Robin Redbreast

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

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Cinderella #75 The Tale of the Silver Saucer and the Transparent Apple (1916)

A beautiful apple growing on a tree.
Note: Contains violence. Once upon a time, in the vicinity of Nijni Novgorod, there lived a merchant with three daughters.  His wife had died, so the girls were left to look after themselves.  They were all pretty to look at, but the older two were spiteful and cruel.  They made their littlest do all the hardest work “while they did nothing but look at themselves in the looking glass and complain of what they had to eat.”  The youngest girl was patient and hardworking, as well as lovely to behold.  For this reason, her sisters called her LIttle Stupid.  The time of year came for the merchant to travel to the fair and he asked his three daughters what each wanted as a token.  He called, “Little Pigeons, what would you like me to bring you from the fair?”  The eldest girl answered, “I’d like a necklace, but it must be a rich one.” And the middle girl said,” I want a new dress with gold hems.”  When he asked Little Stupid what she wanted, at first the child said nothing at all. After a bit, she said that if was not too much trouble what she’d really like was “A silver saucer and a transparent apple.” So her father said that he would try to find these for her.  He drove off and was gone for over a week at the fair.  One day the girls heard the jingling of his cart, and here he came back again. Before he could even dismount, the older two clamored for their gifts.  Little Stupid “helped her old father off with his coat and asked him if he was tired.”  He said that he was, from looking all over for her gifts.  He had found them too, he said, and drew out a silver saucer and a transparent apple from his bundle.  “Oh thank you Father!” says the little one. ‘And what will you do with them?’ says he.  ‘I shall spin the apple in the saucer,’ says the little pretty one, and at that the old merchant burst out laughing. ‘They don’t call you Little Stupid for nothing!’ says he.”  And the girl sat down beside the fire and begin to twirl the apple.  ‘Spin, spin, apple, in the silver saucer. Spin so that I may see the world. Let me have a peep at the little father Tzar on his high throne. Let me see the rivers and the ships and the great towns far away.”  And as she looked, the apple spun faster and faster, until it was just a blur. And deep within that blur the girl could see “ Moscow, with its white stone walls and painted chuches....there were the market at Ninji Novgorod, and the Arab merchants with their camels and the Chinese with their blue trousers and bamboo staves.”  And now her sisters crowded ‘round to see, and begged for turns to spin the apple.  Soon they begged Little Stupid to trade them her gift in exchange for the dress and the necklace, but Little Stupid refused.  That is when those wicked sisters began to plot.  They took their berry-picking baskets and invited their little sister to go picking with them.  They tempted her with the idea of sweet berry pies and the child went with them into the woods.  Those vicious, greedy girls had thought that  Little Stupid would carry the silver saucer and trasnparent apple with her wherever she went.  Now they demanded the trinkets from her, and when she said that she did not have them, but had given them to her father for safe-keeping they became enraged.  The eldest sister now drew out an ax.  “ What is it, sisters?” the little one cried, “ and why do you look at me with cruel eyes? And what is the ax for? You are not going to cut berries with an ax?”  No they were not, they said.  The ax was for something else.  Now Little Stupid knew that they meant her murder.  And now “ one caught her by the hair, and the other swung the ax, and between them they killed the little pretty one.”  They could not believe that she did not have the treasures.  Even in her death they mocked her.  But they still did not have the saucer or the apple.  Now they dug a hole and buried their sister.  When they got home, they dripped false tears and told their parents that they had lost their sister, and then had heard the wolves howling. She must have been devoured, they said.  Now “The old mother and father cried like rivers in springtime, because they had loved the little pretty one, who was called Little Stupid because she was so good.”  And those ruthless girls now begged their father for the saucer and the apple!  But he said he would keep them, in memory of his youngest child.  “So the bad ones did not gain by killing their sister.”  Winter came, and with it the heavy snows, and “the wolves came to the doors of the huts, even into the villages, and no one stirred farther than he need.”  When the snow began to melt, and the buds to open, the bird sang the new season.  Life went on, and the old people got over their loss and the sisters had the extra work of Little Stupid to do now as well as their own. One day, a shepherd passed through the village, and his sheep scattered into the forest.  