Robin Redbreast

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

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cinderella #359 Golden Bells

Cinderella #359  Golden Bells
Illustration by
Maurice Sendak
Once upon a time, in Italy, there was a princess named Florine. Her father was the king and her mother was dying. One day, the Queen enjoined her to "above all things to take care of [the]little white lamb, or disaster will ensue." Later, when her mother is gone and her father has remarried, Florine does her best to care for the wooly little animal. It is not easy to keep an eye on this particular beast, because her new stepmother has a large flock of sheep which she makes Florine pasture each day. The stepmother's own daughter, Truitonne, lounges at home and eats dainties. But for her meals, Florine is given only  a "tiny piece of black bread, hard as stone." Luckily for her though, she has learned that if she "strikes [the] right ear of the lamb [a] well spread table" appears! Meanwhile, Truitonne complains to her mother that Florine does not appear to be going hungry, and the two of them become suspicious. The stepmother makes Truitonne agree to follow her sister to the sheep pasture to see what her secret is. Yet when Florine discovers Truitonne spying on her, she invites her stepsister to share her hard bread with her. The girls talk and share the bread, and Florine offers to braid Truitonne's hair. With soothing strokes Florine brushes and twists her stepsister's hair, and soon Truitonne is fast asleep. That is when Florine strikes her lamb's ear, receives her feast, and eats her fill. Then she strike's her pet's left ear, and the remains are cleared away. When Truitonne wakes up and goes home, she admits to her mother that she did not learn the secret of Florine's source of food. So Truitonne is made to go again the following day. Feigning sleep after her hair is combed, Truitionne discovers her stepsister's secret. Key to getting rid of Florine as a competing marriageable maiden is cutting off her food supply; therefore a plan is hatched to get rid of the lamb. One night at dinner, the stepmother begins to moan and groan. She takes to her bed and refused to eat for many days, claiming that only the meat of a certain lamb will cure her." The king at first objects to killing Florine's pet but then consents". So the lamb calls Florine to her and tells her that she must collect all of the lamb's bones and "put them on [the] pear tree, whose branches then will be decked with little golden bells". These little bells will "ring without ceasing; if they are silent, it will betoken ill". Everything then happens as the lamb predicts: she is killed, Florine saves and cleans her bones, hangs them on the pear tree, and they do turn into golden bells. One day, the king of a neighboring land is passing by, and hears the bells ringing. Their tone is so lovely that he decides on the spot that the maiden who can gather him a bouquet of bells So the king asks all the maidens to try, but none can. When he asks Florine's stepmother, the woman helps Truionne to reach up. But the tree only pulls its branches higher, and she cannot reach the bells. Now the king insists on knowing if there isn't another maiden in the household. Of course there is but the queen says that the only other girl is "only fit to mind the sheep". The king however, declares that he will see her, and sits down to wait. Sure enough, back she comes before sunset with her flock of sheep. She calls out to the tree, "Little pear tree, bend for me to pick your bells." So the pear tree bends down and she harvests the bells, and gives them to the king. Then he takes her back to his palace and they are married. But before long, her husband the king is called to war. Now Florine falls ill, and one day, her stepmother is called to her bedside. Quick as a flash, the wicked stepmother has Florine hurled into the river. She substitutes her own daughter Truitonne in the sick bed, and sits down to await the king. But as soon as Florine hits the water the golden bells stop ringing. Now Florine's husband the king, who has been able to hear the bells ringing no matter how far away he has been, is startled by the sudden silence. Knowing that this can only   bode ill for Florine, he heads for home. Just as he is passing the river, he sees a "hand coming up out of the water. [He] seizes it and draws forth Florine, who is still alive." They return to his palace at once where Truitonne and her wicked mother are sentenced to be hanged. But Florine invites her father to to the palace and she  live on in happiness with her husband the king and her father, the other king. 
From: Cox, M. R. (1893/2011) Cinderella: Three Hundred Forty Five Variants of of Cinderella, Catskin, and Cap O'Rushes. (p.200) Cornell University Digital Library Collection
Notes: There are variants with oranges, apples, and pomegranates growing on branches just out of reach, but this is the first I have seen bells. A classic "magic bones" story with a common Mediterranean helper animal, the lamb.