Robin Redbreast

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

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Cinderella #178 Cinderellis and the Glass Hill (2000)

Ellis could not hear
a thing with his helmet on.
Illustration by Elliott, M. 

 Once upon a time, there was a boy named Ellis. He "was always lonely. He lived with his older brothers, Ralph and Burt, on a farm that was across the moat from Biddle Castle." As big brothers often are, these were unkind to Ellis. They would never play with him, finding in each other the perfect playmate for every game. Ellis spent his childhood alone, experimenting with this and that. A the age of six, he "invented flying powder". Taking a bit of this and sprinkling it over his little tin cup, he experimented further. Soon he could control its direction, and with a bit of fine tuning his recipe, the speed. Thrilled that at last his brothers would have to take notice of the amazing thing he'd done, he waited anxiously for them to come home. But when he crowed, "I made my cup fly!" his brother "Ralph didn't even turn his head. 'Rain tomorrow." And then Burt said, "Barley needs it." That's when he noticed that Ellis, who had spent the day flying his cup up and down the chimney, while crouching in the fireplace, was covered in cinders. "You're covered with cinders, Ellis." said Ralph. Then he guffawed, "That's what we should call him— Cinderellis!" From then on, the nickname stuck. The first year that the crops mysteriously vanished from the fields at midnight, Ellis was 9 years old. Everyone felt the house rumble something fierce, but nobody went to see what caused it. In the morning, surveying the empty field, Ralph said, "Goblins did it." But Ellis had carefully inspected the field and he found something that proved otherwise: a golden hair, and hoof prints. "It was a horse with a golden mane. Not goblins." he declared, but Ralph and Burt ignored him. One year later, on the first day of fall, Ralph and Burt prepared for the goblins to come again and mow down the field. Ellis had been planning ahead for this day. He had "invented goblin stay-away powder. It was made of dried vinegar and the claw of a dead eagle, the two things goblins fear most." But his brothers wouldn't even let him tag along to the field, saying it was Ralph's turn to keep watch, so Ellis taught him a goblin-stay away spell instead.  In the morning, he asked what had happened. Ralph said, "Ground shook. Said the spell. Went to sleep. Hay was gone.' 'Did you see the horse?' Ellis asked. 'What horse?' 'Didn't you look outside the barn?" His brothers howled with laughter.  Later that day, Ellis inspected the field, and found "a silver horse's hair". The year after that, Burt stayed in the barn overnight to keep watch, and just as before, the hay vanished overnight. He claimed he hadn't heard anything. "My turn next.' Cinderellis said, picking up a golden hair from the bare field." Meanwhile, over at Biddle Castle, across the way, King Humphrey lll lived with his daughter, Marigold. And a whole crowd of servants, of course. Marigold was also a lonely child, for, despite her luxurious surroundings, she had no friends. All of the other children who lived at the palace were servant's kids, or those of the lower courtiers, Their parents wouldn't let them anywhere near the princess, who was surely above such things as simple children's games. The thing is, she would have given anything for a rousing game of tag. Her father, though he loved her dearly, was hardly around. He was always off questing for magical objects, only he never seemed to come home with the thing he'd set out for. For example, once he brought back a turkey that laid tin eggs. Not quite the goose who laid golden ones that he's sought. Then there was the time he'd heard of a pair of seven-league boots. "What he had found were shoes that walked backward, very slowly. They went straight to the Royal Museum of Quest Souvenirs." The year that it was Ellis' turn to keep watch over the hay, he had spent perfecting a recipe for horse treats. When he sat in the barn that night, he had a pocketful of tried and tested, guaranteed irresistible horse treats. So when he the sound of hoofbeats a distant way off, he sat up a little straighter. When he heard the hoofbeats thunder past, he rose and held onto the door while "the rafters hummed along" and his teeth rattled like popping corn. When it was quiet, he went out and found,"a copper colored mare", that was the most magnificent he had ever seen. There appeared to be a knight in copper armor sitting on its back. When the mare saw this boy, and smelled the treats in his hand, she thought to herself that here was someone who "could rescue her from the evil magician who had put a spell on her." She held her breath while she waited for him to touch the bridle, breaking the spell for good. Ellis took slow steps toward the copper mare, holding a treat out in his hand. Then — he grabbed the bridle! The spell was broken, and the mare whinnied with joy. She would do anything for this lad, so grateful was she never to return to the wizard. Ellis had prepared a secret stall for the horse he knew he would find that night, and now he led the mare to it. He had decided to name her Chasam; this was short for "Copper horse arrives shortly after midnight." Then he discovered that the armor was empty. He polished it, and hid that too. But in the morning, all his brothers had to say was, "Goblin spell worked after all.'" And no matter what Ellis said, they would not believe otherwise. However, they did let him keep watch the next year. That's when he got Shasam. The name stood for "Silver horse arrives shortly after midnight." The following year, the earth rattled and the barn shuddered and a horse with a golden mane came to the field. It too accepted a treat; it too was overjoyed to have this nice young man break the spell it was under, by grasping its bridle. The golden mare, the silver mare, and the copper mare were sisters, and thrilled to be reunited. They all agreed that they would do anything for Ellis.  