Once upon a time, "there lived a widow with two daughters. The elder was often mistaken for her mother, so like her was she both in nature and in looks; parent and child being so disagreeable and arrogant that no one could live with them." Now the younger girl took after her father, a kind-hearted, easy-going soul. The girl was patient, kind, and pretty as well. That's why her mother favored the older sister, and "disliked the younger one intensely." She made the girl "live in the kitchen, and work hard from morning till night." Twice every day, she had to walk half a mile to the clear running spring a half mile away to get water. She carried with her a large pitcher made of clay. It happened one day that as she was filling her pitcher, "an old woman came up and begged for a drink. "Why certainly, good mother." responded the girl, and raised the jug to help the dame drink. Well and good this was, for this old one was in truth a fairy, come to test the the girl's strengths. The fairy, being pleased with the girl's manners and appearance, blessed her with a gift. "With every word that you utter," declared the fairy,"there shall fall from your mouth either a flower or a precious stone." The girl thanked her, and ran home. Being late, she received a tongue lashing from her mother, and so apologized. As she spoke the words to beg her mother for pardon, "in speaking, scattered diamonds right and left". Now the woman changed her scoldings to praise. It was the first the poor child had ever received in her life, which she gladly exchanged for the jewels. Now the woman turned to her elder daughter, and pointed to the treasure her sister had earned. "All you have to do is draw some water at the spring, and when a poor woman asks you for a drink, give it to her very nicely." With a great scowl and a sulk, the elder sister obeyed, taking "the best silver flagon" with her. Immediately when she got to the spring, she saw "a lady, magnificently attired, who came towards her from the forest, and asked for a drink."Of course this was the fairy, in another guise. Now this rude lass jeered when her elder asked her for a drink of water. "Do you think I have come here just to get you a drink?' said the loutish damsel, arrogantly." She continued, mocking the lady and insinuating that she had treated the girl like a servant. The fairy listened to this abuse, and nodded. She was not prone to anger — but took action in measure to words spoken. Now she told the girl, "Well, in return for your lack of courtesy I decree that for every word you utter, a snake or a toad shall drop out of your mouth." With a snort of disdain, the lassie made her way home. "Well, daughter?" asked her mother the moment she stepped foot in the house. And the daughter replied,"Well, mother?" "As she spoke, a viper and a toad were spat out of her mouth." Seeing this appalling occurrence, the mother yelled for the younger sister to come forward, blaming her for the misfortune that had just befallen. She went "to thrash the poor child, but the latter had fled away and hid in the forest near by." As she sat there, crouched amongst the trees, a prince rode by. He had been hunting, but when he saw the lovely girl, alone in the woods and crying, he rushed to her aid. And when she told him her story, "four or five pearls, and as many diamonds, fell from her mouth." While the girl and the prince continued the conversation, the prince fell in love. This maiden was lovelier than any he had seen before — and, once he got used to the jewels spilling from her mouth, it didn't seem so strange. So "he took her to the palace of his royal father, and there married her." As for the foul mouthed sister, even her own mother couldn't stand to have her around the house. Since her ugly personality had not won her any friends in life, she had nowhere to turn, and "at last, she lay down in the forest and died."
From Perrault's Complete Fairy Tales (1697/1961) New York: Dodd, Mead & Company. Tranlated from the French by A.E. Johnson and others.
Notes: Here is an ancient little story, with so many variations. It has some elements of the Baba Yaga tale, as when pleasing and respecting the old woman brings a gift, and disrespect a terrible curse. It also has a prince, a despised younger sister made to do the menial labor, and a hateful mother.
Montessori Connection: Fundamental Needs of People/Water
1. Read the story, look at the picture, and imagine how heavy the water jar must be.
2. Think about walking a half of a mile, carrying a heavy, open jar of water.
3. Understand that before people figured out how to bring water into a house with pipes, someone had to go and get it.
4. Learn that even in 2011, many families still don't have good water to drink, and that many children work hard carrying their family's water home.