Robin Redbreast

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

Monday, April 4, 2011

Cinderella #91 Dona Labismina, a Story from Brazil (1885)

What color is the sky?

Once upon a time, in Brasilia, there lived a King and Queen.  Although they were rich, they were not happy.  They lacked a child, and so sorely did the Queen feel this lack that she wished for a child, "any child, even a snake" for a child.  Soon after this, the Queen felt life quickening within her, and within months was delivered of a child.  The little girl was healthy and plump —and born with a snake around her neck.  It was quickly determined that this serpent could not be removed: not by the Queen, not by the King, and not by the mid-wife either.  The infant grew, and the snake along with it.  The child babble happily to her constant companion, and she grew older, the snake uncoiled itself from her body from time to time.  On these occasions it slithered into the sea just outside the garden, splashing and playing in the waves.  It always returned to its position around the girl's neck.  One day, when the child was but hafl-grown, the snake, who was swimmng in the shallows, told the little girl that her name was DonaLabismina, and that it was time for her to return to the deep.  Should she ever need help, the snake told the girl, she had simply to call out Labismina's name, and she would return immediately.  Soon after this, tragedy struck the royal family.  The Queen fell ill and the doctors shook their heads as cure after cure failed.  Now the Queen called the King to her bedside and begged a promise. Withdrawing the golden ring from her slender finger, she bade her husband promise that he would never marry again — save for a woman whose finger could wear the ring.  The King promised this, and she died.  The years passed slowly while the sad little girl grieved for her mother.  The King kept himself busy with governing and left his daughter in the care of a nurse.  One day, as the girl sat in her mother's empty chamber, she noticed a gold ring on the windowsill. Taking it up, she slid the ring onto her finger.  As she admired its heavy feel, and the way the sun glinted off its color, her father happened to pass by.  Catching sight of his daughter, now grown to young womanhood and wearing her mother's ring, a strange thought entered his mind.  Here was the woman he would marry!  He declared his intentions to his daughter, who begged him to reconsider.  But the King would not be dissuaded, and the girl fled from him in tears.  Out to the garden she went, and then, remembering Dona Labismina, down to the sea shore. Here she called for the snake, who appeared immediately.  Upon hearing the King's wishes, Dona Labismina advised the girl to consent to the marriage, but to say that first she must have a dress all of the colors of the sky. So the girl went back home and met her father, and consented to the marriage on condition that he procure for her a dress which was colored just like the sky.  And the King went to his seamstresses and bade them make such a dress.  In the morning, the King knocked on his daughter's door and presented to her a dress.  It was of blue, and it was of white. It was of gray and it was of black.  It floated around the girl's body when she put it on, billowing about her exactly as though  she were a cloud in the sky.  But now the girl ran, right back down to the shore. She called out for help: Dona Labismina! And the snake appeared.  She thought for a moment and told the girl that now she must ask for a dress the colors of the earth.  So the girl went home and told her father that she would marry him — just as soon as he got her a dress the color of the earth.  So her father called the dressmakers and ordered them to weave through the night.  In the morning the dress was done.  So skillfully stitched was it that from the neck to the hemline one could not say where they colors began to change, but change they did.  Here the dress was black as soil, there as red as mud, underneath it was as grey as dust and on top it was as gold as sand.  The dress was all of the colors of the earth.  The girl put it on — and ran down to  the sea.  This time the snake instructed the girl to demand a dress the color of the sea.  Back she went to the castle, and told her father what she required.  In the morning, the dress was ready. It was made of silk and the threads had been cleverly dyed and woven so that here the cloth was blue, there it was green, over here white, and around the edges such a purple that it appeared at first to be black.  It shimmered and flowed and looked exactly like the waves of the ocean, stitched into a dress.  The girl put it on — and ran to the sea shore.  She implored the snake to help her once more, and now the beast thrashed its tail upon the waters and summoned a ship.  Raising herself level with the girl, Dona Labismina foretold what the girl would find if she followed carefully these directions.  When the ship reached land, she was to disembark, being sure to carry with her all three of her dresses.  She must hide the dresses in the woods and go to the door of the castle which she would find, begging for work and lodgings.  A prince lived there, the snake said, and he would marry the girl.  Once the wedding had taken place, the girl must return to the sea, and call for her friend, Dona Labismina. In this way a curse would be lifted, and the snake would regain her human form. So the girl kissed her friend and sailed away, and when land was sighted, she took her three dresses and went ashore.  Just as the snake had predicted, there was a castle nearby. So the girl hid her dresses in the woods, knocked on the gates, and begged for work.  She was given a flock of hens to tend, and a corner to sleep in.  Soon it was festival time! On the first night of the festival, the girl changed into the dress the color of the sky, and joined the crowds.  The prince, seeing her for the first time, fell in love with her. But before the evening was over, the girl had vanished into the crowd.  The following night,  the girl wore her dress of earth colors.  Again the prince spied her, this time bringing her sweets.  Yet again the girl melted away before he could ask her name.  On the third night of the festival, when the girl appeared in a dress all the colors of the sea, the prince was ready! He slipped into her hands a glittering gem instead of a sweet.  But the girl was too fast for him again, and no sooner was the jewel in her hand than she fled.  The poor prince! He left the festival and shut himself in his chamber.  None could coax him to eat or drink, and soon, the doctors worried for his health.  Now the young man confided to his mother the cause of his illness: a broken heart.  The Queen was determined to find the girl who had stolen her son's heart.  She  called for all the maidens of the land to prepare a dish and bring it at once to the prince.  The line of girls carrying covered dishes wound down all the passageways of the castle.  Each dish was set before the prince.  The young man took one bite from each as he examined the girl.  None matched the face of the girl clothed like the sky, the earth, and the sea.  When all the girls had left, and the Queen cried with despair, she heard a knock at the door.  There sat a dish of steaming rice — and glittering on top of it was a jewel.  At the sight of it, the prince leapt out of bed. Hungrily, he ate the rice and gazed out the window wondering where the dish could have come from.  Just then he caught sight of a  flock of hens squawking in the courtyard below.  With them was a girl clothed in three dresses, one upon the other.  The first dress was the color of the sky.  The second dress was the color of the earth.  And the third dress was the color of the sea!  The prince and the girl were married that same day, and such was the feasting and the dancing that the girl forgot her promise to Dona Labismina.  With her swirling dresses about her, the girl danced with the prince under the moonlight.  And in the swirling waves of the sea, a snake lashed her tail in fury, calling for the princess who forgot her promise.  Some days Dona Labismina rests and tries to forget, but on other days her anger overwhelms her.  That is why there are furious storms at sea. 
From Cox, M.R. (1892/2010) Story Number 193, p.74
Notes: This is a classic Catskin tale, despite the absence of an animal cloak.  Here we find a ship as means of flight rather than concealment under a cloak.  It is very interesting to see that the snake is both female and a water creature, thus filling the role of water spirit/wise woman so often encountered in these stories. 
Montessori Connection: 6-12 Geography/South America/Brazil/Watercolor Wash Map
1. Find Brazil on the globe.
2. Find Brazil on a map of South America.
3. Using the puzzle maps, trace the continent of South America.
4. Color it in with wax crayons.
5. Use watercolor paint to wash over the crayon, covering all of the white paper with green, blue, lavender, black...all the colors of the sea, letting them blend together. 
6. Use a Sharpie to label each country.