Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Greek Cinderella and Her Cannibal Sisters

Ready for some more Cinderellas? How about some Cinderellas with a hefty dose of cannabalism? I mentioned earlier that Cinderella is guilty of many vices in her many variants, but cannibalism, not. Although even that is up for debate and personal choice as I will show with another tale tomorrow--stay tuned!

But these tales do not spread beyond Greece and Cyprus in this form although many variants have been found in Greece itself. They greatly resemble other 510A tales, as well as ATU 511 One Eye, Two Eyes, Three Eyes in which an animal magical helper is cooked by the (step)mother and the Cinderella character refuses to partake of the meat, often honoring the bones of the beloved animal. These Greek tales, however, skip the animal helper--who is usually interpreted as the mother's spirit or mother reincarnated--but sticks with the mother herself. How about psycho-analyzing this tale to your heart's content? Some great papers here...

Another interesting twist in these tales is that the sisters are the villains here. The majority of Cinderellas in 510A and 511 have a mother or stepmother as the primary villain while the sisters are merely her lackeys. Here they are the villains, front and center.

From "The Three Sisters" (from Cassabi, Greece) in my book, Cinderella Tales From Around the World:

THERE were three girls sitting spinning with their mother, and they agreed that whosesoever thread broke first they should kill and eat. Their mother's thread broke, but they said, “Let us spare her for having carried us in her womb,” and went on spinning.

When the mother's thread broke a second time, they said, “Let us spare her for having suckled us from her breast.” But when the mother's thread broke a third time, she had to be killed. The two eldest killed her, cut her up, cooked her, and eat well of the flesh, but the youngest would not join them, and when they had finished she collected the bones and put them in a large earthenware jar. Every day for forty days she incensed them.

And from "Little Saddleslut" (from Epeiros, Greece):

THERE were once three sisters spinning flax, and they said, “Whosever spindle falls, let us kill her and eat her.”

The mother’s spindle fell, and they left her alone.

Again they sat down to spin, and again the mother’s spindle fell, and again and yet again.

“Ah, well!” said they, “let us eat her now!”

“No!” said the youngest, “do not eat her; eat me, if flesh you will have.”

But they would not; and two of them killed their mother and cooked her for eating.

When they had sat down to make a meal of her, they said to the youngest, “Come and eat too!”

But she refused, and sat down on a saddle which the fowls were covering with filth, and wept, and upbraided them.

Many a time they said to her, “Come and eat!” but she would not; and when they had done eating, they all went away.

And from "Saddleslut" (from Zagora, Greece):

THERE was once a mother with three daughters, and they went to spin on the terrace, and the mother’s spindle fell twice, and they said, “We will excuse her.” It fell again, and they made a cow of her and slew her. And when they were killing her, she said to Kálo, the youngest, “Don’t you eat, but bury my bones in the barn, and burn incense over them every evening; and at Easter uncover them.”

The other two, Stamáto and Máro, put her under the packsaddle, and called her “Saddleslut.” When Easter came round, the two went to church, and Saddleslut unburied the bones and found a thousand and two treasures. Then she also adorned herself and went to church, and threw down coins, and fled, and went and sat on the packsaddle. The others came home, and said to her, “A lady came and scattered gold, and you, to your loss, were not there.”

And finally, "The Story of Cinderella" from (from Cyprus):

ONCE upon a time, my lady, there was an old woman who had three daughters. Well [the two eldest], because the mother loved the youngest best, were jealous, and sought some pretext for killing their mother. They agreed to go up on a high terrace with their mother, and take their spindles, and that whoever should first let her thread break they would eat. Of course the mother being old and feeble, her thread would be sure to break. So they took their spindles and went up to the terrace. The poor old woman, her hands were weak, and she broke her thread once.

“Ah, dear mother mine,” said they, “we will eat thee!”

Then says she to them, “Ai, my daughters, forgive me this time, and if it breaks again, eat me.”

Then they began again, and let down their spindles, and again her thread broke.

“Ah, dear mother mine,” they cry, “we will eat thee!”

“Ai, my daughters, forgive me also this time, and if it breaks a third time, then eat me!”

So they began again, and let down their spindles, and again hers broke.

“Ai, we can’t let you off again, we shall eat you!” And they took their poor mother and began to make ready to kill her. When she saw that they were really going to kill her, she called her youngest daughter, and said to her, “Come, my daughter, and let me counsel thee! Take my blessing,” she said, “for they are about to kill and eat me; all the bones that fall do thou gather and put them in a jar, and keep them with care. Watch them and smoke them [with incense] for forty days and nights and go not forth from the chamber where they are; and on the fortieth day,” she said, “open it [the jar], and see what they have become.”

“Gladly,” she replied, and began to weep for her mother.

“Don’t weep, my daughter,” said she, “for what can you do now that your sisters are determined?”

They seized and slew their mother, and set to and cooked her, and began to eat.

“Come, girl, and eat thou too; thou wilt see what good food it is—our mother.”

“No, my girl, God does not permit me to eat of my mother!” and she gathered up the bones wherever she found them, and placed them in a jar without being observed. When they had finished eating and were satisfied, they rose. What did she do now? She took and lighted a great fire and sat day and night to watch them, and smoked them day and night.

I think I can guarantee that this Greek Cinderella will never, ever, ever be interpreted into a picture book for children!

And who thought Cinderella was boring?

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