Fairy Tale Friday: How to Succeed in Fairy Tales Without Really Trying
As I was poking around looking for a fairy tale ripe for the LT retelling, I happened upon a Greek fairy tale with an absolutely terrible moral: fake it ’til you make it! Why anyone would tell this story to children in hopes of teaching them a good lesson is beyond me, but I thought you all might enjoy it anyway. Here, then, is “Almondseed and Almondella”:
Once upon a time there was a very poor man named Almondseed. He lived in a little village in a remote corner of Greece with his wife Almondella. (Fate presumably brought these two almond-named people together, although that’s another story and one which I would very much like to hear!)
One day, Almondseed was walking through the village and happened to see a black hen tied up outside the weaver’s hut. He walked on, thinking nothing of it. A few moments later, a hysterical woman ran out of her hut exclaiming that her prize black hen had been stolen and crying for help. Almondseed whipped out an old book of his and pretended to read in it where her hen was to be found. Thrilled at the recovery of her hen, the woman paid him handsomely for his help. At that moment, Almondseed realized he could do pretty well pretending to be a seer and changed careers from poor village gadabout to entrepreneurial sage.
Word of his wisdom and ability to see things spread and one day the king’s servants appeared at Almondseed’s door. They asked him if the Queen, who was pregnant, would give birth to a boy or a girl. Almondseed pretended to consult his old book and kept muttering “Boy, girl, boy, girl, boy, girl…” until the king’s servants grew weary of his nonsense and left. As it happened, the Queen then gave birth to twins, one a boy and the other a girl. Thrilled with Almondseed’s apparent prophetic qualities, the King summoned him to the palace.
Once there, he was told that the King’s coffer had been stolen and the King wanted Almondseed to please tell him where it was so that it could be recovered. Almondseed retired to his room and asked for some almonds (unsurprisingly, his snack of choice). Hearing that the King had sent for this renowned prophet to recover the coffer, the thieves made sure to be at hand and spied on Almondseed to make sure he would not tell anyone where they had hidden the coffer.
On the first night, the first thief snuck into Almondseed’s room. As the thief watched (unbeknownst to Almondseed), Almondseed remarked to himself, “This is the first,” meaning the night. The thief thought that Almondseed meant him and ran off, scared for his life. On the second night, the second thief snuck into Almondseed’s room and heard him say, “The second has come,” once again meaning the evening. The second thief was similarly scared of Almondseed’s apparent powers and ran off. On the third night, there was the same misunderstanding and the (not very bright) thieves begged for Almondseed’s mercy and told him that they would reveal where the coffer was hidden if only he did not turn them over to the King. Almondseed agreed and turned the coffer over to the King who was once again thrilled by Almondseed’s prophetic work.
As a final test, the King took Almondseed into the garden. (This part of the story gets confusing, but bear with me.) The King had an almond hidden in his hand and asked Almondseed what he held in his hand. Almondseed muttered something about his own name and his wife, Almondella. The King mistook his meaning and thought he meant the almond itself (which was, after all, in his hand) and the almond tree beside them and rewarded Almondseed with much gold. Almondseed retired wealthy and happy back to his village and lived happily ever after with Almondella.
Terrible moral, right? Basically this story suggests if you mislead people enough with various vagaries and lies, you’ll get ahead in life. Just make sure they don’t find you out by being as vague about everything as possible. Oy!