Robin Redbreast

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

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cinderella #44 Zuccaccia, Little Ugly Gourd (1875)

Wright, B.F. 1916
Once upon a time in Rome, lived a little girl.  Her mother was very ill, and she called her child to her deathbed, and spoke seriously to her.  “My dear, “ whispered the woman, “always know that I love you and am with you, although you may not see me.  Remember to be virtuous and good.” And with that, she died.  Now the sad years passed slowly by.  The little girl was lonely, for her father was often away.  Luckily, Cook was kind, and the child grew up knowing that she was loved.  One day, as the girl’s father was eating his supper, he looked keenly at his child.  The look in his eyes was not a kind one, and she shrank from his gaze.  “Come here, my daughter.” the man commanded, and the daughter did not dare to refuse.  He looked closely at the girl, now nearly grown to womanhood, and said, “ How beautiful you have grown! Just like your mother.” A wicked thought had begun to form in his mind.  Then next morning, Cook spoke worriedly to the child.  “Your father has ordered me to prepare for a wedding.  He plans to marry you, but I have other plans!”  That’s when she sent the girl out to the garden to pick the biggest pumpkin she could find.  It was so big that the girl had to roll it into the kitchen.   She was not quite sure just what Cook meant to do with such a large squash, but she had a feeling that it was not going to be cooking it for the wedding feast.  Sure enough, Cook was making preparations, and it wasn’t for baking a pie.  Carefully she cut the top off the pumpkin, and together, they scooped out the pulp and seeds.  Now Cook delicately sliced a bit off here and made a cut there, and before she could complain, the girl found herself wearing a brand new pumpkin dress!  It was a little damp, but it smelled nice.  Next Cook tied a ribbon around the pumpkin’s stem and topped it off with a spray of flowers.  She popped this onto the girl’s head and said, “ Run away, my little pumpkin! Seek your fortune in the world and with God’s grace, your father will never find you.”  They embraced and the girl set off.  She walked all day.  When darkness fell, she simply curled up inside her pumpkin shell and went to sleep.  Over night it rained, and when she began to  walk in the morning, the ground was muddy.  She slipped and slid, and suddenly, she found herself sliding down a a hill.  She was sliding so fast that she could not stop herself, and next thing she knew, she was rolling and bumping along.  At the bottom of the hill, the prince happened to be passing by.  He and his men stopped to watch the huge pumpkin rolling towards them.  When it stopped right in front of them, out stepped the girl, covered in mud and smelling of pumpkin.  The prince laughed and laughed and his men laughed and laughed, and finally the prince said, “Well, Little Ugly Gourd!  I don’t know what has brought you to my forest but I will take you down to Cook. He will know what to do with you. “   So she went along with the prince, and took service in his kitchen.  One morning not long after, the prince came down to the kitchen in search of more butter for his bread.  When he saw the girl bent over the hearth, shovelling ashes, he ordered her to drop the shovel and bring him the butter.  This the girl tried to do but the prince was in a hurry.  Losing patience with her, he flung the shovel at her and said, “ You lazy girl! It’s too late for butter, now I’ve eaten the  bread!” But the girl only laughed. Now she heard there was to be a ball that night, and begged permission from Cook to go and peep.  He granted it to her, and that evening, Little Ugly Gourd bathed, and started to  put on her pumpkin shell. To her amazement, she found a dress in the gourd: it was her mother’s blue  ball gown, and the sight of it brought a tear to her eye. She slipped it on, and ran to peek at the guests.  But when she got there, the prince was so taken with this mysterious girl in the  gown of blue that he would dance with none other.  All night they danced, and when the evening ended, the girl tried to slip away.  But the prince pinned a tiny golden star to her dress before she could run, an asked, “Where do you come from?”  “ I come from the Sign of the Shovel”, she answered, and was gone.  The next morning, as the girl was laying the fire, the prince pounded on the scullery door. As soon as she opened it, the prince said, “Quick! Fetch me my whip! I am going hunting.” And with that he ran to the stables.  The girl tried to obey but before she could, the prince opened the door and threw the whip at her. “ Foolish girl! I have had my whip all along!”.  