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Monday, July 29, 2013

Fairy Tales in Different Cultures: Moss Gown


This week we are sharing a fairy tale out of the Eastern part of North Carolina. This story seems to have so many different parts of other stories from all over the world. It amazes me how many seemed to come up in the story and remind me of the other Cinderella tales.
Map of the United States with North Carolina highlighted
Source

First a little bit about North Carolina. North Carolina is in the Southeastern part of the United States. It is known as the Tar Heel State and the Old North State. The capital is Raleigh and is named after Sir Walter Raleigh. North Carolina is the 28th most extensive state and the tenth most populous.
Source

In 1584, Elizabeth I granted Sir Walter Raleigh a charter for the present day North Carolina (then part of Virginia). He tried to establish two colonies, but both failed. However on August 18, 1857, the first English child, Virginia Dare, born on American soil was born on Roanoke Island (one of Raleigh's colonies). Dare County is named after her.
Sir Walter Ralegh by 'H' monogrammist.jpg
Sir Walter Raleigh (Source)

In 1663 King Charles II granted a charter to settle a colony and named it Carolina in honor of his father King Charles I. In 1710 the Carolina Colony split into North Carolina and South Carolina due to disputes in governance.

Some other interesting facts about North Carolina:
  • In 1795 North Carolina opened the first public university in the United States, University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill
  • Krispy Kreme donuts was started in North Carolina
  • Pepsi Cola was first developed in North Carolina
  • North Carolina's largest two metropolitan areas are among the top ten fastest growing in the US (Source)
Now onto our book. This week we are looking at Moss Gown by William H. Hooks. In his Author's Note, Hooks discusses some of the history of North Carolina. He discusses the tradition of storytelling perserving the Elizabethan culture as well as Virginia Dare's birth. He uses both of these to tie in the elements of King Lear as well as Cinderella to this story. There is apparently a similar story in the Western part of North Carolina called Rush Cape where the dress is made of something else since there was not Spanish moss in the Appalachia. He also discusses the term gris-gris being French and known in the Carolinas as a kind of spell that often, but not always is evil. These are the words the magic cat woman uses to help Moss Gown.

Now the story. A wealthy man lived in a large Southern mansion with his three daughters. He was growing old and no longer enjoyed riding his horse around his land or hunting in the swamp. He tended to sit on the porch and stare out. One stormy day his youngest daughter, Candace, ran out to get him out of the rain, but he said to call her sisters because he had gifts for them. The older daughters who had been watching it all came right out when hearing the word gifts.

The man told his daughters to tell him how much they loved him and based on their answers he would divide the land. The oldest two told him they loved him more than jewels and riches. While Candace thought about her answer and wanted something truly from her heart. She replied that she loved him more than meat loves salt. Now if you have been following this series for awhile you may remember this storyline from a Jewish Cinderella that takes place in Poland. The older sisters laughed at her answer and Candace could not find the words to explain what she meant. The father gave the oldest daughters all of his land. That night they chased Candace out into the storm since they now owned the land.

Candace wandered in the storm. Strangely she was not afraid even when the wind picked her up and flew her over the cypress treetops in the swamp. The wind put her down on a soft bed of Spanish moss. There she fell asleep. She was awoken by someone singing. When she opened her eyes she saw a black woman with green eyes who she felt looked like a cat. She was singing a song with the words, "Gris-gris" in it. As stated above this was known in the Carolinas to be a magic term that usually caused evil. The woman was holding a beautiful gossamer dress. Candace hid from the woman, but the woman left the dress with her and told her if she ever needed her to say the rhyme. After she left, Candace put on the dress and her feet seemed to know the way she should go. At sunlight her dress turned to rags made from moss. (Now this part of the story reminded me of the Alaskan Cinderella where the dress changed in sunlight.)
Her feet brought her to a house that looked very much like her father's. She knocked and the mistress of the house took pity on the girl dressed in rags and moss and sent her to do chores in the kitchen. Not wanting to reveal her real name, she told the first cook that her name was Moss Gown (like the cat woman called her in the swamp). The kitchen staff gave her the worst jobs, but she did them. She always dreamed of returning to her father's home, but after six months she realized she never would since she was not wanted there. 

One day the First Cook announced that the young master of the house was going to host a three-day frolic with a ball each night and all of the household staff could go to the balls if they had a ball dress. Since Moss Gown did not have a ball gown and only had her moss rags and borrowed clothes she was the only one not to go. While trying to fall asleep the first night she could not due to the noise. She remembered her moss dress that was under her bed and the cat woman. She pulled out the dress and called the cat woman with the line she had been told. The cat woman appeared and touched the dress. It became the beautiful gossamer gown again. She warned Moss Gown that it would be rags again as the morning star disappeared. 

Moss Gown made quite the entrance. The young master danced the night away with her. He asked her name, but she played coy with him. Then as the sun was rising he asked to walk her home. She slipped away. She repeated this the next two nights. 

After the frolic the young master went off to find the mystery woman he fell in love with. He rode the countryside searching. Eventually he sadly returned home and refused to eat. The First Cook was saying how he was wasting away and needed to eat. Moss Gown asked to serve his dinner that evening. She ran to her room and called the Cat Woman. The Cat Woman told her not to run in the morning this time. Moss Gown appeared with his food and when he realized it was her, he was so happy and ate. They spent the evening together talking and when the sun rose she did not run. Afraid he would no longer love her in rags, she asked him how he felt about her. He said rags could not hide her beauty. They were married the next week. 

At the wedding there were two unknown guests, a black cat-like woman and an old man. The black cat-like woman disappeared shortly after the wedding festivities, but the old man was confused and stayed. The kitchen staff took pity on him and let him warm himself by the fire and fed him. He told them a story of two daughters who spent all his money and kicked him out to beg for his food.

 The next morning Moss Gown saw him and asked him if he knew who she was. He did not. She told him he was always welcome at her table and went in and told the first cook to plan a dinner with no salt. The old man pushed away the plate. Moss Gown handed him the saltcellar and said to him, "I love you the way meat loves salt." At that moment he knew it was his long-lost favorite daughter, Candace. The husband invited the father to stay with them as long as he wished. They all lived happily together with much celebration.

As you can see I saw so many connections to other Cinderella versions. I found this one to be so interesting and since it probably morphed from tales brought to America with the colonists, it seems like the perfect American version.

2 comments:

  1. Wow, as you said, a lot of older stories intertwine in this beautiful tale! I have to look for this book!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sounds like a lovely book and educational too.
    Thanks for linking up with Mummy Mondays.

    ReplyDelete

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