Once upon a time, in Bologna, there was "a king who had three daughters: a brunette, a redhead, and a blonde. The first was homely, the second so-so, while the youngest was the best-hearted and the most beautiful of the three." Now, her sisters were jealous, of course. This king "had three thrones: a white one, a red one, and a black one. When he was happy, he sat on the white one. When he was so-so, on the red one, when he was angry, on the black one." One morning, he woke up angry at his two oldest daughters, so he sat down on the black throne. When the oldest girl came in, she asked him, "Father, did you sleep well? You're on the black throne, that doesn't mean you're angry with me, does it?" Well, he said, it most certainly did mean just that. The reason was that he felt that she did not love him at all. To which his child responded, "I do, Father. You are very dear to me.' 'How dear?' 'As dear as bread." The king liked this answer, but he snorted out loud and called for the next daughter. She said, "Father, did you sleep well? Why are you on the black throne? You couldn't be angry with me, could you?' 'I certainly am.' 'But why are you angry with me, sir?' 'Because you don't love me, at all.' 'I do love you, sir, you are quite, quite, dear to me.' 'Just how dear?' 'As dear as wine." Although the king hated to show his delight, he smiled and waved for the next daughter to come in. She was "as cheerful as cheerful could be." But she stopped short when she saw her father sitting on the black throne and said, "Father! Did you sleep well? Why in the world are you on the black throne? Are you in any way angry with me?" The king said that he was, because she did not love him. And she told him that she did, too, love him. When he wanted to know how much, she said,"As dear as salt." This infuriated the king, who shouted, "As dear as salt? Salt? You wretch! Out of my sight! I never want to lay eyes on you again.' And he ordered her taken to a forest and slain." You may be sure that when the girl's mother found out about this idea, she was horrified, as well as furious. She would not stand by while her little Zizola — that was her name — was gotten rid. So, she made a plan. She had, in her chambers, a gigantic silver candlestick, big enough that a girl could climb inside its base. So she told her daughter to get in, gave her "a store of figs, chocolate, and cookies", and called for a servant. The queen told this man to take the candlestick to the market and sell it, but only to a wealthy man. To make sure that this indeed happened, she told the servant that if a poor man wanted to buy it, he must say that the price was sky high, but if a rich one wanted it, to quote a price that was rock-bottom. So the servant followed these directions, and at last, "the son of Hightower's king happened by, scrutinized the candlestick, then asked its price." The servant gave it to him for pennies on the dollar value, and the prince had it carted home immediately. He had it set up in the dining room, and all of his guests marveled when they saw it. That night, the prince "attended some social or another. As he wanted no one waiting up for him at home, the servants set out his supper and went to bed." And Zizola climbed out of the candlestick and ate every bite! In the morning the prince raged. Why had his orders not been followed? They had followed his orders, declared the servants. The dog or the cat must have eaten the food, they said. The prince did not like this, but what could he do? He threatened to fire the lot of them if it happened again, and that night, he went out again, and left orders that a meal be placed upon the table. Also that they make sure that the dog and cat were locked outside. Now, the servants set the table as before, and laid out the dishes of food, and the flasks of wine. Then they shooed the dog and cat out, and locked the door. As soon as she heard the door click, Zizola came out of the candlestick and ate every bite of food on the table. Then she drank all of the wine, climbed back inside the candlestick, and went to sleep. Well, when the prince came home and found the table empty, it "looked as if the prince would bring down the house with all his shouting." At length, he calmed down, and decided he would find out for himself what was going on. So the next night, after the servants had set dinner upon the table, he hid underneath it. The minute the door clicked shut behind the servants, "the candlestick opened and out stepped lovely Zizola. She went to the table and ate her fill." Out jumped the prince and caught hold of the little thief, and would not let her go until she had told him her story. As he held her tightly and listened to the way her father had discarded her, his heart was moved. In fact, "he was head over heels in love with her" so he went ahead and told her," You might as well know right now you will be my bride. For the time being, go back into the candlestick." So Zizola went back in, and the prince went to bed. All night, he dreamed of the girl in the silver candlestick. The next day, he ordered that it be moved into his bedchamber. And then he requested that all of his meals be served in his room, in "double portions, for he was quite hungry. They brought him coffee, then a hot breakfast, then dinner, every meal with double servings. He and Zizola ate together in glee." But the queen, left alone in the dining room, sighed and said to herself, "What on earth could my son have against me not to dine with me anymore? Have I done anything to him?" When she tried to speak with him, he begged for time and patience. At last, he told her that he had found a bride. His mother was delighted to hear this, and asked who his wife was to be? He said,"I am going to marry the candlestick." She said, "Oh my goodness, my son has lost his mind!" And no matter how she begged and pleaded, and asked him to consider what the neighboring kings and queens would think if he married a silver candlestick, but he would not listen. Instead, he planned an elaborate wedding. "On the appointed day, a long line of carriages left the palace. In the first one rode the prince, with the candlestick at his side." When they got to church, he carried it in, and set the silver candlestick right up on the altar. "At exactly the right moment the candlestick opened and out stepped Zizola in her brocaded dress, with countless gems adorning her neck and ears and sparkling all over." When the excitement calmed down, Zizola told the queen her story. This "cunning lady" made a plan of her own. She went to the kitchen and asked the cooks to prepare the feast as ordered,with all of its rich dishes, but, for each one, that they set aside one portion with out a speck of salt in them. These were to be served to one particular guest. Well, when the feast began and the wine flasks and serving platters went round, everyone made merry. Everyone, that is, except for one king, a guest from a neighboring castle. And the Lady Queen went to her guest's side, and inquired whether anything was wrong. This man hemmed and hawed, and finally confessed that the food was so bland, he wondered whether it was possible that the cook had forgotten to salt the food? At that moment, "he recalled what his daughter had told him, that he was as dear as salt to him. 'Woe is me! What wrong have I done?" he wailed, and the queen hastened to hear his troubles. That's when she "summoned the little bride. Again and again, her father embraced her; he couldn't help weeping and asking what she was doing there, as though she had risen from the dead. They sent for her mother too, renewed the festivities with a party every day, and I do believe everyone is there to this day and still dancing."
From Calvino, I. (1980) p.172 Notes: This is very similar to the story, How Much Do You Love Me? A Jewish Cinderella, only that story has a rabbi in place of the king; and Like Meat Loves Salt, a Russian story. My favorite part of this is the fact that Zizola's mother provisions her with chocolate, figs and cookies, before kissing her and putting her inside the silver candlestick. Like all Cinderella stories, the line seems to blur on age: is Zizola a little girl or a marriagable maiden? As in all such stories, the answer is both: that is the crux of this narrative, the transformation of the child to the woman. The opening lines read more like a joke about three women who walk into a bar than a Cinderella story: you gotta love the Italians!
Montessori Connection: Literature Comparison
1. Read this story.
2. Find Bologna on a map of Italy.
3. See if you can find the story Like Meat Loves Salt, or How Much Do You Love Me?, and find the similarities. The Way Meat Loves Salt: A Cinderella Tale from the Jewish Tradition
4. Get permission to make a simple meal, such as scrambled eggs, or vegetable soup. DO NOT ADD SALT! Kids' Fun and Healthy Cookbook or Betty Crocker's Kids Cook! or The Everything Cooking for Kids Cookbook (Everything Series)
5. Taste the food.
6. Add a bit of salt.
7. Which do you prefer?