USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Cinderella’
Game
Gestures
Musical

Cinderella Jump rope rhyme

Cinderella Jump rope rhyme

 

Text

Cinderella dressed in yella

Went downstairs to kiss a fella

By mistake she kissed a snake

How many doctors did it take

One!

Two!

Three!

(Etc.)

 

Background

The informant use to sing this song while playing double dutch jump rope with her girl friends at recess. She said she originally learned the song from her mother but her friends had already heard of it before she brought it up to them. They would sing the song and then count how many times the girl playing double dutch could jump over the rope.

 

Context

The informant is a student in Southern California and grew up Laguna Beach where she attended a public school in a nice area.

 

Thoughts

At first glance, this song seems like a catchy jingle to play jump rope to, but this rhyme has  much deeper historical, misogynistic roots. The jingle was originally created to discourage young girls from being sexually promiscuous. Because Cinderella “kissed a fella,” she was attacked by a snake. Additionally, the song embodies this underlying concept that people may not always be what they seem. When Cinderella thought she was kissing a man, she was actually kissing a snake. Snakes are typically representative of a deceptive trickster in folklore. In the Judeo-Christian faith, for example, the snake tricked Eve into eating the forbidden fruit.

 

Childhood
Musical

Cinderella Dressed in…What??

Megan is a sophomore in my french class. I’ve known her for a year. She’s a sweet, very soft spoken intelligent girl. She loves horseback riding. She’s majoring in creative writing and wants to be a screenwriter for Pixar one day.

When I first introduced the topic folklore and then mentioned childhood rhymes, riddles, and songs, one of the first things that popped into her head was this song:

“Cinder-ella, dressed in yell-ah

Went upstairs, to kiss, a fell-ah

Made a mis-take, and kissed a snake

Came downstairs, with ah belly-ache

How Many doooctors did-it-take

One…Two…Three…”

It’s a song girls sing when they’re jumping rope. I remember all the different variations of this form of folklore:

Cinderella, dressed in green,
Went upstairs to eat ice cream.
How many spoonfuls did she eat?
One, two, three

Cinderella, dressed in brown
Went upstairs to make a gown
How many stitches did she use?
One, two, three

Analysis: One of the more fun parts about being a girl is being able to sing silly things about the toys and characters you love without seeming too odd. Boys aspire to be astronauts, cowboys, police officers, doctors, chefs and more. But all little girls will tell you at least once in their lifetime that they want to be a princess. Whether they were 8 years old and playing on the playground or a 43 year old mother who only wishes to be spoiled and pampered by her prince. Songs like this play into our culture as a reminder that we can still have our imagination while understanding the truth; reality. Yes, we may not be princesses, so let’s make a little fun of Cinderella or whomever. It also keeps the character alive. While slightly teasing the character, little girls bring the princess to the playground and engulf themselves in an environment where they can run around their own princesses.

general

Yeh-Shen, A Chinese Cinderella

My informant was a kindergarten teacher for a Chinese school me that she has presented this story many times before. It was therefore very rehearsed and unusually eloquent.

Informant: “Yeh-Shen was born to Chief Wu and his wife. However soon a sickness overtook them both, so she was reared by her stepmother. The stepmother didn’t like Yeh-Shen for she was more beautiful and kinder than her own daughter so she treated her poorly by giving her the worst chores.

She only had one friend at that was a fish with golden eyes in the pond. Each day the fish came out of the water onto the bank to be fed by Yeh-Shen. Yen-Shen had little food for herself but she still shared with the fish. Her stepmother hearing about the fish put on Yeh-Shen’s coat and went to the pond. The fish swam up thinking it was to be fed, and she stabbed it with a dagger, and cooked the fish for dinner.

Yeh-Shen was upset over the death of the fish and sat crying next to the river. Suddenly and old spirit appeared and told her that the bones of the fish were filled with a powerful spirit, and that when she was in serious need she was to kneel before the bones and wish on them with her heart’s desires. Yeh-Shen retrieved the bones and hid them.

Spring came and with it, the spring festival. Yeh-Shen was forbidden from going to the spring festival. After the stepmother and sister left, she went to the bones wishing for clothes to wear to the festival. She got a beautiful gown and cloak and golden slippers with a pattern of scaled fish. She went to the festival and everyone was dazzled by her beauty. However her stepmom and sister moved closer and she feared being caught, so she ran, leaving behind one slipper. When she arrived home she was dressed again in her rags. She spoke again to the bones, but they were now silent. Saddened she put the one golden slipper in her bedstraw. After a time a merchant found the lost slipper, and seeing the value in the golden slipper sold it to the King.

