Thursday, April 4, 2019

D is for Daterella (A to Z Challenge 2019: Fruit Folktales)

I have mentioned before that I have a thing for little-known variants of well-known classic folktales. One of them is Cinderella. I never particularly liked Cinderella, even when I was a kid (and yes, I grew up on the unabridged, cut-the-toes-off, blood-in-the-shoes, eyes-pecked-out Grimm version, but that was not why I didn't like it... I just thought it was boring). It took me more than three decades to come across a version that I actually like.

And I like this one a lot.

Image source
The story of The Magical Little Date Tree was collected by Giuseppe Pitrè in 19th century Sicily, from a storyteller named Agatuzza Messia in Palermo. It features three sisters, daughters of a merchant: Rosa, Giovannina, and Ninetta. One day, when the father goes on a business trip, he locks the three girls in the house (for their safety, obviously) and asks them what they want as a souvenir. Ninetta, the youngest, asks for a date tree - and also curses her father, so that his ship won't sail until he remembers to acquire the tree.

While Dad is away, the girls get bored. When Rosa drops a thimble in the well in the courtyard, Ninetta volunteers to climb down and retrieve it. At the bottom of the well, however, she finds something endlessly more interesting: A door that opens to the gardens of the King of Portugal. Intrigued by the adventure, Ninetta returns to the garden day after day, stealing everything that catches her fancy, robbing the Portuguese king blind. Her sisters don't like her trips - "are you crazy or drunk?" - but it doesn't faze her the slightest.

Agatuzza Messia
Eventually, the prince discovers that a girl has been stealing from the garden. The king then announces a ball, three nights in a row, hoping the mysterious thief would attend - so that they can catch her. Meanwhile, the merchant comes home, and brings the magical little date tree for Ninetta. When invitations arrive to the ball, Ninetta refuses to go (even upon the threat that her father might be executed if they don't comply), and sends her family on their merry way, while she locks herself in her room with the tree.
Once alone, Ninetta sings to the tree, summoning the fairies (that have been hiding in the dates?). The date fairies bring clothes and jewelry, and dress her for the ball.
(They dress her for a date)

At the ball, the prince immediately recognizes Ninetta, but she responds in curt, mocking sentences to all his questions, and two nights in a row she gets away, tossing jewels and coins behind her to slow the palace guards down.
On the third night, the king has enough of the shenanigans, and corners Ninetta, asking why she is messing with his son. Ninetta demands that the king recognize her as her father's firstborn (to inherit, and have the right to marry first), pardon her father for whatever he might have done, and, once she gets that, she asks for the prince's hand in marriage.

Ta-da, happy end. No nonsense with shoes, ashes, and whatnot.

(Find the story in this book, or this one)

Anyone got a good recipe with dates?
What tree would you pick to dress you for a royal ball?


  1. What??? OMG!!! I want to read this. I added it to my list. Thanks for the links.

    Yes, I have had a very good dish with dates. And if you remind me later, I will have my Snookums track down the recipe.

  2. What an interesting alternative Cinderella story! Daterella haha! I only eat dates as is, and have not tried it in any recipes. I would choose a banana tree to dress me a for a royal ball actually :D

  3. Wow! How different and how fascinating is that? Loved that she makes the proposal of marriage, not the prince. Feisty and far more interesting than the ashes and shoe version.

  4. As I recall, the Grimm version, Aschenputtel, has her getting her clothes from a hazel tree... dates, huh? I haven’t tried any date recipes, but would like to try bliss balls, which use dates to sweeten them.

  5. Ninetta is a smart girl. She gets wants she wants.

    i eat 5 dates everyday. Also I bake a dates cake.

  6. Now that is a girl who knows what she's about! Go her!
    Hmmm - cherry tree - it has the best colours. :)
    I'm afraid I can't think of a recipe for dates - not something I tend to cook with.
    Tasha's Thinkings - Ghost Stories

  7. I have to read this - the girl sounds like a complete troublemaker XD

  8. o MY GOSH! That is HILARIOUS!!! I need to find a copy of this story. Thanks for sharing. Will never look at a date the same way again :)

    Joy at The Joyous Living

  9. Ha! A play on 'date'. I love how she confidently does what she wants and get it! Go girl:)
    AtoZ @ Namysaysso

  10. Hmmm... not sure I approve of Ninetta getting her happily ever after! She's a thief and a cheat, robbing her sisters of their birthright. Instead of the ending holding a moral here, the wrong-doer is rewarded! Fun story though.
    (I wonder what her father had done? Is she blaming him for the thievery?)

    Oh, a Cinderella with "cut-the-toes-off, blood-in-the-shoes, eyes-pecked-out"? That I've got to read! I have a big Grimm's on the shelf, but never read the Cinderella story.

    No date recipes. A date story though. My uncle was from Egypt. When my mother first dated my father, probably in 1938, (he was an uncle on my father's side) they went on a picnic where my father brought imported dates, which my mother had never tasted before. She kept the seeds, which I found in her jewelry box after she died. I'm going to plant a few, I expect them to grow even after all these years. My mother always loved dates! A bit sweet for me.

  11. Ninetta seems to be a more assertive and less whiny Cinderella. Only thing that would have made this story better would be if her father was a pirate.

    Loved the word play on date as well. Good one, Zalka.

  12. So different- I love the musical of Cinderella 😊

  13. I love this story. My mother used to cook date scones. i like fresh dates as a snack when I want something sweet.

  14. LOL. I like this version.
    I like fresh dates :-)

    Ronel visiting from the A-Z Challenge with Music and Writing Something Different

  15. Wow, what a stunning story!
    I sense the mix of Cinderella, Beauty & the Beast, and the Twelve Dancing Princesses in it, all in a fun, twisty tale.

  16. Adore dates, especially Medjool. And what a great character - even if she perhaps flouts a few too many family conventions. But I must know more.