Robin Redbreast

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

Friday, December 30, 2011

Cinderella #363 Aschengrittel


Cinderella #363 Aschengrittel 
"A tiny, white bearded dwarf"
gives her 6 wishes: three good and three bad!
Illustration by Jacques, R. 
Once upon a time, in what is now Germany, there lived a girl called Aschengrittle. This was not her name, merely an ugly slur cast upon her by her two younger stepsisters. They and their mother made Aschengrittle do all of the dirtiest household work, and sleep in the scullery. Since they never gave her new clothing to wear she was soon covered with ashes. That is why they gave her the nickname. Her little step-brats were so mean that one of their favorite games was to throw "lentils in the ashes for her to sort". She ate only what she gleaned from the sooty hearth. It happened that her "Father goes ajourney" one day, and "asks what gifts he shall bring for his daughters." Her little stepsisters greedily request dresses and sweets and trinkets, but Aschengrittel asks only for "the first twig that hits Father's hat". So her father goes, and soon enough comes back. To his young stepdaughters he presents new dresses and shoes and necklaces, with fruits and sweets besides. For his own daughter he has jokingly gift-wrapped a fir twig. As her sisters  jeer and laugh, Aschengrittle thanks her father. Then she "places [the] twig in her bosom, and carries it always with her." The following day is wash day, and first thing in the morning, poor old Aschengrittel is sent to the distant well to draw water. When she gets there, "a tiny, white bearded dwarf appears, and promises to perform three good and three evil wishes" for her. Well, the girl says that she will not accept the evil wishes, and wants only that "her stepmother and stepsisters may be kind to her in future". Dwarves are canny creatures, and this one could tell that the girl's heart was pure and good. So he gave her a "golden wand that will perform anything she wishes", bade her good day, and was gone. Alone, she tests the wand by "striking it against the edge of the well" and articulating her desires. They manifest! Her dirty clothing has been replaced by a clean dress, and a meal has appeared before her. Not wanting to arouse suspicion, she eats the food and changes back into her rags before returning home. It happens that soon "a young king, wishing to choose a bride, gives a grand ball". Of course her stepmother forbids her to go, and takes her own girls with her. As soon as they are gone, Aschengrittle runs to the well and activates her wand. "Instantly [a] wonderful dress with gold and pearls is before her". She puts it on, strikes the well again, and now has  coach and six to transport her. At the ball, she is radiant, and attracts the attention of the young king. But she leaves midway through the evening, and he is bereft. So he announces that he will hold a second ball the following night. This time Aschengrittle comes in "more splendid attire" and again captivates the king. Yet once more she gives him the slip. What can he do but host a third ball? For this final evening of revelry, Aschengritte's wand really works some spectacular magic. It clothes her "in a still more gorgeous dress". She is "beyond measure happy"when she arrives at the palace for her third date with the king, but he has made some preparations this time. An order has been given to "have every door but one closed, and this is smeared with pitch" after the guests have entered. This evening passes in a whirl of sweet talk and fast dancing, and before he knows it, Aschengrittel is heading for the exit once more. He follows at a discreet pace as she goes from exit to exit, finding each one sealed. At last she finds an open door! Pushing through it, she feels her feet stuck fast to something on the other side. The king is nearly upon her, when she makes a snap decision: "she leaves [one] golden shoe sticking to the pitch rather than let the king follow her home." With a kick, she pulls free of her shoe and runs swiftly away. Appetite now fully whetted for the hunt, the young king smiles as he bends to recover the shoe.  "He is delighted to have [it] and gives notice that he will wed whomsoever it fits." Taking the shoe himself from door to door, he comes at last to Aschengrittlel's home. Of course, her stepmother has pushed her out the back door. She pulls her own girls forward, insisting that they take the shoe into the other room to try it on. There she "makes one daughter cut off [her] big toe and the other daughter [a] piece of heel." Showing first one and then the other girl to the king as they model the shoe, the stepmother manages to trick him for awhile. But then he notices the sticky red puddles on the floor and says, "Gru, gru, there is blood in the shoe; this bride is not the true." So he guesses that there must be one more young girl in the house. At last the stepmother admits that there is though she is "too ugly and dirty to be seen". The king demands to see her anyway, and the rest, as they say, is history. 
From: Cox, M. R. (1893/2011) p.316
Notes: Here is another rare example of a "fairy godFATHER" in place of the usual nurturing female. Dwarves are ancient creatures of mythology; reputed to live deep within the earth and to be skilled miners and metalworkers, their literary roots are deep. According to Alison Jones, author of the Larousse Dictionary of World Folklore, dwarves are "hot tempered and quick to take offense but nevertheless generous and loyal to those they befriend." In the mythology of Scandinavia, they are "created by the gods from the giant Ymir, and although less powerful than their creators were wiser than humans." (p.153) For more folktales and more about Marian Roalfe Cox, visit The Folklore Society, http://www.folklore-society.com/

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