|(Pinkney, B.) The breadfruit became a gilded coach!|
Once upon a time, “on a green-green island in the so-blue Mer des Antilles, the Caribbean Sea, lived a blanchisseuse, a washerwoman. Here is her story. "When I was a child, my family was poor. When my mother died, she left me only one thing: a wand of mahogany. ‘Three taps will change one thing into another, ‘ my mother had whispered. ‘But only for a short time. And the magic must be used to help someone you love.’ Of what use was this to an orphan like me, who every day struggled to find shelter and fill her belly? I could not use the wand. I had no one to love and no one who loved me. I worked as a washerwoman...one woman I worked for was kind and I often nursed her, poor creature...She made me nannin’, godmother of her baby girl, Cendrillon. When I held that bébé in my arms on her christening day...I saw love returned from her sweet brown eyes. Alas! Cendrillon’s mama died soon after this. Then her papa, Monsieur, married again. Madame Prospèrine was a cold woman, and puffed up because her grandfather had come from France. [Some years passed and] soon Madame had a daughter of her own. Madame gave a christening party for her rich friends. What a feast it was!...Pretty Cendrillon came up and kissed me. “Bonjou’, Nannin’”. She gave me a cup of punch. Her hands were blistered and red. ‘Pauv’ ti, Cendrillon, poor little child!’ I cried. ‘What have you done to yourself?’ She shrugged. ‘My father’s wife works me like a serving-girl.’ ‘And Monsieur allows this?’ Sighing, she said, “He fears Madame, but I am strong. The work hurts my hands but not my heart.’ ‘Someday, I will find a way to help. ‘ But what could I —a poor washerwoman—do for my dearest? When she was older, Cendrillon would come to the river each morning to do her family’s laundry. One day, she came sad-faced to the river. No singing or joking would make her smile. I asked, ‘What troubles you, my child?’ ‘There is a ball tonight, a birthday fet’ for Paul, Monsieur Thibault’s son. He is so handsome and well spoken, he is like a prince. Yet he is kind.’ ‘Do not cry, dear one, ‘ I said, hugging her. ‘Tonight you will go to the ball.’ ‘For true? ” ‘ Upon my soul , I promise this’ I said. Long after she left, I sat watching the river. How am I to keep my promise? I asked myself. When I could think of no answer, I prayed to Bon-Dié, Good-God. And He answered, because I began to think what I must do...What a hubble-bubble at the house! Finally [everyone else] was off! Good riddance! Upon the instant, I told Cendrillon, ‘ Go into the garden and pick a fruit à pain.’ I said. The child looked at me as if she thought, ‘My poor Nannin’ has gone mad!’ But she found a big, round breadfruit. I tapped this three times — to, to, to!— with my wand, and it became a gilded coach... to, to, to! Six agoutis in a cage became six splendid carriage horses.... to, to, to! Five brown field lizards became five tall footmen. to, to, to! A plump manicou was changed to a coachman! Then I tapped Cendrillon. Her poor calico dress was changed to a trailing gown of sky-blue velvet. Upon her head sat a turban just as blue, pinned with a tremblant of gold...Upon her feet were elegant pink slippers, embroidered with roses. Away we went, over the bridge, through the town, along the shore to the granmaison...’The magic lasts only a short time’ I warned. “ We must leave before the midnight bell is rung. ‘ ‘ Yes, Nannin’’, she promised. What a grand entrance! ...Even Cendrillon’s stepmother and sister did not recognize the two of us...then Paul, his eyes blazing with love-fire, asked her to dance. And he refused to dance with any other. I know. I watched as I ate. Oh, what fine food! I helped myself to, as I watched the handsome couple. Even chocolate sherbet. Cendrillon was so happy. Suddenly, I heard distant bells strike the first chime of midnight....Astonishing all with my rudeness, I grabbed Cendrillon’s hand...we barely escaped to our carriage because Cendrillon stumbled on the stair. She had to leave one embroidered slipper behind. The moment I heard the twelfth stroke, we found ourselves in the dusty road, beside a smashed breadfruit...we walked home like two washerwomen. Our fine clothes were gone—all except Cendrillon’s one pink slipper. I did not see Cendrillon at the river the next day...I heard a great commotion. Paul had arrived. He was followed by a footman carrying Cendrillon’s lost pink slipper on a satin pillow. ‘ I am asking all unmarried young women on the island to try it on. I will wed the one whose foot it fits.’ he explained. From the doorway, I heard Madame say,’My pretty daughter is the only unmarried girl in the house.’ Then Vitaline and her mamma tried to force the girl’s big foot, with toes like sausages, into the slipper. Such grunting and groaning you never heard! ‘If you cut off those big toes, ‘ I called out, ‘ it would be a fine fit!’ Madame screeched, ‘Go away old woman!’ So I did, straight back to Cendrillon’s room...’Now child, if you love me, ‘ I charged her, ‘do this one thing for me. Go out into the hall. ‘ She drew a shawl around her cotton shift. Barefoot, she went into the hall, where panting Madame and sobbing Vitaline had given up the battle of the slipper. I tapped Cendrillon — to, to, to!— with my wand. To the astonishment of all, she appeared just as she had at the ball. ‘No, Godmother dear, ‘ she said. ‘No more spells.’ With a sigh, I touched her again, and she was as before, in her shift and shawl. Without hesitation, Paul knelt before her. Gently he placed the slipper on her foot. The he said,’ You are as beautiful this minute as you were last night.’ And everyone in the room could see the true-love in his eyes. They were married soon after this. Even the king and queen of France never had such a wedding! The guests ate and danced and sang and ate again for three days. I know because I was there. I danced the gwo-kā and ate nine helpings of chocolate sherbet and came away only to tell you this tale.”
Notes: This is a Cendrilllon variant of the original French-Creole tale.
According to author Robert San Souci, it is "loosely based" on the Perrault version. The 19th century Cendrillon "incorporates elements of West Indian culture and costume" into the Cinderella story. It is interesting to note that San Souci seems to have included a reference to the Grimm version, when the godmother suggests cutting off toes that do not fit into the shoe! This book contains many French words, and a glossary. It is also available in French.
Montessori Connection 6-12: Reading/Literature/Vocabulary Development: Fairy Tale Colors
1. Look at the story of Cendrillon, without reading the words!
2. Now go back and read the story, paying close attention to the way colors are described.
3. In your language notebook, write the words violet, blue, green, yellow, orange, red. Each word needs to be at the top of its own column.
4. Look for words and phrases that describe that color: sky-blue velvet, the green-green island, a gilded coach.
5. Read other Cinderella stories or other books and add more color names. For example, where will you write these color names? Turquoise, indigo, maroon, vermillion, lavender?
6. Learn the names of colors in French: bleu/bleue, vert/verte, jaune, orange, rouge.