THE CINDERELLA CAT
Day 1, Tale 6
retold in rhyme by Laura J. Bobrow
A prince, a widower, re-wed. But no one understood
why he would take an evil wife. His first had been so good.
His princess had been elegant, a veritable jewel,
but this one was a termagant, impossible and cruel.
She pretended to the prince that she was lovable and mild,
but she made each day a horror for his only living child,
a daughter named Zezolla, who took her tales of woe
to the woman who’d been hired to teach Zezolla how to sew.
I wish you were my mother! Hush, my child, I wish it, too.
And if you’ll heed what I will say, your wish might yet come true.
Your stepmother keeps dresses in the storeroom in a chest.
They’re old and torn. Tell her that you’d be willing to be dressed
in one of those. She’ll very gladly do as you have bid.
But while she rummages within, be sure you hold the lid.
Then bang the cover down. The weight will quickly break her spine.
She’ll die. And then we’ll find the way to make your father mine.
The deed was done. Zezolla set about to sway the prince
in favor of the seamstress. He was not hard to convince.
The marriage made, at first Zezolla’s teacher was a gem,
but with her came six daughters! She had never mentioned them.
Zezolla was neglected as the daughters took her place.
The prince forgot Zezolla, too, and, much to his disgrace,
allowed her to be treated not as daughter but as maid,
and sent her to the kitchen. It was there, alas, she stayed.
In misery she groveled in the ashes where she sat.
They soon forgot her name and called her Cinderella Cat.
One day, while in the garden, she was greeted by a dove.
Poor girl. We’ve seen what’s happened. And the fairies send their love.
I’ve come here from Sardinia. If ever you’ve a need
ask for the queen of fairies there and she will intercede.
I will, and thank you very much, our poor Zezolla sighed,
and tucking up her ragged skirts, she hurried back inside.
Now it happened that the prince one day had reason to set sail
for the island of Sardinia. If my business does not fail
I’ll bring you all some presents. Ask for anything you please.
The sisters asked for toys and jewels and rouge and fineries.
And you? he asked Zezolla almost as an afterthought.
I do want something, yes, but what I want cannot be bought.
You must greet the queen of fairies. And she’ll send me what she will.
But if you don’t, the boat you’re in won’t sail, but stay quite still.
When the prince forgot Zezolla’s wish, her vow came true. In short,
the boat in which he sailed for home refused to leave the port.
The captain had a dream in which a fairy told him why.
He told the prince who disembarked and hastened to comply.
He found the grotto where he muttered greetings to the queen.
and there appeared a fairy most spectacular in mien.
She smiled and said, Indeed, we know her. Give her this small tree,
and take as well the hoe, the cloth and golden pail you see.
Zezolla when she saw the tree knew what she had to do.
She planted it and watered it and dried its branches, too.
When it had grown as tall as she, within a day or two,
a fairy issued forth. I’m here to make your dreams come true.
Tell me, dear girl, is there a place you’d really like to go?
I’d like to leave the hearth some time, but no one else must know.
That’s simple. When you have the need, say these words to your tree:
‘I’ve tended you and watered you, now you must tend to me.
Strip off your leaves and clothe me.’ When you want the clothes no more
say, ‘Strip off these clothes and dress yourself and be just as before.’
The time soon came. The king announced that he would give a ball.
The girls were dressed in ribbons, bells and bows and flowers and all.
Zezolla longed to go and so she hastened to her tree
and said the magic tend me words. Magnificent to see,
she stood as finely dressed as any queen, and, primed to go,
was a prancing steed, all white, and twenty pages in a row.
Away she rode. The ladies at the ball were all abuzz.
The king was smitten deeply, and to find out who she was,
when she left sent servants after her to see which way she went,
but she dropped some coins behind and so outwitted their intent.
She sat among the ashes, ragged clothes and grime and all
when her sisters rushed inside to tell her all about the ball.
Oh, sister, we have never seen a lady quite so fair!
Zezolla only sighed and said, I wish that I’d been there.
The next ball came. Again Zezolla ran right to her tree.
I’ve tended you and watered you, now you must tend to me.
This time a band of fairies came to help her with her dress
and they so transformed Zezolla, who she was you would not guess.
They rouged and combed and clothed her and they put her in a coach
and she rode behind six horses. There were gasps at her approach.
When she left the king roared, Stick to her, like saucers to a cup.
But she threw down pearls and all the servants stopped to pick them up.
Another ball was held. Zezolla visited her tree.
I've tended you and watered you, now you must tend to me.
These clothes were even costlier, the coach was golden, too,
and on each foot a cork-soled shoe known as a patten shoe.
The king danced every dance with her. My lady, why so strange?
Zezolla longed to stay but had to fly back home to change.
The rushing wind assaulted her. It tore at everything.
Zezolla lost a patten. It was taken to the king.
And is this all I have of her, this patten that she wore?
But no. I’ll find her somehow. It is she that I adore.
The king announced a banquet. Every female must attend
be she noble, rich, or ragged, young or old, or foe or friend.
When the feast, which was magnificent, with food and drink the best,
was done, the king tried on the shoe on every single guest.
No match. He said, Tomorrow come and dine again with me
and let no woman stay at home whoever she might be.
The prince said, Sire, I have another daughter, if you please,
but she’s not worthy to partake of vittles such as these.
Bring her, the king commanded. And I’ll seat her at my right.
Next day Zezolla came. He recognized her at first sight.
They wined and dined and then he offered her the precious shoe.
It flew right to her foot and there it fitted snug and true.
He clasped her in his arms and placed a crown upon her head.
Her sisters nearly died of shame. Or so I’ve heard it said.
Copyright © 2019 Laura J. Bobrow. All rights reserved.