Robin Redbreast

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

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cinderella #52 Ashputtle Number Two (1812)

Dorothea Viehmann, "the fairy tale wife",
who passed on 35 stories to Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm in 1811. 

 Note: Contains violence. Once upon a time, in what is now called Germany,” a rich man’s wife fell sick, and feeling that her end was near, she called her only daughter to her bedside and said, “Dear child, be good, and say your prayers; God will help you, and I shall look down on you from heaven and always be with you.’ With that, she closed her eyes and died.” The child did as her mother asked, and was good, and said her prayers. Not long after, the rich man married for the second time.  This stepmother had two daughters of her own.  “Their faces were lily-white but their hearts were ugly and black.  This was the beginning of a bad time for the poor stepchild.”  She was put to work like a servant, “getting up before daybreak, carrying water, lighting fires, cooking and washing. In addition, the sisters did everything they could to plague her.  They jeered at her, and poured peas and lentils into the ashes so that she had to sit there picking them out.  At night, when she was tired out with work, she had no bed to sleep in but had to lie in the ashes by the hearth.  And they took to calling her Ashputtle because she always looked dusty and dirty.” So the dreary days passed.  There came at length a day when Ashputtle’s father was going to the fair.  He promised to bring back what each girl wanted.  “Beautiful dresses” for the elder and “diamonds and pearls” for the younger stepdaughter.  Ashputtle had no use for such things, and instead requested that the first branch which brushed against his hat on the way home be broken from the tree.  This was the gift she wanted.  Her father went to the fair and he brought back two beautiful dressed for the elder, and pearls and diamonds for the younger stepsister.  For Ashputtle, he brought back a hazel branch.  She thanked him and took it to the garden, where she planted it.  Thoughts of her mother filled her mind and she cried so hard that “her tears fell on the sprig, and watered it. It grew and became a beautiful tree.  Three times a day Ashputtle went and sat under it and wept and prayed.  Each time a little white bird came and perched on the tree and when Ashputtle made a wish the little bird threw down what she had wished for. “  It was announced that there would be a royal celebration three days long.  All of the unmarried girls of the kingdom were invited, and the prince was going to choose a bride from among them.  Such exciting news! All three girls danced with anticipation but the stepmother said to Ashputtle, “ You little sloven! How can you go to a wedding when you are all dusty and dirty?”  The girl begged so hard that Stepmother relented.  “ Here, I’ve dumped a bowlful of lentils in the ashes.  If you can pick them out in two hours, you may go.”  So Ashputtle went out to the garden and called, “O tame little doves, O turtledoves, and all the birds under heaven, come and help me put THE GOOD ONES IN THE POT.  THE BAD ONES IN YOUR CROPS”.
Birds of all kinds fluttered down and in less than an hour they had pecked the good lentils into the pot and eaten the bad ones.  Yet when the girl ran to tell her stepmother, the woman betrayed her promise. Now she said, “ No Ashputtle.  You have nothing to wear and you don’t know how to dance; the people would only laugh at you.”  But the girl begged so hard that she relented and said, “ If you can pick two bowlfuls of lentils out in an hour you may come.”  So Ashputtle called again for the birds, and they came and once more put the bad lentils in their crops and the good ones in the pot.  But once again, Stepmother broke her promise.  When she saw the bowl full of lentils she said, “ We’d only be ashamed of you.”  Then she turned her back and hurried away with her two proud daughters.  When they had all gone out, Ashputtle went to her mother’s grave.  She stood under the hazel tree and cried: SHAKE YOUR BRANCHES LITTLE TREE, THROW GOLD AND SILVER DOWN TO ME!  Whereupon the bird tossed down a gold and silver dress and slippers embroidered with silk and silver. "  The girl changed into the finery and ran to the wedding.  Nobody recognized her and her stepmother and stepsisters were so sure that Ashputtle would be picking lentils out of the fireplace all night that they were sure the young girl could not be present.  All evening the king’s son danced with this lovely stranger, but suddenly, she wanted to go home.   The king’s son offered to escort her because he “wanted to find out who the beautiful girl belonged to.  But she got away from him and slipped into the dovecote.  The king’s son waited until her father arrived and told him the strange girl” was in the dovecote.  So the father got an ax and chopped it to pieces but there was no one inside.  Ashputtle “was lying in the ashes in her filthy clothes and a dim oil lamp was burning on the chimney piece, for Ashputtle had slipped out the back end of the dovecote and run to the hazel tree.   There she had taken off her fine clothes and put them on the grave and the bird had taken them away.  Then she had put her gray dress on again, crept into the kitchen and lain down in the ashes. “  The next day all was repeated.  The sisters mocked, the stepmother called her foul names, Ashputtle cried, and was left home alone.  Again she called to the bird and this time “the bird threw down a dress that was even more dazzling that the first one."  Again she ran to the wedding party and danced with the king’s son, and again she fled rather than allow him to escort her home.  “She ran away and disappeared into the garden behind the house, where there was a big beautiful tree with the most wonderful pears growing on it.  She climbed among the branches nimbly as a squirrel and the king’s son didn’t know what had become of her. “  He waited until her father came out and asked him to chop down the pear tree.  