Cap o’ Rushes

This post is part of a series.  To view the introduction to the series, click here.  Cap o’ Rushes is taken from a collection of English Fairy Tales.  The original is available here, via Project Gutenberg.


Once there was a very rich man who had three daughters. One day he thought he would try to find out how fond they were of him.

So he said to the first, “How much do you love me, my dear?”

“Why,” she said, “I love you as much as I love my life.”

“That’s good,” he said.

So he said to the second, “How much do you love me, my dear?”

“Why,” says she, “better nor all the world.”

“That’s good,” he said.

So he said to the third, “How much do you love me, my dear?”

“Why, I love you as fresh meat loves salt,” she said.

Let me tell you, when he heard her say that, he was very angry.

“You don’t love me at all,” he said, “and you cannot stay in my house anymore.” So he chased her out, and then he shut the door in her face.

So, she went away and walked on and on until she came to the edge of a marsh.  She gathered together a big pile of bulrushes and started to make them into a kind of a coat. When she was done, the coat covered her from her feet to the cap she made for her head, and it perfectly hid her fine clothes.

When she was done making her coat, she walked on and on until she came to a very large house.

She knocked on the door and asked, “Do you need a maid?”

“No, we don’t,” they said.

“I have nowhere else to go,” she said. “I ask no wages and will do any sort of work.”

“Well,” they said, “if you like to wash the pots and scrape the saucepans you may stay.”

So she stayed there and washed the pots and scraped the saucepans and did all the dirty work. And because she gave no name they called her Cap o’ Rushes because of the coat she had made for herself.

One day there was to be a great square dance a little way off, and everyone was allowed to go. Cap o’ Rushes said she was too tired to go, so even though all the other servants went, she stayed at home.  But when they were gone she took off with her cap o’ rushes, cleaned herself, and went to the dance. No one there was dressed as fine as her.

While the servants formed groups and danced around the outside, the wealthy families danced close to the stage.  The family that owned the home where Cap o’ Rushes worked was there too, but there was only seven in their group and they needed an eighth. But as soon as her bosses son saw her come in, he walked over to her and insisted that she join their group. She was happy to oblige him.

Cap o’ Rushes and the family had a great time, and many people enjoyed watching them, but before the show ended, she snuck out secretly and away she went home. When the other maids came back she was pretended to be asleep with her cap o’ rushes on.

The next morning they said to her, “You did miss a sight, Cap o’ Rushes!”

“What was that?” says she.

“The most beautiful lady you ever saw came there, dressed in the finest clothes. She danced with the family of the house, and the boss’ son never took his eyes off of her.”

“I think I would have like to have seen her,” Cap o’ Rushes said.

“Well, there’s going to be another dance this evening, and maybe she’ll be there again.”

But, when the evening came, Cap o’ Rushes said she was too tired to go with them. However, when they were gone, once again, she took off her cap o’ rushes, cleaned herself up, and away she went to the dance.

The boss’ son hoping to see her again, and when he saw her again, he insisted she join their circle again.  She agreed, and once again he never took his eyes off of her. But, before the dance was over, she snuck out secretly, and went straight home. When the maids came back she pretended to be asleep with her cap o’ rushes on.

The next day they said to her again, “Well, Cap o’ Rushes, you should have been there to see the lady. There she was again, wearing her fine clothes, moving lightly on her feet, and captivating everyone around her.”

“Well,” she said, “I would like to have seen her.”

“Well,” they said, “there’s a dance again this evening, and you must go with us, for she is sure to be there.”

But, once again, when the evening came, Cap o’ Rushes said she was too tired to go, and no matter what the other servants said, she stayed at home. But when they were gone she took off her cap o’ rushes, cleaned herself up, and away she went to the square dance.

The boss’ son was very glad when he saw her. Nobody else was allowed to be the eighth in their group. During a break, he asked to know her name, but she wouldn’t tell him. He asked to know where she came from, but she didn’t tell him. Finally, he gave her a ring and told her if he couldn’t see her again he didn’t think he would ever be happy without her.

Well, before the dance was over, she slipped out secretly once more, and home she went. When the maids came home she was pretending to be asleep with her cap o’ rushes on.

The next day the maid said to her, “There, Cap o’ Rushes, you didn’t come last night, and now you won’t see the lady, for there are no more dances.”

“Well I really would like to have seen her,” she said.

