Today I am going to feature The Talking Eggs by Robert D. San Souci. This book is adapted from a Creole folktale which was originally in a collection of Louisiana stories by Alcee Fortier. It appears to have European roots and is expected to have been brought to America by French immigrants and spread orally throughout the American South due to different versions (Cajun or Gullah overtones).
Now onto our book. The Talking Eggs is not your typical Cinderella. In fact there is no prince figure in the story and for that matter no male in it at all. There are also no stepfamily members. The story starts with a poor (very poor) woman and her two daughters, Rose and Blanche. Blanche is the youngest and is sweet and beautiful. Rose is like her mother--always putting on airs and very lazy. Their mother has Blanche do all the work around their house while she and Rose sit on the porch fanning themselves and discussing how they will become rich and go to grand parties in the city with beautiful gowns.
One day Blanche is sent to the well for water. While there an elderly woman asks her for some water before she dies from the heat. Blanche of course gives her some and calls her auntie. The old woman thanks her, blesses her and leaves. Blanche returns home with the bucket of water, but Rose complains that it is hot and pours it out. Then the mother and Rose scold, yell and hit Blanche for not doing a simple task like bringing her sister some cold water to drink. Blanche runs away into the woods. She begins to cry since she has no place to go and does not want to go back home.
The elderly woman appears and asks her why she is crying. Blanche tells her how her mother and sister were treating her for something that was not her fault. The elderly woman says she can come home with her and she will give her dinner and a bed to sleep on one condition--Blanche must not laugh at anything she sees at the house. Blanche promises not to laugh.
The plants seem to move out of their way while they walk to the woman's house (and move back behind them). Then Blanche sees a house with a two-headed cow with corkscrew horns in its yard. Blanche finds it strange, but holds true to her word and does not laugh. When they enter the yard there are chickens of every color running around and they do not cluck, but sing like mockingbirds. Again, Blanche does not laugh.
Inside the woman tells Blanche to start a fire. Blanche does right away. The woman in the mean time removes her head, so she can do her hair. This frightens Blanche a bit, but figures the woman has been nothing but nice to her, so she ignores it. The woman puts her head back on and then gives Blanche a beef bone. Blanche looks at it thinking there was not much to it, but asks if she should make soup with it. The woman tells Blanche to look at the pot she put it in and there is already a thick stew. Then the woman gives Blanche one grain of rice to grind. Blanche does this even though she wonders why she only needs to grind one grain, but as she does the rice multiplies to plenty for them. They have a wonderful meal together and then the woman takes Blanche out to the porch to see the magical rabbits dancing. Blanche falls asleep out there.
The next morning the woman asks Blanche to milk the cow. The two-headed cow is happy with Blanche and gives her the sweetest milk Blanche has ever tasted. The woman and Blanche have a lovely breakfast. Then the woman tells Blanche she must go home, but since she has been so good and kind she has a gift for her. She tells Blanche to go to the hen house and take some eggs, but only to take the ones that say "Take me" and to leave the ones that say "Don't take me." She tells Blanche to throw the eggs over her left shoulder on her way home and they will become gifts. Blanche does this. In the hen house, every nest is full of eggs. Some are gold, silver and jeweled while others look like ordinary eggs. The ordinary looking eggs are the ones that say "Take me." Blanche does what the old woman told her and she only takes those even though she would love to take one of the fancy eggs. On her way home she throws the eggs over her left shoulder as instructed and receives silver and gold coins, silk dresses and even a carriage and pony to pull it.
Her mother and Rose are amazed when she gets home. Her mother makes Rose help her bring the things in and the mother cooks dinner for them for the first time since Blanche was old enough to cook. They get the story of the old woman out of Blanche. While Blanche is sleeping, the mother tells Rose to go find the auntie the next day and get her to give her some of the eggs. Rose does not want to, but her mother explains there is not enough for the two of them with just Blanche's things. Rose goes, but she is not nice to the old woman. She laughs at the cow and chickens and then is mean about the bone. The bone does not become a thick stew. She laughs at the one grain or rice so they do not have rice to eat. Then when the woman takes off her head, Rose grabs it and says she will not give it back until she gives her the eggs. The woman tells her she is wicked but tells her about the eggs with the instructions to throw them over her right shoulder on the way home.
Rose leaves the woman's head on the porch and runs to the hen house. She sees all the beautiful ones and hears them say "Don't take me," but she takes them anyway. She throws them over her right shoulder as soon as she is out of view of the house and the eggs turn into snakes, toads, yellow jackets and a hungry wolf. She runs home with all of the creatures following her. When her mother sees her, she tries to protect her with a broom, but then the creatures go after her as well. They both run into the woods. When they finally return, they find a note from Blanche saying she has taken her gifts and moved to the city. Blanche remains as nice as always.
One of the nice things about this story are the lessons built into it. There is the lesson of what is on the inside matters and not the outside. There is the lesson of being kind and doing as asked. I did not make a peg doll for this story as Blanche is not a princess and Hazel seems to only really enjoy the ones that look more princesslike. Instead I used some of our eggs and decorated them more. Which would you choose? The ones you were told to take that are ordinary or the ones you were told not to take that are beautiful and look like they are worth a lot?