"The Pumpkin Child." in Persian Folk and Fairy Tales. retold by Anne Sinclair Mehdevi. New York: Knopf, 1965.

Ethnic Origin:

Iranian (Persian)

Running Time

Marilyn Berg Iarussu, in Ellin Greene’s Storytelling: Art and Technique, says 8 minutes; however my version runs a bit over 10 minutes.

Power Centers:

There are two, with the first being more powerful. The first is when the mother kisses her pumpkinchild before sending her off to school. For me this captures the unconditional love of the mother for her daughter. The second power center is when the girl (formerly the pumpkin) kisses her sleeping husband for the first time.


The mother (also known as ‘the wife’ ‘the old woman’ ‘pumpkinchild’s mother). She is one of the most important characters because it is her unceasing love that helps the pumpkinchild deal with being different, with being a vegetable.

The Father (also known as ‘the husband’ ) this character is only fleetingly dealt with but when he runs off it helps to show the true attachment of the mother. His actions also allow for the only possible ‘jump’ in the story.

Pumpkinchild (also known as the ‘girl as beautiful as the moon on its fourteenth night’) While her character is not very developed, she is a pumpkin for most of the story, it is her experience of alienation that moves the audience.

Murad (also known as ‘the rich merchant’s son). He is shown as a curious boy who can keep a secret. His ingenuity is rewarded because he witnesses the mystery of the pumpkinchild while no one else has.

Scenes: (the visual understandings of place)

The little cottage where pumpkin child is born; there is not any real depth in this first scene.

The day to day life of the mother and pumpkin after the father leaves. This centers more around the yard, the garden, the places in which the mother works and the pumpkin rolls around.

The finishing school gardens. The location evoked here is rather lush with greenery; mildly contained, for the girls sit on benches to eat their lunches, no running around playing games.

The house away on a hill where Murad takes his wife. This place is developed only in that it is far away from the village and the people who tease the pumpkin, the feeling is somewhat of isolation but also of acceptance and love for the married couple.

Synopsis: (Tale type T555.1.1)

A woman really wants a baby girl and says she will love a daughter even if she looks like a pumpkin. A girl is born, she turns into a pumpkin. The father runs away, the mother continues her life and her love for her pumpkin child. After 14 years the pumpkin goes to school. A merchant’s son sees a girl emerge from the pumpkin on the school grounds. The boy falls in love with the girl, he grabs at her and her ring comes off. His family engages in a search for the girl who fits the ring. The girl shows her arm from the pumpkin to prove that the ring fits her. They wed and later she turns back into a woman.

Rhymes/Special Phrases:

"There was a time and there wasn’t a time in the long ago"

"She was more beautiful than the moon on its fourteenth night"


This story is appropriate for early elementary students because it is not too long, ten minutes is the maxium they can sit sit for, in general. During the 5-6 years children are beginning to experience empathy and this story calls for empathy. Also the importance of family relationships is stressed in this tale and at this age children are beginning to understand these relationships.

Sources Recommending:

Marilyn Berg Iarussu, in Ellin Greene’s Storytelling: Art and Technique

Bibliographic Information on other versions:

There are two copies that I found, one in Storytelling: Art and Technique and one in Persian Folk and Fairy Tales but they are exactly the same. In the former book the tale is described as a version of Cinderella, though this was not the case according to the tale type index. I think the stress in Cinderella is often on the abuse from her family, this is not the case at all here. Pumpkinchild is not abused by anyone, she is ostracized somewhat and her father leaves but we are not given the sense that she is really teased or taunted that much. (All kids are to some extent).

Comparison between variants:

Again, I could not find variants of this tale; to compare it to Cinderella would be difficult because they are so different in my mind. Though if you so desire I can do undertake this task.

By Rebecca Moore