The boss’ son tried every way to find out where the lady had gone, but go where he might, and ask whom he might, he never heard a thing about her. He loved her so much, that when he couldn’t find her, his health got worse and worse until he was unable to leave his bed.

“Make some porridge for my son,” the master of the house said to the cook. “He’s dying for the love of that lady.”

The cook started gathering the materials to make porridge when Cap o’ Rushes came in.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“I’m going to make some porridge for the boss’ son,” said the cook. “He’s dying for love of the lady.”

“Let me make it,” said Cap o’ Rushes.

The cook refused at first, but at last she said yes, and Cap o’ Rushes made the porridge. When she had finished making it, she secretly slipped the ring into it before the cook took it upstairs.

The young man ate it and then he saw the ring at the bottom of his empty bowl.

“Send for the cook,” he demanded.

“Who made this porridge?” he asked when she arrived.

“I did,” says the cook, because she was worried she would get in trouble.

And he looked at her, “No, you didn’t. Just say who did it, and you won’t get in trouble.”

“In that case,” she said, “it was Cap o’ Rushes.”

“Send Cap o’ Rushes here,” he said, and the cook went to go get her.

“Did you make my porridge?” he asked when she opened his door.

“Yes, I did,” she said.

He held up the bowl with the ring still sitting on the bottom and asked, “Where did you get this ring?”

“I got it from the man who gave it to me,” she said.

“Who are you then?” asked the young man.

“I’ll show you,” she said and took off her cap o’ rushes, and there she was in her beautiful clothes.

The boss’ son started to feel better very soon. Their relationship grew quickly and they were very quickly engaged. His family said it had to be a grand wedding, and everyone was invited from far and near. Cap o’ Rushes’ father was invited too, but she never told anybody who she was.

Before the wedding she went to the cook, and said, “I want you to dress every dish without a mite of salt.”

“Everything will taste nasty,” said the cook.

“It’s my wedding,” Cap o’ Rushes said, “so don’t worry about the taste.”

“Very well,” said the cook.

The wedding-day came, and they had a beautiful ceremony. After they were married all the guests sat down to the dinner. When they began to eat the meat, it was so tasteless that nobody could eat it. Cap o’ Rushes’ father also tried first one dish and then another, and then he burst out crying.

“What is the matter?” the groom asked him.

“Oh,” he said. “I had a daughter. And I asked her how much she loved me. And she said ‘As much as fresh meat loves salt,’ but I turned her from my door, for I thought she didn’t love me. And now I see she loved me best of all. But now, I have no idea where she is or what has happened to her.”

“No, father, here she is!” says Cap o’ Rushes. And she goes up to him and puts her arms round him.

Instantly the man recognized his long lost daughter, and they all lived happily ever after.

The Fish and The Ring

This post is part of a series.  To view the introduction to the series, click here.  The Fish and The Ring is taken from a collection of English Fairy Tales.  The original is available here, via Project Gutenberg.


Once upon a time there lived a rich man named Simon.  One day he met a wizard and paid him a large amount of money to get a little bit of spiritual power. So the wizard gave him a book called “Providence” and told him that if he ever wanted to know what was going to happen, he only needed to open the book.

The wizard was right; every time Simon opened the book, he could look into the future. He used this book and its power to become even more wealthy than he was before. He became a Baron and lived in a large castle on a large piece of land and had many servants working for him.

Simon also married a beautiful woman from a rich family. The day came when they had a son together who would inherit all of Simon’s riches when he died. So, when the little lad was about four years old, the Baron looked in his Book of Providence, wishing to know what his fortune would be.

And, lo and behold, it was written that this much-loved, much-prized heir to all the great lands and castles was to marry a girl from a very poor family. So the Baron was very sad, and he checked with Providence to see if this girl was already born, and if so, where she lived. And he found out that she had just been born in a very poor house, where the poor parents were already having trouble taking care of their other five children. So he called for his horse and rode away, and away, until he came to the poor man’s house.

There he found the poor man sitting at his doorstep shaking his head.

“What is the matter, my friend?” he asked.

The poor man replied, “May it please your honour, a little lass has just been born to our house. We have five children already. Where the bread is to come from to fill the sixth mouth, we do not know.”

“If that your only trouble,” Simon said quickly, “perhaps I can help you. Don’t be so sad and down-hearted. I am just looking for such a little lass to join my family. I will give you ten crowns for her.”

