Robin Redbreast

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

Friday, August 26, 2011

Cinderella #234 The Clever Farmer's Daughter (Grimm)

This girl is in Greece, where the donkey
could be seen as something akin to
a mountain bike. That brays. 

Once upon a time, there lived "a poor farmer" with an only child. She was a girl, and a very clever one. The king took pity on this father and his motherless child,and gave them a small piece of land for a garden. When they harvested, they were quite surprised to find that "a mortar of pure gold" was visible among the wheat stubble. The man declared that he would carry it to the king, but his daughter said,"Father, if we give the mortar without the pestle, then we'll have to find the pestle as well. I think we'd be better off if we kept quiet about the whole thing." But her father insisted. Sure enough, not sooner did the king lay eyes on the golden mortar, he demanded the golden pestle that must go with it. And when the poor farmer insisted that there was no pestle, "he was thrown into prison, where he was to stay until he produced the pestle."One day, some months later, the king overheard his prisoner sigh and say,"Oh, if only I had listened to my daughter!" He questioned the man, who told him that his daughter had told him "not to bring you the mortar; otherwise, you'd want to have the pestle as well". Then the king said,"If you have such a clever daughter, I want to see her." So the farmer sent for his daughter, and she had an audience with the king. He told her that if she could solve a certain riddle, he would marry her. The riddle was this: How could the farm girl appear before the king "Not undressed, nor naked, not on horse, nor by carriage, not on the road, nor off it".  So the girl said that she would try to do this. Then she went home and "got undressed so that she was completely naked, so that she was not dressed." Then she wrapped herself up in giant, twine fish net. Now she was not naked. Then "she took some money, leased a donkey, and tied the fishnet to its tail". It dragged along the road to the palace in a zigzag manner, and she managed to stay balance on her big toe. She wasn't on the road exactly, but she certainly wasn't off it. "Thus, when she appeared before the king this way, he said she had solved the riddle," and that he would marry her. So he did, and let her father out of jail. Some years later, a strange thing happened in front of the king's castle. A bunch of farmers were on their way home from market, when one of their mares began to foal. The odd thing was that, as soon as the little horse stood up, it ran over to a pair of oxen and began to suckle. When the man who owned the oxen saw this, he said that it was a miracle! His ox had delivered a foal! But the owner of the mare, who had witnessed the birth, claimed the little foal as his property. The king was called out to settle the argument, and he "declared that, wherever the foal had laid itself down, there it should stay." But the owner of the mare was not ready to accept the loss of the foal so easily. He "had heard that the queen came from a farmer's family", so he thought she might have a more reasonable view of the situation. He went to her, and begged for help. She agreed, on condition that he not reveal her hand in the plot. This promise he solemnly made, and she instructed him carefully. Then the farmer went back to the road before the palace.  When he got there, he sat down and took out a fishing pole and big net. These he cast to the dust, and sat calmly waiting. Eventually,the king's curiosity got the better of him,  and he sent a messenger over to ask "the foolish man what he was doing." The farmer said,"If two oxen can manage to give birth to a foal, then I can manage to catch a fish on dry land." When the king heard that he was furious. He recognized the clever answer as one made up by his wife, the queen. So he beat the farmer until he broke his promise, and admitted that he had received advice from the queen. Now the king told his wife,"Go back to the farmhouse, where you belong." As a favor, he said she could take the one thing that she held dearest in the palace with her, whatever it may be. So the queen-no-more answered,"Very well, dear husband. Your wish is my command." She called for wine, which she slipped a sleeping potion into. She offered the goblet to her husband, who drank deeply in toast to her. Then he fell into a deep, deep sleep. When he awoke, he found himself in a strange bed. He called for his servants, but none came. That's when the farmer's daughter came to his side. She told him that, of all of the things in the castle, she held him dearest of all. So "he took her back with him to the royal castle, and married her again. And I am sure that they are still living together, even today." 
From The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (Zipes, 2003) p. 94
Notes: I love the  triple-axle reversal of fortune here, as the girl goes from poor farmer's daughter to queen, to rejected bride, and back to queen again. Also, gotta love the donkey! I was once, at the age of 7, set upon the back of a donkey by my grandfather. He had paid a man several drachmaas for this privelege. (We were somewhere in the countryside near Athens, Greece.) The donkey made a run for it, and I held on for dear life as we traversed bramble bushes and a scrubby olive orchard. Some decades have passed, but the memory is still vivid. At least I was not wrapped in a fishnet, balancing on one toe.