He followed one little lamb to “a little birch tree, bright with new leaves, waving over a little mound of earth.”  The unusual thing was that there was “one reed all by itself” growing under the tree, along with “flowers round it, some red as the sun at dawn and others blue as the summer sky.”  The shepherd picked the reed and hollowed it out and made a flute of it. But when he blew on the flute, out came the voice of a young girl, “ Play, play, whistle-pipe. Bring happiness to my dear father and to my little mother.  I was killed —yes, my life was taken from me in the deep forest for the sake of a silver saucer, for the sake of a transparent apple.” So the shepherd took the flute into the village, and played it again, and all the people crowded around to listen.  The old merchant came and heard it, and begged to be taken to the place where the reed had grown. There, he dug up the mound under the tree, and found his sweet child, slumbering under the earth.  Now the flute sang a different song: “ Wake me, wake me, dear father, from a bitter dream, by fetching water from the well of the Tzar.” So her father set off on a journey to see the Tzar.  But the “bad ones, the two sisters, were taken, and their hands were tied, and they were shut up in prison.” The father went and saw the Tzar, who listened intently to the man’s story.  He consented that the man should take water back to wake his child, on condition that he then return with all three daughters. The Tzar also wanted to see the silver saucer and the silver apple. This, the merchant agreed to, and set off for home. When he got there, he gently dug up his daughter.  The shepherd had kept watch over her the whole time.  Now the father sprinkled “the holy water from the glass over the little girl.  And his daughterkin blushed as she lay there, and opened her eyes, and passed a hand across them as if waking from a dream.” And there was much rejoicing to see her alive again!  The merchant gathered his daughters together, the eldest two still bound, and set off for the Tzar.  The shepherd boy followed behind, and hid when they cam near to the Tzar.  The great man ordered that the murderous sisters be put to death. “ When the sun goes down their heads must come off, for they are not fit to see another day.” And then he asked Little Stupid to show him the silver saucer and the transparent apple.  The girl did, and spun them so that the Tzar could look, and he saw “ glittering towns and regiments of soldiers marching to war, and ships, and day and night, and the clear stars above the trees. “  And he reflected on these things, and asked the girl what she thought best to do about her sisters.  And the sweet natured girl asked them to beg forgiveness, which they did, so she forgave them, saying: “Let all be forgotten, and all be forgiven, and may the evil eye fall on the one who first speaks of what has been!”  The Tzar, moved by her compassionate nature, said “Little Sweet Pigeon, will you be my Tzarita, and a kind mother to Holy Russia?” The girl answered that if her father and mother did not mind, then, yes she would.  And they gave their blessing and  so the wedding party began. Such a feast it was! And everyone was happy, except for the shepherd boy.  They were married, and the little old father and mother, and the sisters, came to Moscow as well.  And “perhaps even now the Tzar, the little father —God preserve him!—is spinning the apple in the saucer, and looking at us, and thinking that it is time all little pigeons are in bed.” 
From Old Peter’s Russian Tales by Arthur Ransome. Great Britain: Thomas Nelson (Printers) Ltd, London and Edinborough. Notes: Bruno Betellheim (The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales (Vintage) )said that in fairy tales, only wishes made by adults lead to permanent bad things.  (p.71)Wishes by children, even very bad ones, like wanting that darned saucer and clear apple so bad you could kill for it....have temporary consequences. Whew! The little pretty one comes back to life! And she forgives her sisters, and life goes on.  Sometimes, life is like that.  
Montessori Connection Ages 10+ Fundamental Needs/Spiritual Needs/Religion/Morality
1. Read the story again and imagine what the silver saucer and transparent apple would look like.
2. Draw or paint pictures of them.
3. Think about what Little Stupid's sisters did to get those things. (They killed their sister.)
4. Ask your mom and dad about this story.
5. Ask your mom and dad to talk with you about MORALS, which means what a person believes is right or wrong to do in your daily life. 
6. If your family is religious, read about morals in books from home.
7. Ask your teacher about this story if you read it at school. 
8. Learn what Maria Montessori thought about children and morality. Maria Montessori: A biography for children, or Maria Montessori (People Who Have Helped the World Series)