Robin Redbreast

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

Friday, May 27, 2011

Cinderella #144 Tatterhood (1859/1978)


Tatterhood whacked the trolls
with her wooden spoon.

Once upon a time, in Norway, “there was a was a king and queen who had no children, and this grieved the queen very much.  She so wished for children that the king finally suggested that perhaps they could “invite the children of their kinswoman to stay with them.” So this they did, and the little nieces soon arrived.  They romped and played in all of the palace’s rooms, and out in the courtyard as well.  One day, the queen saw “her two lassies playing ball with a stranger, a little girl in tattered clothes.” This she did not like at all, and she rushed down to shoo the dirty girl away.  The tattered child said, “You would not chase me away if you knew the powers my mother has.” And this made the queen very curious, so she invited the ragged girl’s mother in for tea.  The mother was an egg seller. The queen begged to know the lady’s secret powers, and finally, the egg woman told her that she possessed the power to help the queen have children of her own.  This was what the queen must do: Have two pails of water brought up to her chamber at night.  She must wash herself with water from both pails, and when she had finished, she was to pour the water out under her bed.  The next morning, said the egg seller, “ When you look under the bed, two flowers will have sprung up; one fair and one rare.  The fair one you must eat, but the rare one you must let stand.  Mind you, don’t forget that.” The queen did follow her advice and the next morning she saw two flowers growing under her bed. “ One was green and oddly shaped; the other was pink and fragrant.  The pink flower she ate at once.  It tasted so sweet that she promptly ate the other one as well, saying to herself, “ I don’t think it can help or hurt either way!”  Yet she did conceive a child soon after.  When the babe was born, everyone saw that it was " a girl who had a wooden spoon in her hand and rode upon a goat. A queer looking creature she was, and the moment she came into the world she bawled out, “Mama! Well, the queen took one look and said, “If I’m your mama, God give me grace to mend my ways!’ ‘Oh don’t be sorry,’ said the girl, riding about on the goat. ‘the next one will be much fairer looking.’ And so it was.  The second twin was fair and sweet which pleased the queen very much.”  Both sisters were healthy and grew.  Although they were of different temperaments they were the best of friends.  The older sister “soon had the nickname Tatterhood for she was strong, raucous, and careless, and was always racing about on her goat.  Her clothes were always torn and mud-spattered, her hood in  tatters.  No one could keep her in clean, pretty, dresses.  She insisted on wearing old clothes and the queen finally gave up and let her dress as she pleased.” 
It happened one Christmas that "a pack of trolls invaded the palace", as they did, according to the queen, every seven years. Tatterhood and her twin were now fourteen years old, and horrified to hear the crashing and carousing of the "evil creatures".  So Tatterhood declared, "I will go and drive them out!" She gave orders that every door and window be sealed shut tight while she battled them, and off she went. When she saw the trolls, she "laid about with her wooden spoon, whacking trolls on the head or shoulders, rounding them up to drive them out." Her twin just could not resist peeking while her brave sister slashed and slew.  For just a moment, the girl stuck her head out the window, and "POP! Up came a troll, whipped off her head and stuck a calf's head on her shoulders instead." Mooing like a baby, the girl dropped to all fours. Tattercoats gave a scathing lecture to the girl's tutor for not keeping better track of her, and went to see her father, the King.  She announced,"I'll see if I can get her free from the troll's spell, but I'll need a good ship in full trim, and well fitted with stores." The King protested at first, but soon realized that his daughter was a brave warrior. He gave her the ship, and she trotted away on her goat,  her calf-headed sister by her side.  The wind was swift and they soon made shore at the land of the trolls.  Tattercoats jumped out and saw a house, and she looked through the window...and there was her sister's true head, high on a shelf. "In a trice, she leapt the goat through the window, snatched the head, and leapt back outside again." Although the trolls were furious, and soon pursued her, she swung her "magic wooden spoon until they gave and let her escape." Back on board the ship, Tatterhood restored her sister's proper head. The two girls then decided that, while they had come thus far, they would sail on and go adventuring. "So they sailed along the coast, stopping at this place and that, until at last they reached a distant kingdom." So they landed, and soon, a party from the nearby castle came down to investigate. When they saw the strange young woman trotting about on board riding a goat and waving a spoon, they were not sure what to think. But when they saw the other girl, they invited both sailors up to meet the royal family, and the two princes. But Tatterhood said they must come to her, for she would not go to them. The next day, the elder of the two brothers came to shore and met the twins. He fell instantly in love with the lovely maiden, and proposed marriage.  But she said,"No indeed. I will not leave my sister Tatterhood. I will not marry until she marries." So the prince went back and prepared for a feast, warning his brother that he had to invite the ugly girl who rode a goat, as well as the pretty one. But the younger brother was intrigued by the notion of  a goat-riding girl, and agreed to meet her. The sisters made ready to come.  "The younger twin brushed her hair and put on her finest kirtle for the event, but Tatterhood refused to change." Though her sister wanted only for her to have a fine time, and be respected for her valor, still Tattherhood would neither wash her face, comb her hair, nor change from her dirty clothing. All of the townspeople turned out to watch as the princes, and the two sailor girls rode by. "At the head, rode the prince and Tatterhood's sister on fine white horses draped with cloth of gold. Next came the prince's brother on a splendid horse with silver trappings.  Beside him rode Tatterhood on her goat." The prince beside her spoke not a word, and finally, Tatterhood could stand it no more. She asked him why he did not speak? He burst out," Why do you ride on that goat instead of a horse?' 'Since you happen to ask,' said Tatterhood, 'I can ride on a horse if I choose." As she spoke, the goat became a fine steed.  Well, she certainly had his attention now! So he asked, "Why do you hide your head beneath that ragged hood?' 'Is it a ragged hood? I can change it if I choose." And she did, and revealed lustrous brown locks. and a "circlet of gold and tiny pearls".  Now the prince cried out,"What an usual girl you are! But that wooden spoon — why do you choose to carry that?" She responded by waving her hand, and the spoon became " a gold tipped wand of rowan wood".  They rode on in silence for some time, and then Tatterhood asked the prince, "Well — aren't you going to ask me why I wear these ragged clothes?' 'No,' said the prince. 'It's clear you wear them because you choose to, and when you want to change them, you will." As he spoke, the dirty rags transformed into rich, green velvet.  The prince just smiled, and said,"The color becomes you very well." But she still had not washed her face.  Only as they rode under the entrance to the castle did she ask whether he wanted her to do so. When he replied that it was entirely her choice, she rejoiced.  Then she "touched the rowan wand to her face and the soot streaks disappeared."  And the "games and the singing and the dancing" and the feasting went on for many a day. 
From Tatterhood and Other Tales (1978, ed: Phelps, E.J.) The Feminist Press 
Notes: This is very Northern European: a. Because of the trolls. b. Because of the image of the girl with spoon raised in her hand, and the editor's note that this, along with the flowers and goat, "may be related to ancient superstition and symbols." According to Elizabeth Wayland Barber, this seems to be a reference to Berehinia, the "Slavic goddess who was the protectress of women and fertility...the motif of the protecting goddess with her arms raised, hands full of birds or plants, is still in active use in Ukraine and other Slavic areas." Tatterhood, with her goat and spoon, is an almost Pan-ic figure.  Here we have twins, or perhaps the two sides of one girl's personality. 
Montessori Connection: The Fourth Great Lesson/Communication in Signs/ Extension: Runes
1. Read this story and find Norway on the globe.

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