Well, the man almost jumped for joy, since he was to get good money, and his daughter, so he thought, would get a good home. He told his wife to bring the baby outside and he explained everything to her. She cried and cried because she loved her baby very much, but she agreed that this was the best thing for her family. The Baron took the baby in his arms, gave her parents the ten crowns he promised, and rode away on his horse.

But when he got to the river, he stopped. He got off his horse and placed the little lass in a basket and put the basket in the river.

“This river will carry you far away from here,” he said, “and you will have to marry someone else.”

Once again he mounted his horse and galloped back toward his castle.

Looking back at the river, he said, “So much for Providence!”

But, you see, he was sorely mistaken. For the little lass was carried by the stream only a short distance and soon the basket caught a snag just opposite a fisherman, who was mending his nets.

Now the fisherman and his wife had no children, and they were just longing for a baby, so when the good man saw the little lass he was overcome with joy, and took her home to his wife, who received her with open arms. And there she grew up, the apple of their eyes, and became the happiest and most beautiful girl in that whole country.

Now, when she was about sixteen years of age, it so happened that the Baron and his friends went hunting along the banks of the river and stopped to get a drink of water at the same fisherman’s hut. And who should bring the water out but the fisherman’s daughter. Now the young men of the party noticed how pleasant and beautiful she was.

One of them said to the Baron, “She should be able to marry a man with some money. You can tell the future, Simon, tell us her fate.”

Then the Baron, hardly looking at her, said, “I could guess her fate! She will likely only marry some poor yokel. But, to please you, I will see what Providence says about her. So tell me, girl, what day you were born?”

“That I cannot tell, sir,” replied the girl, “for I was picked up in the river about sixteen years ago.”

Then the Baron became very worried, for he guessed at once that she was the little lass he had thrown into the stream, and that Providence had been stronger than he was. But he kept his discovery secret. Afterwards, however, he thought out a plan, so he rode back and gave the girl a letter.

“I wish to help you,” he said. “Take this letter to my brother, who needs a good girl for his household, and you will be settled for life.”

Now the fisherman and his wife were growing old and needed help, so the girl said she would go, and took the letter.

And the Baron rode back to his castle saying to himself once more, “So much for Providence!”

For what he had written in the letter was this:

“Dear Brother,
Take the one carrying this letter and throw her immediately into your dungeon.”

But once again he was sorely mistaken. On the way to the town where his brother lived, the girl had to stop the night in a little inn. And it so happened that that very night a gang of thieves broke into the inn. They were not content with carrying off all that the innkeeper possessed, so they searched the pockets of the guests too. When they asked the girl for her gold, she explained that the only thing of value she was carrying was the letter. When they read it, they agreed that it was a mean trick the Baron was playing and a shame that such a kind girl faced such a cruel end.

So their captain sat down and, taking pen and paper, wrote instead:

“Dear Brother,
Take the one carrying this letter and treat her like the princess she is.”

Then, after putting the note into an envelope and sealing it up, they gave it to the girl and told her to be on her way. So when she arrived at the brother’s castle, though rather surprised, he gave orders for a feast to be prepared to celebrate her arrival.

The Baron’s son was also staying with his uncle. He had started to distrust his father and he had become more and more suspicious of the dishonest ways that he had earned his wealth.  Over time, as he grew to appreciate the girl’s great beauty and marvel at her many talents, he quickly started to fall in love with her. She too, was quickly falling in love with him. Well, when the news was brought to the Baron, that the girl was being hosted as a princess rather than being locked in a dungeon, he was beside himself. Still, he was determined not to be outdone by Providence. So he rode right away to his brother’s castle and pretended to be quite pleased.

Then one day, when no one was nearby, he asked the young woman to come for a walk with him.  As they walked, they came to a bridge over a large and fast-moving river.  There, he took hold of her arms, and was trying to throw her over into the water. But she begged for him to stop.

“It is not my fault,” she said. “I have done nothing. Please, if you don’t hurt me, I promise that I will never see you or your son again until you desire it.”

Well, the Baron let go of her arms agreed to her idea. So he took off his gold ring from his finger and flung it far down the river, where the water was deep and dark and the water swirled around from the rapids.

“Never dare to show me your face again,” Simon said, “until you can show me that very same ring.”

And with that he let her go.