The king wanted to find the owner of this tiny beautiful slipper. He sent his people to search the kingdom but no ones foot would fit in the tiny golden slipper. He put it on display in an area near where it was found. All the women came to try on the shoe but it didn’t fit. Until one night Yeh-Shen slipped quietly across the pavilion, took the tiny golden slipper and turned to leave, but the king’s men rushed out and arrested her. She was taken to the king who was furious for he couldn’t believe that any one in rags could possibly own a golden slipper. As he looked closer at her face he was struck by her beauty and he noticed she had the tiniest feet.

The king and his men returned home with her where she produced the other slipper. As she slipped on the two slippers her rags turned into the beautiful gown and cloak she had worn to the festival. The king realized that she was the one for him. They married and lived happily ever after. However, the stepmother and daughter were never allowed to visit Yeh-Shen and were forced to continue to live in their cave.

Informant: “It’s my favorite story. I know it by heart and I’ve told it so many times I can’t count.”

Me: “What do you think the moral of the story is?”

Informant: “Be a kind-hearted soul and you’ll be rewarded! I mean, fish are lucky symbols in China, and there’s the whole Buddhist thing too about not taking another life.”

Analysis: This story is a variation of what was thought to be the original Cinderella story. My informant was correct when she assumed that the story had certain Buddhist influences – it is against the religion to take another life, regardless of what it is. Thus the stepmother is ultimately punished for killing the fish.

In Chinese culture, there will often be more fish symbols around Chinese New Year. That’s because the word for fish “Yu” sounds like the word for ‘extra’. Fish are therefore a symbol of wealth and prosperity, so we can see that this cultural aspect was included as a symbol within the story.

The motif of the tiny golden slipper relates to the Chinese tradition of foot-binding, and how women with smaller feet are thought to be more attractive. As we can see, the King is eager to find the owner of the slipper, but he has not met her beforehand. All he knows is the size of her foot.

The Grimm tale had the evil stepsister chop off a part of her foot to try to fit it into the small glass slipper, so it is interesting to note that this very unique cultural part of the tale (tiny feet equivalent to beauty) made it into the Western adaptations of Cinderella.

Annotation: Cinderella, Grimm Brothers

http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/grimm021.html

Narrative
Tales /märchen

Tam and Cam (Vietnamese Cinderalla Story) – Vietnam

Once upon a time there was a young girl named Tam, whose mother died early and so her father remarried. Soon after, her stepmother gave birth to a daughter named Cam. When Tam’s father died, stepmother began to abuse Tam and forced her to do all the housework, while Cam lived luxuriously. Stepmother’s hatred of Tam was intensified by the fact that Tam was much more beautiful and fair than her own daughter Cam, even though Tam was forced to do all the laboring under the sun.
One day, stepmother sent Tam and Cam to fish, promising to reward the girl who caught the most fish with a new, red silk Ao yem. Cam knew her mother would never punish her and so played carelessly while Tam worked hard fishing. When Cam noticed all the fish Tam had caught, Cam advised Tam to wash the mud out of her hair or else she would be scolded by mother. As Tam washed her hair, Cam poured all the fish Tam had caught into her own basket and ran home.

When she discovered she had been tricked, Tam sobbed until the Goddess of Mercy (or in some versions, the Buddha) appeared to her and comforted her. She told Tam to look into her basket to discover the one remaining little carp. She told Tam to take the carp home and put it into the well at the back of the house, reciting a special greeting whenever she came to feed it.
Everyday, Tam would come out to the well a few times to feed the carp, always reciting the greeting beforehand so that the carp would come up from the water. The carp grew fatter everyday that Tam fed it, and stepmother began to suspect Tam’s behavior. One day, stepmother sneaked out close to where Tam was feeding the fish. She waited until Tam was gone, and went over to the well, finding nothing. Stepmother repeated the greeting she had heard Tam reciting and to her delight, saw the carp come up from the water. Stepmother caught and killed it to put in her rice porridge.

When Tam discovered this, she broke into sobs. The Goddess of Mercy again appeared to Tam and consoled her, and instructed her to salvage the bones of the carp and bury them in four separate jars underneath each corner of her bed.
A short while later, the king hosted a large celebration. Tam pleaded to go along with Cam and stepmother, but stepmother schemed to keep Tam at home. Stepmother mixed together countless black and green beans and ordered Tam to sort them out before she was allowed to go (Tam did not have any decent clothes to wear anyway).

