Robin Redbreast

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

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Cinderella # 117 Hearth Cat (Portugal)

Yeh-Shen, the Chinese Cinderella,
also befriends a fish in the well.
Illustration by Young, E.

 Once upon a time, in Portugal, "there was a widower who had three daughters. The two elder girls spent their time thinking of nothing but clothes and finery, and of entertaining themselves.  All day long, they sat at the window, doing nothing.  They left the youngest to take care of the house, and cook, and do all the work.  Her sisters laughed, and called her Hearth Cat."  One day the man went fishing, and caught a beautiful little yellow fish.  When he brought it home, Hearth Cat was so taken by it that she pleaded with her father to let her keep it for a pet.  He finally agreed, and she put it in a kettle of cold water.  But that night, the fish cried out to be set free.  His cries were so piteous that Hearth Cat granted his request, and tiptoed out to put the yellow fish in the well. The next morning she went out to visit it, and as she leaned over the well she heard a voice telling her to jump in! Of course she did not do this.  The next day, and the next, and the next, however, the voice called to her, imploring her to come in.  So she did, and tumbled "all the way to the bottom, where the fish appeared, swam around her in a circle, and led her to a palace made of gold and precious stones." The fish directed her into a room, telling her that she would find all kinds of fancy clothing in it, and that she should pick herself out an outfit, with shoes.  It told her that her sisters were attending a festival, dressed in finery, and that she must go as well. The fish warned her that she must leave the celebration before her sisters did, and that it was very important to toss the clothes into the well as soon as she got home.  If she followed these instructions, it said, then a time would very soon come "when you will be as happy as you are now unhappy." Arriving at the palace, Hearth Cat felt all eyes on her, and heard murmurs of wonder at the appearance of so beautiful a stranger.  She kept an eye on her sisters, and as soon as they made ready to depart, ran ahead of them out the door.  Soon she was home — but missing one of the fish's golden slippers.  The fish did not scold her for this loss, but told her to come back the next day, alone, so that he could ask her an important question.  She agreed to this.  Unbeknownst to Hearth Cat, the king had found her shoe! He sent his heralds out with the announcement that he sought its owner, and would marry the woman who could wear it. The older sisters were a-flutter over this news, and drove Hearth Cat to distraction with their endless talk of it.  They were unkind enough to laugh when she said that she'd like to try the shoe, and told her that, if she was lucky, it would fit one of them instead.  Then, they might, they just might, buy her a dress to replace her rags.  With that, they set off for the palace.  Now alone, their little sister went out to the well to speak with the fish.  Though his yellow scales glittered in the sunshine, Hearth Cat was shocked at his request.  "Maiden, will you marry me?" asked the fish. "How can I possibly marry a fish?" cried Hearth Cat.  The fish led her to see that she must first consent and only then would she see how it might be done.  At length, she agreed. Immediately, "the fish was transformed into a handsome young man. 'Now you must know that I am a prince who was under an enchantment. ' he told her.  'I am the son of the king of this land.  I know that my father has ordered all the young women of the kingdom to come to the palace and try on the golden slipper that you dropped as you left the festival.  Go there, and when the king tells you that you must marry him, tell him that you are already promised to the prince, his son, whom you have released from his enchantment." So Hearth Cat set off for the palace. On the way, she crossed paths with her sisters.  They were in a foul temper: the little slipper had been too small for both.  They mocked her now, saying,"You should be ashamed of yourself, Hearth Cat. Go and show your dainty kitchen-maid's foot if you want.  Everyone will laugh at you." But she went on anyway.  The king's guards, seeing a dirty, ragged girl heading toward the gates, held her back.  But the king saw her and motioned to them to let her advance.  When she reached the front of the line, she slipped her foot into the slipper as easily as a fish slides into the water.  He was overjoyed, and proposed that she become his queen. But "very respectfully, she told him that it could not be, for she was already promised to his majesty's son the prince, who had been spellbound long ago." So the king sent a party to the well at Hearth Cat's home, and brought the prince back home.  He and the girl in the golden slipper were married, and there was jubilation in the kingdom.  As for Hearth Cat's sisters, "they remained at home, filled with jealousy and bitterness."
From The Oryx Multicultural Folktale Series, p. 61
Cinderella (The Oryx Multicultural Folktale Series) Notes: This is a nice twist on the animal helper, as the fish actually becomes the prince. It is interesting to see the fish motif, so common in Asia, here in a Portuguese story. 
Montessori Connection: Language/Vocabulary: spells, spellbound, chanting, enchantment.
1. Read the story and see if you can figure out what the words spellbound and enchantment mean. 
2. Learn that the word spell has several meanings.  One of them is using letters to write words, and many children have tests on this at school, called spelling tests. Another meaning of the word spell  is a period of time, as when someone invites you to "Sit a spell with me, and chat." The kind of spell found in fairy tales is a magic spell.  Usually this is a short rhyme which a witch says out loud, causing the person affected to transform into an animal, or something else. 
3. Learn that the word chant means to speak or sing words in a pattern, kind of like a song. 
4. Learn that when witches, wizards, and fairies chant, they are often casting spells, or enchanting someone! 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Cinderella #116 La Cenerentola An Opera by Giaochino Rossini (1817)

