Robin Redbreast

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

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Cinderella #349 The Maiden, the Frog, and the Chief's Son


Cinderella #349 The Maiden, the Frog, and the Chief's Son
Illustration by
Palazzo
Once upon a time, somewhere in Nigeria, there was a man who had a pair of wives. Each woman gave birth to a girl. "And one wife, together with her daughter, he couldn't abide; but the other, with her daughter, he dearly loved." Ill luck came, and the hated wife died, leaving her poor child "with no mother of her own, just her father" and her stepmother. That cruel woman made the little girl "go off to the bush to gather the wood. When she returned, she had to pound the fura. Then she had the tuwo to pound, and after that, to stir." But she wasn't allowed to eat but "the burnt bits at the bottom of the pot". Luckily for her, she did have "an elder brother, and he invited her to come eat regularly at his home." At home, she was not given even water to drink, but made to go "to the borrow-pit". She brought her scrapings along to feed to the frogs who thrived there, "and the frogs would come up and start eating the scrapings." So things went for some time. The time of the big Festival came along, and that morning, when this girl came to the pit. a frog spoke to her. It said,"Maiden, you've always been very kind to us, and now we — but you just come along tomorrow morning. " The frogs would then "be kind to you, in our turn", he told her. So she said that she would come. Yet first thing the next morning, her stepmother began to berate her for laziness, and gave her double the amount of chores to do before she could so much as go for a drink of water. Finally she was allowed to go. When she got to the pit, the frog said, "Tut-tut, girl. I've been waiting her since morning, and you never came." To which she retorted, "Old fellow, you see, I'm a slave." She told him that her mother had died, and that she'd been put in the care of her stepmother, who hated her. "Says the frog,'Girl, give us your hand.' And she held it out to him and they both leaped into the water." Then he swallowed her, and whorfed her back up again. She was now "quite straight". And then he "vomited up cloths for her, and bangles and rings. and a pair of shoes, one of silver, one of gold."Then he told her to go along to the Festival, only that she must leave her golden shoe there, just as the festivities ended.  So this she did. When she got to the Festival, the first person who noticed her was the chief's son. He was so taken by her that he spent the entire evening by her side. dancing and talking. When the music stopped, the girl kicked off one of her shoes and set off for home, but the chief's son followed her. "Presently, she said 'Chief's Son, you must go back now." And he honored her request. When she got home, she ran to the borrow-pit and met the frog. He swallowed her again, and when he had vomited her up, she was "just as she had been before, a sorry sight." Then she went and told her stepmother that she was not feeling good. That woman replied,"Rascally slut! You have been up to no good, refusing to come home,refusing to fetch water or wood, refusing to pound the fura or make the tuwo! Very well then. No food for you today!" So the girl went hungry. But that same day, an announcement came from the Chief. "All the girls, young and old" were to come and try on a certain gold shoe found by the chief's son. Yet when all had been gathered, the shoe fit none. Then "someone said,'Just a minute! There's that girl in so-and-so's compound, whose mother died." So she was found, and brought forward. And "the minute she arrived to try it on, the shoe itself, of its own accord, ran across and made her foot get into it." And the chief's son watched, and exclaimed, "Right! Here's my wife!"So he proposed right then and there and too her back to his compound. In the morning when she went outside, there was the frog. She said to him, "Welcome, old fellow!" And he told her that "tonight, we shall be along to bring some things for you." In the evening, there was a chorus of frogs around her hut. The leader told all assembled that the girl was his daughter, and that for her wedding, each frog should contribute as much as he could. So each brought according to his own wealth,and the chief frog "thanked them all, then vomited up a silver bed, a brass bed, a copper bed and and iron bed." He also brought up blankets and dishes, and other fine things. Then the frog gave her special instructions regarding how she must act within the household. If she felt troubled, she must "lie down on the brass bed". When her sister wives came to greet her, she must "give them two calabashes of cola nuts and ten thousand cowrie shells; then when his concubines come to greet you, give them one calabash of cola-nuts and five thousand cowrie shells." So, this is just what the girl did, making friends with the wives and concubines. But one night, her stepmother snuck into the compound, and forced her stepdaughter to allow her stepsister to change places with her. But the next day, when the other wives came to greet the new wife again, the young woman gave them "a Pf of contempt". And when the concubines came, she cleared her throat, then "hawk[ed] and spit" at them. You see, this was what her sister had told her to do! Well, the chief's son also noticed a suspicious change in the behavior of his newest wife, and came to investigate. What he heard only confirmed his suspicion, So he called to his men, and they found the false wife and "chopped her up into little pieces." Then he went to the stepmother and demanded his wife back. He took her to his compound, "and next morning, when it was light, she picked up little gourd water bottle and going around behind her hut, there saw the frog. " She thanked him again, and told him that what she would like best of all would be for a well to be built, so that all of the frog folk could come and live near her. "All right,' said the frog,' You tell your husband.' And she did so." Then the Chief's son ordered a well dug, "and the frogs came and entered the well. That's all. Kungurus kan kusu." 
From: Dundee, A. (1982) Cinderella: A Casebook.  New York: Garland Publishing Inc. 
Notes: This story shows something of the history of frogs in African mythology, where they are said to be virile symbols of masculinity, sort of amphibian ladies' men. Remember the folk song, "Froggie Went A' Courting"? The cultural roots run deep. Author Dundee concludes that this story was imported, rather than a true part of the Nigerian folklore. 

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