Toads and Diamonds

toads and diamondsThis story by Charles Perrault is about a bad-ed, greedy and her two daughters. One girl is ugly, rude and selfish but much loved by her mother. The other girl is beautiful, polite and kind but treated badly. With the help of a fairy, the kind daughter marries a prince and the selfish daughter dies alone in the forest. Readers are left wondering if the fairy’s gift was truly a good one. What kind of life could the girl have with diamonds falling out of her mouth every time she opened it? Also, did the prince really love her or only marry her for her diamonds?

English Learner Vocabulary Help

The words and expressions in our Simplified English story which are not in our Elementary Level 800 word list are: , , , , , , , , , and .

There is also a word that is in our Elementary word list but has a meaning in the story which is different to the one most commonly used. One of the jobs that the young daughter had to do was collect water from a spring. Here the word means a place where water comes up from the ground.

General Comments on the Story

We have commented before on how there are thousands of folktales around the world that follow similar plots to those of other cultures. In many cases there are enough differences to show that this has probably happened by chance. However, sometimes parts of stories are so similar as to make it appear as if either one is taken from the other, or they both developed from a common earlier story. One of our reasons for including this story is to show how similar it is to one of the most famous Thai folktales, “Phikul Thong”. We have included a copy of Phikul Thong above for interest.

These two stories so much alike that it is hard to believe that one did not come from the other. An observant reader will see that the only major difference is that in our version of Toads and Diamonds the two girls are sisters, whereas in Phikul Thong the two girls are stepsisters. In the original French language version of the story the girls were also stepsisters. The story was changed when it was first published in English to make the girls less like those in Perrault’s “Cinderella”, which was to appear in the same book.

As mentioned in our comments on another Perrault story, Little Red Riding Hood, he created stories by re-writing traditional folktales. The source for a number of Perrault stories such as “Cinderella”, “Puss in Boots” and “Sleeping Beauty” is believed to be The Pentamerone, an Italian collection of folktales published in 1636. You can read a translation of most of these stories here. The source for Toads and Diamonds is generally believed to be the Pentameron story “The Two Cakes”. However, there are enough differences between the two to suggest that there could have been another source. Could it be Phikul Thong?

Perrault did not start writing children’s stories until in retirement. He was an important member of French society and well known to King Louis XIV at the time of the 1686 visit to France by the Siamese diplomat Ok Phra Wisut Sunthon, better known by the nickname Kosa Pan. Kosa Pan’s embassy was a great success and received a lot of attention in French society. One of Perrault’s official positions was secretary of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettresan. Among other things, this organization was concerned with the study of non-European languages and cultures. During Kosa Pan’s visit, there would have been a lot of discussion about differences between French and Siamese culture. It is highly likely that as part of this there could have been a sharing of Siamese traditions and beliefs, including folktales such as Phikul Thong.

blue fairy bookOur source for Toads and Diamonds was The Blue Fairy Book, one of a series of twelve collections of folk and fairy tales for children edited by by Andrew Lang. This is the first book in the series, published in 1899. The book contains translations of seven Perrault stories. It can be downloaded in various e-book forms from Project Gutenberg here. An audiobook is available from Librivox here.

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temper(n: temper, singular) The way that a person is feeling at a particular time; mood. He is in a pleasant/bad temper. (อารมณ์) 3000
(adj: bad-tempered) Someone who easily gets angry when things don't happen as they want.
(v: lose one's temper) [idiom] To suddenly get angry about something. (โกรธ)

widow(n: widow pl widows) A woman whose husband has died. (แม่ม่าย) 3000

(v: beat, beats, beaten or beat, beating) 1. To hit a person or animal repeatedly to cause pain. 2. To hit something (such as a drum) repeatedly. 3. To make the regular movements needed to do something. 1000

beat someone beat drum

bride-price(n: bride-price pl bride-prices) The money or goods given in some countries by a man or his family to the family of a woman he wants to marry.

bucket(n: bucket pl buckets) An open container with a handle that is used especially to hold and carry water and other liquids; a pail. 3000

diamond(n: diamond pl diamonds) A very hard, usually colorless, precious stone; used especially in expensive jewelry. 4000

fairy(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.

polite(adj: polite) Having or showing good manners or respect for other people. 3000

proud(adj: proud, prouder, proudest) 1. Feeling very pleased because of something you have done or own, someone you know, etc. She felt proud as she watched her daughter graduate. 2. Having a too high opinion of oneself; arrogant. She was too proud to talk to us. 2000
(n: pride, noncount) A feeling of pleasure and satisfaction at one's achievements, possessions, family etc. She watched with pride as her daughter graduated. 3000

rude(adj: rude, ruder, rudest) 1. Not having or showing good manners or respect for other people; not polite. 2. Using language or behaving in a way that makes people feel hurt, angry, or upset. Rude language. A rude joke.
(adv: rudely) In a rude way. Rudely dressed. He rudely interrupted me. 3000

servant(n: servant pl servants) Someone who is hired to do household or personal duties [such as cleaning and cooking]. 1000

silver(n: silver, noncount) A valuable, soft, grayish-white metal that is used to make jewelry, coins, knives, forks, etc. 3000

toad(n: toad pl toads) A small animal that looks like a frog but has dry skin and lives on land. (คางคก) 7000

natural springcoiled spring(n: spring pl springs) 1. The season of the year between winter and summer when plants begin to flower or grow leaves. (ฤดูใบไม้ผลิ) 2. A source of water coming up from the ground. (น้ำพุ) 3. A twisted or coiled piece of metal that returns to its original shape when it is pressed down or stretched. (สปริง; ขดลวดที่เด้งได้) 2000

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