Stories told by Idries Shah

World Tales,  collected by Idries Shah

[Mrs. M.R. Cox collected three hundred years of Cinderella-type stories. She collected 345 versions. Here is an American version, found among the Algonquin Indians.]

The Algonquin Cinderella

There was once a large village of the MicMac Indians of the Eastern Algonquins, built beside a lake. At the far end of the settlement stood a lodge, and in it lived a being who was always invisible.

He had a sister who looked after him, and everyone knew that any girl who could see him might marry him. For that reason there were few girls who did not try, but it was very long before anyone succeeded.

This is the way in which the test of sight was carried out: at evening-time, when the Invisible One was due to be returning home, his sister would walk with any girl who might come down to the lakeshore. She, of course, could see her brother, since he was always visible to her.

As soon as she saw him, she would say to the girls:
"Do you see my brother?"
"Yes, they would generally reply-though some of them did say "No."
To those who said that they could indeed see him,the sister would say:
"Of what is his shoulder straps made?" Some people say that she would enquire:
"What is his moose-runners haul?" or "With what does he draw his sled?"
And they would answer:
"A strip of rawhide" or "a green flexible branch", or something of that kind.

Then she, knowing that they had not told the truth, would say:
"Very well, let us return to the wigwam!"
When they had gone in, she would tell them not to sit in a certain place, because it belonged to the Invisible One. Then after they had helped to cook the supper, they would wait with great curiousity, to see him eat. They could be sure that he was a real person, for when he took off his moccasins they became visible, and his sister hung them up. But beyond this they saw nothing of him, or even when they stayed in the place all night, as many of them did.

Now there lived in the village an old man who was a widower, and his three daughters. The youngest girl was very small, weak and often ill, and yet her sisters, espically the elder treated her cruelly. The second daughter was kinder, and sometimes took her side, but the wicked sister would burn her hands and feet with hot cinders, and she was covered with scars from this treatment. She was so marked that people called her Oochigeaskw, The-Rough-Faced-Girl.

When her father came home and asked why she had such burns, the bad sister would at once say that it was her own fault, for she had disobeyed orders and gone near the fire and had fallen into it.

These two elder sisters descided one day to try their luck at seeing the Invisible One. So they dressed themselves in their finest clothes, and tried to look their prettiest. They found the Invisible One's sister and took the usual walk by the water.

When he came, and when they were asked if they could see hin , they answered: "Of course." And when asked about the shoulder strap or sled cord, they answered: "A piece of rawhide." But of course they were lying like the others, and they got nothing for their pains.

The next afternoon, when the father returned home, he brought with him many of the pretty little shells from which wawpum was made, and they set to work to string them.

That day, poor little Oochigeaskw, who had always gone barefoot, got a pair of her father's moccasins, old ones, and put them into water to soften them so that she could wear them. Then she begged her sisters for a few wampum shells. The elder called her a "little pest", but the younger one gave her some. Now, with no other clothes than her usual rags, the poor little thing went into the woods and got herself some sheets of birch bark, from which she made a dress, and put marks on it for decoration, in the style of long ago.

She made a petticoat and a loose gown, a cap, leggins and a handkerchief. She put on her father's large old moccasins, which were far too big for her, and went forth to try her luck. She would try, she thought, to discover whether she could see the Invisible One.

She did not begin very well. As she set off, her sisters shouted and hooted and yelled, and tried to make her stay. And the loafers around the village, seeing the strange little creature, called out "Shame!"

The poor little girl in her strange clothes, with her face all scared, was an awful sight, but she was kindly received by the sister of the Invisible One. And this was, of course, because this noble lady understood far more things than the mere outside which all the rest of the world knows. As the brown of the evening sky turned to black, the lady took her down to the lake.

"Do you see him?" the Invisible One's sister asked.
"I do indeed-and he is wonderful!" said Oochigeaskw.
The sister asked: "And what is his sled-string?"
The little girl said: "It is the Rainbow."
"And, my sister, what is his bow-string?"
"It it The Spirit's Road-the Milky Way."
"So you have seen him, said his sister.

She took the girl home with her and bathed her. As she did so, all the scars disappeared from her body. Her hair grew again, as it was combed, long, like a blackbirds wing. Her eyes were now like stars: in all the world there was no other such beauty. Then, form her treasures, the lady gave her a wedding garment, and adorned her.

Then she told Oochigeaskw to take the wife's seat in the wigwam, the one next to where the Invisible One sat, beside the entrance. And when he came in, terrible and beautiful, he smiled and said:
"So we are found out!"
"Yes," said his sister. And so Oochigeaskw became his wife.