Elizabeth Inverarity, age 17, as Cinderella,
Covent Garden, London. 1831

Once upon a time, there lived a little boy named Giaochino. 
He grew up to compose operas, including Elisabetta, regina d'Inghlaterra, Torvaldo e Dorliska, and one called La Cenerentola. It was performed for the first time at the Teatro Valle Theater in Rome, Italy, on January 25, 1817. 
ACT ONE Scene One: The Baron's Mansion
Introduction: Clorinda, Tisbe,(the stepsisters), Cinderella, also known as Angelina, Don Magnifico, the Baron and Cinderella's stepfather, and  Alidoro, the prince's tutor. 
inderella's various stepsisters are seen trying on trying on some head-gear and practising a dance step.
Tisbe and Clorinda: C'No, no, no, no; there's none, there's none, None can dance a step so well, None can dance a step so well!'
They reprimand Cinderella for singing to herself her favorite song about a king who chooses a true-hearted bride rather than a rich or a beautiful one." 
Cinderella: "Long ago there lived a king 
who grew weary of a lonely, single life. 
All around he sought a wife, but there were three
who claimed the ring..."
Meanwhile, Don Ramiro, prince of Salerno, is scheming with his tutor, Alidoro, and his valet, Dandini.  A plot is laid whereby Alidoro will disguise himself as a beggar in order to see how the three sisters react. 
All: Who is there, at the door?
Alidoro:Noble ladies, I am poor.  Do not turn me from your door.
Clorinda, Tisbe: Off you beggar, go away! 
Cinderella: Here's some bread that I've been baking, More I'll gladly see you taking...
The Baron's servants and courtiers are excited by the news that has come, of a feast at the palace, just a half mile away.
Courtiers: Our Prince Ramiro will soon be here, and to his palace he'll bid you come, to dance and sup with royal cheer, then from the company he'll pick the fairest one.  Yes she, the rarest one, shall be his bride. 
Meanwhile, Prince Ramiro has plans of his own.
Ramiro: The place is deserted. Hello there!  Can no-one hear me? Unsuspected, in disguise as a servant, the ladies I shall observe.  Is no-one coming?  
RECITATIVE: Alidoro, Cinderella 
"Left behind with Cinderella, Alidora gently surprises her.  He will bring her to the ball and supply her costume and jewels." 
ACT ONE Scene Two: The Prince's Palace
"Don Magnifico has amazed the courtiers by his drinking capacity, in token of which he is to be made the prince's steward.  He dictates — while the courtiers write it down — an absurd proclamation against mixing wine with water. In another room, Prince Ramiro and Dandini  meet in haste.  Dandini, still dressed as the prince, and pursued by the stepsisters, snatches a word with Ramiro to warn him of how odious the girls are. "
ACT TWO Scene One: The Prince's Palace. Recitative and aria: Don Magnifico, Tisbe, Clorinda. 
Ramiro: This lovely unknown lady has a curious resemblance to that poor servant, the girl I saw this morningAnd now this unknown lady haunts my mind like a vision.  I think Dandini is in love with her himself. Her her comes. I'll hide myself and see what happens.
 Dandini, disguised as the prince, now enters, finds Cinderella at work.
Dandini: I've been pacing up and down waiting to see you.
Cinderella: I am honored, Your Highness, but please excuse me.
Dandini: But why? I bring my devotion and you act as if I'd hit you.
Cinderella: But if my heart were already given?
Dandini questions her, and she confesses that she has fallen in love with his servant, who is really the prince. Meanwhile, Ramiro overhears all, as Cinderella insists that she prefers to marry the one she loves, though he be only a servant and not the prince. 
Finally, Cinderella says: Take this bracelet, you'll recognize me when you find its companion.  On that day, if you still love me, I'm your forever! 
Meanwhile, "The baron and his daughters review the situation. [The unexpected appearance of a beautiful, unknown princess, i. e. Cinderella.] Upset as they are by the appearance of the unknown beauty, they are still confident of capturing the prince." 
