Robin Redbreast

Robin Redbreast
Birds can represent the fluttering, darting thoughts of intuition. This is why little birds helped Cinderella help herself.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cinderella #28 Aschenpuster: Bartsch, K. 1879 Cox #146

Corvus brachyrhynchos, American Crow
Once upon a time, in what is now Germany, there lived a man whose wife had died. He lived alone now, with his daughter, and a strange idea came over him: so like was she to her mother that he thought to take her for his wife. The girl resisted as long as she was able, but at last was compelled to agree. Though she thought to buy herself time with special requests. First, she asked for a dress made all of silver. Yet her father quickly brought such a dress to her. Next, she asked for one "stiff with gold". This too her father brought, and still his daughter tried to delay. Now she wanted a dress "that will stand alone with jewels". Well, this certainly was not an easy, or an inexpensive request. Yet her father was determined to take her, and so, as quickly as he might, sought a seamstress and commissioned the dress. Triumphantly the father brought it to his willful girl. Will she wed him now? he demands. And: she will not! She requires a coat  made " of crow's feathers, and after that, a wishing wand." No sooner are these in hand than she wishes that she were away from her father and in the garden of a nearby castle, where lives a handsome prince. He has heard of her predicament, though is not aware of her arrival. She has brought her dresses, and now wishes for a cupboard to hide them in. Wearing her coat of crow's feathers, she knocks on the kitchen door and begs for work. Cook takes her on as " an Aschenpuster, or scullion" working among the cinders in the tending the boiling pots. And that is how she happens to be in the kitchen when the prince comes in after a successful hunt. Throwing his game onto the table he asks that it be prepared for his dinner, and the young scullion feels herself to be in love. Later, overhearing that there is to be a ball at a castle nearby, she wheedles permission to go and peek  at it from Cook. Secretly changing into her hidden silver dress, she then wishes for a carriage and drives herself to the party palace! The prince dances with her once, then twice. And suddenly, the girl is gone. Chanting, " Darkness behind me and clearness ahead, that none may discover whither I've sped!"She returns home, changes, and goes back to the kitchen. The next morning, the prince is back in the kitchen, this time looking for someone to clean his boots. The task falls to Aschenpuster, who "leaves a speck on the toe. The prince notices it, comes into the kitchen in a rage and throws boot at her head." At the second night of the ball, the sneaky scullion changes into her dress of gold. The prince dances with her and asks where she is from. A place called Boot-Cast she saucily tells him, then vanishes again. The following morning, the prince wants his coat brushed.  The scullion is set to the chore, but does a sloppy job: the prince repays her by throwing the brush at her head. That night there is a ball, and again the girl wears her finery and dances with the prince. Now she tells him she's from Brush-Cast, chants her spell and is gone in a mist. But he grabs her hand and slips a ring onto her finger before she can flee, delaying her. She just manages to get home and get her magic  cupboard open when she hears Cook calling, and so cannot remove her dress. She slips her crow's feather coat on over, and answers Cook. Next morning, Aschenpuster, while stirring the soup, drops the ring into the pot. When Cook ladles a dish for the prince, he finds it sparkling in his spoon! Who was in the kitchen while the soup was cooking, he demands? And down he goes to see. And now, he recognizes the kitchen wench as his dancing partner. The sparkling dress peeking out from beneath the crow's feathers is the confirmation he needs. This is the girl he loves! They are married, and live happily ever after.
Notes: This story has some interesting elements, such as the girl being quite aggressive in seeking the prince. It is very violent, probably reflecting reality: princes throw things when they don't like what they see. The coat of crow's feathers shows an example of what Marie Louise von Franz,in The Interpretation of Fairy Tales describes as the phenomenon of a piece representing a whole: in this case, the feathers of the crow bring the presence of a bird into this story.  Birds are one of the most common animal helpers in Cinderella stories, and represent "the mother's spirit, conveyed to her child through the good mothering she gives". (Bettelheim, The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales , (Vintage), p. 258).
Montessori Connection 6-12: Earth Science, Rocks, Minerals and Metals/ Silver and Gold
1. Learn about the properties of silver and gold, and the role they have played in American history. Try: Silver And Gold Mining Camps of the Old West: A State by State American Encyclopedia (Indian Placenames in America). 2. Learn about famous gold treasures, such as The Complete Tutankhamun: The King, the Tomb, the Royal Treasure (King Tut). 3. Read three fairy tales that feature silver and gold! Try English Fairy Tales Illustrated By Arthur Rackham, and see how many stories feature silver and gold.