|Pigs at Tilden Park,|
Photo by RHC
Once upon a time, in Sicily, there lived a rich man. He had a wife, and a daughter who was very beautiful. Her name was Betty. One sad day, his wife fell ill, and knew that her life would end soon. So she called her husband to her and begged him that if ever he were to remarry, it would be to a woman who could fit her golden wedding ring. With that, she took off the ring, gave it to her husband, and died. The lonely years passed, and Betty grew to be a maiden. One day it happened that she was looking through her dear mother's jewels, remembering happier days. She slipped on a golden ring then, and suddenly found, to her dismay, that she could not remove it. Later, when her father came in for dinner, he saw that his daughter had a rag wrapped around her finger. He ordered her to remove it, but she would not. Now, her father is angry and "tears off the rag, and seeing [the] ring on her finger, says he must marry her." But she is horrified and begs permission to discuss the situation "with her father-confessor". Her father gives her leave to do this, and the girl relates the problem of the ring. The father-confessor "advises her to demand, as condition of marriage, a dress like heaven, with sun, moon and stars upon it." This she does, and for many days her father seeks such a dress, but there is no such gown to be found. At last her father is in such distress that a gentleman at the marketplace takes pity upon him and asks his troubles. Now Betty's father describes the dress he seeks. The gentleman, who is really the devil, at once procures it for him. But when he gives it to Betty, she again demands to see her father-confessor. "He bids her demand [a]dress like the sea, having all marine flowers and fishes upon it." Once again the father spends many days seeking such a dress, and once again he cannot find one. As he strolls through the market one day, asking at each stall if anyone can make such a gown, the same gentleman, who is really the devil, appears. Once again the devil-gentleman is able to get the dress right away, and gives it to Betty's father. Yet when Betty receives this dress, she again says that she must consult with her father-confessor. She "is next advised to demand a dress with all the plants and animals of the earth on it." Again the devil quickly delivers it, and yet again, Betty still refuses to marry her father. Now her father-confessor tells her to ask for a dress of pigskin. The hairy leather thing is brought to her at once. "Then she asks for two measures of pearls and precious stones", and, when she is given them, decides to run away that very night. So she packs up her magical dresses, which will grant her one wish each, and her jewels and stones into a bundle. Then she "fills a basin with water, and puts two doves in it" so that when her father knocks at the door a moment later, he hears the splashing. She calls out that she is bathing, and he leaves her alone. But then she waits until it is twilight and sneaks out the back door. Her father, after waiting for a very long time, finally bursts in through her bedroom door. Of course, she is long gone. Meanwhile, she has crossed the forest,and curls up to sleep under a tree. That is when the prince comes by on a hunting expedition. Seeing the large animal motionless, he shouts for his bow. The animal suddenly stands up and begs him not to shoot. "He is amazed, and in the name of God would know who she is." So she tells him that she "is a baptized soul and is called Hairy Betty." Then he decides that he will bring her home to live at his castle. She becomes the poultry girl, living in the hen house. But the prince finds her oddly compelling to speak with, and comes every day, bringing her tidbits to eat. One day he tells her that he is to be married, and that there will be three nights of dancing to celebrate. He invites her to come, but she says that he must not mock her. But that night, she washes and takes off the pigskin. She takes out her first dress an wishes for "a ladies maid...a carriage, and liveried servants." The maid dresses her, and,wearing her dress that is like heaven, she goes to the ball in her carriage. The prince at once leaves his bride to be alone, and spends the evening talking with Betty. He gives her a gold pin, and when the dancing is done, she flees. He sends his servants after her, but she throws handfuls of jewels and pearls, and they scramble for these, losing her trail. The next night Betty again casts of her pigskin and wishes on her dress of marine plants and animals for a maid, a carriage, and servants. Again she goes to the ball, distracts the prince, and is given a gold watch. And once more the servants are sent to trail her, and instead are distracted with the jewels which Betty throws. The next day, the prince comes to visit Betty in the hen house, and asks if she doesn't with that she had fine clothes to go to the ball in. She tells him that he mustn't mock her, and that she prefers to stay at home. But for the third night in a row, she dresses in magical attire and goes to the ball. This night, the prince gives her "a costly ring", and by now, his bride to be is furious. She chases Betty from the ball, and the prince orders his servants, on pain of losing their heads, to catch her. Yet once again, she distracts them with jewels. Meanwhile, Betty has gone to her henhouse, and fallen asleep. The next day, she goes to the kitchen while Cook is baking bread. She begs for a small scrap to make a loaf of, and he gives it to her. Now she sips the gold pin into the dough, and sets it aside. Later, Cook shouts with fury, finding that all of his loaves are burned. The only one that has baked snow-white is the small one which Betty made. This is sent to the prince, who discovers the pin inside. The prince demands to know who baked it, and Cook claims it was he. The next day the same thing happens, only now the prince finds the gold watch inside his bun. Again Cook claims he baked the loaf. When the following day, the prince bites his bread and finds the "costly ring" which he gave to the mysterious stranger, he demands that Cook tell the truth. He does, and now Hairy Betty is sent for. The girl refuses to tell her story until the prince threatens to have her beheaded if she does not tell him who she really is. And that is when she "throws off the pigskin", and reveals that her father is a nobleman, and that she fled from his home. So the prince calls in his mother, the Queen, and tells her that he will marry Hairy Betty. The Queen rejoices, and amid splendor and joy, Betty and the prince are married.
From Cox, M. R. p. 217
Notes: Interesting to find yet another version of Catskin, this time a somewhat gruesome one. Something about the idea of wearing a pigskin freaks me out. Also we find birds playing critical roles, as the doves distract Betty's father while she runs away.
Montessori Connection: Fundamental Needs of People/Food/Bread
1. Read the story and notice how important the bread is.
2. Learn more about bread in history:History of Bread or Bread making and bread baking or The Bagel: The Surprising History of a Modest Bread