ACT TWO Scene Two: 
RECITATIVE, SCENA AND ARIA: Tisbe, Clorinda, Ramiro, Dandini, Cinderella, Alidoro, Courtier. 
"Dandini, still acting as Prince Ramiro, has himself been smitten by Cinderella's charms.  But she turns his compliments aside" because she has loves Ramiro.
Cinderella/Ramiro: [singing together, yet each unaware of the other's idenitiy] He/She is delightful, he/she is enchanting. All my senses now beguiling, ah how sweetly he/she is smiling...
Now Alidoro and Ramiro discuss the situation and Ramiro takes action.
Ramiro: You shall be prince no longer. I'm grateful to you, but now the joke is over. Come in attendants, Give orders to the coachman In a few minutes, I'll set out on my search and find my treasure....This golden bracelet she gave me, how dearly I prize...but brighter than all its glitter, the light that's in her eyes.
Chorus: Oh, what change is on him, it takes us by surprise!
Alidoro: The night is drawing on now, that makes my plan still easier.  I'll arrange that the Prince's coach breaks down just outside the Baron's house.  'Tis perfect.  He will go in for shelter, and there he will find her. 
So: "The royal carriage has broken down. Dandini, as part of the prince's escort, stumbles into the nearest house — not realizing, for a moment, that it is the baron's. But then, still playing the part of the prince, tells the Baron that "all has been decided" and sets him up for the big surprise.
Now, "the stepsisters realize the game is up.  Alidoro enters and reveals that he was "the beggar" whom they repulsed and Cinderella pitied. " Prince Ramiro has identified Cinderella by means of the bracelet, she has recognized him because he has the matching one.  They are giddy with love;  Don Magnifo and his daughters are shocked and outrages. And "the baron's property will have to be sold, as he has squandered Cinderella's dowry.  He and his daughters will be impoverished unless they beg Cinderella's pardon." 
ACT TWO Scene Three: A Room With a Throne
Chorus, Scena and Rondo-Finale: Cinderella, Courtiers, Ramiro
"Fortune's wheel has turned as the chorus of courtiers proclaim, assembling to welcome their new princess. All are to witness the "the triumph of goodness."...The Baron and his daughters have by this time all realized the prudence of apology.  Cinderella asks her consort to allow her the royal privilege of  'revenge'— but her revenge is to pardon them. The final item of the opera now follows.  It is a long, brilliant aria with chorus — that is, with the unified support of all the other characters as well as the chorus proper. Starting as a simple, catchy tune, it proceeds to elaborate vocal variations with choral accompaniment. 
 English National Opera Guide(1980)Libretto, La Cenerentola (Cinderella)
Notes: The title of this opera is very similar to an early Italian Cinderella story contained in Giambattista Basile's Il Pentamerone.  That story is called La Gatta Cenerentola, or Hearth Cat.  There is yet another story called Hearth Cat from Portugal. In any case, the plot here is significantly different from either the Perrault version, or the Grimm Brothers.  Rossini did borrow a very common motif from the Catskin variant of Cinderella, which he would likely have been familiar with.  That is the use of a ring as the token of recognition.  Here it is a bracelet; in most such stories it is a finger ring and is either slipped secretly onto Cinderella's finger while she dances with the prince, or she herself deliberately puts it into his soup. 
Montessori Connection: Italian Opera/Rossini
1. Read this summary to help understand the plot of Rossini's La Cenerentola.
2. Listen to the opera or watch a DVD of it: Rossini: La CenerentolaRossini - La Cenerentola / Campanella, Bartoli, Dara, Rossini - La Cenerentola / Bartoli, Dara, Matteuzzi, Corbelli, Pertusi, ChaillyHouston Grand Opera [VHS]

