Tag Archives: France

Thursday’s Tale: The Three May Peaches



Today’s tale is very similar to one I shared a couple of weeks ago, The Rabbit Herd, but it has May in the name, which is how I found it. “The Three May Peaches” was collected by  Paul Delarue in The Borzoi Book of French Folk-Tales, 1956.

A king of Ardenne had a beautiful daughter who was sick. A doctor declared that the three finest May peaches would save her, but then she would have to marry within a week or fall sick again. Many men came with peaches, but none saved the princess. A woman had three sons, and the oldest set out with the finest peaches from their orchard. He met an old woman who asked what he had; he claimed rabbit dung, she said that so it was, and when he got the castle, that was what he carried. When will fairy tale characters learn to be nice to old women? His next brother set out next, told the old woman he carried horse dung, and again found that was what he carried. The youngest, who was short and regarded as a little simple, persuaded his mother to let him try as well, and told the old woman that he carried the peaches to cure the princess, and she said so it was and also gave him a silver whistle. I think he might have just not been smart enough to lie, but it definitely served him well, since when he got to the castle, eating the peaches revived the princess.

The king did not want such a puny little son-in-law. He told the boy he had to herd a hundred rabbits and not lose one for four days. The first day, the rabbits scattered, but the boy used the whistle to bring them back. The second day, the king sent the princess to get one; the boy would only trade one for a kiss, and when she had it and had reached the gates of the castle, he used the whistle, and it came back. The next day, the king sent the queen to get one; the boy would only trade one if the queen turned three somersaults, and when she did, the king locked it in a room but the boy used his whistle and it came back through a window. The fourth day, the king went himself. The boy would only trade it if the king kissed his donkey’s behind. When the king had gotten the rabbit, he had it killed and skinned and put on to casserole, but the boy used his whistle and it jumped out of the dish, back into its skin, and back to the boy. Really, the princess and her family got off easier in this version of the story than in the last.

Then the king said that the boy had to fill three sacks with truths. He said the princess had kissed him for a rabbit, and that filled the first sack; the queen had turned somersaults for a rabbit, and that filled the second. The king stopped him and let him marry the princess. So, I guess the king was more afraid of being embarrassed than of having the boy as a son-in-law. I wonder how the princess felt about it. I can’t tell if the youngest really was a little dull. Usually, the youngest sons are the heroes and he did figure out how to marry the princess.

I have a brother-in-law who loves peaches and I love blueberries. I might try making this cobbler from the Food Network for game night one of these days.

Peach and Blueberry Cobbler

Yield: 6 to 8 servings


For filling:

1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoons cornstarch
5 cups peaches, peeled, pitted and cut into thick slices
2 cups blueberries
2 tablespoons orange liqueur
4 tablespoons melted

For biscuit dough:

1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
1/3 cup light cream
2 tablespoons each of melted butter and sugar

Whipped cream or ice cream, optional


For the filling mix sugar with cornstarch and toss that with peaches and blueberries. Transfer them to the bottom of a lightly buttered shallow baking dish (9 or 10-inch round pyrex pie plate or 8-inch square one) Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

For the dough, in a food processor combine the flour, baking powder and salt; cut in chilled butter and process with cream to make a dough. Roll out to about 1/2-inch thick into a shape to fit your baking pan. Or cut into biscuits and set biscuits, touching each other over fruit. Drizzle biscuits with melted butter and sugar and bake for 40 minutes or until biscuits are golden and fruit underneath bubbling.

Serve hot, warm or at room temperature with cream or ice cream.

Sounds yummy and pretty easy.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all. Feel free to join in.

Thursday’s Tale: Little Red Riding Hood


Illustration by Margaret Tarrant from Fairy Tales, edited by Harry Golding, 1915.

I thought it might be fun this month to re-post some of my most popular fairy tale posts. The post on Perrault’s “Little Red Riding” from 2010 has the most all time view of any of my posts.

