What’s this? A where a wicked queen doesn’t come to a terrible end! And two step-sisters don’t hate each other but love one another so much that they give up everything and run away together when one of them has a problem! Where is the fun in that? This is also a “reverse” version of the Brothers Grimm tale Twelve Dancing Princesses. Here it is a prince who goes out to dance all night and a princess who saves him. But the princesses danced all night because they loved to. Why does the prince dance all night when it is slowly killing him? The answers to these questions could be found in a so-called “corrupt” version of the story. There is more information about this in our Comments below.
- Original Text with Audio (1219 words)
- Elementary English Version
- General Understanding Quiz
- Andrew Lang Version
English Learner Vocabulary Help
General Comments on the Story
Our source for Kate-Crackernuts was a children’s book called English Fairy Stories by Australian folktale collector Joseph Jacobs, first published in 1890. The book can be downloaded in various e-book forms from Project Gutenberg here. An audiobook is available from Librivox here.
According to Jacobs, his source was a folktale of the same name which appeared two years earlier in Longman’s Magazine. The original was published by another famous folktale collector of the time, Andrew Lang. Although Lang attributes the story to an old lady interviewed by Orkney folklorist Duncan Robertson, it must have originated somewhere else in Scotland because the countryside described is nothing like the barren Orkney landscapes.
Lang was held in very high esteem in the literary world. Jacobs acknowledged him as a friend and also thanked him for contributing stories in the introduction to his book. It is therefore rather surprising that Jacobs would write in the notes to this story:
“It (Lang’s version) is very corrupt, both girls being called Kate, and I have had largely to rewrite.”
This comment probably hurt Lang’s feelings and may be the reason that he did not include a version of Kate Crackernuts among the 437 stories contained in his twelve colored “Fairy Books”. Lang’s wife Leonora, who he credited with having translated and/or rewritten most of the stories in the Fairy Books to make them suitable for children, would have had to make similar changes. For anyone interested, we have included a copy of the Lang version above.
In researching the story, I saw a suggestion on another website that made me stop and think. Could Lang’s version (where the two girls had the same name) indicate that the original folktale had a different meaning to the one interpreted by Jacobs? Could it be that the story is not about two step-sisters, but a single princess with a split personality? Could it be that the queen was not wicked at all, but rather a concerned mother trying to cure her daughter of a mental disorder that no one understood at the time?
The trouble with oral traditions is that they are like the children’s game Chinese Whispers: they change ever so slightly with each telling. Perhaps Jacobs, in thinking that the story was “corrupt” because the two girls have the same name, has himself corrupted its true meaning forever.
(n: folktale pl folktales) A story that is part of the traditions of a group of people and was handed down in spoken form before books and printing. 9000
(v: bite, bites, bit, bitten, biting) To press down on or cut into (someone or something) with the teeth. He bit the apple. 2000
(v: boil, boils, boiled, boiling) 1. To heat a liquid (or a container with liquid in it) so that bubbles are formed and rise to the top. I'm boiling water to make coffee. 2. To cook by boiling. I've boiled some eggs.
(adj: boiled) Used to refer to things that have been cooked by boiling. boiled eggs 2000
(adj: brave, braver, bravest) Feeling or showing no fear; not frightened. The boy was very brave and went out to fight the giant. 3000
(adj: bright, brighter, brightest) 1. Producing a lot of light. The lighting in the theater was too bright. 2. Able to learn things quickly; clever, intelligent. He is a bright child. 3. Happy and lively; cheerful. He smiled brightly when he saw his friend. 4. Having a very strong color. A bright red car. 2000
(n: crack pl cracks) 1. A split or break in something that creates lines in its surface but does not separate it into pieces. (รอยแตก) 2. A sudden loud, sharp sound, such as when ice breaks or lightning strikes. (เสียงแตกเปรี้ยง)
(v: crack, cracks, cracked, cracking) 1. To make or cause a crack in something. The mirror cracked when she dropped it. (แตกร้าว) 2. To hit or press (something) so hard that it breaks apart or opens suddenly. He cracked open the eggs. (กะเทาะออก) 3. [of a voice] To change sharply in tone or pitch, especially because of strong emotion. Her voice cracked as she told them about the accident. 2000
(adj: delicious) Having a very nice taste or smell. 6000
(n: fairy pl fairies) An imaginary creature having magical powers. (นางฟ้า) 4000
In early literature, fairies could change themselves into any form. Thanks to Walt Disney, most people today think that they all look like the picture on the left.
(v: knock, knocks, knocked, knocking) To make a loud, sharp noise by hitting or tapping something [especially a door to get someone to open it]. 1000
(n: lock pl locks) 1. A device that keeps something [such as a door, window, or box] from being opened and that is usually opened by using a key. 2. A length or curl of hair; a tress. She cut off a lock of his hair.
(v: lock, locks, locked, locking) To fasten something with a lock or in some other way so that it cannot be opened. 1000
(n: nut pl nuts) 1. A small dry fruit with a hard shell that grows on trees, bushes, etc. The squirrel cracked/opened the nut and ate what was inside. 2. A small round piece of metal with a hole through it, for screwing on the end of a bolt to hold pieces of wood, metal etc together. a nut and bolt. 3000
(n: rooster pl roosters) An adult male chicken; a cock.
(n: silver, noncount) A valuable, soft, grayish-white metal that is used to make jewelry, coins, knives, forks, etc. 3000
(n: wand pl wands) A long, thin stick used by a magician or during magic tricks, and in stories by fairies and witches. In the story, the witch waved her magic wand and the prince became a frog. 6000