It happened one day that King Humphrey lll noticed that his daughter, Marigold, was suddenly grown. He decided to go on a quest to find her a husband, and laid great plans for the journey. But he angered an imp one day, and was hexed by it. "No quest for five years!" So he changed plans, and decided to host an event and invite knights from far and wide. To give the contest some pizzaz, he ordered the Royal Glassmakers to construct a hill, entirely out of glass. He would have Marigold sit at the top of it, with a basket of golden apples in her lap. Whichever knight reached the top first and grabbed the apples would be "perfect for her and perfect for Biddle." After all, the kingdom was most important. But Marigold felt otherwise. A knight who forced his poor horse to ride up a glass hill, then snatched the golden apples from her "would be cruel and evil. No kind person would make a horse" do that. Worst of all, Marigold would have to marry the guy, whether she liked him or not. When the Royal Trumpeter came around, announcing the contest, Ralph and Burt said, "Good day to watch a glass hill." Ellis said nothing. He went to his secret horse stall, and saddled Chasam up. He had such a struggle getting the copper armor on that the contest was almost over by the time he got there. But he knew he had good chance of winning: he had invented sticky-hood powder, and had tested it out on all kinds of glass. When he came riding up to the contest, people shouted and cheered, but he couldn't hear a word they said. The copper helmet covered his ears. He whispered encouragement to Chasam though, and up they went. They made it about a third of the way up before Marigold, who was something of an inventor herself, used her secret anti-husband device. This was a flask of olive oil, which she now drizzled down the side of the mountain. Chasam and Ellis slid all the way down to the bottom. The crowd, which had been cheering, now groaned, and the King, who had been cheering loudest of all, declared that tomorrow there would be a second contest.  Of course Ellis spent the day struggling into his silver armor, and when he rode up on Shasam, the crowd went wild.  He had dipped her feet in sticky powder, and now he coaxed her gently up the hill When he was two thirds of the way up, Marigold threw a golden apple at him, and poured down another stream of oil. Of course, the King declared a third day of the contest, and this time, Ellis brought the gold.  Not only was he riding Gasam, he had perfected his sticky powder, and now it repelled oil. When Marigold saw this knight pass the halfway mark of her golden hill, she threw an apple at him. He caught it, and kept on climbing. When he was nearly to the top, she threw the last apple, which Gasam caught neatly between her teeth. And when Ellis reached the top, and found it covered in oil, he didn't give it a moment's worry. He was just going to take off his helmet when he noticed that the princess's face was red, and her mouth was open and moving fast. She must be screaming at someone, he thought. He couldn't hear a thing through the helmet. That's when he realized she was screaming at him. If he could have heard her, he would have known that she was yelling, "Stay away from us! I won't marry you!" All he saw was a girl holding a cat and waving her arms. He tried to say, don't worry, I love cats, but through his helmet, Marigold couldn't hear a thing. She told him to take off the helmet, and a long and confusing game of charades ensued. When they had finally sorted things out, and Ellis had given her back her golden apples, and petter her cat, and introduced him to her horse. they discovered that they had become friends. And three days later, a glorious wedding was held. Ellis and his three mares moved into the palace with Marigold and her cat, And they all lived happily ever after. And neither Ellis nor Marigold was ever lonely again.
From The Princess Tales: Cinderellis and the Glass Hill. (2000) by Gail Carson Levine. New York: HarperCollins
Note: This is based on the fairy tale collected by Andrew Lang, The Princess and the Glass Hill. (See Cinderella #150). The book is 104 pages long, and a perfect, easy read for kids ages 7+. It is fun to have a boy hero, and good to get such a spunky princess! See:12 Books in 1: Andrew Lang's Complete "Fairy Book" Series. The Blue, Red, Green, Yellow, Pink, Grey, Violet, Crimson, Brown, Orange, Olive, and Lilac ... and Fairy Stories From Around The World.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cinderella #177 Perrault, trans. A.E. Johnson

"The haughtiest, proudest
woman that had ever been seen."
Illustrations by Robinson, W.H.
Once upon a time, in France, there lived "a worthy man who married for his second wife the haughtiest, proudest woman that had ever been seen. She had two daughters, who possessed their mother's temper and resembled her in everything." The gentleman also had a daughter, she as sweet and even tempered as her own mother had been, who was "the nicest person in the world".  For a brief time, the new family lived together in harmony, but all too soon, the new wife showed her true temperament.  Jealous of her stepdaughter's good nature and pretty face, she "thrust upon her all the meanest tasks in the house.  It was she  who had to clean the plates and the stairs," do the sweeping, the mopping, the mending, and the washing. "The poor girl endured everything patiently", even when her stepsisters forced her to sleep in a drafty garret. All day the girl toiled, and when at length her work was finished, had no place for rest and warmth but the hearth.  She "used to sit amongst the cinders in the corner of the chimney, and it was from this habit that she came to be known as Cinder-clod." The eldest sister delighted in taunting her with this name, but the younger, "who was not quite so spiteful as the elder, called her Cinderella." For all that, the girl was "a hundred times more beautiful than her sisters". One day, the King's son announced that he would give a ball, to which "all persons of high degree" were invited. This pleased the stepsisters greatly for "they cut a considerable figure in the country." For weeks, they spoke of nothing but the elegant garments they planned to wear.  Poor Cinderella was kept busy for days with the linens and the laces and the ribbons and the ruffles. The elder at last decided that she would wear her "dress of red velvet with the Honiton lace", while the younger decided on her "cloak with the golden flowers, and" her diamond necklace. "They sent for a good hairdresser to arrange their double-frilled caps, and bought patches at the best shops." Then they consulted their little sister  "for she had good taste", and helped them with their final preparations. As she pinned her sister's hair, the girl asked,"Cinderella, would you not like to go to the ball?" But Cinderella only said that they mustn't tease her, and kept right on dressing her sister's hair. Some would have tied it in knots, for spite, but not she.  At long last, the great day arrived, every last ribbon was in place, and the ladies of the house set out for the ball. Cinderella watched them until she could not follow them anymore, and then went inside. There, she sat down and cried. That's when her godmother asked what troubled her. "I should like — I should like—" But her tears flowed so that she could not speak. "Said her godmother, who was a fairy,' You would like to go to the ball, would you not?" And Cinderella said that she would. So the fairy sent her out to the garden and told her to bring in a pumpkin.  This the girl did, though she did not see how it would help. But the old one "scooped it out, and when only the rind was left, struck it with her wand. Instantly, the pumpkin was changed into a beautiful coach, gilded all over." Next she stooped and peered into the mouse trap. There were six little creatures there, "all alive". As Cinderella held the door open, out they came, "and as each mouse came out, she gave it a tap with her wand, whereupon it was transformed into a fine horse." Thus did she provide a team of dappled gray horses. But what would they do for a coachman? "I will go and see,' said Cinderella, 'if there is not a rat in the trap." There were three, and her godmother "chose one specially, on account of his elegant whiskers." A tap of her wand rendered him into "a fat coachman with the finest mustachios that ever were seen." Still the fairy was not done, and ordered Cinderella to "Go into the garden and bring me the six lizards which you will find behind the water-butt." These were promptly turned into "six lackeys, who at once climbed up behind the coach in their braided liveries." But Cinderella, for all the magic, was not yet pleased. "Am I to go like this, in my ugly clothes?" she asked, and her godmother "merely touched her with her wand". At once, her dress became a gown of "gold and silver cloth" and her shoes "a pair of glass slippers, the prettiest in the world." With a warning that all would revert at midnight, Cinderella was off. When she got to the palace, all eyes were riveted to her, and the prince himself took her hand. The company could talk of nothing but the fine foreign princess, and even the king, "old man as he was, could not take his eyes off her." The night flew past, and it seemed that one minute Cinderella was sharing lemons and oranges with her stepsisters, who did not recognize her, and the next, that the clock was striking three-quarters past eleven o'clock.  With a graceful curtsy to the King, Cinderella fled, arriving home moments before her stepsisters. Yet she had made a thankyou to the fairy, and secured permission to attend the following night's ball. Thus, she did not rankle when her sisters gossiped heavily of the marvelous creature they had met, she who shared fruits with them at the palace. "The next day, the two sisters went to the palace, and so did Cinderella, even more splendidly attired than the first time." But this night, so immersed in pleasure was she that the time passed and the clock struck the fateful hour before it seemed possible. Now Cinderella fled, "nimbly as a fawn" so frightened was she of being seen in her rags. As she stepped across the wide, marble steps, she stumbled and lost a shoe. She did not stop to pick it up, but raced home instead. It was the prince who found the dainty thing, and wrapped it carefully, and brought it inside, where he sighed as he gazed upon it. "A few days later, the king's son caused a proclamation to be made by trumpeters, that he would take for wife the owner of the foot which the slipper would fit." Now the ladies of the court were made to try it on, but no one had a foot of that small a size. "Presently they brought it to the home of the two sisters, who did all they could to squeeze a foot into the slipper. This, however, they could not manage."That's when Cinderella stepped forward and asked permission to try the shoe. "Her sisters burst out laughing and began to gibe at her, but the equerry who was trying on the slipper looked closely at Cinderella." Noting her beauty, and his majesty's orders that all maidens try the shoe, he bade her sit down. "On putting the slipper to her little foot he perceived that the latter slid in without trouble, and was moulded to its shape like wax." And now the stepsisters were truly astonished, for now the Cinder-clod drew out that sparkling slipper's mate, and put it on the other foot. "At that very moment, her godmother appeared on the scene." She tapped Cinderella and her clothes were once more transformed. That's when her stepsisters "threw themselves at her feet, begging her pardon for all the ill-treatment she had suffered at their hands." Their gracious sister "pardoned them with all her heart", and invited them to live at court with her. Now she was "taken to the palace of the young prince in all her new array." They were married next day and "Cinderella, who was as good as she was beautiful", found palace apartments for her stepsisters, and high ranking gentlemen for them to marry, as well. "MORAL: Beauty in a maid is an extraordinary treasure; one never tires of admiring it. But what we mean by graciousness is beyond price and still more precious. It was this which her godmother gave Cinderella, teaching her to become a Queen. (So the moral of this story goes.) Lasses, this is a better gift than looks so fair for winning over a heart successfully. Graciousness is the true gift of the Fairies, without it, one can do nothing; with it, one can do all."
From Perrault's Complete Fairy Tales, (1697/1961) Trans. by "A.E. Johnson and others." Illustrations by W.Heath Robninson PERRAULT'S COMPLETE FAIRY TALES Translated from the French by A. E. Johnson and Others 
Montessori Connection: Language/Vocabulary
1. Read this story and choose five words that you do not know, or five words that seem to have more than one meaning. Example: meanest; lackey; butt; patches; latter
2. Using a dictionary, find the meanings. Learn that meanest is the same as worst; that a lackey is someone like a servant; that butt has at least 12 meanings. One of them is a big barrel that people used to store water, or wine, or beer in. Another meaning is the end of something, as in the butt of a fishing pole, which is the end that does not have the hook on it. Still another is the target, as in, "She was the butt of the joke." Learn that patches can mean a small piece of cloth or paper, or a bit of plaster to fill in a hole, but that is not what Cinderella's sisters bought.  Here, it describes tiny cut-out shapes that fancy ladies stuck to their faces in France during the 17th century. Learn that the word latter means the latest thing that is listed, as when you say that you have 2 kinds of ice cream, chocolate and vanilla, and the latter (vanilla) is your favorite. The former, (chocolate) is your brother's favorite. If you are saying the word ladder, then you are talking about a large climbing frame used to help people reach high things safely. 
3. Notice that the way a word SOUNDS, (or its phonetics) can change what it means. Example: latter is not the same thing as ladder. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Cinderella #176 Naya, the Inuit Cinderella

"Many people swayed in time
to the beating of the traditional drums."
Illustrations by Brookes, S.

Once upon a time, "in the far North, there lived a girl named Naya. She lived on the land with her grandfather, Ataatasiaq." Naya's parents, Aspak and Akittiq, lived close by in the litte town of Igloolik.  Her sisters, Jochebed and Atagu, scorned Naya, who liked the old fashioned ways of her grandfather. They thought she was dirty for playing outdoors with the dogs, but "in wintertime, Naya could get from her grandfather's camp to Igloolik across the sea ice by dog sled." Her sisters were stuck in town. Every year, the community held a feast, and all the people came from miles around. It was the only chance the young men and women from neighboring villages had to meet one another and they all wore the best they had. But when Grandfather Ataatasiaq asked whether she would be going, she was glum. She knew that her sisters were going to fly to the seamstress in Yellowknife, and that they would have expensive dresses made. She and her grandfather had nothing but what came from the land. Now Ataatasiaq said, "You had better start work on your amauti as soon as possible. I will go in the morning to hunt the caribou so you will have hides to sew." So Naya knew that her grandfather would help her look beautiful, and she made preparations to scrape and stretch the hides he would bring back. Early that morning, he left, and Naya spent the day sorting her beads and planning the designs she would stitch onto the hide. That was the part that took many, many hours. Beadwork "required much time and patience" and fortunately, Naya's beloved grandmother had taught her this before she died. It took Naya many days to work her designs; meanwhile her sisters laughed and gossiped at the dressmakers with the other girls. They all agreed that Naya was hopelessly old fashioned, and spent too much time with dogs. The Community Feast drew near, and Naya worked every day. Her dress was nearly finished. It happened one day that Grandfather Ataatasiaq came to her igloo and told her that "his hunting partner had become very ill and could not hunt."  Because Ataatasiaq had promised to bring meat to the feast, he was honor bound to do so. But how could he hunt with no partner? Although Naya knew that if she herself hunted with Ataatasiaq, they could bring enough seal and caribou meat for everyone. But then she would not have time enough to finish the beading on her amauti, and to wear it unfinished was not to be thought of. Nevertheless, she spoke. "Grandfather, I'll come with you. Together, we'll hunt for the meat." And this they did, for many days. At last, they had enough, and they headed for home. They got there the very day of the feast. While Grandfather delivered the meat to Igloolik, Naya stitched frantically on her gown. But she could not finish it in time. "She felt very sad; however, she decided to put on her unfinished amauti and wear it with great pride", at least as far as outside in the snow, beneath the starry sky. As the feast began over in town, Naya dressed and stepped outside. That's when she saw "the northern lights dancing in the sky".  As she watched the kaleidoscope of "colours dancing in the dark of the evening" something happened. She felt "the colours come closer and closer and and [they] began to swirl around her body, then, just as quickly, they faded." To her utter amazement, Naya found that when she looked down at her dress, the beadwork was complete! "Could it be her grandmother watching over her?" Just then, "a team of seven white sled dogs appeared, all harnessed in gold and pulling a golden komatik." Naya jumped in, and they were off, dogs and sled skimming across the ice. When Naya got to the Community Hall she entered, feeling "beautiful and proud". Now she saw her haughty sisters in their fancy clothes.  But they did not recognize the beautiful girl in the hand made amauti, and everyone "was swaying in time to the beating of traditional drums". As Naya stood watching, "her eyes met with those of the most handsome hunter she had ever seen. In an instant they were dancing together to the Inuit drums. Suddenly, Naya remembered that she had not told her grandfather that she was coming to the feast, after all. He would be frantic with worry. "Without even saying goodbye, she rushed out of the feast. As she pushed her way through the door, her amauti snagged on a sharp hook of caribou antler and a piece was torn from it." Naya did not pause, and ran for her dog sled. In a breath she was home again, and not a minute after she had "stepped off the sled, than suddenly, her light-filled amauti shattered into a million pieces." The seven dogs, and the komatik vanished. Meanwhile, the hunter was baffled. Why had the beautiful girl run away? Had he imagined the intricate beadwork on her gown? But no, he couldn't have, for he had found the small scrap stuck on the horn. Carefully, he carried the bit of soft hide around, showing it to everyone at the feast, asking who the girl who did this work might possibly be. But no one knew. At last, "one of the elders was shown the piece, and recognized the stitching as that of Naya." Now the hunter knew that he sought a girl who lived out on the land, on the ice with her grandfather. He soon found the path to her igloo, and before long, he was greeted by Ataatasiaq. Did the old man have a granddaughter by the name of Naya, asked the hunter? And before Ataatasiaq could answer, the girl appeared, and in one glance, they knew what would happen next. So the hunter asked permission to marry Naya, and Ataatasiaq gave it, and "they were soon married and lived a traditional life on the land, happily ever after. 
From Naya, the Inuit Cinderella. (1999)  Canada: Raven Rock Publishing. 
Notes: Though published in 1999, this book was, apparently, written by Marceau-Chenkie at the age of 10. It is drawn from her experiences on the ice with her grandfather. 
Montessori Connection: Geography/Astronomy/Northern Lights
1. Read this story, and think about the 10 year old girl who wrote it. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Cinderella #175 Donkey-skin (Perrault)

The King's daughter asked for
a dress the color of the sky. 

