Robin Redbreast

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

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Cinderella #149 Tattercoats (Retold by F.A.Steele)

Illustrated by Arthur Rackham

Once upon a time, in England, "in a great palace by the sea there once dwelt a very rich old lord who who had neither wife nor children living, only one little granddaughter, whose face he had never seen in all her life. He hated her bitterly, because at her birth, his favorite daughter died; and when the old nurse brought him the baby he swore it might live or die as it liked, but he would never look on its face as long as it lived."  This old man was so twisted by his bitterness that he could not get up off of his throne.  All day he sat there brooding, and all night he lay there dreaming his nightmares of sorrow and loss.  His beard was so long that "it twined round his chair and crept into the chinks of the floor, and his tears, dropping on the window ledge, wore a channel into the stone, and ran away in a little river to the great sea."  The little grand daughter was meanwhile as bright a ray of sunshine as ever was seen. Though the child had none to look after her but the old cook, and she no more than kisses and crumbs to share, she grew in loveliness each day.  And so the servants of the house despised her for her place in cook's heart. They "would drive her from the house with blows and mocking words, calling her 'Tattercoats' and pointing to her bare feet and shoulders, till she ran away, crying, to hide among the bushes."  She had but one true friend, and this was the crippled boy who kept the geese. He was "a queer, merry little chap, and when she was hungry, or cold, or tired, he would play to her so gaily on his little pipe, that she forgot all her troubles, and would fall to dancing with his flock of noisy geese for parnters." It happened one day that "the King was traveling through the land".  He was inviting all of the nobility to a celebration for his son, the prince, who was to pick "a wife from amongst the maidens in the country". An invitation arrived at the castle by the sea, but the old man just sat, with his damp beard in a great tangle. Yet the invitation compelled him to attend, so he called for his servants to "bring shears to cut him loose, for his hair had bound him a fast prisoner, for he could not move."   Next he called for his cloak and dublet of velvet, and new shoes of soft leather. "He ordered them to saddle the white horse, with gold and silk, that he might ride to meet the King; but he quite forgot he had a granddaughter to take to the ball." The girl wanted so desperately to go, and when cook heard the depths of her sorrows, took up her cause with the old lord. "But he only frowned and told her to be silent; while the servants laughted and said,'Tattercoats is happy in her rags, playing with the gooseheard!" For a second time cook begged the Lord, and then for a third time.  And now the servants drove her from the room with "blows and mocking words". Now cook went to search for Tattercoats, but she could not find her anywhere. The ragged girl was taking refuge with her friend, the goose boy. He listened kindly to her troubles, and said that they would go together into the town, and watch the King pass by and have some fun. "And when she looked sorrowfully down at her rags and barefeet, he played a note or two upon his pipe, so gay and merry, that she forgot all about her tears and her troubles, and before she well knew, the gooseherd had taken her by the hand, and she, and he, and the geese before them, were dancing down the road towards the town." As they pranced along joyfully, a finely dressed gentleman cantered past on the road. He stopped then, and asked "the way to the castle where the King was staying, and when he found that they too were going thither, he got off his horse and walked beside them on the road. 'You seem merry folk, and will be good company.' 'Good company, indeed!' said the gooseherd, and played a new tune that was not a dance. " As the music washed over him, it seemed to have some effect upon the young gentleman's vision. He had thought that the maiden before him was dressed in the poorest rags, but now all but her radiant face was a blur. What a strange tune the goose boy played! Before he knew, he had spoken a question aloud. "You are the most beautiful maiden in the world. Will you marry me?" he said to Tattercoats. But she only laughed and replied," Not I. You would be finely put to shame, and so would I be, if you took a goose-girl for your wife! Go and ask one of the great ladies you will see to-night at the King's ball and do not flout poor Tattercoats." Yet so sweetly did he entreat her that he managed to wrest a promise from her: she would come to the King's ball at the stroke of midnight, "just as she was, with the gooseherd and his geese, in her torn petticoat and bare feet, and see if he wouldn't dance with her before the King and ladies, and present her to them all, as his honoured bride." She tried to resist this promise but her friend the goose-boy told her,"Take fortune where it comes, little one!" The evening passed for the prince in a blur of music and boring conversation.  And then, just at the stroke of twelve, "Tattercoats and the gooseherd, followed by his flock of noisy, geese, hissing and swaying their heads, entered at the great doors, and walked straight up the ballroom." Laugh though the Lord did, and whisper as did the ladies, the King himself sat stunned in amazement when his son "kissed her thrice before them all and turned to" his father. "I have made my choice, and here is my bride, the loveliest girl in all the land, and the sweetest as well." For the gentleman on the road had been none but the prince himself.  Now the gooseboy began to pipe again, and "played a few notes that sounded like birds singing far off in the woods; and as he played, Tattercoats' rags were changed to shining robes sewn with glittering jewels, a golden crown lay upon her golden hair, and the flock of geese behind her became a crowd of dainty pages, bearing her long train." The King smiled, and kissed Tattercoats, and she and the prince were married the very next day.  In joy and laughter did they live, and were known far and wide for their hospitality and generous feasts.  But the old Lord "went home once more to his palace by the sea, for he could not stay at court when he had sworn never to look on his granddaughter's face.  So there he still sits by his window, — weeping more bitterly than ever. And his white hair has bound him to the stones, and the river of his tears runs away to the great sea."
From English Fairy Tales, Retold by F.A. Steele (1918) New York: The MacMillan Company
Notes: This story is one stark contrasts: the old, old Lord with his long beard vs. the young granddaughter; his bitterness contrasted with the joy of the goose-boy.  It is also a male dominated story, which is unusual for Cinderellas. It even includes 3 generations. Here we find a girl who has already lost both mother and father, and is left with an uncaring grandfather. Worse, he is not a neutral character but an actively, oppressively sad one.  A true portrait of the chronically depressed, if ever there was one in fairy tales. He illustrates the opposite of the wise elder: the bitter old man. Even the end of the story does not make it better. He is still gushing tears. Tattercoats, having had enough wet blankets to last her a lifetime, does not look back! And what a Prince, who sees right through the rags and invites her to come as she is. His father, the King, accepts his son's choice, and carries on with the party. Now there is your wise elder.  Then we have the "crippled goose-boy" and his magical tunes, in place of a fairy godmother. A lovely story! The image of the old Lord, tangled in the growth of his own beard is one echoed by C.S. Lewis, in his Voyage of the Dawn Treader. There, Prince Caspian and his men encounter a dining table around which three old men sit, tangled in many years' growth of their beards, and fast asleep. 
Montessori Connection: English Literature/Fiction and Fantasy Quiz/ Three Questions
1. Who was the Lord Octesian, and how did he meet his end? (from Prince Caspian, C.S. Lewis)The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Read-Aloud Edition (Narnia)
2. Who were the Duchesses' footmen? (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carrol)Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass
3. Who is the Sparrow Queen that assists Mathias (Am that is...) From Redwall, by Brian Jacques, Redwall (Redwall, Book 1)
ANSWERS, backwards:
1. nogard yb netae
2. gorf a dna hsif a 
3. kaebraW neeuQ