The piece being performed is a story the informant first heard when she was a little girl, at 8 or 9 years old (~1948). She said she thinks she heard it first at a little theatre group that used to put on plays. She was adamant that it was definitely something told out loud and not read from a book.
Me: Can you retell the bedtime story about the princess who could not cry for me?
Informant: Sure, so once upon a time there was this beautiful princess in a kingdom far far away. She had everything you could possibly want. She had toys, servants waiting on her and beautiful clothes. She couldn’t possibly want for anything else. However there was something that really really bothered the king and queen… and that was the fact that the princess never cried. If she was sick, she never cried. If she fell and hurt herself, she never cried. If any of her toys broke, she never cried. So the king puts out a proclamation. Anybody who could make the princess cry would receive a grand award. They could receive anything they want. So, they had court jesters who would come in and would do strange things. They would hit each other, be mean to each other, still the princess didn’t cry. Then they had some scary people come in with funny looking faces and scary costumes, and still the princess never cried. Then they had some people come in and start breaking up her dolls and toys. She still did not cry. And after all this, the king and the queen were so distraught. They were besides themselves. Remember, the proclamation said that anybody in the kingdom would could make the princess cry would receive the award and have anything they want. So this one day, a little old lady, kind of dressed like a peasant, comes with a basket, covered by a towel. She approaches the palace gates and says, “I have come to make the princess cry.” The guards say, “get out of here you old lady, you couldn’t possibly a make the princes cry.” They were so loud that the king heard them, and he said “whats going on out here?” The guards said “this old lady thinks she can make the princess cry.” The king was so desperate, that he opened the gates and let the old lady come in. They get the princess and bring her to the old lady. The old lady takes the towel off the basket, and inside are a couple of onions. So the old lady takes a knife and starts to cut and peel the onion. And with that, a tear wells up in her eyes, and the princess starts to cry. And everybody was so jubilant, finally the princess cried! And guess what, it only took that little old lady and a couple of onions to make the princess cry. Everyone was jubilant and lived happily ever after.
Me: What do you think is the significance of the story?
Informant: It is not a perfect world, you can live in a kingdom and be a princess and there can still be things wrong with your life. And eve though its a king and a queen, they were still concerned about their child, wanted her to be normal and they knew it was not normal for her to never cry/be emotionless.
My Interpretation: My grandma used to tell me this story before bed when I was a little girl. I knew it by heart when I was younger, but I distinctly remember always asking her to tell it to me again. I find it so compelling because the it does not have an obvious moral lesson as most short stories do. My take away is to think outside the box. There may be a simple solution to a problem that takes a little extra thinking to figure out. When I was younger, I just used the story as an excuse to stay up past my bedtime and cuddle with my grandma.