Once upon a time, "there was a King who was the most powerful ruler in the whole world. He was kind to his subjects and inspired dread in his enemies, and "his wife and faithful companion was both charming and beautiful."  He had stables full of the noblest steeds, but "what surprised everyone on entering these stables was that the place of honour was held by a donkey with two big ears." It is said that Heaven mingles the evil with the good, and so it happened that the Queen took deadly ill. When she felt the last life ebbing from her, she called for the King and whispered to him,"Promise me that it, when I am gone, you find a woman wiser and more beautiful than I, you will marry her and so provide an heir for your throne." The King was sure that he would never find such a woman, so he agreed to the pact.  Then his wife died. Time passed and the King grieved bitterly. At length, he "became so confused in his mind, and, imagining that he was still a young man, he thought his daughter was the maiden he had once wooed."  However, this notion terrified his daughter, who "sought out her fairy godmother who lived in a grotto of coral and pearls." This one advised her to delay the marriage by requesting "a dress which has the colour of the Sky". So she went home and told the King that she must have this dress, and, to her dismay, he brought it to her the very next morning. Back she went to the pearl and coral grotto, and now the fairy advised her to request "a dress the colour or the Moon".  The King would not, thought the fairy godmother, be able to find this dress quickly. Alas, he did exactly that, and presented the dress to his daughter the next day. She "was delighted with its beauty." Still, her godmother "urged her to make a request to the King, this time for a dress as bright and shining as the Sun." Now the King called for the Royal Jeweler, and "ordered him to make a cloth of gold and diamonds, warning him that if he failed, he would die. " Less than one week later the princess saw her newest dress.  It was so exquisite it took her breath away, and its radiance outshone all else. But now the godmother bade her ask for "the skin of the donkey in the royal stable." The King would surely not consent to this, and so no wedding could take place. So thought the godmother. But once again, she was mistaken, for the King gave immediate orders for the animal to be butchered and skinned. When the hideous thing was brought before her, the princess knew that she must marry her father. Now the fairy counseled her. "Pretend to give in to the King. Promise him anything he wishes, but, at the same time, prepare to escape to some far country. " So saying, she gave her god daughter a charmed chest that would hold all of her dresses and jewels, and a magic wand. The enchanted chest, the fairy said, "will follow you everywhere, always hidden underground. Whenever you wish to open the chest, as soon as you touch the wand to the ground, the chest will appear."  The best disguise to use, said the fairy, would be the frightfully ugly donkey skin, for no one would guess that a lovely girl was hidden inside. So that night, the Princess ran away. Although the King commanded that the servants, as well as his army, participate in the hunt, the girl seemed to have vanished without a trace. Meanwhile, the princess traveled on as fast as she could. She could not take lodgings, for no one would let a Donkey-Skin inside, and it seemed she was destined to wander forever. At long last, she "came to a farm where they needed a poor wretch to wash the dishcloths and clean out the pig troughs".  The servants made bawdy sport of the strange girl in the hideous donkey skin, and tormented her in many ways. She was, however, given Sundays off from work. Then she would take to her dark little chamber and try on her dresses: first the one the color of the Sky, then the one which shone like the Moon, and, finally, the dress that glittered almost as brightly as the Sun. In this way, she reassured herself that she was still a princess. On the farm where Donkey-Skin worked, "there was an aviary belonging to a powerful king." This king's son, being fascinated by the many unusual birds there, and enjoying the aviary's serenity, made it his habit to pause for refreshment there on his way home from his daily hunt. And Donkey-Skin, because she watched him every day, thought to herself, "How gracious he is! How happy must she be to whom his heart is pledged! If he should give me a dress of only the simplest sort, I would feel more splendid wearing it than any of these which I have." It happened one day that as the prince rested at the aviary that he noticed a hovel, from which he saw a bright light coming. Peeping in at a crack in the wall, he saw a splendidly dressed young woman, wearing a gown of radiant diamonds and gold. Her face was lovelier than any he had ever beheld. Yet when he enquired who the princess in the hovel was, his manservant guffawed."The beautiful maiden who lived in such squalor" was called Donkey-Skin, and she was known as "the ugliest animal one could find, except the wolf". He would not believe this, and continued to pine for the maiden. After many days of melancholy, during which he would neither eat nor drink, his mother the Queen despaired.  She sent for the doctors, who told her that her son was love-sick, and that she must give him whatever he requested. Begging her son to specify his desires, the Queen was appalled to hear him ask for a cake baked by Donkey-Skin, a dirty serving girl. Yet a mother's love runs deep, and she directed that this be so. Now Donkey-Skin took "some flour which she had ground especially fine, and some salt, some butter, and some fresh eggs" and baked a cake for the prince. As she was mixing it, her ring fell into the batter. Many have said that it was done on purpose, for they say she must have known that the prince watched that day at her door. When the cake was served to the prince, and he encountered the ring, he took it for a token of Donkey-Skin's love. Now he pined mortally for the girl, and again the doctors said that he must be allowed his heart's desire, or surely he would die. When the prince declared that he would marry only the girl whose finger fit the ring, every young lady in the kingdom was called to try it on. "Every charlatan had his idea of making the finger slim. One suggested scraping it as though it were a turnip. Another recommended cutting away a small piece." Yet even with these gruesome tricks, the ring would fit no one. At last, "it was necessary to turn to the servants, the kitchen help, they slaveys and the poultry keepers, with their red and dirty hands." Yet none of this group could wear the ring. Finally, "there remained only Donkey-Skin.  Who could dream that she would ever be Queen?" Yet when the prince drew near her and she put a soft white hand out from her dirty hide, his heart gave a leap. And when "it was placed on her finger and it fitted perfectly, everyone was astounded." Now Donkey-Skin begged permission to go and change clothes before being presented to the prince, and this was given. She went to the hovel and changed into her radiant gown, and came to the palace "with her blonde hair all alight with diamonds and her blue eyes sweet and appealing". Kings "of all the surrounding countries" were invited to the wedding, and all kinds of rulers, from many lands, attended. One in particular burst into tears and said, "How kind heaven is to let me see you again, my dear daughter.' Weeping with joy, he embraced her tenderly. "At that moment, the fairy godmother arrived too, and told the whole story of what had happened, and what she had to tell added the final triumph for Donkey-Skin... It is not hard to see that the moral of this tale is that it is better to undergo the greatest harddships rather than to fail in one's duty, that virtue may sometimes seem ill-fated but will always triumph in the end. MORAL: The story of Donkey-Skin may be hard to believe, but so long as there are children, mothers and grandmothers in this world, it will be fondly remembered by all."
From Perrault't Complete Fairy Tales.Translated by A.E. Johnson and others. (1961) USA: Dodd, Mead & Co. 
Note: This book does not appear on Amazon, but is available at the Berkeley Public Library and probably others. It is clearly of the Catskin genre, and is the only example I have seen so far where maidens must try on the ring. In others it falls into the cake and so the baker is recognized as the girl with whom the prince has danced.  Here, there is no ball either, only a chance viewing when the prince stops for a rest at the aviary. Notice the important role that birds play here, as in most Cinderella stories. 
Montessori Connection: History/1600's
1. Read this story and learn that it was retold, and polished, by Charles Perrault in the year 1697, in France. 
2. Learn about the 17th century, and compare what else was happening in the world when this story was publihsed in France. 
3. Learn that:
  • in England, in the 1690's, Sir Isaac Newton was discovering his laws of motion.
  • in Russia, in 1696, Peter the Great was victorious over the Turks and captured the port of the Black Sea.
  • in America, the Salem Witch trials took place in 1692; 19 women were found guilty and executed. 
  • in India, Hindus were being persecuted by Aurangzeb, Emperor of India, in 1670 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Cinderella #174 Fanny's Dream

Fanny washed diapers while Heber held the twins.
Illustration by Buehner, M.