There was nobody in it.  Now for the third evening Ashputtle called to the bird and it threw down, “ a dress that was more radiant than either of the others, and the slippers were all gold.  When she appeared at the wedding, the people were too amazed to speak.  The king’s son danced with no one but her, and when someone else asked her for a dance, he said: “She is my partner.” This night she escaped cleanly.  Or so she thought.  The king’s son “had thought up a trick.  He had arranged to have the whole stair case brushed with pitch, and as she was running down it, the pitch pulled her left slipper off.  The king’s son picked it up, and it was tiny and delicate and all gold.”  The next day he commenced a search for she whose foot would fit this shoe.  When he arrived at Ashputtle’s house the eldest went to try it first.  Alone in the room with her daughter, the mother watched with some concern.  “The shoe was too small and she couldn’t get her big toe in.  So her mother handed her a knife and said: “Cut your toe off.  Once you’re queen you won’t have to walk anymore.” The girl cut her toe off and forced her foot into the shoe, gritted her teeth against the pain and went out to the king’s son. “ At first he was fooled. But as he and his bride-to-be rode past the hazel tree, “the two doves were sitting there, and they cried out: ROOCOO, ROOCOO, THERE’S BLOOD WITHIN THE SHOE.  THE FOOT’S TOO LONG, THE FOOT’S TOO WIDE.  THAT’S NOT THE PROPER BRIDE.” He looked down at her foot and saw the bood spurting.” So he brought her home again and asked to try the other other girl. This time the younger girl was brought out, and her mother went with her into the room.  She “got her toes into the shoe but her heel was too big.  So her mother handed her a knife and said, “ Cut off a chunk of your heel.  Once you’re queen you won’t have to walk anymore.”  This she did, and hobbled out to meet the king’s son.  At first he was fooled, but then they passed the tree and the doves sang out again.  Looking at the girl behind him on the horse, he then “looked down and saw that  blood was spurting from her shoe and staining her white stocking all red. " He took that girl right back home and asked her father if there wasn’t another daughter who might try?  “Only a puny little kitchen drudge that my dead wife left me. She couldn’t possibly be the bride. “  But the king’s son insisted that she be allowed to try.  So Ashputtle quickly bathed and came out “and curtseyed to the king’s son.  He handed her the golden slipper” and of course it fitted perfectly.  As they passed the hazel tree the doves called out: ROOCOO, ROOCOO, NO BLOOD IN THE SHOE. HER FOOT IS NEITHER LONG NOR WIDE, THIS ONE IS THE PROPER BRIDE.” So Ashputtle and the king’s son were married, and the doves sat upon her shoulders throughout her wedding day.  The stepsisters tried to “ingratiate themselves and share in her happiness. On the way to church the elder was on the right side of the bridal couple and the younger on the left.  The doves came along and pecked out one of the elder sister’s eyes and one of the younger sister’s eyes.  Afterward, on the way out, the elder was on the left side and the younger on the right, and the doves pecked out both the remaining eyes.  So both sisters were punished with blindess to the end of their days for being so wicked and false."
Grimm’s Tales for Young and Old (1812) Trans. Manheim, R.(1977) 
Notes: Due to graphic violence I recommend this version for children over the age of 10. This version also includes an explicit and unfortunate juxtaposition of the two words black and ugly, further reason to take care in reading this one.  As Louise Derman-Sparks and the Anti-Bias Curriculum Task Force for the National Association for the Education of Young Children, Washington D.C ( found, these are loaded words.  This 1989 publication includes a reference guide, Ten Quick Ways To Analyze Children's Books for Sexism and Racism.  "Loaded words" are number 9 on the 10 point checklist, which includes "checking out the author's perspective" and "noting the copyright date." For Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, who lived in Hesse and later Kassel (two of the tiny countries united as Germany in 1806) people with black skin were not a common reference.  Grimms' Tales for Young and Old, the Complete Stories, was published in 1812. There is evidence that the Grimms' love of the newly formed country of Germany and their concern for preserving the stories of the people,  was later high-jacked by the Nazi regime and slanted for Nazi purposes. (Hettinga, D.,  p.142 For a history of the Brothers Grimm try Paths Through the Forest: A biography of the Brothers Grimm.  For children try CHATTERBOX THE BROTHER'S GRIMM: A BIOGRAPHY GRADE 3 2005C (CHATTERBOX SERIES)
 Included among the original 200 tales is the story of The Three Black Princesses, on p.473.  In this story a fisherman's son is captured by an enemy and taken abroad. He escapes and finds himself in East India where a mountain opens and reveals, " a big, enchanted castle where everything is draped in black.  Three princesses came in and they were all black, and dressed in black, but there was a bit of white on their faces."  The prince has the chance to rescue them but his suspicions get the better of him: against their request, he lights a candle in the night and then drips hot wax onto their faces.  "All three princesses turned half-white and jumped up. 'You accursed dog! Our blood shall cry out for vengeance!" they cry.  A reminder why the original title of the book tells us these are not necessarily stories for children.  
Montessori Connection 6-12: Timeline of People/ Human Biology/Colors of our Skin 
1. Check out the free teaching resources from the Southern Poverty Law Center at  DVDs available include a wonderful biography of Rosa Parks.   Also a coloring and naming excercise involving skin tone. 
2. For positive images of the beautiful colors of brown and  black try the reading list compiled by  Dr. Ginger K. McKenzie of Xavier University, Ohio, available through the American Montessori Society Website: