Robin Redbreast

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

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Cinderella #59 Pleiad and Star of Dawn (1966)

Illustrated by Toothill, H.

Once upon a time, in Greece,  “long ago, in the shining years of silver, there lived a King and a Queen who had an only daughter called Pleiad. She was as fair as the sun, the golden apple of her father’s eye.  But one sad day, Pleiad’s mother fell ill and died, and afterwards the King married a second wife, a blue-eyed witch.  The new Queen had a son of her own; his name was Star of Dawn, and he and Pleiad used to play together and run laughing through the palace gardens, under the tall poplar trees.”  But the Witch-Queen hated Pleiad, and schemed to discard her.  She began complaining to her husband about the girls’ laziness, and suggested they could get a good price for her in the slave-market. At first he was shocked but his wife kept up her evil work.  Before long  however, she had convinced the man that “Pleiad, who was once the golden apple of his eye, should be sent to the slave-market to be sold.”  And now the Queen began to groom her stepdaughter for sale. “She called Pleiad to her and gave her plates of nuts and purple figs and rose-scented confections to eat. ‘Take your fill, my child.” the evil witch crooned.  Her own son, Star of Dawn, was aghast when he overheard the plot against his playmate.  “When darkness fell, he crept out of the palace and made his way to a cave on the hillside where a Wise Woman lived. ‘Tell me how I may save my sister Pleiad,’ he begged. ‘ The Wise Woman was very old.  Her face was wrinkled with many years; her eyes were dim with age.  ‘This is what you must do to save your sister, Pleiad,’ she told Star of Dawn.  ‘Tomorrow, your mother will call Pleiad to her, to dress her hair in readiness for the slave-market.  You must run up and snatch the comb and ribbons from her hand, seize hold of Pleiad, and then the two of you must flee away from your mother as fast as you can.  She will run after you; as soon as she begins to catch up with you, throw the comb behind you.  If she catches up with you again, throw down the ribbons.  And if she catches up with you a third time, throw down this little twist of paper.’ —and the Wise Woman gave Star of Dawn a twist of paper with a few grains of salt inside it.   The Wise Woman spoke truly, because the next morning, all happened just as she had foretold.  The witch called for Pleiad and began to comb her hair.  That’s when Star of Dawn snatched the comb from her hands, pulled his stepsister after him, and fled. “ Then, what did that wicked witch, Pleiad’s cruel stepmother do?  Why, she sprang to her feet and and ran after them faster than the four winds of heaven. “  So Star of Dawn threw the comb.  “Lo! As soon as the comb touched the ground, each of its teeth became a thorny tree, and the Queen found herself entangled in a gloomy wood”.  Now when Pleiad looked behind them, she saw the witch struggle free. She was gaining on them!   Star of Dawn threw the ribbons. “Lo! They were transformed into a boundless plain that the Queen must cross before she could catch up with them. “  But she was running very quickly.  Closer and closer she came, and now Star of Dawn threw the twisted paper. “ Lo! A vast lake with deep, salty waters spread out and covered all the ground behind them.  This time the Queen could not catch them up again: the waters closed over her head, and she was drowned.”  Sister and brother rejoiced.  Pleiad thanked Star of Dawn gratefully for saving her from the slave-market.  But Star of Dawn was so thirsty from running.  He simply must find water to drink.  There was not so much as a spring or a stream as far as they could see.  But Star of Dawn spied a little water, pooled in the footprint of a calf.  He bent to drink of it, but Pleiad said, “ No brother! Do not drink.  If you do, you will be turned into a calf!” So they walked on.  Now Star of Dawn found a tiny pool of water, this time in the footprint of a lamb.  So great was his thirst that no matter the warning his sister cried out, he would not heed her.  As she cried, “ No, brother, you must not drink!” he  did that very thing.  Instantly, “he was turned into a little lamb with a curly, snow-white fleece.  ‘Oh, my poor brother! Alas! Alas!’ Pleiad lamented.  As for Star of Dawn, what could he do now but bleat mournfully?” So the two walked on.  At long last, they came to  a clear pool of water with fresh green grass and cypress trees all round it.  Pleiad drank her fill and the little lamb grazed hungrily.  Now the girl climbed into a tree for a rest.  It happened that the Prince who owned this land was passing by, and his horses required a drink.  