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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Fairy Tales in Different Cultures: Sugar Cane: A Caribbean Rapunzel


Have you  missed our Fairy Tales in Different Cultures lately? Sorry. My life got so crazy I had trouble getting the posts done. However in honor of "visiting" Jamaica this month with Around the World in 12 Dishes, I thought I would jump to a Rapunzel story and share Sugar Cane: A Caribbean Rapunzel by Patricia Storace. Since Jamaica is in the Caribbean, it seemed fitting. We have already looked at Cendrillon: A Caribbean Cinderella by Robert D. San Souci last February. First a bit about the Caribbean. (A Side Note: I will not be featuring a fairy tale next week, but instead will feature some multicultural Christmas books to check out.)


CIA map of the Caribbean
Source: By U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) 
[Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The Caribbean consists of the Caribbean Sea, its islands and surrounding coasts. The Caribbean islands are considered a subregion of  North America. The island countries in the Caribbean include Anguilla, Antigua-and-Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Martinique, Montserrat, Netherlands Antilles, Puerto Rico, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Kitts-and-Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin, Saint Vincent-and-the-Grenadines, Trinidad-and-Tobago, Turks-and-Caicos Islands, and United States Virgin Islands. (Source) There are thousands of islands in the Caribbean. The islands have a tropical climate.


St. Croix
Before European contact it was estimated that there was 750,000 inhabitants. Due to disease and social contact, the numbers declined. The population rose as slaves from Africa were brought in. The Caribbean is now a mix of mostly Spanish, French and Dutch-Caribbeans as well as the descendents from the slaves of Africa and Ireland. Since so many different countries are in the Caribbean the population is diverse.



Now onto our story!  This story is begins with a fisherman and his wife on an island in the Caribbean. The wife announces that she is pregnant. Then a few days later she begins craving sugar cane. The husband tries to bring her other sweet things since sugar cane is only available in the center of the island and not near the beach, but she insists on sugar cane. Finally he agrees to get her some. He walks a long way and stops for lunch and a nap in a forest. When he awakes he finds a path to a beautiful coral house with a large garden with every plant that grows on the island in it. He knocks on the door, but no one answers. He decides to take a few sugar cane. His wife is ecstatic to get it, but her cravings continue. He goes back and finds the house again and knocks again. No one answers so he takes a few more canes, but this time he is caught and the sugar cane grow around him like a jail. A masked woman comes and she is a famous sorceress named Madame Fate. She tells him that she will take sugar cane from him since he took sugar cane from her. She already knew the baby would be a girl and named Sugar Cane. She tells him she will come for the baby on her first birthday.


Caña de Azucar
Source: By Cmales (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], 
via Wikimedia Commons

The fisherman tried to hide his family on Sugar Cane's first birthday, but Madame Fate found them and took Sugar Cane. The parents searched for Madame Fate's house, but they never found it again. Madame Fate took Sugar Cane to the rocky coast and put her in a tower overlooking the sea. Sugar Cane was given a pet green monkey named Callaloo for company.Sugar Cane grew more beautiful every day. When Madame Fate came to visit she would Sugar Cane to let down her hair. Madame Fate educated Sugar Cane by bringing people back from the dead to teach her. An angel from the heavenly choir taught her to sing. As much as Sugar Cane appreciated her spirit teachers and her monkey, she longed for human company. At night she would stand at her window and sing.

One night a fisherman called "King" heard Sugar Cane singing. Now "King" got his name because he was the King of Song. When he heard Sugar Cane's voice singing words to a song he was making up in his head, he looked up and saw the girl. Just then Madame Fate came to visit. He saw her climb up Sugar Cane's hair. He stayed on his boat and watched Madame Fate leave. He went to investigate the tower and found there was no other way in besides the girl's hair. He chanted the song he heard Madame Fate sing to get the hair and climbed up. Sugar Cane was startled when she saw King. King was very polite and she was excited to meet someone new and someone so handsome. Sugar Cane and King began to play and sing music together. Soon the morning came and Sugar Cane told King he had to leave. He promised to come again. He kept coming and started to bring her jewels. Sugar Cane began to weave a ladder from her hair strands. She would work on it on the nights King did not visit her. She knew she wanted to leave the tower and marry King. 

Jamaica sunrise
Jamaican Sunrise Source: By Adam L. Clevenger (Own work)
[CC-BY-SA-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

Madame Fate noticed Sugar Cane's joy and became suspicious. She started to make surprise visits to Sugar Cane. One night she brought Sugar Cane a dress and found one of the jewels from King. She became so angry hearing about King, Madame Fate cut Sugar Cane's hair and threw it out the window. Then Madame Fate locked Sugar Cane in her room. Sugar Cane rushed to get out her ladder and escape from Madame Fate and her fury. When she and Callaloo got the bottom she did not know where to go. She did not see King's boat. Callaloo had grabbed some of the jewels before leaving and he hoped these would save them. One of the things he grabbed was the coral necklace her mother had made her for her first birthday. It no longer fit her neck, but she put it on her wrist. Then they heard Madame Fate chant and the ocean opened like a tiger's mouth. Sure they were going to be pulled to the bottom of the sea, they tried to run, but the next thing they knew they were carried on a large wave to the capital city. Sugar Cane was lost and did not know where to go. She searched for King and King searched for her. Months later King found her. They were married shortly after. During their first dance, a woman in the crowd recognized the bracelet on Sugar Cane's wrist as the necklace she made for her lost daughter's first birthday. Sugar Cane was reunited with her parents and the dancing continued and continued. 

One of the things I liked about reading this version is it does talk about some of the life in the Caribbean. The story describes the nets they sleep under and black cake. It definitely gives you a feel for life in the Caribbean.