Neifile’s tale will illustrate how fortune sometimes gives people a prompt retort in a moment of need. Noble Florentine gentleman Currado Gianfigliazzi loves hunting. One day, he catches a fine crane and asks his Venetian cook, Chichibio, to prepare it for his dinner guests. While Chichibio is roasting it, his girlfriend Brunetta begs him to give her one of its legs. She harasses him until he gives in.
Thanks to a trade rivalry between the cities of Florence and Venice, The Decameron characterizes the few Venetians who appear in the tales as overly gullible, vain, shallow, and mendacious (see IV, 2). In addition to being a Venetian, Chichibio is also rather spineless before his girlfriend, who ultimately bullies him into stealing from his master’s fine banquet.
Currado Gianfigliazzi is surprised to be served a one-legged roasted crane for dinner. He asks Chichibio what happened, and Chichibio (since he’s Venetian) quickly lies, saying everyone knows cranes have one leg. Currado demands proof and warns that if Chichibio is wrong, he will earn a severe whipping.
Again, Chichibio’s answer draws on stereotypes painting the Venetians as uncouth and sinful people that would have appealed to The Decameron’s original, Florentine audience.
The next morning, Currado Gianfigliazzi and Chichibio go to the river, where Chichibio points to cranes sleeping on one leg along the riverbank as proof. But when Currado shouts “Oho!” they put down their second legs and fly off. An answer suddenly comes to Chichibio, who points out that Currado didn’t shout “Oho!” at dinner. If he had, the roasted crane would have shoved out its second leg, too. This amusing answer turns Currado’s rage into laughter, allowing Chichibio to avoid being whipped.
Everyone knows that cranes really have two legs, even if they tend to tuck one up at rest. But Chichibio comes up with an answer funny enough to diffuse Currado’s anger at the last second. While in other tales this might be taken as a marker of his ingenuity and cleverness, since he’s a Venetian (and Venetians are inferior to Florentines), the tale’s Florentine narrator ascribes his success to the whim of fortune instead.