Bibliographic Information (best telling version): Lurie, Alison. Kate Crackernuts. In Clever Gretchen and Other Forgotten Folktales. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1980.
Ethnic Origins: Scottish
Running Time: 7 –10 minutes
Power Center: The power center of the story primarily relates to the Queen’s lack of
confidence in her daughter. The Queen does not seem to think that Kate will succeed in life because she is not as beautiful as Anne. The first surge in emotion occurs when the Queen and the Henwife replace Anne’s bonny head with a sheep’s head. The second and third emotional surges, respectively, occur when through Kate’s initiative Anne’s original head is replaced and when the Prince is cured of his mysterious ailment, once again through Kate’s actions. In other words, the unlikely hero despite adversity prevails in the end.
Characters: Queen (Kate’s mother), Anne, Kate, Henwife, King (Prince’s father), Prince, Fairy I, Fairy II, Fairy Child
Secondary characters (who are mentioned but who play no active role: King (Anne’s father), Queen (Prince’s mother), and Younger Prince
First Kingdom (King and Queen each have a daughter who love each other)
Henwife’s House – (Queen and Henwife Plot to ruin Anne’s beauty)
*Anne eats crust
*Anne eat peas
*Anne’s head replaced with a sheep’s head
Scottish Countryside (Kate & Anne go to find their fortune)
Second Kingdom & Green Hill
**Kate watches Prince dance
**Kate takes wand to return Anne’s human head
**Kate takes bird to free prince from wasting spell
(In a longer version of the story the “*’s” and “**’s” could be their own elaborate scenes. I have compressed the two sets of threes into one scene for length’s sake)
Scottish words, such as, bonnie, lassie, glen, kin, fasting, and greenwood add a particularly unique flavor to this story. Phrases such as “long, long ago”, “they walked on far, and further than I can tell”, and “by and by” add an almost lyrical component to the story. The frequent use of repetition of lines and actions in the different versions creates a distinct flavor to the telling as well.
Audience (why is this story appropriate for the audience? Developmental characteristics?):
There are three separate sections of the “A Child’s Development Growth” handout that can be used to suggest that this is an appropriate story for elementary students. This story ties in well with a child’s need for esteem and a sense of self-worth as discussed in the Abraham Maslow section. Kate is the unlikely hero that prevails in the end all on her own merits. In the “Piaget’s developmental stages” section it says children in the seven to eleven age group have a “perception that they are ‘smarter than adults’.” This theme is visible throughout the story. At the beginning of the story, the Queen has Anne’s beauty spoiled because she is jealous of her. By the end of the story, Kate has corrected her mother’s action. In addition, Kate cures the prince of his mysterious ailment despite the fact that many people in the kingdom have tried to do the same and have failed. The May Hill Arbuthnot section speaks about the importance of repetition for this age group. This story is full of repetition. Anne goes to see the Henwife three times before the spell to spoil her beauty is enacted. Also, the Prince and Kate visit the Fairy hill three times and Kate gives the Prince three bites of the bird before he is cured.
Bibliographic information on other versions/variants (at least two)?
Jacobs, Joseph. Kate Crackernuts. In English Fairy Tales. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., reprint of 1967 version.
Mills, Lauren. Tatterhood and the Hobgoblins. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1993.
Mayo, Margaret. Kate Crackernuts. In Magical Tales from Many Lands. New York: Dutton Children’s Books, 1993.
Brief comparison of all versions/variants in terms of language, rhythm, “tellability,” “flavor”, content, etc. Stress the differences in style rather than those of content.
The Lurie, Jacobs, and Mayo stories were all versions of the same Scottish tale. The versions tell basically the same tale of a girl named Kate, who according to her mother is a very unlikely hero. Despite her own limitations (she is not very attractive) and various outside obstacles she prevails and becomes the hero by curing her step-sister restoring Anne’s original beauty and by curing the Prince of his wasting sickness. There are slight differences in the descriptive language used. I prefer the Lurie version because of its use of dialogue. Lurie adds conversations to the story that further explain how Kate learns to cure both Anne and the Prince. In all of the other versions, a fairy relays this information to no one in particular. In the Lurie version, Kate overhears a conversation between to fairies. I also enjoyed reading the Jacobs version because of its use of Scottish words and phrases. For example, the line “The Queen was jealous of the king’s daughter being bonnier than her own, and cast about to spoil her beauty” has a flow all of its own. Unfortunately, for the storytelling purpose of this class, replicating the Jacobs version did not seem appropriate. It would have required almost memorizing the story. The Mayo version was much too long for the purposes of this class and its ending left something to be desired.
It gets more interesting when you get into the variant since it is so different from the Scottish versions. The Norwegian story of Tatterhood and the Hobgoblins, retold by Mills is very different than all of the Kate Crackernuts tales. There is a queen who wants very much to have a child. One day a fairy tells her if she eats a certain flower she will have a child but the fairy warns her not to eat the weed sitting next to the flower. The queen eats both and has two children, one beautiful and the other rather wild. Despite their differences, the two sisters love each other very much. Tatterhood (the wild daughter who wears rags, carries a wooden spoon, and rides a goat) goes to great lengths to rescue her sister from the hobgoblins. In the end we find out that Tatterhood is really a beautiful princess in disguise. I found the Norwegian version very rich in both imagery and language. If I had 20 to 30 minutes to tell the tale, my Kate would transform from a plain Kate to a very “eccentric” Kate. There is an implied similarity between the boldness of the two characters that just is not explained to my liking in any of Kate Crackernuts versions.