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cinderella #115 Cendrillon, ou La petite pantoufle de verre (Perrault, 1697,

Cendrillon or The Little Glass Slipper
Illustration from the
Puppet Storybook Cinderella
Grossett & Dunlap
Once upon a time, in France, there was a merchant who married for the second time a wife, "the proudest and most haughty woman you have ever seen."  These girls were exactly like their mother in all ways.  The merchant also had a daughter, and she was a model of "unparalleled goodness and sweetness of temper", a trait which she most certainly did not inherit from her father. Shortly after the wedding was celebrated, the merchant went on a voyage.  In his absence, the stepmother put his daughter to work at the meanest tasks.  "The poor girl bore all patiently and dared not tell her father, who would have rattled her off; for his wife governed him entirely." They made her work all day and at night, having nowhere else to sit, she set herself down among the cinders.  Because of this, she was "commonly called Cinderwench; but the youngest, who was not so rude and uncivil as the eldest, called her Cinderella." Life went on for some time in this vein.  Then "it happened that the King's son gave a ball, and invited all persons of fashion to it.  Our young missus were also invited, for they cut a very grand figure among the quality."  They kept their young stepsister busy for two days with preparations.  "For my part,' said the eldest, 'I will wear my red velvet suit with French trimming.'  'And I,'said the youngest, 'shall have my usual petticoat; but then to make amends for that I will put on my gold-flowered manteau and my diamond stomacher, which is far from being the most ordinary one in the world."   Of course they made Cinderella help them with their makeup and their hair.  And "anyone but Cinderella would have dressed their heads awry, but she was very good and dressed them perfectly well.  They were almost two days without eating, so much were they transported with joy."  At long last they were ready, and the time for departure came.  Left alone, Cinderella released the tears she had held in for so long.  That's when she heard a voice saying,' Thou wishest thou couldst go to the ball; is it not so?' 'Well,' said her godmother, who was a fairy,' be but a good girl and I will contrive that thou shalt go.'  Then she took her into her chamber and said to her,' Run into the garden, and bring me a pumpkin."  So Cinderella did this. Next the fairy asked for and was given, " six mice, all alive, and ordered Cinderella to lift up the trap door, when, giving each mouse as it went out a little tap with her wand, the mouse was immediately turned into a fine horse." "There were three huge rats.  The fairy made choice of one of the three, which had the largest beard, and having touched him with her wand, turned him into a fat jolly coachman, who had the smartest whiskers eyes ever beheld."  So the coach was made, the clothing given, and Cinderella arrived at the ball.  Here " there was immediately a profound silence, they left off dancing, and the violins ceased to play, so attentive was everyone to contemplate the singular beauties of the unknown newcomer....The king himself, old as he was, could not help watching her, and telling the Queen softly that it was a long time since he had seen such beauty."  Cinderella was received by the prince and then "went and sat down by her sisters, showing them a thousand civilities, giving them part of the oranges and citrons which the prince had presented her with, which very much surprised them for they did not know her.  Of course the prince would  dance with no one else, yet Cinderella fled at the stroke of midnight.  "Being got home, she ran to seek out her godmother, and, after having thanked her, she said she could not but heartily wish she might go next day to the ball because the King's son had desired her."  So the permission was given.  Thus it was that the taunting and torment, when it came with the arrival of her stepsisters, home from the ball, mattered but little to her.  The next night all was  repeated as before, and the fairy provided that Cinderella was "dressed more magnificently than before."  Well, again she fled, this time losing one her fabulous glass slippers.  When her stepsisters came in that night, they were full of the news that the prince was seeking the owner of a lost slipper, to be his bride. 
"What they said was very true; for a few days after, the King's son caused it to be proclaimed, by sound of trumpet, that he would marry her whose foot this slipper would just fit."  Soon, around came the royal page, with the slipper upon a velvet cushion.  The elder sister tried it on first, and then her younger sibling, "but in vain, for they could not effect it."  Now Cinderella came forward and asked for her turn, and "her sisters burst out laughing and began to banter her." But the gentleman with the slipper looked hard at Cinderella, and gave her a turn.  The shoe "fitted her as if it had been made of wax."  Oh, how surprised they all were, and that's when Cinderella drew out the mate.  Now " in came her godmother, who having touched with her wand Cinderella's clothes, made them richer and more magnificent than any of those she had before." She was taken to the prince, and "he thought her more charming than ever, and, a few days after, married her.  Cinderella, who was no less good than beautiful, gave her two sisters lodgings in the palace and that very same day, matched them with two great lords of the court." 
p. 140, Anthology of Children's Literature. 1948 Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.
Notes: Although Charles Perrault did not make up this story, he did fill in many details.  It is from this 1697 version of the tale that the classic elements come.  These are the fairy godmother, the glass slippers, the pumpkin coach, the rat and lizards as coachman and footmen, and the mice turned into horses. 
Montessori Connection: History/Europe/17th century
1. Read this story and understand that it was written ,in French, in 1697.
2. Lay out a blank timeline.
3. Mark one end of it 1600 and the other end 1700.
4. Mark off intervals of 25, 10, or 5 years.
5. Add a note about the publication of this story in 1697.
6. Add at least two other things that happened during the same decade. (Examples: 1692, Massachussetts, USA, Salem Witchcraft trials; 1694, England, death of Queen Mary II.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cinderella #114 Yeh-hsien (Number Two,1992)

She saw a pretty little fish with red fins and golden eyes.

