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Day One
Day Two
Day Three
Day Four
Tale of Tales Day Five

  a poetic rendition of

                                                Day 5, Tale 4

Iron Shoes​

A gardener once was very poor. 
To make his daughters’ lives secure
he gave them each a little sow. 
These pigs will be your dowries now.
The eldest grazed theirs on a lee. 
There is, they said, no room for three.

Thus Parmatella, banished so, 
was forced to take her sow and go
to find another spot. She did. 
A glade within a forest hid
a tree whose leaves were made of gold. 
She plucked one, which her father sold.

Where from? he asked. She would not tell. 
No, father, it is just as well
you do not know, lest fortune flee. 
You leave the picking up to me.
She picked the leaves, picked on and on 
till every single leaf was gone.

The tree had given up its fruit.  
But still it had a golden root.
She fetched an ax and laid it bare.  
Beneath it was a crystal stair
and at the bottom she beheld  
a palace in which no one dwelled.

Within there was a dining hall,  
and no one was about at all.
A splendid table was replete 
with food, so she sat down to eat.
And while she dined a slave came in, 
a handsome man with darkened skin.

I beg you not to run away. 
I want you for my wife. Please stay.
I’ll make you happy. Through her fright  
she managed to gasp out, All right.
And then, when it was night, he said, 
It’s time for you to go to bed,

but first blow out the candle flame. 
If you do not, I’m not to blame
for what ill fortune might betide. 
She slept, and he lay down beside.
Though she’d been cautioned not to peep, 
next night when he lay fast asleep

she lit a lamp and raised the sheet. 
His beauty shone from head to feet.
Then suddenly he woke and cursed, 
Oh, Parmatella, you’ve reversed
my fortune. Now I must remain  
for seven years bound by a chain,

a punishment which, but for you, 
alas, was very nearly through.
Your curious mind has been the cost. 
Outside, in rags, alone and lost, 
with lowered head she trudged the wood, 
when all at once a fairy stood

before her and exclaimed, My child, 
I weep for you. You’ve been exiled
to face a ghastly destiny.  
But here I hold the remedy.
I’ve seven spindles, seven figs, 
a jar of honey and some twigs.

They’re yours along with seven pair 
of iron shoes which you must wear
in turn until you’ve worn them out. 
Then stand quite still and look about.
Seven women you will see, 
all spinning from a balcony.

Their threads which reach down to the ground 
use human bones to wrap around.
Use spindles to rewind the threads, 
smear honey on the spindle heads,
and stop with figs. And then when they 
have drawn them up, you’ll hear them say, 

‘He who made my spindle sweet 
shall, in his turn, good fortune meet.
Come show yourself.’ Don’t say a word. 
Don’t move one inch until you’ve heard
each one of them in turn exclaim, 
by swearing on their brother’s name,

‘By Thunder-and-Lightning I agree 
no harm will come to you from me.’
She walked for seven years. One day 
the seventh pair of shoes gave way
and there just as the fairy said 
were seven women spinning thread.

She went to find out who they were. 
At once they heaped abuse on her.
You traitor! You’re the reason he 
was forced back into slavery
for seven more years on top of those 
he’d served, and which were near their close.

But hasten! Hide behind that sack.  
Our mother comes. You clutch her back
and hold on tight until she’s sworn 
by Thunder-and-Lightning, her first born,
she will not eat you.Then let go. 
She cannot hurt you then, you know. 

Enraged at being tricked that way, 
the ghula shrieked, I’ll make you pay!
I’ll find a way to eat you yet. 
I’m after you, and don’t forget.
You’ll do my chores. You’ll work for me. 
Your first responsibility?

Here’s twelve sacks filled with mixed-up beans. 
You separate by any means
each lentil, rice and bean and pea, 
and put each where it ought to be.
By dinner time, if you’re not through, 
my dinner will consist of you.

Oh, woe is me. My hopes are dim, 
and all because I looked at him,
she cried. It seems I’ve sunk my boat  
to end up in a ghula’s throat.
But Thunder-and-Lightning, curse complete, 
flashed into view right at her feet.

