Fairy tales from ancient Egypt!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Cinderella: A tale of peas and lentils, turtledoves and of course silver slippers


The Fairy Tale of Cinderella

A rich man’s wife became ill and when she felt that the end was near, she called her only daughter to her bedside and said “Dear child remain pious and good and the dear Lord will always stand by you. I will look down from heaven and be with you.” She then closed her eyes and departed.  Every day the girl went out to her mother’s grave and wept. She remained pious and good and when winter came, white snow blanketed the grave. When spring sunshine melted the white blanket of snow, her father took another wife.

The woman brought her own two daughters into the house, beautiful and fair of face but ugly and black of heart. The stepchild now had to endure a terrible time.  “Shall the stupid goose sit with us in our chamber?” they asked. “Whoever wants to eat bread must earn it: out with the kitchen maid!” They took away her beautiful clothes and dressed her in a gray frock and gave her wooden shoes.  “Look at the proud princess now, how fine she is dressed!” they cried and laughed and led her to the kitchen. There she had do heavy work from dawn until dusk; rise early before daybreak, carry the water, make the fire, cook and wash. On top of it all the sisters caused her the greatest heartache, ridiculed the girl and poured her peas and lentils in the ashes so that she had to sit and pull them out again. At night when she had worked herself to exhaustion she didn’t go to bed but rather had to lie next to the stove in the ashes. And because she became so dusty and dirty they called her Cinderella.

Now it happened that the father wanted to go away to a fair so he asked his two stepdaughters what he should bring them. “Beautiful clothes,” one replied. “Pearls and gemstones,” the other said. “But you, Cinderella,” he asked,  “what do you want?”  “Father, the first sprig that brushes against your hat on your return journey, break that off for me.”  So he bought beautiful clothes, pearls and gemstones for the two stepdaughters. And on his return, when he rode through the green brush a hazel branch brushed against him and knocked off his hat. He broke off the branch and took it along. When he returned home he gave the stepdaughters what they had requested and to Cinderella he gave the sprig from the hazel bush.  Cinderella thanked him, went to her mother’s grave and planted the sprig and cried so pitifully that her tears fell on the twig and watered it. It grew and became a beautiful tree.  Cinderella went to it each day, cried and prayed and each time a little bird came and sat on the tree. And when she had spoken her wish the bird threw down what she had wished for.

Now it happened that the king was giving a celebration that was to last three days and all beautiful maidens in the land were invited so that his son could select a bride. When the two stepdaughters heard that they were to appear they were of good cheer. They called to Cinderella and said “Comb our hair, brush our shoes and fasten our buckles; we are going to a wedding at the king’s castle.”  Cinderella obeyed but cried because she would have liked to go along to the dance and asked her stepmother to allow it.  “You, Cinderella, she said “are covered in dust and dirt and want to go to a wedding? You don’t have any clothes or shoes and want to dance!” But because she continued her pleading she finally said “I have poured a bowl of lentils in the ashes, if you can pick out the lentils in two hours, you can go.” The girl went through the back door to the garden and called “Tame turtledove, turtle dove, all little birds under heaven come and help me pluck out

“the good ones in the pot
  the bad ones not”

Now two white doves flew through the kitchen window and then the turtle doves came flying in, and finally with a whir all birds under heaven swarmed inside and swooped down into the ashes. And the doves bowed their little heads and began to pick, pick, pick, pick and the others also began to pick, pick, pick, pick and dropped all the good grains into a bowl. Barely an hour passed and it was all done and they flew back out. The girl now brought the bowl to her stepmother and was happy and believed she could now go to the wedding.  But her stepmother said “No Cinderella. You don’t have any clothes and cannot dance: you would only be laughed at.”  But when she began go cry the stepmother said, “If you can pick out two bowls full of lentils from the ashes, you can go.” But she thought “she won’t be able to do it.” When she had poured the two bowls of lentils in the ashes, the girl went out the back door to the garden and cried out “You doves, turtle doves, all birds under heaven, come and help me pluck out

“the good ones in the pot
  the bad ones not”

Two white little doves came flying through the kitchen window, the turtle doves followed, and finally all birds under heaven whirred and swarmed inside before plunging into the ashes. And the doves bent their little heads and began to pick, pick, pick, pick and the others started to pick, pick, pick, pick and placed all the good grain into bowls. And before an half hour had passed, they were finished and flew out again.  The girl carried the bowl to her stepmother and now thought she would surely be able to go to the wedding. But her stepmother said “This doesn’t help you; you can’t go because you don’t have clothes and cannot dance; we would be ashamed of you.” She turned her back and hurried away with her two proud daughters.

When no one else was at home, Cinderella went to her mother’s grave under the hazel tree and called

“Little tree shake shake
“Throw gold and silver over me.”

The birds threw down a gold and silver dress and slippers embroidered with silk and silver.  The girl quickly donned the dress and went to the wedding. Her sisters and stepmother did not recognize her and thought she was a foreign king’s daughter, she was so beautiful in the golden dress. They never thought about Cinderella and supposed she sat at home in dirt picking lentils out of the ashes.  The king’s son approached, took her by the hand and danced with her. He didn’t want to dance with anyone else and wouldn’t let go of her hand and when another one came and asked he said “She is my little dancer.”

She danced till evening and when she wanted to go home the king’s son said “Let me go with you.” He wanted to see to whom the beautiful maiden belonged. But she got away and jumped into the dove house. Now the king’s son waited until her father came and said the strange girl had jumped into the dove house. But the old man thought “Could it be Cinderella?” And they had to bring an axe and pick so that he could chop the dove house in two: but no one was inside.  And when they returned home Cinderella lay in her dirty clothes in the ashes and a dirty oil lamp burned in the chimney;  for Cinderella had quickly jumped out of the dove house and ran to the hazel bush. There she pulled off her beautiful clothes and placed them on the grave and the bird took them again and she put on her gray smock and sat down in the ashes.

The next day when the party again approached and the parents and step sisters went away, Cinderella went to the hazel tree and said

“Little tree shake shake
“Throw gold and silver over me.”

Now the bird threw down an even more sublime dress than the day before. When the girl appeared at the marriage feast in this dress, everyone was astonished by her beauty.  The prince had waited until she came, immediately took her hand and only danced with her. When the others came and asked he said “this is my little dancer”. When night fell she wanted to leave and the king’s son pursued her and wanted to see which house she entered: but she jumped away and hid in the garden behind the house.  A large beautiful tree stood there on which the most beautiful pears hung.  She climbed between the branches nimble as a squirrel and the king’s son did not know where she had vanished.  But he waited until her father came and said to him “the strange girl got away and I believe she jumped into the pear tree.”  The father thought “Could it be Cinderella?” and he called for an axe and chopped the tree down. But no one was in it.  When they entered the kitchen, Cinderella lay in the ashes as before because she had jumped down on the other side of the tree and the beautiful bird in the hazel tree took away her beautiful clothes and brought her little gray shift.

On the third day when her parents and sisters were gone, Cinderella returned to her mother’s grave and spoke to the little tree

“Tree, tree shake your branches
Throw gold and silver in avalanches.”

Now the bird threw down a dress that was more splendid and glittering than it ever had, and the slippers were entirely golden.  When the maid arrived at the wedding in this dress, no one knew what to say in their amazement.  The king’s son wanted only to dance with her and if someone else asked he replied “this is my dancer.”

When it was evening Cinderella wanted to leave and the king’s son wanted to accompany her, but she escaped quickly and he could not follow. But the king’s son had thought up a trick and had the entire stairway covered with pitch. When the girl jumped away the left slipper of the girl remained stuck.  The king’s son lifted it and it was small and delicate and entirely golden.  The next morning he went to the man and said to him “no other shall become my wife than the one whose foot fits into this golden shoe.”  Both sisters rejoiced because they had pretty feet. The oldest went into the chamber with the shoe and wanted to try it on and the mother stood by. But she couldn’t get her big toe in, the shoe was too small so she handed her mother a knife and said “Hack off the toe, when you are a queen you won’t have to walk any more.”  The girl hacked off the toe, forced her foot into the shoe, swallowed her pain and went out to the king’s son. He took her on his horse as bride and rode off with her. But they had to pass the grave where two little doves sat on the hazel tree and they called out

“Loop dee hoo, loop dee hoo.
Blood in shoe.
The shoe is too small
The true bride sits at home”

He looked down at her foot and saw that blood oozed out.  He turned his horse around and brought the false bride back to her house. He said she wasn’t the right one, the other sister should try on the shoe.  This one went into the chamber and all toes happily fit inside the shoe, but her heel was too large.  The mother gave her a knife and said “lop off your heel: when you are queen you won’t have to walk on your feet.”  The girl lopped off a piece of her heel, forced her foot into the shoe, swallowed her pain and went out to the king’s son.  He took her as his bride on his horse and rode off. When they passed the hazel tree, the two doves sat there and called out

“Loop dee hoo, loop dee hoo.
Blood in shoe.
The shoe is too small
The true bride sits at home”

He looked down at her foot and saw blood oozing out and the white stockings were soaked crimson. He turned his horse around and returned the bride to the house. “This is also not the right one,” he said. “Do you have another daughter?”  “No,” the man said, “only the child from my dead wife is a small stunted cinderella. It is impossible that she could be the bride.”  The king’s son said he should send her up; but the mother said “Oh no, she is much too dirty, you can’t look at her.”  But he insisted and Cinderella had to be called.  First she washed her hands and face, then went and bowed before the prince, who held out the golden shoe.  She sat on a footstool, pulled her foot out her heavy wooden shoe and placed it in the slipper. It fit like a glove.  And when she rose and the king looked into her face he recognized the beautiful maiden that had danced with him and cried out : “this is the rightful bride”.  The stepmother and both sisters became frightened and pale with rage.  But he took Cinderella and placed her on his horse and rode off.  When they passed the hazel tree the two white doves called out:

“Loop dee hoo, loop dee hoo.
No blood in shoe.
The shoe is not too small
The true bride goes with him home.”

And when the birds had finished their song, they flew down and landed on Cinderella’s shoulders. One on the right, one on the left.

When the marriage was to be celebrated the two false sisters came and wanted to ingratiate themselves and share their sister’s good fortune.  When the married couple arrived at church, the oldest daughter stood at the right, the youngest one at the left and the doves picked out one of their eyes. Afterward when they went out, the oldest was on the left side and the youngest one one at the right side: now the doves picked out their other eye.  And so they were punished for their malice and falsehood for the rest of their lives.

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