Note: contains violence. Once upon a time, in China, "there lived a cave-master called Wu. People called the place the Wu Cave."  The cave-master had two wives, and each bore a baby girl.  Sadly, one wife died.  Now the second wife had two baby girls to care for and she did not appreciate this one bit. Since this second little girl, whose name was Yeh-hsien, turned out to be "intelligent and good at making pottery on the wheel", the stepmother especially resented her. But Yeh-hsien's father loved her, and saw to it that she had all she needed for comfort.  This changed the day he died.  Alas for poor Yeh-hsien, she was left alone with a step mother who plotted to be rid of her.  It became the woman's custom to "always order her to collect fire wood in dangerous places and draw water from deep pools." Once, while the girl was filling her water jugs, she "caught a fish about two inches long with red fins and golden eyes".  She took the little thing home, fed it some rice, and kept it in a dish of water.  The next morning, the fish had doubled in size.  Yeh-hsien found a bigger bowl.  Carefully, she filled it with fresh water and sprinkled a bit of rice for the fish over it. The next morning, the fish had doubled in size again!  Now Yeh-hsien knew that she must return the fish to the pool.  The girl did this, and came every day to that place to fill her jugs. Every time she arrived, the fish was waiting for her, "its head on the bank".  Now the stepmother became jealous of the time Yeh-hsien spent at the pool.  She spied on the girl, and observed the fish, which was now nearly ten feet long! The next day, "she tricked the girl, saying,'Haven't you been working hard! I am going to give you a new dress." And she took her stepdaughter's ragged cloak and gave her a new silk gown. Then she sent the child "to get water from a spring that was very far away." As soon as she was gone, the stepmother disguised herself in Yeh-hsien's old cloak and went to the pond.  The moment the big fish put its head on the bank, the wicked woman chopped its head off with the knife she had brought. Then she carried it home and cooked it and "when she had served it up, it tasted twice as good as any ordinary fish.  She hid the bones under the dung hill." When Yeh-hsien went to the pond the next morning, no fish appeared.  Realizing what must have happened, she was beside herself with grief.  "Suddenly, there appeared a man with his hair loose over his shoulders, dressed in coarse clothes. He descended from the sky, and he consoled her saying,'Don't cry so! Your stepmother has killed the fish and its bones are under the dung-heap. Go back, take the fish's bones and hide them in your room. Whatever you want, you have only to ask the fishes bones for it."  So the girl did this, and "from then on she was able to provide herself with gold, pearls, dresses, and food whenever she wanted them." Now every year, there was a cave festival.  All the villagers dressed in their finest and went to celebrate, but Yeh-hsien was left at home, "to keep watch over the fruit trees in the garden".  And then she went to the bones, and wished for finery to wear to the festival.  She received " a cloak of material spun from kingfisher feathers, and shoes of gold." At the festival, Yeh-hsien watched acrobats and dancers, and enjoyed herself tremendously.  But then her stepmother and sister passed by, and kept staring at her.  She was afraid that they recognized her!  Yeh-hsien ran all the way home, and in her haste, she lost one of her golden shoes. "When her stepmother got home, she found the girl fast asleep, with her arms round one of the trees in the garden, and thought no more about it. The cave was near an island in the sea, and on this island was a kingdom called T'o-han. "  Now, when Yeh-hsien had lost her shoe, a man picked it up.  It was such a pretty thing, the man was sure that he could sell it for a few pieces of gold.  This he did, and the shoe changed hands several times, until finally, "it was brought before the king."  He was determined to find out where the dainty thing had come from, and desired greatly to see the girl who could wear it. " He ordered all the women of the court to put it on, but it was too small for even the one among them that had the smallest foot." The king was not discouraged.  He commanded that every female in his kingdom try the shoe on.  The shoe seemed to have taken some magical hold over the ruler, and he could not rest.  "It was as light as down, and made no noise even when treading on stone."  At last, the king and the golden shoe arrived at the home of Yeh-hsien.  Of course her sister demanded the right to try it on first, and her stepmother tried to dissuade the king from letting her stepdaughter try it on at all, but he would not listen. Now Yeh-hsien slipped into the shoe, and "it fitted her perfectly. She put on the other shoe, and her cape of feathers, and she was as beautiful as as a heavenly being." And so the king married her, and she took the magic fish bones with her. All went well at first, but then the king became greedy.  He asked the bones for "jade and pearls wtihout limit.  The next year, the fish bones no longer granted his requests. He buried them by the sea shore and covered them with a hundred bushels of pearls, and after a while, they were washed away by the tide." As for the stepmother and her daughter, they "were struck by flying rocks, and died.  The cave people buried them in a stone pit, which was called the Tomb of the Two Women."  Young men in love came there and prayed, and left offerings.  And, if they were very lucky, the girl they prayed for would become their wife."
Notes: This author has also done a lovely retelling of The Gift of the Crocodile, a Cinderella story from the Spice Islands.  The Oryx volume contains twenty five Cinderella stories, each with notes.  It is a fabulous resource! 
Montessori Connection: History/Timeline of People/Ancient Cultures/China
1. Learn that this story dates to the first century of the Common Era.
4. Read a modern story about a girl who faces very hard times alone: Chinese Cinderella and the Secret Dragon Society by Adeline Yen Mah

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cinderella #113 Benizara and Kakezara (1965)

The girls were as pretty as cherry blossoms. 