She stepped aside as it flew past and handed the whip back to him.  That evening, the second part of the ball was to take place.  She begged permission to go and see, and this was granted.  Removing her pumpkin shell to bathe, she was astounded to find another of her mother’s ball gowns tucked inside, this time the one of silver cloth.  She slipped into the dress and ran upstairs to the ball.  Again the prince would dance with only this mysterious girl, and again he pressed her  to tell where she came from.  But all she would say is, “ I come from the Sign of the Whip!” before dashing away.  Before she did, the prince slipped a ring onto her finger.  The following morning, as the girl is fetching the kindling, the prince storms into the kitchen.  “It is cold, girl! Light the fire!” he shouted, and threw the iron tongs from the fireplace at her.   Gracefully, she dodged the tongs, then picked them up, gathered the kindling, and lit the fire.  That night, the final portion of the ball was to take place.  For the third time she begged permission to see it, and for the third time it was granted.  She bathed and reached again for her pumpkin shell, and now she found a dress of gold cloth.  She put this on and ran to the ball.  Tonight the prince kept her by his side, dancing and talking and bringing her sweetmeats.  And when the evening ended he begged of her to tell him from whence she came.  But all she would say was, “ I come from the Sign of the Tongs!” Before she could dash away, he pressed a tiny doll into her hand.  The next morning, as the girl was stirring the porridge, the prince’s mother came into the kitchen.  The prince had taken ill, she said, and the doctor had  been sent for.  Days passed and the prince took a turn for the worse.  Now the doctor said that the only cure would be a dish of porridge stirred by the hand of the girl the prince loved.  But nobody knew who that might be.  All he could tell his mother the queen was that she had come from the Sign of the Shovel, the Sign of the Whip and the Sign of the Tongs.  Yet no one had ever heard of these places, she lamented, and so her son must surely die.  Now the girl knew what to do.  Carefully, she made a pot of porridge, bathed, and dressed in her pumpkin shell.  When Cook demanded to know what she was about, Little Ugly Gourd calmly gathered the blue dress with the golden star, the silver dress, and the one of gold cloth.  On her finger was the prince’s ring, and in her hand, the tiny doll.  When the prince saw the ring, the pin and the doll in Little Ugly Gourd’s hands, he sat up and smiled.  And when he had eaten the bowl of porridge she brought, he stood up and laughed.  “ It was you all along, my Little Ugly Gourd! You never did tell me why you were rolling down the hill in a pumpkin shell! ”  And when she told him of her wicked father the prince nodded.  “Forgive your father for his wickedness, and marry me instead!” he begged. And this she did, and she never wore her pumpkin shell again.  
Notes: Cox identifies the source of this story as from Comparetti, Novelline Populari Italiane, 1875. (Cox, 1892/2010 p.60)  The pumpkin shell disguise is one of dozens, as will be revealed as postings continue throughout 2011.  Pumpkin shell clothing does have some history in literature, as you will see below.  Note that Charles Perrault's original book of fairy tales was originally published as Conte des ma mèr l'Oye, which translates as Tales of Mother Goose, "in short, tall tales or tales of make believe". (Arbuthnot, A., 1965)
Montessori Connection 6-9: Literature/Poetry/Mother Goose Rhymes: Peter Pumpkin Eater
1. Read the  story of Little Ugly Gourd.
2. Research about pumpkins in Africa, North America, and Europe.
3. Learn to say this Mother Goose Rhyme by heart: Peter, Peter, pumpkin-eater, had a wife and couldn't keep her. He put her in a pumpkin shell, and there he kept her, very well! 
4. Write the poem in pencil on lined paper.
5. Ask someone to spell-check it.
6. Make corrections. 
7. Draw or paint a picture of a pumpkin, using colored pencils, water colors, markers or crayons. 
8. Mount the writing and the drawing together, and label the back with your name and the date. 
Ages 9-12: Fundamental Needs of People: Lighting the Dark/Lanterns/ Pumpkins as Candle Holders
1. Read Little Ugly Gourd.
2. Read The Pumpkin-Eater, p.98 The Real Mother Goose.
3. Think about darkness and light.
4. Title a page in your Cultural notebook, fold it into two columns, and label one THEN the other NOW. 
5. How do you and people you know light up the night? List them under NOW. Do the same for THEN.
6. Learn about the history of pumpkins, turnips, and gourds as lanterns. Try these books: Halloween (Holiday Histories)Halloween: An American Holiday, an American History