|By Gary Marvin Davison|
Once upon a time, in Taiwan, there lived "a servant girl called Jinye, a person whose heart was full of kindness. One day she was planting vegetables in the garden at the back of her master's house when there suddenly appeared a beggar so torn of garment and smelly of body as to offend even the most merciful Bodhisattva." He begged Jinye to give him food, saying that he had not had "even a tiny morsel" of food for many days. So she gave him her own bowl of rice, and ate some potatoes instead. The next day, the beggarman came again, only this time, Jinye was not alone in the garden. Her mistress was there as well, taking in the warm sunshine. This woman "had none of Jinye's kindheartedness, none of her servant girl's gentleness with fellow human beings." She gave him a blow to the head, instead of rice to fill his belly with. Tiring of the hot sun, the mistress soon went inside her home, leaving Jinye working in the heat. Now the kind girl went in search of the beggarman, so upset had she been to see him treated so badly. She came upon him, and he was nearly dead with hunger. So Jinye ran to the kitchen of her mistress and quickly fixed a bowl of rice and vegetables. Then she ran all the way back to the poor man lying in the dirt. He ate this food and was very grateful. It happened that some days later, Jinye's mistress had a taste for shrimp. She sent the girl down to the pond to catch some. Though Jinye tried diligently to do so, her bucket came up empty time after time. That's when she saw the beggarman again. This time he entreated her to help him "lance a terrible boil" that was on his foot. Gentle Jinye did so and "some of the pus from the lanced boil splattered on Jinye's face, but she waited until the beggar had departed before going to the stream to wash her face. Then, when she pulled up her barrel to make the return journey home, Jinye discovered that it was full of shrimp." Home she went, and when she got their, her mistress was very puzzled. She yelled "What in the world have you been up to? Hey, let me look at you! I can't believe what I'm seeing! What in the world is this all about!" She thrust a mirror at the girl, telling her to look into it. Then she said, " Just look at yourself! You've always been such an ugly little thing! How is it that your face has become a thing of beauty?" Jinye at first said that she did not know. "Then she thought of the beggar, the boil, the pus that had splattered on her face. As odd as it seemed, there must have been some connection between that disgusting liquid and the splendid transformation that had given her a radiantly beautiful face." Yet Jinye hesitated to share this story with her mistress. But that woman would give her no peace until she did so, and the story was reluctantly related. Now the mistress said, "I want such a face myself, and since I will be starting out so very much more beautiful than did you, I may well be the world's most beautiful woman when the magic has been worked. I order you to make sure that what happened to your face now happens to my own!" So the next day, when the beggarman came to the back door again, with "fresh boils that dotted his gnarled feet", she invited him in. Bracing herself "for the terrible odor that she knew would be coming her way" she squeezed the beggar's boils and "forced some of the pus from the man's burst boil onto her own face. With great excitement and expectation, she ran to the pond's edge. The mistress cupped her hand into the water to wash her face. But as she did so, she saw the terrible unexpected consequences of her rash actions. She had been transformed into something quite wretched. Her face was hideous, and feathers now covered her entire body." That's when the beggar began walking toward the pond. But he was not coming to help the mistress, though she squawked and screamed and begged for help. The beggar —who had been made handsome and tall at the same instant that the mistress had become deformed and twisted with ugliness—walked toward Jinye. Then he took the beautiful servant girl by the hand, and they left the mistress alone by the stream. He was now "a handsome man whose face bore no boils, no scars, no pain. He had become handsome, erect, sturdy and tall—a fit companion for the girl whose kindness had given a new life to them both."
From Tales from the Taiwanese retold by Davison, G.M. (2004)
Notes: This story has some parallels to the American Ashpet, or Ashypet. In that story, the Cinderella character is also a servant, rather than a a family relation of the cruel woman. That character becomes the boss, rather than the stepmother. As with the Chinese Cinderella, we find a male character helping the girl, in this case a beggar. He is more disgusting, but not really so different, from the "old woman by the well who wants a drink of water" scenario, so common in many fairy tales.
Montessori Connection: Geography/Fundamental Needs of People, Food/Taiwan:
1. Read this story, and then try to get the book from the library.
2. Find Taiwan on the globe.
3. Make a recipe or do a lesson from this book. Here is a simple example:
Ingredients: 1/2 lb. spaghetti noodles, salt, pepper, 2 tablespoon soy sauce, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder.
Boil the noodles, but do not overcook. Drain, but reserve about 1/4 cup water in the bottom of the pot. With pan over high heat, add the soy sauce and the garlic powder, constantly for about one minute. Enjoy! (Note that using whole wheat noodles is also delicious and is much healthier).