|From The Bells of London
"Once upon a time, there was a king whose wife had golden hair and was so beautiful that her equal could not be found anywhere on earth." Alas, one day this lady fell sick. The next day she was worse, and the following, worse still. Soon she knew herself to be at death's door, so she called the king to her. "Promise me that you will do this." said the queen, and implored him to swear an oath that when he remarried, the woman would be as lovely as she, with hair as golden. The king agreed, and the queen closed her eyes for the last time. The king was so overcome with grief that he would neither eat nor drink for many days. At last his councillors coaxed him out of bed, and back to health. The years passed, and the urgency rose for the king to find a new wife. But when he sent messengers to the four corners of the kingdom, and then four more beyond, and still no lady with face so fair and and locks as golden as the first queen could be found. But the king's daughter did, and "the king looked at her one day and realized that her features were exactly the same as those of his dead wife. Suddenly, he fell passionately in love with her, and announced," I'm going to marry my daughter, for she is the living image of my dead wife." But his councillor's said,"God has forbidden a father to marry his daughter. Nothing good can come from such a sin, and the kingdom will be brought to ruin." More horrified still was his daughter, when she heard her father's plan. Thinking "to dissuade him" she replied,"Before I fulfill your wish, I must have three dresses, one as golden as the sun, one as silvery as the moon, and one as bright as the stars. Furthermore, I want a cloak made up of a thousand kinds of pelts and furs, and each animal from your kingdom must contribute a piece of skin to it." The girl felt sure that she had set her father such a task that he could never meet her conditions. and felt greatly relieved. But "her father, however, persisted" and gathered the very best seamstresses and all too soon, the dresses had been woven. Then he set the royal huntsmen to work and before a fortnight had passed, he had a piece of each one's skin. When it was ready, he called his dautgher, and showed her the dresses. Then he spread the cloak over her shoulders and said,"The wedding will be tomorrow." That night, "she got up and took three of her precious possesions: a golden ring, a tiny golden spinning wheel and a little golden reel. She packed the dresses of the sun, moon and the stars into a nutshell, put on the cloak of all kinds of fur, and blackened her hands and face with soot." Then ran away deep into the woods, and "commended herself to God". She walked all night, and at dawn, she crept into a hole in a tree and went to sleep. She slept on while the sun rose high, and it happened that "the king who was the lord of this forest was out hunting in it, and when his dogs came to the tree, they started to sniff and run around it and bark." When the king sent a man to see what kind of animal was there, the fellow came back puzzled. He said," We've never seen anything like it. It's skin is made up of a thousand different kinds of fur, and it's lying there, asleep." And the king told them to try and take it alive, and to tie it in the wagon. But when they seized the beast, it woke up and cried out,"I'm just a poor girl, forsaken by my father and mother! Please have pity on me and take me with you!" Now they laughed, and said,"You'll be perfect for the kitchen, All Furs! Come with us and you can sweep up the ashes there." And so she did, and when they got to the castle, they "showed her a little closet beneath the stairs that was never exposed to the daylight. 'Well, you furry creature. You can live and sleep here." they said, and so began her new life. Every day, "she carried wood and water, kept the fires going, plucked the fowls, sorted the vegetables, swept up the ashes, and did all the dirty work. For a long time, "she lived in dire poverty. Ah, my beautiful princess, what shall become of you?" One time a ball was to be held, and All Furs asked permission to go and watch it. "Go ahead, but be back in half an hour. You've got to sweep the ashes." Now All Furs got "her little oil lamp" and went to her hutch and washed herself. Then she "opened the nut and took out the dress that shone like the sun." When she got to the ball, everyone was stunned by her beauty. The king himself took her hand and danced with her, and when the music was over, she curtsied, and ran quickly away. So swiftly did she run that she seemed to vanish. She had gone back downstairs, rubbed herself with soot, and hidden away her gown. But when Cook came in and saw her, he said,"Leave that be until tomorrow. I want you to make a soup for the king. " Cook desired a chance, he said, to watch the festivities too. So Allfurs "brewed a bread soup as best she could. When she was finished, she fetched her golden ring and put it into the bowl in which she had prepared the soup." And Cook came back and got the bowl and served it to the king, who was "convinced that he had never eaten a soup that had tasted as good". So good was it that he ate every drop, and there, in the bottom of the bowl, lay a golden ring. He sent for the cook at once and demanded to know the meaning of the ring. The cook swore