Hello and welcome to Fairy Tale Friday. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I’ll begin.
This week we look at another version of Maria wood collected by British traveller and folklorist Rachel Harriette Busk in her 1877 book Roman Legends: A Collection of the Fables and Folk-Lore of Rome. According to Wikipedia:
She collected tales from Italy, Spain, Mongolia and elsewhere. Her collection included folklore, supernatural events, legends of saints, and humorous anecdotal material.
This tale begins with a more devious mother than last week. This mother knows full well that the shoe is enchanted and won’t fit anyone else. She tells her husband that is free to marry again as long as the shoe fits while secretly congratulating herself on the fact that he won’t be able to. I suppose she hadn’t counted on her daughter, though.
Our story bears more similarities to last week’s version of Fair Maria Wood, but also a few key differences. The easiest distinction is that last week our heroine was simply a beautiful young woman in a wooden dress, but this week our heroine is in a full wooden animatronic old lady disguise. After asking for the traditional host of dresses, each more beautiful than the last she says, "but now you must send for the most cunning artificer in your whole kingdom, and let him make me a figure of an old woman just like life, fitted with all sorts of springs to make it move and walk when one gets inside it, just like a real woman."
It is in this disguise that she escapes and lives in a hut on the forest as a hen wife taking care of the poultry for the royal family. When she approaches the palace asking for a job, other servants try to shoo her away, but the prince takes pity on her and finds her a job as a hen wife. He often stops to gossip with her when he passes by her hut during one of his hunting expeditions. This seems as though he has a soft heart for the old lady, but his true nature is revealed when she asks to go with him to the Carnival festino. He shouts at her and cuts her with his whip. The next day when she asks again to go with him, he strikes her with his boot and the last day when she says, “What'll you say if I come to it in spite of you? He slaps her and replies, "You incorrigible old woman! You provoke me so with your nonsense, I really cannot keep my hand off you."
And so, despite the abuse when she is disguised as a helpless old woman, she continues to try to woo him at the festino in her beautiful gowns. Also like previous tales we have read, she tells him that she is from the countries of Whipblow, Bootkick and Slapland when he asks where she is from. In the end, he is pining for his beloved and is near death. She comes, in the guise of her old lady, offering to make him broth that will cure him. The prince (despite being near death) has enough energy to shout at her again and tell her she is a stupid old lady whose broth can’t cure him. He eventually wears himself out with all the shouting and she manages to get him some broth with the ring in it that he gave her. Well that cures him out of funk right away and they get married that same day.
I am always wary of people who do not treat children, animals and the elderly with respect. The fact that he will abuse an elderly woman because she dares to ask him a question does not bode well for their marriage. I fear when she grows old and wrinkled, he will replace her with a younger model.
Maria Wood source
They say, there was a king, whose wife, when she came to die, said to him, "When I am dead, you will want to marry again; but take my advice: marry no woman but her whose foot my shoe fits."
But this she said because the shoe was under a spell and would fit no one whom he could marry. The king, however, caused the shoe to be tried on all manner of women; and when the answer always was that it would fit none of them, he grew quite bewildered and strange in his mind.
After some years had passed, his young daughter, having grown up to girl's estate, came to him one day, saying, "Oh, papa; only think! Mamma's shoe just fits me!"
"Does it!" replied the simple king; "then I must marry you."
"Oh, that cannot be, papa," said the girl, and ran away.
But the simple king was so possessed with the idea that he must marry the woman whom his wife's shoe fitted, that he sent for her every day and said the same thing. But the queen had not said that he should marry the woman whom her shoe fitted, but that he should not marry any whom it did not fit.
When the princess found that he persevered in his silly caprice, she said at last, "Papa, if I am to do what you say, you must do something for me first."
"Agreed, my child," replied the king; "you have only to speak."
"Then, before I marry," said the girl, "I want a lot of things, but I will begin with one at a time. First, I want a dress of the colour of a beautiful noontide sky, but all covered with stars like the sky at midnight and furnished with a parure to suit it."
Such a dress the king had made and brought to her.
"Next," said the princess, "I want a dress of the colour of the sea, all covered with golden fishes, with a fitting parure."
Such a dress the king had made and brought to her.
"Next," said the princess, "I want a dress of a dark blue, all covered with gold embroidery and spangled with silver bells, and with a parure to match."
Such a dress the king had made and brought to her.
"These are all very good," said the princess; "but now you must send for the most cunning artificer in your whole kingdom, and let him make me a figure of an old woman just like life, fitted with all sorts of springs to make it move and walk when one gets inside it, just like a real woman."
Such a figure the king had made and brought it to the princess.
"That is just the sort of figure I wanted," said she;" and now I don't want anything more." And the simple king went away quite happy.
As soon as she was alone, however, the princess packed all the three dresses and many of her other dresses, and all her jewellery and a large sum of money, inside the figure of the old woman, and then she got into it and walked away. No one seeing an old woman walking out of the palace thought she had anything to do with the princess, and thus she got far away without anyone thinking of stopping her. On, on, on, she wandered till she came to the palace of a great king, and just at the time that the king's son was coming in from hunting.
"Have you a place in all this fine palace to take in a poor old body?" whined the princess inside the figure of the old woman.
"No, no! get out of the way! How dare you come in the way of the prince!" said the servants and drove her away.
But the prince took compassion on her and called her to him. "What's your name, good woman?" said the prince.
"Maria Wood is my name, your Highness," replied the princess.
"And what can you do, since you ask for a place?"
"Oh, I can do many things. First, I understand all about poultry, and then --"
"That'll do," replied the prince; "take her, and let her be the hen-wife, and let her have food and lodging, and all she wants."
So they gave her a little hut on the borders of the forest and set her to tend the poultry. But the prince as he went out hunting often passed by her hut, and when she saw him pass, she never failed to come out and salute him, and now and then he would stop his horse and spend a few moments in gossip with her.
Before long it was Carnival time; and as the prince came by Maria Wood came out and wished him a "good Carnival."
The prince stopped his horse and said, his young head full of the pleasure he expected, "Tomorrow, you know, we have the first day of the feast."
"To be sure I know it; and how I should like to be there; won't you take me?" answered Maria Wood.
"You shameless old woman," replied the prince, "to think of your wanting to go to a festino at your time of life!" and he gave her a cut with his whip.
The next day Maria put on her dress of the colour of the noontide sky, covered with stars like the sky at midnight, with the parure made to wear with it, and came to the feast. Every lady made place before her dazzling appearance, and the prince alone dared to ask her to dance. With her he danced all the evening, and fairly fell in love with her, nor could he leave her side; and as they sat together, he took the ring off his own finger and put it on to her hand.
She appeared equally satisfied with his attentions and seemed to desire no other partner. Only when he tried to gather from her whence she was, she would only say she came from the country of Whipblow, which set the prince wondering very much, as he had never heard of such a country. At the end of the ball, the prince sent his attendants to watch her that he might learn where she lived, but she disappeared so swiftly it was impossible for them to tell what had become of her.
When the prince came by Maria Wood's hut next day, she did not fail to wish him again a "good Carnival."
"Tomorrow we have the second festino, you know," said the prince.
"Well I know it," replied Maria Wood; "shouldn't I like to go! Won't you take me?"
"You contemptible old woman to talk in that way!" exclaimed the prince. "You ought to know better!" and he struck her with his boot.
Next night Maria put on her dress of the colour of the sea, covered all over with gold fishes, and the parure made to wear with it, and went to the feast. The prince recognized her at once, and claimed her for his partner all the evening, nor did she seem to wish for any other, only when he tried to learn from her whence she was, she would only say she came from the country of Bootkick.
The prince could not remember ever to have heard of the Bootkick country, and thought she meant to laugh at him; however, he ordered his attendants to make more haste this night in following her; but what diligence so ever they used she was too swift for them.
The next time the prince came by Maria Wood's hut, she did not fail to wish him again a "good Carnival."
"Tomorrow we have the last festino!" exclaimed he, with a touch of sadness, for he remembered it was the last of the happy evenings that he could feel sure of seeing his fair unknown.
"Ah! you must take me. But, what'll you say if I come to it in spite of you?" answered Maria Wood.
"You incorrigible old woman!" exclaimed the prince; "you provoke me so with your nonsense, I really cannot keep my hand off you;" and he gave her a slap.
The next night Maria Wood put on her dress of a dark blue, all covered with gold embroidery and spangled with silver bells, and the parure made to wear with it. The prince constituted her his partner for the evening as before, nor did she seem to wish for any other, only when he wanted to learn from her whence she was, all she would say was that she came from Slapland.
This night the prince told his servants to make more haste in following her, or he would discharge them all. But they answered, "It is useless to attempt the thing, as no mortal can equal her in swiftness."
After this, the prince fell ill of his disappointment, because he saw no hope of hearing any more of the fair domino with whom he had spent three happy evenings, nor could any doctor find any remedy for his sickness.
Then Maria Wood sent him word, saying, "Though the prince's physicians cannot help him, yet let him but take a cup of broth of my making, and he will immediately be healed."
"Nonsense! how can a cup of broth, or how can any medicament, help me!" exclaimed the prince.
"There is no cure for my ailment."
Again Maria Wood sent the same message; but the prince said angrily, "Tell the silly old thing to hold her tongue; she doesn't know what she's talking about."
But again, the third time, Maria Wood sent to him, saying, "Let the prince but take a cup of broth of my making, and he will immediately be healed."
By this time the prince was so weary that he did not take the trouble to refuse. The servants finding him so depressed began to fear that he was sinking, and they called to Maria Wood to make her broth, because, though they had little faith in her promise, they knew not what else to try. So Maria Wood made ready the cup of broth she had promised, and they put it down beside the prince.
Presently the whole palace was roused; the prince had started up in bed, and was shouting, "Bring hither Maria Wood! Quick! Bring hither Maria Wood!"
So they ran and fetched Maria Wood, wondering what could have happened to bring about so great a change in the prince. But the truth was, that Maria had put into the cup of broth the ring the prince had put on her finger the first night of the feast, and when he began to take the broth he found the ring with the spoon. When he saw the ring, he knew at once that Maria Wood could tell where to find his fair partner.
"Wait a bit! There's plenty of time!" said Maria, when the servant came to fetch her in all haste; and she waited to put on her dress of the colour of the noontide sky.
The prince was beside himself for joy when he saw her and would have the betrothal celebrated that very day.
That’s all for this week. Stay tuned next week for a tale from Portugal of a Princess who would not marry her father.