Robin Redbreast

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

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Cinderella #125 The Little Rag Girl (1850)

These little rag dolls are fun to make! 

Once upon a time, in the Eastern European country of Georgia, there lived a man and his wife and child.  This man was bitterly poor, and could hardly clothe himself and his wife, let alone one more.  The daughter wore such tatters that her nickname was Conkiajgharuna, or Little Rag Girl. Well, things went badly and then they went worse, and one day, the man's wife died.  How could he hope to make a living with a motherless child undefoot?  He married again, as quickly as he could.  But one thing he forgot to tell this woman: he had a child already, a little girl.  The new wife was angry, and declared that her own girl, a child of the same age, was to have the best of everything.  Every morning, before she pushed the little girl out the door to tend the cow, she gave her stepdaughter some old bread and said, " Eat as much as you want, and give some to every stranger you meet, but be sure to bring the whole loaf home." Life became a misery for Little Rag Girl.  One day, when all happiness seemed to have drained from her life, and she could find no joy in her days, she began to cry. Her tears flowed as though to fill a bucket.  That's when the cow said, "Why are you weeping? What is troubling you?" And the girl told her all.  And the cow leaned over and whispered, "Don't cry, for in one of my horns there is honey and in the other is butter.  Take what you want." In this way, the girl began to fill out, and no longer had a pinched stomache.  Soon, her stepmother noticed this, and began giving her more work.  Now Little Rag Girl had to spin a whole basketful of wool every day,, while she minded the cows.  It happened one day that the cow wandered far afield, and the girl, spinning while she trailed after it, dropped her spindle.  She found that it had slipped down a large hole in the ground, and bent over to look. Then she saw "an old woman, sitting on a stool.  ' Good mother, please give me back my spindle.' 'I cannot, my child, come and take it yourself.' answered the old one.  So Little Rag Girl went down.  Now the granny said, "Daughter, daughter, come and look at my head a moment, I am almost eaten up." And when the girl looked, she saw that the woman's head was crawling with worms. Quickly, she bent and picked off a dozen and threw them into the fire. "This pleased the old woman very much, and she said,' When you leave here, follow the road until you see three springs — one white, one black, and one yellow.  Pass by the white and black and dip your head in the yellow." This the girl did and "her hair became golden and her hands, too, shone like gold." How her stepmother raged when she saw this! She demanded to know the secret, and then the poor golden-haired Little Rag Girl told her about the old woman who lived underground, she immediately sent her daughter after her.  But when this young maid chased the cow and threw her spindle, and went down the hole, she spoke rudely. "Dog of an old woman! Come here and give me my spindle!' 'Come, child, and look at my head." And when the girl did so, she screamed and said, "Ugh! What a horrid head you have, you disgusting old woman!" The biddy smiled serenely and thanked the girl.  Then she told her that she had a gift for her on the way home.  The girl would pass by three springs — one white, one black, and one yellow.  She was to dip her head in the black one, and her reward would come.  This the girl did, and the moment she dipped her head into the black stream "a long, black horn grew out of her head".  The more she pulled it the longer it grew, and when she drew out her knife and hacked it off, it grew back again, only uglier and thicker. She fled screaming home, and didn't Little Rag Girl get a beating when she got there! And then the mother declared that she would kill the cow.  But the cow overheard her, and snuck over to the window, and whispered into Little Rag Girl's ear, "When I am dead, gather my bones together, and bury them in the earth. Whenever you are in trouble, come to my grave, and cry aloud,'Bring my steed and my royal robes!".  Well, the stepmother killed the cow, and Little Rag Girl gathered the bones. One day, the stepmother announced that she was taking her daughter to church. Then she dumped out a one hundred pound sack of millet and kicked it around the yard.  To her stepdaughter she said, "Before we return from church, fill this trough with your tears and gather up every single grain of millet." And off she went.  Now, Little Rag Girl knew that she would get a beating if she did not obey her stepmother, but she also knew that it would be impossible for her gather the grain.  Once again she sat down and cried, and once again she heard a voice. This time it was the kind neighbor lady, who said, "What's the matter, poor child?" And Little Rag Girl told her, and the woman shook her head.  Then she "brought out all her hens and chicks and and they picked up every grain of millet.  The she put a lump of salt in the trough and poured water over it. 'There, child, there are your tears! Now, go and enjoy yourself!"  And that's when Little Rag Girl remembered the cow bones.  She went to the place where she had buried them and called out softly, "Bring me my steed and my royal robes!" and sure enough, "there appeared a horse, and beautiful clothes, and slippers of gold."  She changed quickly and went to church.  Her stepmother saw her, and her stepsister thought the well dressed lady looked an awful lot like Little Rag Girl.  They both agreed that the idea was ridiculous! How would that dirty girl get a gown like that? In any case, the strange maiden left the service before anyone else.  In her haste, she lost a shoe while crossing a stream, though she did not notice.  Once home, she dressed herself in rags, and sat down to spin.  Now the days passed drearily, with hard work and poor meals.  But one day, as the king rode through the woods, his horse shied at a stream. There was something shining in the water.  His servant pulled it out, and they saw that it was a golden shoe.  This intriguing find inspired the king to seek for the owner.   Soon all the girls in the village had lined up to try on the shoe, and it fit none.  So the king took to the forest to search for woodcutter's huts, and found the home of Little Rag Girl.  But her stepmother heard the king coming, and shoved her stepdaughter under basket.  Then she brushed her own girl's hair, and dressed her in her best shawl.  When the king arrived, he found only one young girl, and she with feet too stout for the shoe.  He sat down in defeat, resting upon a large basket.  That's when he felt a sharp jab in his shin.  Yelping with pain, he demanded to know what was in the basket.  "No!' cried the stepmother. 'It's only a turkey and will run away!" So the king sat down again, and a moment later, he felt another poke. It was Little Rag Girl, stabbing his leg with a needle. And now the king insisted that the basket be lifted, and "Little Rag Girl came forth.  'This slipper is mine and it fits me well.' she said.  She sat down and the king found that it was indeed a perfect fit, Little Rag Girl became the king's wife, and the stepmother was left with a dry throat."
From Sierra, J. The Oryx Multicultural Folktale Series: Cinderella 
Notes: When I read the title of this story I assumed that it was about a little doll, such as help Cinderella in several other stories from the Ukraine, and neighboring countries.  That is why I illustrated it with a photo of rag dolls,which I myself made. Sierra's notes about this story say that the woman underground, with worms in her hair is clearly a corpse; little underground houses for the dead were built in places, apparently, and so one might have been able to drop a spindle down one.  Spindles are tools that are either of clay, and cone shaped, or are sticks with pointed ends, used to draw out thread as one spins it.  Because it was such a time consuming process, women and girls spun all the time.  In Greece, and probably in Russia and the surrounding countries, a kind of spindle that dangled in front of you, like a yo-yo, was used. This left one hand free to push more fluff in, and the other free to draw the thread out. 
Montessori Connection: Fundamental Needs of People/Clothing/Spinning and Weaving
1. Read the story and pay attention to what the girl drops down the hole.