"Once upon a time, in a wild Wyoming town, there lived a sturdy girl named Fanny Agnes.  She worked from sunup to sundown on her Daddy's farm, but she had her dreams. She was going to marry a prince." Well, maybe the mayor's son, she thought, but it would be somebody rich, for sure.  And then she would never have to work again, and would sit upon a fine silk pillow, dreaming the day away. If it had happened 'Once upon a time,' the girl figured, then it could happen again. To her! So, when she found out that there was going to be a real, live fancy ball in town, and that the mayor was hosting, she was sure it would be her lucky day. When she told her friends about the ball, and her dream of a rich husband, they said, "You? You're not beautiful, you have nothing to wear, and you're about as graceful as an elephant." But Fanny wasn't daunted. "I read about a girl in a book, and I know just what do do." With that, she stalked home. When no one was watching, she changed into her very best calico dress and went out to sit in the moonlight so she could meet her fairy godmother. She sat there for a long, long time. The night was quiet and she could see all the way across the valley into town, where the bright lights of the ball sparkled. While she waited, she pulled a few weeds from the vegetable patch.  That's when she heard a voice! It said, "Hey, Fanny!" She jumped right up, expecting to see a little old woman in a shining cloak. But it was just her neighbor, Heber Jensen. He asked what she was doing out so late. He had always been kind to her, but...well, he was the shortest boy in town, and Fanny dreamed of a tall, handsome stranger.  He looked at her so kindly, however, that she went ahead and told him the truth. "I'm waiting for my fairy godmother. I wanted to go to the ball." Heber was quiet for a long time. Then he asked her a few questions. "Can you twirl and waltz and curtsy?" Did Fanny know how to "use twenty forks and spoons, drink from a goblet and eat snails? Could she "flutter her fan"? When Fanny giggled and said no to each question, Heber asked what she COULD do! Plenty, as it turned out. She could "harness a horse, plow a field, shuck corn...kill and dress a chicken, milk ten cows and bake bread...and spread  manure!" Now Heber sat down beside her, and together, they looked up at the moon. That's when he said," I'm not a prince, and I don't live in a castle. But I have one hundred and sixty acres, a little log house, and a dream of my own. I need a wife who will work by my side, through thick and thin, sweat and joy, and be glad for good food and great company. Will you, Fanny?" And now it was Fanny's turn to be silent. She was so quiet for so long that Heber fell asleep waiting. It takes awhile for a person to give up a good dream, and Fanny was going to take her sweet time. She thought over everything that Heber had said, and woke him up. "I don't do windows." she said. "Okay." replied Heber. So they got married. Now Fanny worked every day on the farm that she shared with Heber. She "thinned the beets, fed the chickens...held the sheep while Heber sheared them, churned butter" and a hundred other chores, from sunup to sundown. At night they entertained each other with jokes and stories. Fanny mended all of Heber's clothes, and some times, "when she needed a good laugh, Fanny would stitch the flaps shut on Heber's long johns, then wait to hear him hollering from the outhouse." But Heber loved her, and treated her like a princess. He even rubbed her feet and brought her hot water to soak them in. When Fanny found herself expecting, Heber was beside himself with joy. That winter, "the twins were born. Fanny washed diapers and hung them on the stove, washed diapers and hung them across the mantel, washed diapers and hung them from the doorknobs." And Heber rocked the babies, and sang while they hollered at the tops of their lungs. Once, when the boys were five, a terrible thing happened. "Davy stuck his socks in the toaster and burned the house down. " Fanny grabbed the new baby and Heber grabbed the boys and they all got out safe. "Then Fanny and Heber built the house again." Their love was that strong. And late one night, when baby number four was due, and Fanny just could not sleep, she "went out into the garden to pick a melon". She chose one, and sat down on a log, enjoying the dark and the quiet. She could see all the way into town, where the bright light's of the mayor's house sparkled. That's when she heard a voice. It said, "Sorry I'm late!" And "Fanny Agnes jumped up as her fairy godmother twinkled down. 'You poor dear, having to wait all these years!" laughed the little old woman in the glittering yellow dress. "But there's still time!" Now the fairy looked at the big melon beside Fanny, and said, "Just leave it to me! I'll fix everything!" But Fanny did not answer. Now the fairy was impatient. "Do you want to go to the ball or not?" she snapped. Fanny "looked down at her work-roughened hands. She looked at the little house" where Heber was reading to the children, and gave the fairy her answer. "Not." she said, and went inside. When Heber asked who she'd been talking to, she told him the truth. "My fairy godmother." And Heber chuckled and said, "Oh, sure! And I"m the Prince of Sahiba!' 'Close enough,' Fanny winked, 'close enough!"
From Fanny's Dream (1996) Buehner, C. & Buener M. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers
Notes: This is a great story, showing that finding your dreams can sometimes turn out to be a little bit different that what you thought! A prince of a husband is what Fanny finds, and the story evokes simpler times.  Here we have no pumpkins, lizards, frogs, or birds...but there is a watermelon that plays a role. Watermelons are botanically in the same family as gourds and pumpkins, so would presumably transform as easily as pumpkins into a coach. 
Montessori Connection: US Geography/Wyoming
1. Read this story and notice that it is set in Wyoming.
2. Pay attention to how Heber and Fanny spend their time, and think about what kind of a place Wyoming might be to live in.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Cinderella #173 Retold by Samantha Easton

