Robin Redbreast

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

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cinderella # 87 Ella Enchanted, a novel (1997)

Rose bowers at Descanso Gardens, Pasadena, CA

Once upon a time there was a girl named Eleanor, or Ella for short.  This is how she told her story to her diary:
"That fool of a fairy Lucinda did not intend to lay a curse on me.  She meant to bestow a gift.  When I cried inconsolably through my first hour of life, my tears were her inspiration.  Shaking her head symapthetically at Mother, the fairy touched my nose.  'My gift is obedience.  Ella will always be obedient.  Now, stop crying, child."  So Ella stopped crying.  She had to: that is how the fairy's magic worked.  Well, Ella had a pretty nice childhood despite the fairy's gift.  Her mother and father loved her, she had the run of the castle, and was cherished by the cook, Mandy.  She goes on to tell that "Instead of making me docile, Lucinda's curse made a rebel of me.  Or perhaps I was that way naturally."  Either way, Ella's mother indulged her, and her father was mostly away on business.  He was a salesman, or as they called it in the olden days, a "merchant".  Life goes on with Ella encountering many unfortunate scrapes as she is forced to obey whatever command anyone gives her, even if they didn't really mean it.  She learns that Lucinda might, just might, remove the curse if Ella asks her personally to do so.  But first, she'll have to find her.  One winter, when Ella was almost fifteen years old, tragedy struck, though at first, no one recognized that it would be so. Ella says, "Mother and I caught cold.  Mandy dosed us with her curing soup, made with carrots, leeks, celery, and hair from a unicorn's tail.  It was delicious, but we both hated to see those long yellow-white hairs floating around the vegetables." Ella could not disobey Mandy by not eating the soup up, but her mom could, and she did.  "The next day, I was well and Mother was much worse, too sick to eat or drink anything. She said there was a knife at her throat, and a battering ram at her head." One night her mother kissed her goodnight, saying, " I love you, Precious." She worsened during the next three days, not speaking again.  During these sad days Ella walks the hallways, looking down at the spiral staircase "remembering the times Mother and I slid down the banister."  This time, she walked down the stairs, out the front door and into the bright, cold air.  Now she walks, and later writes: "it was a long walk to the old castle, but I wanted to make a wish, and I wanted to make it in the place where it would have the best chance of being granted.  The castle had been abandoned when King Jerrold was a boy, although it was opened on special occasions....It was infested with mice....I went straight to the candle grove.  The candles were small trees that had been pruned  and tied to wires to make them grow in the shape of a candelabra."  Ella wishes that her mother "gets well quick" and promises to be really good if this happens.  She admits that she "didn't bargain for Mother's life, because I didn't want to believe that she was in danger of dying." But her mother does die, and Ella tells us of the funeral: "Mother's casket was made of gleaming mahogany carved with designs of fairies and elves.  If only the fairies could leap out of the wood and cast  a spell to bring her back to life....Everyone called it 'losing mother' but she wasn't lost.  She was gone, and no matter where I went —another town, another country, Fairyland or Gnome Caverns—I wouldn't find her." Ella cries for a long time, and then returns home.  When she gets there her father has a guest to introduce to her. "This is Dame Olga," he tells Ella.  And then she is introduced to two girls, a bit older than she. "These are my treasures," Dame Olga says, "This is Hattie and this if Olive.  They are off to finishing school in a few days."  The girls get acquainted: "Olive was the one I'd bumped. 'I'm glad to meet you,' she said, her voice too loud.  She was about my age. The furrows of a frown were permanently etched between her eyes. 'Comfort Eleanor in her grief.' Dame Olga told her daughters.  "Our hearts weep for you." said Hattie. Olive looked at the dress Ella was wearing and said, "Green isn't a mourning color." Little did Ella know that her father would soon decide to send her off to finishing school as well. Ella hates it: "I wanted to throw myself onto a bed and cry about being so hungry and about everything else, but these were not beds onto which one could throw oneself.  A purple chair was placed next to one of the two windows.  I sank into it. " Soon Ella discovers a friend, a girl from the Kingdom of Ayortha who teaches Ella some of the beautiful language they speak there. Among other things, Ella learns to say,"ibwi unju", meaning "tall girl", the only insult she can think of to call her tormenting classmates.  After a miserable month of forced needlework and daintiness lessons, Ella has had enough. She runs away, half hoping to find Lucinda, half planning just to go home.  "I slipped through the sleeping house as silently as a needle through lace." she tells her journal.  But freedom is not hers.  Before  she gets far she is overtaken by a party of foraging ogres, who plot to fatten her up and then eat her.  She succeeds in tricking them, and continues on her way, determined now that she will attend a giant's wedding she has heard about.  The fairies are invited, and Ella believes that Lucinda will be there too.  In the course of her travels, she meets her old family friend, young Prince Charming, or Char as Ella used to call him when they were playmates.  He assists her in getting to the giant's wedding, and Lucinda is in attendance, but things do not work out quite as Ella planned. She returns home instead, and during a long, drawn out state affair, she and Char go exploring in the old castle.  "The tower had once been an indoor garden, with small trees in wooden pots.  I perched on a stone bench.  It was chilly, but we were out of the wind. 'Do the king's gardener's come here?' I asked [Char]. 'Are the trees dead?' 'I don't know.' Char was staring at the bench.  'Stand up.' I obeyed, of course. He pushed at the seat with his foot, and it moved. 'This lifts off!' he exclaimed." They lift the seat of the bench, and find old garden tools, "a leather apron, and two things more.  Char twitched the apron aside and found gloves and a pair of slippers. The gloves were stained and riddled with holes, but the slippers sparkled as though newly made. Char lifted them out carefully. 'I think they're made of glass!" Ella tries them on, and they fit her perfectly. Of course. Together they dance in the abandoned tower.  But this easy friendship cannot last. Many complications are in store for both of the young people.  Father does indeed marry Dame Olga, and is soon called away on business.  Alas, he loses his fortune, and soon Dame Olga puts Ella to work in the castle, declaring," I will not have that pauper live like a lady in my house. She can earn her keep." And so Ella is made to suffer many hardships and humiliations.  Prince Char, however, has not forgotten her, and begins writing to her from the Kingdom of Ayortha where he has been sent for a year of training. Ella ponders how she can every marry anyone, let alone the prince she is slowly falling in love with. " I thought of the bride I'd make, in a threadbare, sooty gown, that stank of cooking fat and yesterday's dinner." Finally, Char's year of training ends, his mother and father, the Queen and King, throw three nights of dinner and dancing in his honor. Now beloved Mandy the cook, who of course is a fairy, aids Ella in dressing for the ball.  But it is Lucinda who shows up at the last moment to provide the transportation. Lucinda conjures a coach, saying,"Earlier this evening in Frell I spied a giant's cart filled with pumpkins." There is a rumble, and Lucinda winks at Ella. "Look, child." The pumpkin had been transformed into a gleaming coach...'Mice will make plump horses' she said.  Six fat brown mice raced across the tiles of the hall. They vanished, and six horses appeared before the coach.  A white rat became the coachman, and six lizards were transformed into footmen."  Ella goes to the ball, and the rest, as they say, is history. 
From Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine (1997) New York: Harper Collins
Notes: This is a great book for kids ages 9+ to read.  Ella is 15 years old in the story. 
Montessori Connection 9-12 Real Royalty
1. Read Ella Enchanted.
2. Think about the story is like that of other Cinderella stories you have read, and how it is different. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cinderella #86 Cinderhazel: The Cinderella of Halloween (1997)

By Deborah Nourse Lattimore

Once upon a time, "in the dustbin", Hazel, Hermione, and Hildy were practicing their spells and curse on each other. The two older girls made their little sister, Hazel, do most of the work.  For example she "swept from one end of the room to the other until the entire floor was covered with a thick layer of dust and dirt." Hazel like it like that.  When her sisters told her to go fly her broom, she said she'd rather sweep. Her favorite thing, she said, was "D-I-R-T". So her sisters started calling her Cinderhazel.  That's what she was covered with, was cinders.  Later that night, her mom and big sisters fancied themselves up, as witches do. They "combed their frightful hair and coated their shoes with very clean shoe tar."  They were going to the Witches' Halloween Ball.  "Rumor has it," gossiped Hazel's mother, " that Prince Alarming might come out of hiding" that night, looking for a witch to marry.  Then she and her older girls mocked dirty little Hazel.  They said that she couldn't go to the ball even if she did want to, because of her "cracked broom", then they all jumped on their broomsticks and flew out the window. "Oh, who cares?' muttered Cinderhazel. 'Who wants to dance with some hoity-toity prince anyway?"  Actually, she did.  After an hour or so alone in the dark, she got up, "squished her hat on her head, grabbed her broom, and jumped on. Ker-rrrrrack! The broom broke." Now she gave it every bit of finger crossing, eye-popping, circle-spinning magical skills she had in her...and her had became a pile of dust.  " Ah, nuts! I'm staying home. Besides, there's not a single thing I'd like over at the palace.' 'That's what you think.' said a voice. 'Who's there?' asked Cinderhazel." Out of a smokey cloud of dust the voice came again.  "I'm your witchy=godmother" it said, and "I can't believe you're not going to the Ball.  Didn't you know there are fifteen fireplaces over there?"  When Cinderhazel heard that she said, "By my withchy-wig, you're right!" And she decided to go. There was just one problem: how would she get there with no broom?  That's when her witchy-godmother stepped in with some REAL magic.  " Bad old bats and a toad that's meaner" she chanted, "Make this broom a vacuum cleaner!"  And that's just what the broom turned into. Then Cinderhazel climbed onto it, and flew right up the chimney!  She rode the vacuum cleaner all the way to the palace, and when she got there the machine "swooped down the biggest chimney she'd ever seen."  So she came out right on the hearth of the biggest ballroom, and everyone thought she must be the prince.  That was because she made so much noise and such a big, dirty cloud of dust when she landed.  When they found out that it was just dirty little Cinderhazel, they were mad.  They all laughed at her vacuum cleaner! That's when Cinderhazel got even madder than they they were.  She "crossed her eyes. She crossed her fingers.  She crossed her legs and twisted around in a circle. POOF! All the witches hats broomsticks turned to dirt.  Oh, boy, were they mad.  So mad that Cinderhazel quickly did another spell. She chanted, " Eye of newt and raven's wing, rise up old Hoopler and make them clean!"  So the old vacuum cleaner turned itself on and sucked up all the dirt. Then it sucked up the witches socks.  Then in sucked up all of the party decorations, and the food, and the drinks! No one could stop the crazy thing! Just as it looked like the vacuum cleaner was going to suck up the whole palace — the clock struck midnight! Whew! The magic wore off.  The vacuum cleaner disappeared, and all of the things it had sucked up exploded out into the room.  And Cinderhazel's broken broom appeared in its place.  And while all the witches were arguing over whose socks were whose, "the biggest dirtball Cinderhazel had ever seen walked up to her." Squealing about how dirty he looked, she suddenly realized that he must be the prince.  He was.  Prince Filthy Alarming was his name.  He told her that she was the dirtiest girl he'd ever seen.  Then they took turns doing spells to make each other even dirtier.  Finally, Cinderhazel and Prince Filthy Alarming were so dirty and having such a good time together that they decided to get married.  And "they lived filthily ever after. P. S. Cinderhazel never did have any glass slippers.  But on their first wedding anniversary, the Prince gave her a more useful present: grass clippers.  
From Lattimore, D. N. (1997) New York: Blue Sky Press
Notes:  This is a cute Halloween story, mixing witches and fairy godmothers and magic. Great artwork, amusing storyline. Also interesting choice of "Hazel" as the secondary name for the girl. It is, of course, a hazel branch that Ashenputtle asks of her father in the original Brothers Grimm Cinderella.  She plants the branch and waters it with her tears; from its branches, two little birds throw down the dresses for her to wear to the ball. Hazel trees (Betulaceae corylus) A ccording to the Larousse Dictionary of World Folklore, some of its mythical connotations are that hazel rods were used "as a protection against fairies" during Pagan Beltane ceremonies, best wood to use for a dowsing rod, and empyromancy (divination by observation), in this case placing two hazelnuts in the fire on Halloween Night. Lovers are said to be able to predict their fate by the way the nuts act in the flames. 
Montessori Connection 6-12: Botany/Trees/Hazel Trees
1. Read this book and pay attention to the girl's name. 
2. Look up the word hazel in the dictionary. 
3. Look up the plant Betulaceae corylus in an encyclopedia or tree guide. 
4. Learn that hazel trees are sometimes called filberts. 
5. Learn about hazel trees in Cinderella stories.
6. Learn about hazel twigs as charms and amulets. The Everything Kids' Witches and Wizards Book: Amaze Your Friends, Astound Your Parents, and Outwit Your Enemies! (Everything Kids Series) or Magic Spell (My Secret Unicorn).
7. Read Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth by E.L. Konigsburg: Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cinderella #85 Tiny Tot Cinderella (2009)

Drawing by The Other Emily, age 43/4.

Once upon a time, in England, lived a girl with two mean, ugly sisters.  They would not let her go to the prince's ball.  Lucky for Cinderella, her fairy godmother said she could go! As long as she was home by midnight. Cinderella had fun dancing with the prince. When she ran away, her sparkly shoe got lost. The prince wanted to marry the girl that the shoe fitted. It did not fit on the feet of her sisters. It did  fit Cinderella! So Cinderella and the prince got married, and were happy forever. 
Note: This is a paraphrasing of: Fairydust Fairytales Cinderella. Little tick tock. Great Britain: ticktock Entertainment Ltd. 
Montessori Connection 6-9: 
1. If you are a good reader, then read this story out loud to another child. 
2. If you are still practicing reading, choose one word to look for on each page. Hint: Cinderella
Ages 9-12: 
1. Listen while a younger child reads this story to you.
2. Read it aloud to a younger child, just for fun.
3. See if you can translate the story into Spanish, French, Japanese or whatever language you are studying, or which your family speaks at home. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Cinderella #84 Diamonds and Toads (1697)

From Audubon Society Beginner Guide:
Rocks and Minerals (1982)

Once upon a time, in France, there was "a widow who had two daughters.  The elder was so like her mother in temper and face that to have seen one was to have seen the other.  They were both so disagreeable and proud that it was impossible to live with them.  The younger, who was the exact portrait of her father, in her kindly and polite ways, was as beautiful a girl as one could see."  This widow was so bitter that the very sight of the younger girl seemed to incite her.  By the time she was a young lady, she was a servant in all but name.  "Among other things that she was obliged to do, this poor child was forced to go twice a day to fetch water from a place a mile or more from the house and carry back a large jug filled to the brim.  It happened one day that when she got to the fountain, an old woman leaned against it.  She asked the girl to giver her a drink of water and the girl said, "Certainly, my good woman." And the old one smiled and nodded to herself.  The girl rinsed her water jug clean, filled it from the most sparkling part of the fountain, and held it gently while the dame drank her fill.  That's when the old woman said, "You are so beautiful, so good and kind, that I cannot refrain from conferring a gift upon you. ' For she was really a fairy, who had taken the form of a poor village woman.  'The gift I make you,' continued the fairy,' [is] that with every word you speak, either a flower or a precious stone will fall from your mouth."  Thus did it happen when the girl got home.  Her mother, angered over the extra time the girl had taken, berated her. When her younger daughter spoke in her own defense, "there fell from her mouth six roses, two pearls, and two large diamonds."  My, but her stepmother was surprised!  She made the child tell her what had happened, and, learning of the old woman at the well, devised a plan.  Now she called her older daughter, whose name was Fanchon.  "See what falls from your sister's mouth when she speaks! Would you not be glad to receive a similar gift?  All you have to do is go and fetch water from the spring and if an old woman asks you for some to drink, to give it to her, nicely and politely."  Well.  The elder cared not at all for a walk to the spring, much less an encounter with an old woman.  Her mother insisted that she go, however, and gave her no peace until she did.  Off went Franchon, and "she had no sooner arrived at the spring than she saw a lady magnificently dressed , walking toward her from the wood, who approached and asked her for some water to drink." It was the fairy, only disguised as a noblewoman. When this apparition asked the young lady for a drink, what do you think she replied?  "I have, of course, brought this silver bottle on purpose for you to drink from, and all I have to say is — drink from it if you like!' 'You are scarcely polite,' said the fairy, without losing her temper; 'however, as you are so disobliging, I confer this gift upon you, that with every word you speak, a snake or a toad shall fall from your mouth."  The fairy disappeared and the girl returned home. "Directly the mother caught sight of her she called out, 'Well, my daughter?' 'Well, my mother,' replied the ill-tempered girl, throwing out as she spoke two vipers and a toad. 'Alack!' cried the mother,'What do I see? This is your sister's doing, but I will pay her out for it.' And so saying, she ran towards the younger with intent to beat her."  But the girl fled from her, and ran until she was deep in the forest.  It happened that the son of the King was out hunting in that very forest. When he came upon the crying girl and asked her troubles, she replied, "Alas! sir, my mother has driven me from home.'  The King's son, seeing five or six pearls and as many diamonds falling from her mouth as she spoke, asked her to explain how this was. " This the girl did, and, in the telling, revealed herself to be of such a pure nature that the King's son fell in love with her. The dowry she produced even as she spoke was "worth more than any ordinary dowry brought by another".  Therefore he took her home to his mother and father, and they were married the same day.  "As for her sister, she made herself so hated that her own mother drover her from the house.  The miserable girl, having gone about in vain trying to find someone who would take her in, crept away into the corner of a wood and there died."
Perrault, Charles 1697 
Notes: The motif of one daughter spitting gems and the other repulsive animals as they speak, as payment for behavior, is repeated in The Talking Eggs. (San Souci, R.) That book also has a Baba Yaga motif.  Here we do have a fairy and water, but they do not, I think, add up to a "water spirit". More likely they are an illustration of the fact that without indoor plumbing, one had to draw water from a well in order to drink. Elderly ladies probably did have to linger about wells waiting until someone helped them. 
Montessori Connection: 6-12: Geology/Formation of Diamonds
1. Read the story and write down what comes out of each girl's mouth after they meet the fairy.
3. Learn why they are so beautiful and special. 
4. Plan a trip to a museum or gem show where you can see real diamonds. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cinderella #83 La Brutta Cenerola/Ugly Cinderella (Italy, 1882)

A distaff is the stick that the bunch of flax fibers or wool is
wrapped around, from which the thread is spun.
(Webster's New 20th Century Dictionary)

Note: Contains violence. Once upon a time, in Sicily, there lived a farmer.  He and his wife rejoiced when a beautiful baby girl was born to them, but alas! Their happiness could not last. Before the baby was a year old, her mother's soul had returned to Heaven. Now the farmer took a second wife.  This lady had also born a little girl, less than one year before. Her husband, like the farmer's wife, had expired. This lady became a step-mother to the farmer's child, and raised her alongside her own daughter. Yet her preference among the two girls was clear.  As soon as both little ones could walk and speak, one became the pet and the other the drudge.  The years passed, and poor little  "Ugly Centenerola", as her stepsister and mother called her, was always dirty from her toils.  Her father, in his fields from dawn to dusk, left household matters to the women.  Thus it was that his own child was fed upon old crusts even as she cooked rich meals for the other two in the house.  Stepmother did not miss a chance to berate the girl.  She seemed to take pleasure in devising absurd tasks to demand, then beating Ugly Centenerola for disobedience.  Her own simpleton of a daughter was now grown plump and prone to whining from a childhood of idleness and dainties.  Mama was  was feeling particularly vexed at both girls, and  the thought struck her to send the Ugly One out to the cow pasture for the day.  She sent with her a distaff (which is a big wooden spool) of flax, and promised her a sound beating if it was not spun into thread by sunset. 
Ugly Centenerola took up her spindle and distaff, and a great tow of flax.  The large bundle of fibers and stems was nearly as big as she was.  Alone in the cow pasture, she began to spin, and then to cry.  Finally, her tears spent, she blew her nose, and said to the nearest cow, "O my cow! What shall I do?'  'You spin, whilst I wind!' says the cow." And in this way, she spun the flax into thread and went home at sunset with a full spindle.  Now her stepmother saw an opportunity to profit.  If the girl could spin so quickly, why then the next day she would load her with twice the flax.  Surely the Ugly One could not succeeed at that!  So the next day, poor Ugly Centenerola was given two distaffs full of flax, and threatened with two beatings if they were not spun by nightfall.  This time when she got to the pasture, she asked politely whether the kind cow might help her once more?  When she showed the two distaffs, the cow said again, "You spin whilst I wind." and in this way, the thread was spun.  But night had fallen by the time Centenerola was back at the cottage, and her stepmother was very angry.  She beat the girl until she was even uglier than before, and in the morning, gave her three distaffs of flax to spin.  And then she spoke words that sent chills into the young girl's heart:  Stepmother had seen the cowing winding the thread.  That evening, after it had helped Centenerola, the stepmother was going to butcher the cow! Poor girl. Though she wept and pleaded, her stepmother only laughed the harder and beat the girl right out the door.  Centenerola really did look ugly by the time she came to the cow pasture.  Her nose red and swollen, her eyes streaming with tears and her back sore from the beating, the child dragged her three heavy distaffs to the pasture.  When she told the cow what was going to happen that evening, the cow said again, "You spin whilst I wind."  And when all the flax was spun, the cow told her friend what she must do. "Tell your father you want the cow's paunch.  Wash it, and you will find a ball inside you will find a box.  Whenever you need clothes, or anything whatsoever, look inside the box and you will find it."  So Centenerola took her distaffs and her spindle and led the cow home.  Her father promised that she would have the paunch, but the stepmother was suspicious.  When her ugly stepdaughter said that she only wanted the paunch to eat, she relented.  Let the girl fill her belly with that of the cow, who cared?  So the cow was butchered and the paunch given to Centenerola, and in this way, the girl was kept in health and comfort.  One day her stepmother announced that there was a festival in town, and the she and her own dear daughter would be attending.  "What does that matter to me?" asked Centenerola.  But when the other two had gone, she went to her box and asked for fine clothing.   She put it on and went into town.  Passing the church, she went in to pray, and there she found her stepmother and sister.  Spying the fine lady at the door, the stepmother commanded her dear daughter.  "Fetch a chair for this lady." The stepsister did so, and Centenerola then gave her a ring in exchange.  She completed her prayer, walked through the fair, and returned home.  There she ranto her room and took out her box. "Take these lovely clothes away, and give me back my rags, I pray." she chanted.  It was no sooner said than done. The next week, when her stepmother and sister had gone to Mass, Centenerola again beseeched the box for finery, and again it was provided.  A small bag of the coins called quattrini appeared as well. When Centenerola got to church, there was the  prince, kneeling in the front row.  She slipped right in beside him! Who was this mysterious, pious girl? The prince had never seen her before.  Everyone around treated her with such respect, and a lady sent her daughter to fetch the maiden a chair.  The prince noticed that when the chair was brought, the gracious stranger gave the girl a ring in exchange for it.  But no sooner had the stranger said her prayers than she fled from the church!  The prince simply had to know who she was.  He therefore commanded his servants to follow.  But Centenerola drew out her silver quattrini and flung them over her shoulder as she ran.  Back home in her rags, she waited for her stepmother and sister to arrive.  When they did, and showed Ugly Centenerola the the second ring which the fine lady had given, the girl gave the same saucy retort for the second time. "What does that matter to me?"  Meanwhile, the coins she had thrown struck the servants in the eyes and they were blinded. Feeling their way along the ground one of them found a shoe, and this he took back to the prince.  When the prince saw the golden shoe he was overcome with curiosity about its owner.  He would find her, he declared, if he had to try it on every girl in the kingdom.  This he proceeded to do, but on "one girl it was too tight, on another, too loose."  At length, he came to the house of Centenerola.  He tried the shoe on her stepsister, and by no means would it fit. Desperate, the prince asked if there were not one more girl in the house?  That's when Centenerola stepped out. The shoe slid onto her foot as if it had been made for her!  The prince asked for her hand in marriage, and this was granted. But now the stepmother bade the prince return to the palace so that she could prepare the girl for the wedding feast.  Cunningly, she built the fire up high, and dragged the wash tub out for a bath.  Ugly Centenerola watched these preparations, and quietly went to her magic box. There she procured another ring, and with this pretty trinket, persuaded her stepsister to take her old ragged apron and climb into the wash tub, the better that she could scrub it clean.  Stepmother's fire was hot now, and the cauldron full of water was boiling.  When she saw the filthy apron of her ugly stepdaughter as the girl came into the kitchen, she was consumed with hatred.  Quick as a wink she pushed the girl into the wash tub, and sluiced the boiling water until the Ugly One was drowned! That's when she heard a noise behind her. Turning to tell her dear daughter the good news of her stepsister's death,  she saw to her horror Ugly Centenerola instead! The girl was dressed in her magical finery, and her own dear daughter lay boiled like a chicken in the pot.  Centenerola went to the palace, and she and the prince were married that same day.  The stepmother could do nothing but jump into the cauldron after her daughter, and so she met a fitting end. 
Notes: This is Cox Number 34, P.210 (Cox, M.R. 1892/2010)
Spinning was an life dominating task for women for centuries. That is why the expression "to come from the distaff side" means to come from the mother's side: women were always, but always, spinning! When we understand that to make a dress, one had first to raiser either an acre of flax or a couple of sheep.  Then came the chore of harvesting the flax fibers, or shearing the sheep.  Then the linen (for that it what is made from spun flax) or the wool had to be cleaned and prepared into a tow, or bundle. And then it could be spun.  Of course this produced thread, which had to be woven into cloth! When the yardage was ready, the sewing could begin. We see why a new dress was no small request, and why Cinderella's rags were so hard to replace. 
Montessori Connection 10+  Fundamental Needs/Clothing/Spinning and Weaving.
1 Read the story and and find out what a DISTAFF AND SPINDLE are. 
2. Learn about different ways of making thread (spinning wheel, distaff and spindle; Native American methods: Clothing in the Middle Ages (Medieval World or How People Lived or The American Revolution for Kids: A History with 21 Activities (For Kids series), or The Well-Dressed Child: Children's Clothing, 1820-1940
3. Try to find a resource for raw wool, and see if you can card some.
4. Learn to spin or learn about cloth making: Navajo: Kids explore traditional arts and lifeways

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Cinderella #82 Domítíla (2000)

Her mother's spirit remained with her. McClennan, C. 

Once upon a time, in Hidalgo, Mexico, there lived a farmer.  He had a wife, and a daughter, and both were as lovely in heart as they were in face.  The girl's name was Domítíla . While her father worked the fields, her mother made sandals and belts of leather,  working exquisite designs into the surface.  One season, the family worked hard together to build a new room for their home from adobe bricks. The mother taught her little daughter as her own mother had taught her: to do "every task with care and always add a generous dash of love."  The adobe bricks were made of mud and straw, and, once the sun had baked them hard, would make a fine house. Alas, the sun did not get the chance to bake the bricks before the rains came.  They melted into mud, and the house was damp and chilly because of it.  And now Domítíla's mother took sick.  Her cough worsened, and she shivered in the damp room while she worked on a pair of sandals.  Domítíla knew that she must help her family earn money, or soon there would be no food in the house.  She went to her Papà and asked how she could help.  And that is how she found herself working in the kitchen at the mansion of the Governor of Hidalgo. The  good wages she earned there would provide well for the girl and her family.  Soon, her fine cooking skills were noted, and one night she was asked to make a special dish.  The Governor's mother was coming for Sunday dinner, and the cook asked Domítíla to "make something to please old Abuela and her grandson."  So the girl fixed one of her mother's favorite recipes.  When it was served, the Governor's oldest son scowled and said, " I have never seen anything like this before.  Call in the cook!" So she was brought upstairs.  Now the young man shouted at her," What is on this platter?" When Domítíla told him the name of the dish, nopales, he raged. " Nopales?  You call nopales a prized food? They are nothing but prickly, dusty desert weeds!"  But the young man's grandmother scolded him for his bad manners, and insisted that he try a bite.  Timoteo, for that was his name, took up a bit of the cactus on his fork, just to keep the peace. ¡That's when he tasted their delicious flavor! Now he said, " This weed has been turned into a delicacy.  What is your secret?"  And the young cook answered, " I do not have a secret, Señor.  I cook the way my mother taught me." Domítíla went to bed happy that night, but her happiness was not to last.  She was woken in the dark of night by a servant, with a message that she must return home as quickly as she could.  Her Mamá was not better, but worse.  Though she ran as fast as she could, all the way home, she saw her father's sorrow written on his face from afar.  Her beloved Mamá was dead.  Now she went into her mother's empty room and sat down to pray. "Through her grief, Domítíla felt a warm presence.  Looking up, she blinked her eyes, then blinked again.  There before her appeared her mother's spirit.  'I will always be with you, my child, and remember what my mother told me, and her mother told her. Do every task with care, and always add a generous dash of love."  The spirit spoke these words to her, and then faded from sight. Back at the mansion, Timoteo was looking forward to a delicious breakfast.  But when he took the first bite, he nearly choked.  ¡This food had not been prepared by the same hands as the wonderful nopales! He called for the cook and when she came, he did not know if she was the one from the night before or not.  So many cooks worked at the mansion, and he had never before bothered to try and keep track of their names.  This one said she was Third Cook, and that Second Cook, who had prepared his supper, had left during the night.  In such a hurry too, said she, that she lost a strap of her sandal.  She drew it forth and Timoteo looked on it awe.  " Its surface was finely carved and the design was a chorus of flowing strokes.  'Can this be the work of that girl?' he murmured."  Now Timoteo demanded to know where this amazing girl lived.  Third Cook could only say, " I do not know, Señor.  All she mentioned was a ranch, somewhere in Hidalgo far away from here."  He called for his horse to be saddled, and went to tell his father that he was leaving to seek the woman.  Now Abuela came forward again, and handed him "a delicately embroidered silk shawl from her shoulders. 'This mantón has been in our family for generations.  If you must go, take it, and know that my love goes with you."  He thanked his abuelita and rode away.  He chose to go west.  Unfortunately, Domítíla had gone to the east.  As he rode across the country, he asked as he passed each farm if the people knew of a girl who cooked nopales and worked leather very skillfully. Many people had heard of her, but no one knew which direction her home lay.  At last a woman offered to help. She gave Timoteo very clear directions — that were guaranteed to get him lost and take him as far from Domítíla's home as could be.  This woman, was a beggar, with nothing of her own. Her  name was Malvina, and she had the idea that her own daughter could marry this Governor's son.  She called her lazy girl now, and made her get up from napping under a tree.  Her girl was a good-for-nothing, just like her mother.  Now wicked Malvina told the girl that she had a plan. The two of them would go into town, and the daughter would cry at people's front doors, asking for food.  While this kept the family busy, Malvina would go around the back and steal crops from their garden, or perhaps even a chicken and some eggs. So this was just what they did.  And when they had gathered their supplies, those two thieves went in search of Domítíla's house.  They knew that they would find her father there, lonely, and perhaps, willing to take them on as wife and daughter.  Poor Papá! He was lonely, and hungry too.  When he and Domítíla came home from the fields and found a meal upon the table, he fell instantly in love with she who had provided it.  And now Domítíla's life became truly miserable.  That woman and her daughter ordered her about in her own home, and gobbled up most of what little food came from the farm.  All summer and into the fal Timoteo wandered in his search for the cook.  One day, when he was especially discouraged, he heard music.  And then he smelled something, an scent he had thought never to smell again! It was nopales, and he followed their delicious fragrance.  Malvina had not anticipated this turn of events. The man came to a village square where a celebration was in place.  In answer to his queries, the folks told him that the nopales were cooked by a young leather worker, by the name of Domítíla. The girl was not at the celebration, they said, as she was visiting her mother's grave.  They pointed the way to the cemetery, and Timoteo went there straight away. And there he saw a beautiful young girl, wearing a pair of sandals whose design matched the strap he had saved.  He spoke gently to her, and explained why he had come.  Realizing that he must be hungry, she "untied her scarf and took out a tortilla filled wtih her delicious nopales." As he ate, Timoteo came to realize that the special ingredient in the food was love itself: the love that the girl's mother had shown for her child was a part of everything this young woman now did. He asked her to become his wife, and she agreed.  They were married, and before long, he became Governor of Hidalgo.  " The kind ways his wife had taught him brought prosperity and good will to all the citizens of the land.  The wicked Malvina" and her lazy daughter fled in shame, but Domítíla's good father moved into the mansion and lived with them in peace and comfort.  And when Timoteo's house was filled with children, he bounced them and played with them, and his loving wife taught them to "do every task with care, and never, ever forget to add a generous dash of love."  From Domítíla: A Cinderella Tale from the Mexican Tradition (Coburn, J.R., 2000.Auburn, California: Shen's Books 
Notes: This has some very classic Cinderella elements, including the fact that the young girl goes into service in the kitchen of a wealthy man. He would be a king and the mansion would be a castle in a European version.  Here we have a shoe as well that is the clue the young man follows.  And as in some of the English, German and Italian stories,  it is a special dish cooked by the girl that entices her groom-to-be to find her.  The stepmother and daughter are thieves and boss the girl around, but at least they do not do her any violence. 
Montessori Connection Ages 6-12 Fundamental Needs of People/Food/Mexican Cooking/Nopales
1. Read the story and notice how important food is in the tale. 
2. Notice who has plenty of food, and who has none.
3. Learn about how the place a person lived in previous times could limit their choices on what there was available to eat. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Cinderella #81 The Turkey Girl (1948)

The turkeys spread their wide wings
and fluttered away. (N.C.Wyeth)

