Hello and welcome to Fairy Tale Friday. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I'll begin.
This week we look at an Austrian tale by Germanic scholar Theodor Vernaleken. He was a teacher of German language and literature, a school reformer and later a school inspector. He also collected legends, myths, tales and customs from the Alpine countries. The story of Broomthrow, Brushthrow, Combthrow was published in his 1864 book Österreichische Kinder- und Hausmärchen: Treu nach mündlicher Überlieferung (Austrian Children's and Household Tales: Faithful to Oral Tradition.)
I will begin by saying this is one of the few tales that actually gives our female protagonist a name. (In this case Adelheid.) Both she and her mother were born with a gold cross on their forehead and after her mother’s death her father says he will only marry someone else with the gold cross marking. He doesn’t outright pressure her and he isn’t a sex pest like in other tales. He says he will look for a woman with a gold cross on her forehead for a year and day and if one cannot be found he will marry her. This basically gives her a year and day to escape, which she does. She doesn’t need to plead or bargain or ask for gifts to stall the marriage. When her father leaves, she packs up her belongings and several of her trusted servants and departs in her carriage.
Together she sets up house with her servants and has her chief servant Gotthold go round the castle to enquire whether they had any jobs going for his “niece.” Now, if she is rich enough to set up house with a bunch of servants, why does she need to get a job as a kitchen maid? The story says, Adelheid had often stated that she wanted to earn her bread with the work of her own hands which to me smacks of slumming it for a lark like that song by Pulp that says:
I want to live like common people,
I want to do whatever common people do.
I want to do whatever common people do.
Also, every night she is given leave to sneak to the ball and watch the rich people dance, she simply goes home and has her servants wash her and dress her then she has them rough her up a bit before she goes back to work. I really don’t see why, if she is rich enough to do this, she can’t just go to the ball as herself and meet the prince. Why all the sneaking about? Why the disguise? Why the subterfuge?
Anyway, she finally meets the prince and he is a two-faced sort of character. He is repeatedly abusive to her in her guise as a servant throwing a broom, brush and comb at her head. This does not stop her from pursuing him and teasing him in her posh disguise. When he asks what exotic place she is from she replies Broomthrow, Brushthrow and Combthrow. It is his frustration in not finding these places on a map that causes him to lose his temper and assault her. Why she thinks this makes him good husband material I do not know. Look at how someone treats waiters and animals to know if they are good person or not. That is my philosophy.
In the end, a ring is used to snare her prince and she can stop slumming it and throw off her disguise and marry him. Her father came home from his travels and discovered she was already married and had to accept his fate.
Broomthrow, Brushthrow, Combthrow source
In a castle there once lived a count by the name of Rudolf. His wife had a golden cross on her forehead. Their daughter Adelheid had the same mark on her forehead. When she was twenty years old her mother suddenly died.
The count's and his daughter's sorrow and grief were endless. After the mother's burial, the father and his child locked themselves in their rooms and were seldom seen.
After a month had passed, the count had his daughter brought to his room and said to her, "Dear child, you know how much I loved your mother. I cannot live without a wife. Therefore I am going out into the world to seek a wife who -- like your blessed mother -- has a golden cross on her forehead. If I do not find such a woman within a year and a day, then I will marry you."
When Adelheid heard these words she was very upset, and she silently withdrew. The next morning Count Rudolf departed, promising to return within a year and a day.
When Adelheid was alone she considered whether or not it would be possible for her father to find a woman with such a cross. Then she remembered that her mother had once told her that except for her and Adelheid, no one on the entire earth had such a cross.
She decided to go away. She would rather earn her bread with the work of her own hands than to eat the finest tidbits at her father's table as his wife. She entrusted one of her loyal servants with her plan, and they made preparations to depart.
She secretly loaded her valuables, her jewelry, her gold, and her clothes into several large carriages. During the night she drove off with them, accompanied by her servant Gotthold and several others who were loyal to her. They came to a large city where she rented a house and moved into it with her servants.
Adelheid had often stated that she wanted to earn her bread with the work of her own hands. Therefore Gotthold sought a position for his mistress in the city. He learned that there was an opening for a kitchen maid in the castle of Prince Adolf. Thus he went to the chief cook and asked him if he would be willing to hire his niece, for that is what he called the countess. As he talked further with the chief cook, Gotthold recognized in him a friend whom he had not seen for many years. He told him that his brother had died, leaving a daughter in his care. The chief cook agreed to hire her.
The loyal servant happily returned to the countess and remained in the rented house.
Adelheid now dyed her face, neck, and hands brown; covered her golden cross and her hair with a large head-scarf; took off her magnificent robes, putting on instead old, dirty, torn
clothing; and presented herself to the chief cook.
She was given a small room where she could sleep and keep her things. Slowly she grew accustomed to her job, even though she was exhausted by the hard work.
Until now she had not yet seen the prince. One day he invited all his friends and acquaintances to a great ball. On the morning of the ball, Adelheid was sweeping the staircase, when the prince, without being seen by her, walked up and tipped over the dust pail, thus dirtying his boots. As she was fleeing, he angrily ripped the broom from her hands and threw it at her.
That evening as the hall was filling with people, the young countess went to the chief cook and asked him for permission to go to the ball.
He replied, "No, I cannot allow you to do that. What if the prince were to find out!"
Adelheid continued to beg, until he finally said, "Just go. But don't stay too late, and if you get anything, bring some back for me as well."
Now she went to Gotthold's house, changed her clothes, washed away the colour, and ordered up a splendid carriage in which she rode to the prince's.
When the guests saw the splendid carriage approaching in the distance, they all hurried outside and said, "A foreign lady! A beautiful lady!"
The prince hurried toward her, lifted her from her carriage, and led her up the stairs. She had to dance with him the entire evening and to sit next to him at the table. After eating, he asked her what her name was and where she came from.
"My name is Adelheid, and I come from Broomthrow," replied the countess.
At twelve o'clock she left, and with her the majority of guests.
Arriving at home she quickly got undressed, coloured herself brown, and took three gold pieces which she gave to the chief cook, claiming that she had stood behind a door and had received the gold from an old woman.
The next morning the prince looked for Broomthrow on his maps, but he could not find it. He wanted to ask her about her home city once again, but because he did not know where she lived, he invited his friends to a second ball.
On the morning of the second ball Adelheid was brushing her clothing when the prince, without being seen, came up the stairs. She turned around and dropped the brush, which fell onto the prince's feet. Angrily Adolf picked up the brush and threw it at the embarrassed countess's head.
That evening the chief cook once again allowed her to go the ball, and she took advantage of his permission. At the ball Adolf told her that he had not been able to find Broomthrow.
"How could you be looking for Broomthrow?" she replied. "I said Brushthrow."
Once again they danced together, and as midnight approached she went home. She brought the chief cook a gold band, claiming that she had received it as a gift.
The next morning the prince looked for Brushthrow but could not find it. He then invited his friends and acquaintances to a third ball, which was to be even more magnificent than the first two.
On the eve of the ball, shortly before the festivities were to begin, Adelheid, contrary to custom, was combing her hair in the castle. The prince, displeased because the foreign lady had not arrived yet, walked up the stairs just as the countess dropped her comb. Prince Adolf picked it up and threw it at the kitchen servant's head. She quickly withdrew, changed her clothes, and went to the ball.
At the table the prince said that he had not been able to find Brushthrow anywhere.
"I can believe that," she said. "I called the place Combthrow." He didn't want to believe her, but she argued with him until he finally gave in. Before she left, he placed a ring on her finger, without her noticing it.
The next morning the prince was not well, and he asked a chief cook to make soup for him.
The latter announced this in the kitchen, and Adelheid asked for permission to make the soup.
But he said, "If you put something in the soup that doesn't belong there, then I am the one who will be punished."
She replied, "I will not put anything wrong in it." She made the soup, and without being seen, she threw the prince's ring into the soup.
The prince poured the soup into a dish and heard something jingle. He felt around and fished out the ring. Amazed, he then asked who had made the soup.
"The kitchen maid" was the answer.
Adolph ordered his servant, "Bring her here."
She hurriedly put on the dress that she had worn the previous evening, and when the prince saw her, he recognized his dance partner. She now had to tell him her life story, and soon afterward he married her.
In the meantime her father had come home, and when he discovered that his daughter had already married, he had to accept his fate.
That’s all for this week. Stay tuned next week for the tale of Fair Maria Wood