Goddess Bereginya – Storytelling for Everyone

Ukrainian Spirit of Protection

Bereginya – art by Lana Frey

The ancient Slavs believed in Bereginya – the Great Goddess that produced all things. Bereginya is basically a combination of  “hearth-mother,” associated with the guardianship, even of the nation itself, which is a trait of Mokosh, and the rusalka (feminine water spirits).

Bereginya has many similarities with rusalka. According to popular belief, a betrothed bride who had died before her wedding could easily turn into either a Bereginya or a rusalka. The main trait which sets Bereginyas apart from rusalkas is that they usually live in light instead of water.

On Rusalka or Trinity week, the time of flowering rye, Bereginyas and rusalkas would emerge from another world and haunt the earth. But come end of Rusalka week, and Rusalkas would leave earth and return to water. Bereginyas, on the other hand, would leave earth to go back to the light.

However, Bereginya has more power than a regular Rusalka. She is a protector of the family, and a protector of women – which is another trait of Mokoš.

Cult of Bereginya in Ukraine

Since the Ukrainian independence in 1991, she has undergone a folkloric metamorphosis, and is today identified as a combination of the “hearth-mother” (associated with the guardianship of the nation) and a rusalka.

This metamorphosis has its roots in the late 1980s, as several Ukrainian writers sought to personify their vision of an ideal Ukrainian woman. Consequently, Berehynia (the Ukrainian version of the name) today also has a place in Ukrainian nationalism, feminism, and neopaganism.

The re-interpretation as a “protectress” is due to a folk-etymology, which associates the name, which is derived from the Ukrainian word bereh (Russian bereg) – “river bank”, with the unrelated verb berehty in Ukrainian (Russian berech) which means “to protect”.

In 2001, a column with a sculpture of Berehynia on top (pictured) was erected at Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) in the center of the city, on the site of the former Lenin monument. The monument is to serve as a protector of Kiev, with an older monument located just across the square – Kiev’s historic protector Archangel Michael, who is also pictured on the Coat of Arms of Kiev.

Rituals of Bereginya

Rituals foods devoted to Bereginya are dairy products: milk, butter, curds, and cheese. This is why in some villages this day is called: “Cheese Bogoroditsa”, i.e. Mother Mary of Cheese.

N.V. Belov also mentions a ritual of “bewitching the field for plenty of grain” on this day.

For this, three women of different ages, take new linen towels, and go into the field. Each of these women waves the towel in the air with her left hand and recites a spell. They recite in an order of age: the oldest first, then the middle one, and finally – the youngest one. The spell sounds like this:

“Mother Earth-Zemlyanitsa, it is your holiday today,
We three came to honor you
And brought new towels.
Give Goddess, so that earth would not be empty,
So that rye would be thick.
In the name of our native Gods,
Now and forever!
So Mote It Be!”


Source: Igor Ozhiganov

Bereginya – The Slavic Spirit of Protection

Author adminPosted on March 14, 2022Categories Fairy Tales, Folktales, Legends, Myth, NatureTags Bereginya, goddess, Mother Earth, Protection, slavic

WAIT ’TIL MARTIN COMES – Storytelling for Everyone

Southern Ghost story

A preacher was riding to one of the churches on his circuit when darkness fell. It was about to storm, and the only house nearby was an old mansion which was reputed to be haunted. The preacher clutched his Bible and said, “The Lawd will take care o’ me.”

He went into the mansion just as the storm broke. He put his horse into the barn and made his way into the house. The door was unlocked. He went into a large room which contained a fireplace that filled one wall. There was wood laid for a fire. He laid a match to it. Then the preacher sat down to read his Bible.

Gradually, the fire burnt down to a heap of coals as the storm howled around the mansion. The preacher was roused from his reading by a sound. He looked up from his Bible. A very large, black cat was stretching itself.

Then it walked to the fire and set down among the red-hot coals. It picked a coal up in its paw and licked it slowly. The cat got up, shook of the ashes, and walked to the foot of the preacher’s chair.

It fixed blazing yellow eyes upon him, black tail lashing and said quietly, “Wait until Martin comes.”

The preacher jumped from Genesis to Matthew in shock. He had never heard of a cat talking before. Nervously he kept reading his Bible, muttering to himself, “The Lawd will take care o’ me.”

Two minutes later, another cat came into the room. It was black as midnight, and as large as the biggest dog. It lay down among the red-hot coals, lazily batting them with enormous paws.

Then it walked over to the other cat and said, “What shall we do with him?”

The first cat replied, “We should not do anything until Martin comes.”

The two cats, black as midnight, sat watching the preacher, who read through the Gospels at top speed, aware of blazing yellow eyes watching him.

A third cat, big as a tiger, entered the room. It went to the fire full of red-hot coals and rolled among them, chewing them and spitting them out. Then it came to the other two cats facing the preacher in the chair.

“What shall we do with him?” it growled to the others.

“We should not do anything until Martin comes,” the other cats replied together.

The preacher flipped to Revelation, looking furtively around the room. He closed the Bible and stood up.

