We are a week into April and still celebrating Rainbow Colors of Diversity: Voices of the Silenced. I’m sharing this lovely picturebook collaboration by Rafe Martin and David Shannon called The Rough-Face Girl. I found it through a random search in the online catalog of the Sumter library a couple of weeks ago. I am in love with the book cover, and even more in love with the story.
“Sometimes people are beautiful. Not in looks. Not in what they say.
Just in what they are.”
— Markus Zusak, Author of The Book Thief
The Rough-Face Girl is an Algonquin Indian tale that presents an enchanting retelling of Cinderella. I find it amusing how fractured fairy tales always find their way to Gathering Books, as we are all fond of such stories. The Rough-Face Girl is one of my favorite versions of Cinderella.
The story is set in a village by the shores of Lake Ontario, where a great wigwam stood.
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.”
In the village, there also lived a poor man who had three daughters. As we know from the original tale, the two older sisters made life miserable for the youngest one. They would ask her to sit by the fire and feed the flames while they made fun of 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.
One day, the two older sisters decided that they would go to the great wigwam to marry the Invisible Being. They demanded from their poor father some necklaces, buckskin dresses, and pretty beaded moccasins so the Invisible Being would see just how beautiful they were. People stared at them as they walked across the village, and the two older sisters were prouder than ever before.
Nothing prepared the two older sisters (and the readers, too!) for what happened next. Unlike the classic Cinderella, there was neither a ball nor a shoe fitting. There was only the sister of the Invisible Being who stood outside the great wigwam. When she found out that the two older sisters wanted to marry her brother, she asked them if they had seen the Invisible Being.
“WHAT’S HIS BOW MADE OF?”
“WHAT’S THE RUNNER OF HIS SLED MADE OF?”
Yes, those were in uppercase letters, which, to me, made the sister more intimidating than she already was. As for the two older sisters, I don’t want to make it more embarrassing for them. Suffice it to say that they were unable to answer the questions correctly.
As much as I want to share with you what happened after that, it would be best that you find out yourself. Like Cinderella, The Rough-Face Girl also ended in a happily ever after. That wasn’t really the point, though. It is the “how” of this story that matters, and it is the answer to that question that you would have to seek.
Speaking of endings, Rafe Martin ends his tale with these heartfelt lines:
“…[A]nyone could see that she was, indeed, beautiful. But the Invisible Being and his sister had seen that from the start.”
The narrative of The Rough-Face Girl is simple but there is a lot to appreciate in this book. Markus Zusak’s quote best describes the book for me, and there is truth in his words, don’t you think? The Rough-Face Girl speaks of kindness, humility, and beauty that radiates from within. It’s a lovely addition to your fairy tale collection.