Once upon a time, "in a certain place", somewhere in Japan, there lived two sisters.  The first was called Crimson Dish, or Benizara, and the second Broken Dish, or Kakezara.  Because Benizara had been born to another woman, and Kakezara from her own womb, Kakezara's mother favored her greatly.  It seemed there must be some way to rid herself of the troublesome girl.  One day, the woman had an idea.  She would send the two girls out to gather chestnuts.  The one who came home with a full sack would get her supper; the other a beating.  Each girl was given a gunny sack to fill, and the bags appeared to be alike. But Benizara's had a hole in it! The two girls "set off for the mountains, and began to pick up chestnuts.  Before long, Kakezara's bag was full, and she returned home, leaving Benizara alone. Kakezara, fearing her stepmother, remained on the mountain, trying desperately to fill her bag.  Darkness fell, and the girl realized her danger.  Now "she heard a rustling sound, gasa, gasa, as though a wolf were coming toward her.  She was filled with despair, but she knew that it would do no good to cry, so she kept on walking, thinking that perhaps she might find a house."  And she did indeed spy a little cottage. "She went to where it was and saw an old woman alone, spinning thread."  Fortunately, the old woman took her inside.  Unfortunately, she told Benizara that she could not stay.  She explained that "both of my sons are oni" which is what Japanese ogres are called.  She feared that they would eat this little human girl if they smelled her, and decided to help the child.  So she told Benizara that if she followed the directions she was giving, she would safely find her way back home. "Then she filled her bag with chestnuts and gave her a little box and a handful of rice.  'Take the chestnuts to your mother.  This little box is a magic box.  If there is ever anything that you need, just say what you would like, then tap the box three times and what you want will appear. Now, if you meet my oni sons on the way home, chew some of the rice and spread it around your mouth; then lied down and pretend that you are dead." Then she pointed out the correct path.  Benizara had not gone far before she heard the sound of a flute playing and large feet stamping through the woods.  So, quickly, she chewed the rice and rubbed it around her mouth.  Flinging herself down in the dirt she closed her eyes, and imagined what it would be like to lie dead.   "Soon, a red oni and a blue oni came along. 'Hey, older brother.  I smell human beings.' said one and went over to the side of the road to look.  'It's no good, older brother, she's already rotten.  Her mouth is full of worms.' he said, and they went on down the road, blowing their flutes.  Benizara continued down the path and after some time, the sky began to lighten.  Just as the sun was sending its first glorious rays of the day across the sky, Benizara reached home.  Her stepmother greeted the dawn with the hope that perhaps her hated stepchild had been eaten by wolves overnight, explaining why she had not returned home.  Just then, Benizara came in and bowed before her.  The girl had a sack filled to the brim with chestnuts! There was nothing the stepmother could do but take the nuts.   It happened one day that a festival was announced, at which there was to be a play.  Kakezara and her mother put on their finest kimonos, and went into town.  But before they left, Benizara was given a very long list of chores.  If they were not done by the time the stepmother returned, the girl would get a beating instead of her supper.  Benizara sighed, and began to clean the house.  Just then, she heard a gaggle of voices and laughing at the door.  It was her friends, who had come to see if she could go along to the festival.  "Friends, I cannot go." said Benizara sadly. "I have to clean the whole house and changed the bedding and weed the garden and sift the rice and fill the water jars and empty the ashes from the stove.  If I do not do all of these things before my stepmother comes back, she will beat me." But Benizara's friends were kind and good: those girls all pitched in to to the work. Many hands made it light, and before Benizara knew it, all was done.  How pretty her friends looked in their colorful silk kimonos.  "Benizara had nothing but rags to wear.  She wondered what she should do; then she thought about the little box she had recieved from the old woman in the mountains." So she went to her room and drew it from under her bed.  She closed her eyes and said aloud," I would like to have a kimono." And before she had finished speaking, she was wearing one.  It was of lavender silk, with flowers worked in embroidery all over it.  How beautiful she felt with it on! She put her hand in the pocket and found that it was full of candies.  Though she and her friends ate the sweets all the way to town, her pocket was still full when the girls arrived at the festival.  The play was about to begin.  A girl in the audience was calling to her mother for sweets, and the woman tried to hush her with a slap. Benizara saw that the girl was Kakezara! She threw her stepsister a handful of candy.  A nobleman in the audience observed the beautiful girl, sharing candy with all of the maidens around her.  And the next day, the gentleman sought her out.  His procession wound through the streets until "the lord's palanquin stopped in front of Benizara's house.  Kakezara's mother was overjoyed" believing that the nobleman must be interested in her own child. But the gentleman frowned when the girl was brought out and said, "There should be two girls here, bring out the other one too."  Now Benizara's stepmother had pushed the girl into the washtub to hide her, but now she did not dare to disobey the lord.  The shabby girl was brought out and pushed before the nobleman.  Confronted with one lovely girl in rags, and a well dressed one with a scowling face, the lord decided he must test the girls to see who was the generous one he desired.  "Which one of these two came to see my performance yesterday?" he demanded.  And the mother pointed to the scowling girl in silks.  The lord knew that she was lying so he said that they would have a contest.  "The lord took a plate and put it on a tray; then he piled some salt in the plate and stuck a pine needle in it. He commanded that they each compose a poem, using that as a subject. In a loud voice, Kakezara sang,'
Put a plate on a tray.
 Put some salt on the plate! 
Stick a pine needle in the salt; it'll soon fall over.' 
Then she hit the lord on the head and ran off. " Benizara now took a deep breath, and spoke her composition: 
"A tray and a plate, oh! 
A mountain rises from the plate,
On it, snow has fallen.
Rooted deep into the snow,
A lovely pine tree grows."
And so the nobleman knew which girl had a heart full of poetry, and which a head full of nothing. So he called for preparations to be made, and Benizara was richly dressed.  The lord took her home to his palace to celebrate their marriage. "Kakezara's mother watched in silence; then she put Kakezara in a huge, empty basket, saying,'Now, Kakezara, you too may go to the lord's palace.' She dragged her along, but she did it so violently that Kakezara tumbled over the edge of a deep ditch and fell to her death."
From: The Oryx Multicultural Folk Tale Series: Cinderella by Sierra, J. (1992)
Notes: This story parallels the Baba Yaga-type story from Russia, I think, more than anything else.  The similar elements are the impossible errand in the woods; the old lady in the cottage who is spinning; the three gifts and specific instructions on what to do with each.  It is interesting to think about what the old woman would have been spinning when Benizara sees her. Probably it was silk, though it may have been cotton or flax.  Also note that the salt which the nobleman poured onto the plate would not have been Morton's, from a blue cardboard box. It may have been sea salt, in flakes or large crystals, and it could easily have been shades of pink or gray along with white. I love that Japanese ogres play flutes! 
Montessori Connection: Literature and Poetry of Japan
1. Read this story and notice the parts that are unique to Japan (the kimono, the oni).
2. Think about why the nobleman asked the girls to compose a poem. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