“Goo’night cats. I is glad of yo’ company, but when Martin comes, you done tell him I been heah and went.”


Source: This is a British folktale that was later told in the hill country of Appalachia and throughout the South by both Black and white people, and is now collected in numerous anthologies of scary stories. One of the oldest print versions is Newbell Niles Puckett’s Folk Beliefs of the Southern Negro, published in 1926.

Author adminPosted on October 25, 2021Categories Animal, Folktales, Ghost StoryTags American South, Black Folktale, British, ghost story

Three Wishes – Storytelling for Everyone

English Folktale

Once there lived a poor woodsman in a great forest, and every day of his life he went out to fell timber. One day he started out, and the goodwife filled the pack he slung on his back that he might have meat and drink in the forest.

He went deeper into the forest than he’d ever gone before and there he found a huge, great oak tree.

“Ah, that one will give me many planks of wood.”

He took his axe in his hand and swung it round his head as though he were minded to fell the tree at one stroke. But he hadn’t given one blow, when what should he hear but the pitifullest entreating, and there stood before him a fairy who prayed and beseeched him to spare the tree. It was her home.

He was dazed, as you may fancy, with wonderment and fear, and he couldn’t open his mouth to utter a word. But he found his tongue at last, and said, “Well, I’ll do as thou wish.”

“You’ve done better for yourself than you know,” answered the fairy, “and to show I’m grateful, I’ll grant you your next three wishes, be they what they may.”

The fairy was no more to be seen, and the woodsman slung his pack over his shoulder and off he started home.

But the way was long, and the poor man was dazed with the wonderful thing that had befallen him, and when he got home there was nothing in his noddle, but to rest. Maybe, too, ‘t was a trick of the fairy’s. Who can tell?

Anyhow down he sat by the blazing fire, and as he sat he became hungry, though it was a long way off supper-time yet.

“Hasn’t thou naught for supper?” said he to his wife.

“Nay, not for a couple of hours yet,” said she.

“Ah!” groaned the woodsman, “I wish I’d a good link of sausage here before me.”

No sooner had he said the word, when clatter, clatter, rustle, rustle—what should come down the chimney but a link of the finest sausage.

If the woodsman stared, the goodwife stared three times as much. “What’s all this?” says she.

Then all the morning’s work came back to the woodsman, and he told his tale right out, from beginning to end, and as he told it the goodwife glowered and glowered, and when he had made an end of it she burst out.

“Thou bee’st but a fool, Jan, thou bee’st but a fool; you wasted a wish on somethin’ stupid. I wish the sausage were at the end of your nose.”

And before you could say Jack Robinson, the sausage hung at the end of his nose.

He gave a pull but it stuck, and she gave a pull but it stuck, and they both pulled till they had nigh pulled his nose off, but it stuck and stuck.

“‘T’isn’t so very unsightly,” said she, looking hard at him.

Then the woodsman saw that if he wished, he must need wish in a hurry; and wish he did, that the sausage might come off his nose. Well! There it lay in a plate on the table.

And if the goodman and goodwife didn’t ride in a golden coach, or dress in silk and satin, why, they had at least as fine a sausage for their supper as the heart of man could want.


Source: More English Fairy Tales, collected and edited by Joseph Jacobs. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York and London, 1894.

Like this:

Like Loading…

The Purse of Gold – Storytelling for Everyone

A Jewish Folktale

A beggar found a leather purse that someone had dropped in the marketplace. Opening it, he discovered that it contained 100 pieces of gold. Then he heard a merchant shout, “A reward! A reward to the one who finds my leather purse!”

Being an honest man, the beggar came forward and handed the purse to the merchant saying, “Here is your purse. May I have the reward now?”

“Reward?” scoffed the merchant, greedily counting his gold. “Why the purse I dropped had 200 pieces of gold in it. You’ve already stolen more than the reward! Go away or I’ll tell the magistrate.”

“I’m an honest man,” said the beggar defiantly. “Let us take this matter to the court.”

In court the judge patiently listened to both sides of the story and said, “I believe you both. Justice is possible! Merchant, you stated that the purse you lost contained 200 pieces of gold. Well, that’s a considerable cost. But, the purse this beggar found had only 100 pieces of gold. Therefore, it couldn’t be the one you lost.”

And, with that, the judge gave the purse and all the gold to the beggar.


Source: http://www.storyarts.org/library/nutshell/stories/purse.html

Video retelling:


Author adminPosted on November 29, 2021Categories Fables, FolktalesTags greed, humor, Jewish, judgment, wisdom

The Tailor and His Coat – Storytelling for Everyone

Max Haneman (1882-1941)  Polish artist of Jewish origin

Long ago in Russia, there was a poor tailor who spent his life making fine garments for others. He seldom had the time or money to make new clothes for himself. One day, he noticed his old coat had to be replaced because it was all worn out. He took a bolt of good, woolen fabric and made himself a brand new coat. It was a soft tweed in brown with flecks of gold and green.

