Robin Redbreast

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

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cinderella #148 The Black Bull of Norroway (Number One, Phelps, ed.,1978)

Hazelnuts, almonds, brazil nuts and a peanut. 

Once upon a time, in "Norroway, there lived a woman who had three daughters.  Off they went to learn their fortunes from an old woman who lived in the forest." When they got there, the wise woman told them to go out and pick an apple from the tree, and then they must come into the kitchen.  So each girl picked an apple and in they went. Now the first must peel her apple, being careful not to break the skin.  When this was done, she was to throw it over her left shoulder, using her right hand.  And when the old woman discerned the shape in which the peel fell, she declared that the girl would  marry an earl.  When the second girl peeled her apple, the old one foresaw that she would marry a lord.  But when the third daughter had peeled an apple all in one strip, and tossed in over her left shoulder, the wise one said that she would marry a black bull.  "The two oldest sisters were well pleased with their fortunes, but the youngest sister lauged and said,"No matter, I'll be content with the Black Bull of Norroway." When her sisters warned her not to make light of this, lest her fortune really come true, the girl said that she did not want to marry anyway, and would rather live at home. Well, the years passed, and one sister "did marry an earl and the other did marry a lord. Nonetheless, the younger sister was quite surprised one day to see a big black bull at the door. At first the girl was afraid, but the bull seemed gentle and quiet." Now, this maiden was one to keep her word, so she bid her mother goodbye, "climbed onto his back, and away they went."  The bull proved to be a gentle ride, going out of his way to avoid the roughest parts of the path. They rode on and on, and finally, the girl said she must eat.  And "the Black Bull said, in a friendly voice,'Reach into my right ear, and you will find food. Reach into my left ear, and you will find drink.' She did so, and after eating and drinking, she gathered the remains in her kerchief to eat later." Soon they saw a a castle come into view and the bull said that his brother lived there.  They stopped for the night, and the Black Bull was given the best care among all of the royal bulls, and the girl given a luxurious room.  Before they left in the morning, the people of the castle gave her "a golden walnut".  It was to be used only in emergency, they said, at which point it would give whatever help was needed.  They rode on through the day, and as night fell, came within sight of another castle.  It was the home of another brother, said the Bull, and they must stay the night. So they did, and this time, the girl asked especially that the Bull be given the tenderest care.  "In the morning, before they set off again, she was given a large golden hickory nut by the castle folk." They too, warned her not to use the nut unless she was in "the worst trouble in the world". Now the Bull and the girl traveled on, trading stories as they walked on.  Their friendship deepened.  When they saw the finest castle yet, the Bull said,"Yonder lives my youngest brother, and here we must stay the night." They did so, and in the morning, the girl received a golden hazelnut, along with the usual warning. They passed the day walking and talking, but that evening, they came not to a castle but a wood. And the bull told her that he was finally going to try and break the enchantment he was under, and needed her cooperation. She was to remain high upon the rock where he set her, moving neither foot nor hand, or "I shall never find you again." said the Bull. And "If everything round about you turns blue, it means I have beaten the creature, but if everything turns red, he will have conquered me." While  the terrible sounds of the battle raged, the remained stock still. At last, the air and the earth and all about her turned to blue, and thus she rejoiced! Her dear friend the Bull had won! She wiggled her foot with excitement — and so broke the enchantment.  Although she waited for what seemed an eternity, the Black Bull did not return. She thought of the three nuts in her pocket, but worse fortune still seemed to lie ahead, so she kept them there still.  She gathered her strength and walked on, coming at last to a high, smooth hill of glass. She tried to climb it, but slipped and fell until she gave up. Then she saw "a smith's forge", and went to talk to the man there. She said that she wanted to have shoes of iron made, and he told her the price was that she  work for him, "seven months and seven days".  So she worked the forge each day for that time, and he made her the shoes.  He warned her, however, that at the top of the hill she would find the land of the trolls.  Now the girl put on the iron shoes and climbed the glass hill, and came to the land of the trolls. She heard that a contest was under way: it seemed that "a gallant knight" was not able to marry until the blood had been washed from his clothes, yet no troll maid could do it. "Their hairy bodies glistened, and their red eyes gleamed as they scrubbed and washed, but the blood stains would not come out. " Well, the girl took her turn, and when she soused the bloody garments in the river they became "pure and clean".  Just then, a troll girl snatched them from her, ran to the knight, and told him that she had cleaned his clothes. So the knight was betrothed to the troll princess, and NOW the girl cracked open the first of her golden nuts, and "it was full  of precious jewels". Knowing the greediness of trolls, she bargained with the troll-bride.  The handful of jewels for one night's delay of the marriage. So it was arranged, and the girl allowed to spend one night in the room of the gallant knight.  But of course, the troll-bride had given him a posset,which sent him deeply to sleep. All night, the girl sat by his side, singing, "The smith's forge I worked for thee, the glassy hill I climbed for thee, thy bloody clothes I wrung for thee, wilt thou not waken and turn to me?" But the knight slept on. The next day, the girl split open "the golden hickory nut, and the jewels inside were more brilliant than the first."  Again she bargained, and again the greedy troll girl let he have one more night in the chamber. Once more she sang her mournful song, but once more, the knight slept soundly on. Well, the girl's heart felt as though it were to break. She had but one nut left, "so she opened it, and inside were the most brilliant jewels of all. When she showed these to the troll princess, the princess could not resist them."  That greedy troll-girl spent the whole day rolling jewels between her hairy fingers, and rubbing hands together with pleasure. She did not hear her chamber-maids gossiping of the beautiful girl who sang to the knight under the moonlight, nor did the troll-bride notice that the gallant knight had witnessed the maids' discussion. This night he feigned to swallow the potion, and spat it instead out the window. And "as soon as the girl entered his room he recognized her at once, and as soon as they embraced each other, the trolls' spell was broken—finally and completely." Together, they tiptoed past the sleeping trolls, slid silently down the glass hill, and ran far away from that place. And then, "in a fine castle of their own, they lived in peace and contentment ever after."
From Tatterhood and Other Tales. (Ed.,Phelps,1978) The Feminist Press
Notes: This story is identified by Phelps as "very old" and "based on versions by Joseph Jacobs and F.A.Steele".  It is fascinating to see here a pair of shoes worn by the girl which are not dainty slippers of glass, but custom made iron boots. It is the hill she climbs that is made of glass, apparently solid all the way through. According to Marie Louise von Franz, the "mountain motif [also] denotes the Self;  the mountain also marks the place - the point in life- where the hero...gains steadfastness and self-knowledge." It is at the base of the mountain that this girl really decides to take charge of the situation, earn the boots, and go find that enchanted bull. 
Montessori Connection: Iron and Glass