MEN AND WOMEN STORIES
(If you want to retell any of the stories listed below, be sure
to obtain permission from the copyright holder if the material
is not in the public domain)
1) I have
been going a bit crazy about a story of a lazy woman who ends
up a marrying a prince. I thought I'd read it in the Green
Fairy Book. And I know I read it while living in Costa
Rica so it was a book I owned (though I left many there and gave
them away to friends and the schools, sigh) Anyway, Donna Dittman
did a wonderful version of the story a couple of years ago--I
didn't like the original because it seemed to be praising lazyness
as a virtue but Donna added the element of intelligence to it,
along with her wonderful characterizations of the 3 old ladies.
Well, I e-mailed Donna and she recommended I look in Margaret
Read MacDonald's Storyteller's Sourcebook,
so I did. and now to the quick---- It's called The
Three Spinners and you can find it in the Grimms
Tales for Young and Old: The Complete Stories. Also, there
were other "lazy"stories in Margaret's book you may
want to check it out if you haven't already.
2) There is also an Irish version called The
Widow's Lazy Daughter in Haviland's Favorite
Fairy Tales Told in Ireland that has spinning, weaving,
and knitting and a nice thought from the Queen at the end--that
it is better to have a daughter-in-law with the blessings of the
fairies than one who can weave and knit and spin.
Response: The version I use is from
Seumas MacManus Favourite Irish Folk Tales,
Dover pbk 1999; original title In Chimney
Corners: Merry Tales of Irish Folk Lore, McClure, Phillips,
NYC, 1904. Widow beats lazy daughter, prince stops, asks why,
widow embarrassed says to keep her from working too hard. Prince
takes girl to castle, his mother makes her spin, weave, sew, ugly
old women with big foot, hand, nose help if invited to wedding.
They come, explain to prince that spinning, weaving, sewing made
foot, hand, nose grow big. Prince orders wife to never do those
things. Checks from time to time if she does, but she is a good
and obedient wife.
3) Also, a Norwegian version of The Three
Aunties story in the usual Norwegian places. "How
did your eyes get so weird and bleary?" "How did your
nose get so long and pointy?" "How did your bottom get
so big and wide?" (She has to turn sideways to come in the
door.) No mention of their physical oddities is made when they're
helping the girl out, it's not until they come to the wedding
dinner that they are described-- some psychological truth to that,
in the usual dream-logic way.
4) There is also a Russian tale about a lazy man (or a fool depending
on who tells it) who married a princess. You can find it online
5) The version I use is from Seumas MacManus _Favourite Irish
Folk Tales_, Dover pbk 1999; original title _In Chimney Corners:
Merry Tales of Irish Folk Lore_, McClure, Phillips, NYC, 1904.
Widow beats lazy daughter, prince stops, asks why, widow embarrassed
says to keep her from working too hard. Prince takes girl to castle,
his mother makes her spin, weave, sew, ugly old women with big
foot, hand, nose help if invited to wedding. They come, explain
to prince that spinning, weaving, sewing made foot, hand, nose
grow big. Prince orders wife to never do those things. Checks
from time to time if she does, but she is a good and obedient
6) I know the story as Rhoslyn, Who Would
Not Spin. Now, although Rhoslyn will not spin (she absolutely
hates spinning, which seems to be her destiny in life), she nevertheless
is admirable in that she is:
a) Clever; and
b) Keeps her promises to the three fairies.
They ask of her that she
a) Invite them to her wedding.
b) Introduce them to her new husband as her Aunts.
c) And find them work to do at the castle.
She keeps her word each time.
Their "handicaps" mentioned when we first meet them..and
a) One fairy has a swollen hand ( due to too much silk spinning)b).
b) One has a swollen foot, and is limping (due to too much wool
c) One has a terribly gruff voice ( due to too much flax spinning,
you have to wet the flax with saliva).
This story works well for me, as I am a spinner, and I tell tales
from behind my spinning wheel. I've always been very fond of Rhoslyn.
7) Lazy Jack Stories:
I tell this story a lot, and love it. I use the phrase, "Jack,
you foolish boy!" Being a fool carries many meanings and
not necessarily derogatory--weren't fools important people in
the king's courts of old? The other thing about this story that
I like is that kids completely understand where Jack is coming
from. How often do we as adults tell kids to do things when they
really don't understand WHY they have to do them? Yet the "good"
children do as they are told, whether they understand or not.
(Come to think of it, that carries through to adulthood too! How
many times at work have you found yourself doing something because
you were told to do it that way, when it didn't really make sense
to you?) So kids sympathize with Jack's dilemma of trying to obey
his mama and getting into more trouble because of it. They've
been there. And they love
it when he comes out on top in the end. I end it with Jack allowing
as how he's only eight years old and he don't think his mama would
want him to get married yet, so he makes a deal and gets three
bags of gold instead. And he and his mama and that mule are livin'
right well on that money.
8) I tell Juan Bobo, the Puerto Rican
version of Jack (and Epomonandas). His mama says (and the kids
join in) "Juan Bobo, Juan Bobo, que tonto estas." That
means "What a fool you are!" but I translate it as "What
a foolish boy you are" because that sounds a wee bit less
damning to me. However you do it, as others have said, children
recognize it as an exaggeration because the whole story is exaggerated
9) There is a version of Lazy Jack
in Ready to Tell Tales by Holt and
Mooney, page 43. The adaptation is by Kay Ducey and it is my favorite
version so far. In the book notes Kay states, "Our own son
has has ADD...I didn't like the use of the word "stupid"
or "slow" in the story." She changed the mother's
refrain to, "Jack, I know you can learn." It is a delightful
and positive version.
10) This is one of my primary Jack Tales,
I tell many of them. I have also experimented with the phrase
in question, altering it depending on the audience. The one thing
I am always careful about is making sure I can tie it in with
the Kings or rich mans statement in the end.... where the King
or rich man says, "Jack, put that cow/mule down son, you're
the smartest man I know. You made my daughter laugh, and that
made her talk." The development of Jacks character as being
"slow" is important to the story no matter what term
is used to identify his "slowness." The audience "gets
it" when the King or rich man says Jack is "the smartest
man I know" as long as Jack is represented throughout the
story as NOT being smart. This is a wonderful, audience participation
story as well. Nudging the audience to say, as Jacks Mama would
say, "Jack, you ain't got the sense you were born with."
or "Jack, cant you learn anything" or "Jack....
where's your smarts, boy?" Have fun with it but be careful
not to lose perspective of Jack being.... well, less than genius.
Isn't that the whole point.... remember how he traded the cow......
11) Another tale which springs to mind about taking responsibility
and following directions is called Katchi
Katchi Blue Jay from the Pacific Northwest. Margaret Read
MacDonald has a version of it in her book Look
back and see, twenty lively tales for gentle tellers. The
blue jay does not listen to the directions of others and does
not take responsibility for his actions, thus his raspy voice
and top knot of feathers. It's a fun story to tell and works well
with elementary students.
web page updated 9/23/03)