|Photo from NASA,
showing the earth and moon.
Once upon a time, somewhere in Niedersachsen, there lived "a maiden who was young and beautiful, but when she was young, her mother died, and her stepmother did all she could to make her life miserable." Each day she gave the girl many chores, and each day, the girl did her best to complete them. Yet the stepmother was never satisfied. One day, she said to her stepdaughter, "Here are twelve pounds of feathers. You're to strip the quills, and if you haven't finished by this evening, you'll get a sound thrashing. Don't think that you can loaf the entire day. " As soon as the woman left her, the maiden sat down to begin her task. But so overwhelming was it, that "the tears flowed down her cheeks" and she put her head down on the table. She sobbed aloud, "Is there no one on God's earth who will take pity on me?". That's when she heard a voice. There was a little old woman standing next to her, who spoke gently to the maiden and asked her troubles. Hearing the work that was to be done, the old woman said," Console yourself, my child, I have come to help you. Rest awhile and sleep. Meantime, I'll do your work for you." So the girl lay down, and slept deeply. When she awoke, she saw that there were "large, snow-white stacks, and everything in the room had been cleared away, but the old woman had disappeared. The maiden thanked God," and waited for her stepmother. When that unkind person came in, she took one look at the bundles of clean feathers and said," You see, you wench, what one can do when one is industrious? You could have started on something else as well, but there you sit with your hands in your lap." She stalked out of the room, planning a harder task for the poor girl. And in the morning, when the girl went downstairs her stepmother handed her a large spoon. It was full of holes. Now her stepmother told her," You're to use it to empty the large pond next to the garden. And if you're not finished by nightfall, you know what will happen." So the girl took the spoon and began dipping it into the pond. She dipped and she dipped and the sun rose higher in the sky. When it was high overhead, she had moved only a few drops out of the pond. Now she "knelt down by the pond, which caught her tears. And the old woman appeared." She heard the girl's new troubles and said, "Don't give up hope, my child. Go into the bushes and lie down to sleep. I'll take care of your work. " And this the maiden did, and when the stepmother came out at sunset, she saw " nothing but fish flapping in the mud". Her stepmother scolded her for taking the whole day to empty the pond. In the morning, the maiden was horrified to learn of her new task: she must build a castle, by sunset. Furthermore, the woman planned to move into it that night, and said that "if anything is missing, be it the least little thing in the kitchen or cellar, then you know what will happen." Well, now the young girl wandered among the stones, weeping and trying to move the smallest. She could not manage this however, and soon abandoned all hope. That's when the old woman appeared again, and said, "Don't worry about your work. Just lie down in the shade over and sleep. I'll soon build the castle for you. If you want, you'll be able to live in it yourself." When the maiden awoke, she found the castle complete. Its "steps were covered with red carpets, and the golden landing was decked with trees in blossom. When she saw the splendor of the rooms she stood still, as though turned to stone. Who knows how long she would have stood there if she had not begun to think about her stepmother. 'Ah,' she said to herself, 'if only she would be satisfied now and would stop making my life so miserable." So she went and found her stepmother, and brought her to see the beautiful, shining abode. But her stepmother went from room to room, trying to find fault. Instead she found every nook and cranny well stocked, from the cows in the dairy, to the silk sheets on the bed to the shovel and tongs by the hearth. So she said, "Where's the cellar? If it isn't amply stocked with casks of wine, you'll be in trouble.' She lifted the trapdoor herself and climbed down the stairs, but she had barely taken two steps, when the heavy trapdoor, which was only propped up, slammed shut. The maiden heard a scream and lifted the door quickly to help her, but the stepmother had tumbled down the stairs, and the maiden found her lying dead on the ground. Now the splendid castle belonged to the maiden." As she explored its contents, she found that everything was of the richest quality. There were chests full of silks, boxes filled with pearls, gems, and diamonds, and wardrobe after wardrobe of gowns. Soon, word spread of the lovely castle, and visitors came every day. Men sailed from around the world to see it, and the lovely, mysterious princess who lived alone in it. Yet the maiden smiled at no man. Until one day, "a prince arrived who found a way to move her heart, and they became engaged." They sat awhile, under the green linden tree in the garden. Then the prince bade her wait a short while, so that he could return home and ask his father's permission to wed. The maiden "kissed him on the left cheek, and remain true to me, and don't let anyone kiss you on this cheek. I'll wait here under the linden tree until you return." And there she sat, until the sun went down. In the morning, the prince was not back. The evening of the first day passed, and of the second, and the third and then the fourth, and still, the prince was not back. The princess said to herself, "I'm certain he's had an accident. I'll go out and search for him, and I won't return until I've found him.' She packed up three of her most beautiful dresses, one embroidered with glittering stars, the second with silvery moons, the third with golden suns. Then she wrapped up a handful of jewels in her kerchief, and went forth. " All over the land, she asked about her prince, but no one had seen him pass by. "Finally, she hired herself out as a shepherdess to a farmer, and buried her dresses and jewels under a rock." She took very good care of her herd, and made a special pet out of a little calf. When she was feeling especially lonesome, she fed the little beast from her hand and sang,"Little calf, little calf, kneel and show me tenderness. Don't forget your shepherdess, as the prince forgot his bride under the linden tree the maid who sat and cried.' Then the calf would kneel down, and she would stroke it with her hand. " She lived like this for "several years, in solitude and misery". Then came the news that "the king's daughter was going to celebrate her wedding" with a young man whose name was very familiar to the shepherdess. It happened that one day, the prince crossed paths with the maiden as he crossed the pastures. The maiden looked him square in the eye, but the prince "sat proudly in the saddle and did not glance at her. She felt as if a sharp knife had pierced her heart, 'Ah,' she said,'I thought he would remain true to me but he has forgotten me." When he passed along the very same path the next day, the shepherdess sang, "Little calf, little calf, kneel and show me tenderness. Don't forget your shepherdess, as the prince forgot his bride, under the linden tree, the maid who sat and cried." Now the prince seemed, for a moment, to recognize her, but soon rode on. Now, "a huge celebration was to be held at the king's court, for three whole days, and the entire country was invited to attend. So the princess ran to her rock, drew out the dress "with the golden suns, put it on, adorned herself with jewels. Then she undid her hair, which she had hidden under her kerchief, and it dropped down in long locks at her side." When she appeared at the ball, she felt all eyes following her. The prince left the king's daughter and came and drew her on to the dance floor. When the music stopped, the maiden ran from the castle back to the pastures. Here she hid her fine clothing under a rock, and put on her rags. "On the next evening,she took out the dress with the silver moons and stuck half-moons made of jewels in her hair." Again, every eye was cast over her stunning beauty, and the prince danced only with her. "When she appeared for the third time, she was wearing the dress that sparkled like stars every time she took a step, and her hair ribbon and belt were edged with starlike jewels." This night the prince begged to know her name, and she told him, "Don't you remember what I did when you left me?' Then she went up to him and kissed him on the left cheek. At that moment, his eyes were finally opened, and he recognized his true bride." So the two of them climbed into his coach and "it was as though the wind itself had been harnessed to it". In a moment's time they were back at her magic castle, and "when they drove by the linden tree,countless glow worms were swarming around it, and the tree shook its branches and sent out its fragrant smell. The flowers were blooming on the steps, and the exotic birds resounded from the room. The entire court assembled in the main hall, and the priest waited to marry the bridegroom to his true bride."
From The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, Volume ll (trans. Zipes, 1812/1987)
Notes: This is such an interesting story because it seems to me to be a "root story" of the Catskin type. This has the flight of the girl and the menial labor, found in the Catskin variants, yet it is by the girl's choice. She is not forced into a bad marriage and running away, but seeking the prince that promised to marry her. Her three dresses and the three balls, the Baba Yaga/Wise Woman/Water Spirit/Fairy Godmother helper, are Catskin markers. Yet here Cinderella has hard tasks to do, something that is uncommon. Notice the role of the tree at the end; it is a conscious act on its part to shake its flowers and get that scent flowing, marking it as a spiritual presence.
Montessori Connection: The Solar System
1. Read this story and pay attention to the descriptions of the earth, moon and stars.
2. As a follow-up to the First Great Lesson, Formation of the Universe,
learn about the solar system. Try:The Planets in Our Solar System (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science, Stage 2), or 13 Planets: The Latest View of the Solar System (National Geographic Kids) or Time For Kids: Planets!.