|Pear tree. Sendak, M.|
Once upon a time, in Italy, “a man had a pear tree that used to bear four baskets of pears a year. One year, though, it only bore three bushels and a half, while he was supposed to carry four to the king. Seeing no other way out, he put his youngest daughter into the basket, and covered her up with pears and leaves." She was sent to the king’s kitchen where she lived on pears, in the bottom of the basket for some time. Finally, the servants noticed how few pears were left, and how many cores. “ There must be a rat or a mole gnawing on the pears,’ they said. ‘We shall look inside the baskets. ‘ They removed the top and found the little girl. “ She was soon put to work in the kitchen. She was a cheerful child, and a lovely one and they called her Perina. The king of this castle had a son just the same age as Perina, and the two became fast friends. The years passed and the other servants became jealous of the friendship this pear-girl had with the prince. They spread a rumor that Perina had boasted that “she would go and steal the witches’ treasure. The king got wind of it and sent for the girl. ‘Is it true you boasted you would go and steal the witches’ treasure?’ ‘No, Sacred Crown, I made no such boast.” answered the girl. But the king did not believe her, and sent her away, not to return without the witches’ treasure. So she left. “On and on she walked until nightfall. Perina came to an apple tree, but she kept on going. She next came to a peach tree, but still didn’t stop. Then she came to a pear tree, climbed it and fell asleep. In the morning, there stood a little woman under the tree. ‘What are you doing up there, my daughter?’ asked the old woman. Perina told her about the difficulty she was in. ‘Take these three pounds of grease, three pounds of bread, and threepounds of millet and be on your way.’ Perina thanked her very much, and moved on.” Now her path led her past a bakery. There she saw three women who were trying to sweep their oven out. They had nothing to use for brooms but their own hair, which they were pulling out. Perina gave them her millet. They swept the oven and let her pass. On and on she went, and after awhile she came to three mastiffs. These dogs barked loudly at her but she threw them her three pounds of bread and they gobbled it up and let her pass. On and on she walked for many miles, until she came to a “blood-red river, which she had no idea how to cross. But the old woman had told her to say: Fine water so red, I must make haste; Else of you would I taste. At those words, the waters parted, and let her through. Just across the river was a very fine palace. Its doors were slamming quickly open and shut, open and shut, so fast that no one could slip in without being crushed. Perina “ therefore applied the three pounds of grease to its hinges, and from then on it opened and closed quite gently. “ So Perina went in, and found the treasure chest. She tiptoed over and picked it up but “the chest spoke. ‘Door, kill her, kill her!’ ‘I won’t either, since she greased my hinges that hadn’t been looked after since goodness knows when. ‘ Perina reached the river and the chest said, ‘River, drown her, drown her!’ ‘I won’t either,’said the river, ‘since she called me “Fine water, so red.’ She came to the dogs, and the chest said, ‘Dogs, devour her, devour her!” Butthey said they would not, on account of the bread. Nor would the oven burn her when they approached, out of gratitude for their sweeping the women had given with Perina’s millet. Well, Perina had been brave, but she was just like anybody else when it came to holding a treasure chest. She just had to see what was inside! So she opened the lid and out jumped, “a hen and her brood of gold chicks.” Quick as a wink, they vanished into the brush. Perina followed them and ran past the apple tree. No chicks. She ran past the peach tree. No chicks. She came to the pear tree, and there the little old woman was again,”with a wand in her hand and hen and chicks feeding around her.” She waved her wand over them and they jumped back into the chest, just as the prince ran up. “When my father asks what you want as a reward, tell him that box filled with coal in the cellar.” So Perina named this as her reward when the king called for her. And “they brought her the box of coal, which she opened, and out jumped the king’s son, who was hiding inside. The king was happy then for Perina to marry his son.”
Notes: The Little Girl Sold With the Pears (p.35, Italian Folktales Selected and Retold by Italo Calvino) has elements of the Catskin variant including being sent to seek service at the castle. The theme of the number 3 continues, as Perina herself prevents three bushels only being delivered to the king; she runs by three trees, the old woman gives her three gifts, and she must pass three obstacles. It is nice to see a story where the girl is not abused! Also nice is the friendship between Perina and the prince. The old woman is something of a Baba-Yaga figure as she is in the woods under a tree, yet wields a wand much like Perrault's fairy godmother.
Montessori Connection 6-9 Vocabulary/Color Words
1. Read the story of Perina and think about colors of fruit, trees, and other things mentioned.
2. Make a booklet by sketching one thing on each small page: an apple tree, a peach tree, a pear tree, a bread oven, a blood-red river, three dogs, and a treasure chest.
3. Color the drawings in with wax crayon.
4. Use watercolor paint to wash over the drawings, covering up the white paper.
5. Write the word identifying each thing.
6. Bind your book together.
Or: Read Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present, illustrated by Maurice Sendak. It is good practice for color words.
Ages 9-12 Maria Montessori/ Fairy Tales of Italy/Imagination
1. Find Italy on the globe.
2. Make a timeline of Maria Montessori's life: born in 1870, died in 1952.
3. Understand that The Little Girl Sold With the Pears is one story from the very same place and time in which Dr.Montessori was a child, Italy in the 1870's and 1880's.
4. Read about how Dr. Montessori respected children and wanted to help them become capable, confident people. Try: Maria Montessori: A biography for children, and Mammolina: A Story About Maria Montessori (Creative Minds Biography).
5. Imagine how you would feel, or perhaps how a child a bit younger than you would feel, if your father really did give you away in a basket of pears. Do you think you would be as brave as Perina?
6. Pretend that you are Perina! Try to re-write the story in the first person. Example: Once upon a time, when I was very small, my father put me in a basket of pears....
7. Write your own adventure: think of three things to run past, three gifts your hero has been given, and three challenges your hero must pass.