Cinderella #309 The Piece of Cloth
|A little green dog?|
Once upon a time, in France, "there was a Prince with three children who also had a niece whom he cared for as well." The four children grew up quickly, and soon the boys were ready to seek brides. The first choice of each, however, was their fair cousin. So the Prince called his sons together and said,"He who brings me the largest piece of cloth shall be the one to have my niece." So the eldest son and the middle son set out at once, each taking one of their father's carriages. When the youngest son was ready to se forth, he found that he must go on foot. But he was a sturdy lad, if simple, so off he set. It was not very long before he came to what looked like "a ruined castle. He could not see the actual castle, but he noticed a fenced-in paddock where a horse was grazing." Then he heard a voice. It was the horse! It said, "Get up on me." So he did, and it carried him right into the castle. There he met a cat. "She made him twist and turn in that castle of hers. There was nothing but gilt and mirrors everywhere. Then she gave him a meal with her claws." The lad liked this cat very much, and the food she brought was good. Suddenly, he heard his older brothers passing by outside, bragging about the lengths of cloth they were bringing back. "Well, then the cat gave him a tailor's box." Inside was "a little piece of cloth showing at the top." She told him to ask a trusted one to tug the cloth in front of his father the Prince. The lad thanked the cat and rode home again. There he found his brothers showing off yards and yards of brocade. But they were nothing more than lengths seamed together. So the youngest took out his tailor's box and called for his nurse. Then he asked her to tug the cloth peeping out and "she pulled and pulled. The cloth came out of the box. There was not a seam in it, and the more the nurse pulled, the more cloth came out." So the youngest brother won the contest, but his father would not consent to the marriage. Now he told his sons that "He who brings me the finest hunting dog in the kingdom will be the bridegroom." Again the elder sons left together, and the youngest returned to the castle. There he met again with the cat,who "gave him an egg." Then she told him,"You are not going to say a word about it. You are going to keep it in your pocket and hold your hand over it." So the lad did this, and when it was his turn to show off the dog he brought, he drew out the egg and "put his thumb on it" as the cat had told him to. Then "Out of the egg popped a little green dog who yapped and ran ahead of the others." When it had won all the contests, "he jumped back into the egg when the fellow put his thumb on it. You should have seen how that dog obeyed!" But still the father was not satisfied. Now he demanded that each son bring back a maiden. "The one who brings back the prettiest wench shall be the one to have my niece." Of course the older two left first, and returned first. "They brought back all the girls they could find. There were girls with raw, red hands who milked the goats, and old cooks..." The lad went straight to the cat. He asked for her help. She agreed, and gave instructions for him to make certain preparations. She told him,"You'll get a chopping block near the fire.' The fellow looked at her. He was scared stiff...He was so afraid that he was whimpering. 'This is your last trick. Don't bungle it. I shall put my neck on the block. You must cut through it with one blow." So he brought in the chopping block, the cat put her neck on it, he swung the axe and the cat's head "flew into the flames in the hearth. The lad turned his head to look and saw a lovely maiden dressed in gold and silver." She said that she must see his father, the Prince. So the lad brought her home and took her inside. She was "dressed in white satin, trimmed with precious stones and diamonds." The Prince took one look at her and told his youngest son,"Well, you can marry my niece, if you wish." But the lad answered,"I don't want her.' And so the fellow married the cat." You see, she "was a fairy. She helped that fellow because his father and his two elder brothers had always despised him."
From Folkales of France edited by Massignon, G. Trans. Hyland, J. (1968) University of Chicago Press
Notes: Stop and think about how important long pieces of cloth are. Being able to weave a long, uninterrupted piece is a sign of quality weaving, a necessary quality if one wants to be able to sleep on sheets, for example, or have a long tablecloth. I love the little green dog!