Once upon a time, in Matsaki, New Mexico, there lived “ many rich Indians who owned large flocks of Turkeys.  The poor people of the town herded them on the mesas, or on the plains around Thunder Mountain, at the foot of which Matsaki stood.”  One of the turkey-herders was a girl who lived all by herself “in a little tumble-down hut. Her clothes were patched and ragged; and though she had a winning face and bright eyes, she was shameful to behold because her hair was uncombed, and her face dirty.”  She earned scarcely enough to keep herself in rags and feed herself on crumbs.  But she loved her turkeys, and sand to them each day as she drove them to the mesa.  They always came to her when she called them.  One day as the girl and her birds passed through the town, “she heard a man, who was standing upon a housetop, invite all the people of Zuñi and the other towns to come to a great dance.” This poor child had never in her life been allowed even to watch one of the great dances.  How she longed to go to this one! She continued on her path until she was all alone on the mesa with her turkeys, and then she said aloud, “Alas! How could a girl so ugly and ill-clad as I am watch, and much less join in, the Great Dance?’ Then she drove her Turkeys to the plain and when night came, returned them to their cage on the edge of town.”  Now, every day for the next three days this girl watched all of the people of her town make ready for the celebration.  They stitched and mended clothing, oiled and cleaned shoes, and polished all of their silver jewelry.  The girl mumbled aloud on the mesas about her desire to go so many times that the turkeys started listening to her.   Although she never imagined that they understood her, in fact they did.  On the day of the dance, when the girl was the only person left in the empty town, “ a big Gobbler strutted up to her.  He made a fan of his tail, and skirts of his wings, and blushing with pride and puffing with importance he stretched out his neck and said: ‘Oh Maiden Mother, we know what your thoughts are like and truly pity you.  We wish that, like the other people of Matsaki, you might enjoy the great dance.  Last night, after you had placed us safely and comfortably in our cage, we said to ourselves, ‘Our Maiden Mother is just as worthy to enjoy the dance as any maiden of Matsaki or Zuñi.  So now. listen, Maiden Mother,’ continued the old Gobbler,’ Would you like to go to the dance, and be merry with the best of your people? If you will drive us home early this afternoon, when the dance is most gay and the people are most happy, we will make you so handsome and dress you so prettily that no one will know you.  And the young men will wonder whence you came, and lay hold of your hand in the dance.” Now, the turkey girl was only a little surprised that her turkeys could speak and understand what she said as well. She answered the Gobbler, “ My beloved Turkeys, how glad I am that we may speak together! But why should you promise me things that I know I cannot have?”  And the bird told her to take them back to their home, and they would show her what they could do for her.  But the big turkey added, “Only let me tell you one thing. If you remain kind and true of heart, no one knows what happiness and good fortune may come to you.  But, if you forget us, your friends, and do not return to us before sunset, then we will think,’Behold! Our Maiden Mother deserves all her poverty and hard life, for when good fortune came, she forgot her friends and was ungrateful.’  ‘Never fear, my turkeys!’ cried the girl, ‘Never fear!  Whatever you tell me to do, I will do. I will be as obedient as you have always been to me.”  So that day, just past noon, the turkeys marched back to their cage on the edge of town, and invited the turkey girl to come inside with them.  She took off her rags and laid them on the floor as they told her to, and the big gobbler, “ picked and picked at it, and trod upon it.  Lowering his wings, he began to strut back and forth upon it.  Next, taking it up in his beak, he puffed and puffed and laid it down at the feet of the girl—a beautiful white, embroidered mantle!” Each piece of her clothing she laid out, and each one the birds strutted and pecked over until “each garment was made into a new and beautiful thing as that worn by any maiden of Matsaki.  Before the girl put these things on, the Turkeys circled about her, singing and brushing her with their wings, until she was clean, and her skin as smooth and bright as any maiden of Matsaki.”  When she was dressed, the oldest turkey asked her to wait a moment, and then “ spreading his wings, he trod round and round, throwing his head back, and laying his wattled beard upon his neck.  By and by he began to cough, and he produced in his beak a beautiful necklace.  And one by one, the other Gobblers did the same thing, and coughed up earrings and all the ornaments befitting a well-clad maiden, and laid them at the feet of the poor Turkey girl.” Now she was ready to go to the dance.  But the turkeys bade her leave their gate open, in case, after all, she broke her word and forgot them.  “I will surely remember you, my Turkeys!” she said, and ran towards Old Zuñi. When she arrived at the dance, everyone wondered who the mysterious girl in the rich attire could be.  All of the Chiefs hosting the dance came and invited her to join the dancing, and “with a blush and a smile and a toss of her hair over her eyes, the girl stepped into the circle, and the finest youths among the dancers sought to lay hold of her hand.” And so she danced on and on.  The afternoon passed, and she thought to herself that she would stay just a bit longer, such fun was it to dance and be beautiful.  The sun began to set, and still the girl could not tear herself away from the merriment.  And then the sky darkened, and she remembered the promise she had made to her turkeys.  She fled from the Chiefs, thumping along the path towards the town.  But her turkeys “began to wonder and wonder that their maiden did not return to them.  And when the Sun had set, the old Gobbler mournfully said,'Alas! It is as we might have known! She  has forgotten us! So she is not worthy of better things than those she has been used to! Let us go to the mountains, and endure captivity no longer since our maiden mother is not so good and true as we once thought of her.'  So, gobbling and calling to one another, and gobbling, gobbling, in a loud voice, they trooped out of their cage, and ran through the cañon, and around Thunder Mountain, and up the valley."  When the turkey girl got back to their cage and found it empty, she ran as fast as she could along the trail.  She could see her flock in the distance.  Now she was almost caught up to them, and she could hear their sad singing, " Oh, our Maiden Mother whom we loved so well, to the dance went today!  Therefore, as she lingers near the cañon mesa, we'll all run away!" And the more the girl called after them, the faster they trotted.  Finally, they spread their wings and "fluttered away over the plain above.  As for the girl, she looked down at her garments, and lo, they were changed again rags and patches and dirt! And she was the same poor Turkey girl that she had been before.  Weary and weeping, and very much ashamed, she returned to Matsaki." 
From Anthology of Children's Literature (1935/1948) Johnson, Scott & Sickels. 
Illustration from N.C.Wyeth's Pilgrims (San Souci, R. 1991)
Notes: The book that this was taken from is illustrated by N.C. Wyeth, though this picture is not from that book. This is a very sad story, one of the few Cinderellas that does not have a happy ending.  Perhaps this one was told to children out of a different kind of love, the kind that reminds them that there really are consequences for going back on your word. 
Montessori Connection Ages 6-12: American History/American Indians/New Mexico OR Artists/N.C.Wyeth
1. Read this story again, and pay attention to what the turkey girl promises, and what she actually does. 
2. Think about whether the ending seems fair to you. 
4. Learn more about the art of N.C. Wyeth: Rip Van Winkle (Illustrated Stories for Children) orN. C. Wyeth: A Biography.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cinderella #80 Chickarella (2005)

A glass egg! ( Auch, M.J. & H.)