So the prince sent them along with his groom to the water’s edge.  The horses snorted and switched their tails.  When the groom bent over to see what in the water was upsetting them, he saw the reflection of lovely Pleiad in the tree.  He called for his prince to come, telling him,  “A beautiful water nymph gazed up at me! ‘  Then the prince himself came to the pool.   The moment he spied Pleiad’s lovely face reflected in the water, he fell in love with her.  But the prince was no simpleton; he looked up into the cypress tree and spied Pleiad sitting there. ‘Oh, maiden golden as the sun! A thousand times fair! Come down to live with me in my palace! ‘ he called to her. ‘You shall be my wife.’  Pleiad looked down upon the Prince, and saw he was a handsome youth.  So she stepped down from the cypress-tree and gave him her hand.  ‘I will come to your palace and marry you on one condition,’ she told him. ‘My little lamb must come as well.  Every night he must sleep beneath your roof, and every day he must graze the sweetest grass in the palace garden.”  The Prince agreed to this, and they were married.  For awhile, all was well.  But the prince’s mother was a jealous woman, and one day, when she was walking in the garden with her daughter-in-law, “ she gave Pleiad a push so that she fell into a reed-fringed pool and disappeared beneath the water. ‘That’s the end of you, my beauty!’ the Prince’s mother thought gleefully."  Later, when the Prince had looked everywhere for his beloved, he asked the Queen if she knew where the girl was. “ How should I know?” said the Queen, and shrugged her shoulders.  Now the lamb began to bleat, running in circles around the pond.  The sound of its crying was more than the Queen could bear: she ordered it killed to stop the sound. But just as the servant set the knife to its throat, it called out its sister’s name.  Now Pleiad rose to the surface of the pond, and the Prince rejoiced.  Pleiad screamed that the lamb was her brother and must not be killed, but it was too late.  The little animal was dead.  “Now we shall have a good feast!” said the Queen, and “ cooked the lamb with fragrant rosemary, and all the household sat down to join in the feast. “  Pleiad would not taste the meat.  When the feasting was done, she gathered the lamb’s poor bones and carried them to a corner of the garden.  There she mourned her brother, and her tears rolled over the mound of bones.  “In the morning, what do you think had happened?  An orange tree had sprung up at that very place.  It bore a single orange amongst its sweet-smelling leaves” and the sight of it drove the Queen into a frenzy.  She must have that orange!  Yet when she called her son to pick it, the tree yanked its fruit high out of reach, and struck out towards the Queen with its branches.  Now Pleiad came forward, and instantly, the tree lowered its branches.  As the girl grasped the orange, she heard her brother’s voice say, “ Pleiad! Hold me tightly.’  Then the branch grew higher and higher, reaching up into the blue sky; and still Pleiad clasped the golden orange, soaring upward with the brach until the ground lay far, far below her. “  In the garden, the Prince and his mother could only watch.  From far above the earth, Pleiad called to her husband, “ Good-bye, my husband, my dear Prince! I must leave you; there is no room for me in your world below.  I escaped from a wicked stepmother only to fall into the clutches of a wicked mother-in-law.  No I am to live with my beloved brother, far above the troubles of the earth.”  To this day they are there in the sky, where they “became shining stars, the Star of Dawn and the Pleiad.  On a clear night, you too may see them there, shining through the dark. 
From Wilson, B.K. (1966). Greek Fairy Tales. Chicago: Follet Publishing Co.Greek fairy tales, (World fairy tale collections) Also try:
Notes: According to Cox, M.R. (1892/2010), this is one of the ancient sources from which the Cinderella story sprung.  We find the girl paired with a brother for the first time here, and it is this brotherly love that Star of Dawn shows that proves stronger than the love of the prince.  Again we have magic bones, as in Yeh-Shen and Abadeha, and again we have a tree watered with tears, as in Grimm's Ashputtle.  The orange appears here growing on a tree, rather than as a tasty morsel given by the prince to Cinderella and shared with her sisters, as in Perrault. 
Montessori Connection: 6-12 History/Western Civilization/Greece/Greek Mythology/Astrology
1. Find Greece on a map or globe.
2. Learn about Greek culture by laying out the Fundamental Needs cards.
3. Read the Greek myths.

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