Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Jouanah A Hmong Cinderella

Jouanah: A Hmong Cinderella tells a unique Cinderella tale. It incorporates some traditional elements like the shoe, while adding ones unique to this tale.

The author notes that in the traditional version of this tale the Cinderella is called Nkauj Nog, which would be pronounced GO-NAH. The translation according to the author is female orphan. The author changed the name to make it easier for American readers to Ntsuag Nos, pronounced JO-a-nah, which is a generic term for orphan that can be male or female.

This version has one of the more unique versions of how the Cinderella character becomes an orphan. In this version, her parents are struggling with their farm and head to the market to buy a cow. Markets being bad they lose their opportunity at the one available cow and head home. The wife offers to allow her husband to use magic to make her the family cow so the family can prosper. Jouanah is a first thrilled to see the family has a cow, until she realizes the sacrifice it required.

As the farm prospers, the father decides to remarry. The stepmother and sister of course prove to be cruel and lazy. They are jealous of the daughter of the house and eventually turn her into the family servant. When the new wife realizes the secret of the cow, her jealousy takes over and she sets out to convince her husband to destroy it. The cow dies of a broken heart before the husband can actually kill it. Her father does not live long after the cow, leaving his daughter's life even more in question.

As with several other versions of this story, the New Year’s festival is the setting for the meeting between the Cinderella character and the Prince. Jouanah like other Cinderella characters is given a challenging task to prevent her from attending the celebration.

In this version she has hidden a piece of cow hide in her Mother's sewing basket. On the third day of the festival, she reaches into the basket to pull out some sewing to keep her occupied and finds the piece of cowhide. As she reflects on her mother's advice, she reaches in for her sewing and finds all the items she will need to attend the celebration.

As is reflective of the culture she does not dance with Shee-Nang, son of the village elder. She watches him play and does catch his eye. She is caught off guard when her stepmother frustrated by her daughter's lack of success with the man, decides to head home. Realizing she must arrive home before her stepmother, she loses her shoe. While this tale does have the young man traveling to find the owner of the shoe, he does not need to fit the shoe to the girl to recognize the girl. She refuses to try on the shoe in an attempt to avoid her stepmother's anger. During dinner, he realizes the trick being played on him and finds his true bride.

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