Cinderella #356 Moon Brow
|You think this looks bad? How's about|
a donkey's penis on your forehead?
Illustration by Martinez.
Once upon a time, in Afghanistan, there lived a merchant who "enrolled his daughter in the madraseh". The teacher, a woman, learned that the merchant was quite well off and so began to scheme. One day, she "asked the girl what they had in the house, and the girl replied,'Vinegar." Now the teacher went to work planting seeds of malice in the girl's heart. Soon, she had won over the child's loyalty, and was easily able to convince the girl to ask for some vinegar from the huge barrel. When her mother got it for her, she was to "push her in and cover the storage jar", then tell her father that her mother had slipped. So the merchant found his dead wife in the jug and a new "yellow cow in his stable". Before the month was out, the merchant married the teacher. So now he had a wife AND a cow. He put the girl in charge of pasturing the cow. Now her stepmother became pregnant, and came to resent the other little girl. So each day when she sent her out with the cow she gave her only "one piece of rotten bread to eat", and orders to clean and spin a tow of raw cotton while the cow grazed. But the girl did not know how to spin, and so, once alone in the field, despaired. That is when she heard a voice. It was the cow, telling her to give her both the rotten bread and the raw cotton to eat. Then the cow ate the bread and cotton and "shat cotton thread until evening". This continued for three days in a row, with morning and evening breaks for going back to the merchant's home. On the third day, a brisk wind blows away the ball of cotton thread, and it tumbles straight "down a well". Before she could climb down after it, the cow gave her special instructions. She would see "an old woman bārzangī" whom she was to greet by saying, "Salām". When the old woman asked her to "delouse my hair", she was to answer "Your hair is perfectly all right, it's cleaner than mine", and then delouse her. So the girl went down the well and sure enough, there she met the old woman, and all proceeded as the yellow cow told her it would. Then the old one tells her "to take her cotton from a certain room" where she will also see precious gems. The girl enters the room, sees the jewels, as well as her cotton, and takes her thread back. She bids the old woman goodbye and begins to climb the ladder out of the well. Halfway up it gives a terrible shaek: it is the old woman frisking her for the possibility of stolen jewels. Since no jewels have been taken, "the old woman prays for her to have a moon in the center of her brow". At the top, the woman gives her another blessing, saying, "May you have a star on your chin." She warns the girl to keep her veil on tightly so that her stepmother can't see these on her face. Then the girl goes home. That night, the veil slips off of her face, and the moo and star are seen by her family. By now, the stepmother has become suspicious of the speed at which this girl spins cotton. So the next day, she send her own girl out with the cow. She doesn't give her rotten bread to eat but instead sweet bread. For three days the cow eats sweet bread and shits cotton thread. But not as much as when she was on the rotten-bread diet. On the third day a gust of wind blows the thread down the well. Again the yellow cow counsels the girl about the woman down the well, and what she must say and do when she goes below. But this girl is greedy and rude, and when the old woman in the well asks for help with her hair, the girl says, "Your hair is filthy, my mother's is clean.' When the old one tells her where to find her thread, the girl grabs some jewels as well, which fall when the old woman shakes the ladder. So she curses the girl, saying, "May a donkey's penis grow from your forehead!" And then she adds, "And a snake from your chin!". When the girl gets home, her mother is horrified. She cuts the penis and the snake off of her daughter's face, and makes a poultice with salt, but "both objects reappear over night". By now the good daughter has figured out the true identity of the yellow cow: she is her mother. So she begins feeding her on "candied chickpeas and bread". Of course, soon the stepmother declares that she is ill, and that the only cure for her is the meat of the yellow cow. When the cow's daughter comes to feed her that night, the cow cries out, "They'll kill me today!" Then she warns her child of the hardships to come, and tells her what to do. She is not to eat any of the meat, but to save the bones and hide them in a bag, which she is to bury. The cow is then butchered, and the girl follows her mother's directions. The next day, the stepmother feels well enough to take her own daughter to attend "a wedding in another city". So she "cuts off the penis and snake and applies salt to the wounds". Then she mixes a large measure of millet with some tiny togũ seeds, and commands her stepdaughter to sort them out before she returns, and "to fill the pool with tears." When she is left alone, the girl begins to cry. The tears are no problem, but how can she ever sort those seeds? Suddenly, she sees "a hen with a lot of chickens come into the garden. The hen speaks, telling the girl to put salt and water into the pool, take the horse and good clothes she will find in the stable, and go to the wedding." Her little chicks will sort out the seeds. She must hurry home from the wedding, and on the way, "one of your shoes will fall into the water; don't stop to get it" for fear of discovery. That is how the girl comes to be at the wedding, dressed in finery, when her stepsister recognized her, and says to her mother, "That is our Māhpishāanī. [Moon-Brow]". So Moon-Brow runs home, but on the way, one shoe falls off in the water. She doesn't go back for it, and is dressed in rags sorting the last of the seeds when her stepmother gets home. "Two days later, a prince is riding by the waterside, and his horse refuses to drink." That's when the prince sees a shoe in the water, and bends to pick it up. He takes it home and tells his father that he desires to marry the one who lost the dainty shoe. So "the king and his viziers try the shoe on everyone and all wish that it would fit, but it does not." When the king and his party near the home of Moon-Brow, her stepmother pushes her into the bread oven and bars the door, so that there is only one young woman in the house who may try on the shoe. Just then, "a cock flies up on top of the oven, and begins to crow,'A moon in the oven! A head is in thee, kūku!"That is how the girl is discovered. Of course, the king makes her try on the shoe, and it fits, so "she marries the prince".
From: Dundes, A. (1982) Cinderella: A Casebook. (p.185) New York: Wildman Press
Notes: This so reminds me of the English folk tale of Mr. and Mrs. Vinegar! Also quite interesting similarities to the Spanish Cinderella, Little Gold Star, and the Italian, Ugly Cinderella (La Brutta Cinderella # 83 ) Note the presence of the Baba Yaga-like character, and the similarity with The Talking Eggs, (Cinderella #19 )an African American tale in which the girls are similarly tested. Dundes' notes include the facts that this story, in traditional Afghan culture, is the exclusive province of women. So much so that "an accomplished storyteller with a huge repertoire of of both folktales and romances, professed not to know the story and refused to perform it." The story is traditionally told within the context of rituals associated with "Soup for the Lady of Wishing", an ancient passion play not unlike the Catholic Stations of the Cross.