He wore that coat, and wore that coat, and wore that coat until – like the coat before it – it was as all worn out. He liked the coat, so instead of throwing it away, he took it apart to make a jacket. He was able to wear that jacket even more than he had worn the coat. He wore it, and wore it and wore it until it was all worn out.

The tailor looked at the jacket and decided he could make something else with what was left. So, he took the jacket apart and made a fine vest. He wore that vest every day. He wore it, and wore it and wore it until it was all worn out.

When he examined the worn out vest, he saw that he could still make something from what was left. He took the vest apart and made a cap to keep his head warm. He liked the way he looked in that cap, so he wore it often. He wore it and wore it and wore it until, like everything he had made before, it was all worn out.

When he took the cap apart, he discovered he had just enough to make a bow tie. He never had a bow tie before. But when he put on that tie, he thought he looked handsome in it, so he wore it and wore it and wore it until it was all worn out.

He was about to throw the worn out tie when he took a look at what was left. He saw he had enough to make a nice cloth button. He sewed that button on his trousers to hold his suspenders. The tailor wore that button, and wore it and wore it until it was all worn out.

As he turned the worn out button over in his hand, he was surprised to see he had enough left…to make a story. And that’s the one I just told you!


Source: Yiddish Folktale & Song, various retellings in song and text

Like this:

Like Loading…

Author adminPosted on April 1, 2019April 1, 2019Categories Folktales, Worthy MenTags Eastern Europe, Russia, tailor, yiddish

mullah nasruddin – Storytelling for Everyone

Three Sufi Tales

The Smell of Soup and the Sound of Money

A beggar was given a piece of bread, but nothing to put on it. Hoping to get something to go with his bread, he went to a nearby inn and asked for a handout. The innkeeper turned him away with nothing, but the beggar sneaked into the kitchen where he saw a large pot of soup cooking over the fire.

He held his piece of bread over the steaming pot, hoping to thus capture a bit of flavor from the good-smelling vapor.

Suddenly the innkeeper seized him by the arm and accused him of stealing soup.

“I took no soup,” said the beggar. “I was only smelling the vapor.”

“Then you must pay for the smell,” answered the innkeeper.

The poor beggar had no money, so the angry innkeeper dragged him before the qadi.

Now Nasreddin Hodja was at that time serving as qadi, and he heard the innkeeper’s complaint and the beggar’s explanation.

“So you demand payment for the smell of your soup?” summarized the Hodja after the hearing.

“Yes!” insisted the innkeeper.

“Then I myself will pay you,” said the Hodja, “and I will pay for the smell of your soup with the sound of money.”

Thus saying, the Hodja drew two coins from his pocket, rang them together loudly in his hands, put them back into his pocket, and sent the beggar and the innkeeper each on his own way.

The Slap

Nasreddin Hodja was standing in the marketplace when a stranger stepped up to him and slapped him in the face, but then said, “I beg your pardon. I thought that you were someone else.”

This explanation did not satisfy the Hodja, so he brought the stranger before the qadi and demanded compensation.

The Hodja soon perceived that the qadi and the defendant were friends. The latter admitted his guilt, and the judge pronounced the sentence: “The settlement for this offense is one piaster, to be paid to the plaintiff. If you do not have a piaster with you, then you may bring it here to the plaintiff at your convenience.”

Hearing this sentence, the defendant went on his way. The Hodja waited for him to return with the piaster. And he waited. And he waited.

Sometime later the Hodja said to the qadi, “Do I understand correctly that one piaster is sufficient payment for a slap?”

“Yes,” answered the qadi.

Hearing this answer, the Hodja slapped the judge in the face and said, “You may keep my piaster when the defendant returns with it,” then walked away.

A Close Call

One night Nasreddin awoke, thinking he had heard a strange noise outside his window. Looking out, he saw a suspicious white figure.

“Who goes there?” shouted the Hodja.

Hearing no reply, Nasreddin reached for his bow, set an arrow to the string, took aim, and shot in the direction of the mysterious figure. Satisfied that the intruder now would do him no harm, Nasreddin returned to bed and slept until dawn.

By morning’s light he examined the scene outside his window, only to discover his own white shirt hanging on the clothesline and pierced by the arrow that he had shot during the night.

“That was a close call,” murmured the Hodja. “My own shirt, shot through by an arrow! What if I had been wearing it at the time!”


Source: Once the Hodja, Nasr-ed-Din: Turkish Jokes, Volume 9 of Asian folklore and social life monographs: Supplement by Alice Geer Kelsey, Orient Cultural Service, 1983.

Author adminPosted on August 17, 2022Categories Fables, Folktales, Fool, TricksterTags Hodja, jokes, mullah nasruddin, Muslim, Sufi, Turkey, wise foolLeave a comment on Once the Hodja, Nasr-ed-Din

A Sufi Tale

One day Nasreddin Hodja rode his donkey to the nearby town of Ak Shehir. The Imam there was away for three weeks and asked the Hodja to preach the Friday sermon at the mosque while he was gone.

For the first few days of his visit, the Hodja was as free as a butterfly. He could talk with friends in the market place. He could go hunting in the hills. He could lounge in the coffee house.

