless said, "If you cannot stand the sight of me, I will go away. But first, I have to give back something."
Having said that, the girl got back her heart. The youth washed away the mud from his body and hair, so that he could shine again in all his beauty. Now it wasn't difficult for her fall in love with him.
The two were married shortly after. They were both poor, but their hearts were enough for them to live happily ever after.
About witch, she heard that people in the village were celebrating a wedding. She, curious, went to see who was getting married. As soon as she saw the youth with his beloved, her own heart was reduced to pieces by anger and jealousy. This before she fell to the ground dead.