#112 The Indian Cinderella (1974)

As punishment for their lies and cruelty,
Strong Wind turned the sisters into two aspen trees. 
Once upon a time, in Canada, "on the shores of a wide bay on the Pacific Coast, there dwelt in old times a great Indian warrior." This warrior had the power to make himself invisible, and his people called him Strong Wind. They said that he had gotten his powers from Glooskap, "their great lord and creator."  These people called themselves the Children of the Light, "for of all the people in America, they dwelt nearest to the sun-rise." Strong Wind was kind as well as wise, and every Indian maiden dreamed of life beside him.  "It was known that Strong Wind would marry the first girl that could see him.  Many made the trial, but it was a long time before anyone succeeded." He sought a partner both wise and beautiful of spirit.  Only his sister could see him at all hours; no other had spied him when he was hiding in plain sight.  He had a way of putting young women to the test.  Each who wanted to interview him must first walk by the lake's shores with his sister.  Strong Wind, cloaking himself in the air, would pull his sledge along behind him, crossing right in front of the women.  Then his sister asked, "Do you see him?" and the girls always answered that they did.  Now she asked,"With what does he draw his sled?" and they answered by naming the ways all men drew their sleds: "With the hide of a moose." said one; "With a pole." said the next. And Strong Wind and his sister knew then that the girls could not see him, though they claimed that they could. In this same village there also lived "a chief who had three daughters.  Their mother had long been dead.  One of these was much younger than the others. She was very beautiful and gentle and well beloved by all, and for that reason her older sisters were jealous of her charms and treated her very cruelly."  Those girls gave her only their own worn out rags to wear, and they cut off her long shining hair.  Worst of all, "they burned her face with coals from the fire, that she might be scarred and disfigured."  When their father asked why his youngest was in such a state, they told him that the girl was stupid and clumsy, always doing injury to herself. Soon, every young woman in the village had gone to try for Strong Wind except this chief's family.  The two elder girls now groomed themselves carefully, and went to walk by the lake's shores.  "Soon, he came home from his day's work, drawing his sled.  And his sister asked as usual, 'Do you see him?' And each one, lying, answered,'Yes.' And she asked,'Of what is his shoulder strap made?' And each, guessing, said, 'Of rawhide."  They were invited into the tent, and hoped to be able to see the great man eat his dinner.  But all that they could make out were his shoes and coat moving about before them.  "And Strong Wind knew that they had lied" and they went home, ashamed.  This gave their younger sister hope.  The next day, she decided to try her luck.  She bathed carefully, and "patched her clothes with bits of birch bark, from the trees, and put on the few little ornaments she possessed, and went forth to try to see the Invisible One as all the other girls of the village had done before." Her sisters, of course, mocked her efforts, and laughed spitefully as she tried to comb her burnt off hair.  As the girl crossed the village, all of the girls and boys jeered at her, with her scarred face and her singed hair, and her dress that was patched with birch bark.  But the girl kept on, and soon, she was walking along the shores of the lake. "Strong Wind's sister received the girl kindly and said, 'Do you see him?' and the girl answered,'No.' and his sister wondered greatly, because she spoke the truth." Now Strong Wind took off his cloak of wind, and his sister asked the little ragged girl, "Do you see him now?' And the girl answered,'Yes, and he is very wonderful'  And she asked, 'With what does he draw his sled?' And the girl answered,'With the rainbow' and she was much afraid.  And she asked further,'Of what is his bowstring?' And the girl answered,'His bowstring is the Milky Way." And that is how Strong Wind and his sister knew that this girl was honest and wise.  