The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin,
illustrated by David Shannon
This tale takes place long ago in a small village on the shore of Lake Ontario. In the largest wigwam set away from the others some lives an Invisible Being, a rich, powerful handsome warrior. All the young women of the village want to marry him, but it is said that he will only marry the one who can see him.
In the same village lives a poor man with three daughters. The two older daughters were cruel to the youngest, forcing her to sit by the fire and feed the flames. The sparks burned her skin, face and hair, leaving her arms, hands and face scarred and rough. Her hair hung in charred tatters. You can tell this is another version of the Cinderella story. Once again, I’m surprised by how the same stories show up in entirely different cultures.
The two evil sisters try to convince the Invisible Being’s sister that they can see him, but they are obviously lying and are rejected. The Rough-face Girl decides that though she does not have beautiful clothes or jewelry, she will go to the Invisible Being and become his wife. And she has seen him.
As she walked on she saw the great beauty of the earth and skies spreading before her. And truly she alone, of all in that village, saw in these things the sweet yet awesome face of the Invisible Being.
The Invisible Being and his sister understand that this girl does have an honest, true and kind heart, and they recognize that she is beautiful. Through the sister’s help the Rough-Face Girl’s scars are healed and she is given the finest robes. The girl then marries her love, the Invisible Being, and the two live happily ever after.
The story is told simply simply, like a storyteller would relate it, and the illustrations are perfect. The earth colors and nature images fit the story and I loved the details in the villagers clothing, from their moccasins to the buckskin dresses and hair accessories. It brings alive another culture.
The Rough-Face Girl is a wonderful character. She courageously goes out to meet her destiny, holding her head high though everyone else in town ridicules her. She’s a heroine to look up to.
I think this would be a great addition to any child’s library. It’s a well-done picture book, familiar but new at the same time, a magical, mysterious folktale.
This version leaves off at the happily ever after. In the version told by
Cyrus Macmillan on Canadian Wonder Tales published in 1920 the evil sisters receive a fitting end, too. In his retelling, the Invisible Being is a great warrior who has the power to make himself invisible. He is referred to by the villagers as Strong Wind.
The girl’s two elder sisters were very cross and they wondered greatly at what had taken place. But Strong Wind, who knew of their cruelty, resolved to punish them. Using his great power, he changed them both into aspen trees and rooted them in the earth. And since that day the leaves of the aspen have always trembled, and they shiver in fear at the approach of Strong Wind, it matters not how softly he comes, for they are still mindful of his great power and anger because of their lies and their cruelty to their sister long ago.
I have to admit that I enjoy it when the bad guys get what they deserve. I’m all for a happy ending for the main couple, but sometimes I want evil punished, too.
Tif, from Tif Talks Books, is the hostess of this great feature, Fairy Tale Fridays. Head over there to see her take on “The Invisible One and the Rough-Faced Girl” and to share your own thoughts. Next week we’ll be looking at “The Little Mermaid” by Hans Christian Andersen.
The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Marin was first published in 1992
I borrowed by copy of The Rough-Face Girl from the library and the above is my honest opinion. I am an Amazon associate.