But it was one thing to swap stories with the men in the coffee house and quite another to stand alone in the high pulpit and talk to a mosque full of people. The men, each sitting on his own prayer rug would look up at him with solemn faces. Then there was the fluttering in the balcony behind the lattices:  the women would be waiting too.

The first Friday he walked slowly through the cobblestone streets of Ak Shehir. He saw the veiled women slipping silently past him on their way to the latticed balcony. He saw the men hurrying by to hear his sermon.

But what sermon? He stopped at the mosque door to leave his shoes. He walked with the other men across the soft thick rugs. His head was as empty as his donkey’s as he climbed the steps to the pulpit.

He gazed at the blues and reds of the tracery on the ceiling, but not a thought came. He looked at the mosaics on the walls, but there was no message there. He saw the men’s faces staring up at him. He heard tittering in the balcony.

He must say something.

“Oh, people of Ak Shehir!” He leaned on the pulpit and eyed them squarely. “Do you know what I am about to say to you?”

“No!” boomed the men.

“No!” floated down in soft whispers from the balcony.

“You do not know?” said Nasreddin Hodja, shaking his head and looking from one face to another. “You are sure you do not know? Then what use would it be to talk to people who know nothing at all about this important subject. My words would be wasted on such ignorance.”

With that, the Hodja turned and climbed slowly down the pulpit steps. He slipped on his shoes at the mosque door, and was out in the sunshine—free until next Friday.

That day came all too soon. The Hodja mingled with the crowds going to the mosque. He climbed the steps to the high pulpit. He looked down at the sea of solemn faces. He heard the rustling behind the lattices of the balcony. He had hoped that this week he would think of a sermon, but nothing had come to mind.

Still, he must say something.

“Oh, people of Ak Shehir!” intoned the Hodja, gesturing with both hands. “Do you know what I am about to say to you?”

“Yes,” boomed the men who remembered what had happened when they said “No” last week.

“Yes,” echoed in soft whispers from the balcony.

“You know what I am going to say?” said the Hodja. “You are certain you know what I am going to say? Then I need not say it. It would he a useless waste of my golden words if I told you something that you already knew.”

The Hodja turned and again climbed down the pulpit steps. He scuffed into his shoes and escaped into the sunshine. Another free week was ahead of him.

But the best of weeks end. The third Friday found him once more climbing the pulpit steps, with not a word worth saying. Even the Koran’s pages in front of him might have been blank instead of its Arabic script and illuminated borders. Men’s faces looked up at him expectantly. Bright eyes peered through the lattices of the women’s balcony.

The time had come again when he must speak.

“Oh, people of Ak Shehir!” demanded the Hodja. “Do you know what I am about to say to you?”

“No, no” came from those who were thinking of the last Friday.

“Yes, yes” came from those who were thinking of the Friday before that.

“Some of you know and some of you do not know!” The Hodja rubbed his hands together. “Wonderful! Now let those who know tell those who do not!”

The Hodja gathered his robes about him, humming to himself as he came down from the pulpit, two steps at a time. He nodded and smiled as he left the mosque.


Source: Retold by Kate Farrell, based on the version in Once A Hodja by Alice Kelsey, David McKay Co, 1943.

Note: Nasreddin Hodja, also called Mullah Nasreddin, is the archetypal wise fool, a legend—several Muslim countries claim to be his birthplace.

Nasreddin (/næsˈrɛdɪn/ or Nasreddin Hodja (other variants include: Mullah Nasreddin Hooja, Mullah Nasruddin, Mullah Nasriddin, Khoja Nasriddin) is a fictional character in the folklore of the Muslim world from the Balkans to China, and a hero of humorous short stories and satirical anecdotes.

Author adminPosted on August 15, 2022Categories Fables, Folktales, LegendsTags Hodja, mosque, mullah, mullah nasruddin, Muslim, wise foolLeave a comment on Once the Hodja…

OH, how hot my poor head is!” Nasred-Din Hodja sat alone under a walnut tree. He fanned himself with a pumpkin leaf that he had picked from the vine sprawling at his feet.

“I wonder if I dare take off this hot turban.” The Hodja looked to the right, to the left, behind him, before him. “There’s not a soul in sight. And for once, I can take off my turban without anyone laughing at my baldness!”

He unwound his turban and wiped his dripping hot head with it. He threw the turban down on the ground beside him, and he sighed contentedly as the breeze from the pumpkin-leaf fan blew on his smooth glistening head.

“There, I feel like myself,” said the Hodja, comfortable and contented again. “That was a good day’s work I did in the vineyard today. I have earned a good supper. Fatima said she was going to cook goat’s-milk soup for supper. I’ll just rest here a minute to cool off, then go home to a good big bowl to fill me up.”

With the sense of well-being, the Hodja always felt the urge to talk to someone – to tell of his exploits or to give advice. But he had already made sure that not a soul was in sight. He could hear the tinkle of sheep bells and the reedy whine of a shepherd’s flute on the distant hillside, but not a person could he see.

