Friday, October 19, 2012

Kate Crackernuts

As my blog is still in its infancy, I thought it might be a good idea to share the story of Kate Crackernuts.  You see, I am a great lover of fairy stories since my youth, a genre I believe I shall always love.

The older I get the more I love fairy stories.  It puts me in mind of the dedication to Lucy that C.S. Lewis made at the beginning of The Chronicles of Narnia:

"Dedication: To Lucy Barfield
My Dear Lucy,

I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand, a word you say, but I shall still be
your affectionate Godfather,
C.S. Lewis"

I feel a bit like Kate sometimes; not the prettiest girl at the party, but while not a genius, fairly clever.  And I did get to marry my very handsome prince too. :)

Below is the 1890 version of Kate Crackernuts by Joseph Jacobs.  (I must make myself an apron one of these day. ;)

I hope you enjoy...

English Fairy Tales
By Joseph Jacobs

Kate Crackernuts

Once upon a time there was a king and a queen, as in many lands have been.
 The king had a daughter, Anne, and the queen had one named Kate, but Anne
 was far bonnier than the queen’s daughter, though they loved one another
 like real sisters. The queen was jealous of the king’s daughter being bonnier
 than her own, and cast about to spoil her beauty. So she took counsel of the
 henwife, who told her to send the lassie to her next morning fasting.

So next morning early, the queen said to Anne, “Go, my dear, to the
 henwife in the glen, and ask her for some eggs.” So Anne set out, but as
 she passed through the kitchen she saw a crust, and she took and munched
 it as she went along.

When she came to the henwife’s she asked for eggs, as she had been told
 to do; the henwife said to her, “Lift the lid off that pot there and see.”
The lassie did so, but nothing happened. “Go home to your minnie and tell
 her to keep her larder door better locked,” said the henwife. So she went
 home to the queen and told her what the henwife had said. The queen knew
 from this that the lassie had had something to eat, so watched the next
 morning and sent her away fasting; but the princess saw some country-folk
 picking peas by the roadside, and being very kind she spoke to them and
 took a handful of the peas, which she ate by the way.

When she came to the henwife’s, she said, “Lift the lid off the pot and
you’ll see.” So Anne lifted the lid but nothing happened. Then the henwife
 was rare angry and said to Anne, “Tell your minnie the pot won’t boil if the
 fire’s away.” So Anne went home and told the queen.

The third day the queen goes along with the girl herself to the henwife. Now
, this time, when Anne lifted the lid off the pot, off falls her own pretty head,
 and on jumps a sheep’s head.

So the queen was now quite satisfied, and went back home.
Her own daughter, Kate, however, took a fine linen cloth and wrapped it
 round her sister’s head and took her by the hand and they both went out
 to seek their fortune. They went on, and they went on, and they went on,
 till they came to a castle. Kate knocked at the door and asked for a night’s
 lodging for herself and a sick sister. They went in and found it was a king’s
castle, who had two sons, and one of them was sickening away to death
 and no one could find out what ailed him. And the curious thing was that
 whoever watched him at night was never seen any more. So the king had
 offered a peck of silver to anyone who would stop up with him. Now Katie
 was a very brave girl, so she offered to sit up with him.

Till midnight all goes well. As twelve o clock rings, however, the sick
 prince rises, dresses himself, and slips downstairs. Kate followed, but
 he didn’t seem to notice her. The prince went to the stable, saddled his
 horse, called his hound, jumped into the saddle, and Kate leapt lightly
 up behind him. Away rode the prince and Kate through the greenwood,
 Kate, as they pass, plucking nuts from the trees and filling her apron with
 them. They rode on and on till they came to a green hill. The prince here
 drew bridle and spoke, “Open, open, green hill, and let the young prince
 in with his horse and his hound,” and Kate added, “and his lady him behind.”

Immediately the green hill opened and they passed in.
The prince entered a magnificent hall, brightly lighted up,
and many beautiful fairies surrounded
 the prince and led him off to the dance. Meanwhile, Kate, without being
 noticed, hid herself behind the door. There she sees the prince dancing,
 and dancing, and dancing, till he could dance no longer and fell upon a
 couch. Then the fairies would fan him till he could rise again and go on

At last the cock crew, and the prince made all haste to get on horseback;
 Kate jumped up behind, and home they rode. When the morning sun rose
 they came in and found Kate sitting down by the fire and cracking her nuts.
 Kate said the prince had a good night; but she would not sit up another
 night unless she was to get a peck of gold.

 The second night passed as the first had done. The prince got up at
 midnight and rode away to the green hill and the fairy ball, and Kate
 went with him, gathering nuts as they rode through the forest.
This time she did not   watch the prince, for she knew
 he would dance and dance, and dance. But she sees a fairy baby playing
with a wand, and overhears one of the fairies say: “Three strokes of that
 wand would make Kate’s sick sister as bonnie as ever she was.”

So Kate rolled nuts to the fairy baby, and rolled nuts till the baby
 toddled after the nuts and let fall the wand, and Kate took it up and
put it in her apron.

And at cockcrow they rode home as before, and the moment Kate got home to
 her room she rushed and touched Anne three times with the wand, and the
 nasty sheep’s head fell off and she was her own pretty self again.

The third night Kate consented to watch, only if she should marry the sick prince.
All went on as on the first two nights. This time the fairy baby was playing
 with a birdie; Kate heard one of the fairies say: “Three bites of that birdie
 would make the sick prince as well as ever he was.” Kate rolled all the nuts
 she had to the fairy baby till the birdie was dropped, and Kate put it in her apron.

At cockcrow they set off again, but instead of cracking her nuts as she used
 to do, this time Kate plucked the feathers off and cooked the birdie. Soon there
 arose a very savoury smell. “Oh!” said the sick prince, “I wish I had
 a bite of that birdie,” so Kate gave him a bite of the birdie, and he rose up on his elbow.

By-and-by he cried out again: “Oh, if I had another bite of that birdie!”
so Kate gave him another bite, and he sat up on his bed.

Then he said again: “Oh! if I only had a third bite of that birdie!” So Kate
gave him a third bite, and he rose quite well, dressed himself, and sat
down by the fire, and when the folk came in next morning they found
Kate and the young prince cracking nuts together.

Meanwhile his brother had seen Annie and had fallen in love with her,
as everybody did who saw her sweet pretty face. So the sick son married
the well sister, and the well son married the sick sister, and they
all lived happy and died happy, and never drank out of a dry cappy.



  1. Oh what a fabulous fairy tale! I'd not heard of it before... I recently bought an illustrated version of Grimm's Fairy Tales and have read a couple to date. One's I don't recall hearing as a child but I am so looking forward to reading them all. "Someday you will old enough to start reading fairy tales again..." Now if that isn't the truth!

  2. I think it's origins are Scottish if I'm not mistaken.

    Grimm's Fairy Tales certainly is different than the watered-down Disney versions we learned as kids! I love a good fairy tale!