Robin Redbreast

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

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cinderella #191 The Old Woman in the Forest (Grimm)

Inside the tree she found
a bowl of milk and
soft white bread to eat.

Note: Contains violence. Once upon a time, "there was a poor servant girl who went traveling with her masters through a large forest." Unfortunately, there were robbers there, and they accosted the carriage. They "murdered all the people they could find...everyone was killed except the maiden." The girl was shocked and terrified and stayed hidden for many hours. At length, when she had cried until she could cry no more, she "sat down under a tree, commended herself to God" and vowed to sit there until she knew what else to do. That's when she saw "a white dove...with a little golden key in its beak". The dove spoke to her then, and gave her the key. It told her that it would open a golden lock on the outside of a large tree nearby, and that inside that tree, the girl would find food and comfort. So she looked for a tree with a golden lock, and when she had found it, she used the key and went in. There she found "milk in a small bowl and white bread to dip into it, so she could eat to her heart's content." But when she was full, she commented to the dove that it was the time that "the chickens at home usually go to roost", and wished sorely for her little bed. So the dove led her back outside and gave her another key, and showed her that it would open another tree, in which she found a soft, warm bed. The girl slept soundly, having said her prayers and placed herself in God's hands. When she awoke, she found the white dove watching her. It gave her a third key then, and took her out to show her yet another tree with a lock. Inside it, she found "clothes lined with jewels and gold, more splendid than those of a princess". She put them on and went and ate some more bread and milk. Thus she lived for many months. One day, the white dove asked her to do it a favor. She was to visit a certain cottage in the woods, pay no mind to the old woman who lived there, and bring back a special ring. This one would be plain gold, but of greater power than the more dazzling ones that she would see. So, the girl set off, and soon found the cottage. There inside was an old woman who said, "Good day, my child." as she walked in. But the dove had told her that she must not speak to this old one, so she walked past her, and opened a door. At this the grandmother called out in alarm, "Where are you going?" But the girl kept on. There she found "a large number of rings lying on a table, glistening and glimmering before her eyes." She tossed these fancy ones aside, seeking a plain band. That's when she saw the old woman sidling towards the door with an iron birdcage in her hand. Inside was "a bird with a simple ring in its beak". She snatched it and ran out. She had thought to find the dove waiting for her but could not see it. So, she sat down under a tree to wait. As she leaned comfortably against it, she was surprised to feel how soft it was. "Suddenly, the branches wrapped themselves around her and were two arms." She turned around and found "a handsome man, who embraced her and kissed her affectionately." Then he told her that by taking the ring from the old woman, she had broken an enchantment. He had been trapped in the shape of a tree ever since he had angered the witch. Because the girl had all four rings, "even his servants and horses had been released from the magic spell that had changed them them too into trees." Suddenly, a crowd of well dressed servants leading horses appeared before them, and then "they all traveled to his kingdom, for he was a prince, and the couple got married and lived happily ever after."
From The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, p. 404 Zipes (2003)
Notes: Honestly, when lost in the forest, who wouldn't want a nice bowl of milk and soft, white bread to dip into it? Especially after the trauma of witnessing a mass murder...For some reason this story reminds me that Maria Montessori felt that chocolate was a wholesome food for children, and should be eaten every day. 
Montessori Connection, Children Ages 10+ Geography/Forests of Europe/Wild Animals of Europe
1. Read this story and think about living in a cottage in the forest. 
2. Learn that for many hundreds of years, the forests of Europe were dense and dark and very dangerous because of wolves and other animals.