|Zezolla sat by the hearth.|
Note: Contains violence. Once upon a time, in Italy, there lived a girl named Zezolla. She was "the only daughter of a prince, who married for the second time a woman of some unpleasantness." Zezolla dislikes the woman, preferring instead the company of her own nurse. Zezolla plots against this wife of her father's. One day, as she is arranging her belongings in a large wooden chest, an idea strikes her. She calls to her step mother and begs for her help in reaching something at the very bottom of the chest. Though she grumbled to do it, the stepmother did come. At Zezolla's urging the lady kneels in front of the chest and peers deep into its corners. That is when bad Zezolla slams the lid down — and breaks her stepmother's neck. Feigning accident, she calls her father and her nurse. Soon the nurse plots with Zezolla to become her next stepmother. Zezolla is delighted, thinking the woman a kind and loving one. Alas, this proves not to be so. Unbeknownst to her, nurse has six daughters of her own, who are soon moved into Zezolla's room. Now the girl is forced to take refuge in the kitchen, resting by the hearth in the cinders when her chores are done. Thus, she is soon nick-named La Gatta Cenerentola. One day, her father returns from a voyage bearing a special gift for her. He has encountered a fairy while abroad, and she sends Zezolla a "seedling date tree, which she plants and which in four days, grows to the size of a woman." The spirit of the tree speaks to Zezolla, telling her that if she ever desires to go out unrecognized, she should come and ask the date tree. Soon there is a festa, and all the family plan to go. Zezolla laments her lack of finery, and then remembers what the tree fairy told her. Now she beseeches the tree, and "instantly she finds herself attired like a queen, with a white horse to ride on, and twelve pages to attend to her." At the festa, the king is quite taken with this lovely young lady, and when she leaves, one of his servants follows her. Zezolla, aware that she is being shadowed, tosses gold coins behind her in the road. This diversion works: the servant stops to gather them, and she slips away. The next evening, the family again leaves her sitting among the cinders, and go to the party. Again Zezolla begs assistance from the date tree, and again, it is given. This time, "the date tree provides her with a coach and six horses." Once more the king tasks a servant with following her, and once again Zezolla throws treasures, this time a handful of gems. "On the third day, Zezolla is provided with a coach of gold. The king's servant is instructed on no account to let her out of his sight, and Zezolla, in her anxiety to escape, drops a beautiful stilted shoe she has been wearing. which the servant picks up." Now the king is determined to find this mysterious beauty, and declares that he will hold a a banquet. He orders "every woman in his realm to attend", but none of the ladies can squeeze their foot into the shoe. He therefore holds another banquet, decreeing that it "must be attended even by the kitchen maid, Zezolla. When the shoe is near Zezolla's foot, it darts forward on its own accord, as iron to a magnet. The king takes Zezolla in his arms, places a crown upon her head, and commands everyone to make obeisance to her as queen."
From Iona & Peter Opie: The Classic Fairy Tales (1974) New York: Oxford University Press
Notes: This is said to be the oldest published European Cinderella story, included in the Pentamerone by Basile. (Day 1, tale 6)
Montessori Connection 10+ : History/Middle Ages in Europe/Fundamental Needs/Daily Life
1. Read the story again, and think about how Zezolla's life may be the same, or different, than yours.
2. Write down an outline of how you spend your day. Include chores, school, family time and special events like parties.
3. Write down an outline of what Zezolla's life might have been like.
4. Learn more about Italy in the year 1634:Knights & Castles: 50 Hands-On Activities to Experience the Middle Ages (Kaleidoscope Kids) or Medieval Tales that Kids Can Read and Tell or Outrageous Women of the Middle Ages or Everyday Life: Middle Ages.