Robin Redbreast

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

Friday, February 4, 2011

#35 Catskin Number One (Ed: Rhys 1906/2010)

Cole, H. Fairy Gold

Once upon a time, in England, “there was a little girl who, when she came into the world, found she was not wanted there, for her father had long wished for a son and heir, and when a daughter was  born instead he fell into a blind rage and said, “ She sha’n’t stay long in my house!” So she was sent away, to be cared for by a nursemaid who lived “ in a house by a great oak wood. There the child lived till she was fifteen summers old. Then her foster mother died, but before she died, she told the poor child at her bedside to hide all her pretty white frocks in the wood by the crystal waterfall that sounded there all day long among the oak leaves. Then, she was to put on a dress of catskin the old dame gave her, and go and seek a place as a servant maid far away in the town. Catskin, for so she must now be called, “ followed these directions, and set off. Finally she came to the town, and went to the biggest house, and begged for work from the” Lady of the house, who looked hard at poor Catskin and patted her on the head, and ended by saying —”I’m sorry I’ve no better place for you, but you can be a scullion under the cook, if you like!” So Catskin took this offer, though she would soon regret it. Cook was mean and “as often as the cook got out of temper she took a ladle and broke it over poor Catskin’s head. Well, time went on and there was to be a grand ball.” Now, Catskin begged permission from Cook to go and watch the ball, but Cook jeered at her and her dirty face — and then threw a pan of dirty water right into her face. “But Catskin briskly shook her ears and went off to her hiding place in the wood; and there, as the old song says,’ She washed every stain from her skin, in some crystal waterfall. Then put on a beautiful dress, and hasted away to the ball!” When she walked in the door, “ the ladies were mute, overcome by her beauty; but the lord, her young master, at once fell in love with her.” He danced with her all evening, but when the party ended and he asked who she was,  she only said, “ Kind sir, if the truth I must tell, at the Sign of the Basin of Water I dwell!” And off she ran. Next night, there was to be another ball, and again Catskin asked Cook if she might go, and again Cook insulted her and “in a great rage she took the ladle and struck Catskin’s head  a terrible blow. But off went Catskin none the worse, shaking her ears, and swift to her forest she fled. And there as the old song says, — “She washed every blood stain off, In some crystal waterfall; Put on a more beatiful dress and hastened away to the ball.” And again the prince danced all night with her, and again came the time for parting, and again he enquired where she was from. Tonight she said, “Kind sir, if the truth I must tell, At the sign of the Broken Ladle I dwell.” And she fled, changed back into her cat skins, and went back to the kitchen, with Cook none the wiser. And the next evening was to be the grandest gathering of all. But Cook sneered with derision and “in a fury, snatched up the skimmer and broke it on Catskin’s head; but heart-whole and as lively as ever, away to the oakwood Catskin flew; and there, as the old song says—”She washed the stains of blood, In the crystal waterfall. Then put on her most beautiful dress, and hastened away to the ball.” For the third time, she danced with the prince and for the third time he begged to know who she was. Now she told him, “ Kid sir, if the truth I must tell, at the sign of the Broken Skimmer I dwell.” And again she ran—but this time the prince quickly followed her, and now observed her as she changed from white frock into ragged catskins. Now it was the prince’s turn to play tricks. Back home, he took to his bed, heartsick for love of the beautiful girl. When the doctor arrived, he took pity on the young man, and told his mother that the only cure for her son was for her to consent that he marry the scullion. “Had she not feared her son would die, she would never have yielded,; but after a hard struggle she said ‘Yes!” 
The prince recovered immediately. “And so it was Catskin, before a twelvemonth was gone, when the oakwood grew green again, was married to him, and the lived happily for ever after.”
Catskin, from A Book of Old English Fairy Tales: Fairy Gold. (ed. Rhys, E. 1906/2008). 
Notes: This is a Cinderella variant, as identified by Marian Roalfe Cox in her 1892, Cinderella: Three Hundred Forty Five Variants of Cinderella, Catskin, and Cap O'Rushes. Gathered for the Folktale Society by many collectors, this is THE Cinderella resource, relied on by Joseph Jacobs and Andrew Lang among others. It interesting to note the similarities to this story and La Bella Pilosa, or The Hairy Beauty, from Naples, although in that story the girl wears a coat of feathers instead of one of cat skins. 
Montessori Connection 6-12: Extension to the Fourth Great Lesson, The Story of Writing, or Communication With Signs.
1. Reread the story, and pay attention to what Catskin tells the prince when he asks where she is from. 2. Understand that her answers are teasing, and yet have an historical basis in that many adults did not learn to read, and therefore many shops and public houses identified themselves with pictures, ( "Meet at the sign of the chicken!" you would tell your friend, instead of "Meet me at Charlie's Chicken Store." 3. Review pictographs: handprints, early animal drawings at Laccaux. Try reading The Cave Painter of Lascaux (Angeletti, Roberta. a Spasso Con-- .) (6-9) or Cave of Lascaux: The Cave of Prehistoric Wall Paintings (Famous Caves of the World), (9-12). 4. Brainstorm with your friends about current pictograms. Try to think of 5 things that we usually say with signs. (Possible answers: restroom icon, disabled access icon, arrows on street signs, a peace sign, advertising logos and advertising, such as emblems for makes of cars. 5. Look at these symbols and write a word for each one: ♥, ☝,☟,☹,☺. 6. Make up some of your own signs, or use ones that you already know and write a story. Remember that rubber stamps and ink pads can be used to show things such as farm animals, vehicles, etc. for inclusion in a story. 

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