The pumpkin-leaf fan waved more slowly, as Nasr-ed-Din Hodja sat erect. The fan dropped to the ground. The Hodja was wide awake again. He had discovered something that really should be changed.

“You silly old tree!” Nasr-ed-Din Hodja shook an accusing finger at the walnut tree that was shielding him. “Is that the best you can do? And that? And that?” The Hodja pointed scornfully at the walnuts growing on the tree.”Look at the size of you!” The Hodja shook his fist at the tree.

He was working up a pleasant excitement. “You rise up so proud and high, but what do you have to brag about – just some little walnuts no bigger than my two thumbs. Take a lesson from your neighbor, the pumpkin vine. It lies along the ground, feeling so humble and unimportant but see what good reason it has to brag.” The Hodja pointed at the huge golden pumpkins, snuggled among the dark green leaves of the pumpkin vine.

The more he thought about it, the more disgusted the Hodja became with a scheme of things which made little walnuts grow on a noble tree and huge pumpkins grow on a groveling vine.

“Now, if I had been planning it,” cried the Hodja to his audience of walnuts and pumpkins, “it would have been very different! The big important pumpkins would be waving proudly on the strong branches of this big important tree. The little unimportant walnuts could cling without any trouble to the spineless pumpkin vine. The vine might even hold up its head a little, if it had something the right size growing on it.”

Unnoticed by him, a gentle breeze had sprung up and was swaying the branches above his bald bare head.

“Yes, yes,” he went on, “if I had been planning the trees and the vines, you -“

The Hodja never finished his sentence. There was a little snap on the branch above his head. There was a little crackle as something rushed through the leaves. There was a resounding smack as something hit the Hodja’s bald bare head.

For a minute the Hodja swayed. He saw little bright lights where none had been before. With his left hand he picked up a walnut, small, to be sure, but hard, oh, very hard. With his right hand he rubbed his poor head where a lump the size of a walnut was quickly rising.

The Hodja bowed apologetically toward the sacred city of Mecca in the east.

“Oh, Allah!” It was a meek and humble Hodja who spoke. “Forgive me for saying you were wrong to have pumpkins grow on vines and walnuts grow on trees. You were wiser than I. Suppose it had been a pumpkin that fell from that tree onto my poor head!”

Rubbing his bruised and aching head, the Hodja sat under the walnut tree. He was thinking how beautiful the golden pumpkins looked on their graceful twining vine. They were so close to the good brown earth that they could not possibly fall anywhere. Allah was wise. Allah be praised.

Source: Once the Hodja by Alice Geer Kelsey, illustrated by Frank Dobias, published by David McKay Company Inc, New York (first edition 1943).

Author adminPosted on September 10, 2019Categories Fables, FolktalesTags Hodja, Middle East, mullah nasruddin, Muslim, Persian, Turkey, wise fool

Cap o’ Rushes – Storytelling for Everyone

British Cinderella

There was once a very rich gentleman, and he had three daughters, and he thought he’d see how fond they were of him. So he says to the first, ‘How much do you love me, my dear?’

‘Why,’ says she, ‘as I love my life.’

‘That’s good,’ says he.

So he says to the second, ‘How much do you love me, my dear?’

‘Why,’ says she, ‘better nor all the world.’

‘That’s good,’ says he.

So he says to the third, ‘How much do you love me, my dear?’

‘Why, I love you as fresh meat loves salt,’ says she.

Well, but he was angry. ‘You don’t love me at all,’ says he, ‘and in my house you stay no more.’ So he drove her out there and then, and shut the door in her face.

She went away on and on till she came to a fen, and there she gathered a lot of rushes and made them into a kind of a sort of a cloak with a hood, to cover her from head to foot, and to hide her fine clothes. And then she went on and on till she came to a great house.

‘Do you want a maid?’ says she.

‘No, we don’t,’ said they.

‘I haven’t nowhere to go,’ says she; ‘and I ask no wages, and do any sort of work,’ says she.

‘If you like to wash the pots and scrape the saucepans you may stay,’ said they.

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’.

One day there was to be a great dance a little way off, and the servants were allowed to go and look on at the grand people. Cap o’ Rushes said she was too tired to go, so she stayed at home.

But when they were gone, she offed with her cap o’ rushes and cleaned herself, and went to the dance. And no one there was so finely dressed as she.

Who should be there but her master’s son, and what should he do but fall in love with her the minute he set eyes on her. He wouldn’t dance with anyone else.

But before the dance was done, Cap o’ Rushes slipt off, and away she went home. And when the other maids came back, she was pretending to be asleep with her cap o’ rushes on.

Well, next morning they said to her, ‘You did miss a sight, Cap o’ Rushes!’

‘What was’ that?’ says she.

‘Why, the beautifullest lady you ever see, dressed right gay and ga’. The young master, he never took his eyes off her.’

‘I should have liked to have seen her,’ says Cap o’ Rushes.

‘There’s to be another dance this evening, and perhaps she’ll be there.’

But, come the evening, Cap o’ Rushes said she was too tired to go with them. Howsoever, when they were gone, she offed with her cap o’ rushes and cleaned herself, and away she went to the dance.