The girl wandered on, and she wandered on, until she came to a different nobleman’s castle. She inquired if they needed a servant girl, and she was hired to work in the kitchen. Since she was used to such work in the fisherman’s hut, she was soon recognized for her ability to cook.

Now one day, as she was cleaning a big fish, she looked out of the kitchen window, and who should she see driving up to dinner but the Baron and his young son. At first she thought that, to keep her promise, she must run away, but she remembered they would not see her in the kitchen, so she went on with her cleaning of the big fish.

Lo and behold! she saw something shine in its inside, and there, sure enough, was the Baron’s ring! She was glad to see it, I can tell you, so she slipped it on to her thumb. But she went on with her work, and dressed the fish as nicely as ever she could, and served it up as pretty as may be, with parsley sauce and butter.

Well, when the fish came to table the guests liked it so well that they asked the host who cooked it. And he called to his servants, “Send up the cook who cooked that fine fish, that she may get her reward.”

Well, when the girl heard she was wanted she made herself ready, and with the gold ring on her thumb, went boldly into the dining-hall. When all the guests saw her were struck dumb by her wonderful beauty. The Baron’s young son stood up, happy to once again see his true love. Simon recognized her too, and jumped up angrily and looked as if he would hit her.

Without one word, the girl held up her hand before his face, and the gold ring shone and glittered on it. She went straight up to Simon, and laid her hand with the ring on it before him on the table. Then the Baron understood that Providence had been too strong for him, so he took her by the hand, and, placing her beside him, turned to the guests and said: “This woman is more noble than I. Let us drink a toast in her honour.”

And after dinner he took her and his son home to his castle, and they were married soon after.  On the day of the wedding feast, he threw his book Providence into the fire and promised to make an honest living from that day forward.  The Baron also invited the fisherman and his wife and the girls poor parents to come live with them at the castle.  Together they all lived as happy as could be forever afterwards.

Anabaptist Fairy Tales

One of my favourite duties as a father of young children is putting them to bed.  It’s nice to settle them down after an active day (easier said than done for some kids). I like being able to hold them close. I love hearing them say “good night” and “I love you,” even if it’s just in response to me saying the same things.

Bedtime is also an important time for me as a parent to establish rituals of hygiene, tidiness and spirituality.  I don’t mind helping them brush their teeth, clean their rooms or say their bedtme prayers, but I often dread the bedtime story.

It’s hard to find good children’s stories.  The vocabulary isn’t always accessible.  The morals are often overly simplistic or obviously representative of one particular school of thought.  I know my kids like them, but there are of kid’s books that I would be happy if I never had to read them again.

Lately, I’ve been taking my Playbook with me to story time and reading from a collection of classic fairy tales.  Anything out of copyright can easily accessed online and my 7″ tablet makes it easy to take them bed with my kids.  There is certainly a lot nostalgic value to them, but as I read, I found I was editting out certain content.  It struck me that I should probably record the edits I was making, and that maybe other people would enjoy these revised fairy tales.

This will be my revision criteria:

1. Less death – One could argue that we, and our children, are too sheltered from death and dying.  It is clear that even a few generations ago young children were much more aware of and comfortable with the possibility of death.  Maybe we do need to do a better job of teaching our kids about mortality, but the bedtime story is neither the time or the place for that.  So, when the bad guys threaten to kill people, I will soften the blow.

2. Fewer gender-based limitations – I take pride in being able to buy things for my kids, and I’m old fashioned enough that I will buy Disney Princess stuff for my daughter but “progressive” enough that I’m uncomfortable with some of it when I get it home.  That being said, I think we can easily overdo the “you can be anything you want to be” message.  Most of us cannot be anything we want to be, regardless of gender.  At some point we all need to realize and work within the realistic limitations we face.  In my world, my daughter has just as many career options as my son, and I’m fine with that. It doesn’t mean, however, that the idea should be drilled into her head in her bedtime stories.  These stories often include the heroine taking matters into her own hands, and I will highlight that.  Male heroes will need to me multi-dimensional as well.  Villains can still be one-dimensionally evil, I’m fine with that.

3. Anabaptist worldview – Not every bedtime story needs to be a Bible story, there doesn’t always have to be a moral.  But in cases where certain details can be moulded to fit a 16th century Radical Reformation understanding, I’ll do that.

I will also make the text files available so that others can put these stories on their tablets and use as bedtime stories.