Tam waited until Cam and stepmother had gone for a while and called out to the Goddess of Mercy, who appeared and turned the nearby flies into sparrows that sorted the beans for Tam. Tam was then told to dig up the four jars from the corners of her bed, and found extravagant treasures in each, including a beautiful silk dress, jewelry, golden slippers and even a horse. Tam dressed herself splendidly and made her way to the celebration, but in her excitement she dropped a single slipper into the river.

The slipper flowed along the river until it was picked up by one of the king’s attendants. The king marveled at the beautiful slipper and proclaimed that any maiden at the celebration whose foot fit the slipper would be made into his first wife. Every eligible lady at the celebration tried on the slipper, including Cam, but all to no avail. Suddenly, a beautiful young girl dressed in a magnificent silk gown appeared whose foot fit perfectly into the slipper. Stepmother and Cam were shocked to discover the mysterious lady was Tam. Tam was immediately brought on the royal palanquin into the imperial palace for a grand wedding celebration, right in front of her seething stepmother and stepsister.
On Tam’s father’s death anniversary, Tam proved her filial duty and made a short visit home to honor the anniversary with her family, despite the abuse she had suffered at the hands of stepmother.

Stepmother asked Tam to climb an area tree and gather its betel nuts for her late father’s altar. Tam obeyed and as she climbed to the top of the tree, stepmother took an axe and chopped the tree down, so that Tam fell to her death. Cam put on her sister’s royal garb and entered the palace in her place. Tam had reincarnated into a nightingale and followed her sister into the palace.
The king remained despondent and dearly missed his late wife, while Cam tried hard to please him. One day, a palace maid hung out the king’s dragon robe to the sun, when the nightingale appeared to sing a song to remind the maid to be careful with her husband’s gown. The bird’s song captivated everyone who listened to it, and even drew the attention of the king. The king called out to the nightingale to land in the wide sleeves of his robe if it really was the spirit of his late wife. The nightingale did exactly as the king had asked and ever since then, it was put into a golden cage where the king spent most of his days as it sang songs to him. Cam became increasingly incensed and asked her mother what she should do. Her mother instructed her to catch the bird and eat it. Cam did as she was told and after skinning it, threw the feathers over the gate of the palace.

From the feathers of the nightingale rose a tree bearing a single, magnificent fruit. A poor old woman who worked as a water vendor walked by one day and saw it, begging it to fall to her, and promising that she would not to eat it, only admire it. Indeed it fell to her, and she did not eat it. The next day, the old woman found that when she came home from her errands, the housework was done while she was gone and there was a hot meal waiting for her. The next day she pretended to leave but stayed back to spy, when she saw Tam emerge from the fruit and begin to do the household chores. The old woman emerged and tore up the peel so Tam could no longer turn back.
One day, the king, lost while hunting, stopped by the hut. The old woman offered him betel, and when the king saw how the betel had been prepared, in the peculiar special way his late queen had always prepared it he asked who had prepared the betel. The old woman told him her daughter had done it, and the king made her produce the daughter, and saw it was Tam. He was overjoyed and Tam was brought back into the palace as the king’s first wife.

Cam was distressed and saw that Tam was as beautiful and pale as ever. She begged Tam to reveal her secret of how she was so beautiful and fair-skinned, and that she would do anything to be as fair. Tam told her it was simple and that she would just have to jump into a basin of boiling water. Cam did and died.  The Queen survived both of them, and lived happily ever after, and she definitely deserved it.

The story appeals to me because at the end, good overcomes evil. It also has a dreamy quality, an Asian girl with envious white skin (most of us have dark skin), wearing beautiful clothes to meet the King and he falls in love with her.  It plays into every girl dream.  A side note, Tam also could reincarnate into the bird and the tree.  How cool is that?
This story was collected over telephone, because Dr. Ren is very busy.  On one hand, it is a feel good story because Tam prevailed in the end, but it is a much more gruesome story than the Cinderella story Disney has made popular.  Especially with the “sequels” Disney makes that ensures everyone ends up a good guy and happy (such as Cinderella 2, when one of the stepsisters finds love).  But this story reminds me of what we talked about in class, and how originally children’s stories were filled with violence and sex. I don’t consider having Tam tell her sister to jump into boiling water to her death particularly kid-friendly.  Or the fact that Cam and her mother killed Tam numerous times.  But I agree with Dr. Ren that having Tam reincarnate as a bird and a tree is pretty cool, because there isn’t any reincarnation in Filipino culture.
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