The master’s son had been reckoning on seeing her, and he danced with no one else, and never took his eyes off her. But, before the dance was over, she slipt off, and home she went, and when the maids came back she pretended to be asleep with her cap o’ rushes on.

Next day they said to her again, ‘Well, Cap o’ Rushes, you should ha’ been there to see the lady. There she was again, gay and ga’, and the young master he never took his eyes off her.’

‘Well, there,’ says she, ‘I should ha’ liked to ha’ seen her.’

‘There’s a dance again this evening, and you must go with us, for she’s sure to be there.’

Come this evening, Cap o’ Rushes said she was too tired to go, and do what they would she stayed at home. But when they were gone, she offed her cap o’ rushes and cleaned herself, and away she went to the dance.

The master’s son was rarely glad when he saw her. He danced with none but her and never took his eyes off her. When she wouldn’t tell him her name, nor where she came from, he gave her a ring and told her if he didn’t see her again he should die.

Before the dance was over, off she slipped, and home she went, and when the maids came home she was pretending to be asleep with her cap o’ rushes on.

Next day they says to her, ‘There, Cap o’ Rushes, you didn’t come last night, and now you won’t see the lady, for there’s no more dances.’

‘I should have rarely liked to have seen her,’ says she.

The master’s son tried every way to find out where the lady was gone, but go where he might, and ask whom he might he never heard anything about her. And he got worse and worse for the love of her till ‘he had to keep his bed.

‘Make some gruel for the young master,’ they said to the cook. ‘He’s dying for the love of the lady.’ The cook set about making it when Cap o’ Rushes came in.

‘What are you a-doing of?’ says she.

‘I’m going to make some gruel for the young master,’ says the cook, ‘for he’s dying for love of the lady.’

‘Let me make it,’ says Cap o’ Rushes.

Well, the cook wouldn’t at first, but at last she said yes, and Cap o’ Rushes made the gruel. And when she had made it, she slipped the ring into it on the sly before the cook took it upstairs.

The young man he drank it and then he saw the ring at the bottom.

‘Send for the cook,’ says he. So up she comes.

‘Who made this gruel here?’ says he.

‘I did,’ says the cook, for she was frightened.

And he looked at her.

‘No, you didn’t,’ says he. ‘Say who did it, and you shan’t be harmed.’

‘Well, then, ’twas Cap o’ Rushes,’ says she.

‘Send Cap o’ Rushes here,’ says he.

So Cap o’ Rushes came.

‘Did you make my gruel?’ says he.

‘Yes, I did,’ says she.

‘Where did you get this ring?’ says he.

‘From him that gave it me,’ says she.

‘Who are you, then?’ says the young man.

‘I’ll show you,’ says she. And she offed with her cap o’ rushes, and there she was in her beautiful clothes.

The master’s son he got well very soon, and they were to be married in a little time. It was to be a very grand wedding, and everyone was asked far and near. And Cap o’ Rushes’s father was asked. But she never told anybody who she was.

But before the wedding, she went to the cook, and says she:

‘I want you to dress every dish without a mite o’ salt.’

‘That’ ll be rare nasty,’ says the cook.

‘That doesn’t signify,’ says she.

‘Very well,’ says the cook.

Well, the wedding day came, and they were married. And after they were married, all the company sat down to the dinner. When they began to eat the meat, it was so tasteless they couldn’t eat it.

But Cap o’ Rushes’s father tried first one dish and then another, and then he burst out crying.

‘What is the matter?’ said the master’s son to him.

‘Oh!’ says he, ‘I had a daughter. And I asked her how much she loved me. And she said. “As much as fresh meat loves salt.” And I turned her from my door, for I thought she didn’t love me. And now I see she loved me best of all. And she may be dead for aught I know.’

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

And so they were all happy ever after.


Source: English Fairy Tales collected by Joseph Jacobs. London: David Nutt, 1890.

Note: Scholars of both folklore and Shakespeare have commented on analogies in the play, King Lear, to common folktale motifs found in “Cap ‘O Rushes” among other tales. Most notable is the motif of the plot and the subplot of Shakespeare’s King Lear that correspond to the female and male versions of a folktale type called The Outcast Child, which is itself a variant of a Cinderella tale. “Love like salt” is another common motif and is similar to the plain talk of Cordelia who does not flatter her father. The oral tradition thus forms a basis for King Lear in these motifs and others, such as Edgar, the Earl of Kent’s disguise as a ragged servant in the King’s service.

Reference: The Written and Oral Sources of King Lear and the Problem of Justice in the Play. Alan R. Young. https://www.jstor.org/stable/449674?seq=1

Like this:

Like Loading…

The Little Shoe – Storytelling for Everyone

Irish Folktale

“Now tell me, Molly,” said Mr. Coote to Molly Cogan, as he met her on the road one day, close to one of the old gateways of Kilmallock. “Did you ever hear of the Cluricaune?”

“Is it the Cluricaune? Why, then, sure I did, often and often; many’s the time I heard my father, rest his soul! tell about, ’em over and over again.”

