Today’s fairy tale is another one I had never heard before. The version I read can be found at SurLaLune Fairy Tales.
It’s an odd little story. There’s a woman who has three daughters. The oldest has one eye in the middle of her forward, the middle child has two eyes just like other people, and the youngest has three eyes, two in the regular position and one in the middle of her forehead. It doesn’t mention how many eyes the mother has, but Two-Eyes’ mother and sisters torment her for not being special. They make her wear rags, give her little to eat and basically make her life miserable.
One day, while Two-Eyes is watching the goat in the field and crying, an old woman appears and asks her why she is crying. When Two-Eyes replies that she is always hungry, the woman teaches her a magic chant to say to the goat.
“Bleat, my little goat, bleat,
Cover the table with something to eat.”
Then, a table appears covered with food. After Two-Eyes has eaten her fill, she can make the table disappear with a similar chant.
After a few days, her mother and sisters learn what is going on and kill the goat. Two-Eyes then buries the goat’s entrails and a beautiful tree grows in the spot overnight, “a strangely magnificent tree with leaves of silver, and fruit of gold hanging among them, so that in all the wide world there was nothing more beautiful or precious.” The tree will only allow Two-Eyes to pick it’s fruit.
One day a knight is passing by, sees the tree and asks who the tree belongs to. Although her sisters try to sabotage the encounter, Two-Eyes proves the tree belongs to her.
“Yes,” replied Two-eyes, “that I certainly shall be able to do, for the tree belongs to me.” And she climbed up, and with the greatest ease broke off a branch with beautiful silver leaves and golden fruit, and gave it to the knight. Then said the knight, “Two-eyes, what shall I give thee for it?” “Alas!” answered Two-eyes, “I suffer from hunger and thirst, grief and want, from early morning till late night; if you would take me with you, and deliver me from these things, I should be happy.”
The knight takes her away with him to his castle and marries her. The tree somehow follows them, overnight moving to the yard outside Two-Eyes’ new room.
Two-Eyes lives happily, in love with the knight. One day, One-Eye and Three-Eyes, who have fallen into poverty, come to her castle begging for alms. Two-Eyes is kind and takes care of them, so they repent for all the evil they did to her in the past.
Actually, this tale is very similar to Cinderella. We have the kind young woman who is treated horribly by her mother and two sisters. Father is absent. Magical help comes and the young woman lives happily every after in a castle. The ending in this one seems a little too happy for the mean sisters, though, compared to other Grimm tales.
Mother/daughter relationships are prominent in a lot of fairy tales, actually. And rarely do the two get along. For me though, it’s more disturbing when, as in this case, it’s the girl’s biological mother, not a step-mother who may have other reasons for disliking the child. Of course, when these stories were first being told, motherhood was not as romanticized as it came to be later, and childhood not as protected. And where is the father- again! I realize that women were responsible for raising the children, but come on, give me a dad with a backbone and who actually cares about his kids.
Tif, from Tif Talks Books, is the hostess of this great feature, Fairy Tale Fridays. Head over there to see her take on “One Eye, Two-Eyes and Three-Eyes” and to share your own thoughts. Next week, we’ll be looking at “The Three Bears” by Robert Southey.