So the sister led the poor thing back to their tent, and "bathed her, and all the scars disappeared from her face and body; and her hair grew long and black again like the raven's wing; and she gave her fine clothes to wear and many rich ornaments."  The girl was seated by the door, and when Strong Wind came in, he acknowledged her as his bride.  The very next day, they were married.  Now the girl was happy, as well as beautiful and honest, and she delighted in helping her husband and the two of them did many kind, brave deeds together.  But her older sisters grew angrier at her success, and burned with jealousy at her new status. "Strong Wiind, who knew of their cruelty, resolved to punish them."  The next time he saw them, whispering and shaking their heads at his wife, their younger sister, he summoned his powers over nature.  And where the bickering, scheming maidens had been, there were now two aspen trees. "And since that day, the leaves of the aspen have always trembled, and they shiver in fear at the approach of Strong Wind, it matters not how softly he comes, for they are still mindful of his great power and anger because of their lies and their cruelty to their sister long ago."
From Canadian Wonder Tales, (1974). Collected from oral sources by: MacMillan, C., illustrated by Cleaver, E. p.76 Canadian Wonder Tales 1st Edition
Notes: This is clearly another version of Soot Face Girl, the Ojibwa tale; this time it comes from the Canadian side of the lake.  The notes in the preface of this book describe how the stories were collected nearly one hundred years ago, and republished in Canada in 1974.  Some of them, the author admits, seem to be Europeanized a bit, but such is the nature of folk tales.  They take on new elements, as added by the "folks". 
Montessori Connection: Fundamental Needs of People/Religion/Glooskap
1. Read this story and see if you can pinpoint the location.
2. Try and identify the tribe.
3. Learn about the spiritual beliefs and daily life of American Indians:My Life in Recording: Canadian-Indian Folklore

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Cinderella #111 You Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Very Short Fairy Tales (2004)

Illustrated by Michael Emberly

Once upon a time, in a land where young children and their parents read together every day, there lived a little girl who was learning to read.  She practiced every day, and one of her favorite reading games was from a book printed in two colors of ink. The game went like this: first the girl  read the orange words and then the girl's dad read the pink ones: 
Cinderella is my name.
She's our sister, what a shame.
All day long I do my chores, washing clothes and scrubbing floors.
All day long we gobble sweets— candies, cakes, and other treats. 
I can't please them, though I try.
We are jealous, that is why.
The story continues, describing the announcement of the ball and Cinderella's hard work to get her stepsisters ready to go. Then she tells about the magic:
When they left me, guess who came? Fairy Godmother's her name! My rags became a gorgeous gown, a carriage took me into town. 
A beauty came into the ball.  The prince preferred her to us all.
Later, the stepsisters are trying to fit the glass shoe that the prince brings around:
We thought to get our feet to fit, we'd just chop off a little bit.
Oh, don't do that, stepsisters, stop! You'll hurt yourselves, you mustn't chop! It's not your fault you wear size nine. The only foot it fits is mine. 
So Cinderella put on the shoe, and the prince asked her to marry him.  She said yes! Then her sisters said:
You'll be queen? Why that is true. All right, we'll be nice to you. 
Well if you're nice as nice can be, I'll let you both come live with me. 
In the palace? Oh what fun! All our naughty days are done! 
So they all lived happily ever after! 
Notes: This book contains eight read-together tales, and is perfect for ages 4-8.
Montessori Connection: Read Aloud
1. If you are learning to read, ask an older child to read parts of this book with you!
2. If you are a good reader, ask a younger child who is still practicing to read parts of this book with you!