Perrault’s version of “Little Red Riding Hood” was first printed in 1697, and varies a little from the more familiar Grimm’s version, told in the 19th century.

Little Red Riding Hood, a “little country girl, the prettiest ever seen,” was given her nickname because of the red hood that her grandmother had made. Notice that the cloak is red, a vibrant color often associated with sexuality and with blood.

Anyway, one day Red Riding Hood is sent by her mother to her grandmother’s house in the next village with a cake and some butter, since her grandmother has been feeling ill. Along the way, she meets the wolf who wants to eat her but comes up with a better plan. He asks her where she is going. She tells him and he responds that he will go there too and they will see who gets there first.

Of course, the wolf is the first to arrive. He pretends to be Red Riding Hood so that the grandmother invites him in. He promptly eats the grandmother. When Red Riding Hood knocks, the wolf tells her to come in and the girl, assuming it is her grandmother and that her voice sounds hoarse because she has been ill, enters.

The wolf, seeing her come in, said to her, hiding himself under the bedclothes, “Put the cake and the little pot of butter upon the stool and come get into bed with me.”

Little Red Riding Hood took off her clothes and got into bed.  She was greatly amazed to see how her grandmother looked in her nightclothes…

Then the story goes into the usual questions and answers about her arms, legs, ears, eyes and finally teeth. At that point the wolf eats Red Riding Hood and the story ends. That part is the the one I never knew though, the “get into bed with me.” It makes sense that it’s left out of the children’s versions today, although more and more books have heroines getting into bed with were-wolves, which is pretty much the same. The attraction of danger, but the charm too.

Perrault’s version has no wood cutter to come save the day. Red Riding Hood and her grandmother are devoured, period. Perrault does include a moral, though, in case the reader missed the point of the story.

Moral: Children, especially attractive, well bred young ladies, should never talk to strangers, for if they should do so, they may well provide dinner for a wolf. I say “wolf,” but there are various kinds of wolves. There are also those who are charming, quiet, polite, unassuming, complacent, and sweet, who pursue young women at home and in the streets. And unfortunately, it is these gentle wolves who are the most dangerous ones of all.

As a child, I obviously never realized this was a story filled with sexual innuendo. Perrault’s moral points it out rather clearly, though, doesn’t it? It’s not about being aware of the wild animals in the forest, it’s the men a girl meets in her daily travels, in the streets of her town, that she needs to be wary of.

Don’t get in bed with a wolf. They’re dangerous. Some of the interpretations see the devouring as rape. Others suggest that it’s a warning against becoming a prostitute. She was after all wearing a red cloak, a classic symbol of prostitution in 17th century France according to Wikipedia. For that matter, we are still aware of the term “red-light” district.

You can find both Perrault’s and the Grimms’ version at Sur La Lune, a website that I love.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all. Feel free to join in.

Thursday’s Tale: The Ant and the Cicada



If you saw my Saturday Snapshot post, you know we have cicadas at the moment. They “sing” all day long, a drone that you can even hear inside. So, I went looking for a cicada folktale. “The Ant and the Cicada” is a fable by Jean de la Fontaine.

Having sung the summer through,
Cicada found herself quite destitute.
And when the North Wind blew,
Provisions being less than scant,
She crawled on down to neighbor ant
With cries of famine,
Hoping to borrow just a bit of seed
To tide her over till the coming Spring.
“I’ll pay of course,” she tried to plead,
“Before the month of August,
Both interest and principal.
Come, trust a fellow animal!”
The ant however is no lender;
Lending is the least of all her flaws.
“Could you tell me what you did
On all those hot dry days?”
She asked the borrower.
“Night and day, my pardon to you ants,
I sang, for one and all.”
“You sang? I am enthralled!
Now all you have to do is dance.”

The understanding then it that the cicada ends up dying. I’m not sure which is more important here – the value of working hard or the virtue of compassion. The ant probably had enough to share. On the other hand, I’ll be more than glad when the cicadas are gone.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all. Feel free to join in.

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