that he himself had made the soup, but the king said,"That's not true for it was much different from your usual soup, and much better cooked." So Cook confessed, and said, "The furry creature did." So that girl was sent for and questioned. She told the king that she was "just a poor girl that no longer has a mother or father." She said that all she was good for was to "have boots thrown at my head." And she would say no more, so the king let her go. The months passed, and another ball was to be held. Again All Fur begged permission to go, and again, it was granted. This time she wore her dress of moon beam silver, and, as she had hoped, "the king was delighted to see her". But when the music ended, she whisked herself out of sight, and became "the furry creature" once more. She was covered in ashes when Cook found her. He told her to make another pot of soup while he went upstairs and this time "she fetched the tiny golden spinning wheel, put it into the bowl, and covered it with the soup." When the king tasted the savory broth, and swallowed the delicious soup, he knew at once that Cook had not made this batch. He summoned All Furs and questioned her, but she swore she knew nothing of a tiny spinning wheel in the bowl, and claimed "that she was good for nothing but to have boots thrown at her head". When the third ball was held and All Fur begged to go, "the cook now asserted,'Furry creature, I know you're a witch. You always put something in the soup to make it taste good and to make the king like it better than anything I can cook." Yet he allowed her to go and watch, in exchange for making the soup and giving him his own turn to see the royalty dancing. When the king saw All Fur in her dress that shone like the stars, he knew that he must marry her. He gave orders that the music be kept going as long as possible. "While he danced with her, he put a golden ring on her finger without her noticing it." When she realized how long she had stayed, she fled, but she was too late. There was not time to change out of her star-shining dress, and when she dusted soot over herself, one finger stayed pure white. She had just time to drop the golden reel into the king's portion of soup before Cook came in. And the king slurped the soup up quickly, and found the reel, and called for the furry creature from the kitchen. Then "he seized her hand and held it tight and when she tried to free herself and run away, the fur cloak opened a bit and the dress of bright stars was unveiled. The king grabbed the cloak and tore if off her. Suddenly, her golden hair toppled down, and she stood there in all her splendor unable to conceal herself any longer. After she had wiped the soot and ashes from her face, she was more beautiful than anyone who had ever been glimpsed on earth. 'You shall be my dear bride, ' the king said,' and we shall never part from each other!' Thereupon the wedding was celebrated, and they lived happily together until their death."
From All New 3rd Edition The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm. (trans.,Zipes, 2003)
Notes: It is a puzzlement to imagine a tiny spinning wheel, as this would have moving parts and awkward to make from gold. It is more logical to imagine a golden spindle, the conical tool used to spin thread by women on all continents throughout human history. It has been documented that highborn ladies of the late Neolithic and on were buried with spinning tools, as this was such a crucial labor for them. Evidence has also been found that women of ancient Greece, Mesopotamia, and parts of Europe were weaving cloth from thread twisted and beaded with precious metals. Because the process of spinning thread and weaving cloth was so time consuming, even noblewomen spent a great deal of time spinning. They left the simple linens, however, to their servants, and spun themselves richly dyed wool, or linen strung with gold. ( Barber, E.W. (1994) Women's Work: The First Twenty Thousand Years. New York: W.W. Norton & Company) Could it be that Mr. Zipes, or others before him, mixed the two similar English words, spindle and spinning wheel? Maybe, as they translated from the German, they were less familiar with a Spindel or spindle, than with a Spinnrad,or spinning wheel. Likewise the golden reel. The word reel has more connotations of fishing gear than sewing tool. Bobbin, or spool, being the cylinder around which one wraps the thread which they have spun, makes much more sense. Else why spend all that time spinning thread only to have it tangle? Food for thought, and an inspiration to study German.
Read more Zipes: The Great Fairy Tale Tradition: From Straparola and Basile to the Brothers Grimm (Norton Critical Editions) or The Brothers Grimm: From Enchanted Forests to the Modern World or Literature and Literary Theory Bundle RC: Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion (Routledge Classics)
Montessori Connection: Language/ The Indo European Family of Languages
1. Read this story, and the notes, and think about translating words from one language to the next.
2. Learn about why English is related to German: Learn that Modern English is traced back to Middle English which in turn comes from the Germanic branch of the tree.
3. Learn more about the Story of Writing:The Story of Writing: Alphabets, Hieroglyphs, & Pictograms, Second Edition