|Almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts and filberts.|
Once upon a time, along a river in France, there lived a girl named Catarina. Her mother had died some years ago, and the girl lived comfortably with her father and her godmother, who looked after her needs. The godmother doted on Catarina, and professed to love her as deeply as one of her own children. After some time of impressing this fact upon Catarina, the girl was taken with the idea that her father should marry the godmother. This lady encouraged the proposal. Catarina's father, on hearing the idea, found it sound. He married the godmother, and, for a brief time, Catarina knew unblemished happiness. Within a year, the godmother bore a child. The babe was sweet tempered, and Catarina willingly rocked its cradle. A year later another infant was born, and with its birth died Catarina's joy. Her godmother seemed a different woman than had formerly tended her godchild. Suddenly she seemed not to be able to stand the sight of her. To keep her out from under foot, the godmother set the girl to tending the goats. In great need of smallcloth for the babes she further commanded that Catarina spin a large tow. Now the godmotther measured "a pound and a half of hemp". Warning the girl of a beating if she returns without the hemp spun into thread, she boots her out the door. Catarina "goes to the wood and weeps." A billy goat comes close to her, and that's when Catarina hears a voice. It is the goat, and it tells her that if she will lead it to where the grass grows thick, " and places the hemp on his head, lo! it will be instantly spun." Catarina follows these instructions, and the hemp is spun. She carries the bobbin of it home to her godmother, who accepts it, and gives her another to spin the next day. And now Catarina's father comes inside, and "tells the step-mother to slay the goat. Catarina goes to the stable weeping; the goat tells her not to eat any of his flesh, but to collect all his bones into a basket, and they will give her anything she may desire." Now her father, "who is a sailor", announces that he will travel to Genoa the following day. He asks what trinket he may bring back for Catarina. The girl replies that she does not want any trinkets, only that "he shall call on her aunt." He does so, saying, "Catarina sends you greetings." and the aunt gives the man a single walnut to carry back to his daughter. The father fulfills this duty. Catarina now takes the nut and runs to the privacy of her chamber, where she cracks it open. She "finds a beautiful silk dress inside." Soon it is Sunday morning, and the stepmother announces that she is going to church. She has dressed her little daughters prettily, and invites Catarina to come. But the girl declines. As soon as the family has left she "goes to her room and dons the silk dress, then goes to the bones and asks to be made the most lovely girl in the world." At once she is transformed into a radiant beauty. Now she goes to church, and, by chance, sits next to the king's son. He "instantly falls in love with her". On the the other side of Catarina sits her stepmother and sisters. Catarina takes from her pocket a white handkerchief, and drops it on the floor. One of her step-sisters picks it up, and Catarina, unrecognized, "bids the child to keep it". Now Catarina runs home, asks the bones to return her to her former appearance, and changes clothes. The following Sunday, all is repeated. Yet the king's son, determined to stop the lovely girl, has 'stationed guards at the door." But Catarina is prepared and "throws a handful of bran in their eyes and escapes them." That night, Catarina's father announces that he will sail, once more, for Genoa. Again the only favor which Catarina wants is that he call on her aunt. He does so, and the aunt "gives him an almond for Catarina". At home once more, he gives this to his daughter. She takes it to her room and cracks it and "finds inside a pair of gold slippers". The following Sunday, Catarina again waits at home until her family has gone to church. Now she changes into the dress and gold shoes, and again beseeches the bones to make her beautiful. She goes to church and there meets the king's son once more. He has instructed his men to catch her when she attempts to leave. But Catarina flings "some pence into their eyes" and so they are unable to follow her. She escapes — but not before losing one of her gold shoes. The following day, the king sends a herald to decree that he is searching for the girl who lost a gold shoe, and that he will marry the girl who can wear it. All through the town, young ladies line up to try on the shoe. "For some, it is too small, for others, too large. At length, they come to" Catarina's house. Here the stepmother claims to have only two daughters. Both try the gold shoe on, but cannot wear it. Now "the king's son asks if she has not another daughter" and the woman admits that she does. However the girl is "too dirty to be seen" she claims. The prince insists that Catarina be summoned. She is in the middle of getting dressed when her stepmother raps at the door, telling her to come downstairs at once. Catarina runs downstairs with the "gold slipper on one foot, and the other foot bare". Seeing proof that the shoe he is holding does indeed belong to Catarina, he helps her into it. A great feast is held and Catarina and the prince are married.
Cox, Story Number Three, Tabulations, p.124
Notes: This story is identified as having been collected by J.B. Andrews in his Contes Ligures, Traditions of the Riviera. It is fun to have the motif of the nuts being opened to reveal treasure. That a dress or shoes could come out of something so small seems amazing...until we remember that trees also come out of nuts, in a manner of speaking. Here the father does not seem to kill the goat from malice, but as a matter of course. There is no malice displayed by the stepsisters either, who are apparently small children. For once we have a stepmother who, while not kind, is not vicious either!
Montessori Connection: Botany/Kinds of Seeds/Nuts
1. Read this story and pay attention to where Catarina get her dress and shoes.
2. Ask your parents if they will help you find whole nuts for sale, and tell them that you need one walnut and one almond.
3. At home, ask for help to crack them open. You will find that it is not easy.
4. Save all the pieces of the shells, and see if you can glue them back together.
5. Learn more about the process of growing nuts:Nut Grower's Guide: The Complete Handbook for Producers and Hobbyists (Landlinks Press) or Ethephon as a harvest aid for walnuts (Leaflet) or Nuts in the Kitchen: More Than 100 Recipes for Every Taste and Occasion.