|Lobel, A. " Who are you, and how did you learn to make such good soup?"|
Once upon a time, in England, “there was a beautiful young princess, whose hair was the color of pure gold.” But she did not have a sunny disposition, because her mother died shortly after her birth, and her father did not pay very much attention to her. The child began to spend most of her time in the kitchen, where kind Cook smiled on her. She taught the little girl to “make soup and bread and cakes”. Yet she always remembered the girl’s royal birth, and so she did her best to teach her the manners of a princess. And her father did send tutors who taught her to read, write, and dance. “And so the princess grew to be strong, capable, and clever, besides being beautiful. One day, the old nurse died, and the Princess found herself all alone again. To make matters worse, her father promised her hand in marriage to an Ogre, who agreed to give the King fifty wagons of silver in return. Well, the girl could do little enough to protest, but she did try to stall for some time. She asked first for a dress “as golden as the sun, another as silvery as the moon, and a third as glittering as the stars. In addition, I shall need a coat made of a thousand different kinds of fur, one piece from every animal in your kingdom.” She thought that this would take quite awhile, and that there would be plenty of time before she actually had to marry the Ogre. She was wrong. Her father, after all, was the King, and when he commanded the royal dressmakers to sew the dresses, they did so. Quickly! When he commanded “his hunters to go into the forest, kill a thousand different kinds of wild animals, and bring home their skins so that a coat could be made”, the hunters did as they were ordered. In just two days, her new clothes were ready, and it was time to get married! “The poor Princess decided the only thing to do was run away. That night, when all the castle was asleep, the Princess got up. She folded the sun, moon, and star dresses into a package so small that it could fit into a walnut shell. The she took three tiny treasures” that had been her mom’s. These were tiny, golden objects: a ring, a thimble, and a spinning wheel. She squeezed them into another nut shell, put on her coat of a thousand furs, and tucked the nuts into her pocket. Then she walked out into the darkness, and started walking. All through the night, on and on. At dawn, she saw that her footprints had been frosted over with snow and were gone. Now she could rest. She climbed into the hollow of a tree, pulled her furs over head, and slept. Well, it happened that this was the very day that a certain young King had come hunting. The forest belonged to him, and now his dogs and his men picked up the trail of scent near a hollow tree. It was, they told the King, “ a marvelous creature, sound asleep...its body is covered with a thousand different kinds of fur.” He told them to tie it up and bring it along, and they did, telling the animal, “ Come along, little Furball, we’ll take you to the Cook. Perhaps he can find something useful for you to do. You can at least sweep the ashes for him. “ And this the cook did have: all the hardest, dirtiest, wettest, coldest work was saved for Furball. She was given as a bedroom, “an old woodshed where daylight never entered”, and made to be a “servant to the servants.” This hard life went on for some time. Then, one day, she heard that there was to be a ball at the palace. She begged permission from Cook to go and watch, and he told her she might go, so long as she was home in time to sweep the ashes from the hearth. Quickly, Furball ran to her shed. She bathed and changed into her dress of gold. Her entry into the ball, in her “gleaming dress” brought everything to a halt. Then the King asked her to dance, and stayed with her all evening. As soon as the music stopped, “ the Sun Princess curtsied to the King and smiled at him so brightly that his eyes were dazzled.” That’s when she ran out the door, and back to her shed. She changed clothes, smudged up her face, and ran back to the kitchen, just in time to sweep the hearth. Now Cook wanted her to make soup for the King, while he went to see the spectacle. “But do not let one of your hairs drop into the soup or you will get nothing to eat for a week. “ As soon as he was gone, Furball made the soup. She secretly opened her little nutshell containing herbs and treasures. She seasoned his soup with spices as well as the golden ring, and sent it to the King. Soon he called for the Cook, who trembled before him. “Who made this soup?” he asked, and the Cook lied, and said he had made it with his own hands. But the King was not fooled: the soup had been so much better than any before that he knew other hands had made it. So Cook confessed and sent Furball upstairs to see the King. But she would not answer his questions, so he sent her back downstairs. The next night, the ball continued. Again Furball asked leave to go, and again Cook granted it, on condition that she be back in time to make the soup. This time it was the dress of moon-glow silver she wore, and this time the King saw her vanish in white light. “Like a moonbeam she slipped around the castle and back down to her little shed where she made herself once more into the sooty little Furrball. “ Then she went to the kitchen, washed her hands, and made the soup. She seasoned it again, this time with her tiny, golden thimble. Again the King called for the make of the soup, again Furball came, and again she stood mute before him. For the third night in a row, a ball was held. For the third night in a row, the girl exchanged one disguise for another. This time it was the dress that “ glittered like the stars” which she wore. And that night, while the King was dancing with her, he knew that he was in love with her. That’s when he “ slipped the tiny gold ring onto her finger.” Later, when she was back in the kitchen, she made a third pot of soup, and seasoned it with a miniature, golden spinning wheel. But she could not get the ring off! To make matters worse, she was late, and had only time to tie “ a scarf around her hair [and] throw her fur coat over her star dress” before it was time to see the King. He was holding the golden spinning wheel, which he had found in the bottom of his soup bowl. When he saw Furball, the first place he looked was at her fingers. Sure enough, there was the ring! He gently took off her furs, and helped her to wash her face. Then he said, “ You have the beauty of the sun, the noon, and the stars. You are as clever as you are lovely, and I cannot live without you.” When she told him that she was really a princess, not a kitchen maid, and that she had run away because she didn’t want to marry an ogre, he loved he even more. “The Cook, who made better pastries than soup, stayed up all night baking an enormous cake for the bridal couple. And the King and his new Queen lived happily ever after.”
Notes: This is a quintessential Catskin, a European Cinderella variant, as defined by Cox, M. R. (1892/2010). Here are its features:
- "unlawful marriage" in that her father disrespects her station as Princess, and sells her to the ogre
- attempts at delays of marriage by requesting 3 dresses
- further attempt at delay by request of fur cloak. (note variants on this detail include a cloak made of cat skins, another animal, or feathers).
- runaway Princess
- girl takes menial labor
- girl attends ball by non-magical means
- 3 balls
- 3 dresses
- 3 attempts by the King to identify her
- mother's ring as love token
1. Read the book Princess Furball, by Charlotte Huck. 2. Remember that compound words are made of two halves, each of which is a word all by itself. 3. Find at least 5 compound words in the story. ( Furball, moonbeam, woodshed, doorkeepers, sunbeam.)
9-12: History/Western Civilization/Middle Ages/Literature Connection: The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood
1. Read Princess Furball.
2. Think about the story: why are there two kings who live so close together?
3. Learn about the Middle Ages, and find out how tiny some of the "kingdoms" were.
4. Research the 14th century.
5. Read The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle. There are many choices:
The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood (Blackstone Audio Classic Collection); The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood. This looks like a very nice one: Howard Pyle's The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood