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The Folktale
Stith Thompson

Motif L50

Victorious youngest daughter. *Types 361, 425, 431, 440, 480, 510, 511, 707, 901, 923; **Cox Cinderella passim; *BP I 185; Nutt FL IV 133; Jacobs FL IV 269; Lang FL IV 413; Cox FL XVIII 191; *Roberts 110; Tegethoff 10; *MacCulloch Childhood 357; *Saintyves Perrault 113. – Missouri French: Carrière; Spanish: Boggs FFC XC 65 No. 471B*; Italian: Basile Pentamerone I Nos. 2, 8, II Nos. 2, 3, III No. 4, V No. 9, Rotunda; India: *Thompson-Balys; Chinese: Eberhard FFC CXX 248 No. 193; Indonesia: Dixon 210; N. A. Indian: *Thompson CColl II 382ff., 390, (Maliseet): Mechling GSCan IV No. 9, (Chinook): Boas BBAE XX 77ff. No. 4, (Kwakiutl): Boas and Hunt JE III 371, (Gros Ventre): Kroeber PaAM I 80ff. No. 19, (Wichita): Dorsey CI XXI No. 33.

Part Two

The Folktale from Ireland to India

II – The Complex Tale

8. Good and bad relatives

D. Successful Youngest Child

In a large proportion of the stories of substituted brides and of persecuted wives or maidens the heroine who undergoes these sufferings and who finally triumphs is the youngest sister who is brought into contrast with her cruel or haughty elder sisters. [172] Likewise, in a whole group of the tales which we have noticed, the youngest son plays a similar role. [173]

This contrast between elder and younger child does not always play a subordinate role in folktales, but in one of the most famous of all groups is all-important in the action of the story. The whole group is sometimes known as the Cinderella cycle, even when we are dealing with a hero. [174] It is normally true that in all tales of this kind the youngest child is also especially unpromising, either because of appearance, shiftless habits, or habitual bad treatment by others. But even though such qualities are emphasized in the narrative, it is never forgotten that the distinguishing quality of these heroes and heroines is the fact that they are the youngest.

The tale known in the Grimm collection as Frau Holle (Type 480) tells how the despised youngest daughter [175] sits spinning by a well and loses her shuttle in the water. Being scolded by her mother, she jumps into the well to recover it. She loses her senses and awakes in the lower world. In reply to various appeals, she milks a cow, shakes an apple tree, takes bread out of an oven, and the like. At last she takes service with a witch, and she is so industrious that she pleases the witch, for she performs all tasks assigned her with the help of the animals and objects which she has obeyed. As a reward, she is given a large amount of gold (sometimes in a casket) and is allowed to return home. The ungracious sister wishes to imitate, but she refuses to help the animals and objects. Instead of a casket of gold, they cause her to choose a casket filled with fire, or in some versions kill her as a punishment.

This general theme of the two daughters, one kind and the other unkind, has already appeared prominently in the story of The Black and the White [p.126] Bride. [176] There it was merely the introduction to the story of the substituted bride. But in Frau Holle the contrasting action of the two girls in the lower world and their appropriate rewards is the whole story, and there is every tendency to elaborate the details. Basile told the tale in two different forms in his Pentamerone, and it received further literary treatment by Perrault. All of these authors added to the wealth of detail, and it has received much independent elaboration wherever it has been told.

It is one of the most popular of oral tales, being distributed over nearly the whole world. It is found in almost all collections from every part of Europe, from southern and eastern Asia, from northern and central Africa, and from North and South America. In the western hemisphere it occurs in three widely separated American Indian tribes; in the French folklore of Louisiana, Canada, the West Indies, and French Guiana; and in the Spanish tradition of Peru and the Portuguese of Brazil. A cursory examination of appropriate bibliographical works shows nearly six hundred versions. A serious study, which we hope may sometime be undertaken, would probably bring to light many hundreds more.

One special development of this tale, found only in eastern Europe, tells how the devil demands entrance into the house. But, on advice of the helpful animals, the girl demands that he bring her various things until the night has worn away and he must depart. [177]

Possibly to be considered as a special variation of Frau Holle is a tale of which only six versions have been noted—Basque, French, Danish, and Swedish. In this story, The Presents (Type 620), the haughty sister is the one who goes forth first. She succeeds, by means of the old woman's help, in being given a castle and becoming queen. Because of her haughtiness she is driven forth. The other sister makes better use of her presents, which bring her all good fortune.

Probably the best known of all folktales is Cinderella (Type 510A), particularly if we include its special development known as Cap o' Rushes (Type 510B). These tales were not only included in the influential collections of Basile and Perrault, but they both have an even older literary history. A good Chinese literary version of Cinderella has been reported from the ninth century after Christ, [178] and Cap o' Rushes has appeared in both French and [p. 127] Italian literary treatment from the beginning of the sixteenth century. This pair of tales was the subject of Miss Cox's Cinderella which appeared in 1893 and was the first extensive investigation ever made of a folktale.

In Cinderella the heroine is abused by her stepmother and stepsisters. Her name is always connected in some way with ashes (Cendrillon, Aschenputtel, or the like), indicating her lowly position in the household. The poor girl receives supernatural aid, sometimes from her dead mother, or from a tree on the mother's grave, or from an animal (often a reincarnation of the mother), or from a fairy godmother. In some versions the helpful animal is killed, and a tree springs up which magically provides beautiful clothes for the girl. As in the familiar Perrault telling, she may dance three successive nights with the prince and escape just before the forbidden hour. Some versions tell how the prince sees the girl in church. At any rate, she flees from the prince and a search for her is necessary. It is not always the lost slipper which brings about identification, but she may be found by any of the approved methods known to readers of fairy tales—a ring thrown into the prince's cup or baked in his bread, or the special favor shown her when the tree bows before her so that she can pluck its golden apple.

The version of Perrault is so familiar through two hundred and fifty years' use as a nursery tale that we are likely to think that all the details which he mentions are essential. Some of them, as a matter of fact, are practically unknown elsewhere; for example, the glass slipper. A vast majority of the versions do have a slipper, but not of glass. It has been suggested that Perrault's glass slipper comes from a confusion between the French words verre and vaire, and this may possibly be true. The fairy godmother is a relatively rare occurrence in the tale. On the other hand, traits not found in Perrault assume importance as we trace the tale around the world: the help of the dead mother, usually reincarnated as an animal, the clothes colored like the sun, moon, and stars, and the appearance of the heroine as a herder of turkeys.

This story of Cinderella appears in not fewer than five hundred versions in Europe alone. It seems to be popular in India and Farther India and has been taken without change by Europeans to the Philippines and elsewhere in Indonesia. It is found among the North African Arabs, in the Western Sudan, in Madagascar and on the island of Mauritius. It has also been well received in America. The French have brought it to Missouri and Canada, and the isle of Martinique. It has also been reported from Brazil and Chile. Especially interesting are the modifications of this story by the North American Indians, the Piegans of the Glaciar Park area, the Ojibwa of the Great Lakes, and the Zuñi of New Mexico. In the latter version an almost complete adaptation to the Zuñi environment has been made. The abused daughter is a turkey herd (as in some European versions). Her turkeys take pity on her and furnish magic clothes. She attends the tribal dance and attracts the chief's [p. 128] son, but she disobeys her turkeys and overstays her time. They punish her by taking away all her beautiful clothes. A reader who was not familiar with the Cinderella story might well imagine that this is a native Zuñi tale. Its actual Spanish origin is unmistakable.

As Miss Cox's analysis of this cycle shows, there is very considerable mutual influence exerted between Cinderella and the related tale of Cap o' Rushes (Type 510B). This story begins with the flight of the heroine from home, or with her banishment, because her father wishes to marry her (as in the tale of The Maiden Without Hands [Type 706]). Or it may be that, like Cordelia in King Lear, she does not reply as her father wishes when he asks her how much she loves him. She says that her love is like salt, in contrast to her sisters who have compared theirs to sugar. [179] In either case, the heroine assumes a peculiar disguise, indicated by the various titles of the stories, not only the two mentioned here, but others like Katie Woodencoat, Allerleirauh, etc. She takes service among strangers and is accidentally seen by the prince in her own beautiful clothes. The story then proceeds much like Cinderella. Frequently there is the thrice repeated flight from the prince and the elaborate recognition after the search for the girl. This latter is usually brought about by means of a ring placed in his food or drink, rather than by fitting the slipper. In those stories where it is appropriate, the heroine shows her father how much more valuable salt really is than sugar. The interesting way in which, all these motifs shift as we go from version to version and yet maintain the essential plot is skillfully displayed in Miss Cox's detailed analysis.

This tale has been made popular in the world of readers by treatment in every important literary collection of stories since the sixteenth century—Straparola, Basile, and Perrault. But its wide acceptance in the folklore of the whole area from Scandinavia to India would seem, for the most part, to be independent of these literary treatments. While not so universally told as its companion story, Cinderella, well over two hundred oral versions have been noted by folktale students. But only a single variant each from Africa and the two Americas have thus far come to light.

So closely related in detail to Cinderella and Cap o' Rushes that it is frequently considered a variant form is the story of One-Eye, Two-Eyes, Three-Eyes (Type 511). Of the three sisters, the heroine is the only one with the normal two eyes. Her monstrous sisters, One-Eye and Three-Eyes, are in league with their mother against her. She is compelled to herd goats and to go hungry. She secures the aid of an old woman who provides her with a food-supplying table which she can use with the aid of one of her goats which has magic power. In the course of time, her sisters spy upon her and kill the goat. On the advice of her old woman helper she has the goat's entrails

buried and from them there grows a magic tree with golden apples. The tree [p. 129] will yield its fruit only to Two-Eyes, into whose hands the apples come of themselves. When a prince asks for some of the apples the sisters fail and only Two-Eyes can give them to him. The tale naturally ends with her marriage to the prince.

It seems unlikely, in spite of Dr. Krappe's contention, [180] that this modern European folktale has any organic connection with the old Greek myth of Phrixos and Helle. There are, however, literary versions of our story in Germany and Sweden from the sixteenth century down. Though it is by no means as popular as either Cinderella or Cap o' Rushes, it is distributed rather evenly over the whole of Europe. It is also known in India, Indonesia, North Africa, and Madagascar. A version from English tradition has recently been reported from Virginia.

What may be considered a variation of this story is the tale of The Little Red Bull (Type 511*). [181] In this tale there is always a youth instead of a girl as the principal actor. He is helped by a magic bull (sometimes a horse) which provides food for him. When his enemies kill the animal he follows his helper's last instructions and keeps some part of the animal's body, through which he receives magic aid in all his adventures. Sometimes these adventures are the same as those of the hero of the Goldener Märchen (Type 314), and some folktale students have considered The Little Red Bull as a variant of that tale. Its wide distribution, however, and its relative uniformity would seem to indicate that we have here an autonomous tale and not a mere variation of some more popular story. Though in small numbers, it is scattered over the entire continent of Europe and is found in India, North and Central Africa, and among the Wyandot Indians of North America. Its peculiar distribution and its relationship to the two tales here indicated should make this story worth further investigation.

Although many examples of the fortunate youngest son have appeared in other connections in some of the tales we have already examined and in those to come later, [182] one story of a "male Cinderella" deserves special mention here. In The Prodigal's Return (Type 935) the youngest of the three brothers is a spendthrift, but clever. He goes abroad as a soldier and swindles his father into sending him money. Through cleverness he makes his fortune and marries a princess. He visits his parents' home in humble disguise and is mistreated by his brothers. At the end, the princess arrives and puts the jealous brothers to shame. [p. 130]

In Europe this story seems to be entirely confined to the Baltic states and Denmark, where it has been collected in large numbers. But its presence in America among the Micmac Indians and among the Missouri French gives every indication that it was brought across the ocean by Frenchmen. In Missouri it has been skilfully combined with the tale of The Youth Who Wanted to Learn What Fear Is (Type 326).

[172] In cases where the contrast is not with elder sisters it is usually with stepsisters.

[173] For the victorious youngest daughter, see Motif L50, where a list of the tales containing this trait is given. Similarly for the victorious youngest son, see L10.

[174]Some authors have used the term "male Cinderella" for such younger and unpromising sons.

[175] In many versions she is the stepdaughter and is made to contrast with the stepmother's real daughter.

[176] Type 403. This motif (Q2) is usually known as "Kind and Unkind." Among other tales in which it is found are: Bearskin (Type 361); The House in the Wood (Type 431); The Frog King (Type 440); How Six Travel Through the World (Type 513A); The Bird, the Horse, and the Princess (Type 550); The Water of Life (Type 551); The Grateful Animals (Type 554); All Stick Together (Type 571); The King's Tasks (Type 577); The Healing Fruits (Type 610); The Presents (Type 620); and The Three Golden Sons (Type 707).

[177] See Bolte-Polívka, I, 221ff. for a list of these versions. Though some seventy are mentioned, they are all from countries between Bohemia and the Caucasus. See Motif K555 and its various subdivisions.

[178] For a discussion of this version, see R. D. Jameson, Three Lectures on Chinese Folklore, pp. 45ff.

[179] This motif, "Love like Salt," sometimes appears as a separate tale (Type 923), and, with a slight variation, in another (Type 923A). See Motif H592.1 and literature there cited.

[180]A. H. Krappe, Folk-Lore, XXXIV (1923), 141ff.

[181]For discussion see: Bolte-Polívka, III, 65; Béaloideas, II, 268, 273.

[182] Among other places, the favorite youngest son is found in the following tales: The White Cat (Type 402); The Bridge to the Other World (Type 471); How Six Travel Through the World (Type 513); The Bird, the Horse, and the Princess (Type 550); The Water of Life (Type 551); The Grateful Animals (Type 554); The Knapsack, the Hat, and the Horn (Type 569); All Stick Together (Type 571); The King's Tasks (Type 577); Beloved of Women (Type 580); The Healing Fruits (Type 610); and The Three Lucky Brothers (Type 1650).


314, 326, 361, 402, 431, 440, 471, 480, 510A, 510B, 511, 511*, 513, 513A, 550, 551, 554, 569, 571, 577, 580, 610, 620, 706, 707, 923, 923A, 935, 1650


H592.1, K555, L10, L50, Q2