Wednesday, February 27, 2013

They say the owl was a baker's daughter.

Ophelia: Well, God dild you! They say the owl was a baker's daughter. Lord, we know what we are, but know not what we may be. God be at your table! (Hamlet, Act 4 Scene V)

The Owl as Bakers Daughter

Once a fairy entered a baker's shop. She was dressed in rags as a poor woman, her clothing tattered, and she begged for a morsel of bread dough. The baker's daughter gave her a tiny morsel and the old woman asked that she be allowed to place it in the oven.

But when  she removed the bread the maid saw that the dough had risen and become the largest loaf in the oven. The woman therefore reconsidered and did not want to give it to the old woman. Finally she gave her another piece of dough, half as large as the first and placed it in the oven for the second baking. But this loaf rose even more than the first, and so the old woman was not allowed to have it. Now she asked for a very small portion of the dough. The girl gave her only a small morsel, hardly larger than a thumbnail and she placed it in the oven for the third backing. When it cam out of the oven it was larger than the other two loaves before. The foolish, greedy maid became fearful and with large round eyes gazed upon the old woman, who had thrown off her robe and stood tall and beaming.

The girl stammered "How, who, who...".

"Whoo- whooo" will be the only thing you ever utter again," the fairy said. "The world has borne your selfishness and greed long enough." And she raised her wand and touched the maid who now was transformed into an owl, flying out into the night with a "whoo-whooo".

Dear Lord, we know what we are but we do not know what we might become. 

And in this English folk song, the owl appears as king's daughter, not baker's daughter:

Once I was a monarch's daughter
And sat on a lady's knee:
But am now a nightly rover,
Banished to the ivy tree.

Crying hoo hoo, hoo hoo, hoo hoo,
Hoo ! Hoo! Hoo! My feet are cold!
Pity me, for here you see me,
Persecuted, poor and old.

I once was a king's daughter
And sat on my father's knee,
But now I'm a poor hoolet,