Thursday, February 14, 2013

Portugal's Horse-Skin: Cannibalistic Cinderella?

"Horse-Skin" from Tales of Old Lusitania: From the Folk-Lore of Portugal by F. Adolpho Coelho and translated by Henriqueta Monteiro, offers us a Cinderella with a vague cannibalistic story. The wonder of stories across cultures? That while the sisters in the Greek tale are the cannibalistic villains, these are the self-sacrificing victims along with Cinderella.

Bonus: We get a full explanation of how Cinderella's persecution comes about, father's actions included. Although some variants offer some explanation for the father's absence (if he is alive), this one makes him fully culpable.

From my book, Cinderella Tales From Around the World:

THIS is the story of a wicked king, who was a widower and had three daughters.

Many years had elapsed since his queen died, and he began to feel lonely without a partner in life, and one who could occupy the vacant seat beside him on the throne, so he resolved to visit a certain Court where a princess lived, whom he admired, and to make an offer of marriage to her. The princess, who was selfish and only cared for her own comfort, asked the king before accepting his offer, what he intended to do with his daughters, as she did not want them about her in the palace. “If my daughters,” replied the king, “are a hindrance to our union, I can soon dispose of them, and send them where you will never see them or hear of them.”

On his return to the palace he said to his daughters, “Get ready at once to go with me to the Tower of Moncorvo, where I will show you what you have never seen before in your life.” The daughters, full of confidence in their father, and not suspecting any treachery, readily prepared to accompany him, and after travelling many leagues arrived at the celebrated tower. When the king had them safe in the castle, he said to his daughters, “Remain here, whilst I pay a short visit to a friend and worthy subject, who lives in this neighbourhood. On my return I will take you back to the palace.” The wicked king, who only made up this excuse to blind his daughters to his real intentions, fastened the great gates of the Tower as he went out, so that his daughters could not possibly escape. He supplied them with food every day until his marriage day, but after that he never concerned himself about them any more, but left them to their fate.

Hours passed, and days came and went, and still no succour arrived, and they began to be in a dreadful state, without a morsel of food or water to refresh them. And so it happened that one day, when they had given up all hopes of being relieved, and were nearly dead from starvation, the eldest of the princesses said to her sisters, “Why should we all starve? The best thing you two can do is to kill me and feed upon me as long as I afford you sustenance.” She had hardly said these words when she dropped down dead from want.

A few days after this sad event the surviving princesses were again short of food, and nothing was left them but to die. Then the second sister, remembering what the first one had so generously done, followed her example, and suggested that her younger sister should kill her for food: and when she had finished uttering the last words of her advice she also dropped down and died.

The poor young girl, now left alone in the large dreary castle, felt very disconsolate, and rent the air with her lamentations. But after a while, being of a courageous mind, she thought to herself that weeping was no remedy for her woes, and that she must devise some means of escape from her prison before she became faint again with want.

The story goes on to be a more traditional Cinderella tale at this point, predominantly an ATU 510B although the beginning is a blend of 510A and B with the wicked stepmother and an interesting twist on the exile.

And the big question for the reader to decide? Did she or didn't she partake? The text implies yes more than no but to preserve the moral judgment of the reader, it is left to you to decide.

And while we're here, I must wave at Valerie and Brian for helping me procure this book so I didn't have to translate the tale myself! I wanted to include it rather desperately and they made it happen.

1 comment:

  1. I didn't know that this was the fascinating story hiding in that little old volume! So glad we could help!