|The King took her up on his horse. (Foreman, R.)|
Once upon a time, in India, "There was a girl who lived alone in a forest. She did not know her parents, for they had died when she was little. There was not much to eat in the forest except roots and leaves, so the girl depended upon the charity of passing strangers, who often gave her roasted grains of millet and barley from the their knapsacks." This girl was poor but lovely. One day, "a rich, handsome, King" happened to ride through her part of the forest. It was a sunny day so he was not surprised to see sunbeams coming through the trees, but he was surprised that seemed to follow him. "If his horse moved a step, so did the glimmer. If the horse stopped, so did the glimmer." Well, the King ordered the glimmer to stop and it did so. He ordered it to come out and it did not. When the glimmer ran away, the King jumped off of his horse and caught it, and "to his great surprise, the King found himself holding a young, beautiful maiden in his arms. Her long hair fell behind her like a sheet of silk," and her big eyes were frightened. He assured her that he did not want to hurt her. On the contrary, he said, he wanted to marry her. He asked if she would consent to be his wife, and she agreed. Together they mounted his horse, and rode back to his palace. A joyful ceremony was held, and the two were married. They lived in happiness for one year, and then, a taste for roasted barley grains came over the new Queen. She asked for a dish of them for breakfast. Her maids wondered why the Queen would eat a dish which only the poorest of the poor partake of. Well they knew how strange can be the ways of royalty, however, so they cooked a dish of plump grains and served them to their mistress. Just as she was taking up a great spoonful of them, the King came in. In disgust he asked what on earth she was eating. Thinking quickly, the Queen said that it was a dish of pearls, and that she was used to eating them for breakfast at home! Well, the King told her, "In our home, my dearest Queen, we might serve saffron rice cooked with raisins or roasted deer or dates stuffed with walnuts, but never pearls. Your father's home must be so much grander than ours. I am sure you must miss it. I would very much like to take you back to visit your parents. We can leave tomorrow." Well, this was a fine kettle of fish! In panic, the young Queen ran to the household shrine to the goddess Parvati. She who is daughter to the Himalaya Mountains and wife of Shiva is Mother Earth. In anger she appears fanged, with a black tongue. She can ride the backs of tigers, or beam out rays of glory like the sun. But she is compassionate and loving and hears the prayers of those who evoke her name. The young Queen sobbed before her, "Oh Parvati! Save me! Save me! I do love my husband so very much. I never told him I was a princess. He just assumed I was....I lied out of panic." She had not meant to brag about eating pearls, it was true, and she did indeed love the young King. Parvati took pity on the young girl, and told her, "For three hours I will give you just the kind of home that your husband expects to see. I will give you a father and a mother and all necessary relatives. For three hours only." Thankfully, the Queen returned to her chamber. In the morning, she and the King set off for her home. Soon they saw it on the horizon, and when they arrived, the King was duly impressed. "It was made entirely of gold. The doors and windows were made from gleaming rock crystal edged with emeralds. There was a large bathing pool, which was studded with sapphires right down in its coolest bottom. In the garden there were arbors where juicy grapes hung in luscious bunches and mango trees laden with sweet fruit. Musicians strolled about playing lutes, horns, conch shells, two sided drums." Now the King of the great palace appeared and invited the young King to bathe in the turquoise waters of the pool. They changed into their "swimming loincloths" and splashed in the refreshing water. Then they enjoyed the sumptuous picnic, and "the next hour was spent in eating roasted quail from golden plates and drinking orange blossom wine from hollowed out rubies." But the young Queen seemed in a hurry to leave. Her husband hushed her silliness, and they lingered on until dawn. Fretfully, the Queen again pressed her young husband to take her home, saying that she did not want to burden her old parents with a long visit. Her husband agreed that they would leave, but insisted that they come back soon, such a paradise was the palace. The following morning, the King realized that he had left his bathing cloth drying on a bush in the palace garden, and dispatched two of his horsemen to fetch it. They retraced their steps of the day before, but became more and more confused. This was surely the right path, but just as surely, there was no golden palace on the horizon. Just as they were about to give up the saw the royal loincloth. It was on a bush by the side of a dusty path. Incredulous, they took it up and carried it back to their King. When they told him where they had found it, he called for his Queen. She appeared before him, trembling with fear. He told her what had happened, saying that his servants found the cloth but "they saw no golden palace, no sapphire-lined pool, no musicians, no..." Now the Queen poured out the whole truth and begged forgiveness for her lies. She had been a poor, starving orphan when he had seen her for the first time, she said, and never claimed to be a princess at all. And the King held her in his arms and said, "There is nothing to forgive. You did what you did out of love. If goddess Parvati understood your predicament, who am I to complain? Perhaps we should go to Parvati's temple together to offer her our thanks. " And that is exactly what they did.
From Jaffrey, M. (1985) Seasons of Splendour: Tales, Myths, & Legends of India. New York: Atheneum (Seasons of Splendour: Tales, Myths & Legends of India)
Notes: I love this story because of the fact that the King discover's the palace was an illusion only because he left his wet bathing suit behind! Also the dish of pearls, which is the most unusual fairy tale food I have ever encountered. I strongly recommend reading this whole book, it is a delightful window into the author's marvelous childhood in India, with "a good five dozen" cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. Hint: Read it and find out how a watermelon can help a little girl learn to swim.
Montessori Connection 6-12: Maria Montessori/History of Montessori Method/India
1. Read this story and learn about the goddess Parvati.
2. Think about the fact that Maria Montessori spent quite a bit of time in India, teaching and studying.
3. Learn more about India:Ancient India (People of the Ancient World) or Puffin History of India for Children 3000 Bc to Ad 1947 or Going to School in India
4. Learn more about Maria Montessori: Maria Montessori: A biography for children