|"Please milk me!" said the cow.|
Once upon a time, in Finland, there lived a man and his three daughters. They had spent the last seven years preparing themselves to be servants for the king by washing their hands in milk, and now the girls were ready. The eldest set off to off her services first. Along the road, she encountered a large sheep. It had a pari of scissors looped over one if its horns. When the girl approached, it said, “ Please shear me.” But the girl refused: she was on her way to the palace, she said, to offer her services to the king. And she continued down the path. Soon she met a cow, with a pail on its horn. As she approached, it said, “Please milk me.” The girl refused. She did not want to be slowed down by a cow. She was in a hurry to get to the palace, she said, and continued on. After a ways, she heard a cry. “Please help me out!” An old man called from the bottom of a muddy ditch. The girl peered down. It seemed awfully dirty in the ditch, and she did not want to get her hands dirty. She was going to see the prince, she explained to the old man, and left him at the bottom of the ditch while she went on. Now it was time for the second sister to make the same journey. She too had washed her hands in milk for seven years, and she planned to take care to keep them clean on her way to the palace. When she passed a sheep with a pair of scissors looped over its horns, and it said, “ Please shear me.” , she just shook her head and walked on. And when she came to the cow with the pail on its horn, and it said, “Please milk me.” she laughed, and skipped along the road. Soon she heard the old man calling for help. She was nearly at the palace now, and a dirty old man in a ditch was not going to slow her down. “Sorry, I’m in a rush!” she yelled as she ran by, and the old man in the ditch gave a sigh. The youngest daughter, having waited the agreed-upon interval, set off to follow her sisters. Before long, she saw a sheep on the path. When she noticed the scissors it had looped over its horn, and heard it say, “Please shear me.”, she stopped and said, “Oh, you must be so hot under all your wool! I will shear you.” When she had done, the sheep said, “Please, keep my wool as a reward.” The girl rolled the fleece and tied it into a bundle, and continued down the path. Soon she heard voice saying, “Please milk me.” and was surprised to find a cow in the path, with a tin pail looped over its horn. “I will milk you.” she said, and when she had done, the cow said, “Please keep my milk as a reward.” The girl drank half of the milk and continued down the path. Soon, she heard the old man calling, “Please help me out!” Carefully, she put down her pail of milk, and helped the old man out of the ditch. She gave gave him the other half of the milk to drink, and he said, “ Thank you for helping me out of the ditch. As a reward, take my walking stick. When you get to the palace, you will work tending the pigs. If you need anything, tap the pigsty three times with the black end of the stick. “ The girl thanked him, took his stick and set off for the palace. There she joined her sisters as a servant to the king. They worked in the dark and damp of the scullery, peeling potatoes all day, but she was put to work tending the pigs. The fresh air and sunshine of the farmyard suited her, and she sang while tended the swine. Time passed and one day she heard that the king was going to have a ball. She and her sisters were kept busy with preparations all day, and when evening came, they were tired. The oldest girls went straight to bed, but the youngest had a different idea. She rushed out to the pigsty and tapped it three times with the black end of her stick. At once a beautiful dress appeared. She changed into this quickly, darted to the front entrance of the palace, and joined the guests at the ball. The king was enchanted by the mysterious young woman, and danced with no one else all evening. But as the affair drew to a close, the girl vanished. Though he looked in vain, no sign of her could the king find. She had run swiftly back to the pigsty, where she changed back into her old dress. The next night the ball continued. Again her sisters retired early, and again the youngest struck the pigsty with the black end of her stick. This time another dress appeared, more lovely than the last. She quickly changed into it, ran to the front entrance, and once again joined the guests. The king was delighted to have found her, and again danced with her all night. Again she slipped away as the party ended, and once again he searched for her in vain. For the third night in a row the palace was lighted for a party. For the third night in a row the girl slipped away to the pigsty, tapped it three times with the black end of the stick, and changed into the gown that appeared. Tonight however, the king was alert as the musicians played their final song. He observed the girl as she ran down the palace steps, and gave chase. Alas, again she escaped, but only barely. Stumbling on the final step, she lost a shoe. The king clutched it, and the girl sprinted into the garden, over the fence, and back to the pigsty. The next day the king, determined to find the owner of the shoe, called all of the noble ladies who had attended the ball to try on the shoe. It was to no avail. Next he called for all of the chamber maids to try the shoe. None would it fit. Finally, he called for every serving girl and scullery maid. Giggling and blushing, they all tried to fit their bare feet into the shoe. None could do so. And now the king went into the farmyard. The goose girl, the hen girl, and the swine herding girl were brought forth and told to put out a foot. One by one the king tried the shoe on the girls. When the swine herding girl raised her skirt and put out a foot, it slipped on easily. The king embraced her, and they were married. She lived in luxury and happiness with the king for many years. But her sisters toiled in the scullery, wondering why fortune had not blessed them as it had their little sister.
Notes: This is Cinderella #1 from Marian Roalfe Cox, (1892). It is titled Dom Tri Flikkona Sum Sku Ti Kungsäln O Tjæna and identified as having been collected in Helsingfors. Themes include: three, here with three sisters, three encounters along the road, three balls, and three enchanted dresses. Cows and milk are strong elements, as the girls have washed their hands in milk to prepare for servitude, a cow is encountered on the road, its milk gives the young girl strength to rescue the old man, and gives him health when he too drinks it. According to Stevens Ariadne's Clue: A Guide to the Symbols of Humankind (Mythos: the Princeton/Bollingen Series in World Mythology)(1999, p. 194 ), cows are symbolic of the moon, as their two horns represent the waxing and waning crescents of it. The moon itself is linked with fertility and rebirth. Milk is a common ingredient in many Finnish dishes including cheeses, custards and puddings. As for the sisters who do not help when asked, it seems they are punished, if only mildly, by continuing to work as servants when their sister has married the king.
Montessori Connection 6-12: Political Geography/Europe/Finland.
1. Find Finland on the globe. Hint: it is close to Norway and Sweden.
2. Read some famous children's books from Finland. Finn Family Moomintroll, by Tove Jannson, is about happy creatures who have adventures in the Finnish countryside.
3. Make a Finnish recipe, Päreväling, or Pear Milk Porridge:
Ingredients: 1 1/2 pounds (lbs.) of pears 1/4 cup of pearl barley, 3 pints (6 cups) milk. Boil the milk, watching it very carefully to see that it does not burn. Add the barley and simmer for one hour. Then add the pears, peeled and quartered, and simmer for another 15 minutes. Serve and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.
(From Recipes of All Nations, 1935, WM. H. Wise and Co.)