Thursday, 30 April 2020

Altered Images

Hello lovelies! Are you slowly going mad during lockdown or is that just me? I feel like my life is being written by Lewis Carroll and I am Alice talking to the Cheshire Cat.

We're all mad here.

Sewing would be the obvious pastime for me, but alas! I am woefully short on fabric, notions and ephemera to work on a project and there is no place to get what I need as everything is shut. This caused me a great amount of grief the first few weeks of sheltering-in-place and I really need (and I mean REALLY NEED) a project or my mental health suffers.

I dug around in my craft room and stumbled up a project idea that I had started but abandoned before we moved to Wales. For nearly six years this project has languished in a box with a folder full of scrappy notes and scribbles. I had done extensive prep on the project and then had abandoned the preparatory work three-quarters of the way through because we were moving to Wales. The notes at the beginning were detailed and became not much more than a furiously scribbled word or two by the end. There was much work to do on this project...but also much work that had already been done. 

Normally I rely on coming up with my best ideas during the Dreamtime. Every novel or short story or art project I have ever done has come to me in a lucid dream which I dutifully transcribe the next day. Right now, my lucid dreams are nightmares about our bathroom flooding and an alligator swimming in to try to eat me or worse, dreams about people I love dying. Right now, I need a project where a great deal of the thinking is done for me. 

So what am I doing? I am illustrating a book of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.  Anyone who knows me, knows I collect Oz memorabilia. Whole swathes of our house are dedicated to my collection of Oz books (they have their own bookshelf), Oz artwork (we own several drawings from Skottie Young's brilliantly illustrated version of Oz done by Marvel Comics as well as a fabulous painting of poppies by Kevin Chunisingh) and my Oz Barbie Dolls. Yes I have Oz Barbie Dolls. You mean you don't??

I am making an Altered Book. According to Wikipedia:

An altered book is a form of mixed media artwork that changes a book from its original form into a different form, altering its appearance and/or meaning.

Some people might think this is blasphemy, but I prefer to think of it as creativity and upcycling.
Some people let their text show through and paint and collage directly on the page, but I decided that I wanted to make the pages a white canvas with just a hint of lettering showing through . Some of this was because the book I chose was a charity shop cookbook so didn't want the food stuff to get in the way of my ideas. 

If you google Altered Book, you get loads of ideas. The prep work I did was:

1. Choose a book that the pages were sewn in and not glued.
2. Remove every other page carefully with an exacto knife.
3. Glue pages back to back to strengthen your canvas.
4. Cover each page with a layer of acrylic gesso or other white medium. 
5. Start painting and collaging each page.

Here is me finishing painting gesso on the last few pages of the book. Thankfully, Steps 1-3 were already done, so i just had to finish covering the last 8 pages with gesso then dry each page well with a hair dryer.
Look closely and you can see an Oz tattoo on my right wrist

I have been pouring over my notes and making more notes and more sketches and trying to work with what I have on hand and what I can buy at shops like Wilko and Poundland until the crisis recedes.

I will be posting pictures of my page by page progress as i illustrate one of my favourite books of all times. If you only know the 1939 film, hold onto your silver slippers (not ruby!) as this will introduce you to the most amazing, inventive stories and characters that you have ever seen. 

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

What We Ate Wednesday--PB & J Smoothie

Hello lovelies! Last week was something decadent (mmmm Samoas!) but this week something healthier.

I do love a smoothie. They are great for me to bring to work as they fill me up and help me to make it through a 6 hour shift on my feet. I can stow it under the counter and drink between customers.

But obviously, we are not at work now due to the COVID-19.

*shakes fist at Coronavirus*

My preferred smoothie is Salted Caramel. My boss thinks it look like gravy or curry sauce, but it tastes amazing. However, it requires bananas.

Bananas have been a bit tricky to get. A few weeks ago it was announced that you couldn't get more than 4 items and some cashiers were thinking that meant no more than 4 of anything, not just things like toilet paper or hand sanitiser. But once that was cleared up and people were indeed allowed to buy more than 4 bananas they bought them all. Then they restocked and all the bananas were as green as envy and took weeks to yellow up and go spotty and get frozen.

So I had to improvise.

I bought a bag of Tesco Perfectly Imperfect frozen mixed berries (strawberries, blackberries and raspberries). It is a good deal. You get a kilogram of berries-- some small, some misshapen, the raspberries are all but crumbs for £3.25. They are going in a smoothie so crumbs don't matter. They are not particularly sweet but a couple of dates thrown in fixes that right up.

I wanted to add something more filling and up the protein to balance the sugars from the fruit so I settled on oats and peanut butter.

The fruit is the Jelly part.
The Peanut Butter is the PB part (duh!)
The oats are the "bread" part.
Then I was like--This is a PB & J Smoothie!!!!

And my second favourite smoothie was born

PB & J Smoothie
1 cup non dairy milk (I used soya milk)
1/2 cup water (or additional milk) 
1 heaping cup frozen berries of your choice
a few pitted dates or TB sugar or liquid sweetener (if your berries are tart)
1/4 cup (GF) oats
1-2 TB peanut butter

Blend in a blender until all blended up. Then drink and enjoy. 

This is the view inside my blender. Isn't that pretty? Like a pink flower.

This the view of what is left of my frozen fruit. See the raspberry crumbs? Doesn't matter. They are going to be smooshed in the smoothie. 

All this typing has got me wanting some cool, creamy and get to smoothie making! 

Friday, 24 April 2020

Fairy Tale Friday--Sneewittchen (Germany, 1812)

 Hello and welcome to Fairy Tale Friday. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I’ll begin.

This week we look at the version of Snow White that most of us are familiar with. It is the one that Walt Disney based his animated film on, though that was a more sanitised version. This story was collected by the Brothers Grimm and originally published in Kinder und Hausmärchen in 1812 under the name Sneewittchen (sometimes spelled Schneewitchen).

Actually this story has two versions—the 1812 version has it be her mother (not stepmother) as the one who is so jealous of her beauty. By 1819 in the updated edition, the story had been changed to her mother dying in childbirth and her father remarrying. Also in this addition, the poisoned apple is dislodged by one of the servants slapping Snow White upside the head because he is tired of carting a dead girl around. In the 1819 version the apple is dislodged when a servant accidentally stumbles while carrying the coffin to the prince's castle.

This version by the Grimms features the classic lines we expect such as: Mirror, mirror, on the wall, Who in this land is fairest of all? though I have always quoted it as Who’s the fairest of them all.

The thing I find most problematic about this version is how passive and domestic our heroine is. But also incredible stupid and gullible. Just like a woman (apparently). The most important fact about her is her beauty. We know nothing of anything else about her—except that she is not the sharpest axe in the shed—because all everyone does is harp on about her beauty. Her mother is obsessed with it. The huntsman took pity on her because she was so beautiful. The dwarfs upon first seeing her asleep in their bed had this reaction:  "Good heaven! Good heaven!" they cried. "She is so beautiful!" They liked her very much.

In the morning they say to her:
 "If you will keep house for us, and cook, sew, make beds, wash, and knit, and keep everything clean and orderly, then you can stay here, and you'll have everything that you want. We come home in the evening, and supper must be ready by then, but we spend the days digging for gold in the mine. You will be alone then. Watch out for the queen, and do not let anyone in."

Is she passive and domestic because that is her personality or because that was the expectation of her personality? We will never know because she shows very little personality on her own. She is very trusting despite being fooled not once, not twice but three times but her own mother disguised as a peasant woman. Despite being suffocated with bodice laces by an old woman who “means well” and stabbed in the head with a poison comb by an old woman who was “a complete stranger” she still has not learned her lesson. On the third attempt on her life when a strange peasant woman she has never seen before turns up on her doorstep with an apple, does she say “Hang on a minute…peasant women have been trying to kill me. I’ve had two assassination attempts!” No. No she does not. She lets the menfolk speak for her saying  "I'm not allowed to let anyone in. The dwarfs have forbidden it most severely." When the killer peasant offers her fruit does she say “No, I don’t want your apple. Other peasants have tried to murder me by offering me things!” No. No she does not. She says: "No, I can't accept anything. The dwarfs don't want me to." But what do YOU want? Well, just like Eve who was tempted by an apple When Snow-White saw that the peasant woman was eating part of the apple, her desire for it grew stronger, so she finally let the woman hand her the other half through the window.

You deserve what you get. But then so does the mother. She gets what she deserves by having to dance in red hot iron shoes at her daughter’s wedding. Hoorah!

Snow White
Little Snow-White source
Once upon a time in midwinter, when the snowflakes were falling like feathers from heaven, a beautiful queen sat sewing at her window, which had a frame of black ebony wood. As she sewed, she looked up at the snow and pricked her finger with her needle. Three drops of blood fell into the snow. The red on the white looked so beautiful, that she thought, "If only I had a child as white as snow, as red as blood, and as black as this frame." Soon afterward she had a little daughter that was as white as snow, as red as blood, and as black as ebony wood, and therefore they called her Little Snow-White.

Now the queen was the most beautiful woman in all the land, and very proud of her beauty. She had a mirror, which she stood in front of every morning, and asked:

Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Who in this land is fairest of all?

And the mirror always said:

You, my queen, are fairest of all.

And then she knew for certain that no one in the world was more beautiful than she.

Now Snow-White grew up, and when she was seven years old, she was so beautiful, that she surpassed even the queen herself. Now when the queen asked her mirror:

Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Who in this land is fairest of all?

The mirror said:

You, my queen, are fair; it is true.
But Little Snow-White is still
A thousand times fairer than you.

When the queen heard the mirror say this, she became pale with envy, and from that hour on, she hated Snow-White. Whenever she looked at her, she thought that Snow-White was to blame that she was no longer the most beautiful woman in the world. This turned her heart around. Her jealousy gave her no peace. Finally she summoned a huntsman and said to him, "Take Snow-White out into the woods to a remote spot and stab her to death. As proof that she is dead bring her lungs and her liver back to me. I shall cook them with salt and eat them."

The huntsman took Snow-White into the woods. When he took out his hunting knife to stab her, she began to cry, and begged fervently that he might spare her life, promising to run away into the woods and never return. The huntsman took pity on her because she was so beautiful, and he thought, "The wild animals will soon devour her anyway. I'm glad that I don't have to kill her." Just then a young boar came running by. He killed it, cut out its lungs and liver, and took them back to the queen as proof of Snow-White's death. She cooked them with salt and ate them, supposing that she had eaten Snow-White's lungs and liver.

Snow-White was now all alone in the great forest. She was terribly afraid and began to run. She ran over sharp stones and through thorns the entire day. Finally, just as the sun was about to set, she came to a little house. The house belonged to seven dwarfs. They were working in a mine, and not at home. Snow-White went inside and found everything to be small, but neat and orderly. There was a little table with seven little plates, seven little spoons, seven little knives and forks, seven little mugs, and against the wall there were seven little beds, all freshly made.

Snow-White was hungry and thirsty, so she ate a few vegetables and a little bread from each little plate, and from each little glass she drank a drop of wine. Because she was so tired, she wanted to lie down and go to sleep. She tried each of the seven little beds, one after the other, but none felt right until she came to the seventh one, and she lay down in it and fell asleep.

When night came, the seven dwarfs returned home from the work. They lit their seven little candles and saw that someone had been in their house.

The first one said, "Who has been sitting in my chair?"

The second one, "Who has been eating from my plate?"

The third one, "Who has been eating my bread?"

The fourth one, "Who has been eating my vegetables?"

The fifth one, "Who has been sticking with my fork?"

The sixth one, "Who has been cutting with my knife?"

The seventh one, "Who has been drinking from my mug?"

Then the first one said, "Who stepped on my bed?"

The second one, "And someone has been lying in my bed."

And so forth until the seventh one, and when he looked at his bed, he found Snow-White lying there, fast asleep. The seven dwarfs all came running, and they cried out with amazement. They fetched their seven candles and looked at Snow-White. "Good heaven! Good heaven!" they cried. "She is so beautiful!" They liked her very much. They did not wake her up but let her lie there in the bed. The seventh dwarf had to sleep with his companions, one hour with each one, and then the night was done.

When Snow-White woke up, they asked her who she was and how she had found her way to their house. She told them how her mother had tried to kill her, how the huntsman had spared her life, how she had run the entire day, finally coming to their house. The dwarfs pitied her and said, "If you will keep house for us, and cook, sew, make beds, wash, and knit, and keep everything clean and orderly, then you can stay here, and you'll have everything that you want. We come home in the evening, and supper must be ready by then, but we spend the days digging for gold in the mine. You will be alone then. Watch out for the queen, and do not let anyone in."

The queen thought that she was again the most beautiful woman in the land, and the next morning she stepped before the mirror and asked:

Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Who in this land is fairest of all?

The mirror answered once again:

You, my queen, are fair; it is true.
But Little Snow-White beyond the seven mountains
Is a thousand times fairer than you.

It startled the queen to hear this, and she knew that she had been deceived, that the huntsman had not killed Snow-White. Because only the seven dwarfs lived in the seven mountains, she knew at once that they must have rescued her. She began to plan immediately how she might kill her, because she would have no peace until the mirror once again said that she was the most beautiful woman in the land. At last she thought of something to do. She disguised herself as an old peddler woman and coloured her face, so that no one would recognize her, and went to the dwarf's house. Knocking on the door she called out, "Open up. Open up. I'm the old peddler woman with good wares for sale."

Snow-White peered out the window, "What do you have?"

"Bodice laces, dear child," said the old woman, and held one up. It was braided from yellow, red, and blue silk. "Would you like this one?"

"Oh, yes," said Snow-White, thinking, "I can let the old woman come in. She means well." She unbolted the door and bargained for the bodice laces.

"You are not laced up properly," said the old woman. "Come here, I'll do it better." Snow-White stood before her, and she took hold of the laces and pulled them so tight that Snow-White could not breathe, and she fell down as if she were dead. Then the old woman was satisfied, and she went away.

Nightfall soon came, and the seven dwarfs returned home. They were horrified to find their dear Snow-White lying on the ground as if she were dead. They lifted her up and saw that she was laced up too tightly. They cut the bodice laces in two, and then she could breathe, and she came back to life. "It must have been the queen who tried to kill you," they said. "Take care and do not let anyone in again."

The queen asked her mirror:

Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Who in this land is fairest of all?

The mirror answered once again:

You, my queen, are fair; it is true.
But Little Snow-White with the seven dwarfs
Is a thousand times fairer than you.

She was so horrified that the blood all ran to her heart, because she knew that Snow-White had come back to life. Then for an entire day and a night she planned how she might catch her. She made a poisoned comb, disguised herself differently, and went out again. She knocked on the door, but Snow-White called out, "I am not allowed to let anyone in."

Then she pulled out the comb, and when Snow-White saw how it glistened, and noted that the woman was a complete stranger, she opened the door, and bought the comb from her. "Come, let me comb your hair," said the peddler woman. She had barely stuck the comb into Snow-White's hair, before the girl fell down and was dead. "That will keep you lying there," said the queen. And she went home with a light heart.

The dwarfs came home just in time. They saw what had happened and pulled the poisoned comb from her hair. Snow-White opened her eyes and came back to life. She promised the dwarfs not to let anyone in again.

The queen stepped before her mirror:

Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Who in this land is fairest of all?

The mirror answered:

You, my queen, are fair; it is true.
But Little Snow-White with the seven dwarfs
Is a thousand times fairer than you.

When the queen heard this, she shook and trembled with anger, "Snow-White will die, if it costs me my life!" Then she went into her most secret room -- no one else was allowed inside -- and she made a poisoned, poisoned apple. From the outside it was red and beautiful, and anyone who saw it would want it. Then she disguised herself as a peasant woman, went to the dwarfs' house and knocked on the door.

Snow-White peeped out and said, "I'm not allowed to let anyone in. The dwarfs have forbidden it most severely."

"If you don't want to, I can't force you," said the peasant woman. "I am selling these apples, and I will give you one to taste."

"No, I can't accept anything. The dwarfs don't want me to."

"If you are afraid, then I will cut the apple in two and eat half of it. Here, you eat the half with the beautiful red cheek!" Now the apple had been so artfully made that only the red half was poisoned. When Snow-White saw that the peasant woman was eating part of the apple, her desire for it grew stronger, so she finally let the woman hand her the other half through the window. She bit into it, but she barely had the bite in her mouth when she fell to the ground dead.

The queen was happy, went home, and asked her mirror:

Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Who in this land is fairest of all?

And it answered:

You, my queen, are fairest of all.

"Now I'll have some peace," she said, "because once again I'm the most beautiful woman in the land. Snow-White will remain dead this time."

That evening the dwarfs returned home from the mines. Snow-White was lying on the floor, and she was dead. They loosened her laces and looked in her hair for something poisonous, but nothing helped. They could not bring her back to life. They laid her on a bier, and all seven sat next to her and cried and cried for three days. They were going to bury her, but they saw that she remained fresh. She did not look at all like a dead person, and she still had beautiful red cheeks. They had a glass coffin made for her, and laid her inside, so that she could be seen easily. They wrote her name and her ancestry on it in gold letters, and one of them always stayed at home and kept watch over her.

Snow-White lay there in the coffin a long, long time, and she did not decay. She was still as white as snow and as red as blood, and if she had been able to open her eyes, they still would have been as black as ebony wood. She lay there as if she were asleep.

One day a young prince came to the dwarfs' house and wanted shelter for the night. When he came into their parlour and saw Snow-White lying there in a glass coffin, illuminated so beautifully by seven little candles, he could not get enough of her beauty. He read the golden inscription and saw that she was the daughter of a king. He asked the dwarfs to sell him the coffin with the dead Snow-White, but they would not do this for any amount of gold. Then he asked them to give her to him, for he could not live without being able to see her, and he would keep her, and honour her as his most cherished thing on earth. Then the dwarfs took pity on him and gave him the coffin.

The prince had it carried to his castle, and had it placed in a room where he sat by it the whole day, never taking his eyes from it. Whenever he had to go out and was unable to see Snow-White, he became sad. And he could not eat a bite, unless the coffin was standing next to him. Now the servants who always had to carry the coffin to and fro became angry about this. One time one of them opened the coffin, lifted Snow-White upright, and said, "We are plagued the whole day long, just because of such a dead girl," and he hit her in the back with his hand. Then the terrible piece of apple that she had bitten off came out of her throat, and Snow-White came back to life.

She walked up to the prince, who was beside himself with joy to see his beloved Snow-White alive. They sat down together at the table and ate with joy.

Their wedding was set for the next day, and Snow-White's godless mother was invited as well. That morning she stepped before the mirror and said:

Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Who in this land is fairest of all?

The mirror answered:

You, my queen, are fair; it is true.
But the young queen
Is a thousand times fairer than you.

She was horrified to hear this, and so overtaken with fear that she could not say anything. Still, her jealousy drove her to go to the wedding and see the young queen. When she arrived, she saw that it was Snow-White. Then they put a pair of iron shoes into the fire until they glowed, and she had to put them on and dance in them. Her feet were terribly burned, and she could not stop until she had danced herself to death.
That’s all for this week. Stay tuned next week for a short tale about slut shaming.

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

What We Ate Wednesday--Copycat Samoas (Coconut Macaroons)

Hello lovelies! If you have followed me on on Facebook you know I had a maths mistake and over-ordered coconut (both wide chips and thin shreds) so I have been looking for ways to use it up and I found this recipe from EATING BIRD FOOD.

Oh my stars these are good. I saw the recipe and promptly went to the kitchen to make them. While they were chilling in the freezer to let the chocolate harden I had this conversation with the Amazing Spiderman:

Me: (bounding in the room like Tigger) Guess what I've just made???
SM: Something good based on the amount of chocolate around the corners of your mouth.
Me: Yeah, I was licking the bowl after afterwards. So anyway...what's your favourite Girl Scout Cookie?
SM: Well, you know I don't like to rank things and play favourites. But there are several that I recall liking quite a lot. Of course Thin Mints because you know I love chocolate mint and ---
Me: Let me rephrase. Why is MY favourite Girl Scout Cookie?
SM: That's easy. Samoas.
Me: Ta-da!!!

These are the real deal. They taste just like I remember Samoas tasting.  And they are only 4 ingredients!!!! They are easy to do. The recipe said you could just dip the bottoms in warm melted chocolate but I made a mess trying to dip so I just spread a bit of melted chocolate on the bottoms and let it harden in the freezer and then flipped them over and drizzled the remaining chocolate on the top for the finish.

First you have to toast the coconut. Eating Bird Food says to toast in the oven but this has been a recipe for a disaster for me so I use the toasting in a pan on the hob method that goes like this:

Me: (Shakes the pan) Hurry up. It's been ages. (Stirs the coconut) Come on...hurry up and toast. (shakes pan again) OH FOR FRITH'S SAKE WILL YOU....oh wait! Nevermind. it's toasted.

Copycat Samoas (Coconut Macaroons)

1 cup pitted soft squidgy dates
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/3 cup (50g)  dark chocolate (I broke up half a bar of chocolate, but if you have chips use those)
1/2 teaspoon coconut oil

1. Toast your coconut. Do it by the on the hob (stove top) in a pan method described above or the oven method described below. Either way, don't leave it unattended as it will go from yum to burnt in a matter of a minute. 

Pre-heat oven to 200C/400F. Spread the shredded coconut onto a baking sheet for toasting. Place in oven for 5-10 minutes, until coconut is a light golden brown colour. 

2. Add dates and toasted coconut into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until mixture is combined and starts to form a ball of dough.I had to add a TB of water to help it along. 

3. Roll 1 Tablespoon size pieces of dough into a ball and then shape into a round cookie. 

Optional for Samoa authenticity: 
Using a straw or chopstick punch a hole in the middle of the dough. Move the straw or chopstick around a bit to make the hole wider, if needed. Then reshape the cookie if needed. 
** I did it the first time and couldn't be arsed on the second batch. **

4. Place all cookies on a sheet lined with parchment and transfer to the freezer to harden up a bit. While cookies are in the freezer, melt your chocolate. Either add chocolate and coconut oil to a shallow microwave-safe bowl and melt in 20-30 second increments until the chocolate is melted enough to drizzle or do it on the hob in a bain marie like I did. Just put a bowl on top of  a pan with an inch of simmering  water (don't let the water touch the bowl) and let it melt. 

4. Get your cookies from the freezer and either dip each one in the chocolate to coat the bottom or spread a bit of chocolate on the bottom. Place back in the freezer for 10 minutes to harden up. 

5 Get your cookies from the freezer and use remaining chocolate to drizzle over top the cookies. Transfer cookies back into the freezer for 10-15 minutes to let the chocolate harden.  

6. Once all the chocolate is sold, then they can be stored in the fridge. They will supposedly last a week...but they did not last that long for us! 

Ohhhhh....these were so good. Nom nom nom with a side helping of nom. 

Friday, 17 April 2020

Fairy Tale Friday--Richilda (Germany, 1782)

Hello and welcome to Fairy Tale Friday. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I’ll begin.

Last week we looked at one of the precursor tales to Snow White. This week we look at a longer (much longer) tale that was definitely an influence on the Brothers Grimm.

Johann Karl August Musäus  was a professor of Ancient Languages and History at the Wilhelm-Ernst-Gymnasium in Weimar as well as a popular German author and folklorist. He was one of the first collectors of German folk tales. His most famous work was Volksmärchen der Deutschen (Folktales of the Germans) which was a collection of German fairy tales retold as satires published in 1782.  

 According to OPEN EDITION:

To us today the title is misleading, since what Musäus wrote were decidedly literary tales, more like short novels or romances in terms of length, rational and satirical in tone, minimizing or even excising everything to do with magic and the supernatural. We know from his nephew, August von Kotzebue, that he listened to old people telling folktales and used them as a basis for his own tales, but that is really the only sense in which he can be said to have written folktales. 

Interesting bit of trivia about his tales from PERILOUS ADVENTURES:

A collection of French translations of German gothic tales was the book that Mary and Percy Shelley, Byron, Polidori, and Clairemont read on the fateful summer night before they agreed to each compose their own gothic tales, famously resulting in the composition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Polidori’s The Vampyre (which was loosely based on the Musäus tale).

His story Richilda kept coming up in lists as having an influence on the tale we know as Snow White. I found summaries and articles written about it but found it very hard to find the actual story. When I did find the actual story, it was in German and I had to figure out how to translate it. After spending ages finding a way to translate it,  I realised that I should have paid better attention to the quote above. It was long. Really long. Over 20 pages long with flowery language. Therefore I have edited the story and summarised long flowery bits of description, but you can read the whole story of RICHILDA here. 

The most interesting thing about the story is that it begins with the complete backstory of the stepmother. Our title character Richilda (Or Richilde as some translations say) is not our Snow White protagonist, but the evil and vain stepmother. No, our beautiful Snow White is Blanca (which means white.) We get the full backstory on Richilda and how she got the magic mirror as a christening present and how it begins to increase her already vain and proud nature. We see her willing to break up someone’s marriage to marry the handsomest man in the land (who cares if he is kind or smart? Looks are all she cares about. And it shows. She is happy to marry a man who dumps his beloved wife at the drop of a hat and sends his baby to be raised by a governess in a far off castle just to marry someone better looking. They deserve each other.)

We see Blanca cared for by dwarf servants and all the conventional attempts on her life that you would expect. However, it is not a kiss that wakes Blanca up-- the Prince uses  a relic he has brought with him from the holy land. This is not as much of a surprise when you see how religious the story starts, but it does make for a nice twist.

Lastly it ends the way I liked my fairy tales to end—with the baddies getting what is coming to them.


During the time of the Crusades, Gunderich the Priest-ridden, Count of Brabant, led a life of such exemplary piety, that he deserved the title of saint, as well as the Emperor Henry the Limper.

He was incredibly pious as well as frugal and kept his house (and his soul) in perfect order. His only sadness was that his wife has born him no children. But he blamed her for that.

 He considered the barrenness of his wife as a visitation of Heaven, because, in his opinion, she was too much devoted to the pomps and vanities of this wicked world.

She wasn’t really pious at all and rolled her eyes at his devotion, but nonetheless tried fasting and prayer to get them a child which was altogether the appropriate reward of female virtue. She tried but the stricter her regimen, the slenderer still grew her waist.

They were visited by a priest and their hospitality to the clergy knew no bounds. After paying 200 gold coins to the priest to say mass and hear confession the priest  prescribed her and her husband a more liberal diet, and foretold, in the spirit of prophecy, that she should soon be blessed with fruit of her body.

 The next year when the priest was passing through, he saw a charming little daughter at the Countess’s breast, the very picture of her gracious mother, who was thankful to God and all the saints that her reproach had passed away from her. The father Gunderich would in truth have been better pleased with the arrival of an heir male; but as the little creature was so pretty, and so loving, and smiled upon him so innocently, he took it in his arms, and found great delight in dandling it.

As Count Gunderich believed that the pious priest had brough this blessing upon them he showered him with gifts and finer robes than the Archbishop of Toledo wore. The Countess begged Albertus’s blessing on her daughter, which he bestowed with such earnestness and heart-felt zeal, that the court chronicle of scandal teemed with surmises, such as had a violent tendency to mislead the genealogists concerning the girl’s parentage. Father Gunderich let the gossips say on and took their prattle all in good part.

The priest was apparently a bit of a jokester and a bit of a conjurer. Because of this people sometimes said he was a sorcerer and practitioner of the black arts.

As soon as the reverend Dominican had bestowed on the infant his spiritual benediction, and was about to take leave, the Countess begged yet a keep-sake for her little daughter, some relick, an agnus dei, an amulet, or a charm for the cholic and heart-ache. Albertus struck his forehead, and said, ‘You do well to put me in mind, noble lady; I had almost forgotten a gift for your daughter: but leave me now alone and tell me exactly at what hour she was born.’ Albertus then shut himself up for nine days in a solitary chamber, and laboured hard till he had brought to bear a piece of workmanship, which might serve to put little Richilda in mind of him.

When the master found his work perfect, he brought it in private to the Countess, explained to her all the virtues and properties of his performance, taught her exactly how to use it; and desiring her to instruct her daughter, when she was grown up, in the art and manner of employing it, took a friendly leave, mounted his horse, and rode homewards. The Countess, overjoyed at the mystery, took the magic present, and concealed it in the chest of drawers where she kept her pearls and jewels. Gunderich the Priest-ridden, lived yet a few years in his castle, shut up from the world: he founded a number of churches and religious houses, and nevertheless laid by a great part of his revenues for his daughter’s portion, for the see was entailed upon a relation.

As soon as he felt that he drew near his latter end, he put on a monk’s habit and gave up the ghost in this dress, in sure and certain hopes of being free of the masquerade of cowls in the next world. The Countess chose a nunnery for her widow’s residence and employed herself wholly in the education of her daughter, whom she intended to introduce into the great world herself. But before she could accomplish this design, she was overtaken by death, just as the young lady entered into her fifteenth year, the May of female beauty.

The good mother strove hard against this unseasonable parting from the beautiful Richilda, in whom she had hoped to enjoy life over again: but observing that her hour was come, she firmly submitted to the law of the old covenant and prepared for her departure. She called her daughter to her bed-side apart, bid her dry up her affectionate tears, and said, ‘I am quitting you, my dear Richilda, at a time when you most want a mother’s countenance and support: but be not afflicted; the loss of a good mother shall be made up to you by a true friend and counsellor, who, if you are wise and prudent, will so guide your footsteps, that you shall never go astray. There, in that chest of drawers, you will find a piece of art, which you shall take into your own possession after I am gone. A learned philosopher, called Albertus Magnus, who bore a great share in the joy occasioned by your birth, contrived it under a certain conjunction of the stars, and gave me in charge to instruct you in the use of it. The piece is a magic mirror, set in a frame  of virgin gold. For all else that look upon it, it has the quality of a common mirror, to reflect faithfully the impression it receives; but for you it has received another gift besides, to represent everything concerning which you enquire in distinct speaking images, as soon as you repeat the words which this tablet will teach you. Beware of consulting it from idle curiosity, or an inconsiderate wish to know the future consequences of your life. Look up to the wonderous mirror as a respectable friend, whom one avoids troubling with frivolous enquiries, and in whom one finds, in the weightiest transactions of life, a true adviser. Therefore be considerate and cautious in using it, and walk in the paths of virtue, so the polished surface will never be dimmed before your eyes by the poisonous breath of vice.’–When the dying mother had ended her swan’s song, she embraced the weeping Richilda, was anointed with the holy oil, quickly ended her last agonies, and departed.

Richilda buried herself in mourning, but eventually her tears were dried up. She began to dislike the convent where she lived and longed to be on the outside. Many knights came to profess their love to her because she was so beautiful and so she finally left and  took for appearance-sake a matronly companion to chaperon her and entered with éclat into the great world. The fame of her beauty and high breeding went abroad towards the four quarters of heaven. She did not use the magic mirror that her mother had left her.

 Princes and nobles came from distant lands to pay court to her. Anyone who said she was not the fairest in the land was forced to joust with one who did espouse her beauty.

Hitherto she had not once thought of consulting the magic mirror: she used it only, like a common glass, to examine whether her maids had set off her head-dress to advantage. She had not as yet allowed herself a single question, either because no critical situation had yet called for the voice of an adviser, or because she was timid, and apprehended lest her demand might be forward and inconsiderate, and the bright surface of the mirror might grow dim. Meantime the voice of flattery continued to nourish her vanity, and at least produced in her heart the desire to know whether what rumour so loudly tinkled every day in her ear was fact; for she possessed, what is uncommon in the great, penetration enough to consider the language of her attendants with proper distrust. To a girl in the bloom of youth, of whatever rank of station, the question concerning her personal charms is always the most important problem that she can wish to have solved. It was then by no means strange that the fair Richilda should desire information on a point so interesting to her curiosity; and of whom could she expect a more certain and definite answer, than from her uncorruptible friend, the mirror? On a little consideration she found the question so just and reasonable, that she had no longer hesitation in making the trial. She shut herself up accordingly one day in her apartment, stepped close to the magic mirror, and pronounced the proper words:

Mirror, let they burnish’d face
Give me instant here to trace
The fairest maid of Brabant’s race. 

Trembling she drew the curtain, peeped in, and to her great satisfaction beheld her own form, such as the mirror had often shewn her unquestioned. She was no highly rejoiced in her soul, her cheeks assumed a livelier tinge, and her eyes sparkled for joy; but her heart became proud and arrogant like the heart of queen Vashti. The commendations of her beauty, which she had before heard with modesty and maiden blushes, she now exacted as a lawful tribute: she looked down with proud contempt on all the daughters of the land; and as often as the conversation turned upon foreign princesses, and any one happened to be praised on account of her beauty, it went to her heart, she pursed up her mouth, and had an attack of the vapours.

The courtiers, who were soon apprised of their mistress’s weakness, flattered her in the grossest terms, threw abuse over the whole female world, and left not a jot of honour to any lady, when the question was about beauty. No quarter was allowed even to the illustrious fair of past ages, who have now so long been withered; and everyone was obliged in her turn to pass the critical muster. The beautiful Judith was too muscular and square set, at least according to the tradition among painters, who have uniformly given her the robus make of a butcher’s wife, as she is cutting off the shaggy-bearded captain Holofernes’s head. the charming Esther was too revengeful, in causing the ten fine boys of the ex-minister Haman, who had committed no crime, to be hanged. Of Helen, it was said, that she was very well considering her red hair, but in all probability, she must have been shockingly freckled. Queen Cleopatra’s small mouth was commended, but the thick negro lips and high Egyptian ears, which Professor Blumenbach has lately discovered on the mummies, were unanimously scouted. Queen Thalestris was ordered to stand back, on account of the loss of her right breast, which was cut off according to the fashion of the Amazons. None of the courtiers could relish her wry shape; nor could they imagine any means of concealing it, the stuffed jutting stays, that now hide so many female blemishes, not being yet invented.

The fair Richilda passed at her own court for the role and supreme pattern of woman’s beauty: and as in fact, by the testimony of the mirror, she was the finest girl in Brabant, and moreover possessed great wealth, besides castles and cities, she felt no want of illustrious wooers. All she wanted was to be admired, feasted, worshipped, to appear foremost among [her] companions, and to shine amid the throng, as the lovely moon among the lesser stars; to have around them an halo of adorers ready to offer up their lives for her sake, as the old custom was, and to go forth, at her command, to seek adventures, or to catch her giants and dwarfs; or, as the modern fashion is, to sigh, to coo, to whine, to gaze in sentimental sorrow at the moon, to rave, to eat poison in a paroxysm of love, to jump down the neck-breaking precipices, to drown, to hang, to cut their throats, or, with more spirit skill, to drive a bullet through their brain;–all these fancies of giddy-headed girls were realized in the café of the Countess Richilda. Her charms had already cost many a youthful knight his life; and a lively feeling of the secret torments of love still lingered between the skin and bone of many an unfortunate prince. Basically, she just loved to string men a long and watch them suffer. She had offers of marriage from numerous men from all over the world.

Her governess warned that she was going to be thought of as a coquette and a slut and lose her good name if she kept rejecting suitors and toying with their affections and so had Richilda agree to choose a husband in three days. All of the suitors rejoiced that she finally choose and agreed not to be sore losers. Many of the men were of high birth had merit, riches, or honours but she was shallow and only looked for the handsomest. 

The lady was in great distress; her heart still hesitated to decide, in spite of the urgent representations of the head. Yet a way there must be through the wood: she jumped hastily up from her sofa, and stepping before the mirror thus consulted it:

Mirror, let they burnish’d face
Give me instant here to trace
The fairest youth of Brabant’s race.

The mirror answered as it was asked. She was shown a handsome knight she had never seen before as fair as young Adonis with bright chestnut locks; his narrow thickset eyebrows rivalled the form of the rain-bow; courage and heroic worth lightened from his eye; his manly brown cheek, tinged with red, glowed with warmth and health; the gently rising upper-lip of his purple mouth seemed to advance for a thrilling kiss; his full calf was big with strength and manly vigour. She studied his armour carefully in the mirror. Then she went out and told everyone that her patron the Bishop had advised her in a dream who to marry, not that she had consulted a magic mirror. She told everyone: ‘We have been betrothed to each other in presence of the holy Virgin, and a number of heavenly witnesses.’ The palace was abuzz with speculation as to who she was to marry.

But the beautiful Richilda, having mustered her spirits a little together, opened her mouth and said, ‘It is not in my power to tell you the name of my husband, nor do I know where he lives: he is not among the princes and nobles at my court, nor have my eyes every beheld him, but his image is planted in my soul; and when he comes to carry me home, I shall not fail to recognize him.’

The knights were a bit miffed as they felt she really hadn’t kept her promise to marry one of them. She agreed to describe his looks and his armour in case one of them might recognise him and prove she wasn’t lying.

When she had done, the Count of Brabant, the heir of the land, took up the word, and said, ‘We are not here, my dear cousin, to argue with you; you have free power to act as you think proper: it is enough for us to know that your pleasure is honourably to dismiss us, and no longer to feed us with false hopes–for this you are entitled to our thanks. As to the noble knight seen by you in a dream, and of whom you imagine that he is destined by Heaven to be your wedded husband, I will not conceal from you that  I know him well, being, as he is, my vassal; for by your description, and the marks of his armour, and the colour of his liver, he can be no other than Earl Gornbald of Lowen; but he is already married, and so cannot by yours.’ At these words the Countess turned pale, and was ready to sink: she had not conceived that her mirror could play her so false as to exhibit a man whose lawful love she could not enjoy; neither had she the smallest suspicion that the handsomest man in the Brabant could wear any other fetters than her own.

The Countess however vindicated the honour of her patron saint: she maintained that her vision might have a hidden meaning; it seemed at least to warn her at present against entering into any matrimonial engagement. The suitors therefore withdrew in a body, and then separated various ways; and so the Countess’s court became at once deserted and forlorn.

The Earl Gornbald was a wonderful man who had married his childhood sweetheart who was also his first cousin (which had been the wish of their parents) and was living in complete contentment. . They had already lived three years in a state of contented wedlock, and continued the example of their peaceful parents, when Earl Gornbald heard of the wonderful dream of the beautiful Countess. Fame, which magnifies all things, added, that she was so violently enamoured of him as to have vowed to take the veil, because she could not enjoy his affection. Earl Gornbald had hitherto, in the bosom of a peaceful family, and the arms of an amiable wife, tasted only the tranquil joys of domestic happiness; no spark had yet fallen upon the tinder of his passions to inflame them, but on a sudden there sprung up in his heart fierce desires: repose and contentment vanished away; he gave scope to fond wishes, and nourished them secretly with the shameful hope that death would perhaps make a divorce between him and his lady, and restore his freedom. The idea of the beautiful Richilda corrupted the heart of a man before good and virtuous, and made it capable of every crime. Wherever he went or stood, the image of the Countess of Brabant appeared before him: it flattered his pride, to be the only man capable of subduing her scornful heart; his heated imagination painted the possession of her in such glowing colours, that his own wife was thrown entirely into the shade; all love and affection for her were extinguished, and he wished but to be rid of her.

Basically he grew quarrelsome and ignored her without explaining why he didn’t want to be with her. She, in turn, was confused at his sudden coldness and tried to win him back. He was surprised upon finding her sobbing and was annoyed rather than sympathetic. She begged him to explain how she had inadvertently offended him. He explains (omitting the part about wanting to marry someone else) that he is really worried that it is a sin that cousins marry—‘we are brothers’ children; that is as bad as a marriage between brother and sister; and for it there can neither be absolution nor dispensation. this torments my conscience day and night and feels like hot burning coals upon my soul.’

‘Ah, my dearest spouse,’ she said, ‘if you have no longer any regard for your unfortunate wife, yet have some compassion on the helpless pledge of your departed love, that now fills my womb: could I but place it in your arms this moment, perhaps you would be moved at its innocence, and give me back your averted heart.’ A stream of bitter tears followed these words; but the husband’s heart of brass felt nothing of the sevenfold sorrow of his wife: he quitted her abruptly, threw himself on his horse, rode to Mecklenburg, to the archbishop; there he bought, with an heavy purse of gold, a letter of divorce, and then cast his loving wife into a nunnery; where she so pined and sorrowed, that her beauty soon faded away. As soon as her hour approached, she brought forth a daughter, which she fondly pressed against her maternal bosom: but the angel of death, who stood near, quickly closed her eyes, so that she did not long enjoy the sight of her lovely babe. Soon afterwards came the Earl and put the child into the hands of a governess in one of his castles. he left a few maids and dwarfs to attend upon her, and then equipped himself in the most sumptuous manner: for his heart was solely bent upon gaining the beautiful Countess of Brabant.

So he arrived in high spirits and they were deeply attracted to each other and had lots of sex (which is not the same as love) but as time wore on both began to really hate the other.

 Dame Richilda, in virtue of her wavering disposition, was the first to perceive these inconveniences: she became morose, haughty, cold, and at length grew jealous. Neither did her lord and master any longer feel his former raptures: a kind of spleen weighed heavy on his soul; the glance of love was dimmed in his eyes: that conscience, with which he had heretofore hypocritically sported, began now to remonstrate in a furious manner. Scruples for having murdered his first wife arose; he often named her with regret, and sincere praise: And the proverb says, that is a sign of ill blood in a second marriage, when the virtues of the dear departed wife are too often brought forward. Disputes with dame Richilda often came on the carpet; and he sometimes told her to her face, that she was the author of all his calamities.

As this tale has a ribbon of religious fervour running through it, it makes perfect sense that he would decide that he needed to go on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to atone for his sins of being a really horrible husband to his first wife whereupon he promptly died of the plague whilst in Syria. Richilda received the news indifferently but played the widow and decked herself out in black crepe and cried crocodile tears which only made her even more beautiful. She was once again besieged by lots of nobles and knights all falling at her feet and proclaiming her beauty which she lapped up like a cat who got the cream.

All this bustle of flattery gave great satisfaction to the vain woman: bus as she would fain be certain that the finger of time, in the course of fifteen years, had not rubbed out any of her charms, she consulted her faithful adviser, the magic mirror. But what was her horror and dismay, when, upon drawing up the silken curtain, a strange form appeared before her eyes, beautiful as one of the Graces, full of softness and innocence, the most lovely of female angels!–but of herself the image had not one trait. The beautiful widow fell into a paroxysm of rage at this unexpected answer; and the mirror was very near paying dear for its indiscretion;–neither ought you to blame the lady too harshly, supposing she had taken severe vengeance; for when a woman has no other talent except her beauty, she can never be so deeply mortified, as when the unflattering friend on the toilette announces the irrecoverable loss of that which constituted the sole value of her existence.

Dame Richilda, inconsolable on account of her new discovery, conceived a mortal hatred against the innocent beauty, whom she found in possession of the prerogative she had arrogated to herself. She impressed the lovely features deep on her memory and enquired with great diligence after the possessor of them. The discovery cost but little trouble: she soon found by the description that her step-daughter Blanca had carried off from her the palm of beauty. Satan immediately insinuated into her hear the idea of destroying this fair blossom, which might have adorned the garden of Eden itself. With this purpose the cruel woman sent for Sambul, the court physician: After giving him a preserved pomegranate apple, and counting fifty pieces of gold into his hand, she said, ‘Prepare this apple for me in such a way, that one half shall be perfectly harmless, while the other is so impregnated with poison, that whosoever eats of it may die in a few moments.’ The Jew stroked his beard, and with great complacency stowed the gold in his purse, promising to do as the bad woman had commanded him. He took a sharp needle, bored three holes in the pomegranate apple, and poured a strong liquor into them. As soon as the Countess had got the prepared apple into her possession, she mounted her steed, and with few attendants trotted to the remote castle where the virgin, her daughter Blanca, resided. On her way she sent off a messenger before, to say that the Countess Richilda was on the road to visit the young lady, and to weep with her over the loss of her father.

This message set the whole castle into an uproar: Everyone cleaned it within an inch of their lives.  Blanca modestly dressed herself in the colour of innocence, and when she heard the horses trotting up to the gates, flew out to meet her mother, and received her with great respect and affection.

At the very first sight the Countess found the original seven times more beautiful than the copy in the mirror, and withal so prudent, so sensible, and so accomplished! All this weighed heavy on her heart: but the snake concealed her poison deep in her bosom, made a shew of friendship, complained of the hard-hearted papa, for depriving her, during his life-time, of the charming society of her daughter; and promised from this time forth to treat her with true maternal affection. The dwarfs soon set the tables and served up a sumptuous dinner. At the desert the housekeeper sent in the finest fruit from the castle garden; nevertheless Richilda found it insipid, and ordered her servants to bring her a pomegranate apple, a fruit with which, as she said, she was accustomed to close every meal. The servant presented it on a silver salver; she divided it with great grace, and offered half to the beautiful Blanca, in token of her affection. As soon as the pomegranate apple was eaten, the mother set out with her attendants, and rode homewards. Not long after her departure, a pain came across the heart of the young lady, her rosy cheeks grew pale, every limb of her delicate frame quivered, her nerves twitched and started, her fair eyes became dim, and closed in the endless sleep of death.
Alas! what sorrow and heart-breaking rent the walls of the castle, upon the death of the beautiful Blanca, who had been plucked in her fairest bloom by an audacious hand, like a rose with its hundred leaves, merely because she was the ornament of the garden! The decent duenna rained showers of tears, like a swollen sponge, when all its moisture is pressed out by a violent squeeze. The joiner dwarfs made a coffin of deal, with silver plates and handles; and, that they might not be at once deprived of the sight of their beloved mistress, they fixed a glass window in the top; the maids prepared a shroud of the finest Brabant linen, dressed the corpse in it, placed the crown of virginity, a chaste garland of myrtles, on the head, and with funereal pomp carried the bier into the chapel, where the father sacristan took charge of the soul, and sounded the mournful muffled bell from morning till the late hour of midnight.

Meantime Donna Richilda arrived well-pleased at her place of residence. The first thing she did was to repeat her question to the mirror: when she had drawn up the curtain with fear and trembling, she beheld, with heartfelt satisfaction and a face of triumph, her own image reinstated, but large spots of rust had settled on the burnished surface, and deformed it, as the pits and seams of the small-pox deform a virgin’s countenance. ‘Where is the harm of that?’–thought the Countess to herself–‘better they should be on the mirror than my face: it may still serve for a looking-glass and renders me secure of my prerogative.’ We commonly first learn to value a good thing properly, when we are on the eve of losing it. The beautiful Richilda had often suffered years to pass away without questioning the mirror; now she did not omit a single day. She repeatedly enjoyed the pleasure of offering a sacrifice to the idol of her own beauty; but one day, as she drew the curtain for this very purpose, there appeared again–O wonder upon wonders!–before her eyes; the form and features of the beautiful Blanca. At this sight, a fainting fit came fast upon the envious woman; but she took out her smelling-bottle just in time, and the qualm passed off by the help of the hawthorn. She mustered all her strength, to look whether her fancy had deceived her, but was soon satisfied that there was no illusion in the café.

She immediately set to hatch a new scheme of villainy. Sambul, the court physician, was summoned, and thus addressed by the Countess, in a tone of great anger: ‘Thou shameless deceiver! thou perverse Jew! dost thou hold me so cheap as to dare to mock me? Did I not desire thee so to prepare a pomegranate apple, that to eat it should be instant death? and hast thou not charged it with balsam of life? For this they traitor’s beard and Jew’s ears shall assuredly pay.’ Sambul the physician, much terrified at this address from his mistress, thus answered and said: ‘Ah, woe is me! what evil has befallen me? for I know not how I have incurred your displeasure, gracious lady: what you ordered I have punctually performed; if my art has failed, I myself am innocent of the cause.’

The lady seemed to be somewhat pleased by this answer and proceeded: ‘For this time thy crime shall be forgiven thee, under condition that thou prepares me an odoriferous soap, which shall infallibly perform what the pomegranate apple has failed to do.’ The physician promised his utmost, and she again counted out to him fifty pieces of gold and dismissed him. In a few days he brought the Countess a deadly composition. She immediately furnished out her nurse, a craft woman, with a box of pedlar’s wares, fine yarn, thread, needles, scented pomatum, smelling-bottles, and marbled soap-balls with red and blue veins, and bade her go to her daughter Blanca forthwith, and try to pass the poisoned soap into her hands, for which she promised her a great reward. The venal creature repaired to the young lady, who, unsuspicious of fraud, suffered herself to be persuaded to buy the soap, which, as the woman said, would preserve the beauty of the skin to extreme old age. She ventured to make a trial of it without the knowledge of her duenna. Meantime the base step-mother assiduously consulted the rusty mirror, and conjectured, from its condition, that her plan must have succeeded, for the spots had spread over the whole surface, just as if it had been corroded by aqua fortis; and only an indistinct shadow, which could not be referred to any person, appeared upon the dull face.  The loss of the mirror went to her heart; but she did not think it too dear a purchase for the reputation of being the first beauty in the country.

The empty woman enjoyed for a time this imaginary satisfaction, till a stranger knight arrived at her court, who, during his journey, had stopped at the Countess Blanca’s castle, where he had found her, not in the burying vault, but at her toilette, and was so charmed by her beauty as to choose her for the lady of his heart. Desirous to amuse the Countess of Brabant, and to shew himself off in the lists, and never imagining that the mother could be jealous of her daughter, he threw his iron glove down upon the table at a feast when he was warm with wine, adding, ‘Whoever refuses to acknowledge Blanca of Lowen for the handsomest lady in Brabant, let him take up the glove, in token that he will break a ferious lance to-morrow for the honour of a knight.’ The whole court was highly scandalized at this inaccuracy of the Gascon: each styled him secretly Sir Blockhead and Knight Gander. Richilda turned pale, on hearing Blanca was come to life again: the challenge was a mortal wound to her heart; yet she forced a gracious smile, and approved the defiance, in hopes that the knights of her court would all eagerly snatch at the glove. But no one advancing, for the stranger had a hardy look was firm built and had large raw bones, she drew a dismal face, and all present could perceive her secret vexation. This melted her faithful seneschal so that he took up the iron glove: but at the morrow’s tilt the Gascon, after a hard match, obtained the victory, and received his knightly recompense from the hands of Richilda, who was on the point of dying with chagrin.

She first discharged her rage on the physician Sambul: he was thrown into a tower and put in chains. Without further hearing, the merciless woman had his reverend beard plucked out hair by hair, and both his hears clipped close to his head. After the violence of her first storm was over, and the step-mother had considered that her daughter Blanca would nevertheless triumph over her, unless she should succeed in cutting her off by fraud–for her father’s will had deprived her of all power over his daughter–she wrote to the young lady in as tender a strain, and testified as much maternal joy for her recovery, as if every letter had been dictated by the heart. This letter she gave to her confidante the nurse, ordering her to carry it to the imprisoned doctor, with a billet, wherein these words were written: ‘Enclose in this letter death and perdition for the person that first opens it. ‘As thou valuest thy life, beware of deceiving me a third time.’ Sambul the Jew hesitated what he should do, and for a while fingered the chain with a thoughtful air, as if he was repeating his Jewish Pater Nosters link by link. At last the love of life, though in a gloomy dungeon, with an head clipped of ears, and a chin without a beard, seemed to outweigh all other considerations, and he promised to obey. The Countess sent off the letter by a well-mounted post, who made many grimaces at his arrival, as if to intimate that the letter contained wonderful tidings, but he would not tell whence he came. The young lady, eager to learn the contents, hastily broke the seal, read a few lines, fell lifeless backwards upon the sofa, closed her azure eyes, and gave up the ghost. The bloody step-mother afterwards heard no more of her daughter; and though she often dispatched messengers to enquire, they constantly brought word back that the young lady never more awaked out of her deadly sleep.

Thus had beautiful Blanca been thrice destroyed, and thrice buried, in consequence of the snares of this odious woman. After the dwarfs of her court had the first time laid her in her long home, and the prayers and masses for her soul were appointed, they kept constant watch along with the maids beside the vault, and often peeped through the window in the coffin, in order to enjoy the sight of their beloved mistress, till corruption should destroy her form: but to their astonishment they perceived that in a few days the pale cheeks were tinged with gentle red, the withered lips began to glow again, and soon afterwards the young lady opened her eyes. As soon as the attendants perceived this, they joyfully removed the coffin-lid; the beautiful Blanca arose, and silently wondered at seeing herself in a burying vault, and her attendants in deep mourning. She hastily quitted the dreary mansion, and like Eurydice tottered with trembling knees from the realm of shadows the reviving light of day.

Doctor Sambul was in fact a pious Isrealite, in whom was no guile, except when a sort of predilection for the noble metals a little stretched the folds of his narrow conscience. The pomegranate apple given him by the Countess brought to his mind Eve’s unfortunate apple in Paradise, as also the golden apple from the garden of Hesperides, which introduced contention between three goddesses, and proved the ruin of a noble metropolis.–‘This,’ thinks he to himself, ‘is surely mischief enough to be done in the world by a brace of apples; the third shall not increase the guilt of the apple tribe.’ Instead therefore of the poison, which he was bid to conceal in it, he only impregnated one half with a narcotic essence, that benumbed the senses without destroying life. In the same manner he proceeded the second time with the ball of soap, only increasing the quantity of opium; so that as the lady did not awake so soon as at first, the dwarfs conceived she was stone dead. They therefore carried her to the grave, and carefully watched over her, till she revived, to the great joy of her household.

The fear of death caused the Doctor to wrestle with his conscience but then decided to save his own life by really trying harder to kill her. By virtue of his chemical skill, the Israelite reduced the quintessence of the benumbing liquor into a volatile salt, which should be immediately dissolved and absorbed by the open air, with this he besmeared the letter to the beautiful Blanca: As she read it, the whole atmosphere around her acquired a stupefying quality, so that she all the while inhaled the exalted spirit of opium with her breath. The effect was so violent, that the apparent death of the body remained longer than ever; and the impatient duenna, in total despair of the resurrection of her young lady, performed her exequies a third time.

A pilgrim appeared at church. His name was Godfrey of Ardenne; he was of Teutebald the Bloodthirsty. Basically, he died under a curse and was sent to purgatory but convinced an angel to let him go out and visit his relatives which happened a lot more in the past than it does now.  

Teutebald made the best possible use of his furlough; he appeared three successive nights to his virtuous widow, waked her out of a comfortable nap by touching the back of her hand with the tip of his red-hot finger, and said, ‘My dear wife, have pity upon your poor departed husband, who is enduring the pains of the antechamber of hell: reconcile me to the holy church, and release my miserable soul, so shall mercy be shewn to you hereafter.’ The widow took these words to heart, gave her son an account of the vision, presented him with jewels and precious stones; and the dutiful youth took the pilgrim’s staff in his hand, walked barefoot to Rome, and obtained a dispensation for his father, under condition that he should hear mass at every church on his way home. he took a wide circuit, in order to visit the greater number of holy places, and so he passed through Brabant.
When the pious pilgrim had discharged his vow, and dropped a charitable donation into the poor’s box, he asked the brother sacristan why the chapel was hung in black, and what all this apparatus of sorrow signified. The sacristan explained to him everything at length that had happened to the beautiful Blanca, through the wicked snares of her step-mother. Thereupon Godfrey marvelled greatly, and said, ‘If it be permitted to see the lady’s corpse, lead me forthwith to the vault. With God’s leave, I may perhaps recall her to life, if her soul be yet in her body. I have a relic from the hands of the holy father,–it is a splinter from Elisha’s staff,–which destroys sorcery, and repels every invasion of the right of nature.’ The sacristan instantly brought him to the watchful dwarfs, and they rejoiced exceedingly at the words of the pilgrim: they conducted him into the vault, and Godfrey was charmed at the sight of the beautiful alabaster statue through the glass window in the coffin. The lid being taken off, he ordered all the mourners but the dwarfs to withdraw; pulled out his relic and laid it on the heart of the then clay-cold damsel. In a few moments the breath of life returned into the pale and wan body. The virgin wondered much at seeing the youthful stranger before her; and the overjoyed dwarfs took the wonder-working man for an angel of heaven. Godfrey declared to the awakened Blanca who he was, and the reason of his pilgrimage: she in turn  related her misfortunes, and the persecutions of her relentless step-mother. ‘You will never,’ said Godfrey, ‘escape the fangs of the venomous spider, unless you follow my counsel:–Remain yet awhile in this vault that it may not be spread abroad that you are alive. I will complete my pilgrimage, and return forthwith, carry you to my mother at Ardenne, and, if God permit, take vengeance on your murderess.’ The counsel was well-pleasing to the beautiful Blanca: the noble pilgrim took his leave, and said in feigned words to the household that crowded round him as he came forth, ‘The corpse of your mistress will never grow warm again: the fountain of life is dried up–gone is gone, and dead is dead!’–The faithful dwarfs, who were in the secret, kept close their lips: they provided their lady with meat and drink in private, kept watch as before over the grave, and waited anxiously for the return of the pilgrim.

Godfrey made haste to Ardenne, embraced his mother, and feeling tired by his journey, went early to bed, and quickly and lightly fell asleep, with his head full of the beautiful Blanca. His father appeared to him in a dream, and said, with a cheerful countenance, that he was released out of purgatory, and announced success in the undertaking he meditated.

The next day he put on all his best knight gear and went to the “funeral” for Blanca. When the priests had gone home from the cold church to their warm beds she sat up and removed her shroud (much like Juliet in the tomb.)

 But when the virtuous maiden found herself in the arms of a young man, fear and terror fell upon her; and she said, with a bashful and blushing countenance,  ‘Take heed what you do, young man; question your heart whether it be upright, or a deceiver: if you abuse the confidence I repose in your, Heave, be assured, will pursue you with its vengeance.’ The knight modestly replied, ‘ I call the holy Virgin to witness the purity of my intentions; and may the curse of God overtake me, if one evil thought dwell in my soul!’ Thereupon Blanca mounted behind him in confidence, and Godfrey conducted her to Ardenne to his mother, who received her with the utmost tenderness, and watched over her as carefully as though she had been her own daughter. The soft sympathetic feelings of love soon awakened between the hearts of the youthful knight and the beautiful Blanca: the affectionate mother and the whole court concurred in wishing to see the mutual affection of the noble pair sealed, as soon as possible, by the holy sacrament of marriage. But Godfrey remembered that he had promised his mistress vengeance: he therefore left his residence amid the wedding preparations, and repaired to Brabant to the Countess Richilda, who was still busied about her second choice; but being no longer able to obtain the advice of the mirror, had never come to a resolution.

As soon as Godfrey of Ardenne arrived at court, his fine person drew upon him the Countess’s eyes, and she preferred him to all the nobles. He styled himself the Knight of the Tomb, and this was all she had to object to him: she wished him a more agreeable title; for life had still so many charms for her, that the thought of the grave always threw her into a fit of shuddering. She, however, contrived to interpret the appellation of the knight of Ardenne as referring to the holy sepulchre: she supposed him to have made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem; and so, without any further enquiry, let him pass for Knight of the Holy Sepulchre.

She flirted madly with him and wore all her finest, sexiest clothes to ensnare him. He pretended to be besotted but confessed ‘Your kindness transports me: but you know not the vow by which I am bound, to receive no wife but from my mother’s hand, and not even to quit this affectionate parent till I have performed the last filial duties, and closed her dying eyes. Can you not resolve, dear mistress of my heart, to leave your court, and follow me to Ardenne, and make me the happiest of mankind?’ Even though she wasn’t keen on her mother-in-law (a useless appendage) she wanted to marry him because he was so good-looking, so she agreed to follow him home.

The bridal procession was got ready in great haste; the persons to attend her were appointed, and Sambul the physician, beardless and without ears as he was, paraded among the train. The sly Richilda had taken off his fetters, and graciously restored him to the rank of a favourite, for she hoped by his help, in good time, to make out a passport for the worthy old lady to heaven, and then to return with her husband to Brabant. The venerable matron received her son and supposed daughter with courtly etiquette. She seemed highly to approve the choice of the Knight of the Tomb, and every means to hasten the nuptials were put in practice.

The happy day arrived, and dame Richilda, habited like the queen of the fairies, moved into the saloon where the ceremony was to be performed, ardently wishing that hours had wings. Meantime a page entered and whispered something into the bridegroom’s ear with a suspicious air. Godfrey clapped his hands together in seeming horror, and said aloud, ‘Hapless youth! Who shall open the dance with thee on they nuptial day, now a bloodthirsty hand has murdered they bride?’ He then turned to the Countess, and said, ‘Know, beautiful Richilda, that I had given a dower to twelve virgins, who were to advance to the wedding altar along with us; and the fairest among them has been murdered, our of jealousy, by an unnatural mother: say what punishment this shocking crime demands?’ Richilda, chagrined at an accident that seemed to delay her wishes, or at least to cast a gloom over the auspicious day, said with displeasure, ‘Oh, frightful deed! The cruel mother deserve, in the place of her she has murdered, to open the bridal dance with the unhappy youth in red-hot iron shoes. This would be balm for the wounds of his hear; for revenge, like love, is sweet.’ ‘Amen! A righteous sentence,’ returned Godfrey, ‘so be it!’–The whole court applauded the Countess’s just judgment; and the witlings presumed to declare, one and all, that the queen who went to Solomon for a cargo of wisdom, could not have pronounced a better decree.

In a moment the lofty folding-doors of the neighbouring apartment, where the altar was erected, flew open; there appeared the female angel, the beautiful Blanca, attired in wedding robes; as she leaned upon one of the twelve virgins, she looked at the terrible step-mother, but cast down her eyes immediately. Richilda’s blood stopped in her veins;–she sank to the ground, as it struck her sense–and then she lay motionless and stiff. But the smelling-bottles of the ladies of the court quickly poured such a shower of spirit of lavender over her, that her vital spirits collected themselves again, sore against her will. Then the Knight of the Tomb addressed a sermon to her, of which every word cut her to the soul; after which he led the beautiful Blanca to the alter, where the bishop, in his lawn sleeves, joined the charming pair, together with the twelve apportioned virgins and their lovers.
The ceremony being ended, the whole bridal train moved into the ball-room. The blacksmith dwarfs had in the meantime forged, with great speed and dexterity, a pair of shoes of burnished steel: they now carried them to the hearth, shovelled up the coals, and heated the shining slippers to a bright cherry red. Then Gunzelin, the stout Gascon knight, came forward to open the ball with the viper; and, though she earnestly declined the honour, neither prayers nor struggles were of the least avail. He took her up in his sinewy arms, the dwarfs fitted on the glowing shoes, and Gunzelin skimmed her so rapidly along the floor, that the boards hissed as he moved on, and her delicate feet were so well singed as never afterwards to be troubled with corns; meantime the musicians blew so loud a blast with their horns, that all her wailing and weeping was drowned by the boisterous tune. After many a cut and caper, the nimble knight turned his partner, who had never danced so warm a hornpipe before, clear out of the room downstairs, into a dark dungeon, where the sinner had time and leisure enough to repent of her sins. Sambul the physician quickly boiled a precious salve, which cured the blisters, and eased her pain.

Godfrey of Ardenne and the beautiful Blanca lived as happy as Adam and Eve in Paradise; they amply rewarded Sambul the physician, who, contrary to the practice of his colleagues, refused to kill where he safely might. Moreover, his integrity was recorded in heaven for a blessing. His race flourishes still, after an hundred generations: one of his posterity, the Jew Samuel Sambul, stands exalted, like a cedar of the house of Israel, in the presence of his Majesty the Emperor of Morocco; and in the character of prime minister he lives to this day, in happiness and honour, bating a few bastinadoes on the soles of his feet.

That's all for this week. Stay tuned next week as we examine the Grimm's version of Snow White.