“But did you ever see one, Molly—did you ever see one yourself?”

“Och! no, I never see one in my life; but my grandfather, that’s my father’s father, you know, he see one, one time, and caught him too.”

“Caught him! Oh! Molly, tell me how was that?”

“Why, then, I’ll tell you:”

My grandfather, you see, was out there above in the bog, drawing home turf, and the poor old mare was tired after her day’s work, and the old man went out to the stable to look after her, and to see if she was eating her hay.

When he came to the stable door there, my dear, he heard something hammering, hammering, hammering, just for all the world like a shoemaker making a shoe, and whistling all the time the prettiest tune he ever heard in his whole life before.

Well, my grandfather, he thought it was the Cluricaune, and he said to himself, says he, “I’ll catch you, if I can, and then I’ll have money enough always.”

So he opened the door very quietly, and didn’t make a bit of noise in the world that ever was heard; and he looked all about, but the never a bit of the little man he could see anywhere, but he heard him hammering and whistling, and so he looked and looked, till at last he see the little fellow.

And where was he, do you think, but in the girth under the mare; and there he was with his little bit of an apron on him, and his hammer in his hand, and a little red nightcap on his head, and he making a shoe.

He was so busy with his work, and he was hammering and whistling so loud, that he never minded my grandfather till he caught him fast in his hand.

“Faith, I have you now,” says he, “and I’ll never let you go till I get your purse—that’s what I won’t; so give it here to me at once, now.”

“Stop, stop,” says the Cluricaune, “stop, stop, says he, till I get it for you.”

So my grandfather, like a fool, you see, opened his hand a little, and the little fellow jumped away laughing, and he never saw him any more, and the never a bit of the purse did he get, only the Cluricaune left his little shoe that he was making.

My grandfather was mad enough, angry with himself for letting him go; but he had the shoe all his life, and my own mother told me she often see it, and had it in her hand, and ’twas the prettiest little shoe she ever saw.

“And did you see it yourself, Molly?”

“Oh! no, my dear, it was lost long afore I was born; but my mother told me about it often and often enough.”


And if you don’t believe the tale….

There is nothing very strange in the circumstance of Molly’s grandfather becoming the possessor of a Cluricaune’s shoe, for even in the present century, when these little people are supposed to have grown more shy and cautious of letting themselves be seen or heard, persons have been fortunate enough to get their shoes, though the purse still eludes them.

In a Kilkenny paper, published not more than three years ago, there was a paragraph (which paragraph was copied into most of the Irish papers) stating that a peasant returning home in the dusk of the evening, discovered one of these little folk at work, and as the workman, as usual, contrived to make his escape, the peasant secured the shoe to bear witness of the fact, which shoe, to satisfy public curiosity, lay for inspection at the office of the said paper. It is therefore not impossible that this specimen of Cluricaune cordwainry may still exist.


Source: Thomas Crofton Croker, Researches in the South of Ireland, Illustrative of the Scenery, Architectural Remains, and the Manners and Superstitions of the Peasantry (London: John Murray, 1824).

Note: Cluricaune or Leprehaune is the name given to the Irish Puck. The character of this goblin is a compound of that of the Scotch Brownie and the English Robin Goodfellow. He is depicted (for engraved portraits of the Irish Leprehaune are in existence) as a small and withered old man, completely equipped in the costume of a cobler, and employed in repairing a shoe.

A paragraph recently appeared in a Kilkenny paper stating, that a labourer, returning home in the dusk of the evening, discovered a Leprehaune at work, from whom he bore away the shoe which he was mending; as a proof of the veracity of his story it was further stated, that the shoe lay for the inspection of the curious at the newspaper office.

Like this:

Like Loading…

Storytelling with Kate Farrell – Storytelling for Everyone

Podcast by San Francisco Writers Conference

Podcast host Matthew Félix asked Kate about the importance of stories, based on her book, Story Power. He also asked about the history of oral storytelling, as well as the resurgence it has enjoyed since the 1970s.

Kate explained the difference between telling a story orally and writing it down, highlighting the role that a live audience has as co-creator in the experience. She also discussed how storytelling foments change, both for the audience and the storyteller themselves.

Storytelling is not just for the stage, but also has practical, day-to-day applications, as illustrated by three types of stories: defining, signature, and personal branding, which Matthew and Kate discussed.

Kate explained the benefits of having a repertoire of stories at the ready for different circumstances and shared ways of gathering stories, as well as how to choose which ones might best be suited to storytelling.

Matthew asked Kate about the features essential to every story, and they reviewed the seven steps to preparing a story to be told—Kate emphasizing that stories should not be memorized.

Kate shared key things to keep in mind while performing, including important aspects of vocalization and the importance of making eye contact with the audience.

Matthew asked Kate about what she referred to as the cutting edge of storytelling: weaving or braiding archetypes with personal narratives.

Podcast by Matthew Félix

Enjoy the entire interview!

Listen here or on: iTunes | Stitcher | Spotify | Google | TuneIn | Amazon | 
Player FM | Deezer

Watch on YouTube

Check out San Francisco Writers Conference 2022!

