|From The Brothers Grimm:Two Lives, One Legacy, Hettinga,D.|
Once upon a time, in Hesse, a kingdom of Germany, there was “ a king whose wife had golden hair and was so beautiful that there was none on earth to compare with her. It so happened that she fell ill, and when she was about to die, she called the king and said, ‘If you decide to marry after my death, don’t take anyone who isn’t as beautiful as I am and who hasn’t got golden hair like mine. You must promise me that.’ When the king had promised, she closed her eyes and died. “ Well, the king was overcome with grief and for quite some time would not think of taking another wife. His councilors advised that he do so, however, and began a search for a woman as beautiful as the queen, with golden hair. But they could not find such a one. The years passed by and one day, when the king’s daughter had grown up, he “looked at her and saw that she resembled his dead wife in every way. He fell passionately in love with her, and said to his councillors, ‘ I am going to marry my daughter for she is the living image of my dead wife, and I shall never find another like her.’ His councillors were shocked and said, “ A man cannot marry his daughter. God forbids it.” His daughter was even more shocked, but knew she had few options. Thinking to delay the ceremony, she said, “ Before I consent to your wish I must have three dresses, one as golden as the sun, one as silvery as the moon, and one as glittering as the stars. In addition, you must give me a cloak made of a thousand kinds of fur, a snippet of which must be taken from every animal in your kingdom.” Well, the girl had underestimated her father’s resources. The dresses were quickly made, and before long, the thousand furs had been made into a cloak. “The wedding will be celebrated tomorrow.” announced the king. That’s when the girl decided to run away. “That night, when the whole palace was asleep, she got up and took three things from among her treasures: a gold ring, a little spinning wheel, and a golden bobbin.” She also gathered her three dresses and put them into a nutshell. “Then she blackened her face and hands with soot. After commending herself to God, she slipped out of the palace.” All night long she walked, and finally she came to a deep forest. Here she crawled into a hollow tree, wrapped herself in her fur cloak, and fell asleep. The sun rose, and she slept on. The king who owned the forest formed a hunting party, and went into the forest to hunt. Still, the girl slept on. When the king’s dogs bayed at the tree, men were sent to see what was there. “ There’s a strange animal in that tree, we’ve never seen anything like it. It has a thousand different kinds of fur, and it’s lying there fast asleep.’ The king said,’ See if you can catch it alive, then tie it up, put it in the wagon, and we’ll take it home with us.” This they did, and when they found that the creature was just a sooty girl in a fur cloak, they sent her to the kitchens to serve as a drudge, “made to do all the nasty work, hauling wood and water, keeping up the fires, plucking fowls, cleaning vegetables, and sweeping up the ashes. For a long while, Thousandfurs led a wretched life. Ah, my fair princess! What’s become of you? “ It happened that the king decided to give a ball, and Thousandfurs begged permission from Cook to go and peek at it. Kind Cook replied, “Why not? Just so you’re back in half an hour to sweep up the ashes.’ So she quickly bathed and slipped into her dress “that shone like the sun. “ The courtiers were taken with her beauty, and wondered from whence she had come. The prince would dance with none other, but in no time at all the music ended. The girl in the golden dress curtsyed and was gone so quickly that none could follow. She scurried back to her room, blacked her face and hands, took off the dress, and put on her cloak. Then she went back to the kitchen and began to sweep the floor. But Cook said, “ Let that go until tomorrow and make the king’s soup instead, because I’d like to go up and look on for awhile. But don’t drop any hairs in it or you won’t get any more to eat. ‘ The cook went upstairs, and Thousandfurs made bread soup for the king, as best she knew how.” She also dropped her golden ring into the bottom of the tureen. The soup was so good that the king ate every spoonful, and when he got to the bottom of the tureen and found the ring, he was mystified. He sent for Cook, who admitted that Thousandfurs had mad the soup. So the girl was sent for and questioned. In answer to her origins, she said only, “ I’m a poor child who’s lost her father and her mother.” As to her job at the palace, the girl claimed, “ I’m good for nothing but having boots thrown at my head.”As for the ring, she insisted she knew nothing. So she was sent back to the kitchen. Some months later another ball was held. Again the girl begged to go and peek, again Cook gave permission, so long as she was back in time to make the king’s favorite soup. This time, Thousandfurs wore the dress “as silvery as the moon, and when she went upstairs, she looked like a king’s daughter.” But again she vanished in a wink, ran back to “her den, made herself a furry animal again, and went to the kitchen to make bread soup.” Now she dropped her tiny golden spinning wheel into the king’s bowl. Again she was sent for, again questioned. Again she answered that she was an orphan, good only for having boots thrown at her head. She said nothing about the spinning wheel. Some time passed and another ball was held. Now Thousandfurs wore her dress that glittered like the stars. The prince had given orders to the musicians to play for a long, long time. As the dancers grew tired, the prince pulled the golden ring from his pocket, and stealthily put it onto the girl’s finger. So gentle was he that she did not notice. But she had tarried too long! She fled from the ball, but the prince held onto her hand. Tearing free she ran for her den, threw the cloak over her dress and rubbed herself with soot. In her haste, she left one finger clean. It was the one with the ring on it. In the kitchen, she fixed the soup and popped her little gold bobbin into the dish. Now when the king ate the soup and saw the bobbin, he called for the scullion in the furs. The moment she appeared he grabbed her hands, triumphantly shouting when he saw the white finger with the ring. He ripped the fur cloak off her back, “and there she stood in all her glory. unable to hide any longer. When she had washed the soot and ashes from her face, she was more beautiful than anyone who had ever been seen on earth. The king said: “You are my dearest bride. We shall never part.” Then the wedding was celebrated and they lived happily until they died."
From Grimm’s Tales for Young and Old, ( Trans. Manheim, R. 1977. p.245).
Notes: A classic Catskin, very similar to Princess Furball. We have the unlawful marriage, the flight from the father, and the three dresses evoking the sun, moon, and stars. This is a "Kind Cook" variant, nice in contrast to those where Cook hurls meat forks at the girl's head! We have the same saucy answers to the prince, as though the princess in disguise knows she must provoke to get what she wants. She is, after all, quite bold in this tale. She does not have even a hen-wife to advise her, and concocts her plan of putting things into the soup all on her own. She seems to dare him to throw boots at her head, and his gentle treatment of her is noteworthy. Princes commonly throw all manner of things at kitchen girls (shovels, whips, spoons, ladles, and boots for example).
Montessori Connection Ages 6-12: Fundamental Needs/Food/Foods of Germany in the 18th century and before.
1. Read Thousandfurs.
2. Pay special attention to the parts where food is being served.
3. Make a list of food referred to in the story. (Bread, soup, vegetables, fowl).
4. Learn what fowl are. Cook a chicken recipe. Wiliams-Sonoma The Kid's Cookbook: A great book for kids who love to cook (Williams-Sonoma Lifestyles), or Emeril's There's a Chef in My Soup! Recipes for the Kid in Everyone.
5. Think about the thousand animals skinned for the cloak. Concise Field Guide to the Animals and Plants of Britain and Europe (Concise field guides)
6. Make a list of furry mammals of Germany. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Animals of Africa, Britain & Europe: An Authoritative Reference Guide To Over 575 Amphibians, Reptiles And Mammals ... Continents (Illustrated Encyclopedias)
7. Do you think any of the animals whose skins were used for the cloak were eaten?