At book club last month, we each were tasked with bringing in a favorite folk tale or fairy tale. (I brought Clever Beatrice, because it features a strong female protagonist outwitting a giant, and also because it comes from my native Michigan.) One reason I love my book club so much is that I’m constantly learning new things just listening to them talk, and this month was no exception. While I did know some of the grim originals behind the Grimm tales, I was all ears as they talked about doing folk/fairy tales in storytime. Two debated which was better: A Story A Story (because you can get them making Spider-man noises) or The Talking Eggs. The first librarian attempted to prove her case by treating us to an impromptu storytime, but I had to do my own research on the second book.
The Talking Eggs is a sort of version of Cinderella, but only vaguely. Rose is the mean sister, along with the mother (notice they are not step-family), and Blanche is the kind sister who is treated as their servant. One day she runs away and finds an old woman whom she helps; in return the woman takes her to her own magical house for the night. Stew comes from one old bone and rice from one small grain; sweet milk from the two-headed cow in the morning – all because Blanche is kind and also keeps her promise not to laugh at anything. Also for her kindness, the old woman lets Blanche take any of the eggs that say “take me!”, warning her against the ones that say “don’t take me!” It is tempting to disobey since the ones yelling “don’t take me” are the pretty, bejeweled ones, and the others are plain, but Blanche keeps her word and sets off with the plain eggs. As instructed, she tosses the eggs over her shoulder as she walks and is rewarded with beautiful clothes and jewels and even a carriage. When she arrives home with her new possessions, her mother and sister are so jealous that they scheme to get their own eggs. However, Rose is so greedy she takes the fancy eggs that turn into wolves and snakes and chase her and her mother, and Blanche starts a new life in the city with her riches.
I was likewise unfamiliar with this story, having assumed that it was just some version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. It’s not! Snow White and Rose Red are perfect, loving sisters, making it one of the few fairy tales where siblings are not pitted against each other (Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters; Cinderella). They and their (equally perfect and loving) mother help a talking bear, and in return he rescues the daughters from a mean, rude dwarf and then turns into a prince who had been bewitched by the dwarf. Snow White marries the prince and Rose Red marries his brother and they all live happily ever after.