This particular story comes from Celtic Lore- which a bit of light research shows me that it varies somewhat. In one story I read, the Beautiful Girl was clumsy and hapless- while in another she was simply lazy. Either way, the message of this story is questionable at best.
Let’s start with the Beautiful Girl, the daughter of a hardworking woman. Her mother was a decent talent at the spinning wheel. Good enough to support herself and her daughter at least. And once again no one has a name.. least of all the PROTAGONIST.
Now the mother, knowing that men get all hot under the collar for a woman who is good behind a spinning wheel, not a euphemism- apparently this was a desirable skill for a bride-to-be. So like the future Mrs. Bennet, she tried to teach her daughter how to use a spinning wheel.
Here’s where things get a bit… muddled. The nicer interpretation tells of the straw breaking, the needle breaking, and basically everything falls apart whenever the Beautiful Girl tries to spin straw into thread. However, I am more inclined to believe that *cough* laziness was the root cause of the girl’s issue.
Either way, she could not spin thread, weave it into sheets, or sew it into shirts. No matter how desirable those skills may have been to her mother or any future suitors, that wasn’t happening.
Knowing this, what do you think happens when a Handsome Prince rides up and notices the Beautiful Girl?
At this time, the Beautiful Girl was getting a proper tongue lashing from her mother, which was probably justly deserved. And the Prince had to stop and defend the poor Beautiful Girl. Because her life is so hard… okay it was probably actually kind of hard being poor and all- but like she was pretty and she had the option to be lazy so it couldn’t have been too backbreaking.
Now the mother, upon seeing the Prince, she realized a few things. 1) He was the Prince, 2) He was in want of a wife, and 3) Would-be husbands love fiances who know how to make a shirt. So when he said,
“You must have a very bad child to make you scold so terribly. Sure it can’t be this handsome girl that vexed you!” Because pretty people can’t possibly be bad, what??
“Oh, please your Majesty, not at all,” She lied, “I was only checking her for working herself too much. Would your majesty believe it? She spins three pounds of flax in a day, weaves it into linen the next, and makes it all into shirts the day after.”
I have to wonder what her big plan was here. Like if you say she can do these things- do you think they’ll expect her to actually spin the thread and so on? What happens when her daughter can’t cash the checks she’s been writing?
“My gracious,” says the Prince, “she’s the very lady that will just fill my mother’s eye, and herself’s the greatest spinner in the kingdom. Will you put on your daughter’s bonnet and cloak, if you please, ma’am, and set her behind me?”
And with great delight the mother sent her daughter off with the Prince. Because he’s a Prince, there’s nothing potentially dangerous about this, whaaaat? Obviously, if he’s rich and powerful, he can’t be a bad guy.
Once he arrived at the castle, his mother was a bit shocked by the girl’s arrival. A poor peasant girl riding with the crowned prince was not a common sight. But she was beautiful after all, and if she was as good a spinner as her son claimed, that she might prove to be princess-material. Like I said, being good with a spinning wheel does wonders for a girl’s chances of getting married.
Whilst talking with the Prince, the Beautiful Girl learned that if she wanted to marry him, impressing mother-dearest was the way to do it. Nevermind that she barely knows him- she could be a freaking princess. So when the queen requested she spin three pounds of flax into thread within two days… well the Beautiful Girl was less than excited. But she HAD to do it.
She was in quite a pickle- crying, saying “whoa is me,” the whole bit. The thread broke no matter how much she tried- it was impossible. At least until an old woman appeared, Colliagh Cushmōr was her name, which meant- Old woman Big-foot. And as she had quite giant feet, it was an adept name.
Now like the familiar Rumplestiltskin- Colliagh Cushmōr had a deal for her. She would spin the thread in exchange for coming to the Beautiful Girl’s wedding to the Prince. Putting the cart before the horse a bit, but hey, the Girl had nothing to lose. Of course she agreed and the flax was turned into thread just in time. The Queen was quite impressed. She had a good work and life balance, so they took the day off before the next challenge of weaving the threat was presented.
When it came time to weave, of course she hadn’t a clue. Threads were tangled, the mechanism was like nothing she had never seen. But who could come along but… Colliach Cromanmōr. Sister to Colliach Cushmōr, who wanted nothing more than to come to the wedding as well. She’d weave the thread for the girl. Like her sister, she was a bit off- she “was mighty well-shouldered about the hips,” aka, she had quite a pear shape going.
The results were astounding, the Queen was impressed. She promised, should she make a proper shirt for the Prince, the Beautiful Girl could be married to him soon. And after spending a few days with the guy, that was all she ever wanted. For a poor, lazy girl, the servants, nice clothes, and good food might have also had something to do with that.
Now guess what? No one appeared, the Beautiful Girl lost the man because for once she was done in by her flaws? Please, what kind of fairytale would that be? Nope, another sister- one with a big, red nose named Shron Mor Rua (the woman, not the nose). A dozen fine shirts were made, and everyone was ready to party.
The wedding was grand affair, but the Beautiful Girl’s mother-in-law being a bit of a nut, kept talking about all the sewing and spinning they’d do together. The jigs up hon, if she wants to see you weave, you’re done for.
But the Beautiful Girl’s little friends had one more favor to do for her.
A footman came up and said to the bride, “Your ladyship’s aunt, Colliach Cushmōr, bade me ask might she come in.” The bride blushed and wished she was seven miles under the floor, but well became the prince. “Tell Mrs. Cushmōr,” said he, “that any relation of my bride’s will be always heartily welcome wherever she and I are.”
In came the woman with the big foot, and got a seat near the prince. The old queen didn’t like it much, and after a few words she asked rather spitefully, “Dear ma’am, what’s the reason your foot is so big?” “Musha, faith, your majesty, I was standing almost all my life at the spinning-wheel, and that’s the reason.” “I declare to you, my darling,” said the prince, “I’ll never allow you to spend one hour at the same spinning-wheel.”
If you haven’t guessed it, that’s exactly what happened with the other “Aunts.”
“May I ask, ma’am?” says the old queen, “why you’re so wide half-way between the head and the feet?” Rude.“That, your majesty, is owing to sitting all my life at the loom.”
“Ma’am,” says the old queen, “will you tell us, if you please, why your nose is so big and red?” Did no one teach this woman some manners? “Throth, your majesty, my head was bent down over the stitching all my life, and all the blood in my body ran into my nose.”
“My darling,” said the prince to Anty, “if ever I see a needle in your hand, I’ll run a hundred miles from you.” Wow he’s dramatic.
And so the Princess never had to spin, weave, or sew ever and she lived happily-ever-after with her Prince.
So the lesson here is to lie, procrastinate, and be pretty because then you’ll always get your way. Great lesson.
Actually, the interpretation was that you should not be lazy and procrastinate like the Beautiful Girl- since chances are you are not so pretty and are not lucky enough to have three powerful fairies on your side. Personally I find that a bit of a stretch, but whatever helps you sleep at night.