|Citrus fruits (from the Firefly Visual Dictionary)|
Once upon a time on the Isle de Corse, there lived a girl who was an orphan. Her name was Isabelle, and her mother had died many years ago, and her father but a few. He had taken a second wife, however, before his demise. She had a daughter of her own, who matched her mother in person and pesonality. Alas, neither of these were sweet in the mother. In the daughter bloomed all the spite of a spoiled child. This was written on her face. But mother and daughter had one thing which the orphan girl had not: gold. Golden fruit, that is. Before her father died, he had been a fruit merchant. His orange groves produced citrus of unparalleled quality, and his widow and stepdaughter lived comfortably. Not so his own child. Isabelle had been put to work as soon as she was old enough to carry a pail without spilling the contents. Though a score of years had passed since her own mother had made her a gown, she had no other to wear. In winter time, her feet in their wooden clogs were quite blue with cold, and she hurried through her chores to huddle near the good fire in the kitchen. She was always shivering and so loved to put her feet right close to the cinders which dropped. It was her task to keep the fire burning, and to fetch wood from the pile outside. Each evening, she filled her long apron full of sticks, and carried them in. Dropping them on the hearth, Isabelle stretched out like a cat. Her hands and apron were smudged with ash. It happened one day that her stepmother nagged at twice the rate as usual. All day long the orphan was running to and fro. An important guest was coming for dinner: a young prince. The man had heard tell of the oranges of the Isle de Corse, and had come for himself to taste them. And having tasted the fruit, he wanted to see the trees. The stepmother, shrewd businesswoman as she was, proposed to show him a flower as well as the orange groves. She had invited the young prince to dinner, and taken pains to ensure that her own daughter was in full bloom for the evening. As her her wretch of a stepdaughter, she had plans for her as well. As soon as the girl completed her chores for the evening, the stepmother knew that she would head for the dirty hearth. Not tonight. This night the brat would be out of sight and out of mind. The stepmother sent her to the cellar to fetch some oranges, then slammed the door closed behind her and thrown the bolt home. One could only hear the girl's screams from the kitchen, and the prince most certainly would not be visiting the kitchen. The dinner went as planned. The prince fed his belly with the rich food and his eyes with the sight of the stepsister. As the soup was served upstairs, Isabelle screamed downstairs. As the roast was cut upstairs, she had left off screaming downstairs. And as the orange sherbet was served upstairs, something quite unexpected had happened downstairs. Isabelle, accepting her lot of spending the night in the cellar, had gotten hungry. She had taken three oranges and began to peel one. No sooner had she split the peel from the fruit than a tiny woman no bigger than an orange seed jumped out and demanded a drink. Isabelle had begun to explain that she was locked in when the door swung open and the tiny lady led her out. Isabelle took her to the well — and the miniature lady drank it dry. She bade Isabelle peel the second orange and let her sister out, then vanished. Now the girl loosed the peel from the second orange. Before she had unwound the first strip, a little lady no bigger than two orange seeds jumped out of the fruit and demanded a drink! Isabelle led her to the river — and the wisp of a thing drank it dry! She bade Isabelle open the third orange to set her sister free. This the girl drew from her apron pocket, and was on the point of peeling it when the window in the dining salon was raised high, and a face as red as a tomato thrust out of it. It was her stepmother. Such a stream of words was let forth from that dames lips that Isabelle blushed to hear it. A second stream followed, this from her stepsister at the sight of Isabelle in the garden. The prince, seeing a young girl become the target of abuse by the two ladies, found his appetite suddenly sated. The gentlewomen who had so recently been speaking to him in sugared tones, were transformed. A pair of shrieking crows sat in their place. Now Isabelle opened the skin of the third orange. A petite femme no bigger than an orange jumped out and demanded a drink. The prince, having mounted his horse and left his servant to collect the oranges, rode up behind Isabelle. She and the little woman jumped into his saddle, and they galloped all the way to the sea. Here the third fairy, for that is what she and her sisters were, bent and drank. And drank. And drank. When she had drunk her fill, she said, "Merci beaucoup, thank you very much. You quenched the thirst of my first sister with the well. You quenched the thirst of my second sister with the river. You have quenched my thirst with the sea, and, since there is yet water in it, I grant you a wish." Isabelle smiled, and said not a word. The fairy smiled, and disappeared into the sea. The the prince and Isabelle found themselves standing before the most beautiful palace they had ever seen. Its garden was filled with orange trees and the air was heavy with their scent. Isabelle's rags had fallen away and she was dressed in a gown the color of orange blossoms. The prince married her at once and they lived happily ever after.
From: Cox, M. R., Story Number 245. Identified as from Les Contes Populaire de l'Ile de Corse, Ortoli, J.B. Frederic, 1883, Paris
Notes: This story parallels closely another recent one, The Princess of the Third Pumpkin. In that tale as well, a young prince and three fruits are involved. There, it is the prince who is sent into the garden to pick three pumpkins off of the same vine. As he cuts each one off, a naked girl jumps out and begs for a drink of water. Here, the story does not specify what it is that each of the "tiny people" are wearing. The similarities between oranges and pumpkins are superficial but significant: both are orange spheres. Did the idea of a magic pumpkin come from imagining a gigantic orange?
Montessori Connection: Geography/Europe/Islands/Corsica
1. Read this story and pay attention to the name of the island it happens on.
2. Learn that Corsica is off the coast of France, and see if you can find it on the globe.
3. Discover what other country it is near.
4. Guess what languages they speak there?
5. What famous "Frenchman" was born there? Answer: Napoleon