The pumpkin was transformed
into a gold coach!
Illustrated by Lynn Bywaters

Once upon a time, "there lived a rich man whose wife had died.  After a time, he married again. His second wife was very proud and ill-tempered, and she had two daughters who were just like her." The gentleman also had a daughter, one as sweet and gentle as her mother had been. Since she was lovely of face as well as spirit, and her step-sisters were as cold-hearted as they were barren of grace, they became jealous. At first they pretended to be kind, but before long they had taken over her rooms, and then her clothes. Then they gave her an old smock to wear, and forced her to do the hardest work. The only place she had to rest was among the cinders on the hearth. "And that was how she came to be called Cinderella." It happened one day that an invitation arrived, announcing that the prince would choose a bride at his ball. How her stepsisters made Cinderella work to help them get ready! "I shall wear my gold embroidered gown,' said the elder. 'The prince will surely notice me in that!' 'And I shall wear my red velvet gown,' said the younger. 'Mother has always told me I look best in red." They talked of nothing else for days. Finally, the date of the ball arrived. All day long Cinderella ironed, and pressed, and stitched, and curled. "As she saw them to the door, Cinderella could not help but sigh, 'How I wish I were going to the ball." But her sisters only jeered, "What an idea! How could you go to the ball! Besides, whatever would you wear? Your tattered gray dress with your patched apron?" When they were gone, the girl sat down and began to cry. That's when she heard a voice ask,"Cinderella, why are you crying?" It was her fairy godmother, who had come to make all of the girl's wishes come true that night. She began by observing that the girl was weeping , "Because you would like to go to the ball. And so you shall." The old woman, who wore "a blue dress covered with silver stars" went out to the garden. "First, we must choose a large, round, pumpkin." And then, as Cinderella "watched in amazement, her fairy godmother waved her magic wand over the pumpkin and it was transformed into a gold coach!"Next, she enchanted six  little gray mice. "In the twinkling of an eye, they were turned into six fine dappled horses."  A big white rat was changed into "a jolly coachman with wonderful long whiskers" and from the lily pond came "six green frogs" who had been clustered on a log. With a wave of her wand they became "six merry footmen, all dressed in handsome suits of green". But with all this finery, how could Cinderella go anywhere in her ragged old dress? "Don't worry,' her fairy godmother said kindly. 'I have thought of that too." Suddenly, Cinderella was wearing a dress of "silver and gold, ...studded with precious gems." On her feet she found "a pair of sparkling glass slippers". Now that all was ready, the fairy warned her that she must be back home before midnight. That's when the magic would end, and all would once again be as it was. In a twinkling, Cinderella arrived at the palace. Everyone wondered where she could be from. They assumed that she was a princess from some country that they did not know. "Who else would be wearing such a splendid gown?' they murmured." The prince was beside her all evening, and Cinderella "felt as if she were in a beautiful dream". Before she knew it, the clock was striking. One! Two! on and on, and she knew that she must flee. "Goodbye!' she called to the startled prince as she dashed from the ballroom." As she scurried down the palace stairs she stumbled, and lost one of her shoes. But she did not have time to stop. "Just as she reached the gate, the last stroke of midnight rang out. Her beautiful gown turned back into her old, gray smock, and her gold coach became a pumpkin." With a scuttle, rat, mice and frogs disappeared into the night. Cinderella ran home, and, the next day, heard some exciting news. The prince was seeking a beautiful girl who had lost a glass slipper at the ball! When the couriers came to her house, her stepsisters pushed her away. They tried to get their big feet into the shoe, but could not. They just didn't understand why it would not fit, since they "both considered their feet to be small and dainty". When Cinderella asked, "May I try, too?' her stepsisters rolled their eyes and said, "The slipper will never fit you!" The king's servant settled the argument by giving her a turn. And "the glass slipper fid Cinderella's foot so perfectly that it might just as well have been made for her!" That is when she reached into the pocket of her old, patched apron and took out the other shoe. When she had put this on as well, her "fairy godmother appeared, but only Cinderella could see her. With a wave of her magic wand, she turned Cinderella's rags into a gown even more beautiful that the one she had worn to the ball." Dressed in such finery, her stepsisters now knew her for the one they had seen at the ball. They "apologized for treating her so badly", and then Cinderella, "who was as kind as she was beauitful, said, 'It's alright, sisters. I forgive you both." Later that same day, Cinderella and her prince celebrated their marriage. The entire kingdom was invited, and it was the grandest, most splendid event ever held.  And the fairy godmother's magic did not wear off at midnight after all, for "Cinderella and her prince lived happily ever after". 
From Cinderella retold by Samantha Easton, Illustrated by Lynn Bywaters (1992) Kansas City: Ariel Books
Notes: This one is for Clare, Grace, and Maile, the October birthday girls of a certain Montessori School! You would have loved this during our reading hour.  It is just a gorgeous little book, with illustrations are rich and luxurious,and the small size is very appealing to hold in the hand. It would make an excellent gift for a birthday girl turning any age between six and twelve. 
Montessori Connection: American Holidays/Halloween/Art Project Mini Pumpkin Carriages
1. Learn that Maria Montessori wanted children to learn about the culture of their local community.
2. Learn that she believed that this was so important that she named one of the sections of her lesson plans for children "Cultural Subjects".  By this name, she meant, history of the people, as well as of the place, including the historic origin of customs such as those followed on holidays. 
4. Make a mini golden coach like this:
a. get a tiny pumpkin
b. using gold acrylic paint, paint it gold.
c. using cardboard or paper and black pencil or marker, draw four wheels. (copy from a picture if you need to) d. cut out the wheels. e. pin them onto the pumpkin with a thumbtack or pin, mounting them high enough so that they don't fold over. f. using model mice or horses, make a little team of six animals to pull the coach. g. imagine that Cinderella is inside, off to the ball!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Cinderella #172 Ash Pet, an Appalachian Tale

Doc Ellison's boy was
comin' down the road!