Once upon a time, in a chicken coop, lived a little peep called Chickarella.  She “had a wonderful childhood until one night when a fox got into the coop and carried off her mother." Daddy Rooster did his best to console his chick, and worked hard being a single dad.  But one day, a lady chicken from a neighboring farm arrived, with her own two daughters.  It was love at first sight for Chickarella’s dad, and as for the chick, she was “eggcited to have a new family.” To show her happiness she hand made a dress for each of her new stepsisters.  Alas, those girls were not worthy of her gifts!  Soon Daddy Rooster was called away “on a wild goose chase”, and the moment he was gone, things changed around the home coop.  Step-Hen made Chickarella giver her daughters ALL of her clothes! Plus she rearranged all the furniture.  Worst of all, Chickarella got “locked in the springhouse every night.” Here she had nothing to eat but the bugs off the walls, and nothing to drink but the “crystal clear water that bubbled up through its floor.”  Though she was forced to cook and clean for her stepfamily each day, she was not allowed to eat with them.  Bugs and crystal clear water was all she got.  Strangely, it seemed to be a very healthy diet, because her egg-laying output increased.  Strangest of all, she began laying eggs with shells “of pure glass”. Soon there came a day when Ovumelda and Cholestera, her sisters, were clucking with the news that the prince was inviting all the pullets to his”Fowl Ball”.  Here, he would choose a bride.  Chickarella begged to be allowed to go — if only to peek at the fine hens—but her stepmother cackled and jeered at her.  Then she made her get busy sewing new dresses for the stepsisters.  This was so “eggsasperating” because they kept on making her change the details.  Finally the big night arrived.  Of course, Chickarella got locked in the springhouse before the haughty hens left for the ball.  She fell asleep, but in the middle of the night the walls “fizzed with sparkles” and she saw an amazing sight: an old goose dresed in a gown the color of the night sky, carrying a magic wand. “Yikes! Who are you?’ the chick asked.  “What, you’ve never read  a fairy tale? I’m your Fairy Goosemother. I’ve been watching your stepmother run you ragged.  Why don’tcha speak up?” Well, Chickarella said, she was sure her dad would take care of it all.  When he got back that is. But the Goose fairy told her, “Don’t wait for someone else to fix things, dearie. You  take charge. “ And she asked about the beautiful glass eggs she saw nestled in the straw.  Now Chickarella confessed to her desire to go to the ball, and her Fairy Goosemother waved her wand over the sewing machine, and Chickarella was clothed in a shimmering gown of sky blue.  “Now I remember! You’ll turn a pumpkin into a coach!” she exclaimed, and her Goosemother surprised her again. “ I don’t do transportation, dearie. I’ll call a cab, but at midnight the cabbie goes off duty and the snazzy outfit goes poof!”  So Chickarella made it to the ball after all.  She sure got an eyeful of party frocks when she got there! And “the prince was charmed by the eqqsquisite stranger” and insisted that she dance exclusively with him.  Suddenly, the clock began to strike the midnight hour! Chickarella ran for it — and would you believe that just as she was running down the stairs, “ she felt an egg coming on. ‘I can’t stop to lay an egg!” she said to herself. But ‘there’s no holding back an egg on its way, especially a slippery glass one.” The egg popped out, the chick ran away, the clock struck twelve....and Chickarella had to run home “cluck naked”!  Of course, the prince came looking for his enchanted chick.  He sent a messenger around yelling, “Hear ye, hear ye! The prince seeks the mysterious hen he met at the fowl ball. The only clue she left is this egg. All single hens, please present your eggs.”  So they all did, and Cholestera bragged about the size of her yolks, and the stepmother made sure that Chickarella was locked up tight in the springhouse. She squawked, but no one could hear her.  So she laid a glass egg, and held it up, just as the prince passed her window! So the stepmother had to let her out.  Then she told the prince that he must be crazy to marry her servant. But the prince said he wasn’t interested in finding a girl to marry anyway! All he had wanted was to see the dresses he knew the gals would wear. OMG! That was “eggsactly” what Chickeralla had most enjoyed at the Fowl Ball too! The prince told her, “Your costume was eggcellent, my dear.’ ‘Thanks, Highness. I’m really into fashion.’ There was a burst of sparkles. ‘Fahsion? Did I hear fashion?’ Now the Fairy Goosemother appeared, and when she heard that the prince designed shoes she knew there was a business opportunity in it for her.  With Chickarella’s dresses, the Goosemother’s “eggsessories” and the prince’s footwear, they launched a label. “Their first show in New Yolk was an eggstravaganza. And together, three friends worked happily ever after.” 
Chickarella (2005) by Mary Jane and Herm Auch. New York: Holiday House
Notes: This book features chicken models, dressed in real clothing and photographed. So much fun! 
Montessori Connection 6-9: Zoology/Aves/Gallus domesticus/chickens
1. Read the book and have a good laugh.
2. Learn about real chickens and how to raise them for fresh eggs at home:4-H Guide to Raising Chickens
9-12: Read stories and learn what "chicken soup for the soul" means:Chicken Soup for the Kid's Soul: 101 Stories of Courage, Hope and Laughter (Chicken Soup for the Soul).