Robin Redbreast

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

Friday, June 17, 2011

Cinderella #165 The Invisible Grandfather (1956)

Woodcut from Proverbi de Veneto,
Aldo Martello-Giunti Editore, S.p.A. Milan

 Once upon a time, in Venice, there was "a mother with three daughters, and the family was as poor as poor could be. One day, one of the three girls said, 'Look, rather than stay here and suffer, I'm going out in the world to seek my fortune. With that, she picked up and left."  Well, she walked all day and all night and all the next day. She was quite tired then, so when she came to a palace, she knocked on the door and went in. Although it was richly fitted with sofas and settees and tables and chairs she could find no one about. She went down stairs, thinking to take service in the kitchen.  But there was no one there either. So, when she noticed that there was a pot boiling over the fire, and that the cupboards were full of "bread, rice, wine, and a little bit of everything". she said out loud, "Here's everything one could possibly need, and I am hungry, so I am making myself some good soup right away." That's when she saw a mysterious pair of hands begin to set the table! So she sat down and ate a bowl of rice, and when it was gone, "the hands brought her a cockerel, and she ate every bit of it. 'Yes indeed!,'she mused,'I was truly weak from hunger, but I feel better now." And up she got, and went exploring the other rooms of the castle. She found a dressing room, filled with all manner of fine ladies' clothing, brand new, and in her size. She found a bedroom, and a huge velvet featherbed, piled with pillows. "What a fine bed! I'm going to retire right away!"  Then she climbed in, and slept soundly all night. In the morning, she got up and the mysterious hands helped her to dress in the finest manner. She thought she would go out and walk in the garden, and she had just stepped out under the apple trees "at the very moment when a king happened by. Catching sight of the beautiful maiden, he asked he asked under what conditions he could talk to her, for he was overwhelmed with admiration."  The girl told him that she was alone at the palace, with neither father nor mother, and would have to consult her grandfather for permission. Then she went inside and went to the large fireplace in the kitchen. Facing it she said, "Dear sir, I ended up at this palace, but I've never seen a soul anywhere around, and now there's a king who's taken a liking to me. What must I tell him when he returns for an answer?" And a voice came out of the chimney and said,"Beautiful you are and more beautiful will you be. I give you my blessing! Tell the king your poor, sick, solitary grandfather is glad for you to marry, provided you don't put off the wedding . Now, go, my lovely one whose loveliness will increase." As the voice spoke those words, her beauty grew. The next day, she walked under the apple trees again, and once more, the king passed by. She told him that her "poor, sick, solitary grandfather" had given his blessing, provided that they didn't delay. Each day for a week the king courted her, and they walked among the trees speaking of this and that, and sharing their dreams.  Then the girl went in and spoke to the fireplace once more. "Grandfather, we've now courted for a week, do you think that's long enough?" The chimney voice answered, "Go ahead and marry him and start carrying off everything in the house. Be sure you leave nothing behind. It is very important you take every single thing! Now go, my lovely one, whose loveliness will increase." As the voice spoke, she became lovelier still. The next day, when the king passed by, she gave him the good news. He made plans for the wedding, and she told him of the plan to move everything out of the palace and take it with her. He sent servants and she supervised, and soon they had "swept out the palace and thrown away brooms and brushes. It was completely empty." Except for one, tiny, golden chain which the girl fancied she would wear as she left the palace. She hung it carefully on a pin in the wall, meaning to put it on after she left the chimney-voice.  This mysterious being blessed her once more with beauty, and then she left. But she forgot to take the little chain with her. When she and the king had gone but a little way, she felt at her neck and realized the mistake. Though the king told her not to worry, that he would have a fine one made for her soon, she begged to go back. Once there, she rushed into the kitchen and knelt before the fireplace. "Grandfather?" 'What do you want?''Please forgive me, I forgot my golden necklace." And she took it from the pin. But the invisible grandfather bellowed,"Be gone! Be gone, you hideous bearded woman!" and the girl fled, crying. The king, seeing that she had been bewitched, held her tenderly. He would still marry her, he said,but not just yet. Instead, he would take her to a woodland cottage he kept nearby, and visit her daily there. To himself he wondered what he would tell his father. He had already "praised her beauty to the skies" and the old man would think him daft if he presented a bearded girl as a beauty. The young king was true to his word, and visited his bearded beauty every day. But the servants began to whisper, and one day his father called him forward and said, "What do you mean by courting a bearded woman? The dignity of the crown is at stake! Either you give her up, or I will put her to death." So the young king went and told his bearded bride that he must end things with her, lest she face death. And she said, "Do one thing for me. Get someone to make me a black veil and a black velvet dress. Then take me to Grandfather and we'll ask him to help us out." And this was done, and the two went back to the enchanted castle, and the girl begged for help. The chimney-voice jeered, "What do you want, you hideous, bearded woman?" The girl told him of the king's father's death threat, and the voice now said,"Didn't I tell you to take away everything, every single thing?If you hadn't left the golden necklace, I would now be free from my evil spell; but instead, I have to start my sentence all over again from the beginning. " Now the girl cried and begged to be returned to her original complexion, without the added beauty which the chimney had given her before.  So the old ashy one took pity on her.  After double checking that, this time, she had everything, the voice said,"Beautiful you were and more beautiful you shall become." And the girl felt her chin naked once more, and dashed outside, and the young king rejoice. He took her home at once and showed her to his father, who made her stand out on the balcony for the afternoon, so that all the citizens could see for themselves that she had no beard. "A few days later, the young people were married. At the wedding banquet they served radish preserves, peeled mice, skinned cats, and fried monkeys. They ate that, and there was enough left over for tomorrow. To top everything off was a sprig of rosemary, token of remembrance, but nobody thought to say to me so much as 'Have a glass of wine!"
From Italian Folktales Selected and Retold by Italo Calvino (p. 103)
Notes: Classic Cinderella markers here are: she is the youngest child, and unwanted; the role of the fireplace and chimney ashes; the fact that she ends up marrying the king. 
Montessori Connection:
1. Read this story and learn that it is from Venice, Italy.
2. Find Venice, Italy on a map or globe. 
3. Think about why the girl calls the fireplace "Grandfather".
4. Learn that it can be used as a term of respect for a gentleman of age, or whose name is unknown.
5. Learn more about using the word Grandfather. Examples: grandfather clock; grandfather time; to grandfather a rule in; "the granddaddy of them all".