Although he called her traitor, still 
he loved her. Do not cry, you will
be saved by me. Have no more fear.  
He made a throng of ants appear
to sort the beans, which then they did. 
She said, I’ve done as you have bid.

On seeing this, the ghula yelped, 
It’s obvious that you’ve been helped!
But you’ll be sorry, hated miss. 
Next job is to accomplish this:
By evening, these twelve mattress sacks 
must lie in perfect, fluffy stacks

all stuffed with feathers. If you fail, 
you’ll wind up in the supper pail.
Parmatella had no hope,  
but Thunder-and-Lightening said, Don’t mope. 
Lie on the ground and kick and scream. 
Cry out, ‘I’ve had a dreadful dream.

The king of birds is dead!’ You’ll see  
your feathers gathered instantly.
The birds flew in from here and there. 
Their feathers fluttered everywhere.
Within an hour she had enough  
material with which to stuff

twelve mattresses and even more. 
The ghula cursed her as before.
But then she said with utmost grace, 
Run off, dear, to my sister’s place.
Tell her my son will marry soon,  
in fact, tomorrow afternoon.

She has the music instruments 
we use for all our grand events.
She had already told the dame 
the instant Parmatella came
to slice her neck and cook her up. 
The ghula then would come to sup.

In fact, that would have been the case 
had not our hero seen her face.
No! said Thunder-and-Lightning, Wait. 
She’s sent you to an awful fate.
Listen now to what I say. 
You take this loaf and bunch of hay

and take, as well, this heavy log. 
When you arrive, you’ll see a dog.
Throw him the loaf. He will not bite. 
And next a horse will give you fright.
Give him the hay. He’ll let you go. 
A door will clatter to and fro

with angry bangs, but you provide 
the log to lean against its side.
Then go to where the ogress stands. S
he’ll have her baby in her hands.
The oven is prepared for you. 
She’ll say, ‘Please hold the baby, do,

I’ll fetch the instruments from the shed.’ 
She’s gone to file her tusks instead.
You throw the baby in the fire. 
Take up the box that you require.
You’ll find it right behind the door. 
Run faster than you’ve run before.

Oh run, dear Parmatella, run. 
She’ll soon find out she’s been undone.
The ogress loosed an anguished wail. 
She sought for help, to no avail.
Stop her, my door! Shut now with speed!  
It stood ajar. It would not heed. 

I will not use the poor girl ill. 
She has, at last, made me stand still.
The horse gave answer in like kind. 
There is no help from me, you’ll find.
Let the maiden go her way 
for she has given me the hay.

Nor would the dog impede her flight. 
For once he had been treated right.
I’ll harm not one hair of her head 
for it was she who gave me bread.
Thus, she was saved. Meanwhile the bride 
was standing at the ghula’s side.

A harpy and an evil shade, 
no uglier was ever made.
Though wondering what went wrong, At least 
we’re going to have the wedding feast,
the ghula said. And it was grand. 
Thunder-and-Lightning, behind his hand,

said, Parmatella, tell me true. 
Do you love me as I love you?
If I said no, I’d be remiss.   
Then if you do give me a kiss.
Nay. Better kiss that lovely mate, 
with whom you’re going to procreate.

Oh, you’re a fool, the bride declared. 
Why turn him down? Love should be shared.
I have allowed my skirt to lift  
for those who bore a simple gift.
Her wanton words inflamed his brain  
and filled the groom with such disdain,

that Thunder-and-Lightning took a knife  
and with it he cut short her life.
Beneath the house he dug a pit, 
and buried her and covered it.
Then he and Parmatella wept, 
and they embraced, and then they slept.

The ghula could not trust her eyes  
next morning, when, to her surprise
the happy pair lay intertwined. 
She ran off through the woods to find
her sister had bid life adieu 
and jumped into the oven too.

She changed into a ram, from gall, 
and beat her brains out on the wall.
And now, with peace once more restored 
with her whom they had once abhorred,
the sisters blessed the happy two. 
They lived in bliss their whole lives through.