|She wished for a white mare with diamonds. Illustrate by Sharkey, N.|
Once upon a time, in Ireland, “ before you were born, or your grandmother was born, or your great-great-great-grandmother before her, there was a king in Tir Chonaill and he had three daughters, Fair, Brown, and Trembling.” Brown and Fair lived in comfort and style, but Trembling, “the youngest, was kept home to clean and cook. Her sisters wouldn’t let her out of the house at all, for she was by far the most beautiful of the the three and they were afraid she might marry first. This went on for seven long years” at which point King Omanya’s son noticed the eldest daughter. One Sunday when her sisters were at Mass the henwife came into the kitchen and asked why Trembling had not gone as well. “How can I go?” she answered. “ My clothes are in rags and if my sisters saw me, they’d kill me for leaving the house. ” But the henwife said, “ I’ll give you a finer dress than either of those two lumps has ever seen.” Then she “put on her magic cloak of darkness and took out her scissors. She clipped a piece from Trembling’s rags, and called for the whitest robes in the world and a pair of emerald-green shoes.” Then she added, “ I have a honey-bird here to sit on your right shoulder and another for your left. At the door stands a milk-white mare, with a golden bridle to hold in your hand and a golden saddle to ride on.” So Trembling dressed and went to church, and the people were amazed when they saw her. When mass was over Trembling raced home again. The hen-wife had cooked the dinner while she was out, and it was ready when the mean sisters came home. Full of news, they were, of the fine lady who had come to church that morning. The following Sunday, the hen-wife looked in on Trembling again. She was at home because her sisters had not allowed her to go to church. So the hen-wife asked Trembling what kind of a dress she would like to wear and the girl said, “ Oh, the finest black satin that can be found, shimmering with pearls, and ruby shoes for my feet.’ The hen-wife put on a cloak of darkness, called for the robes and the mare, and that moment she had them!” This time, both saddle and bridle were of silver, and the mare glossy and black. Now the hen-wife warned, “ Remember, don’t go inside of the church and be sure to leave before any man can stop you.” So Trembling followed these directions, and went to church again, and came home again before her sisters knew a thing. Well, weren’t her sisters in a state about when they got home! Such news of the fine lady and her dresses, and now they had the dressed copied by their dressmaker. The next Sunday, Trembling went to church again, this time with a dress that she had chosen. “I’d like a gown as red as a rose from the waist down, and white as snow from the waist up. I’ll have a cape of green on my shoulders; a hat of red,white, and green feathers on my head; and shoes for my feet with toes red, the middle white, and the back green!” Declaring that Trembling would be a “sight for sore eyes” the hen-wife donned her cloak of darkness and fetched the dress. “ And what kind of mare would you like?” Came the answer, “ White, with blue and gold diamonds all over its body, and a gold saddle and bridle.” And there it was, “ by the door with a skylark sitting between her ears. The bird began to sing as soon as Trembling was in the saddle, and never stopped till she came home from church. “ Now, by this time, word had spread far and wide of the lovely lady in the mysterious gowns who stayed outside the church on her splendid mare each Sunday. Kings and princes came by the dozens this Sunday, hoping to wed her. The son of King Omanya, who had previously been eying the eldest daughter, now left off paying attention to her. When Trembling arrived that morning, he observed her carefully. “As soon as people were rising up at the end of Mass, Trembling ran to the glittering mare, sprang into the golden saddle, and was away. But the Prince of Omanya was at her side and holding onto her leg. He ran with the mare for thirty strides and never let go till the shoe was pulled from Trembling’s foot.” And of course now he must have the other shoe, and the lady who wore them as well. The next day all of his brothers followed along and they “travelled the length and breadth of Ireland to find the lady whose foot would fit the red, white, and green shoe. North, south, east, and west they went and there wasn’t a house in the kingdom they didn’t search.” Many lasses tried the shoe, and many lasses tried to trick the prince with “ cutting their toes and stuffing their stockings”. Yet no one could wear that shoe. At last they came to Trembling’s house, and “when the company came into the house, the prince of Omanya gave the shoe to Fair and Brown and, though they tried and tried to put it on, it would fit neither of them. ‘Is there any other young woman here?’ asked the prince. The sisters were just about to say no, when Trembling piped up from the closet. ‘There is! In here! ‘ ‘Oh, don’t bother with her, ‘ said Fair and Brown, ‘she’s just a silly wee thing we keep to put out the ashes.” Well, the prince would let Trembling out, and he would let her try the shoe and of course it “fitted exactly. ‘You are the woman I love,’ said Prince Omanya, ‘ and the woman I’ll marry. Say you’ll be mine.’ ‘I will, ‘ said Trembling, for she knew she love him also. ‘But wait till I prove who I am.” Then she ran to the hen-wife who helped her dress first in the white gown, then in the black, and finally in the colored gown from the third Sunday. Each time, she asked the company if they knew her as the lady from church. In each gown, all said they recognized her now. Weren’t the sisters green with jealousy? Yes, and red with rage as well. The other princes were not so sure it was fair that Omanya had proposed to this exotic woman without giving them a chance, and began to swing their swords and fight. “But the hen-wife appeared and put a spell on them all so they couldn’t speak or move until the brave prince had climbed up behind Trembling and the two of them galloped off into the sunset. “ And they lived happily ever after with their fourteen children!
Notes: Doyle, M. (2000). Tales from Old Ireland. This collection of stories is wonderful. It is very Irish and this Cinderella story is very ritualistic, with elements of a Catskin tale. The hen-wife so often found in those tales appears here and gives advice. As in Catskin, there are three dresses and three event to attend. Here the number three is repeated on 3 Sundays, 3 dresses, 3 times that Trembling asks the prince if he recognizes her. This book has a delightful glossary of 25 place names and how to pronounce them. Example: Tír na nÓg (teer na noag). This is The Land of Eternal Youth.
Montessori Connection: Fundamental Needs/Religion/Ireland/Catholics and Protestants. History:Celts and Druids
1. Find Ireland on the globe.
2. Learn about its history by reading The History of Ireland (Children's Book), or A Children's History of Britain and Ireland (Visual Factfinders).
3. Learn about the religions of Ireland and the troubles associated with them: The Struggle for Shared Schools in Northern Ireland: The History of All Children Together.