'The Rough-Face Girl'

Story Time

April 04, 1999|By Rafe Martin

Editor's note: In this Algonquin Indian version of the Cinderella story, the mistreated youngest daughter of a poor man competes for the affections of the village's most prominent bachelor -- the Invisible Being.

Once, long ago, there was a village by the shores of Lake Ontario.

Off from the other wigwams of this village stood one great huge wigwam. Painted on its sides were pictures of the sun, moon, stars, plants, trees, and animals. And inside this wigwam there was said to live a very great, rich, powerful, and supposedly handsome Invisible Being. However, no one could see him, except his sister, who lived there too.

Many women wanted to marry this Invisible Being, but his sister said, "Only the one who can see him can marry him."

Now, in this village there lived a poor man who had three daughters. The two older daughters were cruel and hard-hearted, and they made their youngest sister sit by the fire and feed the flames. When the burning branches popped, the sparks fell on her.

In time, her hands became burnt and scarred. Her arms too became rough and scarred. Even her face was marked by the fire, and her beautiful long black hair hung ragged and charred.

And those two older sisters laughed at her saying, "Ha! You're ugly, you Rough-Face Girl!" And they made her life very lonely and miserable, indeed.

The Rough-Face Girl went to her father and said, "Father, may I please have some beads? May I please have a new buckskin dress and some pretty moccasins? I am going to marry the Invisible Being, for, wherever I look, I see his face."

But her father sighed. "Daughter," he said, "I'm sorry. I have no beads left for you, only some little broken shells. I have no buckskin dress."

But she said, "Whatever you can spare, I can use."

So he gave her these things.

Then she found dried reeds and, taking the little broken shells, she strung a necklace. She stripped birch bark from the dead trees and made a cap, a dress, and leggings. Then, with a sharp piece of bone, she carved in the bark pictures of the sun, moon, stars, plants, trees, and animals.

Then all of the people came out of their wigwams. They pointed and stared.

But the Rough-Face Girl had faith in herself and she had courage. She just kept walking right through the village.

As she walked on she saw the great beauty of the earth and skies spreading before her.

And truly she alone, of all in that village, saw in these things the sweet yet awesome face of the Invisible Being.

At last she came to the lakeshore just as the sun was sinking behind the hills and the many stars came glittering out like a fiery veil in the darkening sky overhead.

And there, standing by the water's edge, was the sister of the Invisible Being, waiting.

When she looked at the Rough-Face Girl she saw at once that, though her skin was scarred, her hair burnt, her clothes strange, she had a beautiful, kind heart. And so she welcomed her dearly saying, "Ah, my sister, why have you come?"

And the Rough-Face Girl replied, "I have come to marry the Invisible Being."

"Tell me, have you seen my brother the Invisible Being?"

And the Rough-Face Girl said, "Yes."

"If you have seen him, tell me WHAT'S HIS BOW MADE OF?"

And the Rough-Face Girl said, "His bow? Why, it is the great curve of the Rainbow."

"AHHHHHH!" cried the sister in wonder and delight. "You have seen him! Come with me!"

And taking the Rough-Face Girl by the hand, she led her back to the great wigwam.

Then they heard footsteps coming along the path. The entrance flap of the wigwam lifted up, and in stepped the Invisible Being.

And when he saw her sitting there he said, "At last we have been found out." Then, smiling kindly, he added, "And oh, my sister, but she is beautiful."

The sister of the Invisible Being then gave the Rough-Face Girl the finest of buckskin robes and a necklace of perfect shells. "Now bathe in the lake," she said, "and dress in these."

So the Rough-Face Girl bathed in the waters of the lake. Suddenly all the scars vanished from her body. Her skin grew smooth again and her beautiful black hair grew in long and glossy as a raven's wing. Now anyone could see that she was, indeed, beautiful. But the Invisible Being and his sister had seen that from the start.

From THE ROUGH-FACE GIRL by Rafe Martin. Text Copyright c 1992 by Rafe Martin. Illustrations copyright c 1992 by David Shannon. Reprinted by permission of G.P. Putnam's Sons, a division of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers.

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