Cap o' Rushes

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This Suffolk fairytale was contributed to the Ipswich Journal in 1878 by Mrs Anna Walter-Thomas, from memories of how her nurse used to tell it some twenty years earlier. It belongs to an international type known as ‘Catskin’ (part of the Cinderella cycle), but has rationalized the magic elements. It tells how a man with three daughters asks each one how much she loves him; the youngest answers, ‘I love you as fresh meat loves salt’, so he angrily drives her away. Disguising herself in a hooded cloak of rushes, she takes work as a kitchenmaid and hides her own fine clothes. Some time later, she secretly goes to a grand dance being held nearby, looking so lovely that her master's son falls in love with her, but she slips home unnoticed. This happens twice more, and though the third time he gives her a ring he still cannot learn who she is, and falls ill with longing. By dropping the ring into his gruel she reveals herself, and they marry. She orders the food at the wedding feast to be cooked without salt, which causes her father, who is among the guests, to understand just how essential salt is, and repent of his injustice to her; they are reconciled.

Jacobs, 1894/1968: 34–6;Briggs, 1970–1: A. ii. 387–9;Philip, 1992: 122–6.

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