Once upon a time, "long ago in a cabin deep in the shadow of Eagle's Nest Mountain, lived a serving girl called Ashpet. She'd been hired out, since she was a young girl, to the Widow Hooper and her two daughters, Myrtle and Ethel." Those three ordered Ashpet around all day long, saying,"After you're done washin' up, there's firewood that wants bustin', and our supper to cook. And don't forget to tend the animals." People on Eagle's Nest Mountain worked hard most of the year, and they liked to celebrate in the summer with a "big church meeting". Ashpet was never allowed to go, but Myrtle and Ethel and their mama went every year "in their finest clothes". They always brought a huge picnic hamper filled with sandwiches and cookies. "It happened one year, on the evening before the meeting, Ashpet stayed up all night washing, ironing, and mending the girls dresses. She was so busy she didn't notice that the fire had gone out." Those people did not used matches, and the only thing to do if your fire went out was to borrow some from someone that had it. And the only person who lived near enough to borrow from was Granny. "Run over the ridge to old Granny's house and borry us some fire." the widow said to her oldest girl. But she said,"Granny's too peculiar. Anyway, that's Ashpet's job. Make her go!" But the widow said that Ashpet was busy preparing her gown, and could not go. "Myrtle sure didn't want to go but she knew when her mama meant buisiness." So she went. When she came to Granny's house, instead of going up on the porch and knocking on the door, she just shouted from the front lawn. "I come fer fire, old woman." She kept on yelling like this, and watching the window to see  if Granny was there, but she could not see anyone. "Well, Granny wouldn't give fire to anyone acting so uppity, so Myrtle went home empty-handed." Her sister Ethel tried next, but since her manners weren't any better, she came home without fire too. That's when they decided they'd better send Ashpet over.  Well, she "skedaddled over the ridge" in no time flat, and went and knocked on Granny's door.  She called softly, "My name is Ashpet, and I come to borry some fire, please." And Granny came to the door and said, "You may. But first, won't you brush my hair out for me? My brush is jus' on the table here." And Ashpet combed the lady's thin, gray hair, and smoothed it prettily, and then helped herself to a big, orange coal. She carried it home in a hollow toadstool, and lit the fire again. Then she heated up a big ol' pot of water for her sisters' bath, and then she helped them get dressed. The Widow Hooper scolded her,"We're going now! Ashpet, you best get this cabin cleaned up 'fore we git back or there'll be more trouble than you can think about. Let's go girls!" With that, those three hoighty-toities stuck their noses up in the air and traipsed off to meetin'. That's when Ashpet heard a knock at the door! It was Granny, and and Ashpet opened the door for her. But Granny did not even say hello, she just "poked her head in the door, muttered something under her breath, and tapped her walking stick three times on the floor." Then she dragged Ashpet out, real quick. At once, they heard the house groaning and scratching as though a bag of cats got let loose in a house with a dozen dogs.  "What's goin' on in there?' asked Ashpet. 'Don't you worry 'bout it, child." replied the old one. At that very minute, the door to the cabin swung open, and the sun shone in. Ashpet went inside and found that the house had cleaned itself and set its own self to rights. And lying right on her very own bed was "the prettiest red calico dress that Ashpet had ever seen and a pair of new red shoes." Now Granny told her to get dressed and get a move on, she better get to the church meeting as fast as she could. But, warned Granny, she must be home before midnight, for that is when the magic would end, and the red dress and shoes vanish. Well, Ashpet did not need to be told twice. Granny had scarce finished speaking when Ashpet dashed down the mountain and on to the church.  When she opened the door and came panting in, all out of breath from running the whole way, everyone in the entire church, "even the doctor's son" turned their head to look. The preacher got irritated and kept on preaching until it was way past time for supper. Finally, "he ran out of something to say", so he stopped talking. Then everyone grabbed their picnic hampers and dashed out to the lawn to have a big meal. When the Widow Hooper saw the doctor's boy coming right at her with a smile on his face, she was flattered. When he walked right past her and into the path of the pretty girl in a red calico dress who had interrupted the meeting, she was annoyed. Then she said, "Oh, let me introduce you to MY daughter, Ethel and Myrtle", and tried to push her daughters in front of the calico girl.  But the doctor's son smiled at her blankly, grabbed the picnic hamper she was holding...and walked off with Ashpet.  Yet this girl in the new red shoes and purty dress couldn't, just couldn't, be Ashpet, said the girls. Where would she get those clothes? Well, it was Ashpet. And she spent the entire evening with the doctor's son. "Time slipped by and they walked and talked and laughed long into the night. " Suddenly, Ashpet remembered the warning about midnight. Quick as a cricket, she kicked one shoe off into the bushes, said " I declare! It's time for me to get on home!", and started trotting up the road. When the doctor's boy said he'd like to walk her there, she answered, "All right, but first, how 'bout findin' my shoe? I b'lieve I lost it, somewhere back on the road." The minute that kind young man turned back to look for the shoe, Ashpet hightailed it home.  The boy found the shoe, but by then, the girl was gone. Ashpet smiled in her dreams all night. The next morning, early, the widow dragged Ashpet out of bed by her ear, scolding her for staying out so late the night before. Where had she been, anyway? the woman demanded to know? But Ashpet wouldn't say. Just then, Ethel and Myrtle started screeching like a pair of cats with their tales on fire. When the widow ran to see what was the matter, they squealed, "It's Doc Ellison's boy. I can see him out the window. He's comin' down the road, right towards our house." That's when the widow shoved Ashpet under the big tin washtub. When the doctor's son knocked on the door, she answered, saying ,"Wont' you please come in, sir?" And when he had come in, and sat down, he took out the little red shoe and said,"I've been goin' to every cabin up and down Eagle's Nest Mountain. I'm lookin' for the girl who lost this shoe at the meetin' last night. Could it belong to someone in this house?" And the widow said that she was just sure it was one of her girl's shoe. But first Ethel and then Myrtle tried to put a foot in that shoe, and could not. It was like trying to put the toothpaste back into the tube, trying to stuff those girls' big fat feet into that little shoe. All of a sudden, a big, black crow flew in the window and grabbed the red shoe! "The doctor's son chased that bird, shouting,"Gimmee that back, you ole crow!" But it would not. Instead, it flew around in circles, then dropped the shoe right on top of the washtub that covered Ashpet. When the doc's boy leaped for it, he tripped, "landed on the tub, and knocked it right side up. There sat Ashpet, wearing the other shoe." Staring at the girl in the rags, he said,"Are you the one?" and she answered, "That shoe sure looks like the mate to this one." and put on the shoe she had kept in her pocket. Of course, it was a perfect fit! Now Doc Ellison's boy said,"Ma'am, would you marry me?' and Ashpet smiled, and said that she would. But the widow objected. "You can't marry her! She's hired out to me for two more years!" So the doc's son gave her a bag of gold, and she suddenly quit complaining. And then, "without looking back, Ashpet walked out the door to marry the doctor's son....and from then on, they were as happy as could be."
From Ashpet, an Appalachian Tale, retold by Joanne Compton, Illustrated by Kenn Compton. (1994) New York: Holliday House
Notes: Here again a bird plays an important role: the crow steals the shoe and drops it on the tub, thus showing Doc Ellison's boy where Ashpet has been hidden. This seems to me a holdover from the body of tales that the Grimms collected, making this story part of the  "Aschenputtel" genre. The author/illustrator team identifies this as being based on the story collected by Richard Chase in North Carolina duirng the 1940's. 
Montessori Connection: US Geography/ North Carolina
1. Read this story, and then find North Carolina on a map.
2. Compare it to Sukey and the Mermaid, by San Souci, R., a Cinderella story from South Carolina.