For more about storytelling and how to tell your stories, order the award-winning Story Power: Secrets to Creating, Crafting, and Telling Memorable Stories in eBook or paperback, available at all retail outlets:

IndieBound.com | BN.com | Amazon.com |  

“Telling unforgettable stories will feel easy after reading the advice various contributors give in this book. Each contributor shares their secrets for how they tell memorable tales. Stories define us, and Story Power embodies the power storytelling has to help everyone discover themselves and better the ways they communicate with others. ”
            -Reviewed By Liz Konkel for Readers’ Favorite

Kate Farrell, a graduate of the School of Library and Information Studies, UC Berkeley, has been a language arts classroom teacher, an author, a librarian, a university lecturer, and a storyteller since 1966. She founded the Word Weaving Storytelling Project, and she has published numerous educational materials on the art of storytelling. Kate edited the anthology, Wisdom Has a Voice: Every Daughter’s Memories of Mother, and co-edited two others: Times They Were A-Changing: Women Remember the ’60s & 70s and Cry of the Nightbird: Writers Against Domestic Violence. She is past president of the San Francisco Chapter of the Women’s National Book Association and a presenter for the San Francisco Writers Conference.

Learn more about Kate Farrell: https://katefarrell.net/

Author adminPosted on January 18, 2022Categories Folktales, Personal Story, TechniquesTags Matthew Felix, San Francisco Writers Conference, story power, storytelling

Mashpee Ghost Story – Storytelling for Everyone

As the holiday season approaches, and we celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day, enjoy a ghost story from one of the first North American tribes to greet the Pilgrims. It appears to be a terrifying tale in some ways, but it might contain a ghostly moral. What message could it have for us today, in our shared country?

One night on Cape Cod at Gay Head, a Mashpee woman and her children were alone in their wigwam. The children were sound asleep in their blankets and their mother sat knitting beside her central fire-pit. As customary, her door-flap was wide open. Suddenly she became aware of someone approaching her doorway, and went to see who it might be.

A sailor stood outside. She asked him, “What do you want?” He replied, “I’d like to come inside and warm myself by your fire, because my clothes are wet and I feel chilled to the bone.”

She invited him inside and offered a place for him to sit beside the fire to dry out and warm himself. She placed another log on her fire, then resumed her knitting. As she watched the fire, she noticed that she could see the fire right through the sailor’s legs, which were stretched out between her and the fire–as if he were a ghost!

Her fear of him increased, but since she was a brave woman, she kept on with her knitting while keeping a suspicious eye toward the visitor. Finally the sailor turned to the Indian woman and said, “Do you want any money?”

Her first thought was not to answer his question. Then he repeated, “Do you want any money?” She replied, “Yes.”

The sailor explained, “If you really want a large amount of money, all you have to do is go outdoors behind your wigwam. Beside a rock there you will find buried a kettle full of money. I thank you for your hospitality. Good night.” He went away.

The Mashpee woman did not go outdoors immediately, as she wanted to think about the sailor’s proposal. She sat and knitted and thought for a while longer. Still, she felt frightened from the evening’s experience and was reluctant to leave her wigwam. More knitting time elapsed.

Then she thought, “I might as well go out and see if the sailor spoke the truth–to see if there really is a kettle of money out there.”

She took her hoe and went outside to the back of her wigwam, and easily saw the place described by the sailor. She began to dig with her hoe. She realized that every time she struck her hoe into the ground, she heard her children cry out loudly, as if in great pain. She rushed indoors to see what was their trouble. They were soundly sleeping in their blankets.

Again and again she dug with her hoe; each time her children cried out loudly to her; each time she rushed in to comfort them, only to find them soundly asleep as she had left them.

After these episodes had occurred several times, the mother decided to give up digging for the night. She thought she would try again early next morning after bright daylight and her children were awake.

Morning came, but she wondered if she had only dreamed last night’s happenings. Her children were eating their breakfast when she went out to the digging place. There was her hoe, standing where she had left it. But she could see that someone else had been there in the meantime and had finished digging while she slept.

Before her, she saw a big round hole. She knew someone had dug up the hidden treasure. She was too late for the pot of gold promised by the ghostly sailor. But again she thought and wondered, “But was I really too late?”

Again she thought, “That sailor may have been the Evil Spirit in disguise—or even a real ghost. Perhaps he was tempting me to see whether I cared more for my children, or more for the gold?”

Nevertheless, the Mashpee woman and her children continued to live in their village for a long, long time, even without the benefit of the ghost’s kettle of gold.


Note: The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, also known as the People of the First Light, has inhabited present day Massachusetts and Eastern Rhode Island for more than 12,000 years. They are often called, the “Thanksgiving Tribe,” one that greeted the Pilgrims. After an arduous process lasting more than three decades, the Mashpee Wampanoag were re-acknowledged as a federally recognized tribe in 2007.

Source: Indigenous Peoples Literature is a non-profit educational resource and collaboration dedicated to the indigenous peoples of the world and to the enrichment it can bring to all people.

Like this:

Like Loading…